Rennes-le-Chateau travel guide

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Visit Rennes-le-Chateau (Occitanie, France)

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Rennes-le-Chateau is a village to the south of Carcassonne in the Aude department (Languedoc-Roussillon region).

An attractive little village reached after a fairly steep climb in the car you will dscover some splendid views of the surrounding countryside from its position on the top of a hill. It is the links that the village has with the holy grail that attract many of the visitors to Rennes-le-Chateau.

Explore Rennes-le-Chateau

On arriving at Rennes-le-Chateau, at the top of the village you can see the Tour Magdala, a small, castle-like tower which hangs out over the views of the valley below. This was built by a priest called Berenger Saunière as a library which he said was to be used for retiring priests.

castle tower in Rennes-le-Chateau

A little further down in the village you will see the Church of Mary Magdalene. The church was renovated in the late 1800s, also by Berenger Sauniere. It has some unusual features such as a figure of the devil holding the holy water stoup above the doorway.

Another popular historical monument with visitors to Rennes-le-Chateau is the Villa Béthania, the house built by the same Abbot Saunière.

The views from the tower and out across the valley are very impressive, and the village has a history dating back to both prehistoric and roman occupations...but it is not these that attract the crowds.


The legends of Rennes-le-Chateau

Rennes-le-Chateau attracts visitors because of various conspiracies and theories that give the village an important role in various plots throughout the ages, essentially based on the possibility that Jesus and Mary might have stayed here and established a family after being exiled here.

The story gathered momentum in the 19th century, when the village priest, Berenger Sauniere, reputedly found treasure or other evidence for this family line descended from Jesus.

The popular book by Dan Brown, the Da Vinci Code, has further revived interest in the village and it is now possible to take a guided tour of the tower, church and the house and gardens built and renovated by Berenger Sauniere at Rennes-le-Chateau.

view across countryside from Rennes-le-Chateau

Note - the entire story is also said to have been invented in the 1950's by someone simply trying to promote his hotel. It's still entertaining to speculate of course, and as with other stories of this type perhaps we can never be completely sure...perhaps the 1950's story is itself a cunning cover-up plan to divert attention away from the real mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau...

Attractions nearby

If you are in the Aude to discover legends and history you will certainly want to explore some of the cathar castles, such as the Chateau de Puilaurens to the south and Chateau de Queribus and Chateau de Peyrepertuse to the east.

Towns with small but interesting historic centres near Rennes-le-Chateau include Alet-les-Bains and Quillan.

You can find more travel ideas in the Aude guide and the Languedoc-Roussillon guide.

See also: 

Photos of Rennes-le-Chateau

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Map of Rennes-le-Chateau and places nearby


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Rennes-les-Bains is a traditional spa town in the Aude countryside

Rennes-les-Bains guide


The abbey ruins are the most imposing monument in Alet-les-Bains but be sure to explore the town to discover the other highlights

Alet-les-Bains guide
Gorges de l'Aude

Gorges de l'Aude

The Gorges de l'Aude are a scenic highlight to explore close to Carcassonne

Gorges de l'Aude guide


Be sure to take a stroll through Quillan as part of your trip to explore the Aude countryside

Quillan guide
Chateau de Puilaurens

Chateau de Puilaurens

Castle Puilaurens is a Cathar castle of France in a beautiful mountain location

Chateau de Puilaurens guide


The small town of Limoux is best visited in late spring to enjoy the Carnival of Limoux, one of the oldest and best known carnivals in France

Limoux guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Aude

Address: Rennes-le-Château, Couiza, Limoux, Languedoc-Roussillon, 11190, France || GPS coordinates: latitude 42.9281, longitude 2.26333

Plan your visit to Rennes-le-Chateau, Aude

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Gorges de la Pierre-Lys: site of natural beauty (11 km)
  • Limoux: recommended detour (15 km)
  • Gorges de l'Orbieu: site of natural beauty (18 km)
  • Gorges de Galamus: site of natural beauty (20 km)
  • Camon: most beautiful village (26 km)
  • Fontaine Intermittente de Fontestorbes: site of natural beauty (27 km)
  • Mosset: most beautiful village (30 km)
  • Carcassonne City: grand site of france (32 km)
  • Cité de Carcassonne: site of natural beauty (32 km)
  • Carcassonne: heritage site (32 km)
  • Lagrasse: most beautiful village (34 km)
  • Eglise de Sainte Marie de Marcevol (Arboussols): religious monument (35 km)

The French version of this page is at Rennes-le-Chateau (Francais)