The picture-perfect city of Carcassonne is a must-see on private tours of France. The country’s second-most visited tourist spot after the Tour Eiffel, the medieval La Cité citadel attracts nearly four million visitors a year.
|La Cité Citadel|
Surrounded by impressive concentric double walls and a moat, the citadel is a marvel of drawbridges, towers, basilica and a small town, which inspired Walt Disney’s The Sleeping Beauty. Visit the stunning 12th-century Château Comtal with 31 towers and stroll along the cobbled streets. If you are not fainthearted, check out the fascinating Torture museum inside the La Cite to see graphic reconstructions of torture instruments from the Middle Ages through to the French revolution. Linger on the grassy river banks below outside the citadel to admire the views over Carcassonne and the snow-capped Pyrénées on the horizon.
Most tourist stay inside the walls and never cross the river to see lower part of the city known as the the Ville Basse. Dating back to the Middle Ages it is full of charm, shops, cafés and restaurants and is certainly worth a visit. Walk across the pretty 14th-century Pont-Vieux, one of the few surviving medieval bridges in France that connects Carcassonne’s lower and upper towns. Check out the colourful busy food market that sprawls across Place Carnot in the centre of the town every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday where you can stock up on the best cheeses, charcuterie and other delicacies from the area. Stroll along Rue du Verdun wondering into tiny dusty shops and admiring the medieval buildings lining the street. Pop in to the Chapelle des Dominicaines to see the time line of the city’s history on its walls and look at the 17th-century paintings in the Church of Saint-Vincent.
|Canal du Midi|
Hop on one of the boats on the Canal du Midi that will take you on a trip through the countryside along its tree-lined banks.
Before you leave Carcassonne make sure you sample some of the delectable local dishes such as cassoulet, a meat stew with white haricot beans or duck breast.
Photos via Flickr by: Rob Glover, Thierry Llansades, Jeremy Eades.