©Illustration de la métropole de Montpellier lors d'un vol en hélicoptère en automne|Christophe RUIZ Ville de Montpellier
Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone ALTERNATIVE BEACH LIFE

Villeneuve-les-Maguelone: heritage & culture on the sea side

Time for a weekend at the beach, but not just any old beach! Built-up beaches aren’t our thing! We’re more into flamingos, sprawling unspoilt spaces, the sea as far as the eye can see…

Lets' head to the beach

So let’s go to Villeneuve lès Maguelone, a dozen kilometres south west of Montpellier. Picnic? Check. Towels? Check. Swimsuits? Check. Let’s go! Whoops! I forgot the kids! Come on, let’s get a move on and get in the car!

A beach for nature lovers

Just as you’d expect from an unspoilt and protected area, the Villeneuve les Maguelone beach experience starts at the bottom of Parking du Pilou car park where you can leave your car. I’ve got my bags on my back, one child in each hand, let the adventure begin…

You can’t get it wrong when you leave the car park: turn left! In just a few metres we reach the pontoon that we need to cross to get to the  whimsical “Maguelone peninsula“. It already feels like we’re in another world! The birds flap around us, the scenery takes our breath away, the light is brightened by the sand beneath our feet, there’s nature as far as the eye can see, Porte de Maguelone’s ochre-coloured stone archway that you have to pass through to begin your adventureFlamingos, seagulls, egrets, avocets and more… My budding little ecologists are in seventh heaven!

All aboard! (in season)

We walk along the path with reed-lined lagoons to the right and natural spaces to the left… Wait a minute! There’s a train station! Or rather, a little stone bench under a shelter where it says “arrêt petit train” (tourist train stop). We stop for a minute when all of a sudden, Florian, my 7 year old son, starts yelling! There’s the tourist train! It’s coming!

In a jiffy we’re all on board the tourist train that sets off again; Choo choo! It can’t be going fast but it’s speedy enough for our hair to flutter in the wind, which makes the kids laugh! I’m enjoying the ride too although I must admit that, like any mother hen, I switch between gazing at the scenery (the sun glittering on the sea is so beautiful!!) and my children’s rapt wonder.

Is that a mirage? No, it's the "and Cathedral

The train stops. Now it’s time to visit the huge building that towers above us at the top of the hill: the awe-inspiring and majestic Maguelone Cathedral.

After climbing up the path, picking a few flowers and drinking in the endless vineyard views, we step into the building with the astonished kids. The silence speaks volumes. The lights are soft and dim. The high arches lift you up. There’s no need to hush the children here, they’re so naturally moved by the landmark’s spiritual side. We sit on a pew to see more and feel more. Then we go up to a tomb, and another….

Suddenly, any excitement we felt is taken over by an overwhelming sense of feeling tiny in such a magical place. The children have just found out there are stairs and we’re asked if we’d like to go up them. I may be an adult but I’m like a kid when it comes to these mysterious places. There’s a door. We open it onto a kind of platform with fabulous views over the nave and cathedral choir

Info for history buffs
This fortress church is a former Romanesque bishopric which played host to popes and bishops in the Middle Ages.

A social and community experience

We make a quick stop at the restaurant and shop next to the cathedral after our visit. Les Compagnons de Maguelone is the cathedral’s friends association in charge of running the restaurant, shop, vegetable garden and winery. They also support and help disabled people be part of the community and get work.

This is our opportunity to have a drink together before we get back on our way to the white sand beach we’ve all been waiting for. The kids are finally going to be able to play in the sand, pick shells and go for a dip!

  • from Villeneuve: Parking du Pilou car park then a 15 min walk (1.2km) or tourist train in summer
  • from  Palavas: Parking du Prévost car park then a 25 min walk (2.1km)
  • Parking de la  Cathédrale car park (low season only)

Pick up a self-service VéloMagg bike in summer: Impasse des Sycomores bike rack near the Pilou stop on line 32.

Prenez le temps à Montpellier...
Prenez le temps à Montpellier...
Prenez le temps à Montpellier...