With beautiful medieval buildings, a thriving cultural calendar and surprisingly affordable property, this city of two halves has much to offer househunters seeking a year-round base.
1) Best of both worlds
Capital of the Aude department in the south of France, Carcassonne is a city of two parts, with a fairytale hilltop citadel and St-Louis ‘bastide’ or ‘ville basse’ on the other side of the Aude river. With its 52 turrets, 3km of ramparts and castle, the Unesco-listed ‘cité’ is a tourist hotspot, full of tempting restaurants and shops, the perfect backdrop for medieval re-enactments. The lower town is more of a practical place, with everything you need for daily life including supermarkets, doctors, a theatre, more restaurants and bars, weekly markets and an indoor food market. Built in the ‘bastide’ tradition, it has a large elegant square, lined with restaurants, with a fountain in the middle and surrounded by grid-like streets. Buildings that have survived since the 13th century include the St-Michel cathedral and St-Vincent church.
€120,000: Between the town centre and the river, just a short walk from both, this traditional three-bedroom house has a small courtyard and roof terrace.
2) Year-round appeal
Although the winding cobbled streets of the citadel become a lot quieter in winter, Carcassonne doesn’t shut down out of season. The lower town is a year-round location, where people of all ages and backgrounds live their lives. A city on a human scale, with pretty much everything within walking distance, it offers a thriving cultural scene and a busy events calendar. Highlights included the month-long festival in July (with 120 shows and concerts) and the ‘burning of the city’ fireworks on the citadel.
€375,000 : Three-bedroom ‘maison bourgeoise’ with garden in a village just 15 minutes from Carcassonne airport
The city is crossed by both the River Aude and the Canal du Midi. The riverbanks are the ideal place for stroll or to exercise (you’ll find outdoors gym equipment here) and is the ideal spot to watch the New Year fireworks. The canal, a feat of 17th-century engineering, has a pretty basin in the heart of the city, where you’ll find leisure boat trips on offer as well as towpaths for walking and cycling. Just outside the city, the Lac du Cavayère provides more recreational activities, with a sandy beach and huge inflatable playground in the middle of the lake. And you can be on a Mediterranean beach within an hour.
€775,000: Elegant eight-bedroom, seven-bathroom maison de maître in a central location with views of the medieval cité
4) Sunny south
Carcassonne and the surrounding area is ideal if you love warm summers but still want to experience seasons. The Aude department gets over 300 sunny days a year, with hot dry summers and cooler winters (frosts are rare), with the rainiest months being between October and May.
€585,000 : In a charming wine village 30 minutes from Carcassonne, restored seven-bedroom maison de maître currently run as a B&B
5) Home base
Carcassonne makes a great base for exploring the Languedoc region, with a wealth of natural beauty and historic sites on its doorstep. Head west and you’ll come to the vineyards of Corbières, Minervois and Fitou, with pretty villages like Minerve, Trèbes and Lagrasse with is abbey dating from the 7th century. Further on you reach the Mediterranean coast and charming city of Narbonne. To the south are the dramatic Cathar castles and the Pyrénées – you can be skiing within an hour or so’s drive of Carcassonne. North you’ll find the scenic Montagne Noir, while to the east, the charming canalside town of Castelnaudary is said to be the origin of the local dish cassoulet.
€849,900 : Maison de maître with three apartments, pool and large garden a stone’s throw from Carcassonne
6) Easy access
Flying from the UK couldn’t be easier, with a choice of airports in the area, the closest one being in Carcassonne itself! Other local airports include Toulouse, Béziers, Perpignan and Montpellier. If you’d rather drive, the area is well served by motorways, and there are high-speed trains from Paris.
€449,000: Three apartments with period features such as marble fireplaces and wooden floors in the heart of the bastide
7) Affordable properties
When it comes to property, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Carcassonne. The town itself offers elegant bourgeois apartments, typical terraced town houses and more modern villas on the outskirts, and then there’s a wide range of village and country homes in the surrounding area. And the good news is they offer great value for money, with an average price of €1,300/m2 in Carcassonne itself and €1,740/m2 in the Aude department, considerably less than the wider Occitanie region at €2,220/m2.
€233,200: Three-bedroom penthouse apartment with roof terrace in the heart of town
Looking to buy in Carcassonne?
You can find more Properties for sale in Carcassonne on FrancePropertyShop.com
Lead photo credit : Shutterstock Alexey Fedorenko