Visiting the medieval fortified citadel at Carcassonne in the spring is the best time if you ask me. The summer is definitely the peak-season, during those months La Cité is on the must-see list for many many more people. During my visit in June, I could still discover the historic citadel at a leisurely pace. If you look further than the obvious tourist traps, you will appreciate its charm. Find out more about this beautiful walled town in part 2 of La Ramoneta’s guide to Carcassonne. (Click here for part 1).
The citadel of Carcassonne dates back a long time. Already by the third century A.D., the Romans had made a fortified town out of the pre-existing Gaulish settlement. On this visit, I entered the citadel through the main gateway: “La Porte Narbonnaise”. Small cobbled streets led me to the Saint-Nazaire Basilica. It was like stepping several centuries back in time.
The Basilique Saint-Nazaire’s origins are Roman, dating back to the twelfth century. By the end of the thirteenth century, the cathedral was enlarged in a Gothic style. In 1803, the cathedral became a church, giving its title to the Saint-Michel church situated in the Bastide on the other side of the Aude River. Nowadays you can still admire the mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
Place Auguste Pierre Pont
From the Saint-Nazaire Basilica, I continued my walk to the Place Auguste Pierre Pont. I really loved the house right on the corner where the rue du Four and rue Saint-Louis meet. You can feel history in the air. In the summer, this modest square becomes a stage for street artists. And you might even meet a real knight…
Castle of the Counts
After a short stop for an ice cream, I arrived at the citadel’s castle. As one of the biggest fortified cities in Europe, the citadel of Carcassonne couldn’t go without a proper château. Le Château Comtal was built in the thirteenth century by the Viscounts of Carcassonne. You can visit the castle by paying an entrance fee. Once inside, you can climb even higher and walk on the castle walls. With good weather, you can see as far as the Pyrenees.