Low cost airlines can be great for opening routes to places you may not have normally visited. One of these is the ancient city of Caracasonne in the Occitane region of France.
The city has two parts, the Cite (old town), which contains the largest medieval town in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There has been a settlement in Carcasonne since around 3500 BC, and because of it’s strategic position has been taken by everyone from the Romans, Visigoths, and Moors.
The castle was also an important hub during the crusades when infighting amongst christian sects like the Cathars and Knights Templar were rife (if you’re a history fan or have ever read any of Dan Brown or Kate Moss’ books this will make more sense).
The fortified city was demilitarised by Napoleon Bonaparte, and fell into disrepair until thankfully restoration began in the mid 1850s.
Inside the walls of the Cite the are countless artisan shops selling hand made confectionery, toy swords shields, and costumes (little visitors go crazy for them), and regional specialities. As well as fabulous well priced restaurants, with Prix Fixe 3 course menus starting from 15 euros per person.
The city is split by the River Aude, the new city still has lots of character. The main square is the Place Carnot, with a very pretty marble fountain in the centre and bars and restaurants lining the edges. A market is held there twice weekly, although I missed both due to how my flights fell.
The city seems to be busiest in July and August, and although the place is super quaint and amazing to look at, it is very quiet outside this time . We stayed in a great Air B&B, but most hotels, including those inside the old town seem well priced. We didn’t have time, but if you are driving/renting a car, you can organise visits to local vineyards within about 20 minutes of town.
If you are bit of history nerd, enjoy good restaurants and aren’t too put out that there isn’t a throbbing nightlife scene then Carcasonne is the place for you.