Languedoc-Roussillon : Aude : Carcassonne
Carcassonne is divided into two main parts:
High speed TGV trains from Lille, Bruxelles, Dijon, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse call at Carcassone. Slower Corail Téoz between Bordeaux, Marseille, Nice and Paris towards Cerbère and Port-Bou (and overnight Corail Lunéa couchette trains between Paris and Cerbère / Port-Bou) also stop.
An extensive network of frequent, modern and comfortable regional services are provided by SNCF's TER Languedoc-Roussillon, with services to Toulouse, Narbonne, Marseille, Cerbère, Perpignan, Limoux and Quillan.
The train journey from Toulouse is around 1h to 1h15 depending on the train type.
Ryanair serves the airport to/from Billund, Bournemouth, Brussels( Charleroi), Cork, Dublin, Eindhoven, Glasgow (Prestwick), Liverpool, London (Stansted), Nottingham (East Midlands airport) and Porto.
A shuttle bus (navette aéroport in French; 5€ per person) runs between the airport and Carcassonne town centre (SNCF railway station). Some shuttle buses (but not all) also stop at the Cité. The shuttle bus timetable is available at the airport website.
A taxi between the airport and Carcassonne town centre costs around €10-15, whilst a taxi between the airport and the Cité costs around €15-20.
The Cité is around 20 minutes by foot from the railway station. The main tourist sights in Carcassonne are situated within easy walking distance of each other.
Tourist maps of Carcassonne are available from one of the three tourist information offices. There is one tourist information centre situated once you leave the railway station and cross the bridge, on the right hand side of the road near the junction between Boulevard Omer Sarraut and Avenue Mal Joffre. There are also tourist information centres in the Cité and in the town centre at 28 rue de Verdun.
Taxis:There is a taxi stand outside the railway station. You can also book a taxi by phoning +33 4 68 71 50 50, which is the one single official hotline for booking all taxis in Carcassonne. For more information, visit the official website of the Association of Carcassonne Radio Taxis.
Left luggage: There are no left luggage facilities at the train station. Some guidebooks suggest that you can leave your luggage at the Hotel La Bastide Saint Louis (81 rue de la Liberté; €3 for 1/2 day and €5 for 1 day), which is useful if you wish to visit Carcassonne before catching a flight from Carcassonne airport. This hotel, however, is either closed or relocated.
You can enter the Cité through one of its four gates: Porte Narbonnaise (see picture, common entrance when you arrive by car).
The Cité is a beautiful and interesting place to visit. Strolling through the medieval village with its tiny and twisted alleys, the beautiful little Buildings next to impressive buildings like the Basilique St-Nazaire, give you a hint of how life must have been. The inner detail-orientated arrangements transport the medieval charm and impress you at every other corner in this town. Make sure to walk with open eyes trough the alleys!
The Basilique St-Nazaire impresses especially with its enormous rose windows and the biggest organ of south France. Pope Urban V ordered the construction in 1096.
You can choose to walk the Cité on your own without paying entrance for most of the medieval city. You only have to pay to visit the area of the Château Comtal (around €10).
Nearly 3 million tourists visit the the Cité of Carcassonne every year so it can get very busy in this little town. Peak season is from June to August.
Much to see in this somewhat neglected region of France. Get into the hills and visit little villages like Minerve. Try using the Michelin maps but forsake the red roads and take to the little white roads. You will be rewarded by seeing lovely little places that tour buses etc never visit.
Carcassonne can also be visited departing from Toulouse.
Medieval jousting displays are held twice a day between the two walls. Whilst this may sound like a typical tourist activity, this is actually a very impressive and entertaining display of horsemanship and combative competition. Entry is €12 for adults as of Summer 2013 - certainly one of best €12 that we spent on our Summer trip.
If you're up to it, the Torture Museum is also worth a visit. It's small but filled with torture instruments from the Middle Ages. Not for the squeamish!
There are regular barge trips along the historic Canal du Midi, and these are a very relaxing way of spending some time. The boats leave from the jetty just outside the main train station, and tickets can be bought from clearly signposted vendors at the canal-side (just beside the lock). Multilingual commentary is provided on the history of the canal and the various sights along the way.
Festival de Carcassonne is held in July and August . Around half of July there is huge firework show (second biggest in France).
Don't leave Carcassonne without trying cassoulet, a local dish made of beans, sausage and duck. Foie gras is also a speciality of the region, so expect it to be on many menus.
There are bars around the train station (la gare) that offer cheap eats. There are a few restaurants on rue Trivalle, the road that connects the town centre with the Cité. Le Trivalou (69 rue Trivalle) has very friendly service and delicious home-made dishes, including cassoulet (€16). There are also quite a few restaurants clustered around the main square inside the Cité, the majority of which have outside tables so you can people-watch and enjoy the buzz of the square on summer evenings!
Budget permitting, there are several excellent restaurants inside the Cité, serving really good regional food. Among them are La Barbacane, Chez Saskia, Restaurant Comte Roger and the Brasserie le Donjon. These all serve divine food and the service is, as you would expect, impeccable.
As Carcassonne can get quite touristy during the summer season, restaurants can become crowded and the prices charged can be a bit over the top. You may therefore wish to eat away from the Cité, perhaps in the town centre instead, or better in one of the enchanting villages away from Carcassonne.
There are three distinct wine appellations near Carcassonne, primarily in the hills and woodlands to the south, west and north of the historic city. Many good Vins de Pays are produced in the area too.
Cabardès is found in the picturesque terrain north of Carcassonne, spread out either side of the D118 en route to Montagne Noire (the so-called 'Black Mountain', which forms the southern part of the Cévennes Mountains and the Massif Central) and merging with Minervois country to the east. The area’s wines are often based on a mix of Bordeaux, Rhône and Mediterranean grape varieties. The even more obscure Malepère wine area, which uses similar choices of grapes, lies around and on the hills between Carcassonne, Limoux and towards Castelnaudary, dissected by the D18 and D623 roads.
Limoux is found on the spectacular drive south, which gets hillier and wilder as you approach the Pays de Sault and Fenouillèdes country. The appellation is now making some quite good reds (watch out for Pinot Noir grown at altitude) but is best known for its sometimes excellent Chardonnays and sparkling wines, and perhaps surprisingly, for Chenin Blanc.
It is advisable to book earlier if visiting Carcassonne during the high season.