When planning for a visit to Carcassonne, the guidebooks tend not to give you a great deal of information beyond visiting the castle.
If you have an Ipad/Iphone I found a great resource that helped to offer more details. This tool was valuable in planning my stay in Carcassonne. I would definitely recommend it.
It comes in two flavors, the lite version (which is free!) and the full version which is $4.99
The full version offers the ability to customize tours and fully operational gps maps.
However, Carcassonne is not that big nor are there such an immense number of sights, the free version did perfectly well.
For IOS, if you run a search for Carcassonne you wont find an app by the tourist office, unfortunately. This app I used was good, clear and very usable.
If you have one place to go in Carcassonne besides the inner castle itself, go to the shop that sells swords. It is worth every euro for the price, and does not break like many other souvenirs would. Beware bringing them on airplanes however as they do not pass security very easily in carry-on luggage.
Fondest memory: I miss the time my classmates and I spent there roaming the cobbled streets and eating the ice cream that can be sold in the shops there. I think there is a certain magic to Carcassonne. Someone compared it to Disneyland, but it is more genuine and natural magic than the movies or technology could ever offer. There is one little train or horse carriage, but no carnival rides. What you experience as pleasure comes by walking and looking, not by riding.
When you bypass these unapproachable walls, the imagination draws bloody slaughters and unsuccessful attempts of aggressors to overcome defense. However anybody never tried to storm these strengthenings.
There was only one attempt when English prince - the son of Edward III passed through these territories. He burnt the bottom not strengthened city, but he did not touch the top city.
Within several centuries the city belonged to Trenkawell dynasty. During this period there were serf strengthenings and Roman basil of Sacred Nasar was built on.
As the city was on crossroads of trading ways with the Near East, the doctrine distinct from Christian extended here. It was perceived by the Catholic world as heresy. During wars the column of Carcassonne stood on the party of heretics. The city was won by crusaders in 1229. Lui Sacred ordered to destroy the city.
Then the art of fortification constructions achieved its peak. The top city became practically unapproachable. The internal ring of fortifications has in perimeter of 1100 meters. An external ring - 1500 meters.
The city garrison had 1300 persons, proceeding from following calculation: one person at each meter of an internal fortification, 20 person at each of 13 towers and 200 person at a gate. The population of the city at that moment was about 4 thousand persons.
The mediaeval walled town lies on the right bank of the River Aude and is featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
It has 52 towers and 2 rings of town walls making a total of 3 km of battlements. There is no restriction on access to this area of Carcassonne.
It is still home today to its population of approximately 120 and it boasts a large number of shops and craftsmen.
Open all year
Access to the Medieval City is free.
Built in the 17th century as a refuge of final defence, this was the residence of the Trencavel, the viscounts of Carcassonne. Guided tours, conference tours, educational activities (for young visitors). Audio guides. Access to the ramparts. Lapidary museum. Film on large screen.
October through March : 10:00am to 5:00pm April through September : 10:00am to 6:30pm
Château and ramparts (free access, film, lapidary museum and 45 minute guided tour of part of the ramparts by tourist information officers) Adults: €8.50. European Union residents under 26: free. 18-25 year-olds outside EU area: €5
Château, ramparts and 1-hour, 1 ½-hour or 2 ½-hour visit with a guide-lecturer (free access to fortifications, château, film, lapidary museum before or after the visit). Adults: €13. 18-25 year-olds: €9.
Favorite thing: While the Cite behind the main Castle was the primary safehold, the Lower Town began developing with formal foundations in 1247. The Cite and Lower Town existed as separated but conjoined towns with the spiritual and political power in the Cite while the wealth and economic power in the Lower Town. The population is decimated by the Black Plague in 1348 and then destroyed during the 100 Years War by the Black Prince in 1355. Conflicts between the two towns continued until the towns were merged in 1800.
(in the Cité itself)
28, rue de Verdun
11890 Carcassonne Cedex 9
- Tel.: (+33) (0) 4 68 10 24 30
- Fax: (+33) (0) 4 68 10 24 38
- E. mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Internet www.carcassonne-tourisme.com
Late Romanesque churches have Modillions and Early Gothic ones have Gargoyles. We think they are related. We believe that Modillions as carved heads and other figures came into existence as a training tool in stone carving for apprentices. As they were shaping the stone ribs for chapel roofs. the large rough ends served as practice material (similar to the corners on capital blocks). The intention was to chisel them off and trim the ends to a uniform appearance. Luckily the creations exceeded expectation and it became apparent that this form of finishing the ends was less demanding than creating uniform smooth ones. (Soon there must have been competitons and prizes, which explains the enormous variety figures and subjects). Such extraneous carving also took place at the bases of columns where they were occasionally left in situ because they were so attractive (look for them on the Baptistry at Pisa or in the cloisters at Monreale: lizards and such). This is actually a throwback to stone construction on the Greek Temple column drums where projections were left on them to aid in positioning and grinding the apposing faces for a snug fit and then smoothing off the projections. Thus when it came time to keep rain water from pooling and pouring down at juncture points in Gothic buildings which used a different roof structure, it was easy to visualize a Modillion rib with a grooved upper surface and a gaping (gurgling) mouth projecting outward and deflecting the water, in other words, a Gargoyle.
