The Fortifications of Vauban

Travel the west of France to discover some of the famous fortifications.

The Fortifications of Vauban were built to protect the borders of France, and in 2008 became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

France has a rich and, at times, turbulent history. Much of the relics from its past can still be seen, and provide a fascinating insight into life in France, and what shaped it into the country it is today. Some of the most famous of these relics are the Fortifications of Vauban.

Built between 1667 to 1707, the Fortifications of Vauban are military fortifications designed to protect the borders of France from invaders. They were upgraded and designed by the Marshal of France and military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, in around 300 cities throughout France.

Who was Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban?

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban was the mastermind behind France's fortifications, and was widely recognised for his military prowess. Despite also being military advisor to King Louis XIV, he came from very humble beginnings. Orphaned at a young age, he lived a life of poverty, and was educated in science, maths and geometry by the Roman Catholic Order; Carmelite.

He joined the army and was eventually put in charge of constructing defences, and received highly distinguished honours. Many would say that his designs and upgrades of France's fortifications were his crowning glory. The fortifications became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008, cementing his reputation as a military genius.

Where are the fortifications?

The fortifications are found across the western, northern and eastern borders of France, and vary in size, shape and purpose. They range from mountain and sea forts and communication buildings.

Driving to the fortifications with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

With so many fortifications, you can't really just visit one to get a feeling for it. Instead, make a road trip out of it, and drive from fortification to fortification, uncovering their secrets and discover what it was about them that made them so special.

For the easiest route from our Calais terminal, drive the western fortifications. Starting in Arras, and ending in Gironde.

Western Fortifications of Vauban

Arras: The Vauban Citadel

One hour and 15 minutes from our Calais terminal

Based on the citadel in Lille, this is a beautiful, must-see site.
Based on the citadel in Lille, this is a beautiful, must-see site. credit: ReflectedSerendipity.

It was based on the nearby fortification in Lille, but does have some significant differences, making it unique. For example, Vauban designed it to have counterguards protecting the bastions. Despite it being a pentagon in shape, the internal buildings are arranged in a rectangle.

The citadel is built high up a hill (naturally one of the best places to defend a city) so even though the walk up to the top might be a bit of a hard task on your legs, you will be rewarded with a great view.

Manche: Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and Tatihou: Watchtowers

Four hours from our Calais terminal

The watchtowers are great historical relics, still standing over 400 years after they were built.
The watchtowers are great historical relics, still standing over 400 years after they were built.

Along the Manche coast, take a break in the sea-facing commune, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and its nearby island Tatihou. Both are home to watchtowers, looking out to sea. These towers weren't actually built by Vauban himself, rather his student Benjamin de Combes. This doesn't mean that they don't have the classic Vauban characteristics, and are still well worth a visit. Especially during the warmer summer months, when the sun is sparkling on the sea.

Camaret-sur-Mer: Tour Vauban

Seven hours, 15 minutes from our Calais terminal

See the guardhouse, big enough to house 11 cannons and discover what made this fortification so special.
See the guardhouse, big enough to house 11 cannons and discover what made this fortification so special.

This is one of Vauban's most impressive fortifications, a three-level defence tower that is protected by walls, along with a guardhouse and gun battery. The battery is particularly impressive, as it can hold 11 cannons. It was designed by Vauban in 1689, and building was completed in 1696. Vauban fought here himself, in 1694 to defend France from an attack from the Anglo-Dutch.

Cussac-Fort-Médoc: Fort Médoc, Citadel of Blaye and Fort Paté

Eight hours, 15 minutes from our Calais terminal

The trio of forts at Cussac-Fort-Médoc are a must-see for every history lover!
The trio of forts at Cussac-Fort-Médoc are a must-see for every history lover!

Near Bordeaux, the commune of Cussac-Fort-Médoc is home to three of Vauban's fortifications. All three work together as the Estuary's defensive system, and if you're after a walking holiday, a great trio of sites to walk between. Bordeaux is a famous wine region, so don't forget to stop at a café or bar and toast to the great Vauban himself!

Are you ready to step back into the past and visit Vauban's greatest triumphs? Then get the bags packed, and jump in the car and head off! And don't forget to book your tickets with us early to get the best price.

 

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from £30
Prices start from £30 per car, each way* *£30 Day Trip & Overnight - Ticket must be purchased as part of a 2 day return. Return must be completed by midnight (local time) on the second calendar day. Book your travel now