Old-world charm at Hôtel de la Cité Carcassonne

Hôtel de la Cité garden

Hôtel de la Cité Carcassonne
Place Auguste-Pierre Pnt – 11000 Carcassonne, France
Pricing: Starting from € 225

“Après tant d’hôtels, enfin un chez-moi,” wrote the novelist Colette in the Hôtel de la Cité Carcassonne’s guest book many years ago. Translated, she wrote, “After so many hotels, I have finally come home.”

This eloquent statement may be from another era, but it still embodies the heart of this story-book destination in the stunning south of France–a hotel that is, quite simply, filled with beauty, elegance, and charm.

Over the years, Hôtel de la Cité Carcassonne has changed numerous times, as the owners extended the building, renovated, and even merged the property with another existing hotel, the Hôtel Dame Carcas, between 1998 and 2001. It has been a refuge for celebrities, heads of state, and travellers looking for a luxury accommodation in the south of France. After spending just two days at the hotel, I can say that the hotel has been perfected to the point where it is one of the most memorable hotels I have ever had the good fortune of visiting.

Stepping on the cobbled streets inside the great walls of the Cité de Carcassonne, which is the fortified medieval city within the larger modern city of Carcassonne, there is a deepening sense of magic as you approach the Hôtel de la Cité along the meandering alleys and roads. Since cars are only allowed within the city at certain times of day, the illusion that you are entering another era is almost complete, especially if you keep your eyes on the beautifully restored buildings and rooftops.

Built in 1909 and notable as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s easy to get caught up in the Hôtel de la Cité’s atmosphere from the moment you walk into the hotel reception. Cité de Carcassonne can be a bustling place throughout the day as tourists visit the shops and restaurants, but within Hôtel de la Cité, it feels like a secluded refuge from a different time.

Within the reception area, the space starts off feeling surprisingly modern, but once you are beyond the threshold and into the hallways and rooms, the hotel offers a beautiful mix of modern amenities with classic stone architecture, relics, tapestries, and art.

Junior suite fireplace
Junior suite fireplace

Staying at the hotel, we were lucky enough to enjoy the junior suite above the Brasserie Chez Saskia, which has an exceptional view of the Place Auguste-Pierre Pont square in front of the St. Nazaire Basilica and the Hôtel de la Cité’s main entrance. The suite includes a gas fireplace, sitting area, a television that disappears into a chest in front of the large bed, and a modern bathroom with every amenity.

Surrounded by the wood panelling, art on the walls, and exposed beams on the ceiling, the room immediately felt comfortable and a bit like a new home. The room just naturally feels inviting, and makes it hard to even leave when it’s time to explore the city, or, once the time unfortunately comes, even to check out.

Once we did leave the room, however, we enjoyed Cognac in the hotel’s charming and relaxing Library Bar, which offers a luxurious menu of fine alcohol, in addition to live piano music, and light appetizers. Leafing through some of the books, and enjoying a few of the hotel’s signature Cognac drinks, it was easy to while away a couple of hours without even noticing how much time we had spent here.

Likewise, another wonderful space for relaxing is the garden lounge located outside of the reception. Surrounded by the French gardens, and situated on the very edge of the Cité de Carcassonne’s walls–which overlooks the modern city below–this is a beautiful space to enjoy on any fine day, especially since there are so many trees here.

Most of all though, it is impossible to talk about the Hôtel de la Cité Carcassonne without mentioning the hotel’s Michelin-star rated restaurant, La Barbacane. Located beside the Library Bar, La Barbacane is a sumptuous space with legendary cuisine in an atmosphere that proclaims itself as upscale and comfortable. The menu is beautifully designed for an extravagant night of dining, and for a truly charming evening, La Barbacane also offers private dinner or wine-tasting in the stunning wine cellar beneath the restaurant. The space is awe-inspiring, especially once you consider the collection of wine on the shelves around you in this elegantly restored space.

As a guest, you can easily get lost in the hotel’s atmosphere, and never want to leave it behind, and as a destination for seeing the majesty of the Cité de Carcassonne, and the surrounding area, Hôtel de la Cité is a perfect starting point for the region, it’s wine, and the food.

If you are at all like me, you will plan a visit to Hôtel de la Cité, and dream of returning again the moment you have left it behind.

Library Bar
Library Bar

Notable Festivals
France has a multitude of festivals throughout the year, and Carcassonne is the highlight of a few of them, including:

  • The Festival of Carcassonne (mid-June to mid-August): One of the major cultural events in the South of France. With a programme of some 120 shows, there is always something for every taste, every trend, every age: classical and contemporary music, opera and dance, a broad spectrum of pop music, theatre, and circus acts.
  • Bastille Day (July 14): Celebrations and fireworks over the Citadel.
  • The Carcassonne Feria (August 30 to September 2): music and dance with salsa, flamenco, sevillanas, tango, bandas, traditional Occitan music, fanfare parades, and bullfights.
  • Carcassonne La Médiévale (August 15): Troubadours, acrobats, jugglers, and traditional craftsmen at their best in the citadel for the traditional 15th August holiday.
  • St. Nicholas Day (December 6): A festive market with local crafts and produce in the open-air theatre of the Citadel and a spectacular torchlight parade from the Citadel to the Bastide.
  • Christmas Magic (December): Throughout the month of December, Carcassonne is decked with the spangle and twinkling fairy lights of Christmas–moments to share with the family on the Ferris wheel, the toboggans, the ice-skating rink, at the Christmas market.
  • Photo Gallery:

    Photos provided by Hôtel de la Cité Carcassonne and W. Andrew Powell/The GATE.

    W. Andrew Powell lives, sleeps, eats, and breaths movies and entertainment. Since launching The GATE in 1999 Andrew has enjoyed being a pest to any publicist who would return his calls. In his "spare time," Andrew is also an avid photographer, and writes about leisure travel and hotels around the world.