Is Carcassonne Worth Visiting: 10 Reasons Why You Should

For escapist people like me, southern France is the place to be. Southern France is full of natural attractions, quaint villages, historic cities, Instagrammable vacation spots, and many more worth visiting destinations. 

A worth visiting destination in southern France I know is Carcassonne. It is a town with two UNESCO sites. And one of them, Cité de Carcassonne, is considered one of the most beautifully preserved medieval walled cities in Europe. It is an epitome of splendor, showing the greatness of the French people.

However, it’s not fair to describe Carcassonne in only a few sentences only! In this post, I share all the beautiful things I discovered about Carcassonne–the 10 reasons why you should visit Carcassonne.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a tiny commission at no additional cost to you. They will help me maintain this blog and create posts to fulfill the mission of this blog.

As you read along, you will also learn about the history of Carcassonne and its glorious attractions (visiting information and unmissable things to see for each included). Details about Carcassonne’s spectacular events and other tips are also available here.

This post is packed with information that it can already serve as your guide to Carcassonne. 

Let me start our discussion by giving my opinion/answer to the question that most probably you’re here for:

Is Carcassonne Worth Visiting?

Yes, Carcassonne is worth visiting! Strolling in the picturesque medieval fortifications in Cité de Carcassonne and marveling at the notable works of engineering in Canal du Midi are extraordinary experiences. You may also want to visit Carcassonne since it is near the awe-inspiring Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine.

With that said, if you like to be time-transported back into medieval times or marvel at works of engineering, you should visit Carcassonne. However, the overall experience of Carcassonne won’t be limited to those.

Later, I’ll tell you all the details of all the fantastic experiences you can find in Carcassonne. And stick until the end as you can discover many beautiful things about Carcassonne! 😀 Of course, they will be the reasons why you will want to visit this magical place.

Carcassonne France, Golden hour in Carcassonne
Golden hour in Carcassonne

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Introduction to Carcassonne

As a person born in a young country in the pacific, segregated from the cradle of early human civilization, I always wonder about life in places like Europe. The continent that’s very different from ours in so many aspects.

Like… I grew up seeing only huts, skyscrapers, and only very few old beautiful buildings. Literally, there was no structure here that’s more than 500 years old. 

The place I live—It will give you the impression that castles, kingdoms, and walled cities are just ideas and fantasies only made for TV shows. 

However, since these medieval structures have existed, and some still exist, I can’t help myself not to grow some fascination with them. 

It is! Especially since they have an imposing appearance, often ornate and filled with exquisite details—a beauty that no longer exists with modern architecture.

Let’s say you’re also fascinated with medieval cities, and you’re now looking for a place to visit. In that case, Carcassonne is one of the destinations in Europe you can go to.

Carcassonne France, Medieval Fortifications in Carcassonne
Medieval fortifications in Carcassonne

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Where is Carcassonne?

So, where exactly is Carcassonne? 

Looking at the map, you have to start looking at southern France. Zoom in to the Occitanie region and zoom in again to the Aude department. You should find it in the center of a triangle formed by the cities of Toulouse and Montpellier and the microstate of Andorra.

With that said, suppose you’re from abroad, and Carcassonne is one of the first places you want to see in France. In that case, Toulouse or Montpellier airports are the ideal places for arrival. 

Coming from Toulouse, a train ride to Carcassonne takes only an hour. From Montpellier, it’s around 1.5 hours. The driving time from these cities to Carcassonne is nearly the same compared to a train ride.

Because of Carcassonne’s location, many people ask if it is possible to go to a beach after visiting Carcassonne. The answer is yes; Carcassonne is only an hour away from the shores of Narbonne by car. And more beautiful beaches await you in the South of France that won’t take more than 2 hours to reach by driving.

Here is the map showing the exact location of Carcassonne.

Now that we know where Carcassonne is, it’s time to uncover a few facts about this place. They shall give context to the 10 reasons to visit Carcassonne, which we will discuss later.

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What is Carcassonne famous for?

Did you know? In 2017, Carcassonne welcomed more than 2.1 million tourists. They came to Carcassonne to see the hilltop-walled-medieval city of Carcassonne (also called Cité de Carcassonne), which Carcassonne is well known for.

Carcassonne France, Cité de Carcassonne perched on a hilltop
Cité de Carcassonne perched on a hilltop

Carcassone’s counterpart in Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, nearly has the same number of yearly visits.

Do I mean Carcassonne is different from Cité de Carcassonne? A yes and a no. Carcassonne is a town, which like any other, has several parts. Cité de Carcassonne is the town’s oldest district and one of Carcassonne’s “two most important districts.”

Before, Carcassonne and Cité de Carcassonne were precisely the same. That’s until the city expanded in the 13th century when the expelled residents of Cité de Carcassonne built Bastide Saint Louis, the “second most important” district of Carcassonne.

It is one of the reasons why I think of Carcassonne as a city of doubles. Not only does Carcassonne have two parts, but it also has a double “s” and “n” on its name. Just kidding!

