Land of history and tourism, of warmth and authenticity, Aude is a department which knows how to deal with paradoxes. Whether it be the Cathar castles or the Canal du Midi, Carcassonne the warrior or Lagrasse the contemplative, in Aude lands, you're on a land with a unique character.
Typical towns and cities
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Situated south of Carcassonne, between Limoux and Quillan, and in the heart of the Upper Valley of Aude, lies Alet-les-Bains. It possesses timbered houses, ramparts, a magnificent abbey, a medieval village, and is an ideal residence where everyone will enjoy rejuvenation.
The mineral water of Alet-les-Bains takes its physico-chemical characteristics from the Pyrenees, and is recommended especially against digestive diseases. Its sources are known since Antiquity, and it is said that Charlemagne himself came here to heal his digestive system!
Aude's Pyrenees have kept the charm and authenticity of mountain life.
Snowshoe trekking, cross-country skiing, sledge with family or stopover in a peaceful Cathar Country inn, the mountains of Aude hold many treasures.
Camurac, the only resort in Aude's Pyrenees, is of easy access, and mixes the charm of a mountain village in the Cathar country with skiing and winter sports, while preserving its environment.
Green, blue, red and black ski slopes, mechanical lifts, snow cannons ... All modern facilities are available to lovers of snow and sensations.
Built on both sides of the river Aude, Carcassonne is shared between the lower city, called La Bastide Saint-Louis, and the old city, la Cité.
Located on the right bank of the river, the Cité, great medieval fortress, whose mighty walls with 52 towers dominate the valley, has been entirely restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. A must see, the Château Comtal (Counts' Castle) and its lapidary museum, thebasilica of Saint Nazaire, the Portes Narbonnaises (gates of Narbonne), the Tréseau Tower. A walk in the Lices (free space between the two walls) is a moment of intense emotion.
On the left bank, on the other side of the Pont Vieux (old bridge), the Lower Town (Ville Basse), also called Bastide Saint Louis, is built on the regular grid of medieval walled towns, making it a pleasant walk. The inhabitants of the Cité were relegated there in the 13th century. The Lower Town has vibrant shopping streets, squares, markets, mansions and religious buildings which are all worth a visit. The city is crossed by the Canal du Midi and the port, and is watered by the river Aude.
Castelnaudary is a peaceful town, encamped on an exceptional heritage: the Canal du Midi. It plunges its reflection in the Great Basin, between the locks of Saint Roch and the Isle of Cybele. Today, commercial traffic has given way to boating, marked by a nice series of locks and small bridges. Castelnaudary is now the largest marina on the Canal du Midi.
The old brick city, overlooking the plain of Lauragais, is the world capital of Cassoulet. The imposing church of Saint Michel, dominates the city and is surrounded by a maze of narrow streets with old timbered houses and mansions from the 18th century, reflecting the rich commercial past of Castelnaudary.
Near Carcassonne, the small town of Caunes-Minervois is nestled around its massive abbey.
Besides this abbey, Caunes-Minervois has vestiges of ramparts, and a remarkable architectural heritage. Narrow streets, beautiful mansions are the most complete example of Renaissance architecture in Aude.
The marble quarries (The King's Quarries) made for a long time the wealth and fame of the city. The crimson marble of Caunes was especially used for making the columns of the Grand Trianon at Versailles, the Opera Garnier in Paris, or the Arc de Triomphe of the Carrousel at the Louvre. Throughout the region are found many monuments and churches using this marble of Caunes as design elements.
Near the village, the hermitage of Notre Dame du Cros, at the foot of the gorges of the Argent Double, is a pleasant hiking trail, and a popular site for rock climbing enthusiasts.
Fanjeaux, hilltop village overlooking the plain of Lauragais, is a historical site, occupied by Romans who built there a temple (Fanum Jovis). In the Middle Ages, it was an important stronghold dominated by nobles all acquired to Catharism. The Cathar Bishop Guilhabert de Castres settled there.
It is therefore natural that Dominic de Guzman, the future Saint Dominic, moved there to try to re-evangelise the county. He founded its first community in the vicinity, which will become later the order of the Dominicans in 1215.
Sites not to miss in Fanjeaux are : the former convent of the Frères Prêcheurs (the Dominicans), the Church of Notre Dame de l'Assomption, Saint Dominic's House, the Seignadou, the Monastery of Notre Dame de Prouilhe.
The village of Lagrasse, ranked among the "Most Beautiful Villages of France", appears in a vast amphitheatre surrounded by vineyards and small enclosed fields.
Once the capital of the Corbières, the village was surrounded by ramparts. It retains its rich and unique architectural heritage, with its famous Benedictine abbey, and its medieval centre on the banks of the Orbieu.
