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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Cité de Carcassonne is a medieval citadel located in the heart of Carcassonne, a small city in southern France. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
HistoryWhile the city of Carcassonne has been settled for over 2,000 years, the history of the citadel starts around 100 BC, when the Romans began to fortify the area which they called Carcaso. It was an especially important site due to its strategic location atop a hill on a plain between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, which allowed it to develop into a thriving trading area over time. Carcassonne remained part of the Roman Empire until the middle of the 5th century AD, when the area was taken over by the Visigoths, and officially became a part of the Kingdom of France in the mid-13th century. The French government decided to destroy the fortifications in 1849, but locals and historians started a campaign to maintain the site as a historical monument. It was restored in the late 19th century and has been a popular historic landmark ever since.
Things to DoCarcassonne is home to numerous fascinating medieval attractions, including the city’s historic castle and ramparts, as well as a beautiful basilica.
Château et Remparts de la Cité de CarcassonneThe castle and ramparts of the Cité de Carcassonne are the heart of this beautiful medieval city, which is one of the largest and best preserved fortified cities in all of Europe. It features two outer walls with an impressive 53 towers and barbicans used to protect the city from enemy attacks. Visitors to this historic site can explore the ramparts, see the castle and its round towers, drawbridge, and ditch, and learn about military architecture while viewing museum exhibits. One tower of particular interest is known as the “Inquisition Tower” due to its use for the Catholic Inquisition during the 13th century. You can explore the site on your own with or without an audio guide, or take a guided tour of the site.
Address: 1 rue Viollet-le-Duc, La Cité, 11000 Carcassonne, France
Hours: Open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 17:00 p.m. (October through March) and 18:30 p.m. (April through September).
Prices: Admission costs approximately €9 ($10) for adults and €7 ($8.05) reduced for a self-guided tour, with slightly higher prices for a guided tour or to rent an audio guide.
The Narbonne GateWhile there are several historic entrances to the Cité de Carcassonne, the most famous is probably the eastern gate, known as the Narbonne Gate. It features two large defensive towers with all kinds of special features that allowed guards to protect the city, including overhangs designed to deflect projectiles and murder holes . It is especially interesting due to its salting tub, fireplace, and water tank, which allowed the garrison to be maintained for long periods of time during attacks.
Basilique Saint NazaireThis stunning monument, known as the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse in English, is a basilica minor and a listed national monument of France. Its construction began in the 11th century after Pope Urban II visited the city and blessed the stones to be used to build it. It was the cathedral of Carcassonne until the early 19th century, when it was replaced by the nearby Carcassonne Cathedral. If you’re travelling on a budget, you have no excuse not to step inside this architectural wonder, as admission is free.
Highlights of the basilica include its beautiful stained glass windows, which depict various scenes from the life of Christ, and its large collection of sculptures throughout the church. Two of its most famous artifacts are stained glass windows featuring the Tree of Jesse and the Tree of Life, which can be found in its chapels.
Address: Place Saint Nazaire, La Cité, 11000 Carcassonne, France
EventsEach year, the fortified city of Carcassonne is home to several exciting events and festivals that should not be missed.
Festival de CarcassonneEach summer, the Festival de Carcassonne takes place in the city, featuring live performances such as theater, opera, classical music, dance, concerts, and circuses, as well as all kinds of fun cultural activities.
Carcassonne AblazeEvery year at 22:30 p.m. on July 14th, Carcassonne celebrates Bastille Day with an awe-inspiring fireworks display. Thousands of visitors attend this 25-minute long tradition each year along the Aude River and enjoy the spectacular show over the medieval city.
Féria de CarcassonneIn late August and early September, the city has a Spanish-style festival featuring all kinds of music, including salsa, flamenco; brass bands, Occitan music; tango, accordion music; and popular singers, who fill the streets with music. In addition to free concerts, the festival includes Spanish foods like paella and tapas.
Nearby AttractionsThere are several other great attractions to visit nearby, including the Pont du Gard, Les Baux-de-Provence, and cities like Toulouse, Narbonne, and Nîmes.
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Author: ehuttner. Last updated: Apr 03, 2015