Hôtel de la Cité
Place Auguste-Pierre Pont, 11000 Carcassonne, France.
Enticing in a discreet sort of way. The neo-Gothic entrance looks wonderful but your eyes are equally distracted by what’s around you in the mediaeval dream of a city. It’s a century-old building amidst buildings several times older.
It was built in 1909 to accommodate the weary travellers and pilgrims that came through this remarkable city and it quickly established itself as a fashionable stop-over during the 1920s for the grand Tourists travelling between Nice and Biarritz and between Biarritz and Barcelona. After a short-lived boom in the 1950s, fortunes declined until the late 1980s and an amalgamation with a next-door hotel in 1997 followed by renovations and the addition of a swimming pool turned it into the 5-star mansion atop the mediaeval city that you see today.
Anyone remotely famous who passes through the citadel city of Carcassonne will rarely pass up the opportunity to stay here. Politicians seem to particularly love it (maybe it’s the undeniable feeling that you’re a king in your own castle) and the hotel’s diverse guest list includes Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, Johnny Halliday, Johnny Depp, Julio Iglesias and President Jacques Chirac.
Do They Look After You?
They certainly do. There is an undeniable feeling of reverence from the moment you step down off street level and through their hallowed doors. The décor and setting are thoroughly ecclesiastical, as reflected in the subtle exterior and the fact that the hotel is overlooked by the Gothic St Nazaire Basilica. It forms a thrilling backdrop by the outdoor heated swimming pool.
Musical stars performing in the purpose-built outdoor amphitheatre (Théâtre Jean Deschamps) next door also favour the Hôtel de la Cité for the fact that it allegedly contains a secret passage leading directly from the sanctuary of the hotel to the theatre stage.
What are the Rooms Like?
This is not a large-capacity hotel, so the feeling of intimacy is heightened by a strong aristocratic flavour in each of the individually-styled 47 rooms and 13 suites that the hotel possesses. One of the nicest services that the hotel brought in three years ago was an audio tour of the whole place that takes you through the rooms and some of the guest rooms of this place, often going through warren-like corridors and emerging into the gardens outside with the panoramic views over the city.
For the setting alone, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant La Barbacane is worth experiencing. In a mediaeval-style banqueting hall, complete with large fireplace, high-back chairs, carved wall panels and stained glass windows, the restaurant tops it off with a modern-day Michelin star (the only one within the citadel’s walls).
For less formal dining, the street-level Chez Saskia Brasserie is open for breakfast and lunch and for dinner on the days that the Barbacane is closed. The atmosphere is fun with a 1920s flavour. The world goes by the window and the walls are adorned with signed photos of illustrious guests.
For atmospheric al fresco dining, the elevated Jardin de l’Evêque across the road offers a superb menu in relaxed circumstances under dappled light.
The Bottom Line:
There are exceptional deals from time to time. For instance, the April 2013 deal gives you double B&B accommodation for €140, plus a lunch at La Barbacane Michelin-starred restaurant, a free entrance to The Count’s Castle and a 30% reduction on a Californian Massage.
Otherwise, expect to pay from about €200 to €500 a night in shoulder and low season and from about €300 up to €800 a night in high season.
Telephone – +33 (0) 4 68 71 98 71
View Larger Map