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Fortified Cities of France

Updated on March 31, 2012

I have always been a little obsessed with medieval history. The castles, the armor, everything. I thought that anyone who is traveling to France should make sure to put some of these places on their "to go " list and get a real feel for what life was like in the dark ages. This is not a list of castles but of fortified cities that have a wall built around them.


Aigues-Mortes was founded by king Louis IX of France in 1241. He wanted access to the Mediterranean Sea for trade and their involvement in the crusades. To avoid attacks from the sea Louis had the walls build around the port town. They never were attacked and the wall was useless because when they were completed the town expanded to 15,000 people, which is three times its size today.

Aigues-Mortes, France
Aigues-Mortes, France


Arles was first settled by the Greeks. During the Roman Empire days Arles became an important port and centre of culture. The city was truly a Medieval city facing many confrontations. The Muslim Saracen and Viking raiders frequently stopped by for a quick buck. Later on the Franks took over.

Arles, France
Arles, France


The city walls of Avignon has seen lots of action. The Muslim Sarasen, Franks, Ostragoths, all fighting for control of that part of the Mediterranean sea. The city also was the headquarters of the Catholic church in the 14th century.

Avignon, France
Avignon, France


Boulogne-sur-Mer was mostly used as a centre of invasion of Britain. It was first used by the Romans to invade Britain and later it was fought over during the Hundred Year War between the French and the English. It was also used by Napoleon to invade Britain but was unsuccessful.

Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
Boulogne-sur-Mer, France


The walls of Caen has experienced two major battles. The first time was in the 14th century when the English invaded the town killing most of its citizens. The fight over Normandy between the English and the French lasted 100 years. The second major battle was in 1944 when British and Canadian troops fought the Axis forces there. Caen was almost completely destroyed but was rebuilt.

Caen, France
Caen, France


Carcassonne is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and probably the most recognized walled-city. It has seen many battles. The Visigoths took over the fortress from the Roman Empire in 462. Muslim Saracenes held Carcassonne for a time in 725 but lost it in 759. The city held out control of the Franks for a time but finally gave it up in 1067 through a marriage arrangement. During the Hundred Year War the English Black Prince was unable to take control of the town but instead decided to plummet the towns around it.

Carcassonne, France
Carcassonne, France


Built by John V, Duke of Brittany in 1384, Dinan has everything a castle should have. A wall, towers, a moat, and a drawbridge. The fortified-city however, didn't see any significant battles.

Dinan, France
Dinan, France

La Couvertoirade

The small fortified-city of La Couvertoirade was established by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. It served as one of their bases until their dissolution in 1312 after which it was handed over to the St. John of Jerusalem society who build the wall around the town in 1450.

La Couvertoirade, France
La Couvertoirade, France

La Rochelle

La Rochelle was an important port city that gave access to the Atlantic Ocean. It was the site of the decisive battle that took place there in june 22, 1372 during the Hundred Years War, giving France an edge over the English. The protective walls made La Rochelle a safe haven for the Huguenots, a protestant group who were avoiding persecution during the French Wars of Religion (1572-1573). After its fall the Huguenots moved to North America to begin anew. During WWII the port was used as a German submarine base. It was the last city to fall when the Allied forces came to France.

La Rochelle, France
La Rochelle, France


Not much to say except that the city was fortified by the bishops because of civil unrest during the 14th and 15 centuries. The fortified city walls remain and they are a highlight to visitors.

Langres, France
Langres, France


The fortified walls of Perouges gave the city autonomy from royal kingship. The city officially became apart of France in 1601.

Perouges, France
Perouges, France


The city of Saint-Malo is located on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. Established first as a monastery the city needed to be fortified against invaders or pirates. The city soon became an independent republic and execised full autonomy. Because of this it made for the perfect location and safe haven for looting pirates.

Saint-Malo, France
Saint-Malo, France

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