Rendez-vous in Narbonne
Narbonne, an open attitude
At first, unsuspecting travellers think they’ll just pass through Narbonne. Then they discover a handsome Roman city with more than one ace up its sleeve:
- An endless beach of fine sand, with 3,000 hours of sunshine per year;
- 6 museums;
- 16 buildings and the Canal de la Robine listed as the UNESCO World Heritage sites;
- a Regional Natural Park;
- 2 mountain preserves;
- 2 AOC wines;
- a certain penchant for festive occasions, thanks to free, high-quality events and activities for children and adults alike.
Given its strong hand, Narbonne suddenly looks like a good bet. So drop anchor and spend a few days getting to know Narbonne. It’s a priceless discovery.
We must not forget to ‘render unto Caesar…’: Narbonne (Narbo Martius) was founded in the year 118 BCE and was nothing less than the largest Roman colony outside of Italy.
The city’s 2,500 years of history make strolling down its streets feel like travelling back in time, the well-worn paving stones of the Via Domitia still remain from the city's creation.
Narbonne’s rich past runs from classical antiquity through the Middle Ages into the Renaissance and up to the golden age of wine-making in the late 19th century. Its magnificent cultural heritage of listed buildings and municipal museums will enable you to discover this historical past in detail, either on your own or on a tour.
In the late Middle Ages, once peace and prosperity had returned, Narbonne became the site of power struggles between the viscount, the consuls and the archbishop.
The power of Narbonne’s religious leaders is symbolised by the archiepiscopal complex of palace, cloister, and Gothic cathedral of Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteurs, the first stone of which was laid in 1272. Narbonne’s cathedral, one of the tallest in France with vaults of 41 metres (135 feet), was never completed – only the choir was built.
Discover these sites redolent of history by wandering down the Passage de l’Ancre (Anchor Alley), through the Jardin des Archevêques (Archbishops’Garden) and the old canons’ quarter with its fine if austere dwellings.
A city of museums
A number of museums will help you to understand Narbonne and its history across the millennia.
- The Horreum Romain (Roman Storehouse)
The sole example in France of an almost completely preserved Gallo-Roman merchandise warehouse.
- The Musée Lapidaire (Museum of Stone Artefacts)
A southern Gothic church has been converted into a museum boasting some 2,000 remnants of ancient buildings from the Roman period, salvaged when Narbonne’s ramparts were dismantled on the orders of Napoleon III. Therefore, it represents the largest collection of stone vestiges from this period found in France - and only second to Rome. In order to make the general public aware of Narbonne’s artistic and cultural heritage, the city decided to mount an interactive audiovisual show that remains respectful of the site. This sound-and-light show begins in the Roman period and ends in the Renaissance, sending you on a cultural voyage around Narbonne and then throughout the wider world.
- The Musée Archéologique (Archaeological Museum)
Narbonne’s archaeological museum boasts one of the richest provincial archeological collections (the third richest, to be exact, after Lyon and Dijon). Organised into thematic sections, the rooms include an outstanding collection of Roman wall frescoes retrieved from the Narbonne site of Clos de la Lombarde, thanks to decades of energetic excavations led by the Groupe de Recherches Archéologiques du Narbonnais (GRAN).
- The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (Art and History Museum)
Known for having the finest collection of faience in France after the Musée National de la Céramique in Sèvres, Narbonne’s Art and History Museum offers visitors a remarkable series of Orientalist paintings in a special display. It's widely regarded by specialists as the best in France.
- La Maison aux Volets Verts (birthplace of singer Charles Trenet)
The ‘house with green shutters’, where Charles Trenet was born, has now been listed as a "Maison des Illustres" by the French Ministry of Culture . The crooner’s home has been rejuvenated and allows visitors to experience its extraordinary garden in a new interactive, audiovisual presentation. Discover the poetic, playful universe of Charles Trenet through the voices of his parents and Charles himself, plus the refrains of his best-loved songs. Not to mention drawings by the well-known cartoonist Cabu (one of Trenet’s many unconditional fans). Every floor of the house holds a surprise.
- Abbaye de Fontfroide (Fontfroide Abbey)
The Abbaye de Fontfroide is a magnificent Benedictine abbey that joined the Cistercian movement in 1144–45CE. Located in the hills of Corbière, it constitutes an exceptional sight.
A perfect destination for a family holiday
Narbonne will delight every member of the family, no matter the age, thanks to its beaches, pleasant lifestyle and wide variety of sports and other activities. Here are two of the family friendly resorts:
- The Narbonne Plage beach resort with a range of seaside activities
- The Sigean African Game Reserve with lions, giraffes, and more
Events in summer are designed to enable families to enjoy fun moments or spend an evening together. For the more curious, throughout the school holidays the Tourist Office and the Cultural Department organise educational games and activities that are both fun and instructive.
