Perched on a rocky hilltop and bristling with zigzag battlements, stout walls and spiky turrets, from afar the fortified city of Carcassonne looks like something out of a children’s storybook. It’s most people’s perfect idea of a medieval castle, and it’s undoubtedly an impressive sight – not to mention one of the Languedoc’s biggest tourist draws.
Sadly, the inside of La Cité, as the old walled town is now known, doesn’t quite live up to the fairy-tale facade. With over four million visitors every year, it feels depressingly devoid of any magic and mystery in summer, and the plethora of tacky souvenir shops and cheap cafes does little to contribute to the mystical atmosphere.
Time your visit for late in the day (or better still for spring and autumn) and the old town regains its medieval charm.