Seriously, Carcassonne is a city of doubles because, besides its two “notable” districts, Carcassonne also has two UNESCO sites (as I mentioned earlier). Its medieval city even has double layers of ramparts. 

Keep reading to discover them all. We’ll also unfold more parts of the history of Carcassonne as we go along.

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10 Reasons To Visit Carcassonne

By the appearance of Cité de Carcassonne, It is not hard to understand why there are millions of people coming to Carcassonne. Have a look:

Carcassonne France, Medieval village within Cité de Carcassonne
Medieval village within Cité de Carcassonne

When I first discovered Carcassonne, I was in disbelief that there are still places like Cité de Carcassonne. The preservation is impressive, and its quaintness is totally out of this modern world.

Cité de Carcassonne’s appearance is only the summit of the tip of the iceberg, to be honest! If historical places are your type of destination, there are many that you should be excited to see in Carcassonne.

South of France has many preserved medieval villages. But the “most complete time-transporting” experience lies in Carcassonne. It has a quaint town, dizzying towers, imposing ramparts, a castle, a picturesque bridge, and many more!

If there are 10 reasons why you should visit Carcassonne, I think they are:

  1. Carcassonne’s Imposing Ramparts and Towers
  2. Magnificent Comtal Castle
  3. The Grand Churches 
  4. Carcassonne Festival and the Medieval-Modern Theater
  5. Picturesque Old Bridge of Carcassonne
  6. Bastide Saint Louis
  7. Carcassonne and Canal du Midi
  8. The Wines of Carcassonne
  9. Carcassonne’s Relaxation Spots
  10. Underground Spectacle Near Carcassonne

Let’s kick off the discussion with the parts of Cité de Carcassonne that are marvelous whether you behold it from afar or within.

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Reason no. 1 Carcassonne’s Imposing Ramparts and Towers

Carcassonne France, Entrance to Cité de Carcassonne from Bastide Saint Louis
Entrance to Cité de Carcassonne from Bastide Saint Louis

Of all the things that you can see in Cité de Carcassonne, the ones I find the most fascinating are its ramparts and towers

The entire Cité de Carcassonne is straight out of movies/series set in the middle ages. But the ramparts and towers are the ones that remind me of the action and thrill of every battle I watched on TV.

Are you also a fan of Merlin, GoT, and Lord of the Rings? Yes? Then, your imagination will let you picture legions of swordsmen marching when you visit Cité de Carcassonne. Or maybe, flying arrows, dragons, or cannonballs!

Carcassonne France

Thanks to the preserved image of the fortress city, these scenes can come quickly to your imagination! 

Carcassonne France

The thing is, unlike in the movies, there were real battles in Carcassonne. And these towers, ramparts, and other defensive structures played a significant role in defending the medieval city.

Not only that!

These ramparts and towers of Cité de Carcassonne are also monuments of centuries of labor, exhibiting different military architecture. It was started by the Romans/Visigoths and was continued by the French, who then perfected the fortification.

Carcassonne France, Western wall of Cité de Carcassonne
Western wall of Cité de Carcassonne

Today, the ramparts of Cité de Carcassonne have two layers. The first layer was built during the time of the Gallo-Romans, way back to the 5th century and earlier. 

This is why you’ll notice that two-thirds of the inner wall manifests Late Roman-style masonry as you walk around the inner wall of Cité de Carcassonne.

In Carcassonne’s early days, city defenses were easily breached by enemies. Like, in 728, the Saracens marched into Carcassonne, gaining control of the city. However, they were driven out by Pepin the Short thirty years later.

Carcassonne France, Aerial view of Cité de Carcassonne
Aerial view of Cité de Carcassonne

When Carcassonne was handed over to France, it was no longer the case. Carcassonne became an impregnable fortress as Saint & King Louis IX built the outer wall of Carcassonne in the 13th century.

Aigues-Mortes is another walled city King Louis IX built. It was the sole port city of France in the 13th century, the last stop of the crusaders before they sailed to the Mediterranean sea to reclaim the Holy Land.

With two layers of fortification, enemies had no chance of conquering Carcassonne. The city’s defenses were tested during the Hundred Year’s War but did not fall. Edward, the Black Prince of England, failed to capture Carcassonne.

Carcassonne France, Inner and outerwall of Cité de Carcassonne
Inner and outerwall of Cité de Carcassonne

Carcassonne also became the frontier of the French against the crown of Aragon, expanding from the south. Still, the fortified city remained free from occupiers.

Those fierce battles are just some of the fascinating events in Carcassonne. Needless to say, the Cité de Carcassonne’s historic value embedded in its ramparts is one of the reasons why you should be in Carcassonne.

I think it is a privilege to be at a very historical place. 

Carcassonne France, View of Bastide Saint Louis from Cité de Carcassonne
View of Bastide Saint Louis from Cité de Carcassonne

A trip to Cité de Carcassonne doesn’t only mean visiting a historical place but also seeing a military architectural marvel, a fairytale place more legit than Disneyland!

Did you know? Cité de Carcassonne’s walls have a combined perimeter of 3 kilometers (1.9 miles). Along the ramparts are 30 horseshoe-shaped bastions and 52 towers with witch-hat-style roofs. They look absolutely magical!

