Carcassonne – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

One of the most charming medieval cities in France, Carcassonne is a world heritage site that you will want to put on your France itinerary.

Growing up, every child wants to explore or live in a castle. You would think that with so many castles and medieval towns that we wouldn’t get too excited when we’re heading to another one. However, as soon as you come over the hill, Carcassonne takes your breath away. It is a stunning medieval walled city in Cathar country of the Occitanie region and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, truly one of the most beautiful in France.

Walls of Carcassonne.
The walls from the draw bridge.

Being such an iconic structure, needless to say, in the middle of summer there were plenty of people walking through the cobbled alleyways, sitting at sidewalk cafes, and annoyingly getting in my photos. It wasn’t always this way. In the middle of the 19th century, the fortifications were in such disrepair that they were scheduled for demolition (source). The mayor, knowing what he potentially had, turned it all around and convinced the government to invest money in reconstruction. How smart he was!

Carcassonne medieval city is surrounded by walls and towers.
Bridge and towers of Carcassonne.

We arrived at the gate of the walled city around 9:00 in the morning. We’d been in the area for a few days, and we knew if we waited too much later that the sun would be sweltering and we would quickly become a bit testy. Luckily, we were out and about before too many people and were able to really enjoy the quaintly painted shopfronts, medieval-style business signs, and the many turrets, statues, as well as the stunning gothic cathedral and even a chateau. Yep! Carcassonne has it all.

The world heritage site of Carcassonne's stone fountains and walls.
Stone, stone everywhere…

In the center of the town, we saw one of the reasons that there were people everywhere. They were holding a summer music festival. There was a show that evening and we enjoyed watching the roadies preparing for the event.

One of our favorite parts of visiting the town was actually outside the gates. There we wandered into a centuries-old cemetery and wondered at the sizes of the tombs with massive angel statues guarding them through eternity.

You can walk all around the exterior medieval walls of Carcassonne.

After a few hours, we treated ourselves to our traditional French lunch by finding a small out-of-the-way place that has a “menu”. The French day menu usually consists of three courses for an extremely reasonable price of anywhere between 12 and 21 Euros. We’ve been amazed at what we can get for that, so we always tried to eat a larger lunch and a smaller dinner.

One of our favorite things to do is have the waiter or maitre d’ suggest the perfect local wine for us. If we like it, and we always do, after we were done eating we would go searching for that particular vineyard.

The cemetery of Carcassonne.
The cemetery of Carcassonne.

More often than not, the vineyards seemed almost deserted yet sported a sign that says “degustation” or tasting, so we knew that all we had to do is find someone and they would regale us with their selections. Not once did we leave without a case of mixed wines as well as a nice talk with the vintners.

If you happen to be in the south of France take the time to get to Carcassonne!

Jim and Corinne in Carcassonne.

The south of France has so many amazing travel opportunities and one of the ones on our bucket list is Cruising the Canal du Midi. Someday, someday.

Have you been to Carcassonne? How about searching out the vintner of your lunch wine? Any tips?

Carcassonne World Heritage city is well worth a trip.

39 thoughts on “Carcassonne – A UNESCO World Heritage Site”

  1. Phoebe @ Lou Messugo

    Corinne you did a great job at getting photos without the squilions of people. I’ve been to Carcasonne a couple of times and prefer the look of it from outside the walls and like walking around the ramparts rather than the actual inside. I found it over-run with tacky “gothic” souvenir shops selling skulls, bats etc which ruined it for me. But the view from across the river is unbeatable, it really is the perfect fairy tale castle. Then the “new” town on the Canal du Midi is lovely too.

  2. I LOVE your idea of hunting down the local wine after lunch! What a fun activity/mission together! I haven’t been able to make it to Carcassonne yet, but am excited for the day I will! Great post!

  3. I know how frustrating it can be when you go somewhere dreamy and have to share it with a billion people. I felt that way in New Zealand. It was always a challenge to take photos without people in them at really popular locations, especially once a tour bus pulled up. Great job getting some wonderful shots of this beautiful castle!!

  4. Hi Corrine! WOW! This is just so gorgeous. Rapunzel could certainly have let her hair down from the top of one on those turrets :) Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

  5. Hi Corinne, I love Carcassonne – cassoulet and red wine in those fabulous surroundings – what’s not to love!. To my mind, beautifully ‘restored’ [although the purists say it that that had fallen down should have been left as ruins!!] The first time I went in 2010 I was advised to read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse – set in Carcassonne and concerning Cathars and the Crusades. Found the book dreadfully slow and dull but skimmed through and then looked for the landmarks used in the book and took photos under the street names! Went back last year just for the cassoulet !!

  6. Beautiful photos! I was interested to hear about your perspective on Carcassonne. I went in May with my husband, and we both surprisingly felt a little underwhelmed by the experience. It didn’t feel like there were many rooms to walk through, and while it certainly was big, I guess maybe it had been so hyped up from others that when we actually saw it, we felt a little disappointed. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time there, because I did – but I’m also glad I didn’t go much out of my way to visit it. But again, just my opinion of course!

  7. Ever since reading Kate Mosse’s novel Labyrinth, I have always wanted to visit Carcassonne. My son would also love the castles – he’s obssessed with being a knight! It’s definitely on my list. Such wonderful photos #WeeklyPostcard

  8. I’ve never been to Carcassone but since reading “The Labyrinth” by Kate Mosse it is on my list!! This castle/fortress looks spectacular!

  9. We LOVED our time in Carcassone, it really was the prettiest mediaval and one of the most complete castles we had been to! Our son was only 3 then and mad about knights and horses, needless to say he loved it too :-) Loved looking at your pictures and being reminded what a beautiful place it is. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard

  10. I’ve been to Carcassonne, but I’d certainly recommend going in spring or fall! It’s so beautiful, and so are your pictures! I love the idea of searching out the vintner after lunch!

  11. What an awesome place! I have always wanted to visit. To me, this look like an entire fortress. Reminds me a bit of the fortresses in Puerto Rico even though the architecture is totally different (I guess is something about the walls).

  12. I was here for a school trip when I was definitely too young to really appreciate the importance of this site. I feel very lucky to have been! I’m so glad they managed to save it too, I had no idea the fortifications were to be demolished.
    It is hard visiting somewhere crawling with tourists when you want to get the best shots. Sometimes I have to stand in one spot and be patient for a long time before I get the clear shot without people in it. Definitely worth the wait!!

  13. Your beautiful photos of Carcassonne bring back nice memories when I was there more than 10 years ago. The lovely architecture stimulates imagination!

  14. I remember seeing photos of a Bastille Day Celebration at Carcassonne years ago and I’ve wanted to go there ever since. Looks like a fantastic visit!

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