What to do in Carcassonne

Little Town... Its'a quiet Village... Carcassonne is a mixture of that. 

Carcassonne is a Medieval Citadel in the South West of France, where it once bordered Spain in Medieval times. 

Carcassonne's history dates but to the Late-Roman Empire known as Carsac. It has been occupied by the Visigoths, Saracens and Franks. In 1226 Carcassonne was given to the King of France making it the Fortress you see today. With many attempts to be conquered in times gone past. Carcassonne lost its position after the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 as the border of France and Spain (Aragon) was pushed back.  In 1853 Carcassonne came back into a seat of power when the Architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc who restored Notre Dame in Paris, began to restore Carcassonne to its Gothic Fortress. 

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Carcassonne is easily reached via its tiny Airport with flights being offered all over the United Kingdom and some European Cities. For those Cities that do not connect to Carcassonne directly, you can fly into Toulouse Airport either getting a train or bus into Carcassonne City Centre. 

The perfect time to visit Carcassonne is during Spring Time.  The sun is just coming out, the birds are singing from their nest and all the Blossom Flowers are blooming.              Visiting in Spring time is ideal, as once the Summer Sun hits Carcassonne it becomes one of the most visited tourist attraction in France.   

The ideal duration to visit Carcassonne is a 3 Day Weekend trip.                                                All the shops and restaurants are open over the weekend, while during the week most of the shops close in Spring. 

 

La Cite

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La Cite is the fortress that plays host on top of the hill. The Citadel is divided into 3 parts. The first being the "Moat" which has many walk ways around the citadel, offering great views and little gate ways into the 2nd part.  The "Tilt Yards" are the internal defences of the Citadel where you are able to walking around the whole of the Citadel Walls. The 3rd part is the Citadel its self.

Entry into the Citadel is free and accessible via the main entry at the Porte Narbonnaise, being a beautiful draw bridge or via the back gate at the Porte d'Aude. 

Inside La Cite don't get turned off by the Souvenir Shops at the beginning of the Citadel, but turn off either to the right or left lane ways and that is when you will really discover what Carcassonne Cite has to offer whining through the lane ways and historical buildings. 

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Inside La Cite there are is so much to do and see

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  • Le Chateau Comtal - Entry into the Chateau cost 9€, which covers the Castle, Museum and Ramparts along with unlimited entry for the day. The Castle is a wonderful showcase of Medieval Architecture and the way of life during those times. The Castle has a great film talking about the long history of the Castle and Citadel. There is a museum with sculptures from the Citadel dating from the Roman occupation through to the 17th Century.

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  • Rampart Walks - Included in your Chateau Comtal ticket. The Ramparts consist of the North Gallo-Roman Ramparts, it is the original rampart demonstrating Roman Architecture. The West Medieval Ramparts showcases its Medieval history, it helps you step back in time imagining what a guard's life who have been. Each Rampart Walks has wonderful views throughout La Cite and over all of Carcassonne even looking over to the Pyrenees.

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  • Boutique Shops - There are many shops from Boutique, Food and Souvenirs. A few of my favourites during my trip where KOH Mango {Unique & Fun Clothing}, La Petite Boutique {Clothing & Jewellery}, Touk Touk Bijoux {Gem Stones Jewellery including Moroccan Jewellery}, L'Art Gourmand {Sweets, Chocolates & Biscuits}, Atelier Artissim {Local Artisit making Sun Dials in Necklaces and wonderful fresco Provincial art work}

  • Cafes at Place Marcou

  • Restaurants serving traditional food (refer to blog about Where to Eat in Carcassonne)

You will not be able to get enough of La Cite, it is a wonderful place to visit and immerse into a old world. 

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Bastide Saint-Louis

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Bastide Saint-Louis is the New Town of Carcassone but I would best describe it as the New Old Town.  It was build in the late Middle Ages when people broke away from La Cite, creating a new home that created much rivalry between the towns. 

When you leave La Cite going down the hill,  you cross the River Aude via the main bridge used once upon a time. Pont Vieux is a wonderful connection between the worlds, above a tranquil river and with the Medieval City as a backdrop. 

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Bastide Saint-Louis is full of an old way of life with buildings flaking paint and shutters losing its colour, demonstrating a shabby chic looking world.  Bastide Saint-Louis has a few highlights to see;  Gothic Churches at Saint Vincent and Carmelite Chapel. There are secrets to uncover at the Saint Martial Bastion Garden set high above the walls. 

But the highlight of any Old Town is the main square at Place Carnot. Place Carnot is set in the centre of Bastide Saint-Louis with a stunning Marble Fountain. It comes to life on a Saturday morning where local farmers come to town to sell all their goods.  There is so much to buy from freshly baked bread, seasonally vegetables, traditional hams and cheeses to the area and flowers. What ever you do, Do Not go with an empty stomach. 

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If you are a fan of Chocolate and local products a must visit is Le Comptoir de Mathilde. It feels like your stepping into a shop from Harry Potter, with wonderful bottles selling cakes in liquor, Foie Gras & dips of all sorts, the list is truly endless and is making me too hungry. 

Close by there is Les Halles where on Saturdays they sell local wines, seafood and meats.  It is the perfect way to embrace village life. 

 

Canal du Midi

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Canal du Midi connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean across the South of France.  The Canal is the perfect place for a relaxing morning walk along the edge of town. It is a common path for bike riders, so if you are not in the mood for the walk, rent a bicycle to explore further and see more that Carcassonne has to offer. 

If you enjoy boat trips, the Canal du Midi has may different boat trips on offer. To investigate this option have a look at the Boat Trip Site for more deals. 

Best way to start for your adventure on the Canal du Midi is at the Port du Canal and follow it Eastwards for the best views along these tree lined path. 

 

River Aude

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The River Aude is a beautiful river throughout the town. It has tranquil walks on the river banks, the most enjoyable being a little island underneath the Pont Vieux. If you are a keen fisher, you will often find Fishermen on the side of the banks looking for their lunch.  It is the perfect place to relax, enjoy the birds singing and the tranquil sounds of the water. 

 

Vineyards

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Vineyards surround Carcassonne's Citadel, being the areas main produce. Carcassonne offers many Vineyard visits and Wine Tasting trips. When I went to Carcassonne the vines had no leaves upon them, I look forward to going back in Summer to taste many wines.

 

Things to Know:

Summer Time-  Summer time is a the most popular time to visit Carcassonne.  During summer the Citadel host Jousting Tournmentst twice a day. The Festival de Carcassonne in July with Theatre and Musicians.  The Feria de Carcassonne  at the end of August showcasing Tango, Flamenco and Brass Band Musicians. The most popular event is on the 14th Julliet for Bastille Day. The Citadel becomes ablaze with fire, a light show and fireworks celebrated from the banks of the Aude River.  There is also a lake near by to join in the water activities and have a cool down, Lac de la Cavayere is a perfect day to spend relaxing.   I just can't wait to come back in Summer.

Staying in Carcassonne - During our trip to Carcassonne we stayed with Airbnb, it]n a studio underneath the Citadel's walls. Staying in a house was the perfect way to embrace French Village life and can not wait to do it again.  There are Hotels inside the Citadel its self as well as multiple Hotels and Airbnb's around the area. 

I hope this inspires you to step back into a quiet and old way of life in a Pictureque Medieval City.