We at Cities Direct are finding Carcassonne to be a very popular destination amongst those looking for a city break with a difference. The city has excellent flight links with many regional airports in the UK and its location in the South of France is a very attractive prospect to anyone enduring the current wet English winter.
However, many prospective visitors to Carcassonne wonder whether there are enough things to do and see during a three or four night stay. I’ll take a look at some of the possibilities here.
Firstly, the main attraction is of course the fairytale medieval citadel or “cite”. Restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 1800s, the cité is quite breathtaking and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. You could easily lose yourself for a day in the cité, wandering around the ramparts and the narrow streets lined with cafés, shops and restaurants. The Chateau Comptal and the Basilica of St. Nazaire are well worth a visit and there are also a number of interesting museums.
Lower down the hill outside the fortified walls of the citadel, is the area dating back to the Middle Ages known as La Bastide St. Louis. This area features typically French bars, shops and restaurants and is home to a number of charming boutiques. It’s worth visiting on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday when you’ll find a traditional French market with wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, charcuterie, olives and local cheeses.
Carcassonne lies on the Canal du Midi, which links the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. In good weather you can wander along the canal under the shade of plane trees and enjoy views towards distant vine-clad hills. A boat trip on the canal is also a very appealing option for many. You can take a boat trip lasting about 2½ hours with English commentary which will include going through some of the oval locks which are the hallmarks of the Canal du Midi.
Carcassonne is well served by the railway, and a day trip by train to the city of Toulouse is a popular option. The journey takes only about 40 minutes and this vibrant city is well worth a visit. Alternatively, you could take a train to the delightful town of Limoux, just 20 minutes away. Famous for its sparkling wine, Blanquette de Limoux, the town is quite a gastronomic centre. Limoux also boasts a fascinating piano museum – visitors welcome between June and September.
Carcassonne certainly offers the tourist a host of things to see and do, both within the city itself and as a base for visiting other nearby centres. A stay of two or three days will fly by in no time!