From afar, the walls may not appear very tall and tough. But actually, they are 6 to 10 meters high or 19.6 to 32 feet (the inner wall is 6 to 8 meters, the outer wall is 7 to 10 meters) and 3 meters or 9.8 thick. 

Carcassonne France, Western wall of Cité de Carcassonne and Comtal Castle
Western wall of Cité de Carcassonne and Comtal Castle

No wonder some military historians like Alfred Burne consider Carcassonne an impregnable city.

Walking along the Cité de Carcassonne, you’ll also see scenic views of the vineyards and Bastide Saint Louis. In some parts, if the weather is clear, the panorama includes the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees.

Cité de Carcassonne is a car-less district, and if you plan to visit with a car, you may park it at the big parking lot outside and east of the medieval city. Porte Narbonnaise is the closest entrance of Cité de Carcassonne from the parking lot, 5 minutes away by foot.

Carcassonne France, Stroll in the ramparts of Cité de Carcassonne
Stroll in the ramparts of Cité de Carcassonne

Do you want to see a panoramic view of Cité de Carcassonne? Come to the outskirts of the town, southeast of Cité de Carcassonne. There you can find vantage points that also give a fantastical image of the fortress city.

It’s best to go there at sunset to see the silhouettes of the Cité de Carcassonne’s fortifications. Here’s the exact location:

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Reason no. 2 Magnificent Comtal Castle

Carcassonne France, Comtal Castle and its majestic towers
Comtal Castle and its majestic towers

Cité de Carcassonne is an all-in-one destination for anyone who wants to escape the modern world. Its ramparts and towers are just the beginnings of your “time-transporting journey” back to the medieval ages.

One of the most important buildings in Cité de Carcassonne is the castle attached to the medieval walls. It is called Chateau Comtal, a 12th-century castle that overlooks Bastide Saint Louis to the west.

Today, Comtal Castle serves as a museum. Visiting Comtal Castle will not only be a throwback because of its quaint appearance. But most importantly, because of the stories created and told from the castle.

Carcassonne France, Shot of Comtal Castle from the moat
Shot of Comtal Castle from the moat

Stories from the medieval ages until the site’s rebuilding in the 19th century—you will discover. From Carcassonne’s medieval politics to religious influences to the architect who rebuilt Cité de Carcassonne—you will know. 

As someone curious about history, the one I find most interesting is Carcassonne and Comtal Castle’s linkage to Catharism. Some people even claimed Comtal Castle a “Cathar Castle.”

Basically, Catharism is a Christian religious sect with practices and beliefs that the Catholic Church denounces. They thrived in southern Europe around the 12th century, seen as an enemy of the Church.

Carcassonne France, Imposing facade of Comtal Castle and its brattice
Imposing facade of Comtal Castle and its brattice

The castle’s museum will unfold to you the story of the crusaders hunting for Cathars, Raymond Roger (a member of the Trencavel Family & owner of Comtal Castle), the battle & siege of Carcassonne, and more.

Because of these, I think Comtal Castle will plunge you completely into the middle ages. It should, especially when exploring different parts of the castle.

You can go to the Comtal Castle’s courtyard to imagine more scenes from medieval times. It must be there that the swordsmen and knights practiced before they went to war. 

Carcassonne France, Courtyard of Comtal Castle
Courtyard of Comtal Castle

The courtyard has trees in the middle. In their shades, you can relax for a while as you marvel at the castle’s architecture surrounding you. 

If you are an architecture enthusiast, you may notice that Comtal Castle embodies northern and western French military architectural styles.

Don’t miss to marvel at the varying styles of the castle’s turrets! Climb them to see more epic views of Carcassonne’s Bastide. A stroll in Comtal Castle’s dry moat is nice too.

Carcassonne France, View from the ramparts of Comtal Castle
View from the ramparts of Comtal Castle

In the moat, you’ll see the imposing facade of the castle. It is designed with arrow slits, battlements & towers armored with wooden hoards/brattice. Worth seeing—as they are one of a kind you can’t easily find anywhere else in Europe.

For me, all these unique things and stories you can discover in Comtal Castle are a reason to visit Carcassonne

According to the official website of the Castle and Ramparts of Carcassonne, the entry fee to the castle and ramparts costs 9.5 EUR/adult (see the website for the eligible for free entry). Discovery Tours cost 13 EUR/adult. (Do not forget to get an audio guide!)

Carcassonne France, View from the southern ramparts of Comtal Castle
View from the southern ramparts of Comtal Castle

From April to September, the castle and ramparts are open to visitors from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm (the last entry is 5:30 pm). Then, from October to March, the opening time is at 9:30 am, closing at 5:00 pm (the last entry is 4:30 pm).

Want to visit Comtal Castle and Cité de Carcassonne’s ramparts and towers? You can book the skip-the-line tickets here.

