Destinations,  Europe,  France,  Travel Diary

Visiting the medieval city of Carcassonne, France

During my two week tour of Southern France, I stopped in Carcassonne for just two nights/one day, so I could visit the old city and see some old stuff.

Journal date: October 24-26, 2022

Is it worth visiting Carcassonne?

If you’re touring around Southern France and have a particular interest in history (and/or UNESCO Heritage Sites), then stopping in Carcassonne is definitely worth it. I enjoyed my visit, and it was really cool to see the medieval walls and old churches. You’ll be able to see everything inside the Walls and a little in the new city within a day, so stopping for a short visit is good enough.

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Where I Stayed

It’s much cheaper to stay in the new city and then walk over to the Cite, so that’s what I did. I found an apartment on for a good price ($93 USD total) and while it was much noisier than expected (loud street noises with motorcycles, why??), it was fine for a few nights.

A weird thing about French rental apartments is that a LOT of them have pull-out couch beds, even when a regular bed would be fine. I try to filter those out from my search results because I despise pull-out couch beds, but I somehow missed it with this one so I had to suck it up for a bit.

Next time, I’ll stay within the Cite walls itself; there’s a place called Le Couvent Hostel with dorms for a decent price. It’s a converted 17th century convent with original architecture!

Sightseeing

Since I only had one full day to sightsee, I decided to focus on just a few places to visit, the ones I really wanted to see. Luckily for me, everything I was interested in was FREE~!

Canal + Notre Dame de La Santé

If you’re walking from New City to Old City (about 20 minutes at a fast pace), then you’ll pass by these two things, plus cross over the bridge which has been repaved to be smooth asphalt.

The little chapel (Notre Dame de La Santé) is teeny-tiny and unstaffed. It was built in 1497 and restored in the mid-19th century; unfortunately very little remains of the facade, but you can see 3 statues on the exterior, two from the 19th century and one from the 16th century.

The chapel is the starting point for the Camino de Santiago!

The Cite and castle (exterior)

The Cite is the old city of Carcassonne, a citadel surrounded by double walls 3km/1.86 miles long, with 52 towers. It’s mostly medieval, but there’s still a section built in the Roman times! It’s been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1997 because of its historical significance. It’s free to enter!

Because the Cite is so small, you can walk around the whole thing and just take everything in. The interior stores are highly touristic, with (to be frank) ugly souvenirs and expensive restaurants, but the actual ancient walls and viewpoints of the new City are still fun to see. There’s also the Basilique Saint Nazaire, a 12th century Gothic style church with a rose window.

If you’re into cemeteries, Cimetière de la Cité de Carcassonne is just outside the walls by the Narbonnaise Gate, and worth a quick visit. The earliest grave is from the 19th century.

As for paid things: You can buy a ticket to enter the Castle itself for €11, which I didn’t do because at that point in my Europe trip I was castle-d out entirely. A museum, Museum of the Inquisition, is also inside the Cite and costs €11, but it looked like a total tourist trap so I skipped that as well. Reviews seem to back me up on that decision.

The Cite has a bunch of workshops and events happening every day, such as calligraphy or leather-working, and I think it’d be fun to do one or two. They also have guided tours in English for a mere €12, which is an excellent deal!

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne

On the way back to the new city, I stopped at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne, a free fine arts museum specializing in paintings and ceramics from the 17th century onward. Has an excellent collection and it wasn’t busy at all when I went, so I highly recommend stopping by. You can see the whole thing in about an hour, with a few minutes extra for the sculptures displayed outside in the courtyard.

New City

There’s plenty to see in the new city as well, including some wonderful street art and a few churches (including Église Saint-Vincent de Carcassonne, which has a tower you can climb for a view of the city). If you like shopping, there’s some really cute boutique stores with clothing and home goods. At night the streets near my apartment were hopping with restaurant-goers and pub-crawlers!

More adventures in France:

Other UNESCO Heritage Sites I’ve visited:

Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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