In and around Bizanet

Bizanet is situated 4 km from the abbey of Fontfroide, 12 km west of Narbonne, 24 km from the Mediterranean and approx. 50 km east of Carcassonne. From Narbonne, a small road with many bends leads you to Bizanet, a peaceful medieval winegrowers village in Languedoc where life is still dominated by winemaking - away from major roads and from the hustle and bustle of the coast. Surrounded by vineyards, pine woods, almond and fig trees and above all sweet-smelling garrigue, Bizanet is known as the gateway to the Corbières.

The Mediterranean climate of Bizanet is semiarid with hot dry summers, mild winters with bright clear skies, low average annual precipitations, irregular rain in autumn. Even the winter months are sunny, the Languedoc being known for its 300 days of sunshine a year. The tramontane and the cers (north or northwest) are dry winds which make the heat in the summer feel less oppressive. The marin wind (east), which is more frequent in autumn, brings warmer and more humid air.

With its 1264 inhabitants, it is a typical hillside village of the Corbières, clustered around the old church, with quaint narrow lanes, an attractive fountain on the church square and several well-preserved lavoirs (wash houses) which are still very popular. While water was a basic element for the construction of a village in this arid region, Bizanet was fortunate enough to have several sources, especially the Naissant spring, which were able to supply the village with water. The fountain on the church square is still an important meeting point for the elderly who come to take a breath of cool air and exchange the last news of the day. Here, traditions are still alive. In the long summer evenings, people here like to take a chair out and to just sit in front of their houses and heartily chat together. Bizanet is an exciting place to experience rural everyday life, all in all a slower pace of life.

Bizanet is supplied with a bakery for fresh bread and croissants, a small modern supermarket Les saveurs des Corbières which covers the day-to-day needs, from fresh vegetables to cheese, meat and fish (on Fridays), a hairdresser, a post-office, doctors and a dentist. Several days a week, there are market stalls selling fresh fish, meat, poultry, cheese and fruit - in walking distance on the main square. The thriving markets of Lézignan (Wednesdays) and Narbonne (Thursdays and Sundays), bustling with life and rich in colour, with their stalls piled high with local produce and much more (fabrics, clothes, ironmongery, mattresses, etc.) are undoubtedly a must. A visit to the famous covered market of Narbonne with its 70 stalls - open daily throughout the year - is a real treat too.
In the center of Bizanet, you will also find a small café Le bar du cercle, which is also a meeting point for rugby fans of the local club as well as of the famous RCNM team of Narbonne, to have a pastis or a glass of Muscat wine and a pizzeria La forge with a large choice of tasty home-made pizzas and fresh salads.

Here in Bizanet, you will have fun tasting wine. In the wine producers' co-operative of Bizanet named Les celliers de l'Aussou which units 302 members, there is a good assortment of bottle wines produced by carbonic maceration as well as classical vinification methods. And you will can enjoy buying wine by the litre straight from the barrel or the wine vat. A warm welcome awaits you in a dozen private wineries which have been able to combine tradition and experience over decades. For example, the owners of Domaine du Grand Planal, Domaine de St Maurice, Château Beauregard Mirouze, Domaine Ste Eugénie and Domaine du Petit Gaussan will be happy to share their passion with you and let you taste their high quality products. The most common grape varieties cultivated in Bizanet for the red and rosé wines are Carignan, black Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah, white Grenache, Bourboulenc, Maccabeu and even Viognier for the dry white wines. Experimenting how to match food and wines will soon become an exciting experience!

Praying mantis The exceptionally unspoilt landscape around Bizanet has much to offer nature lovers. Due to the botanical richness of the countryside, every season has its charm. In early spring, i.e in February, the almond blossom takes place in delicate white and pink colours. From March to May, it is not rare to see one of the 75 species wild orchids - next to blue and yellow wild iris.
The five most common orchid species at home here are the ophrys corbariensis, the ophrys catalaunica, the ophrys bombyliflora, the ophrys apifera and the pyramidal orchis. Yellow and red carpets of flowers (corn poppies) spread at the foot of the vineyards and create impressionist motives. Thyme and rosemary join in with violet and light blue and later on, from June on, the fresh green hills are widely covered with fragrant yellow broom besides soft pink cistus and still later with wild lavender.

