The ancient walled city of Carcassonne is the largest citadel of its kind in Europe. The city was fortified by the Romans and served as a strategic defensive stronghold between Toulouse and the Mediterranean Sea. Today visitors can marvel at the skills of the ancient engineers and architects who constructed such an amazing stronghold way back in the early 13th century. The citadel is filled with attractions for history, art and architecture enthusiasts and is surrounded by outstanding natural scenery. There are many walking and hiking routes just outside the citadel and going on a scenic cruise on the famous Canal du Midi is a must. There are numerous good restaurants in the citadel where you can sample excellent regional French cuisine. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
The superb Chateau Comtal, an historic castle and ramparts which have earned UNESCO World Heritage status, lies nestled in the heart of the city of Carcassonne. The hilltop castle was once the stronghold of the Counts of Carcassonne back in the early 12th century. The impressive edifice towers over the town, forever reminding visitors of the power and authority of its owners. This Greco-roman and medieval stronghold fell into ruins and was on the verge of demolition in the late 1800’s, when a 50-year program of restoration took place. A vast repertoire of myths and legends surrounds the castle and ramparts, which are best toured with an expert guide who will bring the past to vibrant life.
Chateau Comtal, 11000 Carcassonne, France, Phone: +33-468-11-70-70
2.The Jacobin Gate
Located a short distance outside the Carcassonne Citadel, La Bastide was built in the 13th century and was once also surrounded by fortified walls. Today La Bastide is a very lovely precinct where ancient buildings and cobbled lanes beg to be explored on foot. The stately Jacobin Gate was built much later, in the 18th century, to replace an ancient gateway, complete with drawbridges, which was no longer considered attractive. Originally there were four entrance portals to La Bastide, but now only the Jacobin Gate at the southern entrance remains. The gate was completed in 1779 and was once adorned with the royal coat of arms, but this was destroyed during the French Revolution.
The Jacobin Gate, Rue Courtejaire, 11000 Carcassonne, France
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3.Basilique St. Nazaire
The very beautiful Basilica of St. Nazaire is definitely deserving of a place on your tour of Carcassonne, and is essential viewing for anyone interested in ancient architectural styles. Here you can spend some time admiring an ingenious marriage of Romanesque and Gothic styles which compliment and complete each other throughout the church. Essentially built in the Romanesque style in the 10th century, the church was enlarged in the 12th century by the addition of a 6-bay Romanesque nave. Then, in the 13th century, the nave was enlarged in the Gothic style. The most prominent feature of the interior is the magnificent stained-glass windows which are best viewed in the morning or evening to take advantage of the light.
Basilique St. Nazaire, La Cite, Place Saint-Nazaire, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-25-27-65
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4.Lac de la Cavayere (Lake Cavayere)
Lake de la Cavayere is located a short distance from the Carcassonne Citadel, where it offers a wonderful outdoor recreational area for locals and visitors. Together, the lake and the Leisure Complex cover over 40 hectares of protected forests, offering a wide variety of activities. You can walk or cycle around the perimeter of the lake along a 5km trail or spend your time relaxing on one of three sandy beaches. Daredevils will enjoy the aerial forest skywalk, while water sports enthusiasts can choose from a wide variety of fun activities on the water, including paddling, water games and a ski lift. You can bring along a picnic and spend a wonderful day surrounded by nature.
Lac de la Cavayere, Route de la Cavayere, 11000 Carcassonne, France
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5.St. Vincent’s Church
© Sergey Novikov/stock.adobe.com
Another must-see Carcassonne attraction for history and architecture enthusiasts, St. Vincent’s Church is a fine example of classic Gothic Languedoc style. The main architectural features of the church are an impressive vault and an octagonal tower which rests on a square base. The top of the tower houses a carillon of 47 bells – you can walk up the 232 steps for sweeping views of the city. The interior is rich in historic gems including four 14th century statues of St. Vincent, St. Louis (the founder of Carcassonne) and two apostles, beautiful paintings and stained glass windows. The church is included in most of the popular guided Carcassonne walking tours or you can explore at your own pace on a self-guided tour.
