A Couple has Found a Romantic Corner in Carcassonne

Where Romance is in the Detail: Carcassonne

  |   France   |   21 Comments

As the sun set over the Languedoc in the south of France, the lights of the city lit up. A warm glow illuminated each and every corner of the buildings, chiseling towers and turrets, buttresses and battlements out of the pink sky. It was a lovely view, full of romance of days gone by. A reminder of times when there were no computers and no cars, no schedules and no deadlines. The illusion of personal peace, of slowing down, and of a simple life without the demands of the modern business world.

As we cuddled up on our holiday apartment’s balcony, watching the evening scene of Carcassonne unfold, we felt compelled to explore this strange and unusual city first thing in the morning. We wanted to conquer the city’s secrets, challenge its authenticity, and hopefully, catch a little bit of that romantic feel that hung over the illuminated city like a sweet promise.

Sunset view of Carcassonne

Medieval History You Can Touch

We knew that Carcassonne was a popular tourist attraction. Its medieval heritage was pristine and well preserved. Some would say, it was preserved too well, too romanticised, and not very authentic at all. Be it as it may, if you wanted to walk through a city’s streets that has the appearance of an unchanged medieval city complete with wells and cobblestones, fortifications and no cars, then Carcassonne was a good place to do so.

The medieval old town of Carcassonne was located on top of a plateau overlooking the River Aude. A strategic position, from which the lords of the city could control important trading and travel routes from the Mediterranean coast to the Pyrenees, from Aragon to France. This was why it was heavily fortified, with strong walls, towers, a castle and well-protected gates ensuring that no one was able to get in who wasn’t supposed to.

Visiting Carcassonne you need to spend some time exploring this sober aspect of the old town. Get the bigger picture and join the crowds. Walk along the outer fortifications, marvel at the ingenuity of the defence mechanisms, climb on top of the castle’s towers.

Once you’ve done all that start looking at the details.

Impressive views from the castle towers

Romance In The Detail

Because, visitor crowds aside, Carcassonne was an incredibly romantic city. For us, it started at the outset, that ridiculously beautiful evening panorama with its illuminations. And it then continued the next morning, on our walk to the old town along the banks of the happy river Aude.

The views of the Pont Vieux that stretched across the river in broad, bold strides, topped by elegant old-fashioned lantern arches.

Kids overlooking the Pont Vieux

It continued through the precinct on the foot of the plateau, the old houses with partly closed shutters and gargoyle shaped downspouts, the old water fountains. The effect of the huge fortifications as you slowly found your way up to the top, as they towered above you, and then when the gates swallowed you up as you entered the medieval city.

The music that we heard from the buskers who entertained the passers-by by trying to emulate the feeling of being in a different time. The hidden corners you explored as you strayed from the main roads and evaded the summer crowd, through silent alleys and past pretty little shops selling arts and craft.

The tiny squares that the waiters set up for lunch, the empty wire chairs and round tables, strategically placed to make the most of the shade of the ancient trees. Tempting cooking smells coming from the restaurant kitchens, lingering in the corners of hidden backyards.

The warmth of the light that fell through the oversized gothic windows of Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, casting a prism of colours onto the polished stone floors.

The stained glass windows of the cathedral

Carcassonne Is Unusual, But It’s Got Something For Everyone

Carcassonne was indeed an oddity, one that was worth seeing. It’s not an off-the-beaten-path attraction that you will have to yourself. It is packed in summer with tourists coming from all over the world, as well as local day tourists from Toulouse and other nearby cities.

It’s attractive to luxury travellers seeking a romantic stay in ancient walls. It’s great for families who like to explore the intricacies of a historic place without having to worry about car traffic or queues. It’s a fantastic stop if you would like to experience the wines and the culinary treats of the south of France in charming surroundings.

The city of Carcassonne has a lot to offer, the trick is to find your niche and to carve out a piece of the experience that you can have to yourself.

It’s easily done.

Just lose yourself a little bit in the streets and keep your eyes open for the many little details of the medieval old town. Because when you do that, Carcassonne will manage to uphold its promise of timelessness, the illusion of getting away from modern life, offering you a chance of immersing yourself with moments of complete reverie.

Lose yourself in the ancient streets of Carcassonne

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Silke Elzner

AUTHOR - Silke Elzner

Hello! My name is Silke. Happiness and Things is a travelogue about amazing European destinations and beautiful places around the world. I believe that beauty is even in the smallest things and I want to inspire you to see the world differently. Read more about it here.

  • Doreen Gordon | Nov 7, 2017 at 14:21

    I am loving the journeys I am taken on as I read the amazing descriptions of places that I can only dream about now. After reading I close my eyes and transport myself to wherever the places may be and walk the streets. I check out the quiet little cafes, take note of the views, look through windows and imagine the families sitting over dinner. As a pensioner I can no longer afford to travel from this island closest to the Antarctic and so I will continue to read and travel with you. Thank you.

