8 reasons why you should visit La Bastide of Carcassonne


Most people visit Carcassonne for its magnificent medieval citadel. But there is more! One beautiful sunny day, I decided to cross the Pont Vieux. This is how I discovered the Saint-Louis Bastide, situated on the left bank of the Aude River. It’s also known as the “Ville Basse” or the lower city, as it is approximately 150 meters below La Cité. And like Carcassonne’s citadel, La Bastide is a medieval town, built in 1247 under the reign of Louis IX. Here are eight reasons why you should pay La Bastide of Carcassonne a visit:

1. Pont Vieux

Via the Porte d’Aude I found my way to the Pont Vieux. There are signs everywhere, so I didn’t get lost for a change. The old bridge was constructed in the 14th century and was the only connection between Saint-Louis Bastide and the citadel until the 19th century. Nowadays the bridge is for pedestrians only, so you can wander easily into the second medieval town in Carcassonne.

Pont Vieux Carcassonne

2. Portail des Jacobins

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at La Bastide. It is small and cosy and perfectly walkable. I took my time to stroll around while admiring some of the beautiful and colourful facades. And I noticed some nice shops too, mainly on the Rue de Verdun and its surrounding side streets. From the Rue Courtejaire I walked to the Portail des Jacobins. The Bastide used to be fortified, and you can only enter through one of the four entrance gates. Le Portail des Jacobins is the only gate left. Going through the gate, I spotted a tiny remaining section of the original city wall. History still flows through the streets.


3. Saint-Michel Cathedral

Continuing my stroll, I arrived at the Saint-Michel Cathedral. Built in the 14th century, it was only recognised as a cathedral in 1803 when the Basilique Saint-Nazaire passed its title on to the Saint-Michel church. The cathedral was seriously damaged during a fire in 1849, but the architect Viollet-le-Duc came to the rescue. In the 19th century, it was Viollet-le-Duc who renovated many important French monuments like the Mont Saint-Michel and the Notre Dame in Paris. The Saint-Michel cathedral was the first monument to be renovated as part of Viollet-le-Duc’s grand oeuvre: La Cité de Carcassonne.


4. Saint-Vincent church bell tower

From the Saint-Michel cathedral I went to the Saint-Vincent church. From the outside it looks like an ordinary church, except that in this church you can go up the tower. 232 steps (don’t forget to count!) will bring you to the top of the 54 meters high bell tower. Unfortunately, it was closed when I was there (yep, it was lunchtime…), so I’m going to have to go back for that apparently amazing view overlooking the Bastide.


5. Place Carnot

All in all, I had been walking for quite a while by now and I start to feel a little hungry. What excellent timing to arrive at the Place Carnot right at this very moment. I completely understand why La Place Carnot is a favourite meeting place of the Carcassonnais: it is a lively and bustling square full of restaurants and a beautiful Neptune fountain made out of marble. I found the perfect shaded lunch spot, and, for a moment, I felt very French.

Place Carnot

6. Musée des Beaux-Arts

Last stop of the day was the Musée des Beaux-Arts at the very start of Rue de Verdun. Situated in the former Présidial, the museum’s collection consists of Occitan paintings from the 17th, 18th and 19th century as well as some faience and tapestry. You can visit the museum for free, and it is the perfect stop to cool down and soak up some culture. Reflecting my day at La Bastide I could only conclude that I should have visited it a long time ago. And I’m planning to go back for reasons 7 and 8, as I missed Les Halles (reason 7) and the Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday market on Place Carnot (reason 8). I hope this post gives you enough reasons to cross Le Pont Vieux!

Musée des Beaux-Arts
TO SEE - Towns
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