Department: Pyrénées-Orientales (66)
Region: Occitanie

Villefranche de Conflent, one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France’, dates from 1092 when the Count of Cerdagne granted a charter for the founding of Villa Libéra, later Villafranca, and then Villefranche. Here, the valley narrows dramatically and the village almost blocks the onward route. The town was fortified by Vauban in the 17th century, and lies at the foot of the Canigou at the eastern end of the Pyrenees. Vauban's involvement makes this one of the locations rated as a World Heritage Site.

A town fortified by Vauban

'...parallel streets are today lined with restored houses, shops and ateliers...'

Externally, the town looks very much as it must have done 300 years ago, but internally the two main parallel streets are today lined with restored houses, shops and ateliers offering souvenirs both locally authentic and generally of excellent quality, although some fall into the category of 'Things you wish you hadn't bought'. Visitors stroll in the time-honoured fashion of France, and heat-weary dogs loll on doorsteps with ‘Please do not disturb’ expressions on their shaggy faces.

At the far end of town in the Place de l’Église, two young boys, sporting partisan colours, the one of France the other of Spain, are playing one-a-side football: France is winning – it’s his ball!

Surrounded by the sound-suppressing ramparts of this fortified town, the ambience in the shade of chestnut trees can lull you into a trancelike state in which you relax profoundly; conversation falters then begins anew, time passing unnoticed, unconcerned. Earlier, a tour of the ramparts had revealed a few readily defended nooks wherein grooves on the wall told of another time where soldiers had sharpened their weapons – presumably smoking a Galloise, puzzling over a crossword or fathoming medieval Sudoku while awaiting the arrival of the next ‘stabbee’ from the attacking forces.

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Office du Tourisme
33 Rue Saint-Jacques, 66820 Villefranche-de-Conflent
Tel: 04 68 96 22 96