Canal du Midi
Beginning in the Étang de Thau on the edge of the Mediterranean and ending in Toulouse, the Canal du Midi was a groundbreaking project and important navigation channel at the time of its construction. These days, the UNESCO-listed waterway is mostly favored by houseboat owners and pleasure cruisers. Famed for its scenery, the snaking green canal is lined by towpaths and towering plane trees. In passing through the region of Occitanie, it also wends its way past sweeping vineyards, Roman ruins, and medieval villages.
From Toulouse, biking and walking tours provide an introduction to the historic waterway. For more long-term visitors, self-piloted or hosted canal boat cruises offer a relaxing way to explore the bucolic scenery.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Canal du Midi is considered one of the 17th century’s greatest engineering triumphs; as such, it’s popular among both history buffs and sightseers.
Be sure to pack bug spray if visiting the canal, particularly during the summer months.
Wear light layers, as canal cruises can be breezy.
Keep your eyes peeled: the canal is lined with more than 300 historical structures including locks, tunnels, bridges, and aqueducts.
How to Get There
The Canal du Midi rings the eastern edge of Toulouse before continuing its journey southward. There are numerous access points for its tow paths.
When to Get There
The Canal du Midi is busiest during the summer months—particularly in July and August, when vacationers from all over France head to the south for a seasonal escape. Note that many canal locks are closed for maintenance during the winter, so it’s best to plan a boat trip during the warmer months.
Popular Stops Along the Canal
Planning to cruise the Canal du Midi in style? Come hungry for a stop at the heritage city of Castelnaudary, as the market town is the world capital of cassoulet. The waterway also runs through Carcassonne (a UNESCO-listed fortified city dating to ancient times), Béziers (one of France’s oldest cities), and numerous vineyards in Occitanie, the county’s largest wine region.
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- Carcassonne Castle (Cité de Carcassonne)
- Cabardès Wine Region
- Lastours Castles (Châteaux de Lastours)
- Black Mountains (Montagne Noire)
- Albi Cathedral
- Toulouse-Lautrec Museum (Musée Toulouse-Lautrec)
- Lombrives Cave (Grotte de Lombrives)
- Space City (Cite de l'Espace)
- Toulouse Cathedral (Cathedrale St-Etienne)
- Museum of Augustins (Musée des Augustins)
- Place du Capitole
- Pont Neuf
- Basilica of Our Lady of the Daurade (Notre-Dame de la Daurade)
- Garonne River