In a country renowned for its rich history and architectural marvels, one of the most captivating aspects of its heritage lay in the walled cities in France. Nestled throughout the picturesque French landscape, these enchanting urban enclaves transport visitors back in time, immersing them in a bygone era of fortifications, narrow cobblestone streets, and storied pasts. From the imposing ramparts of Carcassonne to the charming medieval walls of Avignon, these walled cities stand as tangible testaments to centuries of human endeavor and serve as living museums, where the echoes of history whisper through every stone.
Exploring these fortified gems offers a captivating journey into the heart of France’s medieval past, where legends intertwine with architecture, and tales of battles and triumphs linger in the air. In this article, we’ll cover the most impressive walled cities in France and share a few helpful tips about exploring them.
But first things first…
Helpful Resources For Visiting France
For those seeking affordable flights to France, you can use this Qatar Airways link, offering a generous discount of up to 15% (I personally rely on it for most of my bookings too).
Prior to your journey to France, it’s important and in cases, mandatory to have travel insurance. SafetyWing provides budget-friendly plans that cover major medical expenses, as well as miscellaneous travel costs like lost baggage and flight delays (for more about this, check out our honest SafetyWing review).
Car rentals are a great way to explore walled cities in France, since many of them lie off the beaten track. You can make the most of our special discount with Auto Europe, granting you savings of up to 25% (for more info, refer to our detailed Auto Europe review).
Booking your accommodation in France? Utilize our exclusive offer to save up to 15% on all properties in France through Booking.
And last but not least, let’s not forget about the visa. iVisa offers a convenient service to assist you with all the essential French visa arrangements, ensuring a smoother process. As a frequent user of their services, I highly recommend them.
Before visiting France, you’ll probably find our France on a budget guide to be helpful as well as our canal boating in France article. If you intend to visit Paris, also make sure to check out our list of hidden gems in Paris, our street art guide to Paris, and guide to solo travel in the capital.
Mont Saint Michel, Normandy
We start off this list of the best walled cities in France with Mont Saint Michel. Rising majestically from the midst of a vast bay, Mont Saint Michel is a true masterpiece of medieval ingenuity and breathtaking beauty. This UNESCO World Heritage site has captured the imaginations of travelers for centuries and continues to inspire awe with its enchanting allure. This architectural marvel, perched on a rocky island, is crowned by spires that reach toward the heavens, creating a sight that will leave you speechless.
Venturing within the fortified walls of Mont Saint Michel is like stepping into a time capsule. Wander through its narrow, winding streets, adorned with charming stone houses, quaint shops, and inviting restaurants. The medieval ambiance is palpable, and at every turn, you’ll discover architectural wonders that have stood the test of time.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the magnificent Abbey of Mont Saint Michel, the crowning jewel of this historic site. As you ascend the grand staircase, you’ll feel a sense of anticipation building, knowing that you are about to witness an architectural grandeur. Inside, admire the intricate Gothic and Romanesque details, the soaring ceilings, and the stunning stained glass windows that bathe the abbey in ethereal light.
If you’re looking to explore the walls of Mont Saint Michel, this private tour is a great choice.
As you approach Saint-Malo, the sight of its formidable granite walls rising defiantly against the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean will leave you in awe. This fortified gem stands as a testament to the city’s rich maritime heritage and its resilience throughout the ages. Step through the majestic gates and find yourself immersed in a labyrinth of cobblestone streets, bustling squares, and breathtaking architecture. The narrow alleys and stone houses exude an irresistible medieval charm, evoking a sense of wonder and adventure at every turn.
Saint-Malo’s walls, which have withstood the test of time, invite you to embark on a journey through history. Take a leisurely stroll along the ramparts and savor the panoramic vistas of the expansive ocean, the rugged coastline, and the picturesque harbor. Feel the sea breeze on your face as you imagine the fearless privateers and explorers who once called this city their home.
Located in the northwestern part of France, Dinan is a gem of a city dotted with picturesque streets, medieval architecture, and rich heritage of this remarkable destination, best known for its fascinating medieval walls.
Dinan’s fortified walls, which stretch for almost two miles, offer breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding countryside. Walk along the ramparts and soak in the panoramic vistas of the Rance River, lush green landscapes, and rolling hills that surround this enchanting town. The sense of tranquility and beauty that greets you from atop the walls is truly awe-inspiring.
One of the standout landmarks in Dinan is the majestic Saint-Sauveur Basilica. Its striking Gothic architecture and intricate stained glass windows make it a must-visit site for history and art enthusiasts alike. Explore the peaceful interior, admire the exquisite craftsmanship, and feel a sense of reverence in this architectural masterpiece.