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Reason no. 3 The Grand Churches

Carcassonne France, Basilique Saint Nazaire and its elegant gothic exteriors
Basilique Saint Nazaire and its elegant gothic exteriors

When you go to the ramparts of Comtal Castle, your eyes will be blessed with scenic sights that reach as far as the Pyrenees. To the west, you will be overlooking Bastide Saint Louis. The rest, it’s Cité de Carcassonne.

Included in the overlooking view of Cité de Carcassonne from the ramparts is the Basilique Saint Nazaire, the church within the medieval city. You can spot Basilique Saint Nazaire’s majestic gothic spire and roof from the Comtal Castle in its southern covered ramparts. 

It is also where you can find a spectacular viewing perspective of Cité de Carcassonne’s western wall. Go to the panel board at the corner of the ramparts—it is the spot!

Carcassonne France, view of Basilique Saint Nazaire from Comtal Castle
view of Basilique Saint Nazaire from Comtal Castle

The board gives information about the wall’s towers, but you should use the audio guide to understand what’s written on the board—it is in French.

The thing is, it is not only Cité de Carcassonne’s walls and castle that are breathtaking. The church (Basilique Saint Nazaire) in the medieval city also is! And it is another reason why Carcassonne is so worth visiting.

Basilique Saint Nazaire dates back to the 6th century during the rule of Visigoths over Carcassonne. However, like most churches in Europe, it was rebuilt and renovated. In the case of Basilique Saint Nazaire, it was several times.

Carcassonne France, Close up view of Basilique Saint Nazaire
Close up view of Basilique Saint Nazaire

The current version of Basilique Saint Nazaire depicts the modification made to the church in the 12th century.

This is why you’ll find Basilique Saint Nazaire manifesting mixed architectural styles today. It is primarily gothic, but there are still romanesque parts that remain. 

Like, on its northern facade, you’ll find a Romanesque portal with five receding arches framing its two wooden doors. The tiny sculpture of gargoyle heads above it looks creepy, though.

Carcassonne France, View from the Romanesque portal of Basilique Saint Nazaire
View from the Romanesque portal of Basilique Saint Nazaire

But if there’s an unmissable part of a church to see in Basilique Saint Nazaire, it is the choir. Its walls are made of kaleidoscopic stained glass windows that are so marvelous! 

Basilique Saint Nazaire’s beautiful stained glass windows date back to the late 13th century and are considered one of the oldest in southern France. Although it is not as stunning as Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, it is of similar beauty.

The 13th-century stained glass window in Basilique Saint Nazaire depicts different scenes from the bible. And even though you’re not a believer, you’ll love beholding them because they’re just spectacular works of art! 

Carcassonne France, Stained glass windows of Basilique Saint Nazaire's choir
Stained glass windows of Basilique Saint Nazaire’s choir

Not to mention the rose window. These stained glass windows of Basilique Saint Nazaire burst in color in a bright sunny way. 

Basilique Saint Nazaire isn’t the only beautiful church in Carcassonne. There are more! If you travel to see beautiful architecture, Carcassonne will let you admire many. We’ll discuss them later on.

You may enter the church daily, from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (12:00 pm to 2:00 pm lunch break) during summer. During winter, it closes earlier, at 5:00 pm. A Holy Mass is celebrated every Sunday at 11:00 am.

Please see if there are updates on the website of Carcassonne.

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Reason no. 4 Carcassonne Festival and the Medieval-Modern Theater

Carcassonne France, Théâtre Jean-Deschamps in Cité de Carcassonne
Théâtre Jean-Deschamps in Cité de Carcassonne

Another reason to visit Carcassonne is the events and the theater you can find just beside Basilique Saint Nazaire. The theater is called Théâtre Jean-Deschamps, and concerts and festive events occur in it several times a year.

One specific time of the year when Carcassonne becomes ecstatically fun and lively with concerts all around town, most notably in Théâtre Jean-Deschamps, is summer. During summer/July, Carcassonne Festival takes place—a totally unmissable event to attend!

You may check the official website of the Carcassonne Festival to learn more about the program of events that Carcassonne will have this year. But, in summary, different artists and bands come to Carcassonne to perform all forms of entertainment.

From classical music to rock concerts, ballet dance to opera—many you can watch! You can find performances within Cité de Carcassonne and Bastide Saint Louis.

However, for me, there is nowhere else in Carcassonne other than Théâtre Jean-Deschamps where you can find an exceptional experience during summer. Well, not only in Carcassonne but perhaps in the whole South of France.

International artists have already performed in Théâtre Jean-Deschamps; it is not only local artists! They were the Simple Minds, Black Eyed Peas, James Blunt, Liam Gallagher, Lana Del Rey, and more.

Like, what do you think of a concert in a medieval citadel? It’s pretty unique and unforgettable, I believe!

It’s a magical twist! Like, a modern party happening during the middle ages. A fascinating experience.

Quick facts. Did you know that Théâtre Jean-Deschamps was just constructed in the 20th century? 1908 to be precise.

Théâtre Jean-Deschamps was built to replace the cloister of Basilique Saint Nazaire that was destroyed during the French revolution. The cloister was also used as a defensive feature of the citadel. If it still exists, Cité de Carcassonne would have more towers.

