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Minerve France: Reasons to Explore this Beautiful Historic Village in the South of France

Minerve France: Reasons to Explore this Beautiful Historic Village in the South of France

Minerve is named one of the most beautiful villages in France.

As I traveled by barge along the Canal du Midi, I had the opportunity to visit many South of France villages that I’d never heard about in my life. Minerve France was one of those small towns in France that I didn’t even know existed. Maybe you’re in the same situation as I was, and you’re learning about Minerve for the first time through this blog post. Whether I’m introducing you to this spectacular medieval village or it’s on your bucket list, do yourself a favor and go there as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.

Brief History of Minerve France

The medieval village of Minerve in southern France

Minerve Herault is a village in the Occitanie region of southern France. It’s strategically positioned high up on a hill, surrounded by fortification walls (many of which are still in tact). You’d never know while wandering around peaceful, quiet Minerve that it has such a violent history.

Rugged natural surroundings near Minerve, South of France

In 1210, a group of Cathars sought refuge in Minerve after the bloody Massacre at Béziers. Then, Simon de Montfort and his army besieged the city for six weeks before it surrendered. He set up four catapults to destroy the ramparts and the town’s well. After their water supply was cut off, Minerve finally gave up and surrendered to Simon de Montfort. When 140 Cathars refused to give up their faith, they were burned at the stake in the village square.

Replica catapult off in the distance near Minerve France
Catapult replica in Minerve, South of France

Even though this treacherous history is part of the town’s heritage, you’d never know it nowadays. It’s such a small, quiet town, surrounded by a beautiful gorge and rugged cliffs. The River Cesse only flows during the winter; the river bed is completely dry during the spring, summer, and fall. I recommend walking all over the village and the trails surrounding it.

Things to Do in Minerve

Walking down to Minerve from the car park, France

Looking to experience Minerve France? It’s all about exploring the town on your own two feet. Discover this magical medieval village by walking up and down every narrow street. Continue your explorations by venturing down below the town to view the cliffs and caves.

Walk Around Minerve Village

The bridge leading to Minerve in southern France

You’ll certainly want to wander up and down each narrow, cobblestone street and path. When you enter town, you’ll notice one tall, narrow column. That’s the Candela (castle) dating back to the 13th century, and only this solitary column remains. Another notable site is the Church of Saint Etienne, an 11th century Roman style church in the middle of town. Its altar dates back to the year 456.

Candela pillar from medieval Minerve
Fortification walls of Minerve under restoration
Church in Minerve France

If you’d like to learn more about Minerve France, visit the tourist office for information. maps, guidebooks and pamphlets. If you’re a fan of museums and history, I recommend stopping at the Museum of Archaeology and Prehistory in Minerve. You can learn more about the history of the area, and check out their collection of fossils and tools used by ancient civilizations.

The narrow cobblestone streets of medieval Minerve France

Hike the Trails of the Gorge

Part of Minerve’s allure is its captivating nature. From up above in the village, you can enjoy stunning views of the treetops, cliffs, and canyons all around. But, don’t stop there. Continue your trek by walking down to the paths below the village. You can hike right to the riverbed below when it’s dry to explore the carved limestone caverns and rugged natural bridges.

Hiking at Minerve in the South of France
Walking the path around the base of Minerve's gorge and caves
The caves of Minerve in southern France
Wildflowers growing in Minerve France

Beyond the village of Minerve, you can explore this lovely landscape by foot or bike. If you continue your journey outside of the city, you’ll come across the vineyards of Minervois, as well as numerous other villages and hamlets.

Shopping, Restaurants and Cafes

Shopping, restaurants and cafes of Minerve France

As you wander around Minerve, there are many souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafes. Paroli is a delightful bookshop with new and used books, postcards, and art. Throughout history, Minerve is the capital of the Minervois wine region. As such, you’ll be able to sample local wines at many restaurants and cafes. Wine not your thing? Stop for a coffee as a pit stop on your journey around town.

Visit Minerve on a Tour

Visiting the town of Minerve Herault

To gain the best understanding of a new place, I recommend traveling with an experienced tour guide. I was grateful to enjoy a guided tour by Matthieu of the Athos du Midi. He told us so many fascinating details about Minerve France that I otherwise wouldn’t have gathered on my own.

Wandering the quiet town of Minerve France, escaping the crowds

However, if you aren’t visiting Minerve from a canal cruise, you might want to book an excursion yourself with a knowledgeable guide. On this tour, you’ll travel to Minerve, Carcassonne, and the Canal du Midi. If you’re into wine tasting, book this tour for a wine tour around the Languedoc-Roussillon region, including a stop in Minerve.

Helpful Tips While Visiting Minerve

Visiting Minerve France: The town of Minerve from a distance, surrounded by hills.

Here are a few things to plan in advance of traveling to Minerve France:

  • Cars aren’t allowed right in the village itself, but there are parking lots just outside of Minerve. It’s a short walk into town from the parking lot. You’ll be able to enjoy gorgeous views of Minerve and its natural surroundings as you approach the village.
  • Pack lots of sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. When you’re hiking around Minerve, especially by the cliffs, there really isn’t very much shade. You’ll want to protect your skin and avoid heat stroke by applying sunscreen and protecting your eyes with shades.
  • Don’t forget to bring a water bottle as you can easily get dehydrated walking around.
  • Never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend comparing travel insurance rates online to find the best plans and prices.

Where to Stay in Minerve

Where to stay in Minerve France - Minerve hotels and accommodations

While I visited Minerve on a day trip excursion from my canal cruise aboard the Athos du Midi, you can most certainly spend the night in Minerve France. While it’s not necessary to spend more than a few hours in Minerve, staying overnight always allows you to gain a better understanding of a place. It’s not always possible, but I recommend traveling as slowly as you can to fully experience and immerse yourself in each destination.

Travel to Minerve France, a beautiful medieval town

There are plenty of Airbnb rental rooms and homes in Minerve France. Some of them look to be quite luxurious and even have a swimming pool. As Minerve village is very tiny, there really aren’t that many hotels or places to stay. However, you’ll find a couple of accommodations to book by clicking here. You can also read lots of hotel reviews from others who have stayed in Minerve.

Minerve France is worthy of a half day trip when you visit the South of France. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful places in France. Be sure to check out some other small towns in France that I visited on my cruise on the Canal du Midi: Marseillan, Pézenas, Narbonne and Capestang.

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Have you ever heard of the village of Minerve, France?

Manisha Singh

Tuesday 23rd of July 2019

The pictures look in absolute contradiction to the backstory.


Wednesday 24th of July 2019

Right? I'd never know there were such intense battles here many years ago!