Why buy in Carcassonne? French Property Location Guide

Why buy in Carcassonne? French Property Location Guide

Two for the price of one: a fairytale citadel plus a bustling bastide town makes for a medieval masterpiece, writes Karen Tait

I always find it ironic when Carcassonne’s ville basse is referred to as the new town – it was built in the 13th century! Of course, everything’s relative and in this case, it’s in the context of the stunning hilltop citadel which rises above the lower town and beautiful Aude river, and has even more ancient origins.

With its 53 towers, layered ramparts and Château Comtal, the cité looks like something out of a Disney epic. The strategic location was occupied as early as 5 BC and the inner rampart was built in 485 when Euric I was king of the Visigoths. The outer ramparts were built during the reign of Louis IX and continued by his son Philip III, who also added the Porte Narbonnaise, the only entry into the citadel by road. The city also became famous for its role in the Albigensian Crusades when it was a stronghold of the Occitan Cathars.

In 1853, after the cité had fallen into disrepair, it was restored by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

Today, it is a tourist hotspot (listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1997), especially in summer, with its cobbled streets, boutiques, restaurants and calendar of events. It has some year-round residents but the lower town is more of an everyday place, with all the shops and services you could need, as well as many more restaurants and bars. It was built as a bastide, with a beautiful central square and grid-like streets surrounding it. The St-Michel cathedral and St-Vincent church, both 13th century, have survived remarkably well, especially considering the town was burned by Edward the Black Prince in 1355 when he failed to take the citadel. The Canal du Midi cuts through the town and offers boat trips. Capital of Aude, Carcassonne is easily reached from the UK and other parts of France, with a TGV rail station and its own international airport (as well as airports at Toulouse, Béziers, Perpignan and Montpellier).

Carcassonne makes an ideal base for exploring the area, from the recreational Lac de la Cavayère just outside the city, to the multitude of Corbières and Minervois wine villages, Montagne Noire to the north, Cathar castles to the south and Mediterranean seaside resorts around an hour’s drive away.

Average property prices in Carcassonne are a reasonable €1,300/m2, which compares well to €1,740/m2 in the Aude department and €2,220/m2 in the wider Occitanie region.

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