Lastly, Carcassonne Festival ranks in the top 10 biggest French Festivals, with 200,000 spectators each year. Théâtre Jean-Deschamps is only one of the 12 stages where 120 shows and 80 free concerts occur. 

You can still go to Théâtre Jean-Deschamps even when there are no events in Carcassonne. It has a breathtaking view of the metal chairs. Find an angle to have some Instagrammable photos.

Hey, I just want to share something. If you’re interested in places in France with epic festivals, you must see Avignon. It has one of the world’s greatest art festivals, and it also takes place in July, similar to Carcassonne Festival.

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Reason no. 5 Picturesque Old Bridge of Carcassonne

Carcassonne France, View of Pont Vieux from Bastide Saint Louis
View of Pont Vieux from Bastide Saint Louis

When you’re in Cité de Carcassonne, most of the things you’ll see appear so picture-worthy. Definitely, they will compel you to take photos. 

I think you will also feel that it’s somehow regrettable not to have your own photo-souvenir of every stunning part of the citadel. So don’t forget to clean up your storage to make space for new ones!

Although it can feel that way, living in the moment is a thing we must never forget to do. Never forget to take time to feel the medieval flair of Cité de Carcassonne. Let your imagination be transported back centuries in the past.

Anyway…

Cité de Carcassonne is photogenic inside and out. If you wonder where you can find one of the most picturesque views of the citadel, the answer is in Pont Neuf. In Pont Neuf, you can see a panoramic view of Cité de Carcassonne with the River Aude and Pont Vieux.

Carcassonne has several bridges across River Aude, but Pont Neuf (or New Bridge) and Pont Vieux (or Old Bridge) are the two most famous. These are the bridges that connect Cité de Carcassonne and Bastide Saint Louis.

Here is a view of the scenery awaiting you at Pont Neuf at the side of Bastide Saint Louis when you face southeast:

Carcassonne France, View of Cité de Carcassonne from Pont Neuf
View of Cité de Carcassonne from Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf is also one of the spots in Carcassonne that you must go to at night to see the citadel glow with its light effects. Most importantly, it is also the best place to watch the fireworks over the citadel every July 14 (Bastille Day or National Day of France).

Carcassonne France, Fireworks in Carcassonne Festival
Fireworks in Carcassonne Festival
Carcassonne France, Cité de Carcassonne's spectacular fireworks during Bastille Day
Cité de Carcassonne’s spectacular fireworks during Bastille Day

However, you can also have a lovely view of Cité de Carcassonne from Pont Vieux. It, as well, has an uncovered expansive panorama of the citadel.

It’s just, for me, the view from Pont Neuf is much better because Pont Vieux looks “perfectly medieval” with the walled city in the backdrop. It’s a view enough to be a reason to visit Carcassonne.

By the way, Pont Vieux has metal arches that give the bridge a more-Instagrammable look. However, you may need an ultra-wide angle camera to capture you in the middle of the bridge, with Cité de Carcassonne included in the frame.

Carcassonne France, Pont Vieux
Pont Vieux

An alternative for Pont Neuf and Pont Vieux as a vantage point for watching the fireworks over Cité de Carcassonne is in the hilly fields southeast of the citadel along the A61 motorway from Narbonne towards Toulouse. You can refer to the Google Maps location I shared with you previously in the first section (Reason no. 1).

If you plan to watch the fireworks from the A61 motorway, come early because the authorities close the road as soon as the parking becomes full.

Remember that more or less 500,000 people come to Carcassonne to watch the fireworks. The spots I mentioned are quickly occupied by spectators so come as early as possible! 

The fireworks show starts at 10:30 pm and lasts for 25 minutes.

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Reason no. 6 Bastide Saint Louis

Carcassonne France, Overlooking view of Bastide Saint Louis
Overlooking view of Bastide Saint Louis

Bastide Saint Louis may not be the primary reason tourists come to Carcassonne. Still, it is a part of Carcassonne that can make your visit even more worth it!

How? Well, Bastide Saint Louis offers you more things to do. The list starts from a lovely stroll in its narrow cobblestone paths to more beautiful churches and fascinating museums. Not to mention the visit to its bustling town square and market.

I linked the location of the unmissable places to see in Bastide Sainte Louis under this section.

Carcassonne France, Colorful decorations in Bastide Saint Louis
Colorful decorations in Bastide Saint Louis

In some parts of the year, colorful decoration cover Bastide Saint Louis’ streets. Like the Pont Vieux and Cité de Carcassonne, your cameras will have many new photos after you visit the bastide.

When you explore the streets near Place Carnot, it would probably be the case. Gorgeous Haussmann-style houses surround the square and the roads! You’ll love the architecture and design of the balconies’ railings.

Bastide Saint Louis must have been more beautiful if it wasn’t burned to the ground during the Hundred Year’s War. Just a little dose of history… Did you know? Bastide Saint Louis was established in the year 1240

Nope, it wasn’t because the people wanted to expand their city during that time. Bastide Saint Louis was founded because rebellious citizens of Cité de Carcassonne were banished, and here they settled.

