Discover Carcassonne & Toulouse

 

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One of southern France’s ancient border regions, this area is still dotted with medieval strongholds, castles and citadels. Whereas the area’s bloody and unstable past is just a faint memory, the Dark-Age strongholds and Cathar castles still pique the imagination with fantasies of courageous knights, beautiful princesses and righteous kings. Not only is the history all-pervasive in this part of the South of France, it’s also known for its natural beauty and relaxing outdoor sports as well as its superb French and Spanish cuisine.

Legendary Carcassonne must be the best preserved and definitely best-known stronghold in this region. From the main autoroute you can get some magnificent views of this hilltop citadel with its powerful watchtowers peaking out over the rest of the city and the views of the Pyrenees in the background. More modern Toulouse is best known to be a major student city, vibrant year-round with lots of cafés, bars, restaurants and underground party scenes. Even though it’s not as close to the Mediterranean as traditional holiday destinations, its rich history and lively atmosphere make a great combination for a fun couple of days out.  

 

Things to See & Do in Carcassonne & Toulouse

Beaches and Swimming Lakes

The Carcassonne-Toulouse region is inland so it doesn't have its own sea beaches but if you're staying in a holiday villa around Carcassonne then you can easily get to the glorious sandy beaches of the Languedoc Mediterranean in under 40 minutes. The nearest beaches are around Narbonne. Narbonne Plage, Gruissan, Fleury d'Aude, Port la Nouvelle and Leucate are all excellent destinations for a beach day out. North of Narbonne are St Pierre and then on up to Béziers and even Cap d'Agde, Languedoc's biggest seaside resort.

If you don't fancy a day on the coast, there are some excellent lakes and also riverside spots. Many locals prefer rivers and lakes to the coast as the crowds are less and you can generally find a bit of shade - quite important with small children or if you don't like gently roasting out on the hot sands. There are several spots in this region where you can take a dip but be aware that, except for some lakeside beach areas during high season, these swimming locations do not have lifeguards, so take care of both yourself and less confident swimmers. Some of the best spots are:

  • Lac de Ganguise is near Belflou, just south of the A61 between Castelnaudary and Avignonet-le -Laurageais. Here you'll find also restaurant and water sports facilities, such as canoe, paddle board and pedalo hire along with a sailing club and school.
  • Lac de la Cavayère is set in a 40-acre wooded park close to Carcassonne. It has watersports equipment for hire, marked trails for walks, a beach area, and a play park.
  • Lac du Montbel is the largest lake in the area and is situated on the border between the Aude and Ariège, south-west of Limoux. You can hire pedalos and find refreshments as well as an inflatable park during high season on the Montbel side or visit the Léran side for freshly-made pizzas, cycle and water sports equipment hire.
  • Lac de Puivert is a small man-made lake 50-minutes from Carcassonne that is popular with visitors and locals. There is a lifeguard and a buvette available for food and drinks during high season.
  • Lac Saint-Bertrand is a newly-made lake located in Quillan, also 40 minutes from Carcassonne and located at the head of a gorge that leads to the Perpignan coast. During high season there is an inflatable park, a refreshment stand and paddle board hire as well as a BMX park, volleyball court and an excellent children's play park.

 

Cities, Towns & Villages

With it's own small and easily-accessible airport, Carcassonne is famous for two world heritage sites: first the 800-year-old Citadel, which overlooks the modern city below; and the Canal du Midi, which passes through the city and connects Toulouse to Narbonne and the Mediterranean coast. 

Further to the North is Toulouse: one of the powerhouses of the French economy and home to French aerospace industry. For the French the city is beloved more for its gastronomy and its rugby than its technology. As you would expect of a city of this size there are plenty of things to do, including shopping, visiting galleries and museums and parks, or just soaking up the atmosphere in one of the many cafes that line the squares in the centre. The climate of Toulouse is more temperate than further east so if you find the Med summers a tad too hot then the gentler climes of Toulouse and the Laurageais might be for you.

Castelnaudary is the biggest port between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and today, even though the haulage barges can no longer be seen, it buzzes with pleasure craft sailing along the Canal. This is a great base for exploring the Canal du Midi on foot, bike or by boat, or exploring the small but bustling town.

Heading south out of Carcassonne is the small but pretty town of Limoux, which packs a punch within the related industries of tourism and wine. Not only does it offer an exceedingly good sparkling wine which could give most champagnes a run for their money, but it is the home of the world's longest-running carnival. Famous for  sparkling wines called Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux this is a great location for wine lovers: there are many local caves to visit independently or via a local tour operator, with plenty of information about the activities on offer in the tourist information office located in the town. There's also a cinema and a bustling market.

If you're looking for somewhere for a day out, the village of Villefranche-de-Laurageais is like Toulouse in miniature.

 

Events and Festivals

As a busy tourist area there are arts, crafts, music and food festivals throughout the summer months. Here are few of our favourites.

  • The Carnival of Limoux takes place each year between January and March and is the longest-running festival in the World! There are colourful (and noisy!) processions, arts performances, and a fun, vibrant atmosphere: something to brighten up the winter months.
  • The Fete du Pré de la Fadaise at Bourg-St-Bernard is an interesting and very traditional festival that dates back to the 13th Century and takes place on Whit Monday each year.
  • The Feux d'Artifices (Fireworks) festival in Carcassonne, which takes place in old citadel during July each year. 

 

Sights and Attractions

In this area you'll find a varied range of activities, with something for everyone. 

  • Australian Park is located close to the Narbonne coast and is a safari and wildlife park featuring, as the name suggests, native Australian animals. 
  • A boat ride on the Canal du Midi provides a welcome change of pace and a break from the sun. Anyone wanting to keep up the pace can skip the boat ride and walk or cycle (bike hire is available at various points) and explore the many locks and villages along the route.
  • Space City in Toulouse is a museum/theme park devoted to space exploration. Here you can find out what it takes to be an astronaut, discover new worlds and learn more about all the different space missions and satellites currently orbiting the earth. The best things are the huge six-stories high IMAX screen and the planetarium. As it is located close to the city centre (and accessible by public transport) you can easily make a day of it, spending time at other interesting venues in the centre, such as the botanical gardens.
  • Walking tours are often best ways to view the most interesting areas of any new city. You will find experienced (and entertaining!) guides in both Toulouse and Carcassonne, and can also find many small tour companies offering special interest tours, such as the Cathar Castles and, of course, wine tours. On a walking tour of Toulouse you should expect to see the Saint-Sernin's basilica (unique Romanesque construction), the Jacobins church (renowned for its famous 13th century "palm tree column" and cloister), the “Capitole” main square, the Garonne river banks and much more!
  • The medieval city of Carcassonne is an 800-year old UNESCO heritage site that is a day out in itself. Take a guided tour or pick up a guide book and explore at your leisure. There are many shops and restaurants within the walls as well as exhibitions and "spectacles" (shows) throughout the high season.
  • Cathar Castles are a feature of this region and include Peripertuese, 

 

Find a Holiday Property in Carcassonne or Toulouse

We have a selection of holiday properties for rent in this area. Click the button below to view our range of holiday villas and other property rentals in and around Carcassonne, Toulouse, and the area known as "Cathar Country".

FIND A HOLIDAY PROPERTY IN THE CARCASSONE OR TOULOUSE AREA

 

 

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