Carcassonne fortified town in the department of Aude, south-centre of France.
Carcassonne's old walled town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known in French as the Cité de Carcassone while the more expansive 'new' town around the base of the hill is the Ville Basse. The castle-village is also spelled Carcasson, Carcasonne.
The first serious defensive fortifications on the hilltop appeared in 100 BC, courtesy of the Romans, and various improvements were made by various rulers over the years, though the dramatic outer ramparts and the 'new' town were started by France's Louis IX in the 13th century.
Carcassonne was generally considered impregnable until modern weapons appeared but was in fact captured during a religious crusade by the cruel, devious and bloody Brit, Simon de Montfort, on behalf of the King of France, Philippe Augustus, in 1209.
Carcassonne has been thoroughly restored; work began in 1853.
Carcassonne's summer crowds beside the main (cost free) entry point, across a drawbridge and moat, see map below, Entrée Cité.
A map of Cité de Carcassonne.
Tourists numbering about 3 million a year enter the old city via Port Narbonnaise, amazingly free of charge. The only costs incurred in a visit will be to enter the château section (#1, picture at bottom) and take a guided walking tour of the walls, if you choose. Otherwise costs will be down to buying plastic halberds and sticky ice-creams for the kids, beers and cassoulet for parents and horse-bus rides around the walls.
Carcassonne's outer moat with the ville basse in the background.
Between the outer and inner walls/ramparts with just a handful of the 53 towers in view.
En route from the Cité to the Pont Vieux (old bridge), a celebration of the region's history.
Sadly the locals just outside the walls who are not connected with the tourist trade are generally a churlish and ill-humoured group, quite unlike most southern French people.
Carcassonne, the River Aude and the Pont Vieux (the photo at top was taken from Pont Vieux, Old Bridge).
Inside Carcassonne's walls, the barbican (defensive wall) of the Château - pay to enter.
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Map | Getting to Carcassonne