The medieval city of Carcassonne was built on the ruins of an old Roman fortress and found itself at the centre of the Albigensian Crusade in the 13C.
After the settlements at the center of the city were destroyed, King St Louis authorised the local inhabitants to build a new town in 1245. This became known as the Bastide Saint Louis.
Today, Carcassonne is renowned across the globe thanks to its two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Medieval City and the Canal du Midi.
Between the Canal du Midi and the Historic Fortified City, visitors are encuraged for an afternoon stroll around Bastide Saint-Louis with its churches, its cathedral, its museums and its private mansions.
From the Pont Vieux, pilgrims and visitors can follow St James’ Way (Piémont Pyrénéen way) along the banks of the river Aude.
Carcassonne is also a centre of Catharism and saw the tide turn against it during the 1209 Albigensian crusade. The leader of the crusade, Simon de Montfort, took over control of the fortress from the powerful Raymond Roger de Trencavel, protector of the Cathars.
Not to be missed:
- The Medieval City with its 52 towers and 3km of ramparts.
- Basilique Saint Nazaire (11 -13th century) and its stained-glass windows (12 - 16th century).
- The count’s castle (11 - 13th century) with its rampart walk, lapidary museum and model of the city.
- The old bridge once the only link between the upper and lower towns.
- Bastide Saint Louis (13th century) with its many town houses, Saint Michel cathedral, Saint Vincent church, the market hall and covered market, and Place Carnot, the site of the local market and a meeting point for locals.
- Canal du Midi, a major feat of engineering designed by Pierre Paul Riquet during the reign of Louis XIV (17th century) to link the Mediterranean with the Atlantic.
- The many superb sites, such as abbeys and castles, of the Pays Cathare around Carcassonne.
- Wine estates just a stone’s throw from the medieval city where enthusiastic wine producers are happy to share their knowledge and expertise with visitors.
- Festival de Carcassonne (June-August): theatre, circus, opera, classical music, dance and concerts