Carcassonne France, Porte de Jacobins in Bastide Saint Louis
Porte de Jacobins in Bastide Saint Louis

Believe it or not, Bastide Saint Louis even had its own walls like Cité de Carcassonne. The gate near Carcassonne Cathedral, called Porte des Jacobins, is the sole remnant of this wall.

Bastide Saint Louis, because of its barrierless location, was able to prosper more than Cité de Carcassonne. Today, it is the commercial center of Carcassonne.

Carcassonne France, Carcassonne Cathedral
Carcassonne Cathedral

The center of catholicism in Carcassonne was also moved to Bastide Saint Louis. The Languedoc-Gothic style Carcassonne Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Michael, is now the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Carcassonne and Narbonne.

You may come inside Carcassonne Cathedral to see its beautiful stained glass windows, similar to Basilique Saint Nazaire. It is usually open daily except Monday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. On Sundays, opening hours are only up to 12:30 pm.

Église Saint-Vincent de Carcassonne is another church in Bastide Saint Louis you must visit. It has an octagonal bell tower of 54 meters (177 feet) with a carillon housing 47 bells. (Open 2:30 pm until 7:00 pm daily).

The perk of visiting Église Saint-Vincent is that you can climb its tower. A breathtaking view of Bastide Saint Louis awaits you on top.

Lastly, if you like museums, you might not want to miss the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne (Fine Arts Museum of Carcassonne). It has exhibits ranging from stunning Renaissance paintings, sculptures, contemporary artworks, and more!

Here’s a sample of what you can see inside the museum:

If you like wandering in quaint city centers, I suggest you see Lyon. It has one of the largest Renaissance districts in Europe. Learn more through my article about Lyon.

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Reason no. 7 Carcassonne and Canal du Midi

Carcassonne France, Canal du Midi

Suppose you’re already in Carcassonne and have seen the best parts of Cité de Carcassonne and Bastide Saint Louis. In that case, Canal du Midi, located north of Bastide Saint Louis, is the next thing you must see. 

Canal du Midi is the second UNESCO site you can find in Carcassonne. It is a reason to visit Carcassonne because it is one of the most remarkable feats of civil engineering in modern times. 

In a nutshell, Canal du Midi is a navigable waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It stretches for 360 kilometers (224 miles), from Narbonne to Bordeaux, passing through Carcassonne and Toulouse. 

Carcassonne France, Canal du Midi

A technical achievement and a work of art—that’s how Canal du Midi is described. With the way it blends perfectly with the surrounding, it really serves as a testimony to the art and creativity of its engineers.

By the way, Canal du Midi was built in the 17th century. As an engineer, it is impressive how the canal engineers choreograph the infrastructure’s hydrology and geography. 

Carcassonne France, A lock in Canal du Midi
A lock in Canal du Midi

There are 328 structures like locks, aqueducts, bridges, and tunnels of Canal du Midi. Although you can’t see them all from Carcassonne, you can still see a few of them, see how they work, and experience navigating the nature-inspired canals.

For me, the most fascinating experience is when the boat enters a lock. One gate closes, and another opens, filling the lock with water and raising the water level inside. Then, you’re off to go to the next part of the canal!

Carcassonne France, Filling a lock with water in Canal du Midi
Filling a lock with water in Canal du Midi
Carcassonne France, A lock in Canal du Midi opens after filling water
A lock in Canal du Midi opens after filling water

A boat trip in the canal is pretty tranquil in most parts. There are portions covered by trees, and sunshine glitters between the leaves. However, there are options for hiking and cycling if you don’t prefer sailing.

Other sections of the canal don’t have shades. During summer, you may want to bring sunbathing suits and capture your “hot” photos while sitting in front of the boat! 

Pleasant views of the French countryside also await you while sailing Canal du Midi. Vast vineyards and animals are a few that you can find. You may bring binoculars to get a closer look at the animals.

I suggest you try the 2-hour guided cruise in Canal du Midi that starts at the port near the train station and Place André-Chenier. But if you want to rent a boat and sail yourself, you can. No license is required.

Carcassonne France, Canal du Midi

You may find canoe rentals too in Carcassonne. It’s another way of enjoying nature’s touch of Canal du Midi. Just note that you can’t enter the locks, and you have to get off the water to move to the next part of the canal. 

Are you planning to rent a boat and sail Canal du Midi? Don’t forget to read the Carcassonne Tourism office’s guidelines for navigating the canals. All the information you need to learn (i.e., using a lock) is there.

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Reason no. 8 The Wines of Carcassonne

Whether you’re sailing in Canal du Midi or walking on top of the ramparts in Cité de Carcassonne, there is one thing you can see in common from these UNESCO sites.

Vineyards

The greater Carcassonne has vast vineyards, which can be a reason to come. Why? Because the locals have been making wines for centuries… I think their specialties are something worth a try!

Wines from Carcassonne may not be as popular as the ones from Reims (a city in the Champagne region in Northern France). But would it be nice to discover something new

Maybe you can find a new kind of wine that can tickle your taste buds better? There is also a probability that you will meet a new friend! Often the people who join wine tours have very similar interests.

