Weekend in Carcassonne

The magic of the Middle Ages awaits you at this magnificent fortified citadel over-looking the surrounding Aude landscapes.

Carcassonne Citadel View

This medieval city, although restored in 1844 and therefore a fake, is a tourist mecca. Despite being rebuilt in the nineteenth century, the reconstruction was so well-done that the Middle Ages live again at Carcassonne, and you expect to see a pikeman at every turn! The magic of the Middle Ages awaits you at this magnificent fortified citadel over-looking the surrounding Aude landscapes. It’s no wonder that Carcassonne Cité is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The architecture and the atmosphere in the narrow streets make Carcassonne well-worth a visit. Dream your way back to medieval times as you enter via the drawbridge.  In summer, the streets in the centre can be extremely crowded during the day, but make your way round the ramparts and the back streets, for a romantic walk with picturesque architecture and the beautiful surrounding Cévennes countryside backdrop, as far as the distant Pyrenees. Don’t forget your camera!

Towards the end of the afternoon the streets are quieter and as the evening draws in, you can enjoy a meal in one of the open-air restaurants and soak up the wonderful medieval atmosphere. If you are lucky, you’ll stroll around at night, with beautiful odours to tempt your nose and wonderful music from the theatre to tempt your ears.

Saint-Nazaire Basilica is a magnificent masterpiece of Gothic art

Saint-Nazaire Basilica in Carcassonne
Photo by kristobalite

There are some museums to occupy and inform you – namely the School Museum, and if you are brave enough, the Museum of Torture. You’ll also find the Museum of Fine Arts in the lower town, housed in the former law courts, which provides an insight into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As well as paintings you’ll discover a fine collection of earthenware, silver-ware, tapestries and other objets d’arts.

The lower town also has a whole host of shops, restaurants, squares, bridges, the river, theatres…

Back in the Cité, Saint-Nazaire Basilica is a magnificent masterpiece of Gothic art, with its organ being one of the biggest in the south of France. During the summer, organ concerts are organized late Sunday afternoons. The basilica’s nave and side aisles are Romanesque while the rest of the building is thirteenth and fourteenth century Gothic architecture. The choir and transept are adorned with magnificent Gothic stained-glass windows.

The Chateau Comtal, overlooking the Bastide-Saint-Louis and the River Aude, is a fortress within a fortress. This impressive edifice is complete with towers, loopholes and crenels. It houses a superb collection of crosses, statues, sarcophagus, antiques and medieval objects from the region.

You cannot fail to fall in love with Carcassonne and its romantic, yet impressive round towers, turrets, pointed slate roofs and magnificent ramparts!

Sarah Barton

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