Take time to meander - losing yourself in the maze of alleys, streets and lanes is one of Narbonne old town´s principal pleasures. The streets wind and wander with no discernible order or object. After our strawl we rewarded ourselves with a cool glass of beer or wine for our effort! We learned that you won´t do justice to the entire city of Narbonne whenever you won´t visit other parts than just the main sights. So ... do meander, because the cluster of sights around the main square are truly beautiful, but the more secret pleasures of the hushed backstreets are just entrancing.
There are truly more than enough vibrant cultural scenes to see, like the off the beaten path Horreum way back in the Rue Rouget de Lisle and for example the Palace Garden at the back of the Palais des Archeveques. Via the pavement along the Canal du Midi, with its beautiful Les Halles, we ended up at the central square, which is probably the most important square of Narbonne. It lead to a great viewing point at the exposed ancient Via Domitia, where we could also get great views at the Narbonne Cathedral. All this may seem very though as finding your way in Narbonne might be difficult, but in really distances are short and the signs will help you in getting around. Enjoy!
Most people try to rush Narbonne on a budget so they end up missing some of the highlights in a whirlwind. The key to seeing Narbonne properly is a game plan, you must know what you want to see before setting out. Before we visited Narbonne we saw on a city map that the small town of Narbonne is divided into three areas - the historical old town, the area around Canal du Midi and the more residential area in the new part of the town. We visited the city several times, every time we hiked our way through one of the areas.
Our hikes were in the old town where the city is one huge ancient site in which we could walk for several hours. It was quite strenuous sometimes, but definitely worth while! For example we started at Cours de la République where we parked the car, made our way to Pont des Merchants and finally hiked way into the old town and it ended at the Horreum at the other side of the city centre. While most tour guides don't recommend getting lost in the alley´s, this part of Narbonne is the place to get hopelessly lost for half a day. We wondered off through mysterious and steep alleyways leading us away from the crowds. We ended up at the Palace Gardens (old garden facing the old town walls), Les Halles (old marketplace in a beautiful building), mazes of hilly backstreets and deserted gardens. The real Narbonne?
Narbonne is a city with more than 2,000 years of history. The ancient city of Colonia Narbo Martius was founded in 118 BC and its golden age began in the years later. The compact town of Narbonne is easy to get around, and the ideal place to explore on foot. Narbonne is France, and yet it is a culture unto itself. It was the capital of the ancient Roman Empire and its legacy of monuments can be admired in the streets to this day. Historical buildings to stroll around include the 14th century Narbonne Cathedral, numerous churches, a Horreum, the Cimentiére de Bourg (cemetery), a beautiful park like the Jardin de Martyrs de La Resistance and the defensive walls behind the palace reveal delights at every turn. Time to explore it!
We can honestly state that the best way to explore Narbonne is by foot and the second best way is also by foot! Besides giving you the opportunity to roam the narrow streets and the cozy squares, it is the quickest way too. If you really want to, you can cross the city in approximately 25 minutes. Remember that sometimes it might be quicker (and nicer!) to take a few short-cuts into picturesque alleys instead of following the masses of tourists. Maybe this is easy for us to say as we stayed for a longer period of time and not like most of the tourists only for one day. But even when your stay is rather short, do try to get away from the crowds and just have a 'look around'. Narbonne is simply a perfect place to walk for a few hours and pretending to know where you are.
Old fortified Abbey with a great Romanesque Church as well as a remarkable Gothic Cloister (14th century).
This is the place where monks invented the Blanquette sparkling wine in 1.531.
At around 15 kms. south of Carcassonne, take road D204-D104.
- Fax: (+33) 04 68 69 62 76
The four Cathar castles are on a rock above the village of Lastours and built at 300 m. of height.
At just 14 kms. north of Carcassonne, taking road D101.
The crowdes entering the Porte Narbonne continue straight ahead on the r. Cros-Mayrevieille or go right on the r. du Grand Puits. However, a left turn quickly leads to the Pl. Marcou. Here there is a grassy space opening to the inner ramparts. This is one of the few places where there are benches on which to sit. In the area is a fine simple Calvary Cross. It sits in the middle of the area which contained the ancient Church of St.-Sernin. Remnants of the apse remain in the defensive walls which was incorporated in it. Most curious are the Gothic windows which were let in the wall during the 14C to provide light for the dark Romanesque church
From the Place Marcou, the rue du Plo continues to a square at the tower of the same name. In the square is a large well (Le Petit Puits). All fortified cities need deep wells for water during sieges and this is the lesser one. The larger one is at the opposite end of town near the Castle. The tall tower with the stepped profile is the Tour Balthazar nearby.
Carcassonne’s well preserved fortress has been the setting for movies set in medieval times. Parts of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves were filmed here as well as parts of other movies and dramas. The citadel provides a perfect location for medieval pictures and the scenery around it is excellent.
Most visitors to Carcassonne come to see the Cité and rightly so as it's a great place to visit. However, the newer part of town - Bas Carcassonne - is also well worth seeing. There are many quiet old streets, a market in the centre and nice cafes and shops. Also, souvenirs are cheaper here than in the Cité.
On Saturday, September 23, Hans. Wim and I visited the Beautiful Cathedral in Narbonne, the CATHEDRALE ST. JUST. Laying of the first stone - 1272. The two towers, 194 feet tall and dating from 1480, provide wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.
You can wander this old town for hours (or a couple days) and never run out of things to see. After you check-out the more than 50 towers surrounding this beautiful restored Cathar citadel , you may find yourself running into the tomb of a Templar knight or sit down to eat some delicious wild boar stew at one of the several bistros. This is a terrific place to experience.
Tucked away in the Basilica de St Nazaire et St Celse, in La Cite, is this rather lovely Pieta. It dates (I think) from the 1500's, but is not noteworthy enough for me to find any written information on it in my papers. I think it is beautiful.
In the Basilica de St-Nazaire et St-Celse, tucked away fairly high on a wall, you'll find the 'Siege Stone'. It dates from the 13th century, and is an unusual and rare documentation in stone of an historical event. It's next to the tombstone of Simon De Montfort, who was gifted La Cite in the early 1200's after the successful siege (part of the Crusade against the Cathars).
This is the oldest well in La Cite (there are 22 altogether), but it would be very easy to miss (I almost did). It may well date from the Roman occupation of the site and, according to legend, the Visigoths hid their treasure from Solomon's temple in it. Strangely, the water has often been said to be unfit for human consumption!
It's easy to miss the Roman parts of La Cite if you don't know what to look for. The inner walls of La cite date from these times and, from Les Lices (the lists) you can see the evidence in some places. Look for regular rubble stone levels intersected with layers of thin red brick (classic Roman building style). The towers based on Roman building are horseshoe-shaped.