Peacefully lying on the rugged coastline of Brittany, Concarneau is one of the most famous walled cities in France. The imposing walls of Concarneau not only offer a sense of security but also provide magnificent views of the surrounding azure waters and golden sandy beaches.
A visit to Concarneau would be incomplete without exploring its most iconic attraction: the Ville Close, a fortified island located within the walled city. Step inside this historical gem and find yourself immersed in a world of captivating heritage. Wander through its winding streets, discover hidden corners, and marvel at the well-preserved medieval architecture that tells tales of ancient seafaring traditions.
Guérande, Pays De La Loire
Guérande’s ancient walls, dating back to the 14th century, stand as a testament to the city’s rich history and strategic importance. Walking along the ramparts, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, including sweeping salt marshes that stretch as far as the eye can see. The panoramic vistas are simply awe-inspiring, inviting you to pause and savor the beauty that surrounds you.
The centerpiece of Guérande is its stunning Gothic-style collegiate church, Saint-Aubin, whose intricate stained glass windows and ornate details will leave you in awe. Step inside this architectural masterpiece and let the serene atmosphere wash over you, offering a moment of tranquility amidst the bustling streets of the city.
The star-shaped fortress, which served as a stronghold and a trading hub in the 17th century, is the centerpiece of Brouage’s architectural splendor. Wander along the ramparts, offering panoramic views of the surrounding marshland and the shimmering waters beyond. The views are truly breathtaking, allowing you to appreciate the strategic location that made Brouage a formidable defensive bastion.
Brouage’s rich maritime heritage is best explored at the Maison de la Pierre, a museum dedicated to the city’s stone industry. The walled city of Brouage also offers a haven for art enthusiasts. Explore the art galleries scattered throughout the city, showcasing the works of local and international artists, and don’t forget to savor the flavors of the region as you indulge in the gastronomic delights of Brouage
Nestled atop a majestic hill in the picturesque Dordogne department in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Domme is one of the most charming walled cities in France. Domme’s fortified walls have been protecting the city from invaders since the 13th-century and today, are one of the town’s most important historical sites.
As you pass through its arches, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of history and charm. Discover the beautiful Gothic-style church, wander through the quaint streets lined with medieval houses, and explore the ancient market hall that still serves as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. For a truly unique experience, venture beneath the streets of Domme to explore the fascinating Grottes de Domme, a network of underground caves. Marvel at the intricate stalactites and stalagmites, and learn about the rich geological history of the region.
La Couvertoirade, Aveyron
Nestled in the breathtaking landscape of the southern Aveyron region in France, La Couvertoirade takes you on a journey of ancient charm, rich history, and awe-inspiring beauty that will leave you enchanted. La Couvertoirade is a true hidden gem, a perfectly preserved medieval village surrounded by fortified walls that have stood strong for centuries.
Once inside the walled city, you’ll find yourself transported to a different time. Lose yourself in the narrow, winding streets, flanked by stone houses, ancient towers, and medieval architecture that exudes an unmistakable sense of authenticity.
One of the most awe-inspiring aspects of Carcassonne is its magnificent fortified walls. As you approach the city, the imposing double ring of ramparts rises majestically before you, creating an air of anticipation and wonder. These walls, fortified with 52 towers and punctuated by towering gateways, create an almost fairy-tale-like atmosphere that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a medieval dream.
Once inside the city walls, you’ll find yourself amidst a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, charming squares, and centuries-old buildings. The Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, a stunning Gothic cathedral, stands as a testament to the city’s religious heritage. Its intricate stained glass windows and ornate decorations will leave you in awe.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Château Comtal, a medieval castle nestled within the city walls. This well-preserved fortress offers a glimpse into the daily life of the nobility during the Middle Ages. Climb its towers for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, and explore the museum housed within its walls, which showcases the city’s rich history.
Villefranche De Conflent, Conflent
Prepare to be transported to a picturesque walled city nestled amidst the breathtaking Pyrenees mountains in the charming region of Occitania, France. Welcome to Villefranche de Conflent, a place where history, beauty, and a sense of wonder intertwine to create an unforgettable experience!
Villefranche de Conflent’s fortified walls, built in the 11th century, stand as a testament to the city’s rich history and the architectural prowess of the time. Walk along the ramparts, offering breathtaking vistas of the surrounding Pyrenees mountains and the picturesque valley below. Let the beauty of the natural surroundings take your breath away and soak in the tranquility of this remarkable setting but also don’t forget to visit the star attraction of the town- its awe-inspiring fortress, Fort Liberia perched high above the city on a rocky hill
This list of walled cities in France couldn’t be complete without Aigues Mortes. Aigues-Mortes is a true gem, a perfectly preserved medieval city surrounded by imposing fortified walls that have stood strong for centuries. The towering walls of Aigues-Mortes, constructed in the 13th century are one of the town’s most important landmarks together with the impressive 13th century Tower of Constance.
