Visible from the road as you arrive, the medieval city of Carcassonne is perched atop a hill, dominating the modern town with its 3 kilometers of ramparts and 52 towers. The city is truly impressive! It remains today the largest fortified complex still visible in Europe and, more importantly, one that is so well-maintained and preserved.

The interior of the city is inhabited and belongs to private owners, which makes the city feel more lively and authentic despite the influx of tourists that flock there every year.

As you arrive, you will immediately travel back in time! Welcome to the era of Godefroy de Montmirail! Do you have the music in your head now? You’re welcome! 🤣

A part of the movie “The Visitors” was actually filmed in the medieval city, and you will easily recognize the scenes!

💡 The city is freely accessible and never closes, so you can stroll around day or night.

A medieval city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The city is perfectly preserved and invites you to take a journey back in time. You will need to spend an entire day exploring it and getting lost in its maze of narrow streets.

Carcassonne is the best-preserved and largest medieval city in Europe. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it now welcomes several million visitors each year. Needless to say, visiting off-season is the best decision if you can manage it.

Don’t hesitate to lose yourself in the small cobblestone streets, where you will find numerous restaurants to enjoy a good cassoulet! There are also many small shops. Although, to be honest, some sell similar souvenirs, not necessarily made in Carcassonne, you will also find local artisans and products.

What to do and visit in Carcassonne ?

First and foremost, head to the tourist office to pick up the day’s activities and a map of the city. Let’s dive into the Middle Ages!

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Le Château Comtal : Majestic witness of the medieval era in Carcassonne

We start our visit with the Château Comtal and the adjoining ramparts. If you’re visiting with children, be sure to ask for the activity booklet at the ticket office 😉

Located in the heart of the medieval city, this immense castle was built in the 12th century and is very impressive. Make sure to visit it early in the day as it closes around 4:30 PM / 5:00 PM.

  • Opening hours: 10:00 AM to 6:15 PM during the summer season
  • Admission: €9.50, free for those under 18

Travel back in time at the Medieval Camp of Carcassonne

Open all year round, this medieval camp showcases various trades from the Middle Ages. You’ll also find workshops, demonstrations, and activities. Don’t hesitate to visit the tourist office located in the medieval city to get the day’s schedule and timings.

  • Opening period: From July to the end of September
  • Admission: Free

La Maison Hantée : between legends and supernatural phenomena

Step into a 300m² old mansion where you’ll discover strange, non-violent, and non-gory phenomena. Please note, however, that the visit is not suitable for young children.

This attraction is truly unique, featuring around fifteen rooms designed like a very old 300m² mansion where strange phenomena occur. While it’s emphasized that the experience is non-violent and non-gory, it could still be unsettling for young children depending on their age. Nonetheless, it’s a must-visit for older children or adults looking for a thrilling experience!

  • Opening hours: From April to October, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Admission: €9
  • Link to their website

Le Musée de l’Inquisition : Secrets of medieval justice

Housed in a 17th-century building, the Museum of the Inquisition presents a collection of torture instruments spanning from the 12th century to the French Revolution. Scenes are depicted with mannequins, and despite the museum’s claim to be suitable for young audiences, we advise against it.

  • Opening hours: April to September, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults €10.50 / Children €9.50
  • More information on their website

Le Musée de l’École: A playful visit to understand the evolution of education

The School Museum, with its five rooms, allows you to experience the atmosphere of schools during the Third and Fourth Republics. The rooms are fully furnished and decorated with period objects.

  • Opening hours: 9:30 AM to 6:15 PM, with a closure between noon and 2:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults €4 / Children €3

Stroll around the ramparts and the city

The old town is charming with its stone houses and cobblestone streets. You’ll find plenty of tourist shops offering Castelnaudary cassoulet or medieval-themed decorations and replicas like wooden swords for children.

During peak summer months, the narrow streets can be crowded, which unfortunately might detract from their beauty. Some shops are quite lovely, but it’s true that, like in many touristy places, you’ll often find items made in China.

Walk along the Canal du Midi

Boat trips along the Canal du Midi depart from the new Carcassonne, about a 30-minute walk from the medieval city in the newer part of town. You can choose from various durations, with the shortest being 1.5 hours, and you’ll pass through several locks.

Note: You’ll be promised a magnificent view of the medieval city, and while you will indeed see it, it might be through binoculars!

Where to park when visiting Carcassonne ?

  • By car: You’ll find numerous parking lots at the entrances to the medieval city.
  • By camper van: There is a camper van area located outside the city, about a 30-minute walk along the canal. The area is quite expensive and does not offer electricity.

Where to stay in Carcassonne ?

  • Camping: The municipal campground is located right next to the camper van area, slightly more expensive but with electricity!
  • Camper van: You can stay at the camper van area or at the “Camping de la Cité,” both located nearby. Your choice will depend on price, with the area being cheaper but without access to electricity and camping facilities.
  • There are numerous accommodation options in Carcassonne within the city and its surroundings, catering to all budgets. However, during peak season, it’s advisable to book early!

What to do around Carcassonne ?

The region offers a wide range of activities, ensuring you won’t be bored!

  • Châteaux de Lastours (18km): The hiking trails here offer stunning views and are highly recommended. Of moderate difficulty, they are suitable for children but not for strollers. Over 2.5 to 3 hours, you’ll wander amidst a breathtaking panorama, moving from castle to castle. Kids love climbing, exploring castle ruins, and caves along the way!
    It’s best to embark on this hike earlier in the day to avoid unshaded areas during the heat.
  • Lake Cavayère: You can swim there from June to September. You can rent bikes and cycle around the lake, enjoy water games, and do tree climbing…
  • The Canal du Midi: Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, discover it on foot, by bike, or by boat! The canal has 63 locks and stretches over 230km!
  • The Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse: Plan for a full day as there is so much to do! There’s parking available for campervans, but arrive early!
  • Toulouse, the pink city
  • The charming village of Castelnaudary and its famous cassoulet!
  • The Abbey Cathedral of Saint-Papoul, approximately 30km away, a magnificent building dating back a millennium!

About Author

We are Sophie, Adrien, and our two adorable little ones. Passionate about travel, discovery, and gastronomy, we bought a 2007 Rapido camper van to travel differently, travel more, and introduce our children to the world. Here, we share our wonderful discoveries and tips for activities to do with children in France and beyond ! Welcome !

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