Aude (11220) Population: 575 Altitude: 108 m
Lagrasse is a very picturesque medieval fortified village in the ancient Cathar area, between Carcassonne and Narbonne.
Lagrasse is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France.
Key sites in Lagrasse are the old village, with a 14th-century covered market and cobblestone streets, a lovely 12th-century stone bridge, many medieval house and some of the ancient fortifications and, of course, the 8th-century Benedictine Lagrasse Abbey.
Most of the terrace cafés and restaurants are on the wide and shady Bvd de la Promenade that stretches along the eastern edge of the fortified old village. The few village shops are mostly located along the boulevard as well, although there are a few boutiques in the heart of the old village, at the Place de la Halle.
The narrow medieval streets of the old village are great for wandering and exploring. They're full of historical old houses, but we particularly liked the different colored shutters on some of these ancient buildings.
The large church in the center of the old village, pressed in tightly by the ancient houses, is the 14th-century Eglise St-Michel. This Romanesque Gothic style church was built between 1359 and 1398. It's tall, square bell tower is enclosed, and has an internal spiral stairway.
Ancient Covered Market
The covered market (les halles) is a lovely structure of eight stone pillars and a wood-frame and tile roof, built in 1315. The covered market sits in the center of a square bordered by medieval building and completely paved in cobblestones. Prior to 1315, the village market was located on the left bank of the Orbieu and outside the fortified walls.
Lagrasse has three bridges across the Orbieu river that separates the village from the abbey. The oldest and most picturesque is the 12th-century arched stone bridge (le pont vieux), with its cobblestone roadway and a nice view of the village from its top.
North of le pont vieux, the new bridge (le pont neuf) takes the D3 road northwest from Lagrasse towards Carcassonne. Although "new", this bridge is also a stone arched bridge, made from while stone blocks, and fits well with the medieval village. It also offers a great view of the Vieux Pont.
The third "bridge" is actually a very low dam with walkway across the river at the upstream end of the village. This makes a wide and shallow area great for wading and swimming, and is a very popular summertime place for picnicking.
• GPS: 43.09047, 2.619736
The GR36 (Grande Randonnée) hiking trail goes through Lagrasse village. Southwest and south the GR36 and variants go through the Corbières, passing through Termes, Villerouge-Termènes and eventually St-Paul-de-Fenouillet.
North, the GR36 joins with the GR77 at the Roc de l'Aigle about 11 km from Lagrasse, then goes west-northwest to Carcassonne.
A very nice local hike visits the Notre Dame de Carla chapel, 4 km (as the crow flies) west of Lagrasse. The hke shares part of the GR36 trail, and makes a loop of 15 km.
Lagrasse is a great place to plan a mid-day stop (and probably for dinner as well). On the main Boulevard de la Promenade through Lagrasse, along the edge of the Medieval old village, are several terrace cafés and restaurants. The restaurants aren't all identical; you can find different types of offerings from different restaurants, from sandwiches through salads to full meals. We had a great "onion tarte" from the La Petite Maison, which was really a chicken tart with full salad, including melon and watermelon.