Well, we are not going to be slanderous, because all those horrible souvenir shops are the ransom we have to pay for the enormous fame and success of the Cité. And when we were children, we all dreamed of an armour and a bow... The Cité belongs to everybody, isn't it a World Patrimony Monument ??
But just be prepared, and when you know what you are going to find there, everything is OK !!
Most of the old houses of the Cité possess cellars with gothic or romanesque vaultings, old wells, but it is naturally impossible to see them. Two big wells are however still standing in the streets of the old Cité : The "small well", on the Place du Plô, and the "big well", on the Place du Grand Puits (the Square of the Big Well !). This Big Well is 40 metres deep, its stones date back from the 16th century.
It gave birth to many fantastic stories and legends. It would give access to a secret underground passage, leading to Lastours castles (18 km away from Carcassonne !!!) or to fabulous treasures, it would be the home of the Devil, who would have throwned a priest into it... People even wrote poems to it !!!
The Place Marcou (Marcou was a former mayor of Carcassonne) is one of the most important touristic spots in the Cité. It is a beautiful shaded square, so typically mediterranean : at the centre stands a fountain where children like to play with the water, and all around cafés and restaurants. From that Place Marcou you will enjoy a nice view over the Narbonne's Gate.
On the eastern side of Place Marcou there is no house but a little garden with a big iron cross in the middle. At the place where people now lie in the grass or children play football stood two centuries ago one of the churches of the Cité. Church Saint Sernin was demolished during the Revolution in 1793. The only remains are the walls of the choir and the big gothic style window. The window was made on royal license in 1441, because the choir of the church was considered a little bit too dark. That's why we still see that amazing and finely sculptured hole in the city wall. We would expect only narrow and almost invisible openings.
The French Revolution at the end of the 18th century was a very bad period for all our churches actually... The canonic enclosure of Saint Nazaire (convent, refectory and cemetery) was razed to the ground at that time, too. At the same place we see today the Grand Theatre.
Arriving on the little square in front of the Basilica, you are surrounded by many beautiful architectural specimens : one of the Cité's oldest houses is very easy to find thanks to its wooden framings.
During your "promenade" through the narrow lanes of the Cité, you will probably walk along a big and austere building on the street leading to the Aude Gate and the ramparts. This is the House of the Inquisition. It was formerly directly connected with the wall.
The narrow and dark street which separates today the House of the Inquisition from the inner wall (rue du Four Saint Nazaire) is one of the most surprising places of Carcassonne. It is closed by very high walls on both sides. You hardly can see the roofs and crenellations of the towers and of the Counts' Castle. No noise. You really feel transported centuries ago !!!