Carcassonne for £100 a night: This hilltop town is rich with history, charm and delicious French delicacies
Located between Toulouse and Narbonne in South-West France, the historic city of Carcassonne is made up of the Unesco-listed, upper citadel (known as La Cité) and the lower town, the Bastide St Louis.
It’s compact, packed with heritage and home to reasonably priced local dishes.
Here’s how to visit the historic French city of Carcassonne, located between Toulouse and Narbonne, on a budget
Where to stay
Hotel Espace Cite
This small hotel is just 200 metres from the medieval city centre, and 500 metres from the Canal du Midi. A buffet breakfast (£7.40) is served daily (weather-permitting) on a terrace overlooking the city. Rooms are basic but smart and spacious, and the location makes it the perfect base from which to explore the city. Room-only doubles cost from £52 (hotel-espace-cite.fr).
When planning a trip to Carcassonne, consider a stay at Ibis Styles, where room-only doubles costs from £64
For a chain option close to the citadel, this three-star hotel is a reliable budget choice.
The hotel decor has a Middle Ages motif and rooms are comfortable, while all the major attractions are nearby. Room-only doubles cost from £64 (all.accor.com).
Hotel du Pont Vieux
Check into the Hotel du Pont Vieux, which is located close to the Old Bridge of Carcassonne, and you’ll find a roof terrace overlooking the city’s ramparts
Located close to the Old Bridge, which connects the two levels of the city, this family run three-star hotel has 19 simple but comfy rooms in a townhouse setting. The garden is a relaxed spot for breakfast, with bamboo swishing in the breeze, plus there’s a roof terrace overlooking the ramparts — ideal for a sundowner. Room-only doubles cost from £66 (hotelpontvieux.com).
This modern, four-star property, overlooking the River Aude, has a scenic roof terrace and panoramic breakfast room. Modern artwork adorns the walls and there is a casual cafe on the ground floor for coffee and checking your emails. Room-only doubles cost from £71 (all.accor.com).
What to see and do
Storm the ramparts
Carcassonne’s ancient fortifications reflect the city’s long history, from the Roman era to its medieval heyday and 19th-century renaissance
Join a 75-minute walking tour of the city from the tourist office. Tickets are priced from £11.30
Make the Unesco-listed citadel your starting point. The ancient fortifications reflect the city’s long history, from the Roman era to its medieval heyday and 19th-century renaissance. The latter was overseen by the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
Join a 75-minute walking tour (from £11.30) from the tourist office. The 12th-century Porte de l’Aude (Aude gate) makes for the ultimate selfie spot.
Taste the local produce
The covered market, Les Halles Prosper Montagné, has great produce, ranging from oysters to oreillettes (thin pastries). But the nearby streets are worth exploring, too, with deli La Ferme (laferme-carcassonne.fr) selling goats’ cheese. There’s no sign for the patisserie Fuster but you’ll see the queue. Pick up the madeleine-like petit Carcassonnais.
Pop into the Fine Arts Museum (above) on Place Gambetta for some classical art – it’s free to enter
Cross the pedestrian Old Bridge from the citadel to visit the medieval lower town, which later became the 19th-century hub for the city’s textile industry.
Pop into the Fine Arts Museum (free) on Place Gambetta for some classical art before taking a seat at Place Carnot for coffee at Le Petit Moka.
Take a boat trip
Explore the Canal du Midi, which dates from Louis XIV’s reign and stretches 150 miles from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Above is a stretch of the canal near Carcassonne
The Canal du Midi, the city’s other Unesco-listed attraction, dates from Louis XIV’s reign and stretches 150 miles from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Boat trips run from April to October, from just outside the train station. Tickets cost £8.70 (tourisme-carcassonne.fr/en/leisure-activity/the-cocagne-cruises).
Where to eat
This is a popular, easy-going place for tapas and drinks, with small plates costing around £8 to £12 each. Located within the citadel, it’s a bijou spot, so book ahead. The house speciality starter is a plate of six garlic-rich snails (set menus cost from £17). Start with an aperitif based on Cremant, a sparkling wine from Aude. It’s closed on Wednesdays (restaurant-lescargot.com).
Freaks Cafe & Cantine
The bustling brunch and lunch spot, near the tourist office in the lower town, has a daily changing menu of good-value meals, including vegetarian options. Named after a 1930s B-movie, it has a quirky, vintage-style interior and a cosy ambience. Mains cost around £15 (facebook.com/pages/ Freaks/1674217839514547).
Try cassoulet, a local stew of white beans, sausages and duck, at Compte Roger (above)
Every restaurant in Carcassonne claims to prepare the best local speciality: cassoulet, a stew of white beans, sausages and duck. But this citadel-based spot is the local’s favourite and has al-fresco dining. The cassoulet costs £22 (comteroger.com).
This small but popular brasserie on the lively Rue Trivalle is a lunch spot with an affordable set menu (£17 for two courses), including its delicious home-made cassoulet.
This street, leading to the Old Bridge, is a popular hang-out, with pavement cafes aplenty (facebook.com).