Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Archaeology & History Sites in Occitanie


This part of the swampy Camargue has been exploited for the salt since Neolithic times. Charlemagne was the first to have a tower erected, in 791 AD to help the fishermen and salt workers. Later in the 13th century Louis IX developed the town’s defences so that France was not dependent on Italy for her involvement in the Crusades. Twice, for the 7th and 8th Crusades, Louis IX left for the Levant from here. But it was not until the very beginning of the 14th century, after some 30 years after Louis’s death that the walls completely encircled the city.

Arena of Nimes

The amphitheatre in Nîmes is widely regarded as one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres. So well preserved is the structure that it is still used for a variety of events, although since 2009 it is in the process of being restored – a project that will last at least 25 years. It was built around 100 AD, shortly after the Colosseum in Rome, with an estimated seating capacity of 24,000. The amphitheatre was just inside the city wall, the position of which is marked in the paving surrounding the arena.


The cave of Bédeilhac has an enormous entrance, one that was attractive to the German army during World War II. They intended to use the cave as an airplane hangar. This activity destroyed a lot of archaeological deposits in the cave. Bédeilhac has a great diversity of parietal and portal art, including representations engraved and moulded in clay. Some of the side galleries are closed to the public, but the main gallery is accessible by a guided tour and has some interesting examples of Palaeolithic art.

Château de Montségur

On the top of the Pog de Montségur are the 13th century remains of a fortress that is perhaps one of the most well known Cathar Castle. Archaeological excavations have shown the hilltop has been occupied since the Neolithic. The first fortress was built in the beginning of the 12th century, and from 1232 Montségur was the seat and capital of the Cathar Church. In 1243 the castle was besieged for 11 months by the King’s army in what was the last stand of the Cathar Wars. After the fall the castle was rebuilt and housed a Royal garrison until the 17th century, and this is what we can visit today.

Château de Portes

A fortified castle that was built in he 11th century, with major additions in the 14th century. Since then it has passed through many hands. After being nationalised following the French Revolution, it has had six different owners. The location of the castle was almost certainly chosen because it overlooks the Regordane, an ancient route through the area used by pilgrims and Crusaders until the beginning of the 14th century. The ruined state of the castle is due to the over-mining of coal deposits beneath the castle during WWI.


A guided tour at Cougnac takes visitors to two separate caves, one that is of geological interest and the other of archaeological – with the paintings. The tour starts in the undecorated cave, which provides visitors with information about the natural processes that create the limestone caves in which Stone Age artists came along many millions of years later and made their paintings and engravings. The nearby decorated cave has some of the finest examples of paintings in France, with a few unique and rare depictions.

Lattara Archaeological Site & Museum

Pliny writes of a small fishing village in tidal marshes, but excavations begun in the 1960s soon revealed that the settlement was much more substantial. What started out as a shoreline landing stage for Etruscan, Punic and Greek traders in the 6th century BC developed into a major Roman port of more than 12 ha. By the 2nd century AD the settlement was abandoned due to rising sea levels, it was subsequently covered in silt. As an ongoing excavation, the site is rarely accessible, but it is visible from the onsite museum, which is well worth a visit.

Le Castellum Aquae - Nîmes

Le Castellum Aquae in Nîmes (also called the castellum divisorium de Nîmes) is at the end of the 50 kilometre aqueduct (known as the Nîmes Aqueduct) that brought water from from a spring near Uzès, the Eure Fountain, to what was then the Roman city of Nemausus. Although the ruins seem quite simple and unassuming and tucked away in a side street of Nîmes, there is only one other castellum divisorium from the Roman world that is better preserved, and that is at Pompeii.

Maguelone Cathedral

On an isthmus between a tidal lagoon and the Mediterranean Sea is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Maguelone. Although there is evidence of human habitation from the Stone Age throughout prehistory and antiquity, it was only in the 11th century that the influence of the location took off when it became bishopric and an impressive fortified Romanesque cathedral was built. The towers were demolished, but the church remains functional. The Romanesque tympanum, which depicted Saints Peter and Paul, has been replaced by a Gothic one. The relief of the two saints has been added to the door frame.

Maison Carrée

The Maison Carrée is the only Roman temple to be so completely preserved. The Corinthian-style temple was built by Augustus, and dedicated to two of his adopted sons – Caius and Lucius. It was placed on a podium overlooking the city’s forum or public gathering place. Other architectural features of the forum can be seen today. By virtue of its size the temple would have dominated not only the forum, but also the city, reminding locals of the rule of Rome. Napoleon had the neoclassical Église de la Madeleine in Paris modelled on the Maison Carrée.

