The Herault is one of the loveliest departments in the south of France. Making up part of the Languedoc Roussillon, it has been in the greater region of Occitanie since 2016. Whether you prefer the countryside or the beach, there are plenty of places to choose from. Here we bring you 5 of the best towns/villages to whet your appetite for a visit.
This department has just about everything one could wish for: a wonderful sunny Mediterranean climate, miles and miles of soft sandy beaches, peaceful countryside, imposing mountains, proximity to Spain, some truly beautiful villages and welcoming towns, as well as reasonable property prices.
Its coastal towns and numerous beach resorts are well cared for and rarely crowded. In many ways reminiscent of the Riviera, they are far cheaper in terms of both food, wine and also house prices than their somewhat ritzier neighbour!
The prefecture of the Herault is the sophisticated, vibrant city of Montpellier. Montpellier is justifiably proud of its excellent infrastructure, stunning architecture, pedestrian-friendly centre and fine shopping, restaurants and cafes.
With direct flights to Montpellier from the UK, the Herault is a continually popular area to visit, as well as to buy property.
Marseillan is a very picturesque village situated on the Etang de Thau just east of Beziers. It is a thoroughly charming working village with a lovely fishing port lined with restaurants and cafes, as well as the famous “Noilly Prat” shop on one side. The heart of the village is unspoilt and worth a meander around its little streets, although it is the port and Etang that attract most visitors. One almost feels as though nothing has changed here in hundreds of years, such is its charm.
There are some recent new apartment developments in Marseillan at reasonable prices, although they have increased in the last 5 years or so. A budget of around €250,000 will afford you a 2-bed apartment, but there are also some excellent bijou studio apartments for around the €100,000 mark.
Sete is a large town located between the Mediterranean and the Etang de Thau, often considered to be the “Venice of the Languedoc”. It is a pretty town divided pretty much into two parts. The lower town is known for its bridges and canals and the upper town is on the Mont St. Clair. Wandering along the harbour, there is a huge choice of restaurants, shops and bars in which to watch the fishing boats bobbing in the sea. Sete is the largest fishing port in the Mediterranean.
On the Mont St. Clair there are some wonderful villas and the area has understandably attracted artists, many of whom have opened up their own workshops to the public. The beach at Marseillan Plage is sandy and pristine, ideal for a family outing.
Property prices are a little higher here but it is still an affordable area. A budget of around €300,000 will find you a small house or 2-bedroom apartment with some outside space. As an investment area, this is to be recommended.
Further north-west in the Herault and away from the coast, you will find the extraordinary village of Minerve, listed as “One of the most beautiful villages in France”. This outstanding village will take your breath away! Situated above a massive gorge formed from the River Cesse, it is a fortified medieval village seemingly perched on top of a rock.
The village was made famous by its brutal history when in the 13th century, a group of Cathars escaped from Beziers and were attacked by Simon de Montfort before surrendering to his greater power and being burned at the stake. The village is now a wonderful place to explore. Car-free, since the car park is at the edge of the village, it has several small restaurants, boutique shops and artist’s studios set around its tiny meandering cobbled streets.
Property in the village itself is hard to come by: it is very small! However, there are plenty of pretty villages around Minerve such as Azillanet, Cesseras and Olonzac where a budget of around €200,000 will find you a 2-3 bedroom house with a garden.
Saint Chinian is a small town with a fantastic atmosphere located about half an hour northwest of Beziers. It is probably best known for having its own wine appellation. It is also known for its popular twice-weekly market, which always seems to take over the entire village, although it is mainly held in the large main square. There is a vast array of stalls selling all manner of goods, from foodstuffs to beds and household items. For many French folk, it is a tradition to come to market on a Sunday morning and then partake in a leisurely Sunday lunch in one of the nearby restaurants.
There is a range of property types for sale in Saint Chinian with mainly affordable prices. The beauty of Saint Chinian is that it combines the buzz of a small town with the peace of the countryside and vines which surround it.
Saint Guilhem le Desert
This small but perfectly-formed village is an absolute delight. Listed amongst the “most beautiful villages of France”, it lies around 40km from Montpellier and is on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. The village is truly medieval; it is perched below a dramatic rocky landscape, its centre noted for its tiny cobbled streets with ancient medieval stone houses and boutique shops. The central square is dominated by a massive, centuries-old plane tree; the perfect stop to sit and watch the world go by.
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Property is hard to come by in the actual village. However, you can find a range of rural properties nearby but within easy driving distance to Montpellier for a budget of around €250,000.
There are frequent, direct flights from the UK to Montpellier and Beziers airports, taking around an hour and a half. Driving down, we recommend going via the superb A75 and across the Millau bridge – a stunning drive if you have the time!
The Herault represents all that is lovely about the south of France: stunning coastline, spectacular mountains and countryside and excellent towns and villages. Also, let us not forget that the Languedoc Roussillon is the largest wine-growing area in the world.
A property purchase here is likely to prove to be an excellent investment.