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Av­er­age house price: €208,000 Av­er­age apart­ment price: €2,570/m2 Pré­fec­ture: Mont­pel­lier

Hérault has the long­est coast­line of the three Medi­etr­ranean Oc­c­i­tan de­part­ments and it is as var­ied as it is large. While seaside re­sorts in Pyrénées-ori­en­tales and Aude are quite small and com­pact, Hérault boasts a cou­ple of larger coastal towns though they are no less au­then­tic and pleas­ant. Trav­el­ling from the south, the first re­sort you find is Val­ras-plage; it be­gan as a fish­ing vil­lage at the mouth of the Orb river and soon be­came a chic re­sort. It still boasts fine ex­am­ples of 20th-cen­tury vil­las but it’s now quite a modern re­sort and the beach of choice for peo­ple in Béziers when they want a day out by the sea.

Agde is per­haps one of the most fa­mous re­sorts on the Mediter­raean as it houses France’s (and per­haps the world’s) largest nud­ist colony. Other than that, it is di­vided into three set­tle­ments: the old his­toric cen­tre on the banks of the Hérault river, the fish­ing port at Le Grau d’agde where the river meets the sea and the fish­ing boats come and go be­tween the Med and fish mar­ket, and the Cap d’agde where you’ll find the beaches, a lively ma­rina lined with shops and bars with a great at­mos­phere.

A large sec­tion of the coast around Agde is clas­si­fied as pro­tected nat­u­ral sites. This in­cludes the Bag­nas re­serve where wet­lands, dunes, coastal heaths and salt mead­ows come to­gether to cre­ate an ex­cep­tional en­vi­ron­ment, and the Posi­donies du Cap d’agde, a Natura 2000 preser­va­tion site.

Along the coast is the in­trigu­ing town of Sète, whose cen­tre spreads across a rounded hill, le Mont St-clair. It over­looks the port and some pretty canals – which give Sète its nick­name of la Venise du Langue­doc – and the in­trigu­ing Thau la­goon where de­li­cious oys­ters are farmed. It’s a lively town, par­tic­u­larly in the sum­mer when fes­tiv­i­ties such as the St-louis wa­ter joust­ing fes­ti­val, cel­e­brat­ing the town’s pa­tron saint and com­mem­o­rat­ing Sète’s found­ing by Louis XIV, brings in crowds of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors.

Fron­tig­nan is an­other lively port caught be­tween the sea, the la­goon and the Canal du Rhône à Sète. It’s fa­mous for its Mus­cat de Fron­tig­nan wine. Fi­nally, on the coast just south-east of Mont­pel­lier is the small re­sort of Palavas-les-flots which also has a canal slic­ing through it – there’s a chair lift called the Tran­scanal (al­legedly, the world’s short­est at 83m long) that al­lows peo­ple to eas­ily cross Le Lez canal.

The av­er­age price for a house in Hérault is €208,000, mak­ing it in the most ex­pen­sive de­part­ment of this stretch of coast. But, when com­pared with Alpes-mar­itimes’ eye-wa­ter­ing av­er­age of €433,000 for a house, it’s pas si mal as the French would say. Apart­ments come in at €2,570/m2 on av­er­age. Prop­er­ties are more ex­pen­sive the closer you are to Mont­pel­lier but more so in­land than on the coast. Sète is the next most ex­pen­sive (€298,300 for houses and €2,160/m2) as it is a very sought-af­ter lo­ca­tion and not a sea­sonal hol­i­day re­sort. But else­where on the coast, house prices are well un­der €250,000 – €208,000 in Agde, €190,000 in Mar­seil­lan, close to Sète, €148,000 in Val­ras-plage and €200,500 in Sérig­nan, be­tween Val­ras and Agde. Béziers, with its pic­turesque Vieux Pont span­ning the Orb at the foot of the cathe­dral, is sur­pris­ingly af­ford­able at €153,200 on av­er­age for a house and is just 30 min­utes from the coast.

Mont­pel­lier, the pré­fec­ture of Hérault, is the largest city in the area. This bustling and dy­namic city was voted the eighth best town to live and work in thanks to its prox­im­ity to the sea (a short tram ride away), ex­cel­lent cul­tural life and good weather. Its cen­tre is full of his­tory and beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture and there are a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing mu­se­ums and cul­tural events held ev­ery year. The av­er­age price for a house in the city is €267,000 and €2,580/m2 for apart­ments but it ap­pears the towns on the out­skirts of Mont­pel­lier are the real hotspots with prices closer to the €350,000-€400,000

The Hérault river run­ning through the old town of Agde

Sète, in Hérault, is nick­named the Venice of the Langue­doc

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