Best Things To Do in Carcassonne, France
Carcassonne can transport you back in time as soon as you see its walled citadel, castles, and centuries-old churches. We tell you what to see in Carcassonne, France, and bring you all the information you need to enjoy your trip.
It is one of the most attractive villages in southern France and will undoubtedly surprise you with its medieval charm.
Recommended: Carcassone Guided Tour
How to Get to Carcassonne, France?
Let’s see what the different ways to get to Carcassonne are.
Carcassonne has its own airport but does not have many connections, and there are no flights from Spain.
It receives flights from London, Dublin, Brussels, and Manchester. In addition, they add some special flights during the summer. For example, it is possible to arrive from Bournemouth, Porto and Cagliari.
There are 2 trains daily from Barcelona to Carcassonne. They are trains of the TGV INOUI company. A connection must be made in Narbonne and in total it takes a little more than 3 hours.
The morning train costs €90 and the afternoon train costs €70.
Carcassonne is quite close to the Spanish border, so getting there from Barcelona takes about 3.5 hours.
If you want to take a more coastal route, you can go as far as Narbonne and then turn left to head towards Carcassonne. Otherwise, you have to turn left when you pass Perpignan.
If you drive from Paris, you must drive 770 kilometers on the A20 highway. The trip lasted almost 8 hours.
- Rent a car in advance and at a good price!
- Read: How to Drive in the South of France
Best Things To Do in Carcassonne, France
Visit the Castle of Carcassonne and the Ramparts
The castle was built in 1130 and redesigned during the 13th century to become a fortress and became an impregnable witness to the battles between the French and the Aragonese.
You can visit the chapel, the galleries and the entrance over the moat. In addition, the entrance fee allows you to tour the walled citadel. This means that you can visit the towers and see the city and the Aude river from different points of view.
It is the best place to learn about the historical importance of this city and its fortress.
Also known as the Château Condal, it was the home of the King of France and used as both a military base and a prison.
In the 17th century the city lost its military importance and the fortress fell into disrepair. It was not until the 19th century that it was rebuilt.
Therefore, different architectural styles, such as medieval, Gothic and Romanesque, can be observed during the tour.
It currently functions as a museum and since 1997, has been listed as a World Heritage Site.
- I recommend you to read: The best Castle to stay in Provence
Tour the Canal du Midi
The Canal du Midi was built in the 17th century to link the Garonne River in Toulouse with the Mediterranean.
Along with the lateral canal of the Garonne, the Canal du Midi links the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean via waterways.
You can ride along the canal bank on a bicycle if you want. Many people usually use the grass to rest or have a picnic.
You can also rent a boat and travel along the canal and go to other towns, such as Le Somail, where the canal is surrounded by vineyards and groves. If you don’t feel like driving a boat, you can take guided excursions.
The Canal du Midi has locks, aqueducts, and bridges that make crossing more than 240 kilometers possible.
Visit the Vineyards of Carcassonne and its Surroundings
Vineyards surround the medieval town, so visiting the vineyards offers a truly unique view. You can see a medieval city from a vineyard in a few places.
It is believed that grape production in the region began 2 millennia ago. And it was in Limoux, 25 kilometers from Carcassonne, in the abbey of Saint-Hilaire, that the Benedictine monks discovered in 1544 the process that allowed the production of sparkling wines.
Around Carcassonne, there are wines from different appellations and there are several wineries and cellars, so you will have several places to buy local wines.
Discover the Fine Arts in the Museums of Carcassonne
If you are interested in culture, Carcassonne will not disappoint you. There are many museums within the city, and several are dedicated to the Fine Arts.
One of the museums focuses on the time of the surrealist poet Joë Bousquet. Another museum presents a large collection dedicated to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de l’Abbaye.
The museum that we liked the most was the Museum of Arts. It was created in the mid-19th century.
They have focused on European works from the 17th century onwards, including paintings, ceramics and tapestries.
Cuenca with permanent and temporary collections, including contemporary and modern works.
You can see the opening hours and all the information on the municipality’s website.
La Bastide Saint Louis
La Bastide Saint Louis is the modern city of Carcassonne.
Its main attraction is its architecture and the contrast it creates with the fortified city, located on the opposite hill.
La Bastide has many historic buildings, such as the Saint Michel cathedral and Place Carnot, which is the liveliest area of the city center with restaurants, cafes and markets.
Strolling around Place Carnot
The true heart of the city. This is where the locals gather to chat and relax in the shade of the banana trees. So this is where you have to sit if you want to experience the authentic rhythm of Carcassonne.
Its main monument is the Neptune fountain, made of marble, which stands out in the center of the square.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings there is a flower, fruit and vegetable market.
Taking Pictures of the City at Sunset
Around sunset the city begins to empty as many tourists who come only for the day begin to leave. Then you can go for a walk and take some beautiful pictures.