St. Vincent’s Church, 79 Rue du Dr Albert Tomey, 11000 Carcassonne, France
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6.Lady Carcas Statue
Many myths and legends surround the origins of the name Carcassonne and your visit to this medieval city would be incomplete without exploring the most common myth which involves Lady Carcas. Modern historians believe that Lady Carcas is a fictional character, but legend has it that she was the widow of one of the Saracen’s chiefs back in the 12th century. It is believed that when the citadel was attacked by Charlemagne, Lady Carcas came up with an ingenious ploy to fool the enemy into thinking that they would be outnumbered by the many knights inside the walled city. The best way to learn all the details would be to join a guided tour which includes the Lady Carcas statue at the famous city drawbridge.
Lady Carcas Statue, 11000 Carcassonne, France
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Considered to be one of the most beautiful and efficient medieval city gates in France, the Narbonne Gate has stood strong and true since 1280. The gate protected the widest (and most vulnerable) gateway to the citadel, and the only one which could admit carriages. History and architecture enthusiasts will be fascinated by the remarkable degree of engineering and design that went into the building of this defensive structure, which historians believe was able to accommodate and protect an entire garrison from siege. Highlights include the beautiful towers, enormous fireplaces for heat and cooking, and a huge tank for collecting water. The gates are best appreciated by joining a guided walking tour.
Narbonne Gates, 11000 Carcassonne, France
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8.Le Parc Australiene-Australian Park
This unexpected Australian-themed wildlife and recreational park is located between Toulouse and Montpellier and is an ideal attraction for families visiting Carcassonne. Here you and your children can join a guided interactive tour to see some of the very unusual Australian animals which are cared for by the park. You will also have a chance to interact and feed some of the animals, learn how to throw a boomerang or play the didgeridoo. The park is quite small and you will find you can easily explore it in about 90min to 2 hours, although children will probably want to stay longer.
Le Parc Australiene, Chemin des Bartavelles, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-25-86-83
9.Boat Trip on the Canal du Midi with Carcassonne Cruises
Thousands of tourists set off to explore the beautiful Canal du Midi on houseboat vacations each year. However, if you are visiting Carcassonne it is easy to hop aboard a cruise boat to experience some of the majesty for a few hours. The famous Canal du Midi has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status and stretches for over 240km through the beautiful French countryside, navigable via sixty sluice gates. Cruises from Carcassonne vary from 90min to nearly 3 hours and some of them include on-board meals/snacks or a romantic picnic at the Foucaud Gardens along the way. You can board your leisure cruise right beside the Carcassonne train station.
Carcassonne Cruises, (Carcassonne Croisiere), Port de Carcassonne, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-680-47-54-33
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10.The Hill of Pech Mary
Not only is Carcassonne one of the most beguiling medieval walled towns you will every visit but it also has the distinction of being surrounded by superb natural beauty which you can discover on foot. Hiking the Hills of Pech Mary offers both a pleasant outdoor excursion and the promise of excellent views of the citadel from the summit. The walk is partially shaded by the beautiful pine trees of the arboretum and you will be able to admire a variety of flora and fauna as you make your way to the view point. The loop circuit of 7.5 km from the Narbonne Gate should take you around 2 hours to complete.
The Hill of Pech Mary, 11000 Carcassonne, France
11.Brasserie le Donjon
The architecture of Brasserie le Donjon is a fine example of how medieval and contemporary styles can be combined to stunning effect. The restaurant has an extensive glass roof over what was once an ancient courtyard, which offers a wonderful outdoor feel regardless of the weather. There is also an extensive outdoor terrace under a pergola draped with fragrant wisteria, where you can dine on warm days. The menu contains a mixture of traditional and modern dishes ranging from a Tartar of Sea Bream with Parmesan Biscuit to a wonderfully fragrant Confit of Lamb Shoulder. You can round off your meal with a beautiful selection of local cheeses or an enticing dessert.
