Looking for family-friendly places to visit in France outside of Paris? Carcassonne, France should be on your list! It’s a quaint little city walled inside a medieval castle and fortress. Click through to see the five reasons why you should visit Carcassonne, France!
1. It’s Been Around Since the Neolithic Ages
Located in the south of France on a hilltop, Carcassonne has been pretty much continuously occupied since Neolithic times. The Romans used it as a defensive point during the height of the Roman Empire, as did the Visigoths. Today’s Cite de Carcassonne has been around since medieval times, and walking through the pedestrian-only, cobblestone streets feels like stepping back in time. The city’s deep historical roots were acknowledged in 1997, when Carcassonne was added to the list of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
2. It’s Charmingly French
If your ideal vacation in France has you pedaling around a small French town while wearing a beret with baguettes in your wicker basket, then Carcassonne is it. You can rent electric bikes, which make conquering the hilly region much easier, through Evadeo (starting at 17 euros for 2 hours) or book a tour with a guide to explore Carcassonne and the Languedoc region, which is known for its gorgeous wine. This is the French vacation dreams are made of.
3. There’s So Much to Do Inside the City
Besides the Cite de Carcassonne, which is the main fortress inside Carcassonne, carve out time to take a boat cruise along the Canal du Midi, a picturesque series of canals along the River Aude. Inside the city, prepare yourself for lots of medieval-themed souvenir shops, some of which can be a little repetitive. Still, kids will love popping in and out of shops for handmade wooden swords and shields and princess costumes. For adults, French spice shops, lavender soaps and beautiful French linens for both the tabletop and bedroom abound.
4. Glorious French Food
Carcasssonne has no shortage of Michelin guide recommended restaurants serving traditional southern French cuisine. Don’t miss the cassoulet, a hearty casserole of beans with duck confit and/or sausage topped with crusty bread crumbs. We had ours at Table d’Alais, a cozy little bistro featuring cassoulet as its signature dish.
We especially loved Table d’Alais for its “petits gourmands” menu, which allows younger diners to sample French cuisine in smaller portions. Our Meimei had the guinea hen with a whipped carrot mousseline, which she loved so much she commented on it in the guest book at the end of the meal:
During the day, you can dine among the castle ramparts at Restaurant Adelaide. Don’t miss the foie gras, which comes in a thick slab accompanied by a crunchy salad dressed in a zesty vinaigrette.
5. There’s Something for Everyone
Because the entire city is contained within fortress walls, Carcassonne is a very accessible city from young to old. The Cite de Carcassonne regularly runs kid-friendly games and activities that are included in the ticket cost. For the truly adventurous, check out the O2 Adventure Park and its high-ropes courses.
For those who like to keep their feet on the ground, Cocoa and Grapes offers English-language chocolate and wine tastings from the Languedoc region. Alternatively, Hotel du Chateau offers cassoulet cooking classes so that you can bring the magic home with you.
Carcassonne has an international airport, with flights from major European cities. Alternatively, you can travel by train from Paris or Toulouse. We rented a car from the Toulouse airport and drove, which took about an hour.
Where to Stay
Looking for other travel tips in Europe? Check out these posts:
- A Day Out in Antwerp, Belgium
- A Day Out in Amsterdam
- A Day Out in the Hague
- All the Food You Must Eat in Athens, Greece