Situated 90km south-east of Toulouse lies the famous city of Carcassonne, capital of the Aude. Really two cities in one the highly impressive walled medieval fortress Cité stands above the more expansive lower city (or Ville basse) below.
Spectacular walled City
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Medieval walled Cité
Basilica of Saint Nazaire
(both within the walled cite)
Museum of Fine Arts
Canal du Midi
Raymond Chésa Leisure Park
At the Walled Cité:
Jazz week - April
Music festival – June
Cité festival - July
Not surprisingly it is the fortress that attracts the 3 million tourists to Carcassonne every year. This unique architectural masterpiece was thoroughly restored in the 19th century and gained its rightful place on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997.
The Romans first fortified the hilltop around 100BC but it was not until the Albigensian Crusades in 1209 that the Cité of Carcassonne rose to fame when it acted as an indestructible stronghold for the Cathar religion before finally surrendering to Simon de Montfort. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore the Cité. It is a joy to walk through the narrow cobbled streets amongst the many shops, local craftsmen and restaurants as well as visiting the notable sites of the Basilica of Saint Nazaire and the Chateau Comtal, both contained within the outside perimeter.
Crossing the River Aude via the new bridge (Pont Neuf) you reach the main city or Ville Basse. Looking back towards the Cité you are afforded wonderful views of the fortifications and the old bridge (Pont Vieux) itself is a spectacle. The elegant lower town was formed in the middle ages after the crusades. The central Bastide Saint-Louis is arranged around Place Carnot, a delightful square in the centre of Carcassonne complete with the ornate Fountain of Neptune (1770). This is a popular place for a coffee and a croissant as well as the venue for markets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. The markets also spill into the splendid grain exchange, Halle aux Grains.
The Museum of Fine Arts is housed in the former courthouse which presents a fine collection of art from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries as well as alternating exhibitions of earthenware, tapestries and objets d'art.
To get away from the architectural sites why not visit the Canal du Midi. This incredible feat of engineering has travelled through Carcassonne since 1798 and enjoys its own UNESCO World Heritage listing. You can also relax on the banks of the lake in the Raymond Chésa Leisure Park.
With its own efficient regional airport taking direct flights from Dublin, Shannon, London Stansted, Liverpool and East Midlands airports Carcassonne is the ideal place to start or end your holiday in the Pyrenees. Whatever you choose you are sure to enjoy your stay in Carcassonne.