Rodez in the Massif Central of France

Rodez in Aveyron
Rodez at night. Getty/Jacques Pierre /

Situated in the southwest corner of the mountainous Massif Central, Rodez comes as an unexpected delight. Located between the major cities of Clermont-Ferrand, Toulouse and Montpellier, Rodez is a bustling, lively town with a lovely old centre well worth exploring and a beautiful cathedral. Many people use the airport for cheap flights from the UK and bypass the town which is their loss. So if you're arriving late, spend the night here before setting off for your next destination. 

Little City Nestled in the Mountains

This is a truly ideal spot for travelers who can’t decide between a city or the country, as Rodez is much like an island in the middle of nowhere. Sitting up high on a rocky spur looking over the river Aveyron, it enjoyed a commanding position and both the cathedral and castle districts were once fortified. 

Rodez is in the Aveyron department, an area rich in historical attractions, with several châteaux and bastides nearby. Charming stone cottages keep lone watches over vast expanses of land and sheep farms dot the countryside.

Getting to Rodez

Rodez has its own airport, Rodez-Aveyron, with flights from France, Dublin, and London Stansted with Ryanair. The airport is 8kms (5 miles) outside Rodez. There is no shuttle service so you will have to take a taxi or hire a car from here. 

If you're coming from the US, fly to Paris then take the connection to Rodez.

The train station at Rodez is on bvd Joffre, in the north of the town. The journey from Paris by train takes around 7 hours plus. 

Getting around Rodez

You can get around Rodez and its immediate area on the Agglobus, which operates several lines running a brisk schedule.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

The sandstone building looks like a fortress and was part of the defences of the town. The Gothic cathedral was started in 1277 but it took another 300 years to complete the impressive building. Its massive belfry, 87 metres high, towering over the nearby streets and squares is a remarkable structure, covered in stone decoration with balustrades and pinnacles. Go inside the cathedral and it's equally impressive for its empty spaces and size. But there is a gorgeous 17th-century organ loft and 11th-century choir stalls.

The Old Town

Meandering old medieval streets lead from the back of the cathedral to place de Gaulle, place de la Prefecture and place du Bourg which is full of 16th-century houses and the place d'Armes. The episcopal palace next to the cathedral was Pick up a brochure and map from the Tourist Office for a guided tour through the streets.

The Museums of Rodez

While none of the museums are world class, they are all well worth a look. 

The Musée Fenaille, housed in the former 16th-century Hôtel de Jouéry takes on the history of the local Rouergue region from the time when man first left any traces, about 300,000 years ago to the 17th century. The Fenaille museum presents archaeology, art and the history of the Rouergue region, since the very first traces of mankind, about 300 000 years ago, until the dawn of the 17th century.  Sculpture is the main theme; 17 5,000 year old menhir carved stones are the most famous objects, being the oldest monumental statues in Europe. 

The Musée Soulages, created by major contemporary artist, Pierre Soulages, shows his works but also has great temporary exhibitions of artists like Picasso.  

Musée des Beaux Arts Denys-Puech celebrates the works of Denis Puech (1845-1942), a sculptor who was one of the world's most important artists post Rodin. 

Markets in Rodez include traditional markets on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, Thursday from 4 to 8pm, Friday afternoon and Sunday from 8am to noon. There's a Farmers Market in summer and a street fair on the last Friday in March and June and the first Friday in September and December. 

Staying in Rodez

The Hotel de La Tour Maje, 1 bd Gally, 00 33 (0)5 65 68 34 68, is a 3-star hotel housed in a new part of a building attached to an old stone tower. It's comfortable and central.

The Mercure Rodez Cathedrale, 1 av Victor Hugo, 0033 (0)5 65 68 55 19,  is a good 4-star choice with Art Deco style rooms.

Try the bed and breakfast Château de Carnac, just a few minutes from Rodez in Onet-le-Château. It's a gorgeous building and you can dine here as well.

Dining in Rodez

Gouts et Couleurs, 38 rue Bonald, 00 33 (0)5 65 42 75 10. Contemporary decor and a Michelin one-star experience in this favourite Rodez restaurants. Menus from 33 to 83 euros.

L'Aubrac, Place de la Cité,  033 (0)5 65 72 22 91, is a comfortable, pretty restaurant concentrating on local ingredients from the Aveyron served in an imaginative way. 

Les Colonnes, 6 place d'Armes, 00 33 (0)5 65 68 00 33. This modern brasserie offers great views of the cathedral and good traditional staples at very good prices.  

Trips around Rodez

The Aveyron has 10 Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages of France), so you're spoilt for choice. 

  • Don't miss Conques. Not only is it a stunning village, clinging to a mountain; it was also one of the great stopping places on the pilgrimage to Santiago from Le Puy en Velay. Stop to marvel at the treasure of Ste-Foy, the abbey church, and try to stay overnight and catch an organ recital in the cathedral.

Edited by Mary Anne Evans