France is an all year round destination offering something for everyone. When we think of winter in France, we generally think of skiing in the Alps or the Pyrenees. But, there is so much more to this fascinating country at this time of the year. If you are a lover of myths and enchanting stories then the perfect place to visit in the winter would be Carcassonne in Languedoc as well as some other incredible towns in the area.
Carcassonne is the world famous medieval citadel seen for miles from the motorways taking you down to the Pyrenees. Some say that Carcassonne was Walt Disney’s inspiration for the creation of Sleeping Beauty. From a distance it is breath-taking, but once there, inside the Citadel, your spirits will be lifted by the magic of this magnificent place. Carcassonne was also the inspiration for Kate Mosse’s best-selling book “Labyrinth” – a story revolving around an ancient grail.
Carcassonne at Christmas
From early December until early January, Carcassonne’s magic is at its best as it comes alive with festivities for the Christmas period. There are twinkling lights everywhere, concerts, street entertainment, an ice rink, Christmas market and a wonderfully festive atmosphere. The celebrations take place in the Citadel as well as in the ancient city centre of Bastide Saint Louis at the base of the old city.
What else to see near Carcassonne
Hiring a car is a good idea as not too far from Carcassonne are two other enchanting towns. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is approximately a two hour drive from Carcassonne. It was once a fishing village built on an island in the heart of the beautiful Camargue region of France where you will see stunning white horses running wild. According to local legend, after the resurrection of Christ, Mary Magdalene and several disciples were forced to flee the holy land in 45 AD. They arrived in Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer and it is said Mary Magdalene remained here until her death many years later. It is now a holy place and is referred to in books as ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ from which Dan Brown used information and references for his book The Da Vinci Code.
Aigues Mortes, very close to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, is a city marked by crusades and the Knights Templar. It is a tourist site today but with an intriguing history and it’s a wonderful place to relax and chill enjoying the French lifestyle.
In December the Cathar Castles and heritage sites are open and many appreciate that there are no crowds of tourists. The weather is generally sunny but cold, around 10 degrees. And, if you’re a wine lover now is a good time to visit as vignerons in the area have a lot more time to spend with wine enthusiasts.
Website for Carcassonne Tourist Office