845km (525 miles) SW of Paris; 61km (38 miles) E of Carcassonne; 93km (58 miles) S of Montpellier
Medieval Narbonne was a port to rival Marseille in Roman days. It was the first town outside Italy to be colonized by the Romans, but the Mediterranean, now 8km (5 miles) away, left it high and dry. Its medieval heyday was followed by several centuries of natural disasters as well as the usual ravages of the plague. However, prosperity began to creep back to the area in the 19th century, when winemaking became an important part of the economy. That hasn't changed, as the wine industry today is what helps to keep this attractive town afloat. Too far from the sea to be considered a beach town (although there is a beachfront suburb, Narbonne-Plage), Narbonne attracts history buffs who come here to explore its rich historic sites and try to capture its glorious past. Some 50,000 Narbonnais enjoy the relaxed pace of life along the banks of the Canal de la Robine, an offshoot of the Canal du Midi, where boats lazily drift along the water. Its covered food market, Les Halles, is one of the best in the region to shop for seasonal local produce.