Narbonne is a beautiful city in Southern France which sits on the Canal de la Robine. Its stunning location, fascination history and vast cultural heritage make for a lovely stop-off point while on a French barge cruise.
The City’s History and Heritage
Located a few miles inland from the Mediterranean shores, Narbonne is gently nestled at the crossroads between the Canal de la Robine and the Canal du Midi. It was built by the Romans in 118 BC and became an important trading port. Throughout the period the area flourished and soon became the capital of the Roman Narbonensis province. It eventually grew to be one of the most significant cities in the south of Gaul.
These glory days faded after the Romans left though. Narbonne became the capital of Visigoths in the 700s but disaster soon hit as trade decreased and the plague spread in the Middle Ages. It was not until the 1850s that Narbonne began to thrive again. A railway was built and the economy flourished thanks to the newly established budding wine industry. Narbonne’s vineyard of Corbières are now world-famous.
Thanks to this complex history, Narbonne boasts many historical sites which are well-worth visiting if you are on a French barge cruisein the area.
Located in the main square, Place de l’Hötel de la Ville, this palace is a beautiful combination of Romanesque edifices and Gothic alterations. Its three prominent towers are its most impressive features, built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The palace itself was once the Archbishop’s residence but has since become the townhall. It also hosts a few of Narbonne’s museums, including the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Art and History.
Though Narbonne was a thriving city during the Roman times, this former granary is the only building which survives from this period of history. Interestingly it was not re-discovered until the 1880s. It was only when demolition work started in the nearby area that the Horreum was uncovered. You can only visit a limited section of the building as only the small storage chambers have been excavated, but it’s definitely worth a look.
Cathédrale de St-Just and St-Pasteur and its Treasury
A celebration of Gothic architecture, this cathedral is an unseen wonder in the Mediterranean. While the Gothic cathédrales in Northern France are usually the most reputable, this imposing structure gives them a run for their money. It has stunning flying buttresses and colourful stained-glass windows. It does not have a Nave though, as to build one would have required knocking down the Roman defensive wall nearby. This was considered too dangerous in the 1300s and would have made Narbonne vulnerable to attack.
When you stop off on your French barge cruiseto visit the Cathedral, make sure you take a tour of the Treasury Room too. It contains some extraordinary artwork, including evangeliary plaques of carved ivory from the ninth century, eleventh-century Hispanic-Moorish pyxis and many liturgical items from the 1500s.
Travelling on a French barge cruise lets you explore everything Narbonne has to offer. Be sure to add all these destinations to your travellers’ checklist so you don’t miss out!
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury French barge cruise itineraries, as well as cruises to other great destinations in Europe. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.