Carcassone, France’s medieval cité


The medieval Cité of Carcassone is the largest fortified town in Europe and never fails to amaze. Thanks to its elevated position, if you visit late in the day, the walls and turrets are often bathed in the soft, red glow of the setting sun.

More than 3 million visitors a year pass through the city’s gates. Once inside, many visitors are content to stroll the narrow lanes lined with souvenir shops interspersed with boutiques selling high-quality gifts and local produce. In the bars and restaurants around Place Marcou the prices are not as high as you might expect. The more energetic can explore the Château Comtal and the inner western ramparts.

In July and August, jousting displays are sometimes held in the Lices Hautes, the grassy area between the inner and outer ramparts The Romanesque and Gothic St-Nazaire basilica has beautiful stained-glass windows and statues, and is the venue for occasional concerts. The lower town, the Ville Basse or Bastide St-Louis, has a partly pedestrianized area, fine town houses and excellent small shops. Its central square, Place Carnot, is the main meeting place and has been the site of the market (Tue, Thu, Sat mornings) since the Middle Ages.

To base yourself nearby, try these Gites near Carcassone, Languedoc.

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