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!