Carcassonne is a place I had never heard of until shortly before booking our trip. My parents visited for their wedding anniversary and loved it so much that they recommended we visit. 48 hours was the perfect amount of time to see everything and leave us wanting more.
Where to stay?
For me, if you are going on a city break, location is key. When our time is limited the last thing we want to do is spend it on public transport getting from A to B.
We stayed for 2 nights at Hotel Montmorency, literally a stone’s throw from the entrance to the walled city. It was the perfect location as we were able to start exploring whilst it was quiet before the arrival of the tour groups (and get good photos). The fact it was outside the city walls meant it was not only cheaper, but gave us lovely views back onto the walled city itself. Our hotel room was pretty small (this is often the case in France) even though we upgraded from the basic room, but it was beautifully decorated and we even had our own little terrace area. You could also try their sister hotel Hotel du Chateau.
What to do?
The medieval city looks like it has been plucked from a fairytale, and walking the castle ramparts are a must. Entry is €9 each, or free for those in the EU under 26 years old if you manage to make it there before Brexit is complete!
Tip: You must also walk the inner city walls at night, they are illuminated by spotlights once the sun goes down and it is so beautiful.
Make time for a walk down to Pont-Vieux and along the Aude River. You will get beautiful views looking back at the walled city. Taking a picnic to enjoy by the river would be lovely too. Unfortunately it was cloudy the day we did this walk so I didn’t get the blue sky photo I was after!
We visited the actual city centre of Carcassonne and came across lots of pretty little streets to photograph on our way. The main square was full of beautiful flowers and there are plenty of cafes to visit for a croissant and some people-watching! The medieval city is also full of individual shops and boutiques.
Within the city walls you will find the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus. It is free to enter and the architecture is fantastic. When we visited we were lucky enough to hear a Russian male vocal group. We sat and listened for ages – they were mesmerising and gave us goosebumps! I really wish I bought their CD actually!
If you have time (and the weather plays ball) you can also take a guided boat tour along the pretty Canal Du Midi.
Other than the above, the ancient city of Carcassonne really is just the perfect place to relax with some cheese and wine and watch the world go by.
Where to eat?
The walled city has endless restaurants so you will be spoilt for choice. We had dinner at Le Jardin and Le Trouvere and they were both lovely. You will find that many of the restaurants do a set price menu from which you can choose 2 or 3 courses.
Oh and you can’t do a European city break without some ice-cream! This one we had actually rivalled Italian gelato!
Want to extend your trip? You could hire a car and have a day at Narbonne or visit neighbouring city Toulouse. For beach lovers the beach at Gruissan is definitely worth a visit. Train links are also good so you could quite easily fly into one city and out of another.
Carcassonne was a beautiful surprise to us. We have recommended it to so many people for many reasons – flights are both cheap and incredibly quick from London, it is a unique and fairytale-like destination, and there is a good balance of activity and relaxation to be had.
Enjoy your trip, I hope this has been a helpful guide!