Aigues-Mortes is also renowned for its rich culinary heritage. Indulge in the flavors of the Camargue region as you savor local delicacies such as bull meat, salt-crusted fish, and the famed red rice of Camargue. Visit the lively markets to sample fresh regional produce, and pair your culinary delights with the delicious wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
Baux De Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
The fortified walls of Les Baux-de-Provence, dating back to the 11th century are just a glimpse of the town’s architectural grandeur. Walk along the ramparts and be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including lush vineyards, olive groves, and the vibrant colors of Provence. Another one of the highlights of Les Baux-de-Provence is the magnificent Château des Baux, an imposing fortress perched at the highest point of the city.
You can visit the walls. of Les Baux on this day trip tour from Aix en Provence.
Briançon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Briançon is a true hidden gem nestled in the French Alps, known for the breathtaking surrounding nature, rich history, and remarkable fortifications that have stood for centuries. Briançon is an enchanting mountain town, perched at an altitude of over 1,300 meters, making it the highest city in France. Its strategic location on the ancient route between Italy and France has shaped its historical significance and architectural splendor.
One of the crown jewels of Briançon is the stunning Fortifications of Vauban, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the fortifications, climb the impressive walls, and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountainscape. The panoramic vistas of snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, and lush alpine meadows will let you catch a glimpse of some of the most beautiful views in France.
Prepare to be amazed by the extraordinary walled city of Neuf-Brisach, a masterpiece of military architecture nestled in the charming region of Alsace, France. Get ready to immerse yourself in a world of history, precision, and breathtaking beauty that will leave you in awe.
Neuf-Brisach is a true gem, renowned for its perfectly geometric design and strategic significance. Built in the 17th century by the military engineer Vauban, it stands as a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the time. As you approach its imposing walls, you’ll be struck by the symmetry and precision that define this unique fortified town.
Once inside the walled city, you’ll be transported back in time. Walk along the perfectly straight streets, lined with well-preserved buildings and charming houses. The architectural harmony of Neuf-Brisach is truly remarkable, creating an atmosphere that is both awe-inspiring and peaceful.
You can visit the walls of Neuf-Brisach on this spectacular tour from Colmar that covers 3 villages, 1 in Germany, 1 in France, and 1 in Switzerland.
The walls of Bergheim date back to the 13th century and are remarkably well-preserved. Bergheim’s walls are adorned with towers and gateways, each telling a story of the town’s rich past. During your visit, you can admire the imposing Grand’Porte, the main gateway that once guarded the entrance to the town. As you pass through this historic portal, you’ll feel like stepping into a different era, where knights and merchants once traversed the cobblestone streets.
Explore the narrow, winding streets within the walls of Bergheim and marvel at the well-preserved half-timbered houses that line the way. The charming architecture adds to the town’s allure and creates a truly immersive experience. As you walk, notice how the walls seamlessly blend with the buildings, providing a sense of unity and a glimpse into the town’s defensive past.
You can visit the Bergheim walls on this beautiful day trip tour from Strasbourg.
Provins is a captivating walled city located in the Île-de-France region of France, approximately 80 kilometers southeast of Paris. Nestled amidst the lush countryside, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a true gem that offers a glimpse into the medieval past.
The walls of Provins are one of the city’s most remarkable features. Spanning a length of approximately 1.2 kilometers, these fortified walls encircle the historic center of Provins, creating a captivating and well-preserved medieval atmosphere. The walls date back to the 13th century and were built to protect the city’s strategic position along important trade routes.
The walls of Provins not only served as a defense mechanism but also played a crucial role in the city’s economic and cultural life. Within the walls, you’ll find a wealth of historical sites, including the impressive Collégiale Saint-Quiriace, a Gothic masterpiece, and the Tour César, a medieval tower that offers breathtaking views of the city and beyond.
Le Quesnoy, Hauts-de-France
Speaking of walled cities in France, we can’t forget about Le Quesnoy. Le Quesnoy is a charming walled town located in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. Situated near the Belgian border, this historic town is renowned for its well-preserved fortifications that surround its picturesque streets.
The walls of Le Quesnoy are a testament to its rich military past. Built in the 17th century by the famous military architect Vauban, the fortifications served as a vital defense system during times of conflict. The walls span approximately 3 kilometers and encircle the historic center of the town, creating a sense of security and preserving its unique character.
The walls themselves offer a breathtaking vantage point to admire Le Quesnoy’s scenic beauty. From atop the ramparts, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including lush fields, tranquil canals, and charming rooftops. The vistas are particularly enchanting during sunset, casting a warm glow over the town and creating a magical atmosphere.
