Tours of Carcassonne: a medieval city

Our tours of Carcassonne explore the most impressive fortified medieval town in Europe. It is just an hour’s drive east from Toulouse in the southern France. This beautiful city is the perfect place for a stopover between the Southwest and the Southeast of France. Carcassonne is also the gateway to Spain with Barcelona just one incredibly scenic TGV ride away.

Historically, the medieval city of Carcassonne is one of France’s most important cities. It is situated at the epicenter of numerous historical trade routes. The city has been occupied for over 5,000 years and has been a cultural hub for the past 2,500. In the middle of the 19th century Carcassonne was in such bad repair that it became scheduled for demolition. Fortunately it was saved by the efforts of the local mayor.

5.0
Martha
Emilie did a fantastic job of planning our 13 day trip from Avignon to Bordeaux, with time spent in Provence, Cathar Country, Basque Country, and Bordeaux. Emilie is an excellent & …
Duration
16 days
Price
US$ 3880

Castles, Caves & Coves

Region
in Loire Valley, Dordogne, Carcassonne & French Riviera

Discover French culture and history through 3 of its most representative regions: the Loire Valley, Dordogne and the Riviera, with a nice stop in Carcassonne.

Wine Tasting
Villages & Markets
Art & Museums
Duration
13 days
Price
US$ 3600

Southern France during the Middle Ages

Region
in Dordogne, Carcassonne & Provence

Enjoy France from the Middle Ages in three of the richest heritage regions in the South of France.

Heritage & History
Sceneries
Duration
13 days
Price
US$ 3320

Southern France from West to East

Region
in Basque Country, Carcassonne & Provence

This unique self-drive itinerary will have you cross the South of France from the West coast of the Basque Country to the beautiful Provence, its cicadas and lavender fields.

Wine Tasting
Heritage & History
Sceneries
Duration
10 days
Price
US$ 2940

Focus on the South West of France

Region
in Bordeaux, Basque Country & Carcassonne

From Bordeaux Unesco city and its worldwide famous vineyards, to Biarritz and St Jean de Luz mythical beach towns…feeling the fresh air in the Pyrenees foothills…ending in Carcassonne medieval town....what a program.

Wine Tasting
Villages & Markets
Sceneries
Duration
20 days
Price
US$ 4780

Traditions & Heritage of the SW of France

Region
in Bordeaux, Basque Country, Carcassonne & Dordogne

This loop from Bordeaux will take you on a journey to the South West of France: vineyards, mountains, cliff-hanging fortresses and rolling hills: you will enjoy all the diversity of this part of France.

Wine Tasting
Villages & Markets
Duration
16 days
Price
US$ 4360

From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Region
in Basque Country, Carcassonne & Provence

From the Atlantic coastline to the Mediterranean Sea – experience the South of France diversity.

Wine Tasting
Villages & Markets
Art & Museums
Duration
13 days
Price
US$ 3480

A Genuine Trip to the South West of France

Region
in Carcassonne, Basque Country & Dordogne

Explore the South West of France: its cliff hanging fortresses in the Cathar Country and Dordogne, “most beautiful villages of France” and very rich and unique gastronomy.

Heritage & History
Gourmet Experience
Sceneries
Duration
26 days
Price
US$ 6080

Self-Driving around France - from Paris to Nice

Region
in Paris, Normandy, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Provence & French Riviera

Spend about a month to travel from Paris to Nice on the French Riviera and get a real feel for France!

Wine Tasting
Heritage & History
Sceneries
Duration
26 days
Price
US$ 6120

Southern France from Bordeaux to Avignon

Region
in Bordeaux, Dordogne, Basque Country, Carcassonne & Provence

When we mention Southern France, many travelers think of Provence...but there is much more to discover between the South-West and the South-East of France. This 26 day itinerary is designed to give you a very complete tour of the South part of France, enjoying the gastronomy, heritage, wine, villages, scenic roads...everything France has to offer.

Wine Tasting
Gourmet Experience
Carcassonne Carcassonne

How to Get to Carcassonne

If you are coming from abroad, getting to Carcassonne can be a challenge (unless you are coming from Barcelona, in which case you can just get the TGV train). If you are coming from within France then the city is accessible by train or by car.

The closest airport to Carcassonne is Toulouse so this will be the most convenient international airport to fly into. From the airport, you can hop on the 45-minute train from Toulouse Matabiau station to Carcassonne. Alternatively, you can hire a car and drive from Toulouse to Carcassonne, which takes around an hour.

Carcassonne also makes an excellent stopover if you are traveling between the Dordogne and Provence. Situated almost exactly mid-way between the two, travellers can spend a day or two in Carcassonne before continuing their journey.

 

Medieval City of Carcassonne

Carcassonne Medieval City -  ©Paul Palau

 

 

The Cathar Country

Sitting at the foot of the dramatic Pyrenees Mountains, not far from the Spanish border, is Cathar Country. Cathar Country, or Pays Cathare, is the region where Cathar history and heritage was most prominent. This area includes Montségur and Carcassonne.
Cathar Country is not just famous for its history – it is one of France’s most picturesque regions. Bathed in sunlight, Cathar Country boasts medieval castles hidden behind rugged swathes of natural beauty. You are sure to be left breathless as you explore this part of France.

