The medieval walled fortress of Carcassonne is sure to delight every visitor.
The enchanting fortified medieval town of Carcassonne looks rather like a young child’s dream creation rather than a real place. The old walled city, known as La Cité, certainly is a real place with a rich history. It’s not difficult to imagine yourself back in those bloodthirsty medieval times as you wander around the cobbled streets and alleyways of the Cité (walled town) of Carcassonne. The Cité is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the setting for many films featuring medieval castles. Carcassonne lies in the “Pays Cathare” or Cathar Country. The Chateau Comptal in Carcassonne’s medieval Cité was a Cathar fortification. The Cathars were the followers of a dissident church that flourished in several parts of Europe during the early medieval period. The Cathars took over many fortified hilltop sites and castles and turned them into their own strongholds in their fight against the Catholic Church.
Below the medieval Cité lies “La Ville Basse” or the lower town. This is very typical of many French towns with a few nice shops and restaurants. From the Ville Basse you can cross the impressive Pont Vieux (old bridge) to reach the walled city. Overshadowed by the towering fortress, the Ville Basse has its own quirks to uncover. It’s worth finding Place Carnot which is an animated square in the town centre. A bustling market is held here on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. The cathedral, with its gothic architecture and immense stained glass windows, is also worth a visit. “Dinosauria” is a dinosaur museum in La Ville Basse which houses 35 immense dinosaur skeletons and is particularly popular with families.
Carcassonne also lies on the beautiful Canal du Midi and every visitor should try to spend at least a few hours on the canal. The canal port at is one of the busiest on the whole canal. From here you can hop on a half or whole-day trip to experience the delights of the canal.
The Carcassonne Festival takes place from 1st to 31st July every year. This festival consists of nearly a hundred concerts and shows, including French and international variety shows, theatre, circus, dance, jazz, opera and classical, in prestigious venues around the city. Many famous artists such as Diana Ross, Supertramp, José Carreras, Bob Dylan, the Arctic Monkeys have been attracted by the exceptional site of Carcassonne. Carcassonne Ablaze is another major attraction every July. On the evening of 14th July when darkness arrives visitors crowd together on the banks of the Aude to watch a massive fireworks display.
There’s plenty going on in Carcassonne in July – a fairytale city with much more to offer as well.