Brasserie le Donjon, 2 Rue du Comte Roger, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-11-23-00
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© Citadel Café
Located in a pleasantly shaded garden-like setting in the heart of Carcassonne, the Citadel Café is a popular meeting place for both locals and visitors. Just a few steps from two of the most popular city hotels, the café is conveniently located and ideal for a quick stop as you make your way through the city on a self-guided walking tour. There is outdoor seating and you queue at the kiosk to order your meal. Choices include coffee and soft drinks, pasta salad, sandwiches, cookies and muffins. The prices are reasonable and the food is reported to be freshly prepared and delicious.
Citadel Café, Rue Saint-Louis, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-71-98-71
13.Domaine Michaud Restaurant and B&B
© Domaine Michaud Restaurant and B&B
If you are looking for a lovely place to stay close to Carcassonne, Domaine Michaud is a delightful French country house with lovely views and a brilliant restaurant. The establishment is surrounded by lovely gardens and terraces with superb views and if you are staying in the B&B you have the use of an outdoor swimming pool, spa, gym and tennis courts. Of course, you do not have to stay at Domaine Michaud to enjoy their gourmet restaurant Le Perle which is open to the public. The menu is seasonal and brings the freshest local produce directly to your plate – expect French classics with some subtle Dutch influences.
Domaine Michaud, 1 Michaud, 11290 Roullens, France, Phone: +33-468-25-86-14
© New Africa/stock.adobe.com
Nestled in the very heart of Carcassonne, La Barbacane Restaurant is a place where you can enjoy fine Michelin-starred dining in an authentic Neo-Gothic dining room. The historic interior offers a wonderful ambiance, enhanced by high ceilings, stained-glass windows, cathedral chairs and a superb fireplace. These hallowed surroundings perfectly set the scene for a traditional French gastronomic experience, brought to you by Chef Jerome. The menu changes constantly to reflect the seasons and showcases the very best local produce with influences from his native Lyon. As you sip a fine local wine and enjoy your delicious meal you can look out over the famous city walls.
La Barbacane, Place Auguste Pierre Pont, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-71-98-71
15.L'Atelier Robert Rodriquez
Chef Robert Rodriquez bases his remarkable cuisine on foraged and locally farmed fresh produce from the earth. He calls himself an Artisan of Taste and ensures that meats are locally and ethically raised, fish is wild caught and sustainable and fresh produce is almost always organically grown. The chef visits the local market early every morning and it is here, surrounded by the newly-picked fruits and vegetables, that he designs his daily menu. Today you may be lucky enough to feast on local snails or a wonderfully generous Cassoulet, fragrant with fresh herbs and lovingly prepared. The setting for your feast is equally attractive, inside an 18th century house featuring genuine French charm and lovely antiques.
L’Atelier Robert Rodriques, 39 Rue Coste Reboulh, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-47-37-80
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© Comte Roger
Conveniently located between the Basilique St. Nazaire and Chateau Comtal, Comte Roger Restaurant offers an ideal place to stop for lunch or dinner. Inside the restaurant you will be greeted by a modern neutral palette of colors, while the shaded outdoor terrace is bright and inviting on a hot sunny day. On the menu you will find some wonderful regional favorites, carefully prepared and beautifully presented in the fine-dining style. The menus vary from fairly extravagant 3-course dinners to light and delicious two or three-course luncheons. There is also a limited children’s menu and a selection of vegan dishes. The service is friendly and courteous and there is a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere.
Comte Roger, 14 Rue Saint Louis, 11000 Carcassonne, France, Phone: +33-468-11-93-40
17.Le Bar a Vins
© Le Bar a Vins
It is impossible to miss noticing the miles and miles of vineyards as you approach Carcassonne. If you would like to sample some of the excellent local wines in a relaxed and convivial wine bar, all you need to do is make your way to Le Bar a Vins (The Wine Bar) which is located in a former nunnery in the heart of the citadel. Under the shade of a massive old tree you can relax on the terrace and enjoy a selection of light sandwiches, charcuterie or cheese boards and literally dozens of wines served by the glass or bottle. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a range of local wines before purchasing your favorites to take home with you.
