Narbonne, a small French Riviera that rose from the remains of a Roman settlement to be a prosperous town. Most of its riches come from sea trade through its natural harbor. The remunerative natural harbor silted up with the changing fortune of Narbonne. But the city revamped itself with Canal de la Robine, a viridescent belt of water adorned with graceful boulevards and epoch-making bridges on either side.The influence and splendor of the Romans can still be experienced in Narbonne at the historical Monuments and architectural remains. The Archbishop Palace in Narbonne showcases the largest collection of wall paintings retrieved from ancient Roman villas in France. The medieval palace is a perplexing exhibit of hallways, atriums, towers, and courtyards. Along with a rich cultural heritage and noteworthy achievements, Narbonne offers a lot of tourist attractions to the visitors.
Here's the list of places to visit and 15 best things to do in Narbonne:
1. Take a sneak peek into history at the Fontfroide Abbey
The abbey has a long history attached to it. Established on the land conceded to the Benedictine monks, the abbey was later assigned to the Cistercian order. This assignment transformed the abbey into a primary ancillary for the operations of the monastery of Poblet. For many years, the abbey served as a primary base for the Catholic doctrine. In the 13th century, the abbey witnessed the ferocious crusade against the denomination of Cathar.
As you enter the Fontfroide Abbey, the Romanesque and Gothic architectural remains of its well-preserved regions take you back to the historical times. The dormitory, the chapterhouse, and the cloister of the lay clergy in the Fontfroide Abbey reflect a tale of survival and victory over time.
The juxtaposition of the Abbey in the Corbieres Massif also gives you the opportunity to taste its famous wine towards the end of the tour.
2. Explore the medieval diplomacy at the Archbishop’s Palace
The Archbishop’s Palace is a complex exhibit of interconnected buildings. The Palace has three towers and two mansions - an old Romanesque castle and a new gothic mansion. The Palace provides a glimpse of medieval politics and intrigue via its huge collection of paintings and exhibits. You may find yourself astray as you move through the gardens and courtyards of the Palace.
3. Explore the medieval past at the Archaeology Museum
The archaeology museum at the Archbishop's Palace uncover the medieval past through twelve captivating rooms. The ancient prehistoric Roman frescoes in the rooms reflect the Gallo-Roman era. These paintings were recovered from eminent archaeological sites. In addition to the paintings, you will also witness alluring mosaics. The marble statues, carvings, sculptures, and columns in the Archaeology Museum create an evocative presentation of the Roman empire.
4. Marvel at the opulent interiors of the Museum of Art and History
The Museum of Art and History is located in the newer mansion of the Archbishop’s Palace. Adorned with opulent interiors, the Museum showcases art and ceramic pieces retrieved from the 16th to 19th century. There is a diverse collection of apothecary jars from the 1600s to 1700s. There is also a room reflecting orientalism with a representation of the Mosque of Cordoba. The room houses over 125 paintings depicting exotic presentations of Arab souks in the 19th century.
5. Capture a view of Narbonne from the Gilles Aycelin Donjon
Gilles Aycelin Donjon is a small four-story keep located on the west side of the Archbishop’s Palace. Although it is a minor attraction but provides spectacular views of Narbonne, the Cape Massif, the Pyrenees, and the Corbieres Massif. You can visit the keep with a museum multipass. The keep also has a 64 narrow-stepped stairway leading to the top battlements. On climbing the keep you get a beautiful view of the Canal de la Robine.
6. Visit the famous Narbonne Cathedral
Narbonne Cathedral is a gothic edifice constructed in the 14th century that remained unfinished due to the war raging in France during its construction. The ribbed vaults and terracotta structures of the Cathedral provide it a distinct character. Explore the cloister between the two Roman columns, visit the treasury above the Chapel of Annunciation to find an exclusive assortment of liturgical art pieces from the medieval times.
7. Explore the Musee Lapidaire
Musee Lapidaire is the largest collection of European lapidaries. The Musee Lapidaire has over 1,300 stone pieces each of which provides an intriguing trace about the history of the city. You can find a shrine and lintel of the Constantinian basilica retrieved from the Narbonne cathedral. In addition, the museum houses remaining stones of the ramparts and the marbles retrieved from the steles and sarcophagi of Roman tombs along with other important stone pieces.
8. Chill out at the Gruissan Plage
Gruissan Plage is among the best sandy beaches to chill out near Narbonne. The beach is well-guarded by the lifeguards. Although there is not much development near the beach, you can find some snacks or lunch to munch on. Gruissan is a small town familiar for its oyster farms and salt marshes.
9. Visit the Horreum Romain
Horreum Romain is characterized by its underground galleries well-connected by corridors. The galleries once served as storage beneath the Horreum (warehouse). You may find some amphorae well-kept here and there to recapitulate the appearance of an ancient marketplace. You can also find some vestiges of ancient art well-placed in the alcoves between the interconnected galleries. The vestiges include broken fragments from statues, a bull’s head carved in marble, some relief as well as a faint fresco that represents an ongoing game in an amphitheater.
10. Visit the Maison Natale Charles Trenet Mansion
Charles Trenet was a popular singer famous for recording his self-written songs. The apartment where the singer was born has been reserved as Avenue Charles Trenet. As you enter the property, you will find a statue of the artist. The interiors of the apartment are well-kept with some of the possessions of the artist including a grand piano, a transistor radio, and manuscripts of his popular songs.
11. Explore the Canal de la Robine
The Canal de la Robine provides the trade route to the Narbonne city in France connecting it to the Atlantic ocean via other interconnected canals. The canal is adorned with significant bridges and beautiful boulevard on either side. Either take a stroll at the banks lined with trees or hire an electric boat to explore the bridges covered with flowers.
12. Visit the Pont des Marchands
Pont des Marchands is an arched bridge that has houses built along its entire length. It is the only inhabited bridge in France where people are living in pretty houses built over the bridge. The series of well-built houses provide an unforgettable picturesque view to the Pont des Marchands bridge.
13. Explore the wineries at the La Clape
Massif de la Clape is a mountain range between the Mediterranean and Narbonne famous for its vineyards. La Clape has a narrow hilltop marked by exposed limestones and a base prettified with evergreen forests. Tourists can either take a walk in the vineyard or enjoy bike riding in the evergreen forests adorned with kermes oaks, cypresses, and stone pines. The vineries prepare wine by blending Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre varieties of grapes.
14. Shop at the Les Halles
Les Halles is the central market of Narbonne located inside a modern hall. The market opens daily from 7 am to 1 pm. There are over 70 different stalls in the market. You will find butchers, bakers, grocery stores, fromageries, florists, and fishmongers selling some of the best offerings of Narbonne. The place is a Zen for food lovers. You may find yourself carried away with the smell and taste of artisanal olive oil, jams, spices, honey, vinegar, and lucques olives.
15. Indulge in some Gastronomy
The wild vegetation around Narbonne is called garrigue. It is a Mediterranean stretch of wild herbs like rosemary, thyme, and lavender. Romans often combined the nectar from the wild herbs with honey to enhance the taste. The flowers blooming during different seasons of the year provide a distinct flavor to the honey. Also, the locals use delicious lucques olives as taste enhancers in food. Bean and pork casserole at the cassoulet-center is another must-try thing in Narbonne.
Narbonne is a beautiful city to spend some memorable holidays in France. Consider the suggested list while planning your itinerary to make the most of your holidays during your stay in Narbonne.