Guide to visit Carcassonne in France

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When you travel to a city like Carcassonne , in the south of France, you have to know several details.

How we got to Carcassonne

We can walk, but it would take us a long time. By bike, if you are a biker and you like to travel by bike like our friend Juanpol from viajerenbicicleta.es , by plane using the cheap flight search engine on the resources page , or by car as we did .

The second thing is knowing where we are going to stay because something that characterizes this town is that it has a historic center surrounded by walls with hotels inside or we prefer to spend the night outside. Obviously the prices are not the same.

And the last detail that we take into consideration, is how to move once we are in Carcassonne. We always prefer to walk, bicycle or public transport. In Carcassonne the legs will be your best option, so leave the car parked.

Choose hotel in Carcassonne

In Carcassonne we chose a hotel that was not inside the old town for two reasons:

Hotel in Carcassonne

Our choice was the Hotel Montsegur .

The room that we had was spacious enough for us, we even had an entrance to leave the coats.

They offer breakfast service but we prefer a Boulangere that was in a square 3 minutes from the hotel.

It is important to note that they have free parking included in the price.

Its situation makes it a great option, you can visit walking the medieval Cité of Carcassonne which is what is called the most spectacular medieval city we have visited

Hotel Montsegur in Carcassonne

It is a XIX century palace run by a very kind family and willing to help you. The interior of the hotel is decorated in the same style that was built so it looks like you are really in the 19th century.

The best is 15 minutes walk from the Cité and has free parking, it is easy to reach by road and leave the city since it has no difficulty.

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It is 15 minutes walk from the historic center and if you are tired you will have to drag yourself until you arrive. The elevator is small and the breakfast is expensive. Choose the hotel you choose in France, there is always a boulangerie nearby where you can have breakfast for a reasonable price.

Breakfast at a Boulangére in Carcassone

BEST FRANCE TIP: BREAKFAST AT THE BOULANGÉRE (BAKERIES). They usually have tight prices and have hot drinks. The Croissants are yummy.

Things to do in Carcassonne

Strolling is the best thing to do both in the modern area and in the Cité. You can find a flea market, the midi channel, cozy cafes and restaurants, patisseries or wonderful places to sit down and relax.

WARNING ON FRENCH TIMETABLES

The schedules of the lunches and dinners are quite different from other countries like Spain, We went to dinner one day at 9:30 p.m. and they served us like a favour. This happens mostly in cities and small towns.

Undoubtedly, if you want to go to Carcassonne, it is to visit the Medieval Cité that has so much fame in Europe and worldwide.

Canal du Midi

It is a fake water river  that connects the Garonne River with the Mediterranean Sea. If you want to know the reasons for building it and how they did it,  you can read it on wikipedia. ?

Canal du Midi in Carcassonne France

The most curious thing you can see in this city is the movement that occurs in the locks when a boat goes down or up the canal. This happens to save different heights. There is usually a small sidewalk next to the Canal du Midi where you can walk, run or declare your love to whoever you are next to. There are companies that offer river cruises if you want to navigate through it.

Cité de Carcassonne

Carcassonne from the air

If you want to feel in the Middle Ages you should visit this citadel that has more than 2500 years of history, as they discovered when they were doing reconstruction work. We should thank Eugéne Viollet-le-Duc who was the architect in charge of returning it to its splendor.  And the entrance is FREE .

Castle of Carcassonne from the new bridge

One of the details in which we have to watch is ​​its towers, because some of them have the roof as they had in the thirteenth century (pointed and slate),  others have flat terracotta tiles and others with Roman channel tiles. This was done in order to reflect the different periods through which the monument passed.

There are two areas to enter or leave the gate of the Aude or the Narbonne gate in the citadel, depending on where you come from or where you are going to, you will be interested in crossing one of them.

The door of Narbonne is the most beautiful and interesting for us because it is like the one we all dream of having a castle.

Door of Narbonne in Carcassonne

On the other hand, the Aude gate is less showy. We used it to go out because it made it easier for us to return to the hotel, when you finish the walk out.  You will end up in a residential neighborhood and do not contribute much to the visit.

Gate of Aude Carcassonne France

Within the complex, you can visit several interior buildings, convoluted streets or walk around the walls. We recommend that you walk through the lizas, it is the space that exists between the outer and the inner walls, and even more at night. There will not be many tourists and you will feel the strength of the walls.

Lizas in Carcassonne France

Walking around the city without a map has its charm, you can discover unique buildings or craft shops.

Manmely walking through the streets

Medieval House

When you get tired you can have lunch in any of the restaurants or stalls that you will find.   Prices is totally “touristy”.

The typical dish of the area is the Cassoulet , which is a stew of white beans with duck, sausage and other yummy things.  You will find several restaurants where to taste it.  Do not worry if you don’t speak French. It is not uncommon for the people who attend you to speak English, like the one who sold us a crepe next to the basilica.

You can not miss the nougats and sweet shops, both for the good products and the decoration of the stores that you will find inside the Cité de Carcassonne.

Restaurants in Carcassonne

There are two buildings that must be visited: the 12th century Condal Castle with the inner wall and the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire from the 11th century.

Basilica of Saint-Nazaire

The Basilica is classified as the jewel of the old town because it mixes the Gothic style as the romantic one. The guides emphasize the quality of the glass behind the altar.

Tower of Saint-Nazaire

Gothic stained glass

Castle of Carcassonne

Entrance to the castle of Carcassonne in France

Why when you think of a castle, this image is one of the first that comes to mind?

The castle was built in the 12th century by the Trencavel family who were very powerful at that time and needed a fortress for the crusade against the Cathar heresy . The first thing that catches your attention is the pit to enter. You cross a drawbridge with which they protected the noble parts of it. Once inside we will be in the courtyard of arms from which we can follow the route through the rooms that can be visited as the main building, the chapel, the tower, the watchtower, the lapidary museum and emulate the rounds by the inner walls both the west and the north.

Parade

From the inside we can see the interior structures to defend the lower areas of the wall.

interior of the walls

On the second floor, you can see a 12-minute film that tells the story of the monument, we recommend you see it because it will help you understand why the castle, the cité and its subsequent reconstruction. There is a small museum on the first floor where they have collected different objects that were found in the archaeological excavations.

Lapidary museum

If you decide to walk around the castle walls, do not forget to look at the city, depending on the time you can make beautiful photos.

Photos from the wall

Keep

Something that We found curious is to see the defense door of the castle, it is a double door but each one rose or fell from different floors that did not communicate with each other. This was done so that if the enemy took the first floor, they could not open the second door if they did not reach the second floor.

Other events

In one of the squares of the citadel they fight between warriors and music of the middle ages that will make the children and not so children stay with their mouths open.

Medieval musicians

There are several museums and attractions that you can visit if you feel like it but to us they seem like a souvenir to the tourists that go there. They are the following:

  • Museum of the Cathar castles and instruments of torture – € 9.5
  • The little train of the Cité – 7, 5 €
  • The carriages of the Cité – € 8
  • The haunted house – € 7 (we do not understand that you paint there).
  • Museum of the school – € 3.5

To finish, we recommend that you cross the Aude River through the old bridge of the 14th century, which was the only point of connection between both parts of the city of Carcassonne until the 20th century.

Old bridge and the Cité de Carcassonne in the background.

Do not stay without a room, because it is difficult to find. Also if you use the button below you help us to continue traveling.

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