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Narbonne France history, hotels and harbour

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Situated 25km west of Béziers, Narbonne is 13km from the coast but, before silting up put an end to it, the town used to be a hive of activity and an significant port. The Romans made it the capital of their first colony in Gaul, Gallia Narbonensis, and it was a vital port both then and later in the Middle Ages. It was ruled in turn by Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Franks before becoming part of France in 1507.

The harbour silted up in the 14th century, ending any real chances of prosperity for Narbonne until the wine industry gave it a boost in the late 19th century.

The Horreum is a Roman subterranean grain store on rue Rouget de l'Isle (€4.57) and the ticket, valid for three days, also gains you entry to the Palais des Archévêques and church of Notre Dame de Lamourguié. There are two museums in the Palais des Archévêques: a moderate art museum and a more interesting archaeology museum with Roman remains including a ship's rudder and a mosaic. The deconsecrated church of Notre Dame de Lamourguié contains a selection of Roman sculptures and epigraphy.

Narbonne's grand Gothic Cathédrale St Just et St Pasteur is on the same street as the Horreum, next to the Canal de la Robine, which has pleasant banks lined with trees. You can see the cathedral for miles around as it completely dwarfs the restored narrow streets of the old town. The Palais des Archévêques is part of the complex and a 40 metre keep also stands here. Surprisingly what you see of the cathedral is not even half of what was planned: this is merely the choir of a church that never got built because it risked ruining the city walls. At 41 metres this choir is still one of the tallest in France. You can climb the north tower in summer (€1.52) and there is a good view of the vineyards that surround Narbonne.

There is a range of accommodation in Narbonne to suit most budgets, from the humble Hôtel de France, 6 rue Rossini (04 68 32 09 75) with smart rooms from under €30 40, to the more elegant 17th century canalside Hôtel La Dorade at 44 rue Jean Jaurès (04 68 32 65 95) with rooms from €55 70. A few restaurants are worth particular note, including Aux Trois Caves in a medieval cave at 4 rue Benjamin Crémieux with terroir menus from €18 37, but for general brasserie and snack bar fare head to the banks of the canal in the town centre.