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 10, 2017 at 21:57

      Dear Doreen, Thank you so much for sending me this beautiful feedback. I cannot tell you how much this has made my day. Making other people happy by taking them to far away places, and if only in their heads, is the biggest accomplishment one could hope for. I hope you will continue to follow me on my journeys and that you will find them just as exciting as this story about Carcassonne.

  • Dany | Nov 11, 2017 at 20:52

    I’m used to Medieval Italy, because I live there, but we never really think of such beautiful cities in France, as here people are obsessed “only” with Tour Eiffel. Yet Carcassonne looks like a place not only full of history, but also of romance: your pictures show it clearly! I’ve added it to our bucket list!

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 11, 2017 at 23:51

      Hi Dany, If you like medieval places than Carcassonne definitely needs to be up high on you to do list. It’s probably one of the most medieval places you can find in Europe. I hope that you will be able to see it one day 🙂

  • Kavita Favelle | Nov 11, 2017 at 20:56

    Carcassone is one of the places I’m still to visit in France but has been on my list for nearly two decades! I know, shameful, right? The historical town looks picture-perfect and as you, pristinely preserved. I think sharing views like this, beauty like this, is definitely very romantic. Perhaps I need to plan our trip as an anniversary celebration?

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 11, 2017 at 23:53

      Carcassonne would be perfect for an anniversary with the love of your life. Just picture yourself sitting on this little balcony… with a view of the moat and the castle… some fresh baguette and a good glass of Bordeaux. Perfect!

  • Paige | Nov 12, 2017 at 4:37

    Wow, this is absolutely stunning! My husband and I are planning to go to France next summer and Carcassonne now seems like the perfect destination. I love that it’s the perfect combination of history, architectural beauty and scenic river views, even if I’m not a luxury traveler… 😉

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 12, 2017 at 4:54

      Hi Paige, You don’t have to be a luxury traveller when visiting Carcassonne. In fact, we visited with the children, and luxury is something we cannot afford when we are a travelling as a family of four. I believe that the city can offer something for everyone, so I am sure you will be enchanted by its beauty just as we were.

  • Susan R | Nov 12, 2017 at 9:44

    I love your photo of the walled city at night! I haven’t yet been to Carcassonne but I’ve always wanted to. The gargoyle drainpipes are very cool.

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 12, 2017 at 19:06

      Hi Susan, Thanks for your comment. Carcassonne really is worth the trip. I hope you’ll make it one day 🙂

  • Kirstie | Nov 12, 2017 at 21:11

    Just an observation, it’s beautiful that the light is orange. It’s like there are candles or fire beneath that illuminate the walls of Carcassonne. Beautiful!

  • Nick Wheatley | Nov 13, 2017 at 9:00

    Holy smokes! Your description of Carcassonne just completely transported me there. I felt as if I was wandering across the Pont Vieux and through the medieval alleys listening to the ancient tunes of the buskers. I imagined walking into the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and being bathed in the multi-colored light from the massive stained glass windows. I could envision the detail of the gargoyle waterspouts. Splendidly written! I didn’t even need the photos to know how beautiful Carcassonne is! (but they were lovely as well)

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 13, 2017 at 18:05

      Thank you, Nick, for your lovely comment. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed this post so much. Save travels xox

  • Indrani | Nov 14, 2017 at 1:18

    It was amazing to step back in time through your post! Those medieval alleys have magic I will say 🙂
    Interiors of the cathedral is so grand and impressive!

  • Nisha | Nov 14, 2017 at 23:54

    The castle looks pretty imposing and wonderful from far. Even the stained glass in the basilica is quite nice. I have never thought of going to Carcasonne but if I ever do then this article is definitely one of the reasons 🙂 Thanks

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 15, 2017 at 1:54

      Thanks Nisha. I am sure you would love Carcassonne. Pretty inside and out. 🙂

  • Efthimis Kragaris | Nov 15, 2017 at 5:52

    Such a beautiful French city! Carcassonne looks ideal for lazy walks in the afternoon or morning visits to the castle. Combined with the French cuisine, that would be a superb trip. The gothic church looks breathtaking as well!

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 15, 2017 at 18:44

      That’s right! A lazy afternoon in the light of the setting sun… some red wine with a view… listening to the buskers… pure bliss!

  • Megan Jerrard | Nov 15, 2017 at 13:23

    Sunset in Carcassonne definitely looks as authentic and romantic as it gets. Interesting to hear that it’s so well preserved it almost doesn’t feel authentic anymore, but I can definitely see that it oozes medieval history and rich cultural heritage. Definitely sounds as though you’re transported to another time. I would love to visit – perhaps in shoulder season to try and get a head start on those tourist crowds.

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 15, 2017 at 18:46

      Oh it does feel authentic. The trouble is that Carcassonne was restored at a time when people had these overly romantic ideas about the Middle Ages. So there is some criticism that it’s more like a fairytale place than a true Medieval reconstruction. But I guess when you are not a historian you won’t see the difference.

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