 

History of Carcassonne & the Cathar Country

During the 12th century in the South of France, a Christian religion different from Catholicism developed: Catharism. This new belief was based on Christianity but was very critical of Catholicism and spread like wildfire through Occitania. To thwart this new religion, Pope Innocent III decided to start a crusade against the Albigeans. This point in history is responsible for some of the magnificent cliff-hanging fortresses found on the slopes of the Pyrenees.

Take the time while you are here to explore the Perpeytuse and Quéribus fortresses. Sitting atop their own respective mounds, these ruined Cathar castles are staggering in their size and are a must-see.of cour

 

Queribus castle Carcassonne

Quéribus Cathar cliff-hanging fortress - ©Cucugan

 

Of course, if you’re really keen on fortresses then your first port of call should be the Carcassonne fortress. This is the largest fortified medieval city in Europe and never fails to impress. We will include an interesting self-guided walking tour of the town in your Carcassonne itinerary. This will show you the most important parts of the fortress and share key facts about it.

The earliest version of the fort dates back to around 500 BC. However, Carcassonne fortress has had a lot of work done since then. The city was most notably restored in 1853 by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, and later added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1997.

 

Day Trips from Carcassonne

  • Lourdes

Whilst in Carcassonne, we warmly recommend a day trip to Lourdes, which is less than 3 hours' drive away. Lourdes is one of the most popular Catholic sites on the planet. It receives around 6 million tourists and religious pilgrims every year.

  • Vineyards of the Minervois

Another fantastic day trip from Carcassonne is a visit to the vineyards of the Minervois. Drive for an hour through beautiful rural France and reward yourself at the end with a glass of world-class wine. Just make sure you have someone else to drive you home!

  • Tautavel

If you are interested in history, visit the oldest man ever found in France at the Tautavel Museum of Prehistory.

 

  • Narbonne

On the way to Tautavel you could stop in at Narbonne and explore the city’s stunning old town.

 

  • The Côte d’Argent 

One final day trip option is to head to France’s Côte d’Argent (Silver Coast). Here sand meets sea and the whole thing is drenched in sunlight. Be sure to check out the quaint towns of Collioure, Banyuls sur Mer and Port Vendres.

 

Collioure France

Collioure on the Côte d'Argent 

 

Where to Stay in Carcassonne

The great thing about Carcassonne is that it is just as impressive by night as it is by day. For this reason we have selected accommodation along the walls of the medieval fortress. Here you are perfectly positioned to make the most of the city. We always work with premium B&Bs - Chambres d'Hôtes in French - but we only share the their names with our travelers. This way they remain hidden gems!

If you would rather stay in the countryside, we have a range of properties along the Canal du Midi. This option offers guests ultimate tranquility and the chance to do some wine tasting with their host.

 

It is impossible not to fall in love with Carcassonne’s medieval charm. Travel back centuries with every step you take and witness the history that reveals itself around every corner. Our self guided tour of Carcassonne will allow you to enjoy the best of this region at your own pace. 

 

Canal du Midi Carcassonne

 Canal du Midi in Carcassonne - ©Paul Palau

 

Our Travelers’ Reviews

Sandra
My husband and I prefer to travel independently not on tours but I am getting tired of doing all of the planning. Emilie did an excellent job of planning the trip. I gave input on the type of hotels and the places that we wanted to see and she took care of the details. The hotels that she picked were outstanding. All but one day we followed her …
Wendy & Ron
We could not be happier. When we first received the guide book and brochures, we thought we would not need them, but they were invaluable! Our first stay with Florence and Phil was especially memorable but really we cannot think of a highlight because it was all wonderful. We will certainly recommend your company to anyone we know travelling to …
Earl
It's hard to know where to begin. We stumbled across France Just For You by accident when researching ideas for our three week visit to France. We made contact with Emily by email and began a conversation over the coming weeks as she planned a self-guided holiday for us, designed to fulfil our dream of staying in French b'n'bs in wine-growing …

Our Travelers’ Photos

Scott & Linda
From Australia
In Mont Saint Michel
Christina & her niece
from Australia
In the Wolves Sanctuary in Guéret
Yvette & David
from the US
on the French Riviera, near Nice
Amy
from the US
Enjoying a great view in Burgundy
Scott
From Australia
Making "chou" buns in the Loire Valley
Ann & Jim
From the US
In Amboise castle by the Loire river
Michele, Jacques, Nicole, Gaetan, Joanne & Keith
from Canada
In the Loire Valley
Bob & Naomi
From the US
In Monet's gardens in Giverny, Normandy
Deborah & Richard
from the US
On Omaha Beach, Normandy
Tonia & Peter
from Canada
at the Louvre Museum in Paris
Nancy & Paul
from Canada
On the French Riviera
Kathy & Mark
from the US
Truffle Hunting in Provence