Who knows? They might just open up a conversation with you as you explore the vineyards or drink together at the wine tasting table.

The sure thing is that you can meet the passionate vine growers in Carcassonne. And they will give you insights into the history of the estates and their techniques in growing them.

According to the website of the Carcassonne Tourism office, there are wines made in Carcassonne that are specific to the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The fruity Minervois, full-bodied Corbièdes, and the delicate Cabardès or Malepère are some wine flavors you can discover in Carcassonne.

Click this link to see a sample wine tasting tour around Carcassonne.

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Reason no. 9 Carcassonne’s Relaxation Spots

Carcassonne France, Relaxation spots in Canal du Midi
Relaxation spots in Canal du Midi

Carcassonne does not only have historical sites but also lovely nature spots. Canal du Midi, which we discussed previously, might have given you a clue already.

With Cité de Carcassonne’s medieval flair and Canal du Midi’s touch of nature, Carcassonne is a fantastic place to make an escapism-centered journey. For me, it’s a reason why Carcassonne is worth visiting!

Actually, there really are tranquil places you can hang out along Canal du Midi. A few can be reached within an hour by foot from the port north of Bastide Saint Louis. Some can be visited by boat or bike, whatever you prefer.

One of the relaxation spots along Canal du Midi closest to Bastide Saint Louis is L’Épanchoir de Foucaud. Suppose you start hiking the banks of Canal du Midi going west from Carcassonne port. In that case, you can arrive at L’Epanchoir de Foucaud within an hour (approximately 45 minutes).

Carcassonne France, L'Épanchoir de Foucaud
L’Épanchoir de Foucaud

L’Epanchoir de Foucaud is an accommodation on the banks of Canal du Midi. It has a garden, hammocks, cottages, and tents for travelers’ lowkey relaxing nature break. See its location in Google Maps.

Hikers, cyclists, and travelers on boats usually stop at L’Epanchoir de Foucaud to eat before they continue their journeys. You can also stay here for a night for a very affordable price. Contact details/reservations are indicated on their official website.

If you plan to go to Carcassonne during the summer, you may choose the beach instead. The good thing is that the beach is just 5 to 10 minutes away from Cité de Carcassonne by car.

The beach is located in Lac de la Cavayère, a 40-hectare lake surrounded by hills, pristine pine forest, and scrublands. In this lake, you can sunbathe, swim, and have adventures!

Carcassonne France, Lac de la Cavayère
Lac de la Cavayère

Do you want to hike? You can try the 5-kilometer hiking trails around Lac de la Cavayère. Are you looking for some thrilling experiences? Ride the zip-lines that run over the lake. 

Then if you want fun, you can go to Aquaviva Park, also located on the lake. The water park has inflatables with 8-meter high jumps and 21-meter slides that are best not only for kids but also for adults who want to have legit fun!

Entry to Aquaviva Park is 10-20 EUR/person. The park is usually open from the second week of April until August, 11:00 am until 7:00 pm. Here is the link to the visiting information page of Aquaviva Park.

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Reason no. 10 Underground Spectacle Near Carcassonne

Carcassonne France, Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine

Another reason you won’t regret visiting Carcassonne (south of France in general), even if you’re from a faraway place in France (i.e., Paris, Reims, Strasbourg, or Colmar), is because of the natural attractions everywhere in the area.

The South of France is blessed with lovely beaches, breathtaking mountains, and spectacular caves. In the case of Carcassonne, the closest you can visit is Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine. It is a 30-minute drive from Carcassonne.

For me, Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine (Giant Chasm of Cabrespine) is not only a reason why you should go to southern France or Carcassonne. It also proves why this area of France is an unmissable spectacular place to see! Why?

Because Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine is one of the biggest, most beautiful, and most adventure-filled caves in France (perhaps in Europe). This cave is so deep that Strasbourg Cathedral (the tallest 15th-century structure in the world) has a height that can fit inside!

That’s true! Believe it or not, Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine has a dizzying depth of 250 meters (820 feet).

And do you know if we place the Eiffel tower at the Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine’s very bottom? Only the Eiffel Tower’s 3rd floor (276 meters or 906 feet) would be the only part we would see from the surface. Eiffel Tower is 300 meters (984 feet) high.

Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine is also incredibly huge, not only deep! This 1,600,000 m3 chasm is absolutely jaw-dropping. 

Carcassonne France, Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine
Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine

When you come inside Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine, of course, it’s not only the void you’ll find. Countless stunning rock formations await you; they vary from simple spikes to petrified muddy waterfalls, aragonite crystals, and more.

Carcassonne France, Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine
Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine

It’s more than a million years of nature’s art in the making. What’s exciting? The spot where you can observe them will literally give you goosebumps!

Inside the Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine, there’s a glass platform you can walk on. And there’s nothing below but 200-meter high hollowness.

With the dizzying view and all-year 14°C temperature inside the cave, your skin hair will really stand similar to an angry porcupine. Just kidding! Remember to bring warm clothes inside when you visit.

