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The Mediaeval Town Of Carcassonne

Updated on December 7, 2015

Carcassonne: 2500 Years Of History.

Did you ever dream about being a Princess in an enchanted castle when you were a little girl? Or maybe as a boy you imagined yourself fighting dragons in dungeons? Whatever your dream, we all have grown up listening to fairytales, and finally seeing the places of your childhood imagination is absolutely breathtaking.

I still believe in fairytales and I have passed this onto my daughter. As a family we enjoy discovering castles and mediaeval places. The children enjoy running around the ramparts and hiding behind walls. We have been lucky enough to visit two of the most impressive fortified medieval cities in Europe, Lucca in Italy and Carcassonne in France.

Carcassonne A Fortified French Town In The Aude Department

Carcassonne
Carcassonne | Source

Carcassonne

Carcassonne
Carcassonne | Source

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is located in the South West of France, in the Aude department in the former Languedoc province. The town is located 90 km (56 miles) south-east of Toulouse and it stands in the gap between the Pyrenees and the French Massif Central.

Carcassonne is divided into the Cité mediaeval and the bigger lower city or Ville Basse. When we visited we only had the time to see the walled town of Carcassonne, best known as a mediaeval fortified town. Maybe I should say, that it was not a matter of time but, we did not want to get out of the fortified town. We were so enchanted with it that we never bothered visiting the Ville Basse. We stayed in a little hotel just outside the Cité, from its tiny unassuming terrace (no more than 3m°) we had the most romantic view that you can imagine under a starry night as the Cité multiplies its charm when seen at night under the strategically placed illuminations.

Carcassonne is the most impressive mediaeval town we have ever seen. No matter which direction you are coming from, you can't miss the imposing silhouette of the City of Carcassonne which is encircled by a huge double row of fortified walls that run almost 3 km. (2 miles long), accentuated by 56 watchtowers. The site was first occupied in the 6th century BC. by a Gaulish settlement, followed by an urban centre during the Roman era. Built over ruins of a former Roman fortress, "La Cité" of Carcassone was the theatre of the crusades against the heretics in the 13th Century.

There is a long history attached to The Cité, but for us, history took second place and we concentrated in enjoying the feeling of walking along the walls -and not losing the children- while looking for hidden princesses in the towers.

Carcassone has featured on UNESCO's World heritage list since 1997. And it deserves to be. It has 52 towers and two rings of town walls. It has been restored several times but it still has its original touch. The Roman and mediaeval fortifications were respected during the restoration works. If it were not for the restaurants and hotels within the walls, you might think that you had gone back in time. The narrow streets, difficult access and the authenticity of the buildings are amazing. And it is still home today to approximately 120 people plus it boasts a large number of craftsmen.

Nowadays Carcassone is a tourist centre with a very rich cultural life. The city also takes advantage of its vineyards which produce very good wine appreciated worldwide.

Local Cuisine

At the crossroads of cooking influences from the Mediterranean (fish and shellfish) and the Massif Central (cured meats, venison, trout), the region offers an incredible variety of dishes:

  • goose or duck liver pâtés,
  • artichoke salad au foie sec,

  • bouillabaisses (fish soup),

  • fougasses with fritons or with a slight aniseed flavour,

  • flan de Saint-Jean du Minervois (a pudding with muscat de Saint-Jean, Corbières honey, and eggs).

  • cassoulet (a stew consisting of beans, pork meat and rind, goose or liver sausage and preserves). We tried this one in a restaurant in the Cité and it was delicious. It is a great winter dish. Accompanied by crusty hot baguette. It is a one dish meal and as it is very rich; better taken at lunch time so you can walk it off in the afternoon!

Walls of Carcassonne, France

Fortified City Wall, Carcassone

Fortified City Wall, Carcassone
Fortified City Wall, Carcassone | Source

Wines in the area : CORBIÈRES

There are several wines in the area. My favourite one is the Corbieres. You can find a red, white or a rosé. The red one is intense, full bodied with hints of pepper and spice. The tannic structure is rich and blended, giving the Corbières wines genuine aging potential.

The Corbieres mountains stretches over 23000 hectares, 19000 of which have received AOC classification. This is the largest appellation in Languedoc.

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    • Harlan Lewin profile image

      Harlan Lewin 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      I visited Troyes not far from Paris several years ago and they have kept the center city very medieval looking. But it doesn't have a fort like Carcassonne. I fondly remember my visit to Carcassonne and the friendly and helpful taxi driver who took me from the train station to the fortress. I also enjoyed the fable of Dame Carcas and Charlemagne.

    • Princessa profile imageAUTHOR

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      8 years ago from France

      gabriela: so happy you enjoyed your visit...

      sue: I don't know of any similar city near Paris. I visited other medieavela cities in France: Chauvigny (near Poitiers) and Peruggia (near Lyon) but none near Paris.

      However, if you are visiting Paris you can take a day tour to visit the Chateaux de La Loire (castles in the Loire valley). They are amazingly beautiful !

    • profile image

      sue 

      8 years ago

      is there a similar town/village closer to paris? thanks.

    • profile image

      gabriela 

      9 years ago

      I visited the castle this summer,everything was amazing..the narbonnaise door,that six towers,the lapidary museum with 6rooms,the walls,the traditional food,the famous legends,the festivals,the big streets,everything was like u return back in past with few years,and that make the castle special.

      Visit it!! and u will always return.

    • Princessa profile imageAUTHOR

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      Lylimag: Carcassonne is really beautiful and I assure you that the food is very good once you stop thinking about what you are eating and just enjoy the flavours in your mouth :)

    • Lilymag profile image

      Lilymag 

      10 years ago from Upstate New York

      Oh, I am so jealous! This looks so beautiful! Although I am a little turned off by the food, but I'm sure my husband would love it (he loves strange foods!)

    • profile image

      Owen 

      10 years ago

      I just visited Carcassonne and blogged about it and it is still amazing. I have a gallery of 25 photos or so. It is unreal. You have to go to understand.

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      10 years ago

      Wow.. beautiful!

    • Princessa profile imageAUTHOR

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      You are welcome Zsuzsy, you were very lucky to visit such a magical place!

      The Carcassonne tourist office recommends the novel Labyrinth by Mosse. I have not read it yet. I hope you are enjoying the book Bob, maybe you can can give us a review on the story.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      10 years ago from New Brunswick

      I am reading an interesting fiction novel, Labyrinth by Kate Mosse that is paritally set in Carcassone, good to get more detail on this town, thanks.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      I think it was 1966 when we visited Carcassonne. My Mom and Dad and some of their friends even went on a wine cellar excursion. As an eleven year old the magic of the fairy tale castle inspired me to write a story which we kids re-enacted in our puppet theatre...I just love the history behind the town

      Thanks for bringing back some great memories...

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Princessa profile imageAUTHOR

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      Difficult not to fall in love with the town and I can assure that once you taste the food and wines you will love them too!

    • luxeadj profile image

      luxeadj 

      10 years ago from South America

      omg

      I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS TOWN

      NOT THE FOOD...............LOL

      BUT THE TOWN...................MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

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