When trying to think of somewhere to go for a weekend away in Europe most people immediately think of capital cities. Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Brussels, Vienna. All perfectly good places to visit, but often you find that a weekend just isn’t long enough to explore them.
This time we wanted to venture somewhere off the regular beaten path, a place that wouldn’t immediately spring to everyone’s mind as their next travel destination. We scoured flights from our local airport and found that Ryan Air were offering flights to Carcassonne. Located in the Languedoc region in southern France, this poster girl for best preserved medieval city is rich in history, an absolute gem. Perched high on a hilltop, this majestic walled city looks like it is straight out of a fairytale, complete with turrets, towers, drawbridges and cobble stoned streets.
So why should you add this picture perfect city to your list of travels? Here’s three reasons I think Carcassonne is too good to miss out on.
1. It is one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world.
One of the main reasons for visiting different places is to experience the culture, the history, the people, the food. In a massive city you can often find that this gets diluted. The city of Carcassonne is a living, breathing piece of history. It is not only a completely preserved medieval city but it is still lived in by a small number of locals and as such is like a working museum.
Walk the winding, cobbled streets and take in the culture of those who walked the streets before you. Relax into the atmospheric surroundings. Carcassonne is the second most visited tourist spot after the Eiffel Tour and as such the narrow streets can fill up quickly! So if you are planning a visit then it is best to go out of season or very early in the morning before moving on to the surrounding countryside and vineyards.
2. The history
The site where Carcassonne now sits has been inhabited since the Neolithic times, however the city as we now know it began to take roots in the 12th century. Nine centuries worth of history have left their mark on the city and due to this rich history remaining vastly intact (in fact this is the largest medieval city in Europe with its walls still complete), UNESCO added Carcassonne to its list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. This has drastically increased the level of tourism to this beautiful city and now bus loads of people arrive every day to get a glimpse of this city and its 53 watchtowers.
3. The food And wine
As you would expect when you visit France, food is paramount..and Carcassonne doesn’t disappoint on cuisine. Inside the medieval city you will find both a one and two Michelin starred restaurant and numerous other ‘Michelin Selected’ restaurants to dine in. And that’s just inside the city walls. This is also the region in which cassoulet is said to have originated so needless to say, can be found on every menu in the city and should definitely be sampled once or twice. Of course, I can’t not mention wine. Carcassonne is perfectly situated between two of the regions best wine growing areas. With these being such a short drive out of the city it is worth having a day trip to indulge in some wine tasting.
Oh..and they’ve got very friendly locals. Always an added bonus when exploring somewhere new.
Have you been to Carcassonne? Let me know if you agree!