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Carcassonne France Languedoc Carcassonne

Carcassonne France French Holidays

Carcassonne is right between Toulouse and Montpellier and, as it is on the main train line between those two cities, it is very easy to get to if you don't have your own transport. So there is absolutely NO excuse for not visiting this remarkable town, one that comes up trumps in spite of the tourists and Viollet le Duc's overzealous renovations in the mid 1800s.


From afar, especially if you are travelling on the motorway, Carcassonne seems to rise up out of the ground like a fairytale city. The magic wears off slightly once you are battling through the crowds inside the city walls, but it is no worse than the Mont St Michel really. The town's history is long and often tragic, especially the chapter on 13th century crusades against the Cathars that lodged here, stretching back to the Gauls who first built fortifications on the site. The two parts of town, the Cité and the Ville Basse, developed when Louis IX allowed locals expelled from the walled city to built on the lower ground near the River Aude.

The Cité is Carcassonne's focus with its two walls fortified with 52 stone towers and the central Chateau Comtal, which you can only visit on a guided tour (€5.50) although entrance to the Cité is free. The Romanesque and Gothic Basilique St Nazaire on rue St Louis to the south of the Cité is also lovely, so direct your meanderings through the narrow streets towards the place Église.

The price of staying in the Cité can be high, as the Cathars learned at great expense, but one good option is Le Donjon at 2 rue Comte Roger (04 68 11 23 00) with rooms from €70 85. The Ville Basse has cheaper hotels including the fin de siècle Grand Hôtel Terminus, 2 avenue de Maréchal Joffre (04 68 25 25 00) for €55 70, or Le Cathare, 53 rue Jean Bringer (04 68 25 65 92) with rooms for under €30. For eateries the Cité leans towards the more expensive but there is plenty of choice. Regional fare at the Auberge de Dame Carcas, 3 place du Chateau (04 68 71 23 23) comes on menus from €13, or the restaurant at Le Donjon hotel, which serves terroir menus from €12. Outside the walls there are more affordable options such as the Divine Comédie at 29 boulevard Jean Jaurès with large helpings of Italian and regional cuisine from €12.50.