Camping Castelnaudary

When you come to a particular region, it's natural you want to try its local specialities when it comes to food. So it would be a shame to spend your holidays in the Aude without stopping off in Castelnaudary, the home town of cassoulet.

Do you know Castelnaudary?

Castelnaudary has the third-highest population of any town in the Aude department, the reason for which can be found through its important geographical location, as it lies halfway between Toulouse and Carcassonne.

But it is also famous for two other facts. Firstly, the legendary Canal du Midi, which links Toulouse to the Mediterranean, passes through Castelnaudary. Designed and built during the 17th century by Pierre Paul Riquet, it was first used for transport by waterway. Its revolutionary construction meant boats could avoid the huge detour that was previously necessary by sea. It then became a major tourist destination. Finally, it attained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996.

But while Castelnaudary has a reputation that extends well beyond the borders of France, this also applies to its culinary heritage; and more especially, its cassoulet. This dish, made using white haricot beans and various cuts of meat (ham hock, sausage, goose confit etc.) has won foodie fans from all over the world. This is a speciality of which its people are rightfully proud, and it draws lots of holidaymakers, to the extent that a route du cassoulet has been set up.

Castelnaudary is also a town of craftsmanship, which has always played a central role in the Lauragais region. And this is no recent phenomenon, since earthenware dating back to ancient times has been found beneath the town and surrounding villages. The soil of the Lauragais region is still clay these days, allowing these practices to continue.

Did you know?

Cassoulet is so dear to the hearts of the people of Castelnaudary that, every summer, the Fête du Cassoulet is held. Over 4 days, the town pays homage to its speciality that is famous the world over. For the celebration, all sorts of events including a makers' market, a running race, concerts, a procession and shows on the water take place. The festival was first held in 2001, set up by the Confrérie du Cassoulet, and continues to draw ever more people. By way of proof, more than 40,000 dishes of cassoulet are consumed over the weekend.

On the menu?

Whether you arrive by air or by sea, you must also leave some time for enjoying the banks of the Canal du Midi. Head for the Grand Bassin, which provides a restful setting for a stroll. Choose between walking and cycling. But the best option, of course, is to hire a permit-free boat and float off at your own pace. You'll also be able to visit some of the canal's highlights, including its highest point at the Seuil de Naurouze, which lies just 10km from town.

After your outing beside the canal, head for the town centre, which is packed with monuments waiting to be discovered. How about a look around some places of worship such as the chapel of Notre-Dame de Pitié and the Collegiate Church of Saint-Michel? Then you could head off to explore the Cugarel mill, which is the town's last remaining windmill in perfect working condition.

When it comes to history, the Présidial is the place to go to. This building was originally home to Catherine of Medici, the Queen of France who also went by the title of Countess of the Lauragais. Later on, the Présidial also served as a court. Nowadays it houses a museum and also hosts exhibitions.

Still in the town centre, have a look around the Halles, including the Halle aux Grains, which is where you'll find the covered market. Try some regional specialities, including cassoulet de Castelnaudary of course. And finally, if you are staying in one of our campsites during the third week of August, you'll be able to participate in the Fête du Cassoulet. If you're here at any other time of year, to find out more about the town's top delicacy, head for the route du Cassoulet.