Fort de Salses visitor guide

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Visit Fort de Salses, France

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The Fort de Salses is a fortress in the Pyrénées-Orientales department of southern France, in the village of Salses-le-Château, to the south-west of Leucate and about 20 kilometes north of Perpignan.

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France This Way review: the Fort de Salses is a very extensive structure with numerous reinforcements added over the centuries and attractive because of the use of red stone and red bricks, and a visit is very interesting

This location had been part of a key transportation route dating back to Roman times, and the Fort de Salses was constructed by the catalans in 1497 to protect their border with France to the north - the castle that had previously stood at the same location had been destroyed the year before by the French army.

The fort was unsuccessfully laid to siege several times, including once before construction had been completed in 1503. It ws only in 1642 that the fort was finally successfully conquered by the French, during the Thirty Years War.

Passage in red brick inside Fort de Salses

With the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 which moved the Spanish border further south the Fort de Salses lost its strategic importance (the same as the "cathar castles" to the north of here such as Chateau de Queribus and Chateau Peyrepertuse, that had been used by the French to protect their side of the frontier).

Despite this lack of a specific role, the fort was in part reinforced further by Vauban, a famous military engineer, at the end of the 17th century.

The Fort de Salses is unusual in that it is essentially a medieval castle in design but also includes more 'modern' defensive capabilities. The use of artillery at that time had created a need for thicker stronger walls, and the ability to fire artillery from within the castle.

The Fort de Salses and its interior buildings and fortifications are an interesting example of military architecture, with several improvements on the earlier style of medieval castle - there are numerous enhancements that enabled both the exterior of the castle and the interior parts to be better defended during an attack.

The castle walls are more than 10 metres thick and built from a mix of stone and red brick to follow a simple rectangular layout with a large tower in each corner and the keep in the middle of one side.

The whole structure is set into the earth a few metres lower than the surrounding landscape, the idea being to make the walls much stronger and with a smaller area of wall open to attack, as well as providing a platform for the artillery of the castle.


The fort is surrounded by a deep moat (now empty) that was originally reached by two drawbridges, one before and one after a separate building that stands in the moat, and the heart of the castle contains a large open courtyard. Originally the keep was much taller than today, but Vauban ordered that its height be signicantly reduced.

Other innovations adding to the impregnability ofthe Fort de Salses include archers 'slits' both in exterior walls and interior walls, low towers, and a carefully designed interior layout permitting each part of the castle to be separately defended in case of attack.

Inside the fort there is a large open courtyard and several buildings including the castle keep. A large ditch across the interior restricted access to the keep, which required use of a drawbridge. The building is extensive, covering almost a hectare of land (2.5 acres) and was capable of housing up to 1500 men at one time, and could hold out gainst a siege that lasted several months.

As well as the main structure, during the visit you will alo see the stables, chapel and bakers among the other buildings inside the fort. Note that you can visit the fort on your own or as part of a guided visit, but certain parts of the fortress are only open to guided visitors.

The Salses Fort has been a listed Historic National Monument for more than 100 years.

Well and tower in the courtyard of the Fort de Salses

Other monuments nearby

The principal attractions near the Fort de Salses are on or near the Mediterranean coast, such as the resort at Leucate.

You wll discover various buildings of interest to be seen in Perpignan just a few kilometres south of here. The most visited historic monuments in the region are the cathar castles such as Chateau Peyrepertuse and Chateau Queribus in the mountains to the west of Salses Fort.

Last but not least we also recommend you visit the Abbey of Saint Martin of Canigou on the slopes of Mount Canigou to the south-west of here.

See more castles in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Pyrenees-Orientales guide and the Languedoc-Roussillon guide.

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The French version of this page is at Fort de Salses (Francais)