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