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Top Things to Do in Carcassonne
These days, tourism is the town's lifeblood. Time your visit to coincide with the annual Festival de Carcassonne – a month-long extravaganza that sees over 120 concerts performed throughout July at majestic open-air venues in the picturesque citadel, with past acts spanning all genres from Elton John to Motorhead and Lana del Rey. Families and history buffs will also enjoy Carcassonne's medieval festival in October, which immerses guests of all ages in the daily life of the town's long-gone inhabitants with reenactments, artisan workshops and jousting competitions. Finally, Carcassonne is the perfect base for exploring the rest of the departément, from the Mediterranean coast to the hills of the Aude with their Languedoc wine estates and atmospheric Cathar castles.
Dining in Carcassonne
When choosing places to visit in Carcassonne, the best adventures start in La Cité Médiévale, with its twin ramparts and 52 towers. Enter through the magnificent gateway of the Porte Narbonnaise, then discover more than two millennia of history as you wander through the winding streets of the citadel in the footsteps of the Romans, Visigoths and Franks who came before. Look familiar? That's because La Cité has featured in many films and TV series including "Miracle Workers" and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves". Although entry into the medieval city is free, you must pay entry at Château Comtal to walk along the crenellated ramparts. Built into the walls of the citadel by the 12th-century Viscounts of Carcassonne, the castle offers excellent guided tours and seasonal events like falconry days and Halloween trails. Nearby Basilique Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse is another landmark from the town's medieval heyday. Combining the best of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles, it lays claim to some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in southern France. For culture vultures, enjoying the theatre in Carcassonne is a must. On the site of the former Saint-Nazaire cloister stands Théâtre Jean Deschamps, with a magnificent open-air stage flanked by soaring ramparts and serving as one of the premier festival venues. Joining the crowd in the illuminated amphitheatre on a warm summer evening is probably one of the most memorable experiences to be had in Carcassonne. Alternatively, head into the La Bastide district for operas, plays, concerts and comedy shows at the charming Théâtre Jean Alary. It's impossible to tire of Carcassonne's medieval beauty, but when you want a change of scene, Lac de la Cavayère is a mere 10-minute drive away from the city. With its much-loved beach near Carcassonne, the lake is a haven for summer swimming and sunbathing, with pedalos for hire, an inflatable waterpark, a high-ropes course and plenty of picnic spots. The town is also the ideal jumping-off point for Canal du Midi barge trips along a UNESCO-recognised waterway that winds its way through the stunning Languedoc wine region to Toulouse in one direction and the coast in the other.
Best Hotels in Carcassonne, France
From medieval city taverns to Michelin-starred restaurants, no matter where you eat in Carcassonne the chef is likely to draw inspiration from the region's rich tableau of local produce. Mediterranean seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables from the farms and forests of Aude, cheeses from Montagne Noire and the adjacent Pyrenees can all be found on the menus of the town's best restaurants. Truffles are a particular delicacy, as is a type of cured pork sausage known as saucisse sèche de foie. If you try just one local speciality, however, make it Carcassonne's signature dish, cassoulet. Combining the heady flavours of beans, pork, goose confit and Toulouse sausage slow-cooked in a terracotta dish, it's a meal made for sharing (and pairing with the region's full-bodied red wines). Of course, Carcassonne wine bars specialise in Languedoc reds, whites and rosés as well as the more localised labels of the Vins de Pays Cité de Carcassonne wine-making area.
Getting to Carcassonne
Looking for the best places to stay in Carcassonne? Accor offers accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. For example, Tribe Carcassonne is situated a 15-minute walk from La Cité and caters to the business traveller with innovative spaces for coworking in Carcassonne. It's also a great place to unwind, with comfortable balcony rooms, an authentic regional restaurant and a rooftop cocktail bar overlooking panoramic the medieval city. If you have your heart set on a Carcassonne hotel with a swimming pool, Tribe ticks this box too, with a heated indoor pool and wellbeing area. Those planning a romantic visit to Carcassonne should also consider splurging on 5-star castle accommodation built into the city ramparts. Accor's premier luxury hotel spoils guests with terraced gardens and a full-service spa, while the Michelin-starred restaurant is one of the best in the city. Looking for a family hotel in Carcassonne? There are many options to choose from, ranging from affordable bed and breakfast properties with rooms that sleep up to 5 people; to 4-star swimming pool hotels located steps from the walled city. Accor has you covered for all the best Carcassonne hotel deals.
Carcassonne is conveniently located 90 kilometres southeast of Toulouse and 60 kilometres west of Narbonne on the A61 autoroute. The journey from Narbonne and the Mediterranean coast takes around an hour by car; alternatively, you can travel via train to Gare de Carcassonne in half an hour. The train station offers TGV, TER and Intercités routes to destinations throughout the region and beyond, while Carcassonne Sud de France Airport on the western edge of the city provides direct, year-round connections to London, Manchester, Dublin and Brussels.