Aude: 6 alternative tourist spots in Cathar Country

A man and a woman drink orange juice next to a wrought iron fence on a terrace in front of a turreted French castle

Enjoy a relaxing break and great food and drink in Aude, France - Credit: Philippe Benoist - Images Bleu Sud

Need to unwind, take a rest or just escape? Here’s our selection of places to spend a feel-good or gourmet getaway to soothe you as you sit back and forget the passage of time. 

Objective: a hassle-free combination of pleasure and discovery. 

Priorities: pampering, relaxation and gourmet delights!  

Out with the old ‘must-dos’ that you see in every tourist guide. In with a new type of tours and excursions where you can take it easy between peaceful walks and aperitifs without watching the clock. After all, this is the South, isn’t it?

Of all the tips we could give you for a perfect getaway in Cathar Country, these are the top favourites we would suggest to our friends. Treat yourself! 

The yellow stone Tour Magdala hovers at the corner of a plateau overlooking miles of Aude countryside in the South of France

Visit the Tour Magdala in Rennes-le-Chateau as part of your relaxing French holiday - Credit: Pierre Davy

1. Rennes-le-Château – Estate of Abbot Saunière 

World-famous thanks to a priest, Abbot Saunière, who endowed the village with a host of constructions and enigmas. Enigmas that even today inspire authors and researchers from around the world and even get a mention in Dan Brown’s famous novel, The Da Vinci Code. Enter into the legend by visiting the abbot’s estate, the surprising village church, and the village itself, steeped in history.

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Terra Vinea – An underground rocky cavern is purple with rows of wine barrels lit in yellow light

Terra Vinea in Portel-les-Corbières is the largest underground cellar in the South of France - Credit: terravinea

2. Terra Vinea in Portel-les-Corbières 

Imagine a vast gallery that takes you 80m into the depths of the earth! Dive into the largest underground cellar in the South of France for a journey through the history of wine, in the footsteps of the Romans through a reconstruction of a Gallo-Roman villa, and through the medieval era staged with the reconstitution of a tavern. 


A man browses the shelves in a bookshops in Montolieu, Aude, while a woman sits by a window reading her chosen book

Bibliophiles will love browsing the bookshops of Montolieu in the South of France - Credit:

3. Bargain-hunting for second-hand books in Montolieu 

Rummaging through piles of old books to find that rare gem among thousands of books of every shape, from every era and on even the most unlikely of themes. Second-hand books, ancient books, beautiful books, rare books, new books and books in English, Dutch or German… all of this can be found at the bookshops of Montolieu which, into the bargain, is a charming village.


In the French village of Lagrasse, a Roman stone bridge crosses the Orbieu river

In the French village of Lagrasse, a Roman bridge crosses the Orbieu river - Credit: Edgar de Puy - Georama

4. Exploring the village of Lagrasse 

There is, of course, the magnificent Benedictine abbey Sainte-Marie of Lagrasse, but that’s not all! The village’s narrow cobblestone streets and paths lined with plane trees invite you to peacefully enjoy a refreshing drink or visit the art and craft studios… enough to fill a whole day without a moment of boredom, but without having to rush either!


Surrounded by vines and flower pots, a waitress serves drinks terrace of the Hôtel de la Cité in Carcassonne, France

Enjoy a drink on the terrace of the Hôtel de la Cité in Carcassonne - Credit: Philippe Benoist - Images Bleu Sud

5. Carcassonne, for a moment out of time 

Overlooking the lower town, the five-star Hôtel de la Cité backs onto the rampart wall, offering a timeless moment right next to the Counts’ Castle and enchanting views over the private gardens. In an atmospheric Neo-Gothic/Art-Deco blend, enjoy a relaxing break at the spa and discover the world’s ancestral beauty traditions. Refinement is on the menu at the Michelin-starred restaurant La Barbacane. A peaceful haven in a magical setting.


Long stretches of golden vineyards produce excellent wine in Limouxin, Aude

Spend a weekend wine-tasting in the vineyards of Limouxin - Credit: Gilles Deschamps

6. A gourmet weekend to discover the food and wine of Limoux 

Concoct your own weekend programme of gourmet meals and culinary specialities (charcuterie, nougat, chocolate, etc), discovering a host of grape varieties and the wine tourism features of the Limoux region. Don’t miss the ‘Bulles & Lumières’ (bubbles & lights) tour at the Guinot cellars which have been the home of Blanquette de Limoux and Crémant de Limoux for five generations. Not forgetting to visit the Fourn family estate to taste no less than 10 vintage sparkling wines. A chance to learn about the history and production of Limoux wines, how to blend them and how to taste them. 



In Occitanie in the South of France, the department of Aude is well served by a number of transport links. You can reach us by TGV high-speed train, by plane, or by car on the motorways or other trunk roads… unless you prefer a softer mode of travel. For more information on travelling to Aude visit

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