Located in Aude department in France’s southwest, Carcassonne is comprised of a fortified town, Cité de Carcassonne, located on the hilltop and the lower-city below, ville basse. Carcassonne is one of the country’s top tourist destinations, with its visitors enjoying the experience of immersing themselves in the full medieval experience: strolling along the cobblestone streets, taking in the sights of the ancient ramparts, browsing through the shops filled with medieval goods and dining on classic peasant stew at one of the city’s many cafes.
If journeying to Carcassonne by car, the city is linked to Toulouse and Narbonne by the A61 motorway. Located 3km from the city center, Carcassonne airport connects flights from Porto, Brussels, Frankfurt-Huhn, London-Stansted, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, Cork, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. A shuttle bus connects the airport to the town center and runs via the train station.
Carcassonne is a stopping point for the TGV high speed rail services that run to Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Bruxelles, Dijon, and Toulouse. Also servicing Carcassonne is the Corail Téoz train running between Bordeaux, Marseille, and Paris as well as the overnighter, Corail Lunéa, linking Paris to Cerbère. Furthermore, the TER Languedoc-Roussillon line also runs via Carcassonne connecting it to Toulouse, Marseille, Narbonne, Perpignan, Limoux, and Cerbère.
Once in Carcassonne, there are local buses and taxis available to help you to get around. In addition, during May through to November the city provides free shuttles connecting La Cité with ville basse.
The city itself has been dated as far back as 3500BC and the historic fortress is built upon ruins from this era. The beautiful medieval castle, Ville de Carcassonne, provides the centerpiece of La Cité and is remarkably well-preserved for its age. In fact, the castle provided the backdrop for the 1991 Hollywood blockbuster, Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves. These days the castle houses the Museum of Torture, a gruesome collection of equipment used during the inquisition of the 13th century.
Other historical sites in Carcassonne include a church dedicated to St Vincent, the cathedral and a basilica dedicating Saints Nazaire and Celse and Pont Marengo which crosses the canal. Another interesting spot is Les Aigles de La Cite which features the largest collection of birds of prey in the world. Demonstrations are held daily to display the skills of these birds which are trained in the ancient art of falconry.
If you need a break from sightseeing, or some rest and recreation visit Cavayere Lake, a recreational park and lake located five minutes out of town.