Langres in Champagne-Ardenne is a fortified town dating as far back as the 4th century.
Fortifications were first built at Langres in the 4th century towards the end of the Roman Empire. Originally a Gaulish city called Lingons, the Romans renamed it Andemantunnum after the conquest of Gaul in 52 BC and held it as the head of a huge territory at the crossroads of several important trade and communication routes. Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, Langres grew and had become a large royal fortified town by the 15th century, a stronghold sitting on the border of the French kingdom. 7 towers, 7 gates and 3.5km ramparts make up the fortifications along with the huge citadel added in the 19th century, when the fortifications were restored. The Porte des Moulins, built in the 1640s, is the most majestic gate whilst the Tower of Navarre is an impressive work of defensive architecture 30m in diameter and 20m high with walls 7m thick. Unique in France it is well worth a visit with audio-guides, interactive terminals and video screens to learn more about this 16th century tower. Langres does not just have remarkable military architecture, however, it also has some beautiful religious architecture from the period of the Counter Reformation including the cathedral St Mammes and the former Ursuline convent and its chapel, as well as several Renaissance mansions.
Take the tourist train along the 3.5km ramparts for a 50 minute journey with a commentary and music. Or, why not walk the ramparts on foot and enjoy the panoramic views? If you don't want to walk all the way, just follow the covered passageways back into the inner courtyards as shortcuts into town where you can take a quiet stroll through Place Diderot and admire the statue of Langres most famous inhabitant, the Enlightenment philosopher, Denis Diderot. Visit the Museum of Art and History of Langres to uncover the area's past. It houses the Bacchus mosiac from the 2nd century, collections of archaeological finds from prehistory and Gallo-Roman times, as well as sculptures, paintings and decorative arts including Langres cutlery and Aprey faïence. Water plays an important part in the natural environment of this area and the river sources of the Marne, Aube, Meuse and Seine can all be found around Langres. There are four artificial lakes designed as reservoirs which feed into the Marne-Saône canal. The Lake la Liez is the only lake visible from the ramparts and is great for watersports as well as walking and cycling with a path around the outside of 16km. Lake Charmes is a favourite spot with anglers and Lake la Mouche is great for a relaxing walk or cycle with a 7km path, and the forest reflected in the water. The longest of the lakes, Lake la Vingeanne, has a recreation centre and a beach which is popular with families. There are also some great places for bird-watching. Explore the countryside of Langres with themed nature walks amongst the valleys and marshes with themes including medicinal plants and natural cosmetics.
With local crafts including basketry and the cutlery industry, Langres has some great shopping opportunities for those interested in crafts. There are also antiques shops, art galleries and jewellers with a weekly market every Friday selling local produce. Don't forget to buy some AOC Langres cheese, a mild flavoured yellow cheese made from cow's milk with an orange-yellow skin and a slight hollow in the top reminiscent of the ramparts of Langres. Honey and truffles are also produced locally as are the Choue beers of the Brasserie de Vauclair and a red currant drink called Le Rubis de Groseille, best served chilled as an aperitif or after dinner.
Region: Champagne Ardenne
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