Carcassonne Castle France

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In southern France's Languedoc region, you will find La Cite de Carcassonne - The City of Carcassonne. A magnificent medieval walled city and one of France's most famous monuments. We have mixed feelings about the walled city of Carcassonne. Admittedly, when the double-walled impenetrable fortress with its 52 watchtowers suddenly appears, it is impressive, in a Disney fairytale castle kind of way.Then, as you arrive at the site and navigate your way into the very organised, overpriced parking, you begin to realise the sheer volume of tourists you are about to encounter. You also begin to wonder if you have arrived at a film set, not a site.Carcassonne dates back to 100 Bc when Romans first fortified the hilltop. Major additions and modifications were made throughout the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries resulting in a very impressive, self-sufficient and impenetrable citadel. A city within a city. The city survived countless battles, abandonment of fortifications after the treaty of the Pyrenees and even an order of demolition by Napolean. Despite the odds, Carcassonne underwent a massive restoration project commencing in 1853.The project met with a lot of criticism. The fortified city was in such disrepair some creative licence was needed for the architectural design. Regardless, the final product has been hailed as a work of genius and given the final nod by. This is why the Disneyesque fortified city attracts nearly 4 million visitors each year. Should we have mixed feelings about such an impressive monument that attracts so many visitors? Once you come to terms with the fact this is not really a Disney castle or medieval film set and you wander into the narrow city streets, it really is very impressive. Sure, it's still touristy but it's kind of exciting to think Carcassonne is still an active, functioning city. Meander down the narrow city streets, past the souvenirs and "Ye Olde World" themed shops. Hustle through the throngs of tourists and school groups and you will stumble out of the medieval maze onto gorgeous city squares.Stylish clothes stores with hefty price tags, boutique hotels, cafe's and white linen restaurants stand side by side with postcard racks and plastic medieval weapons for sale.Here is part of our conundrum. While the city is clearly aimed at busloads of quick stop tourists spending a buck on medieval trinkets, there is also a certain style of establishment and business which appears to be aimed at the more astute, longer-term visitor. Day-trippers or locals with a long and relaxed lunch in mind.This gave us the impression La Cité de Carcassonne is much more than a tourist destination and must cater to locals and travellers alike. Perhaps there would even be a lively social scene after the buses had left for the day.Unfortunately, we think once the tourists have left there is very little activity within the walls of the medieval city, save for special events and festivals.So what would be the merit in staying within the walls at one of the quaint guesthouses or quite exclusive hotels such as Hôtel de la Cité in Carcassonne? Perhaps to have the meandering lanes to yourself for an evening, or to enjoy the silhouettes of the watchtowers against the night sky.Possibly in the peak of summer, you could stroll the lanes in the evenings and enjoy the atmosphere of restaurants and cafes brimming onto the streets. The atmosphere of a historical city that is still alive, although we are yet to hear anything to support this. Was there a vision for the future of this ancient city that has not yet been quite realised?While entry into the city is free, you must pay to enter the castle and walk the ramparts. Approx €8 per adult. This is something you really must do if you are to make the effort to visit Carcassonne.Again, you will feel you have stepped onto a film set but will soon appreciate the enormity of the walled city and what it must have been like to live during medieval times. This is an experience to bring the inner child out in us all which is why Carcassonne is one of the great attractions in France for kids. From the ramparts, you can also appreciate some very scenic views.