Carcassonne: UNESCO World Heritage Site
In last week’s post, I wrote about my search for flamingos and wild Camargue horses near Aigues-Mortes. I really only found the wonderful medieval fortress with ramparts that surround the town. This week I’ll take you on a journey to Carcassonne, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It is also an enormous fortress located in the Occitanie region of France, 95 kilometres south-east of Toulouse. There is some debate over whether one should even visit. Why? The crowds. The massive crowds. At times it makes visiting….unpleasant. Here’s my take.
The fortified city, La Cité, is surrounded by two massive walls and 53 towers which protected it during medieval times. Throughout its history there have been campaigns to demolish it and renovate it and in the mid-1800s, renovations began to preserve it as a historical monument. What appears today is a medieval castle children (and adults) would imagine: with a drawbridge, a moat (grassy), and towers.
Today, Carcasssonne is one of the most popular sites in France and in the summer it is packed. Really packed. If you can visit in the shoulder or off season, like I did, it will be worth it. Take a look at my pictures in this post. Not very many people, right? You’ll have a much better time wandering the cobblestone alleyways and along the ramparts off-season. While the inside of La Cité is pedestrian-only and interesting, I much prefer photos taken OUTSIDE the entire fortress rather than of the inside town. The outside walls of the fortress are absolutely stunning.
So, should you visit Carcassonne? Yes, but just be aware it could be crowded during high season. And, consider spending more time OUTSIDE of the fortress. The views are spectacular. If you decide to visit in the summer, consider visiting when it has Le Festival de Carcassonne, often held in July. It is one of the largest festivals in France and in the past there have been over 120 shows (with many being free) featuring dance, music, opera and theatre and some acts have taken place in the ancient theatre.