Choose your way Typical trail cairn marker To the Mont Cal Several signposted footpaths of different length, partly bordered by dry stone walls, start from the center of the village and lead you amidst pine woods, kermes oaks and juniper, to the top of several surrounding hills from where you have a stunning view to the whole Corbières massif and to the Pyrénées. Many testimonies of the omnipresent pastoral activity in former times, in particular dry stone walls, sheep pens and capitelles (shepherds' shelters), are scattered over the garrigue which was home to many flocks of sheep.
From Bizanet, you can also start for great cycling tours. It is very easy to ride out of the village on the very quiet backroads with very little traffic. Depending on your condition, you just have to work out your itinerary between easy flat to rolling rides or more challenging ones with more or less steep climbs. Mountain bikers can choose among many trails around the village and in the massif of Fontfroide.

Bizanet is faithful to the Occitan language and proud of its wine growing roots. The Occitan language which comes from the common Latin became a written language from the 10th century on. For political reasons, it has been replaced by the French language as an administrative language but remained the usage language for a long time. It is still spoken by the elder population of Bizanet.

Remains of the former Roman church (XIIth century) Bizanet has a long history dating back to the Roman times and beyond. Prehistorical findings such as potteries, silex and tools which were found in some caves nearby attest this. Some Gallo-Roman remains have been discovered outside the village and rests of Roman mosaics in the upper part of the village and in Quillanet, a property close to the village. A small museum Espace des Granoliers shows a permanent collection of old tools and objects related to the wine-making process and wine-workers' every day life in past times.

In the Middle Ages, the village expanded and comprised two castles, the upper Château d'Amont and the lower Château d'Aval. Remains of the lower castle are still to be seen in the cemetery, as well as side walls of a former seigniorial church of the 12th century called Saint Pierre aux Liens. The present church has been built only in the middle of the 18th century.

In the vicinity of Bizanet, history is omnipresent too. Coming from Narbonne, you first see on top of a hill on your left side the Castellas, the former Saint-Pierre-des-Clars castle, built amidst holm oaks on the banks of the rec de Veyret brook. It has been probably built in the early 9th century and its chapel has been first mentioned 978. Nowadays, the surrounding wall, a wall section of the dunjeon and side walls of the chapel are the only remnants of its rich history as it belonged to the viscounts of Narbonne. Just near the Castellas, you will be amazed at seeing many small round roofed huts aligned with each other: they are rests of the aqueduct which supplied Narbonne with water in former times.

When you leave Bizanet in direction of Ornaisons, you will find on the edge of the village on your right remains of the priory of St Amans, half hidden by vegetation, which used to belong to the archbishop of Narbonne. The oldest part which can be seen is the crypt which still contains a pillar and a stoup. The priory is now a quiet place for those who love to have a rest amidst old stones and nature.

In direction of Saint-André-de-Roquelongue, the castle of Gaussan which used to be a cistercian barn depending on the abbey of Fontfroide and later a castle with tower reminding of Viollet-le-Duc's architecture has recently been a monastery.

The abbey of Fontfroide

Several roads amidst the garrigue lead you from Bizanet to Fontfroide which is a must to visit - or you can walk there through the vineyards, keeping the cross on top of the hill in sight!
The abbey of Frontfroide, founded in 1093 on the site of a former Benedictine abbey of Aymeric I, viscount of Narbonne, is a jewel of Cistercian architecture which is in private hand since 1908. The cloister, chapter house, the former monks' dormitory and the rose garden with over 3000 rose bushes are worth an extended visit (guided tours only). There are also many footpaths to walk around the abbey and to enjoy the charm of its delightful setting.
Special events take place here during the year, in particular Gregorian concerts at Easter, cello concerts in July and a Music and History festival with Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras (Hespèrion XXI, Le concert des nations) end of July/beginning of August.
A restaurant La table de Fontfroide is open from Easter to November for lunch and from June to August on four evenings for dinner too.


