Eight Must-See Museums in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region
Museums of Languedoc
The Languedoc region has a wonderfully rich and diverse collection of museums. Of course there are your regular history and nature exhibits, and plenty of art galleries such as Carré d’Art. Some are dedicated to the single works of an artist, like Georges Brassens. Others are living museums, for instance there is the school museum in Carcassonne, which helps bring history come to life. Most are very localised with their collections like Béziers's Musée du Biterrois.
Listed below are eight museums from the Languedoc region, which should entertain, educate or just simply inspire you.
Musee Paul Valéry - Sète
The Musee Paul Valéry, located near the slopes of Mount Saint Clair, retains over 4,000 works, 700 painting and a thousand drawings. Many of the exhibits are works made within the Sète and the Languedoc region. Outside in the Museum's garden they host a series of lectures, poetry readings and singing recitals, which are staged throughout the year.
The initial building was designed by architect William Guy, in the seventies. It has recently had a twenty-first century renovation. Where they have both enlarged and redistributed the space of the original building. This new development was completed in 2010, and has a delightful view of both the Mediterranean and le Cimetière marin cemetery from the restaurant's terrace.
Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry who came from Sète, was a French poet, essayist, and philosopher. The le Cimetière marin cemetery, just outside the museum is the final resting place of Paul Valéry. He died in Paris age 73, at the end of the second world war in July 1945. The cemetery was immortalised in one of his best known works, the poem le Cimetière marin (The Graveyard By The Sea).
River Orb through Beziers
Musée du Biterrois - Béziers
The museum is relatively small and is accommodated in the former seventeenth century barracks of St-Jacques. This is a museum that caters for everything Beziers, with artifacts dating back to the neolithic era until the modern day. Including exhibits from Béziers's natural history and collections from their local history, archeology and the study of regional ethnology.
The collection's main focus is on the Roman occupation, along with the regions winemaking boom. Furthermore there is sections displaying local Religious conflicts, canal du midi and the Bronze age, and there is plenty more to see with their fish and wildlife exhibits.
Musee De L'Ecocle - Carcassonne
Musee de L'Ecole or School Museum, is a quaint small museum that is really worth an hour of your time, when visiting Carcassonne. There are five classrooms showing the various eras of France's education-system from the 1880's to the 1960s.
Check out the tiny primary school chairs, along with their neighbouring old-fashioned wooden desks. They should help bring back memories of yesteryear. You can interact with the ink and quills, use the blackboard, or check out the collection of old projectors.
Musee Fabre – Montpellier
The Fabre collection is one of the most important art galleries in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It is recognised nationally by France's Ministry of Culture as one of the Musée de France. It houses collections from both classic and contemporary art, and is named after François-Xavier Fabre, a local painter from Montpellier, who founded the museum back in 1825.
The gallery is split into three sections, Old, Modern and Decorative Arts. Between them they house over 800 paintings, including hundreds of engravings and thousands of drawings. Within the Old Masters category you will find works by Rubens, Poussin and Jacques-Louis David. The Modern Movements section have pieces from Manet, Degas and Delanunay.
There is an entire room devoted to works by Marseille-born artist, Fréderic Bazille. An impressionist painter and a contemporary of Monet.
Town of Sete
Espace Georges Brassens - Sète
Since its opening in 1991, this museum which is dedicated to the works of Georges Brassens has had over 900 thousand visitors. Making it one of the most popular attractions in Brassens's hometown of Sète.
Espace is an interactive museum, with moving images and sounds. The visitors are given headsets and are guided through the various exhibits, by the voice of Georges Brassens, who talks about his life and work. The hour long tour concludes with the screening of his recitals from previously unreleased recordings, along with songs from his concerts.
The french singer-songwriter and poet, Georges Brassens was born in Sète in 1921. In his most prolific period he produced fourteen albums, between 1952 and 1976, which included such songs like Chanson pour l'Auvergnat (Song for Auvergne), Les copains d'abord (The Big Chill), Mourir pour des idées (Die for Ideas) and La mauvaise réputation (Bad Reputation). He sadly passed away aged sixty in 1981.
Musée d'Histoire Naturelle – Nîmes
Nîmes's Museum of Natural History has amassed some of the most expensive artifacts, in the Languedoc region. The institution was founded in 1895, and the building is set around a cloister and a 17th century chapel.
The museum covers the science of nature, including the prehistory, the ethnography and the zoology, and brings together three entities: the museum of Natural History , the planetarium and the School of the DNA.
It houses pieces of sculpture dating back 6,500 years. The zoology rooms have over 500 specimens. Including many stuffed animals. You can come close to Siberian tigers or giant Polar Bears.
In 1770, Jean-François Séguier, a local botanist, returned home to live in Nîmes after a long and fruitful journey collecting many curiosities. He had no idea that one day his collection would create one of the richest assortment of exhibits in the whole of France. Some of these relics have helped shed light on the theory of evolution.
Musee d'Art et d'Histoire – Narbonne
There are two main museums occupying the former seventeenth century Archbishop's Palace in Narbonne, one is archaeological and the other is Art et d'Histoire, or in other words, the art and history museum, which was founded in 1833, with the help of Paul Tournal.
The immense collection of fine arts and decorative arts, dates from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, as well as an assortment of ancient earthenware artifacts.
The exhibits have been built up over the years with the help of purchases, gifts, bequests and deposits by individuals. The museum and the town have purchased many collections from Peyre (Paintings and works of art), Barathier (books, drawings, paintings and art objects), Bonnel (idem) and Tiffy (Art objects and Asian arts). A recent addition is the Orientalist collection, which has two rooms specially devoted to it's paintings.
Many of the rooms have retain their original charm and decorations from the time when it was an archbishop's palace. The rooms have also kept their unique names and styles, such as Chapel of the Madeleine, the Saint Martial, the Hall of Synods and the Hall of the Consistory. To name just a few.
Nimes Carré D'Art
Carré d’Art - Nîmes
We can thank Jean Bousquet, the Mayor of Nîmes for his vision to bring the contemporary art museum to the town of Nîmes. It took ten years of collecting art works and constructing the building, which was designed by British architect Norman Foster. Carré d'Art was finally opend to the public on the 8th May 1993.
Above the ground there are three levels of a glass transparent building, that gives passers-by a glimpse of its contemporary artistic world. Below the ground, there are five more layers, which store the archive material along with a cinema. The roof is made from glass, and brings in natural light, to help illuminate the upper floor.
When entering the first exhibit most visitors will notice is, Richard Long's Mud Line. A wave of mud lines across a wall. The style of Arte Povera is also covered, with artists like Mario Merz, Giuseppe Penone, Alighiero Boetti and Giovanni Anselmo. There is a section of German paintings by Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Albert Oehlen. As well as Important French works by Sophie Calle, Annette Messager and Suzanne Lafont. Likewise you will find United States artists like Richard Artschwager, Allan Kaprow and Joseph Kosuth.