Children can discover local culture painlessly because you can choose your own way to visit Narbonne’s heritage sites and go at your desired place – the historic city centre can be easily visited on foot.
Get an instant idea of the rich discoveries to be made in the ancient capital of Narbonne by downloading tours for the Cité and Bourg quarters from our internet site, free of charge, directly to your iPhone or smartphone.
For a fuller appreciation of Narbonne’s 2,500 years of history, select one of the various options:
Groups: select a thematic tour, by appointment.
- Choose from a programme of tours at fixed times;
- Take a guided tour of a museum or site of your choice;
- Hire an audioguide for your iPod (available at the Tourist Office) ;
- Purchase a Pass Monument Musées (reduced admission rates to 7 sites).
Throughout the year, Narbonne organises numerous free, festive events and activities for kids and grown-ups. Join the fun!
The festivities begin on the 21st of June with the Fête de la Musique (all-night music festival) and Tempos d’été (Summer Tempos), which is a series of dance, cultural, and festive events. The Narbonne Plage beach resort also organises traditional ballroom dances, cabarets, orchestral concerts, ‘Nouvelles Scènes’ (new music scene), DJ evenings, summer tours and more.
- Festival National de Théâtre Amateur (National Amateur Theatre Festival):
For the past 28 years, ten days of plays by classical and contemporary playwrights have made Narbonne the French capital of amateur theatricals.
- Horizon Méditerranée (Mediterranean Horizon):
This will be the third incarnation of a summer event devoted to Mediterranean cultures by featuring concerts, strolling musicians, exhibitions, lectures, communal meals and many other activities.
- Festival Musique et Histoire de Fontfroide (Festival of Music and History):
Every year the beautiful Cistercian abbey of Fontfroide hosts Jordi Savall, Monserrat Figueras and others for wonderful concerts in its venerable halls.
- Festival Musique au Présent (Next Generation Music Festival):
This will be the fourth time this festival has honoured contemporary musical creativity in all its forms via concerts and events where performers and the public meet in the context of master classes and residencies.
- Semaine Bavaroise (Bavarian Week):
In alternating years, Narbonne honours its twin town, Weilheim in Germany, by a week of celebrations of Bavarian food and folklore.
- Mémoires d’Antan (Memories of Yore):
Over 100 performers and volunteers invade the centre of town and relive an important period of Narbonne’s history. Animals, acrobatics, skits and more.
- And to wrap up the summer, the Trenet Festival: ‘Ya d’la Joie’:
Every year, the city of Narbonne organises a Trenet Festival for the final days of August. It takes the form of bodegas, street arts, unusual events and concerts, exhibitions, theatrical tours and so on. This is when Narbonne comes alive for its home-grown crooner, whose songs are famous throughout the world. The poet’s soul revisits the city, casting a spell on the streets, imbuing events with life, bringing cultures and people together. End the summer with a song on your lips thanks to a colourful and uncompromisingly fun festival.
The Narbonne area along with the surrounding hills of La Clape, Fontfroide and Corbières overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, boasts fields and vineyards with unique qualities.
Narbonne’s age-old market hall offers gourmets a choice selection of local produce: olives, honey, thyme, rosemary, oysters, and sardines, not forgetting AOC and IGP (regionally protected) wines. Curious shoppers may wish to pay a visit to a local producer for a friendly tasting session prior to buying.
The art of living well is something to be smelled, tasted, and savoured.
Narbonne, Drop Anchor!
Paris to Narbonne
- Autoroute: 789 km (490 mi)
- TGV (high speed train): 4 hrs 30 mins
- Plane: 1 hour flight to the following airports:
Perpignan (45 min from Narbonne)
- Montpellier (1 hr from Narbonne)
- Toulouse ( 1 hr 30 mins from Narbonne)
Toulouse to Narbonne
- Autoroute: 152 km (95 mi)
- TGV (high speed train): 1 hr 15 mins.
Montpellier to Narbonne
- Autoroute: 94 km (58 mi)
- TGV (high speed train): 50 mins
Barcelona to Narbonne
- Autoroute: 253 km (157 mi)
- Corail (intercity train): 3 hrs 30 mins
Tourist Office: Office de Tourisme de Narbonne
31 rue Jean Jaurès
Tel: 00 33 (0) 4 68 65 15 60
Fax: 00 33 (0) 4 68 65 59 12
Narbonne Plage Tourist Office (Open from the 1st of April to the 1st of October)
Avenue des Vacances
11100 NARBONNE PLAGE
Tel: 00 33 (0) 4 68 49 84 86
Fax: 00 33 (0) 4 68 65 58 94