In France, I bet you could easily guess the most popular tourist attraction. You are right if you said the Eiffel Tower, Tour Eiffel. Now you may be surprised that the second most popular attraction is not a lavish cathedral or grand museum. It is Cité de Carcassonne, the medieval fortress in the city of Carcassonne in the southern region of Languedoc-Roussillon. The impressive structure sits on top of the hill as it has for centuries. In fact, the site has a history of over 2000 years and predates Roman times.
Although, I refer to Carcassonne as a city, it looks more like a large town—quaint and laid-back. It has a population of 47,000 that swells during the tourist season. Carcassonne really consists of three sections. There is the fortified city and the adjacent “new” town. Across the River Aude is the old or lower town, La Ville Basse. While I enjoyed the old town, the main attraction is the medieval Cité de Carcassonne. It was built up over many years beginning in Roman times with the fortification completed in the 14th century during the 100 Year War. By the mid 19th century, the castle had fallen into disrepair to the point that it was set to be demolished. This caused a great outcry and eventually, the government saw the importance of the castle, not only for the region, but France itself. Cité de Carcassonne was significantly remodelled starting in 1853 by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc during an extensive operation that lasted until the late 19th century.
On a beautiful Summer’s afternoon, I was so lucky to be able to visit Cité de Carcassonne. The view of the castle from a downstream bridge over the River Aude.