Carcassonne Tourist Attractions
Carcassonne, chief town of the département of Aude and the see of a bishop, lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees on an ancient route from the Atlantic up the Garonne valley and along the present-day Canal du Midi to the Mediterranean.
The town is divided into two by the river Aude: on the left bank is the Ville Basse, and high above the right bank is the old town, the Cité, the finest example of the medieval art of fortification in Europe. The town's economy is based on tourism and the rubber industry.The little market town of Carcasso, lying on the road from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, was built and fortified by the Romans in the first century B.C. In the sixth century A.D. the Visigoths erected defensive towers which still survive. In the eighth century the town was captured from the Arabs by the Franks and during the Albigensian wars it was taken by Simon de Montfort. In 1229 the town, along with the county, fell to the French crown. The stronghold was enlarged by the Counts of Carcassonne, Louis IX (St Louis) and Philip the Bold, and was considered to be impregnable. It was restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the mid 19th century.
Two bridges (one of them the 13th C Pont Vieux) lead to the Ville Basse or lower town, which is laid out on a regular grid and ringed by boulevards. The central feature is the Place Carnot, in which is the Neptune Fountain (1770). To the north is the Gothic church of St- Vincent (14th C), with an unfinished tower and a beautiful main doorway. To the south is the Cathedral of St-Michel (13th C, restored), with fine 14th C windows and a treasury.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
In Carcassonne, southeast of the Place Carnot is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which contains works by Chardin, Gamelin, Rigaud, Constant and others and a ceramic collection.
The Cité, the fortified upper town, lies at the height of the 148m/485ft. Elliptical in plan. It is surrounded by a double circuit of walls with 54 towers. The fortifications, dating in part from the Visigothic period and strengthened in 1170, by Louis IX in 1250 and by Philip the Bold in 1280, remained unscathed until the French Revolution.
There are only two entrances to Carcassonne Cité, the twin-towered Porte Narbonnaise and the Porte d'Aude. The interior is a maze of winding lanes. On the west side is the Château Comtal, originally built about 1125 and enlarged in the 13th C; it abuts on the inner circuit of walls and could be defended on its own. It now houses a museum on the history of the stronghold, with a small lapidary collection. From the battlements there are wide views.
Within the Carcasonne Cité is the former Cathedral of St-Nazaire, built between the 11th and 14th centuries and later extensively restored. The west front was once part of the Visigothic fortifications. The Gothic choir (13th-14th C) contains 22 statues, 14th-15th C windows and a number of important tombs, including that of Simon de Montfort.
This annual festival runs throughout the month of July with a wide variety of events. Everything from jazz to classical music and from modern dance to ballet is included in venues such as the Grand Théâter, the Comtal Château and the Saint Nazare Basilica.
This annual month-long festival takes place in August, when the town of Carcassonne reverts back to the Middle Ages. Residents wear period costumes and display traditional crafts in stalls set up throughout the town. The festival also includes traditional feasts and entertainment.
France has fireworks displays in all the major cities on Bastille Day (July 14).The main display is in Paris, where fireworks are held at the Trocadero near the Eiffel Tower. The other major displays are in Lyons, Marseilles and Carcassonne.
Once a separate palace, this chateau was integrated into the hilltop fortress when Caracassone became part of France. A lapidary museum contains sculptures and other objects of the region.