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Every year, tourists flock to Disney’s “Magic Kingdom” and marvel at Cinderella’s iconic castle. As fun as it is to see this Florida-based attraction, it would be even more magical to step back in time and visit a real medieval citadel. What if you could walk the same ramparts as Roman legionnaires and climb the same towers as French kings? If this idea gives you goosebumps, pack your bags for Carcassonne, France. A four-hour train ride from Paris, towering above the rolling vineyards of southern France, you’ll find one of the most intact, accessible castles in Europe. With sweeping, concentric walls and 53 elegant towers, the Cité de Carcassonne is a breathtaking sight. Once an impenetrable border fortress between the kingdoms of France and Aragon, the gates now stand open to anyone curious enough to walk its cobblestone streets. In fact, you can stay in the ancient city yourself. The five-star Hotel de la Cité Carcassonne occupies a former bishop’s palace and overlooks the inner ramparts of the fortress. With medieval tapestries and gorgeous woodwork in the hotel’s interior, you’ll feel like you’re living among French royalty. Of course, if you’d prefer lodging with the
commoners, plenty of quaint bed-and-breakfasts exist just across the Aude river.
With rustic cafes, fresh crepes, and bustling crowds making their way down the twisting cobblestone streets, the surface-level experience of Carcassonne would be enticing to anyone wanting to explore the French countryside. But for those who want to delve into the history of this storied castle, grand narratives await you. Just walking the walls of Carcassonne paints a picture of the past. While the outer fortifications were built by Louis IX and Phillip III, a section of the inner wall is far older. The red brick used in this part of the construction dates back to before the existence of France itself. Roman troops first fortified the hillside town around 100 BCE, giving every stone of this site a story to tell.
If you’ve ever dreamed of experiencing medieval life for yourself, your adventure awaits in Carcassonne.
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