You can go outside the walled city and photograph the towers and the wall. Another great option is to walk along the canal’s banks and take pictures of the bridges, taking advantage of the effects that the reflection of the lights makes on the water.
Walk along Le Pont Vieux
We told you that one of the best photos is of the bridges; more specifically, we were referring to the Old Bridge or Pont Vieux.
This bridge is the one that connects the medieval city with the more modern area. Its 12 arches cross over the Aude river since the 14th century.
From the bridge, you will have a beautiful view of La Cité, the walled city, so you should include it in a list of what to see in Carcassonne.
A Walk Along the Aude river
A good way to get to know the city and its surroundings is to follow the banks of the Aude river. You can take the opportunity to see the Porte D’Aude, one of the gates through which you could enter Carcassonne.
On the river bank, you will find a park with playgrounds, making it ideal for those with children and for families to have a picnic.
The path starts just below the Pont Vieux, so from there you will have a good view of the bridge.
Passing through the Portal des Jacobins
It is the last of the ancient gates that guarded the lower town of Carcassonne and allowed to control the entrance to the fortified city. A part of the original wall is also preserved.
Visiting the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celso
It was formerly the Cathedral of Carcassonne, until it was replaced by the Cathedral of St. Michael.
The original construction dates back to 925 and housed Pope Urban II in 1096.
Due to its age and the reforms that have been made over the centuries, two styles can be observed in its architecture, Romanesque and Gothic.
Its organ is one of the oldest in the country, some testimonies assure that it already existed in 1637.
Also noteworthy are the stained glass windows, dedicated to the infancy and passion of Christ.
Tour the Cathedral of Carcassonne
The Cathedral of St. Michael of Carcassonne was built in Gothic style in the 13th century.
When the city was besieged in 1355 the church was badly damaged by fire. At that time it was decided to reinforce it, so its facade has an aspect that combines the religious with the military.
A tower and a 10-meter moat surrounding the entire building were added.
Although it was refurbished after the fire of 1849, its appearance is very sober and only its 14th century stained glass window stands out.
Swimming in the Cavayère lake
The Cavayere Lake is another of the places to see in Carcassonne. The lake is a great place to go for a swim if you visit Carcassonne in summer. It is only 5 minutes away from the city and has a lot of vegetation.
From the lake you can do several trails, so it is also a good option for trekking lovers. In fact, a road surrounds the lake, which is 5 kilometers long and allows you to see the best of the area’s scenery.
And for fun you can go water skiing, zip-lining and jumping on the inflatable games floating in the lake.
There are also restaurants and food trucks, so the lake has everything you need for a great day outdoors.
Explore the Museum of the Inquisition
The Inquisition also left its mark here and it is possible to learn about its history in this museum.
You will be able to see the elements of torture used by the executioners from the time of the Holy Inquisition to the time of the French Revolution.
You will also learn about the Cathar castles and the region’s history.
Taste the wines of the region (Languedoc)
As we told you, there are several wines with the appellation of origin in the region, and one of the ones we like the most is the Languedoc.
Languedoc wines are grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, in the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) Languedoc, Corbières, Minervois and Saint Chinian areas, among others. This region has a Mediterranean climate and a wide variety of soils, which allows a wide variety of grapes to be grown.
Surrounding Carcassonne are many vineyards and wineries. For example, Calmel & Joseph, Château La Villatade or Château de Luc.
Wine-tasting excursions are definitely one of the things to do in Carcassonne.
Best Time to Visit Carcassonne, France
The best time to visit Carcassonne, France, is in the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). During these seasons, the climate is pleasant, with mild temperatures and less rainfall than in winter.
In addition, there are fewer tourists than in the high summer season, which means that tourist sites will not be as crowded and prices for accommodation and transportation may be lower.
Where to Stay in Carcassonne?
Let’s look at 3 types of accommodations with 3 possible budgets in mind.
Au pied de la Cité
It is a one bedroom apartment, with all the comforts that someone visiting the city for a few days might need.
It has an excellent location, close to the Condal castle and the city’s main attractions.
It costs 34€ per night.
Hôtel Montmorency & Spa
Located just a few steps from the entrance of the medieval city, is a great option to stay in Carcassonne.
It has a swimming pool and a whirlpool. It also has a spa and indoor swimming pool. And from its terrace you can have a drink with panoramic views.
Double rooms start at 92 euros.
Hôtel Le Donjon
The hotel is inside the medieval city and is surrounded by its walls. The view is completed by a very nice garden.
The hotel offers a buffet breakfast and its restaurant serves traditional French cuisine.
Double rooms are available from 202€.
Is Carcassonne worth a visit?
Of course, it is! We have already told you everything there is to see in Carcassonne, and you will have realized the importance of this city. It is no coincidence that it is one of the most visited in the south of France.
It is an ideal place for lovers of history, art, architecture, and good food and wine.
Plan Your Trip to the South of France
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