Situated only 15 minutes from Bizanet, Narbonne has been founded by Domitius Ahenobarbus in 118 BC as Narbo Martius as the first Roman colony outside Italy. It soon became the capital of the provincia narbonensis and an important harbour for the wine and olive oil trade, strategically situated at a junction of the Via Domitia and of the Via Aquitania. Later, between the 11th and the 14th century, the city was very prosperous due to an important Jewish community before its decline due to the Hundred Years War and the plague. Narbonne is connected to the Canal du Midi and the Aude river by the Canal de la Robine and has always been an important junction between Italy and Spain, Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Nowadays, due to its well-preserved historical center, its narrow lanes, tiny squares and cafés along the flower-bordered banks of the Robine canal, it is a charming South of France provincial town where it is worth taking your time to visit. Its covered market with its beautiful glass and iron architecture from the 19th century and its 72 stalls overloaded with vegetables, fruits, honey, cheeses, olives, meat and poultry, shellfish, oysters, mussels attracts visitors from far beyond Narbonne because of the great choice and incomparable quality of its products.

On the town hall square, the Archbishop's Palace forms with the Saint-Just and Saint-Pasteur's cathedral (choir with large medieval altarpiece ) an unique architectural complex with the Vieux Palais (12th/13th century) the Palais Neuf (14th century), the Hall of the Synods with its elegant Aubusson tapestries which was the seat of the General States of Languedoc. From the Gilles Aycelin dungeon (42m high, 162 steps) built over a former Roman wall, the paronamic view extends to the Clape, the lagoons, the Corbières and the Pyrénées. The cathedral itself with its very high Gothic vaults, its 18th century choir stalls and its large altarpiece with polychrome elements from the 14th century remained unfinished. The Gothic cloisters have an direct access to the archbishop's gardens.

Remains of the Via Domitia, the oldest Roman road in Gaul which connected Italy to Spain, have been recently uncovered on the town hall square in front of the Archbishop's Palace.

Narbonne is also rich in museums. The archeological museum in the new palace contains a rich collection of Roman wall paintings and mosaics, sarcophagi, tools and jewels from Paleolithic and Neolithic. The art and history museum, in the former episcopal apartments in the new palace, shows besides faience and pottery (18th cent.), Dutch, Flemish and Italian paintings (16th/17th century), a very interesting collection of Orientalist paintings.
The lapidary Museum (in a 13th century church near the covered market) possesses more than 1500 Roman reliefs and inscriptions found by demolishing the city ramparts.
The Horreum is actually the only Roman building still existing in Narbonne. It used to be an underground storehouse for grain, near the forum. Now it is a museum with a few sculptures and stone reliefs.
The Basilique Saint-Paul (with its elegant chancel from 1224) is worth visiting especially because of its crypt built on a paleo-christian necropolis from the 4th century and on the tomb of the first bishop of Narbonne.
And at last why not visit the "house with the green shutters" where Charles Trenet, known as the "singing fool" was born 1913 and which has been converted in a small museum?

Apart from these few possible highlights of your sightseeing tour, there is still much more to do in Narbonne. Would you like, for example, to explore the waterways walking along the Canal de la Robine banks to the Mandirac lock (6 km) or would you prefer to rent an electric boat? And would a one-day cruise on a barge to Le Somail or to Port-la-Nouvelle?

All around the year in Narbonne

- Late January to early March: carnival with many parades held on the weekends;
- End of June/beginning of July: "Festival de Théâtre National Amateur" (free outdoor performances every evening) in the Archbishop's Palace;
- Beginning of July: "Foire à la brocante" (antique market);
- Beginning of August: "Fête du Commerce et du Vin" (market days) with a "wine fountain" on the townhall square;
- Mid of August: "Via Mercaderia", medieval days with free dance, music and historical performances;
- End of August: Charles Trenet Festival;
- Mid/end of October: "Fête du vin nouveau Dius a vol" (wine festival).

La Placette – Your home for a unique experience

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