The old city of Carcassonne dates back to 1st century BC but these days there’s a fabulously restored hill top castle and a beautiful medieval town that’s fully functional with around 50 inhabitants. As you enter through the main gates of this fortified town you’ll be caught up in a warren of cobbled streets on different levels (tip: wear comfy shoes). The entire town, surrounded by 2km long walls and 52 towers is a UNESCO listed monument and, every street and corner reveal traces of its fascinating history.
Fun for all the family
In the citadel, there are loads to do and see and you can easily spend a whole day there just wandering. There are daily displays of jousting in the summer months and it’s easy to stroll with a stroller. The streets, for the most part, are free of cars throughout the day with only limited access allowed for people operating their businesses or living in the city. You can also take the little train, a 20 minute, multi-language sightseeing tour of the turrets and ramparts. There are lots of little shops, many of them touristy which some people complain about but, we’re tourists in Carcassonne right, so a little souvenir is always good. Some of the shops are fabulous, shoes, clothes, and bags will definitely tempt! If you like to eat where the locals go, take a break at the bottom of the Citadel in Bloc G (112 e Barbacane), it may not look much from the outside but the food is amazing, home-cooked, seasonal produce with serious servings of flavour.
Gastronomic delights in the Bastide St Louis
The area is famous for its cassoulet and there are plenty of restaurants in the old city. Don’t though, miss the so-called “newer” part of town which dates back to the Middle Ages! In the Bastide de St Louis, you’ll discover a rectangular grid of streets which join the old city to the Canal du Midi. Here you will find a terrific selection of bars, restaurants - Le Bistrot d’Alice (26 rue Chartran) is popular with locals for luscious home cooked local dishes, friendly service, and a great ambiance. There’s a fabulous market in Place Carnot with its local pink marble pavement and it’s is lined with places to watch the world go by.
For a real end of day treat, dinner at the award-winning 2 Michel Star Franck Putelet restaurant Le Parc (80 Chemin des Anglais) just outside the old city, is truly memorable.
Canal du Midi
Opposite the train station at Carcassonne, you can take a boat ride on the UNESCO listed Canal du Midi. Drift through the stunning countryside where the canal paths, great for cycling, are lined with regal plane trees. Le Cocagne boat company run guided tours of an hour plus which give wonderful views of the old city of Carcassonne.
There’s never a bad time to visit Carcassonne. There’s always plenty going on. Festivals, concerts, Christmas markets, it’s a town that’s good for your bucket list all year round.
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