14 must-see things to do in Carcassonne

Carcassonne - Mise en avant

Set foot in an iconic region of Occitanie with our selection of the best must-sees in Carcassonne!

Occupied since ancient times, the town of Carcassonne and its urban area played an important role in the founding of our country. Indeed, its fortified city defended the border between France and Aragon until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659.

These days, Carcassonne and its medieval city attract the world’s attention. Standing as the symbol of Occitanie and the Aude department, its magnificent and diverse region, its almost Mediterranean climate and, of course, its historic heritage are to die for. To give you a better idea of the region, Generation Voyage has put together a selection of must-sees in Carcassonne!

1. The city of Carcassonne

Visiter à Carcassonne : Cité médiévale de Carcassonne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – B-Hide The Scene

The site’s history is extremely eventful. In the 12th century, it was the focus of several power struggles between the Cathars and the French royal forces. Indeed, the town was also instrumental in the construction of the Franco-Spanish borders at the time of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659.

After admiring the city from its Pont Vieux, enter the fortress and let yourself be overwhelmed by the incomparable atmosphere of Europe’s largest medieval city. This Unesco World Heritage site will take you back in time. Walk in the footsteps of the knights and explore its ramparts and numerous points of interest.

2. The Chateau Comtal

Visiter à Carcassonne : Château comtal

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Santi Rodriguez

In the bowels of the city, this magnificent château, set within the protective ramparts, has its origins in Gallo-Roman times. Indeed, it was long home to the royal Trencavel family.

This monument is a must-see in Carcassonne, especially as the city tour takes you right past it. With its enchanting architecture and décor, the Château Comtal will plunge you back into medieval times. You’ll also enjoy panoramic views of the Pyrenees, Montagne Noire and Bastide Saint-Louis.

3. Saint-Nazaire Basilica

Visiter à Carcassonne : Basilique St-Nazaire

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Inu

This Catholic edifice, whose origins date back to 1100, is another point of interest in the walled city. Before it was granted the rank of minor basilica in 1898, it was a cathedral.

Nicknamed the « Jewel of the City », Saint-Nazaire harmoniously blends Romanesque and Gothic styles. It is particularly renowned for its sublime stained glass windows, considered to be the finest in the Midi.

4. Pont Vieux and Bastide Saint-Louis

Visiter à Carcassonne : Bastide Saint-Louis

Photo credit: Flickr – Antoine 49

In the lower town of Carcassonne, you’ll find the fortress bridge. Once used as the only means of defense, it now provides access for tourists and offers a magnificent view of the city.

Then, as you continue on your way, you’ll come across the Bastide Saint-Louis. Dating back to 1260, this building is located on the left bank of the Aude. Having preserved its rich architectural heritage, you’ll be able to visit its many private mansions and its Maison des Memoires.

5. Montolieu

Visiter à Carcassonne : Montolieu

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Martin Charles Hatch

Considered the village of books and the arts, Montolieu is a charming commune to visit in and around Carcassonne.

Just 20 minutes from the city, this village perched on the Montagne Noire is a cultural haven. Everywhere you go, booksellers, artists and craftspeople give you a warm welcome. Thousands of visitors come to stroll the aisles of this library village for a moment of escapism.

6. The Cérès Franco Museum

Visiter à Carcassonne : Musée Cérès Franco à Montolieu

Photo credit: Facebook – Coopérative – Musée Cérès Franco

The Musée Cérès Franco in Montolieu highlights the work of this extravagant Brazilian artist.

This art gallery exhibits a range of works by the artist, as well as rare 20th-century works in various genres: art brut, Brazilian and European naive art, South American folk art, the CoBrA movement and nouvelle figuration.

7. Le gouffre de Cabrespine

Visiter à Carcassonne : Gouffre de Cabrespine

Photo credit: Flickr – JeanPhilippeG

Just 25 km from Carcassonne, the thrill of a lifetime awaits you in this immense 250 m-deep underground cavern.

Caving, light shows and glass bridges enrich the exploration of this natural chasm nestling in the heart of the Clamoux Gorge. One of the most beautiful caves in Europe, the Gouffre de Cabrespine is also a must-see in Carcassonne for its wealth of crystals.

8. The Limousis cave

Lustre d'Aragonite dans la grotte de Limousis

Photo credit: Flickr – Steve Collis

Following a beautiful road dotted with vineyards and garrigues, you’ll arrive at the sublime Limousis cave.

Its seven halls and two lakes host a host of shows. These include the suspension bridge over a mirror of water and the Aragonite « chandelier », the site’s true treasure. On your way out, why not sample the cuvée Améthyste wine, aged in oak barrels in the cave.

