Walt Disney is said to have been inspired by its towers, turrets, and ramparts and you can understand why when the sun rises up over the medieval town of Carcassonne. It’s easy to imagine a knight galloping up the cobbled streets and dashing through the portcullis to save his princess. In fact, Carcassonne, at the heart of Cathar country, was first recorded in pre-Roman times. It was, and continued to be for centuries, an important fortification with views up and down the Aude valley—west towards Castelnaudary and east to Narbonne and the Mediterranean. The view to the south tower the Pyrenees Mountains and to the north the Montagne Noir or Black Mountains.
If you’re drawn to the Old World and history, have a love of wine and good eating, have a relaxed temperament, and like to get out and explore, Carcassonne would be a place to consider for full- or part-time living. Carcassonne has the benefit of being a two-part town—both parts have much to offer tourists and residents alike. Within La Cité there is, of course, the medieval chateau and rampart, the St. Nazarius Basilica, and the world-famous summer festival, and there are also beautiful boutiques, artists’ workshops, Michelin-star restaurants, and glorious hotels to explore, such as the Hotel de la Cité.
The town of Carcassonne is the capital of the Aude department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. The medieval Cité (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) up on a plateau on the right bank of the river Aude and the Bastide Saint Louis below the Cité on the left bank. The Bastide, commissioned by St. Louis in 1260, was built in an easy to navigate grid pattern. Though the medieval Cité is where the tourists head to, the Bastide and surrounding villages are where the majority live and where you are most likely to rent or purchase a property.
France in general is not a top choice if you are hoping to make a massive cut to your cost of living. That said, the area often labelled as the “Other South of France” is far more affordable than its flashier counterpart, while offering the best of French country living. The cost of living can be less than 1,351 euros a month in the town of Carcassonne.
|Gas||€15||Used for cooking.
|Electricity||€100||The heating uses electricity and no air conditioning is needed.
|Telephone||€40||Per month with SFR (provides a bundle of services including long distance, local calls, Internet and cable TV).
|Internet||N/A||Included with telephone.
|Cable TV||N/A||Included with telephone.
Given the attraction of the Cité, the Bastide, and the surrounding area, property prices are very reasonable. Fully renovated apartments range from about 50,000 euros for a studio to 200,000 euros for a six-bedroom property. Houses in Carcassonne center are harder to find but are available from about 200,000 euros. If you extend your search to 5 kilometers out from the center, there’s a far greater choice, everything from new-build villas to renovation projects. Rents start at about 350 euros per month for apartments and from 600 euros per month for houses.
Tourism is thriving in Carcassonne—often too thriving for locals who move out during the summer, renting their apartments to visitors.
A 10-minute drive from the center of Carcassonne is a stunning 18-hole golf course, and a natural leisure park with freshwater swimming, hikes, and picnicking. Within an hour from Carcassonne you can be sunning yourself on the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, and within 90 minutes skiing in the Pyrenees. There are thousands of acres of vineyards producing many award-winning wines to visit, the wilderness of the Black Mountains and the Corbières hills to explore, awe-inspiring medieval castles to discover, the cosmopolitan city of Toulouse an hour west along the freeway, and Spain just a hop and a skip across the border.