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First fortified town in France

Navarrenx is one of our oldest towns. Traces of its existence from the first century AD. have been found. Its name derives from the Latin “Sponda Navarrensi” meaning “the borders of Navarre”. And was the first fortified town in France. In the first half of the 16th century it was Béarn’s principal stronghold.

In spite of it being so old, Navarrenx has remained almost intact which contributes to the fascination which it has for us and was a major factor in it being winning its “Plus Beaux Villages de France” award. This town bears the imprint of a whole dynasty (the Moncades) and ambition (to make Béarn an independent State). At the start of the 14th century the town was built as a bastide or fortified township as shown by the right-angled planning of the roads. Bastide’s are typically Béarnais. They derive from a sudden increase in the population in the Middle Ages. They took on the challenge of building towns in empty regions and called them “bastides”.

 From Protestants to the Compostela pilgrim route.

In 1538, the town was fortified and became a real fortress against Spanish Navarre and French Soule with its ramparts over a kilometre and a half long (classified as a Historical Monument) its bastions and other military buildings. It was Navarrenx which protected Jeanne d’Albret, the sovereign of Protestant Béarn  and her followers from the Catholic troops. Navarrenx is also a stopping place on the Chemin de St Jacques, the pilgrim route to Compostella. One of the four principal routes, from Le-Puy-en-Velay (GR65) passes through Navarrenx and it is the most used by pilgrims coming from the whole of Europe. It is a town which has welcomed pilgrims for centuries and gives off this welcoming feeling emphasised by the peaceful gave d’Oloron and its fishermen.

 Navarrenx a country resort

Navarrenx is also the capital for fishing and the Gave d’Oloron whose source is in the Pyrénées is also the longest salmon river in France. Our qualified fishing guides will share their secrets with you (and their preferred places). But on the Gave’s waters there are other sports available: rafting, canoeing, paddling..... and the countryside is made for walking: wander along beneath the trees and on the lanes surrounding Navarrenx. Navarrenx with its “Station Verte” or Country Resort “appelation” is also the place for your holidays with family or friends  

  • The Navarrenx' ramparts
  • St Antoine's door in Navarrenx
  • The Navarrenx' ramparts
  • Viewpoint for the Gave d'Oloron in Navarrenx
  • Salmon fishing in the Gave d'Oloron