Famous for its medieval castles that date back to the Middle Ages, Carcassonne takes its visitors back in time with its cobblestone streets and old architecture. The medieval citadel of Cité de Carcassonne, is the second most visited landmark in France and it was added to the UNESCO list of heritage sites, in 1997. Tourism and the wine industry are the main sources of income for this town, which is strewn with French bars, cafes, charming boutiques and local produce stalls, making it one of the more popular tourist spots in France. Read on to learn about the best things to do in the area!
1. Carcassonne Medieval City
One of the most important fortified cities in France, the Carcassonne Medieval City has been standing beside the River Aude in its current location since pre-Roman times. This majestic structure was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 1997. Visiting the city is like going back in history and every building and structure in the fortress brings visitors back in time.
Besides getting to understand the history of the city and enjoying the medieval atmosphere, the city also has many interesting local shops and accommodation choices, for visitors. It gets really crowded during the holiday seasons and during the summer, the city stages a live presentation of the city, as in medieval days, for visitors to get to know how life was like in the past.
Carcassonne Medieval City
Address: A61 West, Carcassonne, France
Website: Carcassonne Medieval City
2. Chateau et remparts de la Cite De Carcassonne
This is the main castle structure of Carcassonne city and it includes a well-restored chateau, now converted into a museum, displaying items from the past. There are guided tours for visitors to get to know more about the chateau and its past. The main points of interest include the ramparts, hoardings, projection room and the lapidary museum.
Make it a point to check out the opening hours online and remember, the chateau is a popular attraction and gets very crowded during holidays and weekends.
Chateau Et Remparts De La Cite De Carcassonne
Address: 1 rue Viollet le Duc, 11000 Carcassonne, France
Website: Chateau Carcassonne
3. Cathar Castles - Châteaux Cathares
When in Carcassonne, one expects to see many castles, old medieval buildings and structures - these are the main highlights of the region. The Cathar Castles are another example of popular structures in the area. The castles are near the border between the historic Trencavel territories and the Roussillon, which belonged to the King of Aragon and were taken by the King of France, as frontier fortresses, in the past. They were built by the Cathars in the 12th century.
Over the years, from war to peacetime, the castles have been destroyed and rebuilt again and some are more like ruins, now. Today these castles are intact in Languedoc and visitors flock to them to understand their history.
Website: Châteaux Cathares
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4. Basilica of Saint-Nazaire
The Basilica of Saint-Nazaire is a cathedral within the city of Carcassonne, itself, with stunning stained glass windows. Although largely destroyed in the past, it has been restored and replaced by the current building. There is a fusion between the Romantic and Gothic styles of the basilica. Another highlight for visitors in the area, the magnificent interior has huge, high arched ceilings, which give way to large stained glass windows and low hanging gold chandeliers.
Basilica of Saint-Nazaire
Address: La Cite, Carcassonne, France
Website: Basilica of Saint-Nazaire
5. Chapelle Notre Dame de la Sante
This is a simple and quiet chapel, with a lot of character. Quaint and peaceful, the chapel may be small but it is a quiet and tranquil place to be, just to say some prayers and even meditate for a moment or two. It is situated just next to the old bridge.
Chapelle Notre Dame de la Sante
Address: Rue du Pont Vieux, 11000 Carcassonne, France
6. La Bastide Saint Louis
La Bastide Saint Louis features narrow streets and courtyards after courtyards. The buildings are restored from the olden days, with residents decorating it with some plants and flowers. The “bastide”, or fortified town has a regular shape, that of a chess board, organised around a central square, the Place Carnot, adorned with the Fountain of Neptune (1770). Here, a market takes place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, around the fountain area, with stalls selling local produce like cheese, wine and local dishes. It is definitely a place not to be missed, for dining and shopping.
La Bastide Saint Louis
Address: 42 rue Barbes | Marché ouvert des maraîchers, 11000 Carcassonne, France
Website: La Bastide Saint Louis
7. St. Vincent's Church
Situated right in the city center, the church is a beautiful example of a Gothic Languedoc style building, with a wide nave and high vaults. The tower houses a carillon of 47 bells and the interior is decorated with 17th-century furniture and a rich collection of paintings like Gamelin, Nicloas and Mignard Subleyras. The main portal has four beautiful stone statues of the 14th century, which represent St Vincent in a Bishop costume and St Louis, the founder of the city and the two apostles.
St. Vincent's Church
Address: 79 Rue du Dr Albert Tomey, 11000 Carcassonne
Website: St Vincent’s Church
8. Lac De La Cavayere - Lake Cavayere
Besides castles, churches and old architecture, Carcassonne also has its natural sights. Lac de la Cavayere is a lake, located close to the medieval city. The lake is tranquil and picturesque, good for a quiet walk, early in the morning or during sunset. There is a treetop adventure park nearby, great for families to spend a good day out. You can also opt for a quiet picnic by the riverside.
Lac de la Cavayere
Address: Route de la Cavayère 11000 Carcassonne
Website: Lac De La Cavayere
9. Le Pont Vieux - The Old Bridge
This is the bridge that replaced the medieval structure that was previously built upstream. It dates back to the 14th century and it connects the old town to the new city. Beautiful scenery of the river and the castle can be captured along the bridge, especially during sunset. It’s a good place for a quiet walk.
Le Pont Vieux
Address: Rue du Pont Vieux, 11000 Carcassonne, France
10. Carcassonne Cathedral
The Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Carcassonne, the French name for this cathedral, was built in the 13th century as a parish church. The church was destroyed and rebuilt again in the 14th century. It may look very plain from the outside but the interior is what attracts people - it has rich interior, with a lot of historical personages buried within. The stained glass windows are another highlight for the cathedral. Visit for its peace and tranquillity.
Address: 52 rue Voltaire, 11000 Carcassonne, France
Website: Carcassonne Cathedral
A UNESCO Heritage Site not to be missed
The Old City of Carcassone is definitely the highlight of the region. And the rest of the city has its own character and architecture. Make it a point to visit all of Carcassone’s sights.
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