Things to do in Carcassonne?
To visit Carcassonne is to discover the famous city of Dame Carcas, with its famous castle and ramparts. Regularly ranked in the Top 5 most visited French cities, it is a must-see destination if you want to spend a weekend in the sun in the South of France.
And even in November, there is a good chance that you will find nice weather and a blue sky, the crowd less (proof is the day of our visit!).
Thanks to our Top 15 things to do and see, I propose to you to discover the main places of interest of the city but also visits to do around Carcassonne.
Follow our examples of itineraries to visit Carcassonne in 1 or 2 days and find the list of best accommodations and our tips to optimize your stay.
Visit Carcassonne: the must-sees
1. The City of Carcassonne
It must be admitted, if you come to do some sightseeing in Carcassonne, it is especially to visit its medieval city! It is simply the symbol and the main tourist attraction of Carcassonne. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is internationally renowned and you will be honored to be one of the millions of visitors it welcomes each year.
Dominating the modern city, perched on the hill, you will not have too much trouble to locate it. To join, you can choose to park your car in one of the car parks located just next to the city or simply walk there.
At that moment I advise you to do as we did, and to leave your car at the underground parking of the square Gambetta, located next to the Pont Neuf, in the lower town. From there, the entrance of the city by the door Narbonnaise, is only about ten minutes on foot and the walk will allow you all the leisure to contemplate the external enclosure.
You can then begin your visit to the city of Carcassonne, the largest and best preserved medieval fortress in Europe. 2,000 years old, with its many towers and 2 speakers, the place is particularly impressive!
Entry into the city itself is free. Feel free to browse all the narrow cobbled streets to soak up the atmosphere. You will also find there (ultra tourist place) full of shops and restaurants.
In the city, you can then visit several historical monuments and some museums:
- Castle Comtal, the most famous building (I talk about it in detail below)
- Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, which also deserves a little more explanation (see below)
- Go see the door of Aude, another gateway to the city
- Museum of the school, reconstitution of the classrooms of the past
- Museum of the Inquisition (point 4 of our article)
- Great Well, which, according to legend, would contain a fabulous treasure …
- Cultural center of the fighting memory interested in military history
- House of Chivalry and its collection of weapons and objects of daily life in the Middle Ages.
I also recommend taking the time to tour the city through the passage of Lices, a space between the 2 walls. In the 17th century, the Lices were the poor housing district of the city. The opportunity today to admire the city from another angle and escape a bit of the crowd .
Tips for your Carcassonne itinerary:
Pick up the City Pass of Carcassonne to enjoy a guided tour of the medieval city and many discounts on other monuments. Also valid for visiting the surroundings of Carcassonne at a reduced price. It is sold at the Tourist Office.
2. The Comtal Castle
The place to visit absolutely in the city of Carcassonne, it is Comtal Castle.
Built in the 12th century by the Viscounts of Carcassonne, Trencavel, the castle has undergone many changes over the following centuries: addition of an enclosure, towers, ditch or barbican. The goal is to strengthen it to the maximum to make it impregnable. It constituted indeed, the central device to defend the city in the event of attacks.
Your visit to the castle begins with a film of ten minutes retracing the history and the different stages of constructionof the castle. I admit that most of the time, these films seem a bit boring because not very modern and a bit long, but this one is particularly well done and interesting. I did not even leave before the end!:-)
During the rest of the visit, you will be able to follow several courses, the various rooms including the donjon, and visit the castle museum. It houses a collection of sculptures from Antiquity and the Middle Ages.
The most famous piece is undoubtedly the bust of Dame Carcas, whose legend tells that she managed to repel the army of Charlemagne for 5 years through multiple stratagems. In particular, she would have dropped a whole pig filled with wheat from the top of the ramparts to show her enemies that the city still had plenty of food to hold the siege. This pig would have been the decisive element that would have decided Charlemagne raised the siege, the latter thinking that the inhabitants were not at all hungry and not close to give way. In fact, it was the last pig and there was nothing left to eat! Dame Carcas then decided to ring the bells to celebrate the victory, from wherethe name “Carcas Sonne”. Ingenious no?
