Step into the pages of a French fairytale with holidays to Carcassonne.
City breaks to Carcassonne
Carcassonne sits poised on a rocky hilltop, and it’s high up on France’s list of most-visited locations. The city’s Gallo-Roman fortress is its centrepiece, and it’s lined by the Canal du Midi. The canal’s location next door to La Cite means that you’ve got two of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites sitting snugly side by side here – talk about sightseeing made easy. La Cite’s Medieval architecture dates back as far as the 12th century, so you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you explore. The events in the city these days celebrate its history – from the Carcassonne Festival to the knights’ tournaments and variety performances that fill the cobbled streets. Meanwhile, the lower city majors in market squares, high street shops and restaurants.
Inside the city’s old walls, cobblestone alleyways form a winding network like something out of Harry Potter. It’s classically medieval, with pointy turreted buildings and ivy-clad stone – you’ll have your camera out non-stop. Head in early to beat the crowds and you’ll feel like you’ve conquered the whole place for yourself. Tour the Chateaux Comtal – the audio guide does the hard work – or step inside the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus for some five-star examples of Gothic architecture.
The world’s largest wine region
A stay in Carcassonne puts you in the centre of the world’s largest wine region. Minervois is just minutes north and east, producing blends of Bordeaux, Mediterranean and Rhone grapes. Then south, you’ve got the upland Limoux region – where sparkling wine was first made in the 1500s. Fill a day with a professional tasting or just sip a glass or two of the good stuff in a local bar – you can count on it being top quality.
Cruise down the Canal du Midi
The UNESCO-acclaimed Canal du Midi has connected the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts since the 17th century. Just outside of Carcassonne, you can take to the tow path and wander along the water’s edge through a leafy tunnel of trees. If you’re keen to see it from the water, your best bet is to pick a sailing that covers a section of the canal between Carcassonne and the Mediterranean town of Sete – it’s said to be the most stunning stretch.