Medieval Castle at Carcassonne in twilight | Photo by Iakov Filimonov
Medieval Castle at Carcassonne in twilight | Photo by Iakov Filimonov

History abounds in la Cité de Carcassonne

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

History buffs will love visiting la Cité de Carcassonne, France. This medieval citadel has over 2,500 years of history and is surrounded by a double enclosure that stretches for 1.9 miles. It is the largest citadel with walls still completely intact. The imposing walls combined with 52 towers and four entrances make for quite the spectacle! Since 1997, this area has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is certainly worth a stop. When you look out over the fortification, you can almost see the knights fighting for their lady loves while a dragon breathes fire from a tower! While you’re there letting your imagination run wild, check out the following attractions: 

Drawbridge in Cite Carcassonne with Lady Carcas' bust | Photo by romasph 

Bust of Lady Carcas

Legend tells of a princess whose husband was lost during a battle against Charlemagne. The brave princess then fooled the conquering forces and saved her citadel. The brave leader bluffed about the circumstances of the citadel under siege and threw the last pig from the highest tower, indicating that the siege was failing because the princess was wasting livestock. Little did Charlemagne and his men know that this was their last pig! The men retreated and left the city in peace. 

Castle of the Counts

Though this castle has been renovated and rebuilt time and time again, it remains the most popular attraction within the walls. The ground floor now holds a museum with exhibits of stone crosses, statues and other items from the city. Visit the courtyard and get a good look at the various architectural styles. Fun fact: excavations still take place at the castle. What will they dig up next? 

Théâtre Jean Deschamps

This open-air theater is home to the annual performing arts festival. Each year the stages come alive with music, dancing and dramas. Both national and international performers can be found on the stage and over 250,000 visitors attend this cultural event. The next festival will take place in July of 2020. 

Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus | Photo by Juris Kraulis

Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus

Designed with Gothic-Romanesque architecture, this stunning minor basilica is Roman Catholic and a national monument. Original construction is thought to have been in the 6th century by Visigoths, though the centuries have dramatically changed the appearance. 

There are four main entrances to la Cité de Carcassonne: Porte Narbonnaise, Saint-Nazaire, d’Aude and du Bourg. Each door was intentionally designed to serve a purpose, like allow access to the city of Narbonnaise or serve as a defensive system. 


Of the 22 wells that once provided water to the citadel’s inhabitants, the great well takes the cake. It is not only the biggest but also the oldest, dating back to the 14th century. As with any medieval structure worth its salt, there is a legend that goes with the well, proclaiming that there is hidden treasure within from the Visigoths. Though no treasure has ever turned up, don’t give up hope! 

From the fascinating architecture to the intriguing legends, la Cité de Carcassonne is a history lover’s dream. Fall into a fantasy while you wander around within the walls and imagine what life was like when conquerors came calling! Rest assured that no sieges are likely to happen while you are in attendance. 


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