Carcassonne, known as “La Cite” is a fortified town in southern France whose important strategic position between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic led to it being inhabited since before the Ancient Roman era.
Carcassonne is believed to have first been a hill fort known as an “oppidum” created in the sixth century BC and which formed a vital link between Europe as a whole and the Iberian Peninsula.
In the first century BC, Carcassonne and the area in which it was located were incorporated into the Roman Empire and, in the third and fourth centuries, the town began taking shape with the construction of a mighty wall. This, now largely ruined, wall is still visible in Carcassonne today.
In the Visigoth era, Carcassonne was a powerful stronghold, leading to a series of construction campaigns. However, it was from the twelfth century onwards that the structure of Carcassonne really took hold, initially with the building of the Count’s Castle or “Chateau Comtal”. The medieval fortifications seen today were built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Throughout its history, Carcassonne has been considered untouchable. Even before its walls were built it was the subject of two failed sieges in the thirteenth century and, during the Hundred Years’ War, an attack was never even attempted.
It was only in the nineteenth century that Carcassonne began to suffer deterioration was it was exploited for materials. The Carcassonne seen today was reconstructed by Violett-le-Duc.
There is much to see at Carcassonne, including its incredible double fortified 3 km walls and 52 towers. There are audio guided tours of the majestic citadel and visitors can explore the cathedral, both built by the then ruling Trencavels.
Since 1997, Carcassonne has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.