Carcassonne skyline, France

Carcassonne skyline

Carcassonne skyline, France

Europe is known for its castles. In fact, it has so many castles that countless sit neglected and forlorn, hidden in the woods, crumbling off cliffs, overlooking dusty train tracks, forever closed for non-funded restoration projects. Many are in disrepair. Some have become hotels, private residences or galleries of modern art. Carcassonne—well, it didn’t quite follow that path. One of the most famous castles in France, and certainly one of the most well-preserved medieval castles du monde, Carcassonne is a beautiful example of what happens to a walled city and chateau that is repaired, preserved, and promoted as a tourist destination. In summer, numbers of tourists soar, so perhaps try to avoid peak season. Settlement on the hill dates back to 3500 BC, though the castle itself is from the 10th-12th centuries. It is fortified by 3m of thick stone walls, and guarded with 52 impressive towers—including one called the “Inquisition Tower,” as it once housed the 13th century Catholic Inquisition. Crowds or not, Carcassonne is one of the best examples of a castle and fortified town that this magnificent continent has to offer, and merits a visit to southern France!

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Carcassonne, France

carcassonne

Chateau de Carcassonne, France.

Carcassonne is a medieval fortification founded in the 5th century by the Visigoths (though the Romans had a fortification in the same spot dating back to 100 BC). Legend has it that it received its name from the castle châtelaine named Carcas who rang the bells at the end of a siege, thus “Carcas sona.” It is now a UNESCO site, but not only that, it is one of the most impressive and iconic castles on the continent…you can’t get much more fairytale than the Chateau de Carcassonne!