The visit then continues with the walk up the inner ramparts. You can admire a beautiful panorama of the city of Carcassonne, the Bastide Saint-Louis, the Black Mountain and the Pyrenees.
Discover more information on the official website.
Tips for your Carcassonne itinerary:
The castle being the most visited historical monument of the city, there is often a lot of tail at the entrance. To avoid the queue, purchase your tickets in advance directly from this site. It is not more expensive and you will enjoy your day.
3. The Basilica St-Nazaire
After your visit to the Château Comtal, go to the other place of interest in the city of Carcassonne, the Basilica of St. Nazaire.
As beautiful inside as outside, it is a perfect example of a harmonious blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles. Built in the early 11th century by Pope Urban II in the Romanesque style, part of the Basilica was later destroyed and rebuilt in the Gothic style when the city passed into the hands of kings.
Nicknamed “The Jewel of the City”, the Saint-Nazaire Basilica is famous for its magnificent stained glass windows, counting among the most beautiful of the Midi.
The Basilica is open every day and Sunday only from 12h to respect the office 11h.
4. The Museum of the Inquisition
On a theme a little less cheerful and a little more creepy, I recommend you visit the museum of the Inquisition, also located inside the city.
The museum is interested in one of the darkest periods of Carcassonne, the Inquisition. It traces its history and presents several instruments of torture from the twelfth century to the French Revolution and used on the so-called heretics, Cathars or even witches!
Based on stagings, tracing for example the trials reserved for heretics, since their trial through torture, the stake or other methods of killing, you will learn more about this high-place of the inquisition .
I advise you not to visit this museum with young children and some people might find some shocking scenes, but the museum is for the sole purpose of denouncing the intolerance and fanaticism of the time.
For opening hours and rates, it’s on the official website.
5. Old Bridge and Bastide Saint-Louis
After your visit to the city of Carcassonne, go down to the lower town by taking the Pont-Vieux.
This medieval bridge was until the nineteenth century, the only way to reach the fortress from the Bastide Saint-Louis (another name given to the lower town). Today the bridge is reserved for pedestrians and offers a beautiful view of the city. The opportunity to make some beautiful pictures. (If you want to go to the city by car, you will have to take the Pont Neuf, located next door.)
At the exit, take the rue du Pont-Vieux to reach the Bastide Saint-Louis. Built in 1260, the Bastide is organized around Place Carnot and bounded by the boulevards of Warsaw, Omer Sarrault, Jean Jaurès and Barbès.
To see and do at Bastide Saint-Louis:
- Chapel Notre-Dame of Health, departure of the way towards Saint-Jacques de Compostela
- Bastion Saint-Martial, the Bastion of the garden of Calvary and the Bastion of Montmorency
- Museum of Fine Arts and its collection of paintings and ceramics
- City Hall
- Jacobins Portal
- St. Michael’s Cathedral
- Les Halles where you will find good regional products
- Neptune Fountain
- St. Vincent Church
- Carmelite Chapel
6. The Canal du Midi
Like the city of Carcassonne , the Canal du Midi is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the 17th century to connect the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
To find out, the best way is to choose to go on a cruise. Departures are from the Port du Canal du Midi, north of Bastide-Saint-Louis, near the train station SNCF Carcassonne.
Several companies offer different types of cruises on the Canal du Midi: most are commented, the durations vary from 1h15 to 2h and the rates are between 8 € and 10 €. Several departures are organized during the day.
You can also choose a 2:30 lunch cruise for lunch or dinner.
If you are sporty, you can also cycle along the Canal du Midi or simply take a leisurely stroll along the banks.
7. Taste a Cassoulet
Crucial step of a stay in the South of France, taste the local gastronomy! In the region, no choice it will test the famous cassoulet!
Cassoulet is a traditional regional dish made with white beans, sausages and duck confit. There are some variations but the traditional recipe must contain at least its 3 ingredients. And I prefer to warn you right now, it is not considered a light dish!:-)
You will have no trouble finding a restaurant to enjoy it, the cassoulet is a la carte of almost all establishments in Carcassonne.
