Destinations,  Europe,  France,  Travel Diary

Exploring Roman history in Narbonne, France

I spent a few weeks exploring Southern France while making my way to Barcelona. I spent 3 nights in Narbonne, a small town of about 56,000 people.

Journal date: October 26-29, 2022

Train from Carcassonne

The nice thing about traveling in Europe is that many places are connected by train, and you can just hop on one and get to a new town relatively easily. The distance between Carcassonne and Narbonne was only about 2 hours and a mere €5.00, and the hardest part was navigating the train stations with my luggage (stairs!).

Where I stayed

Narbonne is crazy expensive compared to other towns in this region, so I booked a hotel using Chase credit card points. I stayed 3 nights at Hotel La Residence for 26,073 points which was worth $325.92 USD equivalent. Score!

I booked a “comfort double room” which included a mini fridge and a hot water kettle; it was a really nice room, actually, and the view was of the street instead of the back of another building like I always seem to get when I book rooms with CC points.

Here’s a room tour video I took:

The only downside was that my room was right off the entrance hallway which is also where the reception desk was, so it was fairly noisy. However, the room had a double-door situation between the main door and the bedroom part, and that helped block sound.

Sightseeing

I did all my sightseeing within walkable distance from my hotel, as I was basically in the middle of town anyway where all the cool historical stuff is. Narbonne is built around a canal system (the Canal du Midi, an UNESCO World Heritage Site shared with Toulouse and Carcassonne, among others) and so much of the tourist stuff is along that canal.

After a quick stop at the Tourist Office for a map (and to check for discounts!), I wandered around the neighborhood. I visited a few churches, some Roman ruins, and even a street market.

Cathédrale Saint-Just et Saint-Pasteur (Cathedral of Narbonne)

An unfinished Gothic cathedral constructed 1272-1340, with transept and a 40m-high choir (the tallest in France!), plus wonderful tapestries. Lots of interesting little things to see in this church, including the usual stained glass windows and old gravestones laid into the floor. The Weird, the Wonderful, and the Macabre in the Cathedral of Narbonne has an excellent overview of what exactly to look at when you visit; basically, if you’re a fan of Gothic cathedrals then this is one of the best ones to visit.

Click to enlarge the photos!

Basilique Saint-Paul

Another excellent Gothic style church (a basilica this time), the first built in Narbonne and sitting on top of the first bishop of Narbonne, Saint-Paul. You can visit the crypt below, which has tombstones from an early Christian cemetery (3rd-4th century!). Really neat place to visit, totally free entry.

The inside of the church is run down and needs renovating, but it’s still beautiful to look at. Click to enlarge the photos!

La Via Domitia & Narbonne city

There’s lots of random ancient Roman things hiding in Narbonne, but some of the easiest to find are the section of the Via Domitia and the stuff at the museum.

The Via Domitia was the first Roman road built in Gaul, made to link Italy to Hispania. It passed through Narbonne and a section of it was left exposed in the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville.

The Roman Granary Museum (entrance fee €5) has a tour you can take through the subterranean warehouse system, but if you’re super cheap or just claustrophobic, you can view some Roman artifacts placed just outside the museum doors.

Walking around Narbonne is really fun because of all the beautiful architecture, the canal and the random bits of history you run into. Click to enlarge the photos!

Street Art

Narbonne actually has some wonderful modern street art decorating its buildings! I was pleasantly surprised with what I found here. Click to enlarge the photos!

Is it worth visiting Narbonne?

Despite how much I enjoyed my stay, I do think Narbonne is probably only a one day stop on a longer touring plan. It’s definitely good for a day trip, or if you’re doing a short tour of Southern France. The most interesting part is the Roman history, but there’s not enough to stay overnight (in my opinion), especially considering how expensive the hotels are. There’s some beach stuff and a nearby abby (Abbaye de Fontfroide) which might be worth visiting as well.


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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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