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Top 10 places to visit while cruising on the Canal du Midi

Le Boat
February 7, 2019

The Canal du Midi attracts thousands of visitors every year.  

Its waters twist and turns through the countryside - following the contours of the land and passing by acres of vineyards, fields of sunflowers and charming riverside settlements full of character and history.  

Here are our top 10 best stops for cruising on the Canal du Midi by boat.

 

Toulouse

Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France (after Paris, Marseille and Lyon) and it’s renowned as a centre of aviation and spaceflight, the home of French rugby and for being a University town. 

Named “the Pink City” because of the dusky-pink bricks used in many of its buildings. Toulouse remains intimate and welcoming with a laid-back vibe. You can visit the city during your cruise or as a “city-break” after it.  

Visitors can enjoy submersing themselves in true French café culture, with a host of museums and cultural attractions to keep them occupied. If you’re travelling with Le Boat, don’t forget to add bikes to your booking: there are cycle paths all over the city making two wheels an excellent way to get around.  

There is also a large airport in Toulouse making it the ideal way to get to the Canal du Midi if you’re coming from further afield.

 

Castelnaudary

 As well as being one of the home port for Le Boat Midi fleet, the historic market town of Castelnaudary is the home of Cassoulet. A regional dish of white beans and chunky pieces of pork and duck. Several places in town claim to serve the best! 

To stock up on provisions there is a Spar supermarket 1.1 km away from the town centre. 

 

Carcassonne

The famous city of Carcassonne is composed of two different parts: the medieval fortified city (upper town), complete with its world-famous citadel, impressively lords over the often overlooked St. Louis Bastide (lower town).  

The citadel of Carcassonne is the second most visited tourist attraction in France, behind only the Eiffel tower. And, as you catch a glimpse of its fairy-tale turrets and imposing walls when you approach the city, you’ll soon understand why! 

A UNESCO World Heritage site, this fortified medieval, walled city is unique in Europe due to its size and its state of conservation. It is renowned for its double wall of ramparts running nearly 3km around the perimeter and spectacular 53 conical-roofed towers. 

Meanwhile, the sleepier half of the city, St Louis Bastide, is the perfect contrast to the hubbub of the citadel, complete with oodles of history and a pleasant square – perfect for a leisurely stroll.

 

Trèbes

Le Boat has a base in the thriving town of Trèbes, and whether you are starting your journey here or are passing throughTrèbes is a great spot to take in charming local French culture. 

Trèbes is also an ideal place to sample the excellent local delicacies. You’ll find fantastic wine, either served alongside tapas or to take away, at ‘Les Vignes de Bacchus’.  

Or, stop off at ‘Domaine des Pères’, owned by Olive growers for three generations, to find superb olive oil and its derivative products - such as soap, sold alongside local honey, pates and traditionally made beers. Say hello to the donkey behind the building, but watch out for the electric fence! 

Before setting off too quickly, it is worth taking a short stroll to the 13th century church, which has beautiful oak beams and sculptured figures that look down on visitors.

 

Homps

The small village of Homps, where Le Boat also have a base, was for a long time an active trading port where barrels of Minervois and Corbières wine were loaded for their journey to Bordeaux. The waterside buildings testify to these bygone days.  

There is a grocery store, a small selection of restaurants, a wine-shop and a café-bar in the village.  

One of the best reasons to stop at Homps though, is that for the fitter canal cruiser it is possible to cycle to Minerve (12kms away) from Homps. Or, alternatively one could always catch a cab. 

Minerve is one of France’s most beautiful towns, with cobbled streets, a maze of narrow alleys, quaint dwellings and a simple 12th century church. The town itself is perched on a rocky promontory with rivers running through deep gorges on either side.  

The town can only be reached by a high bridge and was the site of a famous medieval siege where a trebuchet nicknamed ‘malvoisine’ or ‘bad neighbour’ was used to batter the town into submission.

 

Argeliers

Between Le Somail and Argeliers you face the choice of continuing along the Canal du Midi, or heading south onto the Canal de Jonction which will lead you onto the Canal de la Robine, Narbonne and Port-la-Nouvelle on the coast. In Argeliers, A 700m stroll along a tree-lined avenue and into town will take you to a handful of restaurants, a grocery store, a butcher, two bakeries and a café-bar. 

 

Le Somail 

Le Somail was once an important harbour for trade and served as a rest stop for passengers coming from Sete or from Toulouse. Nowadays, it is a beautiful little Languedoc village home to some nice restaurants, a couple of artist studios and a grocery store.  

Stop here to find a wonderful antiquarian bookshop, ‘Le Trouve Tout du Livre’ – literally translated as ‘The Find All Book’, with its collection of over 50,000 books from cheap paperbacks to rare editions. A true delight for readers old and young and the perfect spot to pick up some holiday reading. 

In a wonderful piece of canal quirky-ness, in Le Somail, you’ll find a grocery barge offering fresh bread, pastries and basic groceries. So you can do your shopping without ever leaving the waterway! For fresh bread and pastries it is recommended to pre-order in advance though.

 

Narbonne

Narbonne has a rich heritage where grand and ancient buildings sit majestically among a network of clean, modern and lively streets and boulevards. 

 It has a wonderful southern French atmosphere with a Spanish twist.  

Top sites include the wonderful Archbishop’s Palace – composed of the ‘Old Palace’ of Roman origins and the ‘New Palace’ of Gothic design. Making it an impressive albeit, slightly unusual looking building. 

For those with no fear of the dark the Roman Horreum is the perfect site to visit. The Horreum is a collection of underground tunnels of an ancient Gallo-Roman warehouse dating from the 1st century BC. Their sheer size alone is impressive!

 

Port-la-Nouvelle

Port-la-Nouvelle is the last town on the Canal de la Robine, and it’s a bustling fishing port. On the seafront, you will find many restaurants and bars and the beach is wide and sandy. Perfect for sunbathing or a day of family fun. Don’t forget to try the seafood - it’s as fresh as you can get! 

 

Or, alternatively live on the wild side and go for an accompanied horse ride with Manada Jean Henri. Here you’ll be able to discover the region – taking a ride through the marshes and even on the beach.

 

Béziers

Béziers is the capital of Languedoc’s wine industry and birthplace of Pierre-Paul Riquet, who was responsible of building the Canal du Midi. Like all cities with a long history, Béziers is best discovered by ambling through its medieval streets, its bright squares and its leafy parks.  

Discover your own waterway adventure on the Canal du Midi with Le Boat. 

 

Canal du Midi Recovery

Set against a backdrop of extensive autumn flooding in the area, Le Boat has worked tirelessly with its local partners to ensure that it’s Canal du Midi services will be fully operational for the 2019 tourism season, which will begin mid-March.  

Since the flooding in late October, Voies Navigables de France have invested over € 4 million to rehabilitate the area which accounts for 30% of French river tourist traffic. The organisation have rebuilt structures along the waterway, cleared and removed debris rehabilitating the UNESCO World Heritage Sites towpaths.