Things to do in Carcassonne


A Guide to the charming city of Carcassonne, France

Chàteau de Névian

What are the essential things to do in Carcassonne, France? Carcassonne, a charming city steeped in history, in the heart of the Languedoc region in southern France, is famous for its mediaeval city and castle. Certainly, a visit to Carcassonne would not be complete without exploring them. But with the picturesque Canal du Midi running through the town and many other interesting things to do in Carcassonne, there are plenty of reasons to spend a few days visiting. 

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a foodie, a nature lover, or someone who simply enjoys soaking in the ambience of a charming European city, Carcassonne has something special to offer. Our guide will help you choose the best things to do in Carcassonne so you don’t miss a thing.

Things to do in Carcassonne walk the ramparts

History of Carcassonne

Before getting into the must-see sights, it’s worth understanding a little of Carcassonne’s historical significance. The town dates back to Roman times when it was known as “Carcasso.” However, for the Romans, the nearby town of Narbonne was a more important centre.

Carcassonne rose to prominence during the Middle Ages when it became a stronghold for the Cathars, a religious group the Catholic Church considered heretical and who it waged a brutal crusade against. Catharism flourished in the Languedoc and eventually became the dominant religion. However, In 1209, Carcassonne was besieged by Simon de Montfort, marking a turning point in its history. It remained a strategic stronghold and residence for nobility until the 17th Century when its fortunes began to decline, eventually falling into disrepair. However, in the 19th century, a restoration project led by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc brought the city back to its former glory. 

Things to do in Carcassonne Visit the Medieval City

The Medieval City of Carcassonne: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Carcassonne’s most iconic attraction is undoubtedly its mediaeval city, La Cité. This well-preserved, walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and tops the list of visitors things to do in Carcassonne. As you stroll through its narrow cobbled streets and passageways, you are taken back in time. It’s easy to imagine knights and nobles of the mediaeval era that used to live here.

One of the best ways to begin your exploration of La Cité is by crossing the drawbridge over the moat and passing through the Porte Narbonnaise, the principal entrance. Once inside, you’ll be greeted by a labyrinth of winding streets and squares lined with charming shops, cafés, and restaurants. Here are a few things to do in Carcassonne, the mediaeval city.

Medieval city Carcassonne

Château Comtal

Dominating the cityscape, Château Comtal is a striking 12th-century castle located within the walls of La Cité. Its well-preserved fortifications and architecture provide an excellent opportunity to explore the city’s history and enjoy panoramic views of Carcassonne and its surroundings. The castle has a rich history dating back to the Roman era. Over the centuries, it was expanded and reinforced, culminating in the stunning structure we see today. A visit to the castle is an immersion in mediaeval life, offering insight into the lives of its former inhabitants.

Within the castle, you can explore its various towers, including the Tour Pinte and Tour de la Justice, each offering unique vantage points. The inner courtyard is a peaceful spot for reflection and admiring the intricate architecture.

Carcassonne Basilica of Saint-Nazaire

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Basilica of Saint-Nazaire

This Romanesque and Gothic masterpiece within the city walls is a testament to the city’s religious history. Inside, you’ll find intricate stained glass windows and a stunning rose window.

Carcassonne’s Walls & Ramparts

La Cité boasts an impressive double ring of walls and 52 watchtowers. Walking along the formidable ramparts is a must. It offers a unique perspective of the city and a panoramic view of the Mediterranean landscape and vineyards stretching beyond. The ancient border with Spain lay just south of Carcassonne.

Things to do in Carcassonne mediaeval castle

Canal du Midi: A Tranquil Escape

Leaving the mediaeval city behind, a short stroll takes you to another jewel of Carcassonne, the Canal du Midi. Visiting this UNESCO-listed canal is one of the essential things to do in Carcassonne. It is one of the most celebrated engineering achievements of the 17th century. It stretches 240 kilometres and connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. 

A leisurely walk along the canal’s banks offers a chance to witness the serene beauty of this waterway, with its old plane trees, charming bridges, and barges. Take a relaxing boat cruise along the canal and soak in the stunning countryside views or hire a boat for a couple of days. The canal also offers excellent paths for cyclists and walkers. Rent a bike or just take a leisurely stroll along the shaded towpaths.

