Crowned by a Disney-esque medieval citadel and fringed by glorious rolling wine country, Carcassonne makes a perfect base for exploring the Languedoc. Delve into the history and culture of this sleepy French city on a short break to Carcassonne from Glasgow Airport.
Legend has it that the sprawling battlements and tall turrets of Carcassonne Citadel were the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and this famous hilltop fortification certainly has a fairytale feel about it. The UNESCO World Heritage site is the most visited tourist attraction in France after the Eiffel Tower, so don’t expect to have the drawbridges and cobbled lanes all to yourself. Venture out to Cathar castle Château de Lastours in the nearby Haut-Minervois, though, and you’ll be able to soak up the medieval atmosphere without interruption.
The Minervois to the north of Carcassonne and the Corbières to the south are two of the Languedoc’s finest and most prolific wine-growing areas. Tours run up to the Montagne Noire foothills and visit famous wineries such as Domaine O’Vineyards (885 avenue de la Montagne Noire) and Château de Pennautier (2 boulevard Pasteur). If you don’t fancy venturing beyond the city limits then why not try the local tipple in one of Carcassonne’s chic wine bars. Le Comptoir des Vins et Terroirs (3 rue du Comté Roger) and Le Bar à Vins (6 rue Plo) are both local favourites.
Below the imposing silhouette of La Cité is a lively modern city packed with delis and boutiques. Avoid Rue Clemenceau, the main shopping thoroughfare, and head straight for edgier Rue de Verdun. Around here you’ll find an eclectic jumble of independent stores, including interior design mecca On Dirait le Sud (15 rue Auguste Rodin) and gourmet heaven La Ferme (55 rue de Verdun). The market that takes over Place Carnot on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings is also worth a garners.