Mas d'Azil Cave

At 70 m high, with a river and a road running through the ‘tunnel’, the cave is itself well worth seeing. Visitors take a guided tour of the underground tunnels, learning about the prehistoric people who lived here. Unfortunately the cave art is in inaccessible parts of the cave, but there are reproductions of these images in the museum along with other artefacts recovered by archaeologists.

Medieval Carcassonne - La Cité

The medieval fortified city of Carcassonne, known locally as la Cité, is one of the most popular destination for visitors to the south of France. The citadel has been occupied since prehistoric times, but it was the Romans who first built a series of walls, parts of which can still be seen. These were added to by the Visigoths, Crusaders and other. As spectacular as the imposing walls are, much of what we see today is the result of 19th century restorations, which are not accurate. But well worth a visit, even with the tourists, for the Roman and Medieval ramparts, the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, and the medieval castle & museum.

Moissac Abbey

Legend has it that the Saint-Pierre Abbey in Moissac was founded by the Frankish king, Clovis I, in 506 AD to mark his victory over the Visigoths. More reliable historical records suggest the monastery was established in the 8th century. By the 11th century as a result of its association with the Cluny Abbey, it had become a wealthy religious centre in south-west France. The cloister is one of the largest and the best preserved Romanesque cloisters in Europe. The south portal is one of the largest Romanesque portals. Moissac Abbey is a listed UNIESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Pilgrimage to Saint-James of Compostela.


Niaux has some of the finest examples of Palaeolithic art in Europe. The cave stretches back into the mountain for about 2 km, but the first painted panels are only 500 m from the entrance. Besides paintings on the wall, there are also engravings on the clay floors. Graffiti from the 17th century suggests that these visitors knew about the prehistoric art. A walk of nearly 40 minutes takes you through some spectacular speleological features to the gallery of black animals

Pech Merle

Since the discovery of the paintings in 1922 research on the paintings at Pech Merle, including the techniques used to make the images, what pigments the artists used, and also how some of the more complex panels developed over time, have been at the forefront of research on and debates about the meaning of Palaeolithic cave art in western Europe. Without doubt, this is one of the most striking decorated caves still open to the public in France – and should really not be missed. It is also the easiest cave to book tickets for.

Pont du Gard

Today Pont du Gard is a popular tourist attraction at a spot on the Gardon River favoured by locals to pass the time on a sunny day. Back in the 1st century AD the three tiered aqueduct was a critical part of a 50-kilometre long system that carried water from a spring just outside Uzès to the Roman colony of Nemausus, modern-day Nîmes. Roman architects created a technical masterpiece, standing over 50 m high, and 275 m long at the highest point. The lower level served as bridge well into the Middle Ages, long after the aqueduct ceased transporting water.

Via Domitia, Narbonne

In the centre of Narbonne’s town square is a cleverly exposed section of Roman road. This was the Via Domitia, the first Roman road to have been built in Gaul and it enabled the movement of soldiers and traders between Italy and Spain. The town of Narbo Martius was established here in 118 BC, taking advantage of the junction between the Via Aquitania and the Via Domitia, as well as the potential then for a port. It was a successful colony and later became the capital of Gallia Narbonensis.

Museums & Art Galleries in Occitanie

Musée de la Romanité

Opposite the Roman amphitheater in the historic centre of Nîmes stands a striking and modern building. As if covered in a white toga. This is the new Roman museum, opened in 2018. Using state-of-the-art multimedia presentation techniques and an extensive range of archaeological artefacts, a comprehensive permanent exhibition tells the story of the development of Roman Nîmes. From its Iron Age beginnings to medieval times, and the study of Roman archaeology itself.

Prehistoric Park, Tarascon-sur-Ariège

In the foothills of the Pyrénées mountains is the Parc de la Prehistoire, a museum and a 13 hectare Stone Age themed park. The park has a number of reconstructions to show the domestic settings pf Palaeolithic people. The museum provides a detailed account of what we know about Palaeolithic cave art, including a number of spectacular reproductions of cave art in nearby sites not open to the public- such as the replica of Marsoulas. A perfect compliment to visiting the nearby caves of Bédeilhac and Niaux.