The Canal du Midi between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea passes through numerous towns worth seeing in the south of France and is an attractive holiday destination for both boat trips and hikes.
The Canal du Midi in the south of France ("Canal of the South") also connects the city of Toulouse with the Mediterranean Sea over a distance of around 240 kilometres. On its way to the city of Sète on the coast, the canal crosses the Pyrenees and the French Massif Central.
An important historical transport route and architectural masterpiece that blends harmoniously with nature, the Canal du Midi was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
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PICTURES: Canal du Midi in Toulouse
Construction of the Canal du Midi
The link between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean was a monumental project in the 17th century, with which its master builder Pierre-Paul Riquet went down in history.
In 1666, he was able to convince the Sun King Louis XIV of the usefulness of an alternative to the arduous overland route to the Mediterranean and the gigantic project was officially commissioned. Out of around 12,000 works, the construction of the Canal du Midi with 328 locks, bridges, tunnels and aqueducts was completed in 1681.
The Canal du Midi is not only an unbelievable technical and architectural masterpiece, but also blends harmoniously into the surrounding landscape. Because of its aesthetics and the idyll it exudes, the Canal du Midi is today one of the top 10 sights of France.
On the way on the Canal du Midi
The picturesque waterway in the south of France is open from March to November and is hardly used commercially these days. The Canal du Midi is navigated almost exclusively by tourists who enjoy being able to determine their own cruising speed.
Houseboats can be rented along almost the entire route, and a short training session with the boat rental company is all that is needed to steer them. However, if you want to use your own boat on the Canal du Midi, you must have an inland navigation licence. Fishing card holders may also fish in the canal. Swimming is not recommended due to the heavy microbial load.
On the road next to the Canal du Midi
However, the idyllic canal is not only interesting for idyllic boat trips. Much of the canal is lined with equally picturesque cycling and walking paths. Along the so-called towpaths, around 42,000 plane trees grow to fortify the banks, providing wonderful coolness in summer and giving the Canal du Midi an unmistakable flair.
Attractive destinations on the Canal du Midi
In addition to Toulouse and Sète on the Mediterranean, the Canal du Midi also takes tourists to the pretty medieval town of Bram with its impressive church, to the wine town of Trèbes, to Capestang with its imposing castle, via the famous locks of Béziers and Agde and to magnificent Carcassonne. The latter, with its medieval fortress Cité de Carcassonne, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited sights in France.