Plan Your Toulouse to Carcassonne Day Trip

Plan Your Toulouse to Carcassonne Day Trip

Whether you’re a fan of the board game or the actual castle, many travellers in the South of France find themselves drawn to the medieval city of Carcassonne.

Carcassonne is like stepping back in time. I felt like I was wandering around a castle, ramparts and towers straight from the fairytales and movies.

And one of the best ways to visit is on a day trip from Toulouse to Carcassonne. As the largest major city near Carcassonne, many visitors make the pilgrimage from Toulouse by train, car or tour to walk the famous medieval walls.

Of course, there’s more to Carcassonne than just a medieval city.

In fact, the medieval city (or La Cité de Carcassonne) is actually completely separate from the modern part of Carcassonne where everyday residents go about their lives, no jousting or cannon-firing required.

If you’re considering a Toulouse to Carcassonne day trip, you’re going to want to check out my guide below. My husband, Colin, and I did this very trip in February 2024 and everything went super smoothly.

Keep scrolling for all my tips to plan your day in Carcassonne including how to get there from Toulouse, where to store your bags, what to see and do, and whether or not the whole day trip is even worth it!

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How to get from Toulouse to Carcassonne Carcassonne train station in France with red train cars in the background on the tracks

One of the easiest, most comfortable and most affordable ways to get from Toulouse to Carcassonne is by train.

Direct Intercités or TGV trains leaving Toulouse Matabiau station arrive at Carcassonne station in just 45 minutes. Note that direct TER trains also serve this route, but take a little bit longer (apx 65 mins).

We took this route in Feb 2024 and paid €9.60 ($10 USD) per person one-way on the faster 45 minute train.

We booked our train tickets in advance, which is important for TGV/Intercités trains that can sell out and go up in price the closer you get to the date of travel.

However, if you prefer to keep your schedule flexibile or don’t mind the slightly slower TER trains, you can just book them on the day (TER trains don’t require reservations and the fares are fixed).

The train was very convenient, smooth and simple. But if you’d rather not go by train, you can also take these routes from Toulouse to Carcassonne:

Driving gives you the flexibility to leave on your own schedule and go directly to the medieval city, but requires renting a car and paying for parking. Buses are usually cheaper than trains, but less comfortable and slower.

A day tour is a great option if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of booking transportation yourself. The tour will also bring you directly to the old city, which is about 30 minutes from where the train/bus would drop you off.

Check out this highly rated day tour from Toulouse to Carcassonne!

If Carcassonne is the first stop on your France itinerary, you can actually fly into Carcassonne Airport (CCF) directly from a few cities in Europe. You could also fly into nearby airports in Perpignan (PGF), Toulouse (TLS) or Montpellier (MPL) and bus/train/drive from there.

How to get from the new city of Carcassonne to the medieval city (aka La Cité de Carcassonne) Walking across the bridge to the Cite in Carcassonne Carcassonne Citadel in the distance walking there from the new town

Once you get from Toulouse to Carcassonne, you still have to get to the medieval city, also known as La Cité de Carcassonne or just La Cité.

La Cité is the part of Carcassonne that most people are familiar with; it’s the medieval city on the hill with ramparts, stone walls, towers and a castle.

The new part of Carcassonne, while lovely, isn’t exactly why this city is so popular.

The train and bus stations are both located in the new part of Carcassonne, a 30 minute walk from the medieval city. So one good reason to drive or take a tour is they will bring you right to the castle walls!

But if you’ve opted for the train or bus, you can still get to the medieval city by:

  • Foot (apx 30 minutes)
  • Taxi or Uber (apx 10 minutes)
  • Bus (maybe…)

According to this map, local RTCA bus lines #3 and #4 should both go from the new city to the old city. However, these routes don’t show up on Google Maps (as of Apr 2024). But you can check out the schedule on the RTCA website and let me know if the buses do exist!

When Colin and I visited in February 2024, we just walked. It was a nice day and an easy walk over. Plus, it was quite cool to see the castle rising in the distance as we got closer.

The only part of the walk that was a bit challenging was right at the end, as you have to go up a fairly steep hill to enter the city.

We took an odd route (that funny enough, was on Google Maps) through a field, scrambling up some muddy rocks. But there’s a much simpler paved sidewalk you can also take (we figured that out on the way down!).

Luggage storage in Carcassonne The board game Carcassonne for sale in the city of Carcassonne, FranceYou can add a game of Carcassonne to your luggage, complete with a “purchased in Carcassonne” sticker!

One last thing before we enjoy Carcassonne, you may be wondering what to do with your bags!

Of course, if you’re only visiting Carcassonne on a day trip from Toulouse and returning in the evening, you can just leave your bags in Toulouse.

But if you’re doing what we did, which was leave from Toulouse, spend the day in Carcassonne, and then carry onto our next destination, you’ll need to think about luggage storage.

Unfortunately, the Carcassonne train station does not have luggage lockers or storage services. But luckily, there are a few independent services in the area that you can utilize.

These luggage services work by partnering with local retailers who will store your bags for you for a small fee (apx €5 ($5 USD) per bag). It’s usually restaurants or shops who have a back room for your items.

We ended up storing our bags at a convenience store that was just across the street from the train station. This was “convenient” (get it?) since we were taking the train to/from Carcassonne.

Most of these services require you to reserve your luggage storage in advance, as these local shops don’t have unlimited space. You can reserve luggage storage in Carcassonne here.

