In the 17th century, Louis XIV ordered Vauban to strengthen the existing fortifications at the Citadel of Blaye to protect the City of Bordeaux, located upstream of the estuary on the Garonne River. As the cannons at the time did not have sufficient range to cover the 3 km width of the river - and thus prevent the enemy from reaching the city - Vauban built two more forts. With Fort Paté, Fort Médoc and the improved fortifications of the Citadel of Blaye, Vauban was able to set up cross-fires and prevent enemies from sailing up to Bordeaux. Guided boat tours lasting about 1 hour are organised to visit this system for controlling the estuary, the only one of its kind in France.
Designed between 1685 and 1689 as a veritable walled City with a total area of 38 hectares, the Citadel of Blaye was built around a parade ground, a monastery dedicated to the Minims order, and several Army barracks. Inside the fortress, there are several remarkable buildings and ruins, including the 12th-Century Rudel castle, the Liverneuf Gate (12th Century), and the Éguillette Tower (15th century).
Blaye citadel is open 7 days a week, all year round. Entrance is free of charge.
There is a land train that takes a tour of Blaye and lasts an hour. Throughout the journey passengers are given a running commentary in both French and English. The train runs 4 times a day throughout July and August and weekends only in early and late season. It runs from the Tourist Information Centre in the Port area.
Several estuary cruises take place during the summer months. More information can be found at the Tourist Information website.