Carcassonne is a fabulous place, it looks like a perfect medieval town coming right out from a fairy-tale. Carcassonne is best known for La Cité, a double walled old castle, with massive ramparts and strong fortifications. We had the chance to visit the medieval town of Carcassonne in November 2021, on a long weekend, among a lot of other tourists. Here we are going to share our experiences and recommendations if you are up to get there.
Carcassonne, the board game
Carcassonne is a world-wide-known tile-based German-style board game for two to five players, designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede. Nowdays, certainly it is also available in your country, regardless of where you are being based. It was published in 2000 by Hans im Glück in German and by Rio Grande Games (until 2012) and Z-Man Games in English. The jury priced it as the Spiel des Jahres (The board game of the year) and also nominated for the Deutscher Spiele Preis awards in 2001. It’s name is obviously coming from the medieval fortified town of Carcassonne in southern France, famed for its city walls. The game has spawned many expansions and spin-offs, and several PC, console and mobile versions. They released a new edition, with updated artwork on the tiles and the box, in 2014.
Carcassonne, the tourist destination
Carcassonne is one of the top tourist destinations in France, with approximately more than 3 million visitors yearly, with all its advantages and disadvantages. Of course, we can feel that there are a lot of tourists around, hard to take a picture without any interruption, many expensive souvenir shops and services, fake medieval games and outfits, but despite all of that Carcassonne is still a lovely place to visit.
Good to know that Carcassonne is divided into two main parts:
- The Cité de Carcassonne, the medieval fortress settlement with a history that exceeds two and a half thousand years. The picturesque fortifications has over 3 km of walls with 52 towers. The walls and the towers of the Cité were reconstructed by Viollet-le-Duc in 19th century. It is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- The modern town centre, known as the Ville Basse (literally ‘lower city’), where the other sights and hotels are located.
What to see in the medieval town of Carcassonne
You can enter the Cité through one of its four gates. The Cité is a beautiful and interesting place to visit. Strolling through the medieval village with its tiny and twisted alleys, the beautiful little Buildings next to impressive buildings like the Basilique St-Nazaire, give you a hint of how life must have been. The inner detail-orientated arrangements transport the medieval charm and impress you at every other corner in this town. Make sure to walk with open eyes through the alleys!
The Basilique St-Nazaire impresses especially with its enormous rose windows and the biggest organ of south France. Pope Urban V. ordered the construction in 1096.
The Ramparts & Château Comtal
You can choose to walk the Cité on your own without paying entrance for most of the medieval city. We only have to pay to visit and walk upon the ramparts (around €10). You can also walk between the ramparts for free, but you have to take a guided tour to walk above the ramparts and see the Château Comtal, the palace of the viscounts of Carcassonne.
How to get to the medieval town of Carcassonne
You can fly into Carcassonne’s airport (Aéroport Sud de France Carcassonne). Once you arrive, you will find a shuttle service to the city center, that leaves the airport in every half an hour or so.
The station is in the modern town and there are regular trains from all surrounding bigger cities in France. Carcassonne is right on the main Toulouse-Montpellier train route.
Regardless from where you are coming, the road conditions are pretty good around Carcassonne, both from Narbonne and Toulouse directions, you will be heading to Carcassonne on a highway. It’s very easy to park around the medieval town, there are several parking lots, with a lot of parking places. Of course, not for free, but at least you can easily leave your car in the entrance of one of the gates and start conquering the Cité by foot. You shouldn’t be surprised as you will see cars inside the Cité too, some locals obviously have permits to reach their properties by car too, but for tourists to enter by car is strictly forbidden.
If you are on a road trip around the South of France, it is worth to rent a car. Take a look on below options.
Where to stay in the medieval town of Carcassonne
We can find only a limited number of accommodation options all around the medieval town of Carcassonne. Especially in the Cité, and they are usually very expensive. It is definitely better to check around the new city, or even in the suburbs of the city for more budget options.
Enjoy our discounts in the place
Dear Traveller, hope you liked the latest article from Besides the Obvious! If you would not like to miss any of our travel stories, destination ideas, vacation plans, holiday inspirations, do not forget to subscribe here!