Fondest memory: Sculpture as art has been intertwined with stone-work construction (architecture). In fact in 1050, not far from Carcassonne, sculpture was reborn in the churches and cloisters of Moissac and Toulouse (see our Tips on this at both places) in the form of capitals, tympani and bas-reliefs. The admiration for such work persisted and was expressed at St. Nazaire. When Viollet-le-Duc was restoring the church (and later the fortifications) he became enamored of the fine Gargoyles here and immediately planned to fix those at Notre Dame in Paris which were in terrible condition. In fact the most popular ones in Paris were invented by him as imaginative creations in Gothic style.
All of the houses in Carcassonne are very old (from various centuries past). Wood plays a large part in their outside construction and many of the houses retain their fine carving. There are no guides to these works but you can find them yourself by looking beyond the tourist signs and store titles. Looking for them is just another attraction of the town and takes no effort.
Fondest memory: Underneath the layer of commercialism there is a real old town that is exciting to visit.
As said before it is mostly french spoken in carcassonne, with some hotel staff,etc speaking english but to get the most from your visit I feel you do need some of the lingo. I will definitely be brushing up on my french for my next visit.
Fondest memory: I am just back from my first visit to carcassonne. I loved it. I loved the little rabbit warren streets in the old cite, the friendly shopkeepers, who almost always said bonjour to us , and trusted us alone in their shops while they chatted outside to their neighbours. I loved the traffic free zone there on a Sunday , the quietness of it. I loved the views from the ramparts to the countryside, over the red rooftops. I loved a quiet walk along country lanes , to turn a corner and find a vinyard, and smell wine in the air. I loved the friendly waiters , taxi drivers and even the driver of the agglo bus who brought us from the airport to the cite, making jokes and trying to fool us at our stop. I loved the fairytale castle in the cite , walking around you really could believe in the princess in the tower. I can't wait to return , as I will for certain. It was such a relaxing place, rural france. But I might be a bit biased as I love travelling to france, seeing the culture, different way of life and their romantic language.
Favorite thing: La petite ville enfermée derrière ses antiques murailles a une double connotation de lieu clos : dans l'espace mais aussi dans le temps. Vieilles rues, vieilles maisons… les gravures sur bois d'Achille Rouquet, extraites de son ouvrage La Ville du passé et les dessins de Albert Robida tirés de La cité de Carcassonne s'attachent ainsi à la description d'un univers figé dans un intemporel autrefois.
Dans les années 1120, le vicomte Bernard Aton Trencavel entame la construction d'une nouvelle résidence destinée à succéder au château primitif que la tradition historique situe à proximité de l'emplacement des tours de la porte Narbonnaise.
Le palatium, ainsi désigné, est implanté sur l'extrémité occidentale de l'éperon rocheux où il s'adosse sur l'enceinte antique et sur trois de ses tours exhaussées à cette occasion. La demeure s'étend sur deux corps de bâtiment en retour d'équerre dominés par un donjon carré. L'étage, unique, est couronné d'un parapet crénelé dont les vestiges sont lisibles dans les maçonneries. Vers 1150, l'édifice est complété sur le côté nord par une chapelle castrale dédiée à Marie, conservée aujourd'hui sous la forme des vestiges de son abside. La demeure s'organise ainsi autour d'une cour centrale, refermée sans doute à l'est par une clôture légère, de type palissade.
Favorite thing: La porte Narbonnaise ouvre la place forte sur son flanc oriental. C'est un ouvrage complexe alliant aux divers dispositifs militaires les éléments de prestige et de confort. Deux hautes tours jumelles renforcées par des becs destinés à dévier les tirs des assaillants sont liées par un châtelet dans lequel est implanté le passage d'entrée que protègent une double herse et un assommoir. Dans les différents niveaux de la construction, des meurtrières assuraient les tirs frontaux et verticaux des arbalétriers. En cas de guerre, des hourds en bois maintenus par des solives fichées dans les murs pouvaient être promptement installés au-dessus de la porte et sur le couronnement des tours afin d'améliorer la défense active. L'équipement domestique, saloir, citerne, cheminées, montre que l'intention était de pouvoir maintenir longuement une garnison dans le cas d'attaques ou de sièges. Ce n'est pas seulement une construction remarquable conçue pour l'art de la guerre ; les salles qui se superposent aux différents niveaux expriment en effet les raffinements de l'architecture gothique avec le soin apporté aux fenêtres à remplage ouvertes vers la ville, aux voûtes sur croisées d'ogives et aux cheminées monumentales.
Construite pour doubler le rempart antique dans les années (1228-1245) qui suivirent la création de la sénéchaussée royale, l'enceinte extérieure court sur 1600 m sur le pourtour de la colline.
Elle est cantonnée de 3 barbacanes, de 2 échauguettes et de 14 tours circulaires pour la plupart ouvertes à la gorge afin que les ennemis ne puissent y trouver refuge.
Cette ligne de fortification est complétée par un fossé sec aménagé le long de ses murs, excepté sur les côtés que le relief escarpé protège naturellement. L'ouvrage bâti en appareil moyen de blocs de grès régulièrement taillés est couronné de créneaux et de merlons que percent d'étroites meurtrières conçues pour le tir à l'arbalète. Des logements de solives élaborés à la base du crénelage situent l'emplacement de hourds en bois que les défenseurs pouvaient promptement établir en cas de guerre.