The thing is, the glass platform is only the start of your adventure inside Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine. You can try the acrobatic course that includes riding a zipline, walking on Monkey bridges, balancing on Nepalese bridges, and doing wall progression sports.

If you want a unique adventure, then these activities in Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine might be the ones you’re looking for.

Remember, they’re not ordinary adventures found anywhere else. You’ll do them while you’re inside a spectacular cave surrounded by weird shapes of rocks and soil. These activities should be so memorable.

At the bottom of Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine, there are more spectacular rock formations you can find. Some parts of the concretion galleries are accessed by canoeing along an underground river.

To wrap it up, the trip to Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine is divided into three parts:

  1. The Chasm. 50 meters underground. The highlight is the walk over the glass balcony. Overall, the tour takes 50 minutes to finish. 
  2. Cabrespine’s Accro Cave. 200 meters underground. The highlights are the zipline, bridges, and wall progression activity. You will need three hours for this. 
  3. Underground River. Canoeing and unfolding the most beautiful rock formations in the concretion galleries. Three hours are needed for this activity. 

Please note that only the visit to the Chasm is available to everyone. But, the tours to Accro Cave and Underground River require specific body stats for the safety of the participants. Learn more from these links:

  1. Opening Hours
  2. Other important information: Admission/Price of each activity/Booking/Requirements for each activity

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When To Visit Carcassonne

I think Carcassonne is much worth it when it is July when the town is celebrating its festival. The fireworks over Cité de Carcassonne and concerts everywhere can be a really memorable experience. Yet, of course, the number of people pouring into Carcassonne is something to consider.

The weather in southern France, including Carcassonne, is typically sunny. You may consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (early and late summer). 

But if you want to take photos of Cité de Carcassonne and Canal du Midi with blue skies, it’s definitely during mid-summer! You may just need to wake up and come early so that you may avoid the crowd. 

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Other Places Like Carcassonne

Carcassonne isn’t the only beautiful destination in the South of France. Like Carcassonne, most of them are quaint villages with fascinating histories. Some are also perched on the hilltop! 

Check the list below if you want to see more places like Carcassonne.

Village/Town Name Features
Gordes A scenic hilltop village with a view of the picturesque Luberon Regional Nature Park.
Eze A romantic hilltop village with an overlooking view of the coast of the French Riviera
Rocamadour A breathtaking pilgrimage site and historical village in Lot Department. I really recommend Rocamadour.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie A village sitting by the foothills and nearest to the spectacular Verdon Gorge (Grand Canyon of France).
Aigues Mortes A walled village with imposing gates located in the wildlife-rich Camargue Regional Nature Park.
Carcassonne The village/town with 2 preserved medieval walls and 2 UNESCO sites. It’s also one of the most popular destinations in France
Chamonix The village/town with the most panoramic views of the Alps in the South of France.
Domme A quaint village in Dordogne Valley known for its honey-colored houses.
Saint-Paul de Vence A village in the French Riviera, home to countless artworks tucked in its preserved medieval narrow lanes.
Saint-Cirq Lapopie A charming village with half-timbered houses overlooking Lot River.
10 Most Beautiful Villages in the South of France

You may click the names of the villages to learn more. Alternatively, you can also read my article about the Most Beautiful Villages in the South of France for a brief summary of each village.

I also want to share with you the town called Annecy—my favorite city in France. It’s a scenic place that also has a charming historic center, where you can discover some history. I think that you’ll love hanging out at its lake (Lake Annecy). Learn more from my post “10 Reasons Why Visit Annecy.”

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Helpful Links In Visiting Carcassonne

If you want to visit Carcassonne, I recommend that you book the skip-the-line tickets online. It will literally save you time (considering the number of tourists who wish to enter Cité de Carcassonne). 

It can let you access the ramparts, castle, and towers first in the morning without falling in line—allowing you to enjoy the medieval flair of the place without the big crowd. Besides, we don’t wish to have photobombers on our photos of Carcassonne, right? Click here to book.

Suppose you’re coming from Toulouse and you travel with your friends and family. In that case, you can conveniently visit Carcassonne with this tour. The tour guide can pick you up from your hotel and drop-off you off back at your hotel after the trip.

On that tour, you’ll not only visit Carcassonne but also the beautiful places (i.e., the largest red-brick cathedral in the world) around Carcassonne. You can learn more about the tour from this link.

Here are more options for your visit to Carcassonne:

See more guides, tours, and activities in Carcassonne here

A day is enough in Carcassonne. In a day, you can already see Cité de Carcassonne and Canal du Midi (the unmissable attractions). But if you plan to have a wine tasting tour or an adventure in Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine, you may need to spend a night in Carcassonne for another day of fun!

If you need accommodation for a night in Carcassonne, you may use this link to see the list of hotels in Carcassonne.

That’s all for Carcassonne! I hope you find this post really helpful. I wish you happy and memorable trips wherever you plan to go! Live life.

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Discover more places!

Hello, before you go, I just want you to know that I have articles that can help you discover and visit different places worldwide. Mostly, they are about historical cities and scenic attractions. You may click the images below to find your next fantastic destination!

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Carcassonne, France
Carcassonne, France

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