8. Visit Carcassonne in Summer
If you have decided to go on a trip to Carcassonne in summer, you will certainly be lucky enough to be able to attend several events and festivals:
- The Carcassonne Festival , which is generally held from the end of June to the end of July, offers around a hundred varied shows (dance, music, opera, theatre), more than half of which are free. It is one of the biggest French festivals. Learn about the program right here.
- The fireworks of July 14 which is ranked among the most beautiful in France.
- The Feria de Carcassonne which takes place the last weekend of August. Several free concerts, bodegas and Spanish dance shows are offered.
- The chivalry tournaments which take place in July and August at the foot of the walls.
What to do and see around Carcassonne?
After visiting the city of Carcassonne and Bastide Saint-Louis, I recommend 3 other activities and sights to see around Carcassonne.
9. Cathar Sites
The city of Carcassonne and its ramparts are among the many Cathar sites in the Languedoc region.
Around Carcassonne, you will find many other places in the Cathar country to visit: castles, museums, medieval cities and abbeys.
I advise you to go to the tourist office to get the leaflet listing all the Cathar sites to see, there are more than twenty.
To see including near Carcassonne:
- Abbey of Saint-Papoul and its magnificent cloister
- Château de Saissac and its museum dedicated to the monetary treasury of Saissac
- Abbey of Lagrasse where you can discover the dormitories of the monks, the cellars, the bakery and the chapel Saint-Barthélemy
- Châteaux de Lastours, a group of 4 castles
- Puilaurens Castle, perched 700 meters above sea level
- Castle Peyrepertuse, royal fortress with a beautiful view of the surroundings
- Medieval City of Lagrasse, ranked among the most beautiful villages in France
Tips for your Carcassonne itinerary:
If you want to visit several Cathares sites, buy the Passport sites of Cathar country at the tourist office. Sold € 4, you will receive € 1 discount on each entry.
10. The Cavayère Lake
Located just 15 minutes drive from Carcassonne, Lake Cavayère is a popular place to cool off.
You will find 3 beaches of sand and turf arranged and supervised. You can swim and enjoy the lake facilities, thanks to Aquaviva Park, an inflatable water park. You can also go pedal boating or try water sports, wake boarding and paddle boarding. Finally, if you do not feel dizzy, you can go tree climbing.
Everything to spend a half day or even a whole day to relax and wander. Do not forget to bring your picnic!
11. Chasm of Cabrespine
20 minutes from Carcassonne by car, I advise you to visit the Gouffre de Cabrespine.
Thrills guaranteed when discovering the abyss. More than 220 meters deep , the cave is one of the largest in the world. To give you an idea, we could easily put the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe inside.
You can even walk over the chasm thanks to a glass walkway, one of the only platforms of this type located underground.
For timetables and prices, it is on the official website.
Tips for your Carcassonne itinerary:
If you like caves, 20 km north of Carcassonne and 12 km from Cabrespine, you can also visit the Limousis cave.
You will be able to discover several rooms and 2 lakes there, ending with the highlight of the show: a giant aragonite chandelier 10 meters wide. The guided tour takes about 1 hour.
And a rather unusual activity for a cave, you will even end up with a small tasting of wines, which are aged in oak barrels within the cave itself.
Located just 1h10 by road, Toulouse is the nearest large city to Carcassonne.
Here is a small selection of things to do in the pink city:
- Place du Capitole and its historic monuments with pink brick facades
- The Basilica of Saint-Sernin: listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the largest Romanesque building in France
- The Jacobin convent
- The quays of the Garonne for a nice walk
- The Musée des Augustins and its impressive collection of paintings
- The City of Space to immerse yourself in the history of space conquest.
Tips for your Carcassonne itinerary:
To organize your stay in Toulouse, I advise you to read my dedicated article: What to do and see in Toulouse?
Still around Carcassonne, you can also visit Montpellier.
By car, it takes a little less than 2 hours to reach the 2 cities.
To see and do in Montpellier:
- The Écusson district which is the historic center of the city. A charming neighborhood with beautiful architecture.
- The royal square of Peyrou to contemplate the panorama
- Saint-Pierre cathedral with its 3 imposing towers
- Place de la Comédie, the most famous square in the city.
For detailed information, I advise you to read my dedicated article right here: The 25 things to visit in Montpellier.
