The medieval French city of Carcassonne looks like it was lifted straight out of Disneyland – at the height of high season, with all the camera-happy tourists still inside. The charm of Carcassonne’s pointed turrets and sunbathed towers may wear off once you’re actually inside, but they were just made for bragging about!
Luckily, Carcassonne provides its yearly 3.5 million visitors with more than just photo ops. The city is divided into two parts – Le Cité and Bastide St Louis. The former seems to steal most of the limelight and most of the crowds, but savvier travellers know this means B.S.L is where it’s at. For some remarkable architecture and a spiritual vibe, visit the Baroque-style Jesuit Church, before enjoying the shade and the statues at Andre Chenier Gardens. Carcassonne’s real charm lies where its tourists aren’t.
Carcassonne's Top 10
10. of Culture and War A gem of a museum where war buffs can immerse themselves in French military history.
5. Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse This 11th century church mixes Gothic and novel architecture seamlessly.
9. Museum of Fine Art Explore the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries through paintings and embroidery.
4. Comtal A 12th century fortress on the highest point of Le Cité. Million-dollar views are paired with priceless history.
8. Deschamps Theatre Catching a play at this ancient open-air theatre takes some beating.
3. Carcassonne Cathedral The grandest of the grand and dedicated to St Michael, one of the town’s best-loved saints.
7. Chapel of our Lady of Good Health This church is neither big nor spectacular, but its history is immense.
2. Le Cité This World Heritage-listed area is steeped in medieval history (and hordes of tourists).
6. Chateau de Peyrepertuse Half of this duo-castle has its roots in the 11th century.
1. Castle of Carcassonne Save the photos for nighttime, when the town’s icon is doused in lights.
- Memorial House – The home of the poet Joe Bousquet, where many famous painters and writers of the early 20th century visited.
- Medieval City – This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a medieval walled town.
- Castle – The castle was built in the 17th century and was the home of the viscounts of Carcassonne.
- Basilica of Saint-Nazaire – A gorgeous cathedral that dates back to the 11th to 14th centuries.
- Chateau Comtal – This 12th-century fortress has been restored and is the only way to access the cities inner ramparts.
Carcassonne Art & Culture
- Museum of Fine Arts – Contains a range of European paintings from the 17th through the 19th centuries.
- Memorial of Former Soldiers – A memorial and exhibition that contains information on military history of the area.
- School Museum – A complete exhibition of school furniture and documents during Jules ferry time.
- Musee Beaubois – Contains the works of Jean Beaubois, as well as many temporary exhibits in Carcassonne.
- Musee du Blason Vitrail – A museum of coat of arms and crests containing a range of these paintings on glass.
- Rue de Verdun – One of the main streets of Carcassonne for clothes shopping.
- Comptoir des Vins – Offers a wide range of the excellent wines produced in the surrounding wine region.
- Mme Faye-Nunez – An excellent store to browse and purchase antique furniture.
- Dominique Sarraute – The store for those interested in antique firearms.
- Antiquites Safi – A store that specializes in art objects and paintings.
Gay & Lesbian Carcassonne
- Le Café de Nuit – A café that caters mainly to gay patrons, offering a range of drinks and meals.
- Arc en Ciel – A bathhouse and sauna facility that is gay friendly.
- Le Domaine aux Quat’Saisons – A luxury accommodation option that is gay friendly and set in a beautiful restored mansion.
- La Bulle – A dance club mainly for those under 30 that plays rock and techno until 5 am.
- Place Marcou – Located in La Cite, this is the centre of nightlife in the old city of Carcassonne.
- Parc Australien – Visit this wildlife park that contains animals that are common to Australia and not France.
- Peiras e Vinhas – Follow this walking trail through old stones and vines through the Lauquet Valley in Carcassonne.
- La Cite des Oiseaux – Also known as Bird City, you can see a range of birds in their natural habitats.
- Raymond Chesa Leisure Park – Spend the day exploring this leisure park with beautiful gardens.
- Chemin des Bonshommes – Walk this ancient trail, a 12-day hike that takes you through Cathar strongholds and beautiful scenery.
- Tackle one of the seven acrobatic courses found at the Forest Acrobatic Park.
- Hire a bicycle and pedal along the Canal du Midi.
- Spend the day rafting down the Aude River of Carcassonne.
- Throw your line into the water at the many nearby lakes, Pyrenean Rivers or the Canal du Midi and enjoy a spot of fishing.
- In the winter, partake in excellent skiing at Ax-Bonascre, Mijanes or Les Monts-d’Olmes.
The Carcassonne Festival in June through August is undoubtedly the biggest party of the year, featuring music from folk to James Blunt.
Carcassonne hosts the most extravagant fireworks display in France for July’s Bastille Day, when around €100,000 worth light up the night sky.
If you get hungry after watching flamenco dancing, you’re in luck. August’s Feria de Carcassonne ends with a massive feast of paella, tapas and wine.
The end of August brings the wildly popular Fiesta y Toros, where Spanish week gets given a little medieval flavour.
Even the grinchiest of travellers will find it hard not to be charmed by the Magic of Christmas’ brimming market stalls and glowing lights.
When To Go
Carcassonne enjoys warm summers with plenty of sun. July is the hottest month, with temperatures often reaching 30°C (86°F).
Winter is a frosty affair. Expect temps of about 8°C (46°F) and plenty of rain.
March through May is spring – perhaps the most pleasant time to visit.
The Agglo’Bus service is reliable, frequent and easily the best way to get around.
Taxis are reliable and offer value for money. The companies to look out for are Appel and Navarro.
Cars are banned in Le Cité during the day, but bicycles are more than welcome.
The marvelous Languedoc-Roussillon city of Carcassonne is a natural tourist magnet. As a UNESCO World Heritage fortress city in the middle of a legendary wine region, you can hardly choose a more lovely place to visit in France. In fact, over three million annual visitors on average, feel precisely the same way about Carcassonne.
It starts of course, with the old town, the incredible Cité de Carcassonne. In stark contrast with the relatively new ville basse, the historic heart of the city is an exemplar of mid-19th century Gothic Revival and perhaps the most ambitious project ever undertaken by famed architect Viollet-le-Duc. Carcassonne is also a stop on the UNESCO World Heritage Canal du Midi, the historic waterway which links the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Other points of interest include Lac de la Cavayère and the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse. No visit to Carcassonne is complete however, without a tour of the Languedoc-Roussillon Wine Route.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurants & Nightlife
Carcassonne has a temperate climate, with four distinct seasons.
- Winter (November to February) 1-15°C
- Spring (March to May) 5-12°C
- Summer (June to August) 13-28°C
- Fall (September to October) 10-24°C
Carcassonne On Wikipedia
Carcassonne official guide
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