Things to do in Carcassonne Canal du Midi
Things to do in Carcassonne take a boat trip

Bastide Saint-Louis

While the mediaeval city takes centre stage, outside the walls of La Cité are other districts worth exploring. Try Bastide Saint-Louis. Wandering through Bastide Saint-Louis, you’ll find a variety of shops, boutiques, and eateries. Place Carnot, the central square, is surrounded by bustling cafes and is an ideal spot for people watching. Here, you’ll get a taste of the more modern French lifestyle as locals gather to sip coffee or take a glass of pastis.

Other Attractions and Things to Do in Carcassonne

While the mediaeval city and the Canal du Midi are the crown jewels of Carcassonne, there are plenty of other attractions to explore and things to do in Carcassonne.

Carcassonne Cathedral

Visit the Saint Michel Cathedral, a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, located just outside the city walls.

Musée des Beaux-Arts

Art enthusiasts will appreciate the collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts at this museum.

Pont Vieux

Cross the old bridge, Pont Vieux, to access the Bastide Saint-Louis, the modern part of Carcassonne. Here, you’ll find a different ambience with a wider range of shops and restaurants.

River Aude

Enjoy a leisurely walk along the Aude River, offering serene views of the city’s towers and the medieval bridge, Pont Neuf.

Cheeses Carcassonne market

Foodie Things to Do in Carcassonne


A Taste of Culture and Cuisine

A visit to the local market is one of the absolutely must-do things to do in Carcassonne. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, Place Carnot transforms into a bustling market square where you can savour the flavours of the region. Local vendors display a vast array of produce, cheeses, meats, and artisanal products. You’ll find everything from succulent sausages to vibrant vegetables, all sourced from the nearby countryside. 

Don’t miss trying Carcassonne’s signature dish, cassoulet, a hearty casserole of white beans, various meats, and herbs. Many restaurants in town serve this delicacy.

Wine Tasting

Carcassonne is ideally located in the heart of the Languedoc wine region. This area is renowned for producing a wide variety of wines, including reds, whites, and rosés. Wine enthusiasts can’t pass up the opportunity to explore the local vineyards and indulge in wine tastings.

The vineyards surrounding Carcassonne are stunning, offering the perfect backdrop for a leisurely wine tour. Sample the renowned Minervois, Corbières, and Cabardès wines, which are distinctive to this region. Many wineries welcome visitors for tours and tastings, providing a deeper appreciation of the local wine culture.

Things to do in Carcassonne sample local wine

Seasonal Things to do in Carcassonne

Festivals & Events

Festival de Carcassonne

Held during the summer months, this renowned festival features an array of concerts, theatre performances, and artistic displays in various locations around the city. It’s an excellent opportunity to enjoy live music and entertainment against the backdrop of Carcassonne’s historic sites.

Féria de Carcassonne

A celebration of culture and traditions, this summer event showcases the best of local culture with live music and lively street parties. It’s a fascinating experience that gives you a taste of the region’s unique heritage.

Christmas Markets

Carcassonne transforms into a winter wonderland from the beginning of December to the end of the holiday season. Stroll through the festive Christmas markets, where you can shop for handmade gifts, savour delicious seasonal treats, and enjoy the enchanting holiday lights.

Practical Tips for Tourists Visiting Carcassonne


Best Time to Visit

Carcassonne is popular all year round, but the best time to visit is during the spring and early autumn when the weather is mild, and the crowds are thinner.

Getting There

Carcassonne is well-connected by train and has a small international airport with flights to various European cities.

Exploring the Walls

Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared for some uphill climbs when exploring the city walls.

Museum Pass

Consider purchasing a Carcassonne Museum Pass, which allows you to visit multiple attractions at a reduced price.


There are numerous hotels, guesthouses, and holiday rentals within and outside the city walls. It’s advisable to book in advance during peak tourist seasons. Consider renting outside the city for better value and some unique accommodation. Château de Névian, a beautifully preserved historic chateau is available for exclusive use hires. We are just a 30 minute drive from Carcassonne and ideal for a base from which to explore Carcassonne and the rest of this fascinating area of the south of France.

Renting a chateau in France with ornamental gardens