CARCASSONNE AND HILLTOP CITADELS
A journey through Cathar country
Why visit Carcassonne and the hilltop citadels:
- 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites: the medieval town of Carcassonne (which has been recognised by the Great French Site Operation) and the Canal du Midi.
- Cathar Country châteaus, "hilltop citadels": Lastours, Quéribus, Peyrepertuse, Aguilar, Termes, Puilaurens.
- AOC vineyards around Carcassonne.
TOWN OF CARCASSONNE
Step into a fairytale
You'll see it appear in the distance like a vision, crowning a hill in the midst of the vineyards. Carcassonne, its 52 towers and 3km long double city wall encapsulates how everyone imagines a medieval town. UNESCO listed it in 1997 and you're invited to the party to celebrate its 1000 years of military architecture. Enter through the Narbonne gate.
Walk around the town, soak up the buzzing restaurants and boutiques, stop in the 12th century count's château built by the Trencavels and visit Saint-Nazaire Basilica.
STAY IN CARCASSONNE
From La Bastide Saint-Louis to the Canal du Midi
Venture outside the medieval town with a stop at the medieval La Bastide Saint-Louis. Its perfectly straight streets are packed full of Carcassonne life around the Halles and the Canal du Midi port. Take a boat trip and dive into the extraordinary history of this UNESCO structure.
You can also rent a boat in Carcassonne without a permit for a few days cruising the Canal.
Meet Carcassonne's "sons"
Lastours, Quéribus, Peyrepertuse, Puilaurens, Termes, Aguilar Châteaus: they are nicknamed "Carcassonne's sons" or "hilltop citadels" as their panoramas are so stunning. Don't miss these must-visits in Aude Cathar Country. Go back in time 8 centuries and admire these fortresses built on the top of rocky headlands. You'll feel the power of a religion that appeared in the Languedoc in the 12th century with the support of Carcassonne and Toulouse's lords to the fury of the Catholic Church.
The heady citadels in Aude Cathar Country, along with the Château de Montségur in Ariège, are applying to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
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ON FOOT, BY BIKE
Via side roads
Inseparable from its scenic setting, Carcassonne lies between the Corbières mountain range, the foothills of the Black Mountain and the edges of the Mediterranean. It brings you landscapes to explore using green transport. Countless signposted hiking trails snake through the vineyards.
You can also rent a 2CV (several car hire companies in Aude) to drive along the bushy roads.
If you're on your bike then take the long Canal des Deux Mers route linking the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Welcome to Carcassonne's kingdom of vineyards
Around Carcassonne, the vines sculpt the landscapes. They have been here since Roman times. Wines from the Cité, AOC Cabardès, Corbières, Fitou as well as AOC Minervois, Limoux and Malepère: decisions, decisions!
Meet the winemakers and listen to them tell you about the art of the vine. Spend a night in a wine estate and wake up in the middle of the vineyards.
Experience a food and wine pairing in a land that is packed with Michelin-starred chefs.
18 hectares of water surrounded by pine trees and the garrigue: it's La Cavayère Lake. Adventure awaits 7km from Carcassonne. Picnic, windsurfing, beach, treetop adventure...
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Bird's eye view of Carcassonne
The town as you'll love seeing it: a wonder due partly to the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. To restore the medieval town's fortifications and physiognomy after being damaged over the centuries, major construction work began in the mid-19th century and lasted over 60 years. Vidéo © Ville de Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is the Aude's prefecture, 80km from Toulouse and 150km from Montpellier.
- By car: on the A61 motorway.
- By train: via Carcassonne (direct trains from Montpellier, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux) and Narbonne stations (direct TGV from Paris).
- By plane: from Carcassonne, Perpignan – Rivesaltes (70 mins), Toulouse-Blagnac (85 mins) and Montpellier-Méditerranée (90 mins) Airports.