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.
The bridge, Pont Vieux, is quite the attraction itself. Let’s take some closer views…
The 14th century bridge replaced a Roman bridge at the same spot and, for many years, was the only means of crossing the Aude. Pont Vieux played an important part in the ongoing construction, trade, wars and conflicts, and life of the people in and around the fortified city.
The scenic park adjacent to the bridge.
Now, let’s visit the exterior of the fortified city. In this post, there are just a few of the 53 towers. Although architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s work is considered greatly important, he has been criticized because the roofs were not finished in the same manner as they would have been in medieval times.
You may also be able to see that there are two walls surrounding the castle.
Cité de Carcassonne was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The town has another UNESCO site, Canal Du Midi, excavated in the 17th century to link the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Today, the canal is popular among tourists and boaters for a different way to see the beautiful south French countryside. If you arrive by train to Carcassonne, you can’t help noticing the canal.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who wished to visit the castle on this beautiful afternoon. This is the main entrance.
Reportedly, the fortified city of Carcassonne was the inspiration for the Disneyland Castle. You may notice a little bit of a resemblance in these photos.
The Aude Gate to the Château Comtal or Count’s Castle. Within the fortification, there are castles, châteaux, homes, businesses, and a church that I will feature on an upcoming post.
The bridge over the moat that leads to Aude Gate.
Can’t remember where this is but I liked the ornamental pine.
A busy Pont Vieux after my visit to the fortified city.
From Pont Vieux…
The peaceful Aude River and evening sky.
Murals in the new town.
One last look at the castle before saying good-bye.
I hope you enjoyed this post as I just barely covered this beautiful and amazing attraction. On my next post featuring the Cité de Carcassonne, I’ll concentrate with views inside the fortified walls. I hope you can join me.
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