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Susielou Feb 3rd, 2012 06:20 PM

Carcassonne,amazing history.
I have 1 full day and 2 half days, it looks gorgeous, What are the must `see/do`things,
Is it as small as it appears?I`ll be there very early April.

cigalechanta Feb 3rd, 2012 06:38 PM

To me, It's must more beatiful on the approach.
Once there in day time,crowded with ugly shops but if you stay overnight, it's very special. the moon. the quietness
makes it magical.

rosemaryoz Feb 3rd, 2012 07:50 PM

I agree - it is incredibly touristed during the day, and heaps of tourist tat shops all selling the same stuff, but at night when the tourists move on, it is really atmospheric. You can do a perimter walk by night, which offers beautiful perspectives of the ramparts. Also, on the outside, there is a canal cruise (but I'm not sure if it operates in early April). We stayed just outside the gate at Hotel Mercure Porte. it was really good, free parking, excellent breakfast and an easy two minute walk into the Old Town.

julia1 Feb 3rd, 2012 09:16 PM

Carcassonne is most beautiful when seen from a distance, particularly when lit up after dark. And the old town is quite small, but lovely in the evenings after the hordes of day visitors depart. It's an interesting, though not authentic, tourist site, having been extensively restored and rebuilt in the 1800s.

KayF Feb 3rd, 2012 10:01 PM

We had a long weekend there (from London) a few years ago and loved it. There is also the lower part of the town, outside the walls, which is an easy walk and has lots of shops and places to eat. That was less touristy but the touristy aspect of Carcassone didn't bother us at all, tourists go there for a reason. We spent our time mainly walking and exploring.


madamtrashheap Feb 3rd, 2012 11:50 PM

It's true that Carcassonne is very busy with visitors especially in Summer, but you may find that in early April it's not too bad. I really enjoy my visits there, and can recommend trying Cassoulet while you're there. If you're in the upper town (Le Cite, the walled city part), there's a great place tucked around the corner from Place Marcou, in rue St Jean called Restaurant Le Marquiere - cassoulet, foie, Pigeonneau, you named it. And good prices for such a lovely place. Or try the Brasserie Le Marcou in the square - it's busy, but the Cassoulet was very good. Outside the city walls, in the lower part, try Histoire Gourmande.

Pvoyageuse Feb 3rd, 2012 11:53 PM

"It's an interesting, though not authentic, tourist site, having been extensively restored and rebuilt in the 1800s."

So is Notre Dame de Paris which was extensively restored and rebuilt by the same architect. :-))

Carlux Feb 4th, 2012 01:33 AM

I always think the best view of Carcassonne is from the autoroute, (A61) particularly going south. As you approach,you will see an 'aire' or stopping point, marked 'Cite' designed for people who do want to stop and look. We often pull in and have or sandwich there if going on to somewhere else. You see all the magical part without the touristy bits

qwovadis Feb 4th, 2012 01:41 AM

Hotel Du Chateau “Fantastic service, wonderfull staff, 10 out of 10.“ Peter, Rochford, Essex Residhotel Le Clos De La Cité “fantastic staff on check in ...

My fav always worth it to stay after tourists leave truly most magical and historic then. Stay IN the castle area far
better than the new town.

Have fun!

qwovadis Feb 4th, 2012 01:44 AM

Hotel De La Cite, Carcassonne. Hotel De La Cite is a luxurious 5-star property set in a prime location in the centre of Carcassonne. Guests of the hotel will have ...

Very best for a splurge...

Pvoyageuse Feb 4th, 2012 02:32 AM

"I always think the best view of Carcassonne is from the autoroute, (A61) particularly going south"

There is another 'aire' going north (Toulouse) called aire du Belvedere d'Auriac.

FrenchMystiqueTours Feb 4th, 2012 05:21 AM

In regards to the authenticity of Carcassonne, my Mrs. (who is one smart cookie), replied on a similar thread recently on another forum so I've cut and pasted here response from that thread. Make sure to click on the link at the end for an excellent overview of the restoration work of Viollet-le-Duc, before and after photos, virtual tours, and to learn what was the initial criticism after the restoration was completed. Here is her response:

Count me among the Carcassonne lovers. It is just magnificent and in a very beautiful region. Sure, impressive and beautiful places are somewhat spoiled by mass tourism and their plethora of tacky tourist stores selling plastic swords and their mediocre restaurants but you have to look beyond that and as others have pointed out, sometimes go outside business hours or off season to better absorb the atmosphere. I have been a few times and want to visit again as I haven't seen everything.

