Listed as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO because of its fortifications by Vauban, the fortified village of Villefranche-de-Conflent, situated at the confluence of the Têt, the Cady and the Rotja, at the foot of Mount Canigou, was founded at the end of the 11th century by a Count of Cerdanya, in order to protect the valleys from invasion. It was then reinforced by Vauban in the 17th century, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, to ensure its safety and that of Conflent.
Encircled by solid fortifications, the medieval village of Villefranche-de-Conflent also features in the list of the most beautiful villages in France. Visitors who love old buildings can explore this ancient heritage: ramparts with fortified doors, the picturesque street, the Rue Saint-Jean, with many house fronts which figure in the inventory of Historic Monuments, the Saint-Pierre bridge over the Têt, the town hall belfry tower, the Church of St James (Saint-Jacques) with its beautiful 12th-century carved pink marble entrance... Art galleries, souvenir shops and local craft shops all offer plenty for shopaholics to enjoy.
On the heights above Villefranche-de-Conflent you can see the outline of Fort Libéria, like a sentinel majestically overlooking the medieval village and the confluence of the three valleys. This remarkable edifice with wall-walks was constructed by Vauban in 1681, then reinforced in the 19th century under Napoleon III. An underground stairway called ‘The thousand steps', which has 734 steps in fact, connects the fort with the village of Villefranche-de-Conflent. The Fort is accessible on foot for braver souls but can also be reached using the 4x4 shuttle bus which goes from the village.
Not to be missed is a trip on the yellow train, which goes from Villefranche-de-Conflent, for a fabulous adventure in the high plateaux of Cerdanya!
Villefranche-de-Conflent is located at the confluence of three rivers that are the Tet, the Cady and Rotja. The city was built in 1092 by the Count of Cerdanya, William Raymond, and it is this same year was given permission by the Bishop of Elne to build the church of St Jacques.
In 1095 the city was called Villa Franca. Tax liens prompted many artisans to move here: weavers, tanners, weavers, masons, and traders.
In 1681, Vauban built Fort Liberia and recasts Villefranche, enhances the ramparts, built a barracks, a hospital, a bastion, and magazines, and demolition of the Franciscan convent in the Faubourg.
During the reign of Louis XVI, driveway gates are replaced by large doors in pink marble from Villefranche, and drawbridges.
In the 19th century, Napoleon is the third major works including underground called "1000 steps" to access the high Liberia (775 steps) from the bridge St Peter, Bridge to the 12th century.
The village has recently registered in UNESCO World Heritage site and part of the Vauban Circuit.
Villefranche contains within it many shops as well as artisans (traditional bakery, pottery, leather cutters, goldsmiths, and manufacture of witches).
The ramparts of the city.
The Romanesque church of the 12th century porch and pink marble.
Bridge St Pierre.
Streets St Jacques and St John with their beautiful homes, some of which date from the Middle Ages.
Visits to caves Canalettes 300 meters from the village.
The fort Liberia.
Start the Little Yellow Train to Villefranche-de-Conflent.
Not far from Villefranche-de-Conflent:
The Abbey of Saint-Martin du Canigou in management Vernet-les-Bains (8 km).
The cloister of Saint-Michel de Cuxa near Prades.
The altarpiece of the church of Prades.
Visit mines Escaro (10 km).
Hot baths of St. Thomas 1/2h 'Font-Romeu.
Col de Jau and his view on the plain of Roussillon.
And hiking to reach the peak of Canigou.