Sightseeing in Carcassonne
[ Related page: Châteaux of Carcassonne ]
Carcassonne's La Cité, a fortified medieval city, is the principal attraction here. And it's free to enter. It lends itself to wandering about, with its warren of ancient cobblestone streets peppered with souvenir shops and cafés, the latter offering, among other things, the local dish, cassoullet. There is an English-language tour of the castle and ramparts that includes a visit to the museum. There is also a tour of the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire which has gargoyles on the outside and exquisite stained glass inside.
Imaginarium and Museum of the Middle Ages
Carcassonne's other top attractions include the Imaginarium, where you can learn about the now-extinct Cathars, with interactive displays and films on the Albigensian Crusade of the Middle Ages; and the Museum of the Middle Ages which has exhibits of costumes and weapons from medieval times and is located just outside La Cité’s gates.
Saint Vincent’s Church and Square Gambetta
Among other places of interest in Carcassonne are Saint Vincent’s church which dates from the 13th century and has a unique octagonal tower with 47 bells that chime, and Square Gambetta, a beautiful public garden with a gruesome history. Of the latter it can be said that the original 19th-century gardens were completely destroyed by the Germans during World War II, who leveled all the trees and demolished the ornate fountains. However, the gardens were subsequently rebuilt and now feature a memorial sculpture dedicated to the French resistance.
Place aux Herbes
Place aux Herbes, also called Place Carnot, is yet another point of interest in Carcassonne. Here is a bustling pedestrian square that hosts a produce market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. Outdoor cafés spring up along the edges of the square and, from spring through fall, there are also live musical performances at the podium. The square is punctuated by an elaborate fountain of the sea god Neptune. Besides which, this was the site of high-profile executions by guillotine during the French Revolution.
Carcassonne's lower city, the ville basse or Bastide Saint-Louis, also holds some interest, for it has its own charms and attractions. It is also a good place to go to if you are staying in La Cité and need basic necessities from a pharmacy or grocery store, as this is a busy retail center. While Le Cité has many souvenir shops and boutiques, there are no large stores.
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