A Traveller's Guide to Carcassonne, France
Take a step back in time by visiting the medieval city of Carcassonne
Located in the Aude department of southwest France, Carcassonne is comprised of a fortified town, Cité de Carcassonne, located on the hilltop and the lower-city below, ville basse. The medieval city is rich in history, making it one of the country's top tourist destinations. Visitors to Carcassonne enjoy immersing themselves in the full medieval experience, taking in the sights of the ancient ramparts, strolling along the cobblestone streets, browsing through the shops selling medieval wares or enjoying classic peasant stew at one of the city's many cafes.
Getting to and around Carcassonne
If journeying to Carcassonne by car, the A61 motorway connects the city to Toulouse and Narbonne.
Located 3km from the city center, Carcassonne airport connects flights from Porto, Brussels, Frankfurt-Huhn, London-Stansted, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, Cork, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. An shuttle bus connects the airport to the town center and runs via the train station.
The TGV high speed rail connections that service Lille, Bruxelles, Dijon, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse all stop at Carcassonne. Also servicing Carcassonne is the Corail Téoz train running between Bordeaux, Marseille, Nice and Paris towards Cerbère and Port-Bou in addition to the overnighter, Corail Lunéa, that runs between Paris and Cerbère. Furthermore, the TER Languedoc-Roussillon line also runs via Carcassonne connecting it to Toulouse, Marseille, Narbonne, Perpignan, Limoux, Quillan and Cerbère.
Once in Carcassonne, there are local buses and taxis available to help you to get around. In addition, during May through to November the city provides free shuttles connecting La Cité with ville basse.
Things to See and Do in Carcassonne
The city itself has been dated as far back as 3500BC and the historic fortress is built upon ruins from this era. The beautiful medieval castle, Ville de Carcassonne, provides the centerpiece of La Cité and is remarkably well-preserved for its age. In fact, the castle provided the backdrop for the 1991 Hollywood blockbuster, Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves. These days the castle houses a gruesome collection of torture equipment used by the Catholic church during the inquisition of the 13th century, called Musée de la Torture.
Other historical sights in Carcassonne include the cathedral, Church of St Vincent, Basilica of St Nazaire and St Celse and Pont Marengo which crosses the canal. Another interesting spot is Les Aigles de La Cite which features the largest collection of birds of prey in the world. Demonstrations are held daily to display the skills of these birds which are trained in the ancient art of falconry.
For some rest and recreation, visit Lac de la Cavayère, a recreational lake located five minutes out of town.