Visiting the town of Carcassonne means being able to enjoy the calm of its walled city, as well as its lower town and attractions. Carcassonne is primarily defined by its ancient fortress, which attracts large numbers of visitors every year. The ‘lower town’ part of Carcassonne is also worth visiting, though, as is the surrounding southern France region of Languedoc-Roussillon. The town can be reached via train on the Bordeaux line, as well as by high speed trains from Paris – there is also a nearby airport with excellent transport links into Carcassonne.
The main fortress is one of the most distinctive World Heritage Sites within France; some kind of fortress has stood over Carcassonne since Roman times, and the different stages of its history are worth exploring. There are 43 towers within the walled city, as well as restaurants, souvenir shops, and museums detailing the importance of the Cite to local history, and to its role in the development of France.
Once you’ve explored the walled city, you might want to visit the nearby Torture Museum (if you’re in a ghoulish mood). However, for a somewhat more relaxing time, it’s worth taking a barge trip along the Canal du Midi. Carcassonne also hosts an annual festival, and connects to the Lac de la Cavayere. Other sights within the town include the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, as well as the Chateau Comtal, and a Museum of Fine Arts.
Cuisine and Shopping
Carcassonne and the wider Languedoc-Roussillon region is well served by dishes like cassoulet and foie gras, which involves duck as a key ingredients. Within Carcassonne itself, you’ll find the busiest, and most likely the most expensive, restaurants around the walled city. In the lower town, you can find value for money, though, in the Bastide Saint Louis, while also exploring shops like La Boutique de la Maison Coste. La Ferme is recommended as a destination for fine wine and food, with the lower town also featuring Les Halles, a covered food market.
Expect to pay more for accommodation in the upper town and around the walled city; there are plenty of boutique hotels and more inexpensive accommodation in the lower town. You also have the option of staying outside Carcassonne and driving into the town – Languedoc-Roussillon and the Midi-Pyrenees are defined by the Rhone River, great vineyards, and the forests of Aude. You can find excellent gites and other self catered cottages in the countryside, as well as country homes and farmhouses.
Other sights to see around the region include the port city of Montpellier, as well as the Chateau de Peryrepertuse in Duihac, and the Arenes de Nimes ruins. The Musee d’Art Moderne in Ceret is also recommended, as are the Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes. The Musee Fabre in Montpellier, and the Canal du Midi can also be explored if you want to see more of Languedoc-Roussilon after a few days spent exploring the tranquility of Carcassonne itself.
Travel Article by:
Chris G is a part-time travel writer (aren’t we all!), whose recently been bitten by the beauty of France and recently stayed in a Gite at Carcassonne and sampled the history and the scenery which makes the town so attractive.