As we drifted down the Canal du Midi, a collection of red roofed houses materialized in the distance. At their center, a stark set of pillars towered over the town. “Wow, what’s that?” I gasped to my fellow passengers on Athos, the hotel barge that I was fortunate to call home for a week. “That’s our next stop, Capestang!” someone explained.
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As we rounded the curves and turns of the canal, we sailed into town where I encountered the most bustling port of our trip. And by “bustling”, I mean that there were a row of small boats on each side of the river. We typically docked where no other boats were in sight. While I adored the solitude of many points along the riverbed of the Canal du Midi, it was great to walk off the barge and right into a little village. While Capestang France can be a lively spot, it’s not touristy by any stretch of the imagination. There are quiet spots around town where it’s easy to find peaceful solitude.
Do you want to know what makes Capestang France such a special place to visit? Here are 5 reasons why it’s one of the most beautiful towns in France, and why you need to head there as soon as possible.
It’s Right on the Canal du Midi
Capestang overlooks the Canal du Midi, and it’s a popular docking spot for many water vehicles. In fact, there’s a very narrow opening in the bridge right in Capestang. If you can drive your boat through this section, you can navigate anywhere on the Canal du Midi.
The Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a 360 km network of waterways linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 structures, including locks, bridges, and tunnels. It’s home to one of the most fascinating lock systems in the world, like the Fonserannes Locks (9 staircase locks) near Béziers.
If you’re renting a boat, you can stop in Capestang to explore the town from the Canal du Midi. If you’re making the trip to spend the day or night in Capestang, be sure to walk down to the canal. You can walk along the paths that follow the entire canal from start to finish. It’s also a really popular place to go for a bike ride. I suggest walking beneath the trees of the Canal du Midi, soaking up the wonderful scenery.
Many of you won’t be staying on a hotel barge like I did. I suggest booking an accommodation in Capestang so you can spend the night and experience the town waking up in the morning. Be sure to read reviews of hotels in the area to make an informed decision.
Saint Etienne Collegiate Church
The Collegiate Church of St. Etienne was constructed on the site of an old Roman church in the 13th and 14th centuries. The same group who built the cathedral in Narbonne also built this church. And similarly, the church remains unfinished to this date. It had potential to be the largest church in the region, but sadly is not complete.
Despite the fact that it’s unfinished, the church itself is a brilliant architectural work. Not only is the exterior of the church absolutely stunning, but the choir of the church is decorated with beautiful stained glass windows. If you have the chance, climb the stairs to the top of the bell tower for brilliant views of Capestang and the surrounding countryside.
Visit the Castle in Capestang
Take a tour of the Castle of the Archbishops of Narbonne while you’re in Capestang. This gorgeous palace was the summer home for the Archbishops of Narbonne. It is right in the middle of town (Capestang is not that big, so you’ll be able to walk everywhere quite easily). Unfortunately, we were visiting late in the day and barely squeaked in before closing. We only had time to view the highlight of the palace: the painted ceilings of the castle from the 15th century.
You aren’t allowed to take any photographs of the painted ceilings, most likely due to their fragility. But, it’s worth going to marvel at these antique works of art. You’ll see imagery of religious scenes, themes of love, animals (both real and imaginary), and more. It’s very amazing that these painted ceilings are still in tact after all of these years.
Enjoy the Lively Town Square in Capestang
At the center of town, there’s a bustling little square with restaurants, cafes, and patios. I saw many families and groups of friends enjoying a meal or a drink out on the patio. This is the perfect place to sip a glass of wine or savor a cup of coffee, watching the world go by. There are many Capestang restaurants offering traditional meals. I didn’t dine in Capestang so I’m not sure if there are any vegan-friendly restaurants, although I am sure you can request a plant-based meal without any issues (even if it’s pasta, pizza, or a garden salad).
If you love local markets, be sure to visit Capestang on a Wednesday or Sunday morning. The Capestang market is right in the main square, at the foot of the church. It happens from 7:00am to 1:30pm. You’ll find fresh and local produce, clothing vendors, and even a book seller. I hope to return to Capestang someday so I can experience the local market.
Wander the Village Streets
Out of all the things to do in Capestang, my favorite was simply wandering around the streets. Venture off the main street with the palace, or duck down one of the narrow alleys near the church. As you walk up and down each quaint street, you might not see another person in sight. On my jaunt around town, I saw one older gentleman walking slowly with a cane, and an adorable cat.
I love how many homeowners paint their doors and shutters in a variety of pastel colors. There are also flowers blooming everywhere, especially when I visited in late May. On your walk around Capestang France, you’ll come across a beautiful painted mural that spans an entire two story wall. There are other memorable features around town, like beautiful water fountains.
I hope that you get to also experience this delightful little village in the South of France. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful towns in France and you can easily spend hours alone simply wandering the narrow streets. Along with other small villages near the Canal du Midi, Minerve, Pézenas and Marseillan, it’s not really on the busy tourist circuit. Head here to escape the crowds and soak up a slowed down pace of life.
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