Carcassonne is a small town in the Occitaine region of southwest France, between Toulouse and the Mediterranean coast at Narbonne. The town is a port on the famous Canal du Midi, and sits beside its more famous Carcassonne Fortified City. A separate page is about the Carcassonne walled fortress.
Carcassonne is a town of about 50,000 inhabitants, tucked into a bend of the pretty Aude river, just across from the famous Carcassonne Walled City. While the fortified citadelle-city has been there, in some form or another, since pre-Roman times, Carcassonne Town was created later, in about 1250, as the lower city, by King Louis IX. Around 1680, the Canal du Midi was completed between Bordeaux and the Mediterranean, passing through Carcassonne with a locks and port.
Carcassonne town sits between the Canal and the Aude, with a neat grid of north-south and east-west streets bounded by surrounding avenues. The Carcassonne town streets are fairly narrow, pleasant for strolling, and full of shops of all kinds. There are several nice squares in the town, including the very central Place Carnot with its thrice-weekly market.
The compact, rectilinear streets make Carcassonne town easy to explore, and it has all the variety of shops you would expect from a town in the South of France. One of our favorite discoveries was this classical independent book shop (or librairie indépendante). The Mots et Cie shop is going well (2018) and has a enthusiastic client base, refreshing in this time of e-books and social media.
Carcassonne town and Carcassonne Walled City are connected by two bridges across the Aude. The "new" (modern) bridge used by road traffic is actually a replacement of an original Roman bridge. Today's "old bridge" (pont vieux) is this Medieval structure with its 12 arches, built around 1315-1320. It's still in use today, but periodic restoration work, in 1559 and 1820.
Carcassonne Walled City is across the Aude river from the town, 1 km southeast, magnificent on its low hilltop.
A walk between Carcassonne town center and the walled city is about 20 minutes, crossing by the old bridge.
The Canal du Midi passes through Carcassonne on its way between Bordeaux and the Mediterranean sea at Sête.
The canal follows around the west and north sides of the town, with a small port and locks at the north, just in front of the Gare de Carcassonne railway station.
IGN (1/25,000) #2345 E "Carcassonne"
The GR36 (Grande Randonnée) passes through the center of Carcassonne town and through part of the Carcassonne City fortress.
Area hike GR36. From the Canal du Midi locks in the center of Carcassonne town, the GR36 follows along the banks of the canal for 7 km, northeast, to the Ecluse de l'Evéque (Bishop's Locks). This makes a lovely half-day out-and-back hike from the town. At the Ecluse de l'Evéque, the Canal du Midi goes north, away from the canal, but you can extend your Canal walk by continuing along the Canal du Midi towpath.
Southeast from Carcassonne, the GR36 goes through the picturesque little town of Lagrasse, before heading south towards the Spanish border.
Canal du Midi Hikes. The Canal du Midi is famous for the beautiful paths along its length, and you can hike along it from Carcassonne. Towards the west, though, the "paths" along the canal are often town streets and though built-up areas.
Long distance GR36. The GR36 hiking trail is about 1900 km long, running north-south down the western part of France. It begins at Ouistreham (Calvados), on the English Channel, and ends of Bourg-Madam (Pyrénées-Orientales), on the Spanish border, southwest of Perpignan.
Transportation Carcassonne Town
Narbonne - Carcassonne - Toulouse - Bordeaux
This line has several trains a day, between Narbonne, Carcassonne Town, Toulouse and Bordeaux. Direct service (no train changing) is available for all of these places; or with changes for more frequent service. The rates listed are approximate only (2018).
• Narbonne - Bordeaux, 30 minutes, 16-25 euros.
• Narbonne - Toulouse, 1h25, 36-56 euros.
• Narbonne - Carcassonne, 30 minutes, 16-25 euros.
• Toulouse - Carcassonne, 50 minutes, 16-26 euros.
• Toulouse - Bordeaux, 3h30 (direct), 75-120 euros.
Carcassonne - Limoux - Quillan Train - This rail line runs south from Carcassonne to the towns of Limoux, Couiza and Quillan. The cost one-way is 1 euro! Carcassonne - Limoux is about 30 minutes. Limoux - Quillan is another 30-40 minutes.