Visiting the fortress city of Carcassonne, France

Visit the incredible fortress town in the South of France. In Occitanie, near Provence, there are plenty of things to do in the hilltop town of Carcassonne. With tips on where to stay, what to see, and much more.
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Carcassonne is arguably one of the most beautiful and intriguing towns in France. In addition to a traditional town, it is also home to an impressive citadel that towers on a hilltop, surrounded by wide, stone ramparts. It is this architectural wonder that draws visitors to the town from far and wide.

This UNESCO world heritage town is located in the south of France in the French region of Occitanie (formerly Languedoc-Roussillon).

This charming little town offers the best of both worlds, filled with rich history while also containing a modern edge. The beautiful Canal du Midi runs through its center, and within minutes of this stone marvel, you’ll be surrounded by vineyards, caves, and beautiful French countryside.

map of france with Carcassonne

The town is rich in history. The Cité at its core has been conquered, rebuilt and conquered again so many times it may seem as though every brick has come from a different century.

The Romans ran the town from 122 BC, followed by the Saracens in 725 AD and finally, French Royalty arrived later on in 1224. Today, much of the Cité’s archaeological sites remain to explored, protected by two UNESCO heritage sites.

1. Visit La Cité de Carcassonne

Le cité de Carcassonne - by Emile Roumens
Le cité de Carcassonne – by Emile Roumens at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne

A visit to this town would not be complete without a visit to La Cité itself. The streets located inside the citadel are a winding labyrinth of cobbled streets and winding alleyways, half the fun is just getting lost and seeing what you find. Inside the walls you’ll find plenty of restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and museums.

2. Walk along the Ramparts

The double line of fortifications that surround the town are incredible to look at, let alone climb. You are able to head up onto the ramparts and explore much if the 3km that surrounds the city, as well as some of the 52 towers.

Fortifications in Carcassone

The ramparts provide incredible views of the new part of town and surrounding French countryside, while if you opt for the audio-guided tour, you can find out all about how the walls were built.

3. Head towards Bastide Saint-Louis

Although the Cité is the main attraction, you should not miss out exploring the Lower City. On the other side of the Aude river, this area is known as Bastide Saint-Louis and is much newer, offering a completely different ambiance to the streets that tower above. You’ll find plenty of high street shops and restaurants in this area as well.

☞ READ MORE: Visiting Provence and the French Riviera

4. Enjoy the cassoulet

Carcassonne is famous for its Cassoulet, which is southwestern France’s most beloved dish. It is made up of white haricot beans, sausage, and duck or goose confit.

cassoulet recipe
Cassoulet

Carcassonne has its own version of the dish, as partridge meat is also added. There is nothing better than sitting within the busy walls of the old town, enjoying a tasty, warming dish, washed down with some of the region’s finest wine. (Alternatively, you can make it at home with this Cassoulet instant pot recipe).

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get to Carcassonne?

By plane: The town is easy to get to as it has its own airport, with flights from all over Europe.

By car: It is approximately a 1 hour’s drive from the bustling city of Toulouse, or 3 hours from Marseille. If you are driving from Paris, it will take around 8 hours.

By train: There is no high-speed train into Carcassone. There are slower trains however, such as the Intercities or TER trains from Marseille, Toulouse, or Montpellier.

How many days should you spend here?

If you intend to visit Carcassone as a day trip, head to the Cité early to explore the winding passageways before they are filled with tourists to get the best experience.

On the other hand, I recommend spending at least 1 night in the town. After all, how often can you say you stayed in a centuries-old medieval fortress town?

Where should you stay?

For the full experience, consider staying close to the old city walls:

€€€ – Hôtel du Pont-Vieux
€€€€€ – Hôtel de la Cité et Spa

Near Bastide Saint-Louis:
€€€ – Hotel Montsegur

An easy compromise is in between Bastide Saint Louis and the Old City walls (next to Aude river):
€€€€ – Soleil Vacances Hotel les Chevaliers & Spa

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So enjoy a trip back into time, with a trip to this sunny history-filled corner of France. You won’t regret it.

Bon vogage and à bientôt!

✎ Photos and Guide by: Victoria Picking | Travels On Uneven Pavements |Instagram

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Visiting the fortress city of Carcassonne, France

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