If you’re like me, you have never heard of Carcassone before. But if you have then good for you! I hadn’t before a few weeks ago and now that I’ve been there I think it’s a place others should go to as well.
Carcassone lies in the Region of Languedoc-Roussillon very near the Spanish boarder of France but not along the coast. It is really two towns in one. It’s compact with much to see and great for a weekend trip or as a stop off for a few relaxing days on a bigger trip that includes France.
The first city is the massive medieval citadel sitting on the hill overlooking the much newer city of Carcassonne. It’s no wonder the castle dominates the town in people’s minds – it is France’s second-most visited tourist spot after the Tour Eiffel, though I’m guessing that is because it is frequented by French visitors rather than those of us who live abroad.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, La Cite at Carcassonne is a painstakingly restored medieval walled city on a hill by the Aude River. The city is Disney perfect, a fairy-tale collection of drawbridges, towers and cobbled streets which was reputedly the inspiration for Walt Disney’s The Sleeping Beauty but now filled with shops, cafes and restaurants.
The movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was filmed here in 1991, as was the British TV series “Labyrinth”. There is a board game named after the city as well which is a medieval landscape built by the players as the game progresses.
The newer Carcassonne city is rather sleepy and small, with a nice square in the middle and a few nice shops and restaurants. But it is worth taking time to pause and admire this city as well. Plus only from here can you see the older one from a distance in which to appreciate the panoramic view of the picture-perfect fortified city on a hill.