One of the most beautiful towns in southwest France, Pézenas is well known for its distinctive 16th and 17th century architecture that has changed little in intervening years. Grab a walking tour map from the Tourist office, or better yet, take the guided tour that is on offer.
The warren of old streets is full of boutiques and innovative restaurants that now occupy the hôtels particuliers. The Official Preservation Registry has labeled Pézinas a Ville de Métier d’Art for its artisans and antique restoration craftsmen. A great place to shop for crafts and antiques.
On Saturday, Cours Jean Juarès becomes the setting for one of the largest traditional French markets in the area. Join the French shoppers exploring today’s offerings of produce, regional cheeses and sausages, meat, seafood, and baked goods. Pick up what you need for a quick picnic, or a dinner on the terrace. So many choices to try! If you want a quick fix, you can’t go wrong with the grilled chicken or the paella.
Pézenas has been a cultural centre for the performing arts since the 17th century when it was the capital of Languedoc and Molière wrote and performed his plays in the theatre that still stands today. The annual Mirondela Dels Arts continues the tradition with music, plays, and exhibitions throughout the summer.
Many of the villages in the Pézenas area are circulades – with concentric circles of streets around a church or chateau – originally for defensive reasons. Caux, about 5 minutes from Neffiès, is a gem that makes you feel like you’ve accidentally stepped into a medieval movie set. Each of Margon, Alignan du Vent, Magalas, Nezignan l’Eveque, Nizas, Paulhan, and Balaruc-le-Vieux is unique, and worth wandering about.
People love Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert – a Grand Site de France, and one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. For twelve centuries, its stone houses, intertwined with each other, have stretched up the hill along the Verdus river. Today, many of them are occupied by artisans whose work is on display. A beautifully scenic spot.
The Abbaye de Valmagne is a former monastery located near Villeveyrac (east of Pézenas) which was founded as a Benedictine abbey in 1138. Valmagne was sold to Monsieur Granier-Joyeuse in 1791 who converted the church into a wine cave a function which it remains.