The Bastide Saint-Louis and its secrets
Exploring Carcassonne, it's two towns in one!
There is, of course, the majestic Cité and its ramparts, but there's also 'The Bastide Saint-Louis', designed in 1260, also known as the ville basse or low town, which is the more modern part of Carcassonne and is home to 48,000 residents.
From the medieval Cité, you can admire the view over the Bastide, its tiled roofs and its bell towers, including the tour Saint-Vincent, which is 54 metres high.
Your adventure begins, it's just a ten-minute walk, crossing the river Aude on the Pont-Vieux bridge. After strolling through the square Gambetta, with its floral pathways and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, or fine arts museum, walk along rue de Verdun, towards place Carnot and its fountain. This is the real heart of the town. Go window shopping on rue Courtejaire as far as the Canal du Midi, Carcassonne's other UNESCO world heritage site.
You shouldn't leave without:
- Sitting in square Gambetta and enjoying a little patch of greenery
- Climbing the 232 steps in the bell tower at the Church of St Vincent for a unique view of the Bastide and the Cité
- Having a drink in place Carnot
- Going on a mini-cruise on a boat on the Canal du Midi
- Visiting the Maison des Mémoires to discover the extraordinary and tragic history of the poet
From the Cité Médiévale de Carcassonne, cross the Pont-Vieux bridge
This medieval footbridge dates from the 14th century. For a long time, it was the only link between the Bastide Saint-Louis and the Cité.
Nowadays, it is a quick route between the Cité and the ville Basse, with the river Aude beneath your feet.
The banks of the Aude and the île de la Cité
Half way between the ramparts and the Bastide, they are a haven of peace, where you can simply stroll along the water's edge or try something more athletic on the health trail, with views of the Cité! The children's playground and picnic tables complete the setting in this little natural area.
The Bastide's green entrance, the square Gambetta
Admire the square, where our Tourist Information Office can be found, with its hundreds of rosebushes in a landscaped park. With underground parking located below, it provides convenient access to the town centre.
It's a paradise for families, with its carousel from the belle époque, water mirror, bronze sculptures, and snack bar. There is also the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Free entry).
Wandering along the streets in the Bastide, look up!
Admire the architectural beauty of the 18th century mansion houses. Go back to the days of the master drapers, who, in carriages, entered these mansions, with their beautiful façades and imposing entrances.
You really must see the Hôtel de Murat and the Hôtel de Rolland (now the Town Hall), both on rue Aimé-Ramond and other mansions along rue de Verdun.
Take a break on one of the shady terraces in place Carnot
With its colourful brasseries, the red marble paving from Caunes-Minervois and the fountain of Neptune... this is where Carcassonne's heart really beats, especially on Saturday mornings, with the market for flowers, fruits, vegetables and other local produce.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can find some local producers here.
And for a 'taste of Carcassonne', stop off at the Halles Prosper-Montagné
Just a stone's throw from the square, the Halles are open from 7:00am until 1:00pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
Built in 1768, they are still home to the town's covered market, a festival of colours and flavours. Try regional produce, charcuterie, locally farmed meat and fish caught in the Mediterranean.
The Canal du Midi
Head for square André Chénier and the station, through the pedestrianised shopping area, to get to the Canal du Midi port.
Enjoy a guided cruise, with views of the Cité, with one of the two companies: Lou Gabaret or Le Cocagne (from April to October).
A visit to the Bastide would not be complete without exploring its two churches
Head for rue Albert Tomey. To the south, there is the place à la Cathédrale Saint-Michel, completely restored, as is the square. A Languedoc Gothic style church, dating from the 13th century, it became a cathedral in 1849. It has stained glass windows from the 14th century and, on its façade, a majestic 8-metre wide rose window.
On the north side of the Bastide, raise your eyes to appreciate the église St-Vincent, and its 54-metre high octagonal bell tower, home to 47 bells. It was built in the Languedoc Gothic style.
The highlight: an unrestricted, panoramic view of Carcassonne, the Cité, and the landscapes of the montagne Noire or the Cabardès. There are 232 steps to the top of the tower.
Tarif: €2.50 per adult and free for accompanied under 18s and students.
Just a stone's throw from the Canal du Midi, you can relax in the square André Chénier. It's a pleasant spot, with its Jardin des Plantes plant garden, and a play area for young children.
In the heart of the Bastide, have a serene break in the charming and mystical jardin du Calvaire. In this shady park, you can admire statues inspired by ancient times, trees and Mediterranean scents. Created at the beginning of the 19th century, on the site of the Bastion de la Tour Grosse (16th century), it is open all year round and is free of charge.
You wonder what is there to do in Carcassonne ?
Car parks in the town centre
3 underground car parks
Parking P3- Gambetta: 403 places
Parking P4 -André Chénier: 340 places
Parking P5- Jacobins: 211 places
Open from 7:30am to 8:00pm, Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sundays and public holidays.
Free parking in the town: Parking du Dôme/ Quai Bellevue/ 80 places in front of Collège le Bastion (Bd de Varsovie)/ 120 places on the corner of Bd Barbès/Bd Marcou.
Getting around on the bus
The RTCA urban network. The network runs 11 lines in the town and the surrounding areas.
For more information on timetables, visit the RCTA site.
Contact: Carcassonne Town Hall: +33 4 68 77 71 11
Open Monday to Friday, from 8:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 5:30pm (4:00pm on Fridays)