Boulogne Sur Mer, Hauts-de-France
Boulogne-sur-Mer is a captivating coastal town located in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. Situated on the shores of the English Channel, this historic town boasts a rich maritime heritage and is home to impressive fortifications that have played a significant role in its history.
The walls of Boulogne-sur-Mer are perched on a hill overlooking the town and harbor, creating a commanding presence. Dating back to Roman times and further fortified during the Middle Ages, the walls have stood as a testament to the town’s strategic importance and have witnessed centuries of maritime trade, military campaigns, and cultural exchange.
The fortifications span approximately 3.5 kilometers and feature towers, bastions, and gates that once protected the town from invasions and provided a sense of security to its inhabitants. The impressive Tour d’Ordre is a standout feature, offering panoramic views of the town, the harbor, and the vast expanse of the English Channel.
Montreuil Sur Mer, Hauts-de-France
Montreuil-sur-Mer is a picturesque town located in the Hauts-de-France region and one of the most picturesque walled cities in France. Despite its name, Montreuil-sur-Mer is actually situated inland, about 16 kilometers from the English Channel. This charming town is renowned for its well-preserved medieval walls, which add a touch of historical grandeur to its delightful streets.
Dating back to the 13th century, these fortifications were built to protect the town and its residents during times of conflict. The walls encompass the town center, forming a protective ring around its historic buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and charming squares. The fortifications span approximately 3 kilometers and are punctuated by towers and gateways that harken back to a bygone era. The most impressive of these is the Porte de Boulogne, a monumental gateway that once served as the main entrance to the town. Its imposing presence and intricate architectural details make it a captivating sight.
Now that we covered all of the walled cities in France, we feel that we should mention a few more cities that even though not entirely covered by walls, have impressive remains of medieval walls that cover a portion of the city.
Avignon is a stunning walled city located in the Provence region of southeastern France. Situated on the banks of the Rhône River, Avignon is famous for its rich history, cultural heritage, and its impressive fortified walls that encircle the old town.
The walls of Avignon are a testament to the city’s medieval past and its strategic significance. Built during the 14th century, these fortifications were designed to protect the city and its inhabitants from external threats. The walls stretch for approximately 4.3 kilometers, encompassing the historic center and its architectural treasures.
Laon is a captivating walled city located in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. Situated atop a hill, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Laon’s fortified walls, with their rich history and architectural splendor, make it a remarkable destination for history enthusiasts and architecture lovers alike.
The fortifications date back to the 13th century and are among the best-preserved in France. They encompass the entire historic center of the city, forming a protective ring around its treasures. The walls of Laon span approximately 5 kilometers and are punctuated by imposing towers and gateways. The most renowned gateway is the Porte d’Ardon, a magnificent entrance adorned with sculptural details that provide a glimpse into the town’s medieval past.
Langres, Grand Est
Langres is a magnificent walled city located in the Grand Est region of northeastern France situated about 55 kilometers southwest of Dijon. Perched atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, Langres is renowned for its remarkably well-preserved fortifications that have stood the test of time.
The walls date back to Roman times and were further fortified during the Middle Ages. They stretch for approximately 3.5 kilometers, completely encircling the historic center of the city. Langres’ walls are a sight to behold, with their towering ramparts, fortified gates, and defensive towers. The fortifications showcase a remarkable blend of architectural styles from different periods, including Roman, medieval, and Renaissance influences.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Nestled on a hilltop in the Alpes-Maritimes department, the town is renowned for its picturesque setting, artistic heritage, and well-preserved medieval walls. Situated about 20 kilometers west of Nice, Saint-Paul-de-Vence offers a step back in time with its ancient fortifications. The village’s walls date back to the 16th century and enclose the historic center, creating a captivating atmosphere that transports visitors to a bygone era.
The walls of Saint-Paul-de-Vence exude a timeless charm, with their weathered stones, ancient gateways, and defensive towers. As you enter through one of the village’s gateways, such as the Porte de Vence or the Porte de Nice, you are greeted by a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and art galleries that evoke a sense of enchantment.
Last but not least, we round up this list of walled cities in France with Besançon, a captivating walled city located in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Most of the city’s old town are still surrounded by defensive walls culminating at the massive Vauban Citadel. The city’s walls were designed by the famous military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, who was known for his expertise in fortifications during the 17th century.
The fortifications of Besançon are a marvel of military engineering and strategic design. The walls form a semicircle around the historic center of the city and stretch for approximately 11 kilometers. The centerpiece of Besançon’s fortifications is the iconic Citadelle de Besançon, a massive fortress perched atop a hill overlooking the city, and this UNESCO World Heritage site is considered one of Vauban’s masterpieces.
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