The history of the place is just so rich and fascinating (from the Roman times to the Cathar heresy and later wars of religion) as is the life of Viollet-le-Duc who restored the place. It also offers a great insight on the 19th century vision and taste for things medieval. Viollet-le-Duc was a genius, an absolute scholar of medieval history and architecture. Yes, some detractors say the pointy slate roofs were a feature of northern France, not southern (but he chose them based on finding slate fragments and the possibility of a historical northern influence, not based on ignorance of local architecture, it was a historian's choice as well as an architectural one). So much has been learned about the Middle-Ages from his research.

Strangely no one ever bashes Notre Dame cathedral, which was a crumbling ruin before Viollet-le-Duc started restoring it. There again he had his own interpretation but based his work on other well-preserved medieval cathedrals and the result is here for us to admire (or use as it is still a working church). A lot of ruins are romantic and I appreciate them as such (and the 'Pays Cathare' is full of them, one of the reasons I like the region so much) but restoring some of these old buildings is also just as interesting, if only for the work itself and the amount of research put into it. In Carcassonne the result is spectacular, which is why it draws millions of visitors. Just because mass tourism is annoying and tacky does not make the site less beautiful or less worthy of historic interest. This is a site built on a pre-Roman oppidum. This is not Disneyland.

And it's got the best 14th of July fireworks! Which I hope to see one day.

Here is a great link about the restoration:

iris1745 Feb 4th, 2012 05:54 AM

SusieLou; You have approached visiting this great monument in the proper manner. Remember, WE are the tourists. Having been there twice, for me it's as you suggest, the history. It is impressive approaching the castle. But it's more impressive reliving the history and staying inside. With the history of Europe thru the centuries, many places, be it cities, towns or castles, have been rebuilt. We have stayed both inside and outside the castle. I suggest staying inside. Richard A bit more on the history. You will find many links on this site.

Michael Feb 4th, 2012 07:19 AM

Carcassonne was restored by Viollet-le-Duc who had the bad habit of restoring things to their "ideal" state as he saw it. He apparently sketched the Pyrenees as they should look rather than how they were.

StCirq Feb 4th, 2012 07:29 AM

If you're interested in Carcassonne, read up on Violet-le-Duc and you'll appreciate all the flippant comments about how it's "not authentic."

That said, there aren't really any "must-sees" with regard to Carcassonne - you just go and walk around, take a tour if you want to, and make sure you've seen it all. It's all right there laid out before you; there aren't really any "must see" choices. The lower town is interesting, too, especially if you've never seen a covered market in France before.

But you don't need more than a day - if that - to see it. So allocate that extra day to something else in the area (there's lots to see and do) and move on.

FrenchMystiqueTours Feb 4th, 2012 07:38 AM

Viollet-le-Duc admitted he made mistakes and if he had it to do over again he would have done things differently. However, if he hadn't restored things to their "ideal state" there would be "no state" for us to enjoy today. Here is a quote from Viollet-le-Duc concerning the subject of restoration:

"To restore is to establish something in a complete state that may never have existed at any given time."

Could it have been done better? Yes, certainly. Was there anyone at that time who could have done it better? Certainly not. He was the first person to ever attempt such things so I believe he deserves to be cut a good deal of slack. What we know now about doing it better is absolutely the result of his research. He was relentless in learning about and researching the middle ages.

For anyone interested have a look at this blog (in French) about Viollet-le-Duc and the restoration of Pierrefonds. It sums up perfectly how I feel about Viollet-le-Duc (whom I consider a genius).

Hopefully, the era when it was considered fashionable to bash Viollet-le-Duc is coming to an end.

historytraveler Feb 4th, 2012 10:07 AM

Thank you FrenchMystiqueTours for putting Carcassonne and Viollet-le-Duc's restoration in its proper perpective. I've long been befuddled by those who seem to think it clever to bash Viollet and dismiss Carcassonne as Disney-like, a place best seen as just a drive by. A visit to Carcassonne is more than a visit to a castle and its fortifications. It's a visit to its past, its history far more interesting than any anachronistic errors.

I agree, Viollet-le-Duc did the best he could and what no one else could have done. If not for him Carcassonne today would likely be little more than a lovely pile of rocks.

StCirq Feb 4th, 2012 10:12 AM

And why is it le Mont-St-Michel, Notre Dame de Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, the Château de Vincennes, St-Sernin in Toulouse, and so many other V-l-D recreations never get "bashed?" His work extended all over France!

Pvoyageuse Feb 4th, 2012 11:12 AM

And why is it le Mont-St-Michel, Notre Dame de Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, the Château de Vincennes, St-Sernin in Toulouse, and so many other V-l-D recreations never get "bashed?" His work extended all over France!

They did get bashed as soon as 1874..... Up to the point that parts of Saint Sernin were "derestored" in 1979.

Michael Feb 4th, 2012 10:26 PM

I don't think that Viollet-le-Duc worked on the Mont St.-Michel which was a prison until 1863; at lest it is not listed as part of his opus on Wikipedia. It seems that he stopped his participation in public works with the fall on the Second Empire in 1870.

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