Things to do in Carcassonne, the south of France. I must start this article by thanking my mother and boyfriend for their insights and tips. If they both weren’t so busy I would have asked one of them to write the entire thing, but in the end I settled for picking their brains.
I’ve heard a lot about Carcassonne. I read Kate Mosse’s books set in the city and so I was always curious. The walled city sounded so magical in her stories. But also, my mother visited in 2015 and her photos were to die for. My boyfriend visited in 2016 and only had good things to say.
All of this coupled with the fact that I love France and the super cheap Ryanair flights from Dublin to Carcassonne made me want to find out more about the city. So, I asked my mother, boyfriend and my French friends to give me their top tips for things to do in Carcassonne. You are in good hands
Things to do in Carcassonne – A Guide
Carcassonne is a medieval walled city in the south of France. It has 52 towers and around 3km of walls. It is essentially straight out of a fairytale, all cobble-stone paths and uneven stone buildings. Disney would be jealous. It has rich history and has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
So if you’re a history buff Carcassonne will fascinate you. Oh and if you’re more into pop-culture you’ll be delighted to know that scenes from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freemand, were shot here. I used to love that film!
The walled city of Carcassonne has been a listed UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. The peak tourist season is June – August and the town gets pretty busy. Spring or Autumn are better times to visit, but if you have to be there in summer go early in the morning or late in the evening. Now, let’s get to all the incredible things to do in Carcassonne.
What to do in Carcassonne
Canal Cruise in Carcassonne.
1 – Go Cruising
Take a barge trip along the Canal du Midi with Carcassonne cruises. You board close to the main train station. Cruises last between 1hr 30mins and 2hr 45mins. Prices start at €8.50 per adult. They even do themes cruises with regional food tastings.
2 – Medieval Jousting
There is a jousting display twice a day (3pm & 4.45pm) from the start of July to the end of August. It costs €10 per adult and I’d recommend getting there early for the best view. It’s one of the more unique things to do in Carcassonne.
3 – Shop!
Ok, so you can shop anywhere in the world, but the small boutique shops in Carcassonne are to die for. Pick up local wines, cheeses and goods for your friends back home. My mother actually picked up a gorgeous wool winter coat in Carcassonne which I borrow regularly.
4 – Grab a Crepe
Eat a crepe and have a coffee at the Creperie le Blé Noir. They serve any kind of crepe that you could possibly imagine. And really, what is a visit to the south of France without a decent crepe?! It is the #1 rated restaurant in Carcassonne according to Tripadvisor. I highly recommend that you book in advance.
5- Wine Tasting
Carcassonne is smack in the middle of the largest wine region in the world, so get your taste buds ready! There are several vineyards and wineries close to the town. You can choose to go via a tour operator or visit independently. It’s worth calling in advance to make sure that they are ready to host you. You can have a browse through the various vineyards on this site. Vin en Vacances is a local tour company that can arrange day tours if you don’t want the hassle of organising it yourself (which is what I would do).
7 – Say “Hi” to Joan of Arc
Her statue can be found in a corner of the Carcassonne Cathedral. Being one of the patron saints of France and an iconic female figure in history, she’s definitely worth a visit.
8 – Back to School
Check out the Musée de l’École in Carcassonne. There are 5 rooms holding all sorts of school-related memorabilia from 1880 to 1960s. It could be a real walk down memory lane for some people. Admission is €3.50 per adult.
9 – Check out the Markets
I’m market obsessed so this would be right up my alley. You’ll find the food market full of freash produce in Place Carnot, the central square, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. If you’re after a clothes market check out Square Gambetta on Saturday mornings.
10 – Go for a Stroll
A walk along the river Aude, at the bottom of La Cité, comes highly recommended by a Carcassonne local. An excellent way to take a break from the busy streets full of tourists.
Where to Stay near Carcassonne in the South of France
Want to see a bit more of the South of France than just one town? I totally feel you. In that case I highly recommend that you stay in one of the many gorgeous holiday villas dotted around the South of France. You can browse the different options available here.
Villas are great value for money if you’re travelling with friends or family and nearly all of them have private swimming pools. Perfect for that South of France weather. And you’ll still be within day-trip distance of Carcassonne!
You can, of course, stay within the walls of Carcassonne but there are limited options and high demand, which means high prices. Don’t like the sound of that? No, me neither.