9. Cavayère lake

Lac de la Cavayère

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Semmick Photo

Just a 1h45-minute drive from the Mediterranean coast, sea addicts may be disappointed. Luckily for them, Carcassonne has the ideal solution for those burning desires.

It only takes 5 minutes to get to Lac de Cavayère! This lushly landscaped water park is perfect for a family outing. For sports enthusiasts and hikers, there’s a 5 km circuit around the lake, with views over the entire site. But for even more excitement, the site also offers water skiing.

10. The Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Giancarlo Liguori

Another Unesco World Heritage site, the Canal du Midi is just the touch of tranquility you need for a successful stay.

Stroll in the sunshine aboard a rental boat under the shimmering plane trees. The many towpaths also allow you to cycle from Trèbes or Carcassonne.

11. The Truffle House

Maison de la Truffe

Photo credit: Facebook – Maison de la Truffe – Occitanie

Have you ever heard of Carcassonne’s black diamond? Well, it’s not a jewel, but a renowned local product: truffles!

And to honor this famous mushroom, a museum has been built in the heart of the triangle of Cabrespine, Trassanel and Villeneuve-Minervois. The exhibition’s fun, interactive approach will help you discover the secrets of this condiment.

12. Carcassonne specialities

Cassoulet de Carcassonne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Veronika Kovalenko

If you want to keep your figure during your stay, local gastronomy is a no-go. But for the more gourmet and curious among you, here’s a list of Carcassonne specialities:

  • Cassoulet de Carcassonne: This hearty dish rivals any in the world. Its uniqueness lies in its choice of meat, with red partridge and mutton;
  • Fougasse aux fritons: Made with bread dough and bacon, this delicious dish is perfect as an appetizer;
  • Les écus de la cité: These little chocolates feature an artistic representation of the medieval city.

13. City festival

Festival de Carcassonne

Photo credit: Flickr – Yann Gar

Since its creation in 2009, the town’s festival has been a must-see in Carcassonne. In fact, it is now one of the top 10 festivals in France.

Every summer, the city welcomes over 200,000 visitors from all over the world in an extraordinary setting. Throughout July, 120 shows, 80 of them free, await you, featuring national and international artists.

14. Around Carcassonne

Châteaux de Lastours

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Santi Rodriguez

Pays Cathare websites

In exceptional natural settings, 22 historic sites bear witness to the traces of the Cathars in the region. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Château de Saissac: Perched at an altitude of 450 m, this is the oldest site on the Montagne Noire. The remains of the castle dominate the Pyrenees above the Carcassonne plains;
  • The castles of Lastours: Four royal fortresses form this unique site at the top of the village of Lastours;
  • Puilauren castle: At an altitude of 697 m on Mont Ardu, this strategic site is a remarkable example of the military architecture of the period;
  • The Peyrepertuse fortress: Nicknamed the « citadel of vertigo », the Peyrepertuse fortress stretches some 300 m above the village of Duilhac.

The villages

The Carcassonne region also boasts a host of picturesque villages close to the Canal. Discover and visit just a few examples:

  • Caunes-Minervois: With its Italian village feel, this charming commune is renowned for its red marble, which is used in the Château de Versailles;
  • Trèbes: On the banks of the Canal du Midi, the charm of this small village lies in its pretty marina, narrow streets and the church of Saint-Etienne;
  • Homps: This small commune, located between Corbières and Minervois, is worth a visit for its taste for life, leisure and wine.

Black Mountain

In the Cathar region, the Montagne Noire is a protected natural area. Ideal for forest walks, set out to conquer a wild and abundant nature and a remarkable heritage.

How to get to Carcassonne

To reach Carcassonne, several means of transport are available:

  • By car: The A10, A20 and A61 freeways take you directly to Carcassonne. The journey takes 8h from Paris, 1h11 from Toulouse and 10h from Lille;
  • By train: The medieval town is a 30-minute walk from Carcassonne SNCF station;
  • By plane: If you want to fly to Carcassonne, the Carcassonne-Salvaza airport has the best connections. To find the flight offer best suited to your needs, use a flight comparator like Skyscanner.

Where to stay in Carcassonne?

With its historic heritage, find a home for your stay while remaining in the timeless atmosphere of the site. Whether you book your accommodation in the medieval city or in the town center, a wide range of hotels andAirbnb options are available to you. To help you, don’t hesitate to use a hotel comparator.

But for all its cultural attractions, the Carcassonne conurbation, and more particularly the Aude, is a magnificent region with some unusual places to stay. Take a trip to Montredon or one of the many surrounding villages.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Carcassonne,fr