Castelnaudary, Aude: tourism & sightseeing
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Castelnaudary is a town in the Aude department of Languedoc-Roussillon, between Toulouse and Carcassonne. A pleasant town to explore, the most interesting part of the town for visitors centres around a large port area on the Canal du Midi called the Grand Bassin.
The section of the town around the Grand Bassin - the old 'canal port' - is scenically the most impressive part of Castelnaudary, although the rest of this pleasant yet untouristy town also deserves to be explored. The port has been awarded the 'pavillon bleu' award (also called the 'blue flag' award, this is more commonly associated with beaches than inland harbours).
Castelnaudary is an important port on the Canal du Midi and you will see lots of pleasure boats tied up here in the port: the canal is very popular with visitors taking a barge holiday in France.
France This Way comment: Castelnaudary would not usually be the centre of a holiday in France, but makes an interesting diversion - for example if you are travelling along the motorway between Touloue and Carcassonne.
The old town is centred around the Place de Verdun, historically the market place of Castelnaudary, and still a shady square surrounded by shops and cafes. The square and surrounding streets also contain some interesting and decorative 18th - 19th century grand townhouses (the Castelnaudary tourist office has a useful guide to where the best examples can be seen).
Much the most important monument here is the Collegiale Church of Saint-Michel, a substantial 13th century church originally built in the roman style of architecture popular at that time although numerous later modifications up to the 19th century have resulted in the modern structure being largely in the gothic style.
Another interesting religious monument is the Chapel Notre-Dame de la Pitié, which contains some exceptional wooden carvings depicting the life of Christ, while the building known as the Présidial was the 16th century centre of the courts in Castelnaudary (and now contains a small local museum).
A short stroll up the hill through the town is the Moulin de Cugarel. This restored 17th century windmill is well worth visiting above all because it has very far-reaching views across the countryside and a table d'orientation to explain what you are looking at.
The region around Castelnaudary once had numerous windmills (the Aude department is one of the windiest in France) and the department is now an important centre for wind produced energy using the much larger modern aeolian windmills.
Cathars: Historically Castelnaudary is said to have been the birthplace of the cathars, a religious movement popular in the south of France in the 12th century until it was brutally suppressed by the Albigensian crusade (see cathars for information). The town fell in the hands of the cathars in 1211, to be recaptured by the catholics in 1221.
Cassoulet: More importantly the town is also said to be the birthplace of cassoulet, the delicious local dish made primarily from confit de canard and white beans. Be sure to try it in a restaurant when you are travelling near Castelnaudary, it is one of the highlights of traditional French cuisine and in the town itself there are a lot of restaurants offering cassoulet on the menu.
Places to visit near Castelnaudary
Boat trips around the bassin and along the canal du midi are a very popular excursion from the town, with excursions typically lasting one - two hours.
If you take 'the long route' between Castelnaudary and Carcassonne you can visit several picturesque villages such as Revel, Saissac, Soreze and Montolieu, each with their own particular charm. The tiny village of La Pomarede, with its imposing medieval castle, also merits a détour.
Map of Castelnaudary and places nearby
Visit near Castelnaudary with France This Way reviews
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Address: Castelnaudary, Carcassonne, Languedoc-Roussillon, 11400, France || GPS: latitude 43.3192, longitude 1.95444
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Revel: recommended detour (16 km)
- Parc aux Bambous: remarkable garden (25 km)
- Jardin et parc du château de Loubens: remarkable garden (31 km)
- Limoux: recommended detour (36 km)
Market days in Castelnaudary, France
Regular market(s) are held in Castelnaudary each Monday all day. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Castelnaudary (Francais)