The Walls and the Old Town of Briancon, FranceThe Walls and the Old Town of Briancon, France
©The Walls and the Old Town of Briancon, France|Fotolia

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Alps

In the Hautes-Alpes region, the fortifications of Briançon and the stronghold of Mont-Dauphin were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2008. These two must-see architectural feats were both designed by the Marquis de Vauban, Louis XIV’s famous military engineer.

Vauban the visionary

The Alpine monuments listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008 – the fortifications of Briançon and Mont-Dauphin – are the work of Sébastien Le Preste de Vauban (1633-1707). Under the reign of Louis XIV, this military engineer, architect and town planner undertook to endow the ancient Kingdom of France with an « iron belt », giving rise to the construction of around 30 strongholds along its borders.

Monuments and museums

Fortifications of Briançon

Perched at an altitude of 1,326 metres, at the crossroads to five valleys, Briançon became a priority for fortification after the town was attacked by the Dukes of Savoie. Vauban’s drawings were scrupulously respected: in addition to a 3-kilometre wall, the town was encircled by 4 forts (Fort des Salettes, Fort des Trois Têtes, Fort Dauphin and Fort du Randouillet) and endowed with walkways (Pont d’Asfeld and Communication Y). Built on extremely steep slopes, these fortifications stand witness to Vauban’s engineering genius.

Stronghold of Mont-Dauphin

Built from 1693 onwards to anticipate the Italian invasions, the stronghold of Mont-Dauphin is topped with a vast lookout tower, perched at a height of 1,050 metres, standing over the valleys of Le Guil and La Durance. Built from scratch, the stronghold was designed by Vauban as a garrison town, capable of accommodating 200 soldiers and as many inhabitants. A walk along its walls and magnificently-preserved buildings (arsenal, powder room, barracks and unfinished church) promises an unforgettable voyage back in time.

The mediterranean Alps, a UNESCO candidate

Attention please! The Côte d’Azur doesn’t intend to stop there in its quest for UNESCO World Heritage listings. The “Mediterranean Alps” is also striving to sweep up the coveted distinction. This beautiful transborder territory, spanning both land and sea, encompasses the Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence areas in France, as well as Piedmont and Liguria in Italy.
The site’s exceptional value resides in its geology: the “Mediterranean Alps” (Alpes de la Méditerranée) is a unique example of a mountain chain cut in half crosswise by an oceanic basin – a true geological marvel, featuring many different types of rock and rock deformations. If you want to admire it for yourself, simply lace up your walking boots and pick your hike: Mercantour National Park, Cap-Ferrat, Canyon de la Roya, or Peira Cava.