You’ve probably heard about the name Carcassonne due to the board game, in which the players need to build a city from scratch. But, did you know that Carcassonne is a real city, and that it is situated close to Château Cazalères?
After about a 1.5 hour car drive you will reach the famous city walls of this medieval site. These walls are what make Carcassonne into one of France’s best known hotspots. That’s no surprise, when you realize that it is one of Europe’s biggest and best preserved medieval cities. Inside of city walls is seems like nothing has changes in the last five centuries.
La Cité, or the old city, is the most famous spot in Carcassonne. As soon as you walk through the gates you can imagine yourself in another age. The site where the old city was built has been inhabited for thousands of years. The oldest traces of human presence even date to the times before Christ. Ever since, the land has been inhabited by Romans, Visigoths and Franks. Each of these peoples added new fortifications to the city, through the construction of towers, walls and trenches. In the 13th century Carcassonne became part of the French Kingdom. From that moment onwards, it became one of the most important defensive sites in the war which the King of Aragon, who was approaching from Spain. This was also the moment that La Cité got its current form, with its characteristic dual city walls, the impressive gate Porte Narbonnaise, and its many towers.
France and Spain finally made peace in the 17th century, and this peace meant that Carcassonne’s important defensive role was over. There was no money and no need for renovation, and the city deteriorated. In addition, the new Canel du Midi, which connected the Atlantic Ocean with France’s Mediterranean coast, did not run via Carcassonne. Because of this, the city could not profit from the economic benefits that the canal brought.
In the 19th century the French government decided that it was time to tear down the remnants of the old city. This idea however was met with much resistance from the French people, and the decision was overruled. Instead, the government decided, Carcassonne would be renovated to its former glory. The renovations were finished in 1879, and Carcassonne has been one of France’s biggest touristic hotspots ever since.
La Cité is one of the world’s best examples of a preserved medieval town. Nowadays you’ll find many shops, hotels and restaurants in the historic buildings. In the old Church you can enjoy the performance of Russian singers. There are many medieval shows and festivals in Carcassonne throughout the year, and if you’re there on the 14th of July, you can witness the famous fireworks. From April up to October there are daily guided tours in English.