In France, everybody knows Castelnaudary! At least they think they do!

The town is famous for cassoulet and for its lake, the Grand Bassin, a popular mooring place for people travelling along the Canal du Midi. But Castelnaudary deserves more than a quick stopover as it conceals a host of other riches and quite a few surprises. We’ll help you discover them!

Craftspeople who still work the traditional way...

For over 2000 years, clay found in the Lauragais subsoil has been used to manufacture tiles, bricks, pitchers, vases, jars and other utensils and decorative items, attracting an abundance of ceramics factories. The Poterie Not is an ancestral small-scale pottery on the bank of the Canal du Midi, in the village of Le Mas-Saintes-Puelles. These craftspeople will welcome you with a smile and show you how to throw the famous “cassole” (traditional recipient for cassoulet) on the potters wheel. You really must visit their workshop with its potter’s wheel room, kiln room, drying room and, outside, the clay quarry.

Fabrication de la Cassole à la Poterie Not, Mas Sainte-Puelle ©Ludovic Charles-ADT de l'Aude

Feast on the local gastronomy!

With the fabulous “Castelnaudary Cassoulet”, without a doubt our region’s best-known dish, the town is recognised as being the “world Cassoulet capital”.
Made from haricot beans, pork rind, knuckle, shoulder and sausages as well as duck confit, authentic, traditional cassoulet has a unique, inimitable flavour.

 

Le Cassoulet, une spécialité de l'Aude ©Philippe Benoist-Office de Tourisme de Castelnaudary

Cassoulet is also a story of tradition. A story of savoir-faire handed down through generations. Follow the Cassoulet Route and meet the men and women who contribute to its wonderful taste and quality.

Le haricot lingot de Castelnaudary, l'ingrédient phare du Cassoulet ©Clida-Conseil Départemental de l'Aude

For foodies

And here’s a curiosity for you to try: an iced version of cassoulet, served in a recipient made of nougatine, with scoops of icecream in a variety of flavours and topped with white-chocolate lingot beans! Sweet or savoury, it’s been tried and tested for you!

Cassoulet glacé

Alléluias and Glorias

Another, less well known of Castelnaudary’s culinary specialities, is “Alléluias & Glorias”. These cakes take their name from a snippet of history: Napolean I held Pope Pie VII at Fontainebleau between 1809 and 1814. On his release, Pie VII made his return journey home via Castelnaudary. Word soon spread that he was staying at a small hotel in the town and it wasn’t long before people flocked to receive his blessing… on the following morning when Pie VII was getting ready to leave.

As he walked through the crowd, a local pastry-cook approached to offer him some of the cakes he had made. Upon which, the pope cried out “Alléluia” and showed his appreciation by bursting into a chorus of Gloria! To this day, Alléluias cakes are still one of the great specialities of Castelnaudary, behind cassoulet of course. These little citron delights are often made just for Easter, but you can find them at the Pâtisserie Belloc which is where they were invented!

Discovering the Canal du Midi

Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the 241 km Canal du Midi connects Toulouse to the Mediterranean, as it has done since the 17th century. The easiest and most pleasant way of exploring both the canal and the beautiful regions it crosses, is to take to the water on a canal boat…

Canal du Midi, écluse de Castelnaudary
Obélisque de Riquet à Montferrand ©Office de Tourisme de Castelnaudary
Table d'orientation à Montferrand, Lauragais, ©Office de Tourisme de Castelnaudary

The Canal du Midi is fed by water collected in the Montagne Noire which works its way to the dividing line of the Seuil de Naurouze watershed. You absolutely must visit this iconic feature of the Canal, with its obelisk and information panels explaining the path of the water.

The Grand Bassin

Near Naurouze, on reaching Castelnaudary itself, you must stop off at the port on the Grand Bassin (lake). On the Canal du Midi, you can rent a boat without a permit, from Castelnaudary port. Make the most of the port facilities and you’ll feel very much at home.

By boat, on foot or by bike, take a moment to relax and contemplate the Grand Bassin landscape and the view of the Collégiale Saint Michel (Collegiate Church) spire, or take a break under the ancient plane trees.

However you travel, you’ll enjoy the soothing decor!

Experience

Bike ride along the Canal du Midi in Lauragais

2 days

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A little culture...

Stroll through the streets of this peaceful little town to discover some of its iconic sights, such as the Collégiale Saint Michel (collegiate church) which towers over the town and the surrounding area, and the little Notre-Dame de Pitié baroque chapel with its richly decorated interior, not forgetting the Moulin de Cugarel, a small 17th-century windmill, still with its internal machinery, which offers a panoramic view over the Lauragais plain and the Montagne Noire…