You’ll also want to carefully check where the luggage partner is located and their hours of operation. I’ve read reviews of people turning up to grab their bags only to find the shop closed and they miss their train!

What to do in Carcassonne

Now that you’ve made it from Toulouse to Carcassonne and stored your bags, how will you spend your day? Check out some of the fun things to do in Carcassonne below!

Tour the Castle Carcassonne & ramparts Riana standing in front of the castle doors in Carcassonne on a Toulouse to Carcassonne Day Trip

The most popular thing to do in Carcassonne is tour the castle and ramparts in the old medieval city. So natural, this was our first stop on our visit!

Carcassonne was founded in 6 BC so has a long and storied history. To learn more about it, you can go on a tour, pick up an audio-guide or simply read the plaques located around the castle (also called the Carcassonne Citadel).

Because we visited on a weekday in February, we had most of the castle to ourselves. It was a beautifully sunny day and I loved getting to walk along the ramparts and around the castle grounds.

Colin posing on one of the exterior walls of the Carcassonne CastleInterior of the Carcassonne Castle with statues and painted walls Shot of an inner courtyard of the Carcassonne Castle with landscaping, as seen from the ramparts

Most of the castle is empty; you’ll walk from tower to tower or along the ramparts learning about the different structures and how they were used in battle, but don’t expect to see made-up rooms with beds and tables like you would in Versailles.

However, there are a few rooms that are not empty and hold ancient artifacts, like statues and paintings. But mostly, it’s just fun to walk around!

If you’re not visiting in the off-season like us, you’ll want to pre-book your ticket to the Castle Carcassonne.

Walk along the Canal du Midi Carcassonne The Canal du Midi in Carcassonne, France

The Canal du Midi is a famous waterway in France, running 240 km (150 mi) along the southwest. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of the most impressive feats of construction for its time (built in the 17th Century).

The full canal network links the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea and was designed to be both practical for industrial advancement but also very pretty, blending in beautifully with its surroundings.

Part of the Canal du Midi runs through Carcassonne (as well as Toulouse, where your day trip started). So if you want to take a photo along this important body of water, you can do so while in town.

In fact, if you take the train to Carcassonne, you’ll actually walk right over the Canal du Midi as you walk into town.

Have lunch in Carcassonne Riana eating lunch in Carcassonne at a small restaurant. In front of her there is a salad and bowl of bread. Colin eating lunch at a restaurant in Carcassonne, France. In front of him is a chacuterie board and pint of beer.

After exploring a castle and famous canal system, you’re probably getting hungry. You can pop into a local Carcassonne boulangerie for a quick snack or sit down at a restaurant for lunch.

While we were in Carcassonne for the day, Colin and I had lunch at Taverne Moderne. Their daily lunch special was €20 ($22 USD) which included an appetizer, main and dessert.

This was our first proper meal in France after a jet-lagged and delayed arrival into Toulouse the day before, so the first taste of local cheese made us giddy.

The rest of the meal was also nice, but I wouldn’t say it was the best food I’ve had in France. It was affordable and just outside La Cite, which was convenient.

If you decide to eat inside of the old city walls, keep in mind that many of the restaurants there are more high-end, so expect higher prices.

Explore Carcassonne Cite (aka the old city) Bust of Dame Carcas on the Cite walls in CarcassonneDame Carcas bustExterior of a fancy hotel in Old Carcassonne, FranceInside Saint Nazaire Basilica in Carcassonne with the pews and stained glass windows

Besides the castle and ramparts, there are lots of other places to discover in Carcassonne’s medieval city.

You’ll want to visit Saint Nazaire Basilica, a pretty church from both the in and outside, as well as the Dame Carcas bust on the outside of the city walls. There’s a fun story about Dame Carcas and how she saved the city (plus gave Carcassonne its name), which you can read here.

Within the walls there’s also a school museum, inquisition museum and haunted house. Of course there are plenty of shops, squares, restaurants and cafes to visit too.

After living out my fairytale fantasies by walking all around the Cite, Colin and I grabbed some ice cream and sat against an ancient fountain just to take it all in.

Explore the new Carcassonne Fountain in the new part of Carcassonne in a town square

If you have a bit more time on your day trip, you can check out the new city of Carcassonne. Of course, this city isn’t exactly “new” – it just seems that way when compared to the medieval Cite.

The new part of Carcassonne definitely feels more local; you can tell that all of the tourists flock to the old city. It was kind of nice to remember that people actually live here after spending most of our time with other tourists around the castle.

In the new city, stop by Place Carnot or Andre Chenier Square, two main squares where you’ll find lots of people bustling about.

If you’re into churches (I’m not religious, but always find they’re worth a visit for their intricate architecture), you can step into Saint Michel Cathedral and Saint Vincent Church. There’s also the nearby Calvary Garden.

Before you jump back on your train, stop in at a grocery store or boulangerie for some train snacks!

Return to Toulouse from Carcassonne or travel onwards Exterior walls and castles of La Cité de Carcassonne

If you’re heading back to Toulouse after your day in Carcassonne, you can simply travel the route you took to get to Carcassonne in reverse. Make sure you give yourself lots of time to get back to your train/bus from the old city.

If you’re travelling onwards from Carcassonne, you can pick up your luggage and head back to the train station. From Carcassonne, you can get to many other nearby places in France quickly and..

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