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Espéraza - in the land of the Cathars

The small market town of Espéraza is found nestled at the foothills of the Pyrénées, in the south of France. The area is steeped in the history of the tragic Cathars, and the surrounding countryside is dotted with historic towns and villages, ruined castles, vineyards and stunning gorges. Espéraza itself is tranquil and charming, within easy reach of both the ski resorts of the mountains and the beaches of the Mediterranean, thus making a good base for enjoying the many attractions of this unspoilt region.

Enjoy the town's vibrant markets

Espéraza is attractive yet unassuming, the tranquillity of everyday life punctured only by the vibrant markets that take place twice-weekly in its streets. Market days, with a small market on Thursdays and a very popular larger market on Sunday mornings, are a colourful affair, attended not just by the town's residents but also by many from the nearby towns and villages, who not only enjoy browsing the stalls, but come to catch up on the local gossip.

Shopping, wining and dining in Espéraza

Espéraza may be in the countryside, but it is far from being an isolated backwater. The town has a useful collection of shops, with a bakery, a butcher's, two mini-markets, a pharmacy and a post office. There are also supermarkets easily accessed just out of town. There's good news on the restaurant front too, with dining out possible both in Espéraza and in many of the nearby towns. Occasionally, although not as often as in times gone by, Espéraza still sees pilgrims passing through the town on the way to Santiago de Compostela.

Sights and monuments to visit

Espéraza's most notable building is the Grade 1 listed 13th century church, but many of the houses here are interesting and date back to the Middle Ages. There are also two excellent museums. The more unusual of the two, the Hat Museum, gives a fascinating account of the art of hat making over the years, while the other one, a dinosaur museum, is always popular with the young. The town lies on the River Aude, and the attractive arched bridge that spans the river adds to the picturesque appeal of Espéraza.

Ski resorts and coastal towns easily accessible

Espéraza's fabulous location means that almost anything is possible from a base in the town. You can easily reach the mountains, with many excellent ski resorts open from November to April, or you can pop down to the coast to enjoy busy resorts such as Narbonne, or find quaint fishing towns such as Gruissan and Sete. Adventure sports fans will enjoy the sports of white water rafting, kayaking, canyoning and rock climbing in the nearby gorges of Galamus and St Georges, while those seeking gentler activities can enjoy walking, pony trekking, cycling, tennis and petanque, to name just a few.

Explore castles and relax in hot springs

Espéraza lies in the heart of Cathar country, and there are numerous ruined castles to see as well as great Cathar cities like Carcassonne and Béziers in the locality. The mysterious Rennes les Châteaux is on the doorstep, with its possible links to the Da Vinci Code tales, and just beside Rennes les Châteaux is the spa town of Rennes les Bains, where you can find an excellent naturally heated swimming pool, hot springs and river swimming.

How to get there

The nearest airport is at Carcassonne, which has several flights per day with budget airline Ryanair. It is also feasible to fly to Perpignan, Toulouse or Béziers. Train travel will get you to Carcassonne and from here you can link to a local train onto Espéraza itself. Drivers can find Espéraza from the N118. The nearest major road is the A61.

Property prices and availability in and around Espéraza

Prices in the Aude, as long as you keep away from the coastal towns, are quite reasonable. You should be able to find some good properties in and around Espéraza for far less money than you might expect, given that this is the south of France!

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Espéraza AT A GLANCE

WHERE IS Espéraza?

Espéraza is situated in the south of France, in the south-west of the Aude department.

Espéraza Property Map


Languedoc-Roussillon Guide

Languedoc-Roussillon Property Map


Aude Guide

  Aude Map

Population: 2,129

Access: By air: Fly to Carcassonne. By rail: You can take a train to Carcassonne, then link to Espéraza. By road: The village is found from the N118.

Economy: The economy is agricultural.

Interesting fact: Espéraza is in the heart of Cathar country, surrounded by history, myths and legends.

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