Carcassonne is a beautiful, historic French city. It is particularly well known for it’s fortified medieval ramparts that enclose the old city, and sit atop a hill close to the modern city centre. With a blend of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, it’s a beautiful city to explore. With plenty of narrow cobbled streets, walkways and impressive stone structures to explore.
CURRENCY | Euro
TIME NEEDED | 1 – 3 days
SEASONS & WEATHER | Cold in winter, hot in summer. Visit anytime, but spring, summer, autumn should guarantee better weather.
LANGUAGES | French, but English will be known in a number of restaurants/touristic areas
HOW TO SAY HELLO | Bonjour
HOW TO SAY THANK YOU | Merci
TRANSPORT | Walking and public transport
NEAREST AIRPORT | Aéroport de Carcassonne (CCF)
NEAREST TRAIN STATION | Gare de Carcassonne
We drove through Carcassonne on a camping road trip through the South of France. It’s a fairly small city, but the famous medieval ramparts are definitely worth exploring if you are in the Languedoc region.
It’s about 1.5 hours to Carcassonne by train from Montpellier, so definitely reachable as a day trip if you would prefer to stay in a larger city.
THINGS TO VISIT, PLACES TO SEE
Cité de Carcassonne | The biggest draw of Carcassonne is the medieval city that perches on a hilltop just to the east of the main city. Here you can wander through quaint cobbled streets and underneath stone archways in a place so well preserved it has the aura of a medieval film scene, and definitely emanates Disney and Harry Potter vibes.
Purchase a ticket to enter the Château Comtal and walk along the castles ramparts for beautiful views across the old city itself and back out across the surrounding landscape.
You can also explore the Basilique Saint Nazaire, situated within the medieval city and an impressive structure that blends Romanesque architecture with Gothic styling. It’s free to enter, and worth a peek at the stained glass windows, which are said to be some of the most beautiful in this region of France.
The medieval city often holds shows and concerts in the Théâtre Jean-Deschamps, however if there isn’t anything on that catches your eye, just wandering back into the city at night is a beautiful experience in itself. The walls and ramparts are illuminated in a golden glow at night, and light displays are frequently held, giving the Château a magical glow.
Tip: Look out for the Carcassonne mural on rue Trivalle on the way up to the city!
Pont Vieux | An old bridge dating back to the 14th century stretches across the Aude River and connects la Cité de Carcassonne with the main town. It’s a magnificent stone structure, best viewed from the new bridge opposite (Mirador Le Cite), which also provides a beautiful panoramic view back across to the medieval city.
Musée des Beaux-Arts | Located at the head of the beautiful Gambetta square, this free museum is home to a collection of European fine art paintings. It’s not quite on par with the Louvre, but worth a visit if you have time to spare!
The Lower City | A grid layout of narrow cobbled walkways lie under the cover of multi coloured umbrellas in the center of Carcassonne. The Portail des Jacobins is a grand entranceway that leads onto the main shopping thoroughfare and is just a short walk away from Carcassonne Cathedral.
Canal du Midi | This famous 17th century canal (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) snakes its way across the Langdouc countryside. It connected the Garonne river that leads to the Atlantic on the west coast, to the Mediterranean Sea in the South of France, and was an important trade route, carrying essential wheat and wine. It passes through Carcassonne, just to the north of the central city, and is a lovely place to stop for a coffee and wander along the tree lined canal edge.
Lac de Cavayère | A beautiful place to spend a warm afternoon, it’s a popular stop for locals to go for a woodland walk, swim, kayak or dive! It’s just a short 20 minute drive out to the lake.
Explore the countryside | Carcassonne is situated in the Languedouc region, noted particularly for its wine, so vineyards are scattered throughout the countryside. To the North of Carcassonne you will find O’Vineyards, a popular If you’re travelling by car, Trèbes is a beautiful village to pause at for coffee and wander along the Canal du Midi.
PLACES TO EAT
Ok, so you’re in France, food and wine is . Some local dishes and wines to look for include Cassoulet a bean and meat dish, although I did see some vegetarian versions on restaurant boards too. The Languedoc region is also famous for it’s tapenade (and olives in general), crème catalane (a desert similar to crème brûlée) and goats cheese!
For Coffee | Méery Cake (£) great coffees and amazing cake selection in a cute cafe, Cafe green garden (££) Close to the train station and Canal du Midi.
La Petite Cuillere | £ | A great little cafe that sits on the road leading up to the Cité de Carcassonne. Whether you’re in need of breakfast, lunch or a quick snack, the ‘little spoon’ will have you covered!
Chez Dani | ££ | Located in the medieval city, Chez Dani serves up incredible Tuscan and Italian dishes consisting of home made pasta and paired with great wines.
Meli Et Zeli | ££-£££ | Situated next to the ramparts, and with a beautiful view across to the Château Comtal, with great cassoulet and goats cheese dishes, it’s the perfect place to sample local delicacies.
Le Trivalou | ££-£££ | Another gem located on rue Trivalle, you’ll find this small restaurant offering incredible French cuisine and a lovely house wine.
PLACES TO STAY
The South of France has an illustrious building style, buildings emanate a rustic charm with warm hued colours and wooden shutters. Many areas throughout France have their own unique twist on the classic French style, from a particular shutter design or favoured colours. We camped whilst in Carcassonne, so I’ve included the site we camped at and some other non-camping/camper van options too!
BUDGET | £
Camping de la Cité | If you’re travelling this area with a tent or caravan you can’t get closer to the centre of Carcassonne than with this campsite! The facilities were clean and fairly modern, and it’s just a short 20 minute walk to the medieval city.
Airbnb | There are some really lovely and affordable apartments available for rent around the city of Carcassonne, some with beautiful views across to the medieval city too!
MID-RANGE | ££
Good Knight | Located steps away from the medieval city, this hotel boasts beautiful views across to the castle ramparts. The rooms are stylishly decorated with natural textures entwined with subtle links to the medieval history of the area.
Hotel Pont Levis – Franck Putelat | Close to the Porte Narbonnaise entranceway into the medieval city, this hotel is a great place to base yourself whilst exploring the city.
LUXURY/SPECIAL OCCASION | £££
B&B Les chambres d’Aimé | Located in the main town centre, this unassuming town house is a beautiful option. It has an elegant garden and pool area, as well as elegant decor throughout, it really is a hidden gem.
Hotel de la Cité & Spa | If you’d prefer to stay in the medieval city itself, this luxury hotel set within a medieval style château is a rather beautiful option. With a Michelin star restaurant onsite, as well as a pool and spa, this hotel really is la crème de la crème.