The picturesque streets, the timbered houses, the covered market dating from 1315, the many mansions, the impressive Church of Saint-Michel (16th century) with a rich interior, the old bridge on the Orbieu (12th century), are all testimonies of the glorious past of Lagrasse.
Do not miss, in Lagrasse surroundings, the church of Saint-Martin-des-Puits (10 km) from pre-Romanesque time, which has murals (Annunciation) of the 12th century.
This city, starting point of many discoveries, offers a rich and varied heritage.
Cultural wonders are the old streets of Lézignan, or the original facades, vestiges of the winegrowers civilization, or the listed church of Saint Félix de Gérone. The Maison Gibert offers art exhibitions and cultural events of quality.
Gastronomic delights are found in the shade of the trees, in the Avenue de la République, where you will find every Wednesday morning the market stalls full of local products.
Natural wonders can be seen hiking or biking through the pine forest of 400 hectares and the fragrant scrubland.
Throughout the year, multiple events are programmed for your pleasure : culture, sports, fun, festivities...
Famous for its ancient Carnival (every Sunday from January to April) or even its famous Blanquette (the oldest sparkling white wine in the world), Limoux is nonetheless a very pleasant town to visit, with a rich heritage (Place aux Arcades, mansions, timbered houses) which will appeal to history buffs.
Montolieu, in Cabardès (Black Mountain), means « the mount of Olives" in Occitan, and is built on a promontory overlooking the gorges of the Alzeau and the Dure.
The high rectangular tower bell of Saint André dominating the rooftops of the village is the most characteristic image of Montolieu.
The village experienced an eventful history and a long period of prosperity from the 17th century. Colbert decided to implement the Manufacture Royale de Draps (Sheets manufacture), the buildings can still be admired.
Nowadays, Montolieu is a "Book Village": libraries, booksellers, craftsmen, share the medieval streets of the town, where are organized Books Markets, every 3rd Sunday of each month.
Do not miss the Museum Michel Braibant, and the paper mill of Brousses et Villaret, 8 km from Montolieu.
Narbonne, City of Art and History, is one of the most popular destinations in the South of France.
Between the Canal de la Robine, sea and ponds, numerous activities are offered to visitors: river cruises, hiking, horseback or mountain biking, sea or river fishing, as well as many cultural events, and heritage discoveries. Not to mention pleasures of fine sandy beaches !
Gourmets, gourmands and lovers of good food can also find in Narbonne emblematic places of the Mediterranean lifestyle (restaurants, halls, winegrowers ...).
Do not miss : the Place de l'Hotel de Ville, where was unearthed a portion of the Via Domitia; the exceptional ensemble of monuments of the Archbishop's Palace and thecathedral of Saint Just and Saint Pasteur; the Museum of Art and History and the Archaeological Museum: the Roman Horreum and the birthplace of Charles Trénet.
Quillan is the tourist and geographical capital of Aude's Pyrenees.
Located in the heart of a major road junction, Quillan, in the Upper Valley of Aude, is a centre for treks in the picturesque Pyrenean foothill s: spectacular forests of the Land of Sault, the Fanges, the Roquefortès; canyons and gorges of Aude, Pierre-Lys, Rébenty, Agly and southern Corbieres
International base for white water sports, Quillan is also the starting point for hikes in the Upper Valley and Aude's Pyrenees.
40 km South of Carcassonne, Rennes-le-Château is located in the Upper Valley of Aude, in the heart of the Cathar country. Rich of a past steeped in history, it holds exceptional views and famous mysteries, including the famous mystery of the Abbé Saunière, who reportedly found, in the late 19th century, a fabulous treasure while working in the village church, and documents "so important they could change the face of the world" …
Rennes-le-Château offers several sites to visit, where the riddle of the Abbé Saunière is still present: the church of Sainte Marie-Madeleine (10th century), its gardens and cemetery, the presbytery of the Abbé Saunière (where he lived from 1885 to 1917), which is now a historical and cultural space, and the domain of the Abbé Saunière, which gives access to the Tower Magdala and the Villa Béthania, and the oratory.
Located 48 km from Carcassonne and 20km from Limoux, this resort has been popular for a very long time, thanks to its mild climate, its warm and cold springs known for their therapeutic qualities, and its heritage, testimony of a large settlement since the Antiquity.
Rennes-les-Bains is a privileged place for lively and relaxing family holidays.
Today, it is a modern spa with modern facilities, oriented toward the medicalization of hydrotherapy, and still enjoying its curative hot springs.
A stay at Rennes-les-Bains is indicated in cases of rheumatism, gout, osteoarthritis or arthritis.
The Fitness Institute shows that the station has managed to adapt to changing balneotherapy techniques. The Institute proposes stays of one week combining sport and appropriate care.
Rennes-les-Bains is also an ideal starting point for many sites to visit, castles and abbeys ...