World's Prettiest Castle Towns
What does a fairy-tale Renaissance palace in Italy have in common with a fortress in South Korea? Both are surrounded by communities that are just as intriguing as the castles themselves. Here we bring you the 10 best town-and-crown day trips in the world.
The beauty of Carcassonne is in the details. The well-restored Romanesque fortress city in southwestern France is known by the locals simply as La Cité. The castle's crenellated walls punctuate the sky, and the double line of ramparts looks wonderfully forbidding. The cone-shaped, slate-roofed towers are postcard-perfect. The town's stone streets have been populated since the fifth century. Carcassonne sits a mere one-hour drive from the Mediterranean Sea, meaning it's thousands of miles from Paris in both distance and attitude. It's an unexpected gastronomic and artistic hotspot, with restaurants dishing up modern takes on classical French cuisine, such as cassoulet with partridge, and a neoclassic Musée des Beaux Arts, which stands out for presenting masterworks by Courbet, Chardin, and Ingres, among others.
Getting There: Carcassonne is on the main train line linking Toulouse, 50 minutes away (tickets from $20), with Narbonne, 30 minutes away (tickets from $15), and Montpellier, an hour and a half away (tickets from $29). About a dozen trains a day run on this line. Also, Ryanair is the only airline that offers flights in and out of Carcassonne’s airport, about three and a half miles outside of town. It has daily flights to and from London's Stansted Airport and Brussels's Charleroi Airport. It also offers flights from Carcassonne to Dublin and Liverpool (prices vary).
Visiting: There is an$11.50 entrance fee for adults to visit the castle. Once inside, you can join a free, optional 45-minute tour of the ramparts; guides speak English (carcassonne.org).