14. Visit the Vineyards
Carcassonne is surrounded by many wine estates offering to meet the winegrowers, to visit the vineyard and above all to conclude with a small tasting.
Carcassonne is located in the Languedoc Roussillon region, where you will find wines in IPG Pays d’OC and in the Minervois and Limoux appellations.
You will find the list of areas to visit around Carcassonne here.
And what’s great is that some tours are free!
Here is a small selection of domains (click on the links to book!):
- Château de Pennautier offers a free tasting of 3 wines or visits to the cellars with tasting from just €8!
- Château La Villatade is located 15 minutes from Carcassonne. Cuvées Côtes Noires in AOC Minervois rewarded with several gold medals. Free tasting or visit + tasting at 10€!
- The Domaine de Baronarques offers several kinds of visits: guided tour of the property, tour of the vineyard in a 4*4 and of course tasting of vintages.
- The Domaine Grand Guilhem which produces organic and natural wines.
1 Day Carcassonne Itinerary
To visit Carcassonne in one day, I recommend you to follow this route:
- Walk in the medieval city of Carcassonne
- Visit of the Château Comtal and the ramparts
- Passage through the Saint-Nazaire Basilica
- Visit of the Inquisition Museum
- Lunch break with a delicious cassoulet
- Descent to the lower town by the Pont-Vieux
- Discover Bastide Saint-Louis
- Cruise or ride on the Canal du Midi
2 Days Carcassonne Itinerary
In 2 days in Carcassonne and its surroundings, you will have the time to visit the surroundings of Carcassonne. In addition to the one day itinerary, the 2nd day, I propose:
- Descent into the chasm of Cabrespine
- Visit of one or more Cathar sites. The closest to the chasm are, for example, the Abbey of Caunes-Minervois, the castles of Lastours or the castle of Saissac.
- Afternoon at Lake Cavayère
Accommodation in Carcassonne
Whether you are looking for where to sleep in Carcassonne with family, lovers or on a solo trip, you will find what you are looking for in my selection of the best accommodation!
- Hotel Astoria: located 20 minutes walk from the medieval city and 50 m from the Canal du Midi. Double room from €58 per night, breakfast at €8. Most: cleanliness, hospitality, close to the train station.
- Soleil Vacances Hotel les Chevaliers & Spa : located 10 minutes walk from the fortress, on the banks of the river. Double room with sophisticated decoration, design and elegance, some with a terrace, from 110€ per night, breakfast at 15€. Most: the view of the castle and the old bridge, the Spa, the very hearty breakfast. It is our favorite for its price/performance ratio.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Carcassonne: located on the banks of the Aude, next to the Pont-Vieux. Design and contemporary double room, some with a balcony, from €140, breakfast at €25. Most: the Spa, the swimming pool, the location, the very friendly staff, the view.
- Hôtel Restaurant Le Parc Franck Putelat: Located 500 meters from the medieval fortress. Spacious, bright double room with trendy and designer furniture from €220 per night, breakfast at €25. Most: the top-of-the-range hotel, the very comfortable rooms, the excellent breakfast. To absolutely test the restaurant and its 2 stars in the Michelin Guide. This is our recommendation for an upscale stay in Carcassonne.
- Hotel de la Cité & Spa MGallery: this 5* hotel is located inside the ramparts of the fortress. It offers beautiful rooms decorated in the classic style from 290€ per night, breakfast at 28€. The pluses: the outdoor swimming pool, the Michelin-starred restaurant, the quality of the services. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay in Carcassonne!
Tips for your Carcassonne itinerary:
If you prefer an apartment for your stay in Carcassonne, I recommend the LOFT Spa-Côté Château.
Located 10 minutes walk from the city. Superbly decorated loft with fully equipped kitchen from 150€ per night. The pluses: the outdoor jacuzzi and the terrace, the neat decor, the tranquility. It is the best choice if you want to have an apartment in Carcassonne. Being able to swim in the jacuzzi is still a big plus!
You also have the 514 Apart Hotel. Located 300 meters from the medieval city. Modern and fully equipped apartment from 80€ per night, breakfast at 10€. Most: the geographical location, the free private parking, the equipment and the comfortable bedding.
