Medieval Europe perfected for the 21st Century Tourist
Updated: Apr 27
Illustrious Historians from our past most likely never studied or cared for the shallow delights of Marketing. Thanks to people like Steven Speilberg at least the Jurassic age has a timeless pull factor for those of any inquisitive mind. And yet when one thinks of the hideously titled "The Dark Ages", it doesn't have quite the same ring to it as that of the Age of Discovery or even the Roaring Twenties. The marketing department clearly never made it's way to the dusty History department of Scholars who set in stone Medieval times would forever be known as "The Dark Ages". Despite this poor branding, we would not be the accomplished Europeans or even humans of planet earth without the history of the Dark Ages. Events that occurred way back then set us on the path we now find ourselves today. Those that came before us laid the foundations for the greatest civilisation ever - that of Western Civilisation.
Carcassonne in Southwestern France in the department of Aude, in the region of Occitanie, is a city that emerged during the Dark Ages influencing the path Europe took as its fortress walls were fought over. Time theorists could speculate that had events gone a different way there's a chance France would not exist and Europe may now be a Caliphate. Keen historians will tell you that so many changes of the guard happened in and around the Cité de Carcassonne, this little city is drenched in a colourful history that should be appreciated and enjoyed by all visitors to France.
For a day trip or even a weekend, Carcassonne is a destination that should be admired up close. The main draw to any visitor is the medieval fortress dating back to the Gallo-Roman period and restored by the forward-thinking theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853. It was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. However, outside the Fortress the commercial city where locals spend most of their time should not be written off. Both have their charms but one has significantly more old-world charm than the other.
To get to Carcassonne if you are not from France, I recommend flying into Carcassonne airport itself. However, the city is also very reachable if you fly to Toulouse in the west, or Perpignan in the east. Many of Europes numerous Airlines fly into one of those 3 airports - depending on where you are flying from. You are of course more than likely to be able to pick up a good deal if planned ahead. Kayak, Google Flights and Skyscanner should be the go-to websites for searching for the best flight deals. In my personal experience, my favourite place to go for European flight deals is Skyscanner. For some reason, Skyscanner works best when searching for European Flights over any of its rivals.
Upon arriving at Carcassonne Airport I would recommend exploring this part of France in your own rental car. There is a distinct lack of good public transport in this part of France. Yes, it's possible to travel from major cities via train but if you really want to get stuck into exploring the beautiful countryside it is worthwhile renting a car for your time spent in France. I am happy to recommend this car comparison website that is guaranteed to get you the best deal.
Very recently I found myself in this bright and not in any way dark city. I toured for your viewing pleasure the citadel, known as the Cité de Carcassonne. Of course, regular readers to this website will not be surprised to learn a YouTube Video from my channel The Wondering Englishman takes in the delights of Carcassonne. Do take the time to view if Carcassonne is on your bucket list. It may persuade you to take that detour next time you are driving through Southern France.
If you are considering making a weekend of it or simply think it wise to stay at least one night in the fine city of Carcassonne there are a number of options to choose from to suit all budgets. Over the years, I've had the fortune to stay in an array of hotels, apartments and various forms of accommodation while travelling. For the majority of travellers, I recommend Booking.com - yes there are hotel comparison websites such as Trivago and Kayak. However, from my years of travel experience, I've discovered both of these comparison websites do not have all the hotels, hostels and apartments listed. The reasons behind this could be some premises simply do not pay the comparison sights a fee or the reason could be something else. If you know of the reason do leave a comment below. However, I have discovered no matter what the location Booking.com will 9/10ths of the time have the most competitive deal and generally the most choice. However, if you are super keen to get the best deal- use Booking.com, Kayak, Trivago, Lastminute.com and Hotels.com in separate browser windows.
An alternative which I do recommend for your accommodation is Airbnb. The authorities still allow Airbnb in the town (it hasn't been banned just yet). I've booked a number of apartments via Airbnb. If you have not used them before (you have probably been living under a rock). But if you use this referral link you will get many Dollars, Pounds or Euros off your first booking and I'll get a very small referral kickback. I'm an Airbnb host as well as a frequent Airbnb traveller. I love Airbnb because not only does it make travelling more affordable but it also allows you to stay off the beaten track. Staying with a local or in your own cottage is far more unique than staying in a generic hotel you could find anywhere in the world. Use the map below to search for the perfect Airbnb stay within walking distance of the Medieval city of Carcassonne.
I hope you have a great time in Carcassonne France should you visit. I am not sponsored by the French Government or any Travel Group, I simply have written this post as I enjoy travelling. Please do check out this blog for more independent travel ideas and my YouTube Channel.
If any of this information has been useful to you and you fancy buying me a Coffee please do click the link below to buy me a Coffee via Ko-Fi.com. Thank you - Alex van Terheyden AKA The Wondering Englishman