A Magical Weekend in Carcassonne (And Surroundings)!
Carcassonne, a majestic mediaeval town steeped in heritage and local tradition, is a gem not to be overlooked if you wander through the south of France. It also features in the country’s list of most visited cities. Bathed by the Aude, between Toulouse and Narbonne, and on the steps of the Pyrenees, the weekend will not be too long to explore the many wonders of a city unlike any other, to see, smell, hear, touch and taste. Travel to the core of a promised heart-blow!
Discover Carcassonne and its medieval city
A city mixing styles and welcoming many original shops awaits you. Above all, it is about diving into history.
Let’s begin with the wonder seen from afar that will accompany you during your Carcassonne visit: the fortress! It is a mediaeval city in the centre of the city, over 2,000 years old and the largest in Europe, whose double ramparts exceed a length of almost three kilometres and are reinforced by the 52 towers that intersect them.
From the small town of Carcaso in the Roman era to the feudal wars in which it was the scene, several historical incidents, often tragic, have forged its past. It will lend a profound historical sense to your weekend in this area, luckily spared from ruin in the 19th century and completely restored. Do not hesitate to opt for the guided two-hour tour, which will include anecdotes that will make the place ever more alive.
The count’s castle
Let’s begin with this imposing building in the centre of the mediaeval city, with a stunning view of the whole city, the Black Mountains and the Pyrenees from its height. You will enjoy an impressive collection of items in the museum housed therein, including famous statues, in addition to the numerous rooms normally located in a castle.
The bust of Dame Carcas, who according to tradition, performed the task of repelling the forces of Charlemagne for many years using multiple stratagems, is definitely the best known of these. The last of them was the tossing from the ramparts of a pig full of wheat, meant to reassure Charlemagne that the siege would be lengthy because the city had huge food supplies. Probably, it was the last beast, but the conqueror had been tricked and had raised the siege. To mark the triumph, the bells rang in the city, and the city took the name of Carcas-sonne.
The Basilica of Saint-Nazaire
Do not leave the mediaeval city without entering this magnificent location, originally built in the 11th century in the Romanesque style, to be partially restored in the Gothic style after numerous degradations and devastation. Originally a cathedral, its status was reduced in 1898 to that of a minor basilica. Fabulous stained glass windows, including the axis devoted to the Childhood and the Passion of Christ and dating from 1280, can be enjoyed in particular.
End your stroll with the numerous fortified city museums, on the themes of chivalry, the inquisition or yesteryear’s education. Without forgetting the haunted house which is going to make you shiver…
La Bastide Saint-Louis
The Bastide Saint-Louis, back in the lower town (as opposed to the fortified town), will give you a variety of gems, architectural in some cases, tasteful in others. Founded in 1260, this district was meant to complete the fortified city shelter, which was becoming too small for the increasing population of the city. Both adults and children will rejoice in magnificent houses of worship, doors and corridors of incredible elegance, sampling halls, city hall with 18th century architecture.
Take a walk!
Carcassonne as a whole is charming, and the visit can be extended with walks along its rivers for the more brave. The Aude and the Canal du Midi, both of which cross the region, provide several possibilities for immersion in natural or urban environments on foot, by bike or by sea. Enough for your battery to refuel before departure!
If you are traveling by car, make time for a few trips within half an hour of Carcassonne: there are great discoveries to be made.
The abyss of Cabrespine
Immerse yourself in this converted tunnel, one of the largest in the world and into which the Eiffel Tower can enter, without delay! Multiple crystallizations fill the cavity, 250 metres deep and 80 wide, just 25 kilometres from Carcassonne. The Devil’s balconies await you on the glass catwalk for sensations that will be much better!
Sunbathing on the beach or thrills, through fun activities, Lake Cavayère will delight all its visitors! In an outstanding environment of greenery and relaxation, just 5 kilometres from the ramparts of Carcassonne, this body of water is the best spot for a family moment.
The truffle house
We should not ignore the gourmets who would like to hear more about this delicacy and regional specialty (and taste it). Kids will be treated on a treasure search by an immersive museum to show you the peculiarities of this sought-after fungus. Rest assured: the basics are on the agenda: sampling!
This abbey is a combination of Romanesque and Gothic designs, much like the basilica of Carcassonne, situated in the land of the Cathars (where you can find several eponymous historical sites). The superstitions of the period are observed by numerous mediaeval paintings, fabulous or genuine animals. The garden is a masterpiece of romanticism, and undoubtedly one of the most charming locations in the city is the ensemble.
The village of Montolieu
Not far from the abbey, do not under any conditions, bypass Montolieu, Village du Livre et des Arts. For a moment to savour as you leaf through a book, booksellers and second-hand booksellers, libraries, pubs, painters’ studios await you. Go through the door of this village sitting on the foothills of the Montagne Noire in the sweetness of a frozen moment and discover an old novel, dream of true or fictional adventures, learn about the careers of books, thanks to the workshops of the museum. A detour which you won’t regret!
Outside the town of Carcassonne, which is a powerful and sublime historical emblem, there is an entire area full of varied riches (and famous vineyards) offered to you for a weekend or two. No wonder, you have lots to see and wonderful areas to visit at the end of the first one. They’re just going to be a convenient reason for reality: the need to come back! Only we will comprehend you…