I have an ongoing love affair with France. The food…the language…the landscape…the wine…the pastries. Oh, the pastries!
Each time I go to France, I fall in love with this beautiful country a little more. And our trip to Carcassonne was no different.
Although we were only spending 3 days in Carcassonne, we made sure to balance rest and relaxation with exploring the local area. It’s been a very hectic summer for us (even more than usual) and this trip had been on my mind for weeks.
Some good friends of ours had already been in France for a week but due to our jam-packed schedule, we’d only managed to fit in three days towards the end of their holiday. So, landing at Toulouse airport, we picked up our tiny Fiat 500 and set off for our villa to meet our friends.
Situated in the south of France, about 90 minutes’ drive from the Spanish border and an hour from Toulouse, Carcassonne enjoys hot summers and mild winters. So, with the autumn almost upon us, this was the perfect way to round out the summer with a few final days of sunshine.
Having spent only 3 days in Carcassonne, I’m certainly no expert. However, I can tell you about some of the things we enjoyed while in the area, so read on for my recommendations and tips for spending 3 days in Carcassonne. I don’t intend this to be a suggested itinerary for how to spend 3 days in Carcassonne, but more of an overview of our trip.
Day One – Carcassonne, the Medieval City
We arrived at our villa around 1 pm and immediately dived into the pool. After relaxing for an hour or so, we freshened up and headed out to see the famous medieval city of Carcassonne.
Although smaller than I imagined, we spent an entire afternoon in Europe’s largest walled city, dreaming of days gone by and wondering what life in Carcassonne would’ve been like 1,000 years ago.
With 2,500 years of history and UNESCO World Heritage status, it’s easy to see why Carcassonne is quite the tourist trap. If you can look past the tacky souvenir shops selling plastic swords and armour, you can easily spend 2-3 hours wandering the cobble-stoned streets and narrow passageways.
I’m told that the walled city of Carcassonne is best enjoyed early in the morning before hordes of people descend. However, having spent an afternoon there in late August, I can say from our experience that, for me, it didn’t feel overwhelmingly busy.
Budget tip: For quickness, we paid for parking right outside the main entrance next to the tourist information centre, but we later found free parking (follow the Google Maps link for the location) just a short walk down the hill into lower Carcassonne.
Don’t forget to check out the controversial ‘concentric, eccentric’ art project that has transformed the ancient walls of Carcassonne into an optical illusion. Swiss artist, Felice Varini, was commissioned to create a show-stopping art piece to commemorate Carcassonne’s 20th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Love it or hate it (the jury is still out), you have to admit it’s pretty eye-catching!
Day Two – Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse
Often, the best way to get off the beaten track is to ask the locals about their favourite places and hidden gems. And with friends living in Limoux, just outside of Carcassonne, we were able to do just that.
On day two, we jumped in the car and drove two hours into the foothills of the Pyrenees to find the secluded spot we’d heard about – Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse.
Sitting snug under the medieval fortress of Peyrepertuse, Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse is the gateway to a beautiful collection of waterfalls and lagoons known as Gorges du Verdouble.
While in Duilhac, try and spot the fortress perched on top of the cliffs towering over the village. You can even hike to the castle if you’re feeling energetic.
Although, perhaps, a little difficult to find, Gorges du Verdouble was definitely worth the jaunt. During the day, the sun lights up the valley, making this a hot spot for sunbathing, swimming in the crystal clear water and generally admiring the natural beauty of the canyon.
For a bite to eat in the local area, I’d highly recommend L’Aouzine, a beautiful restaurant nestled into the trees just 2 minutes’ drive outside the town of Duilhac.
The car park at Gorges du Verdouble costs only 4 euros for the day, so make sure to bring some change. The waterfalls themselves are very accessible, just a short walk from the car park.
Day Three – Chillaxing!
I’m afraid day three doesn’t make for very good travel blog reading, as it consisted of a lazy day spent by the pool, barbequing and relaxing with friends. Sometimes, it’s good to take a step back from exploring and ‘blogging’ and just soak up the joy of being on holiday before returning to the rat-race at home.
We did head back into Carcassonne later that evening, however, to take some more pictures and see the city lit up at night. I can say it was truly beautiful to drive along with the river on one side and epic views of the illuminated city on the other. Make sure you head into Carcassonne at night to experience it from a different perspective.
On our way back to the car, we stumbled upon a tiny little truffle and wine bar that immediately made my heart swoon – Barriere Truffes L’Atelier. It was one of those places that just drew me in and I simply had to stop for a glass of wine.
With five star ratings and tons of rave reviews, it seems this tiny little bar is quite the destination for wine and truffle lovers alike. You could spend an entire evening sampling the various wines and dishes on the menu and I definitely intend on doing just that next time we visit!
Unfortunately, 3 days in Carcassonne is nowhere near long enough to enjoy all this gorgeous region has to offer. I guess we’ll have to return!