"Carcassonne.........town of two parts." Top 5 Page for this destination Carcassonne by leics
Carcassonne Travel Guide: 476 reviews and 1,385 photos
I had wanted to visit Carcassonne for many years, so the advent of cheap flights from my local airport made it an essential trip. I'm glad I went at Easter though. There weren't too many people, the cafes and restaurants were uncrowded and I could wander around without getting battered/ irritated by throngs of visitors. I imagine La Cite is a total nightmare in the high season, its narrow streets crammed full.
What I hadn't realised was that the lower part of Carcassonne, the Bastide Saint Louis, is equally interesting from an historical point of view. It was laid out to a grid plan in 1260, built around a central square and encircled by walls with bastions, burned down in 1355 (by Edward, Prince of Wales......the Black Prince) but immediately rebuilt. Its draughtboard-like layout means that cars have to go very slowly to avoid colliding at the blind junctions, which is a major plus for pedestrians!
The Canal du Midi lies just outside the walls of the Bastide and the River Aude runs between it and La Cite. There are pleasant walks along both.
There is evidence of occupation on the site of La Cite dating back to at least the 6th century BC, and the fortified Roman village which stood there was called Carcaso. Later rulers included the Visigoths, the Saracens and the Francs, who were succeeded by the Trencavel dynasty. In 1209 the Cite was taken by the Crusaders, and given to Simon de Montfort (some links with Leicester here!), but was given back to King Louis Vlll in 1224.
The Cite has undergone many changes over the centuries, and it is sometimes difficult to see what is recent reconstruction and what is original. Some of the inner walls still show their Gallo-Roman origins, the Chateau Comptal (12th century) is still an impressive structure as is the double ring of walls and towers (52 of them). The original city cathedral of Saint-Nazaire contains some beautiful Medieval stained glass, and the winding streets give a good impression of what life was like when the Cite was fully inhabited.
The Bastide Saint Louis has shops, and restaurants, and many extremely old houses.......some of which are in a better state of repair than others. It warrants several hours of wandering and exploring. It's also cheaper to eat here than in the Cite restaurants and bars and the cassoulet is, I'm sure, just as good!
Carcassonne is a lovely place to visit, but will only take a couple of days to see properly. I used my 'spare' day to take the train to Narbonne , which has lots of interesting things to see (and an excellent archaeological museum).
- Pros:Stuffed with history
- Cons:Expect crowds in season
- In a nutshell:Town of two parts, both full of history
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