Castelnaudary is a market town with Roman origins. It was originally a staging post on the Roman road from Toulouse to Narbonne, called Sostomagus. It prospered in the 17th century when its Grand Basin became the main port on the Canal du Midi.
The historic centre of the town has many beautifully decorated buildings. Since 1976 the 4th Foreign Regiment of the French Foreign Legion has been based in Castelnaudary. The weekly markets (on Monday mornings) are very popular and “proper” markets for local residents, not tourist traps.
Castelnaudary claims to be the world capital of cassoulet (Capitale Mondiale du Cassoulet), the famously rich slow-cooked dish made with haricot beans, sausages and duck or goose confit (or mutton). It currently produces 75% of all cassoulet in France. Toulouse and Carcassonne also make cassoulet, with variations that cause huge debate among connaisseurs.The Great Cassoulet Brotherhood (La Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary) organises a cassoulet festival in August with competitions. You can’t escape cassoulets in restaurants around Castelnaudary (even delicious vegan ones!).
Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois to Castelnaudary takes just over an hour by car (53 miles, 85 km). Since it is the main port on the Canal du Midi, there are also cruises on the canal that stop here for a meal.
The historic town centre is well worth a visit, as is the chapel of Notre Dame de Pitié with its famous carved wood panels of Christ’s passion. For more information, events and things to do and see in Castelnaudary, visit www.castelnaudary-tourisme.fr.
Castelnaudary is located on the other side of Carcassonne from Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois. The circular medieval village of Bram is nearby. You could also combine a visit with the charming town of Limoux, renowed for its champagne-like sparkling wines.
The Cathar castle of Puylaurens is north of Castelnaudery. But an easier visit may be the four castles at Lastours, on the way back to Pouzols-Minervois.