Where to eat in Carcassonne
- Bacon and pig: Located Rue Denisse, in the lower town of Carcasonne. Typical regional dishes, the ideal place to enjoy a good cassoulet and excellent duck breast. It’s good, it’s hearty and the prices are reasonable! Remember to book.
- Brasserie Café Lucien: Located right in the medieval city, rue du Grand Puits. Regional dishes with gizzards and duck confit in particular. Several kinds of menus from 12.90 €. Copious and good, excellent value for a restaurant located in a very touristy place. The tables in the garden offer a beautiful view of the ramparts.
- Burger et Cassolette Carcassonne: Located on the Boulevard Denis Papin, away from the city center. You will understand, the specialty here is the burgers! Burger and homemade fries, very hearty and delicious. Recipes quite original. Modern decor and nice atmosphere.
How to get to Carcassonne
By car from:
By train from:
By plane, Carcassonne has an airport whose flights are operated by Ryanair. Flights from England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and the Netherlands.
FAQ: Questions about Carcassonne
Where to park to visit Carcassonne?
You will find paying car parks just around the medieval city, near the Narbonnaise gate. Price = 2€ for 1 hour / 6€ for 2 hours / 7.50€ for 4 hours.
You can also park in one of the paying car parks in the city center (underground parking Gambetta, André Chenier and Jacobins) and reach the Cité in 15 minutes on foot.
If you want to know where to park for free to visit the city of Carcassonne, you can try your luck on Quai Bellevue, in front of Le Bastion college or at the corner of Bd Barbès and Bd Marcou.
Where is the Carcassonne tourist office located?
There are 2 tourist information offices in Carcassonne:
- In the Bastide Saint-Louis at 28 rue de Verdun
- In the medieval city: impasse Agnes de Montpellier.
What to do in Carcassonne with the family?
Here are some ideas for visits for a stay in Carcassonne with children:
- The Comtal castle and its ramparts to put yourself in the shoes of knights and princesses
- A treasure hunt – Activity sold at the tourist office
- A treasure hunt with booklet and small games – Sold at the tourist office
- The school museum, in the medieval town
- The Australian Park, an animal park with kangaroos.
What are the most beautiful villages around Carcassonne?
Here are the villages to see around Carcassonne:
- Cucugnan, a picturesque village known for having inspired a short story by Alphonse Daudet “Le curé de Cucugnan” which can be found in “Les lettres de mon Moulin”
- Lagrasse, a small medieval village ranked among the most beautiful villages in France. Do not miss the Sainte-Marie de l’Orbieu abbey that I have already mentioned in the Cathar sites.
- Montolieu, a village dedicated to book trades with workshops, bookstores and several artisans (binder, calligrapher)
- Caunes-Minervois for its cobbled streets, its pretty stone houses and its abbey. Also worth visiting are the marble quarries from which the extracted rock was used for the Palace of Versailles
- Fanjeaux, to contemplate the entire Lauragais plain.
And you? Are you planning to visit Carcassonne during your next stay in the South of France?
Are you looking for other travel ideas in France? Read also
Discover all our articles on France: All our tips on Mauritius are listed here.
- Annecy: 17 things to do and see absolutely
- Antibes: 20 Best Things to do
- Arles: Top 20 Things to see
- Avignon: The 10 must-see places
- Bordeaux: Top 33 things to do and see
- Cannes: top 17 best things to do
- Carcassonne: 15 things to do and see
- 2 Days in Honfleur: Ultimate Itinerary
- La Rochelle: Top 15 things to see and do
- Lyon: 20 must-see places
- 2 Days in Marseille: Ultimate Itinerary for a Weekend
- 2 Days in Monaco: Itinerary for a Weekend
- Montpellier: Ultimate 2 days Itinerary
- Nantes: Top 15 things to do absolutely
- Nice: 15 Things to do and see absolutely
- Nîmes: Top 10 places to discover
- Reims: Top 15 things to do and see
- Strasbourg: 30 things to visit
- Toulouse: Top 17 places to see
- 16 Best Weekend Ideas in Alsace
- One Week Ultimate Itinerary in Reunion Island
- Itinerary: A week on the French Riviera – The perfect itinerary to visit the French Riviera