Carcasonne (day trip from Toulouse)
Carcasonne is an impressive castle set on a hill. It's now a towering Mont Saint-Michelle but it covers a larger area and has seen a good deal of action over the centuries.
TL;DR (too long; didn't read)
- Get to Carcasonne by train from Toulouse.
- Plan to spend about 3 hours there
- You get a better view from the driveable bridge
- Walk around the space between the inner/outer wall
- Pay 9 euro for the museum in the innermost castle (audioguide isn't really worth it)
Getting to the Castle
Carcassonne makes for a good day trip from Toulouse. The Intercities train takes roughly 45 mins, the TER takes just over an hour. I ended up taking one of each for timing's sake. The train departs from Toulouse Matabiau.
Train station to Castle
There are buses which will take you up to the Cite. Unless you have a movement disability there's no need. The walk to the base of the hill is 1.2km.
Walk out of the train station. You'll see something like this. The castle South-East of you (that's foward and to the left). Walk forward down the shopping street. When you reach Rue de Verdun take a left.There are two bridges across the Aude (river), a quaint stone pedestrian bridge and a modern bridge to accommidate cars. Take the modern bridge, you'll get a better photo-op. A slightly better angle to the castle and you'll be able to see the pedestrian bridge.
Note:Do not follow the road which runs up to the stone bridge. It is just a tourist road _and_ it doesn't lead you to the castle. At least not directly.
Head along the river past the stone bridge and take Rue Barbacane up to the foot of the hill.
March up the hill for my favorite view.
Walk around the castle between the outer and inner curtain walls. It's a nice walk and there's lots of little details to notice. You will learn a little bit more about them if you tour the keep
On the far side of the castle you'll encounter the more accessible entrance. It also has a decent view.
The town inside the inner wall is mostly just a tourist trap. Go ahead and look at the gothic church. If you've walked around the castle then you should be right on top of it. Also note that there are public restrooms just to the right of the church.
Walk the battlements and explore the restoration of the castle in the innermost keep. While the audioguide was nice, most of the same information was available on plaques and in the 11min video that plays on the second floor of the castle.
Once on the battlements you can grab a nice photo of the church. Also look out for the Pyrennes (It was too cloudy on the day I visited.)
There's a strange obsession with Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, the renevator of the site. Try and count how many times they refer to him as some sort of genius. I haven't read any of his writings (yet), but I dont' see what all the hubub is about.
Stroll back down the hill towards the train station.