The Canal du Midi is a canal that stretches for 240 km across the South of France (the “Midi”). It connects Toulouse and the Garonne river to the Etang de Thau, a lagoon on the Mediterranean. Together with the Garonne canal, which is 193 km long, it forms the Canal des Deux Mers which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Canal du Midi crosses the department of Aude from west to east, flowing through Castelnaudry, Carcassonne and Narbonne.

The canal is fed via a highly sophisticated hydraulic system which includes some of the very first inventions and structures ever used in the field of water management. Of all the locks, bridges, aqueducts and overflow systems, certain features have remained unchanged since their construction.

The canal’s towpath is a popular place to enjoy activities in the great outdoors.

Itinéraire canal du midi

Technical Form

Length

240 km
from Toulouse to Sète, where the canal meets the Etang de Thau on the edge of the Mediterranean.

Structure

Average depth of 2 metres
Nearly 350 locks

Key dates

15 May 1681: Canal completed
1996: structure inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

One Man’s dream

Did you know?

Initially baptised the “Canal Royal de Languedoc”, the canal was renamed by the revolutionaries in 1789 when it became the “Canal du Midi” (meaning “Canal of the South”).

Obélisque de Riquet à Montferrand ©Office de Tourisme de Castelnaudary

A little history

Creating a waterway link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea was for a long time nothing more than a distant dream, until Pierre-Paul Riquet turned the dream into reality.

In the 17th century, after many an engineer had failed to find a solution, he, a salt-tax collector with a passion for science, found a way to connect the two seas.
The waterways that gushed down the Montagne Noire were to be harnessed and carried via channels known as “Rigoles” to join the canal at the Seuil de Naurouze watershed.

The Canal du Midi revolutionised waterborne transportation and the overall flow of traffic in the South of France of the Ancien Régime. Under a royal edict of October 1666, Jean-Baptiste Colbert gave permission for the construction work to start. The canal was built between 1666 and 1681, under the reign of Louis XIV.

Nowadays, the Canal du Midi is one of the oldest canals in Europe to still be in operation.

Le Canal de la robine à vélo en famille ©Céline Deschamps-ADT de l'Aude
Le seuil de Naurouze à Montferrand ©ADT de l'Aude
The Canal de la Robine, which is a side branch of the Canal du Midi, crosses Narbonne and reaches the Mediterranean at Port-la-Nouvelle.

A popular 21st-century playground

Carcassonne, canal du midi, bateaux

On the water

The Canal du Midi offers a chance to admire some exceptionally beautiful scenery and to appreciate the technical prowess behind its structures. This historical gem of southern France takes visitors on a journey through time, revisiting Aude from the water and crossing its towns, from lock to lock and from monument to monument, and making the most of the local culinary delights. Enjoy a peaceful trip on the water with family or friends. Rent a permit-free boat and discover the marvels of this unique site which appeals to all ages!

Did you know?

Speed restriction of 6 to 8 km per hour to avoid damage to the natural canal banks. You don’t need a permit to skipper your boat! Movement is unrestricted from March to November, but we recommend you check lock operating times.

Le Canal de jonction, Sallèles d'aude

Along the towpath

If you have itchy feet, take to the towpath to explore the banks of the Canal du Midi by bike. Unless you prefer walking, jogging, or just playing French bowls…

These banks are also included in some long-distance hiking and cycling itineraries, notably the Canal des Deux Mers à Vélo (Canal of the Two Seas by Bike), for a gentle adventure travelling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

A unique experience discovering the visited regions, from the cereal plains and sunflower fields of Lauragais to the vineyards of Minervois, across the Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise en Méditerranée. Along the way, approved Accueil Vélo services and facilities provide everything you’ll need during your trip.

Return to authenticity and discover nature. But above all, savour each moment.

Follow the guide with our free “Canal du Midi” app.

Pick your route
From itineraries that follow the waterways (Canal du Midi, Canal de la Robine, and “Rigole” channels on the plain and in the mountains) to hiking loops from ports and other mooring points, you’ll find a walking or cycling itinerary of your chosen duration and level of difficulty.
Le somail en bord de Canal du Midi ©Céline Deschamps-ADT de l'Aude

See tourist attractions, facilities and services
To discover the cultural riches and heritage features of the regions you stop in, be it for an hour or a few days, compile your own programme with the help of our practical information and our list of accommodation facilities, restaurants, tours, etc.
Just select the establishment that interests you and let the app take you there!