Le Bar a Vins, 6 Rue du Plo, 11000 Carcassonne, France, Phone: +33-468-47-38-38
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18.Brasserie Le Dome
© Brasserie Le Dome
Brasserie Le Dome is a firm favorite with local Carcassonne residents, so you can rest assured that you will enjoy a warm and convivial atmosphere and genuine French regional cooking. The restaurant opens its doors early every morning to ensure that you can enjoy a great breakfast to set you up for a day of exploring. Should you be in the vicinity at lunch time you can enjoy a 2 or 3-course Menu of the Day for a very reasonable price. It is also possible to just stop by for their Dish of the Day and a lovely glass of local wine or a craft beer from their brewery. Tuesday night is their special Cocotte evening – when little individual casseroles are a specialty you should not miss.
Brasserie Le Dome, 35 Rue des Trois Couronnes, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-25-03-48
Roughly plastered walls, revealed stonework and plenty of wooden beams set a relaxed and rustic scene in the basement area of Restaurant L’Escargot. Upstairs, tables are arranged to offer a view to the small outside terrace area and the passing parade. The food is traditional French fare where, as the name suggests, snails are a popular specialty featured on both the set menus and the tapas menu. Other French staples include foie gras served in various styles and grilled fish, steak and duck mains, all served with vegetables or salad sides. The restaurant is very centrally situated and gets excellent reviews for both the food and the friendly service.
Restaurant L’Escargot, 4 Rue Saint-Jean, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-47-12-55
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Offering a warm and inviting ambiance, Restaurant Adelaide is a fine place to visit for a delicious traditional French meal in the heart of Carcassonne. The restaurant is located overlooking the castle and has a lovely outdoor terrace for alfresco dining on warm summer evenings. You can expect to find traditional wholesome French cuisine on the menu, including the regional specialty of Cassoulet, which is a delicious casserole of mixed meats, sausage and beans. Restaurant Adelaide offers a very reasonably priced daily set menu of 2 or 3 courses and you can order their house wine by the bottle or carafe. Booking is recommended.
Restaurant Adelaide, 5 Rue Adelaide de Toulouse, 11000 Carcassonne, Phone: +33-468-47-66-61
20 Best Things to Do in Carcassonne, France
- Chateau Comtal, Photo: bbsferrari/stock.adobe.com
- The Jacobin Gate, Photo: milosk50/stock.adobe.com
- Basilique St. Nazaire, Photo: Fred/stock.adobe.com
- Lac de la Cavayere (Lake Cavayere), Photo: olivierguerinphoto/stock.adobe.com
- St. Vincent’s Church, Photo: Sergey Novikov/stock.adobe.com
- Lady Carcas Statue, Photo: nito/stock.adobe.com
- Narbonne Gate, Photo: Sergey Novikov/stock.adobe.com
- Le Parc Australiene-Australian Park, Photo: kpeggphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Boat Trip on the Canal du Midi with Carcassonne Cruises, Photo: OceanProd/stock.adobe.com
- The Hill of Pech Mary, Photo: stephanemedina81/stock.adobe.com
- Brasserie le Donjon, Photo: Leonardo/stock.adobe.com
- Citadel Cafe, Photo: Citadel Café
- Domaine Michaud Restaurant and B&B, Photo: Domaine Michaud Restaurant and B&B
- La Barbacane, Photo: New Africa/stock.adobe.com
- L'Atelier Robert Rodriquez, Photo: BillionPhotos.com/stock.adobe.com
- Comte Roger, Photo: Comte Roger
- Le Bar a Vins, Photo: Le Bar a Vins
- Brasserie Le Dome, Photo: Brasserie Le Dome
- Restaurant L'Escargot, Photo: Pixel-Shot/stock.adobe.com
- Adelaide, Photo: Kzenon/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Irina Papoyan/stock.adobe.com
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