The village’s striking medieval castle (“chateau”) is its most imposing monument, and it can be seen from all directions. Inside, climb the towers for splendid view of the city below and the mountains all around.
Foix is also capital of the picturesque Ariège department, one of France’s least populous areas. A prime allure of the territory is quite simply the vast diversity here and nearby. Either the Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts, while not mere minutes away by any stretch, are within reasonable distance.
Spain and Andorra lie nearby to the south. Major cities and attractions of southwest France are close by. The popular Cathar country, with its splendid castles, are within reach. Adventures, both for summer and winter, are rampant. And the scenery here is nothing short of spectacular.
Foix, France History and GeographyFoix’s unique position—both remote and close to crucial borders—has resulted in this small city seeing unusual power and influence over the years. The city has become embroiled in wars between counts and kings, between Aragon and Castille, Toulouse and Barcelona and even between England and France as well as Spain and France. Its unique location has also resulted in it serving as a refuge, for the Cathars as well as downed World War II pilots fleeing Nazis.
Geographically, it is similarly positioned as a stop between various worlds: the valley and the mountains, France and Andorra or Spain, eastern Pyrenees versus west. It has a diversity of rivers, streams, hills, mountains, caves and hiking trails.
Getting Around Foix and the AriègeIf you plan to visit the Ariège, do yourself a big favor and just rent a car. While you can get to the department by train, you won’t get around that way. Inner-departmental transportation is almost non-existent. The nearest airport is Toulouse, which is about a two-hour drive away from Foix.
Foix, France Sightseeing and ShoppingThe premier attraction in Foix is one that can be seen from a considerable distance. The Château de Foix simply cannot be neglected if you will visit this area. The chateau itself is a marvel of 10th-century architecture. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to inhale some of Europe’s most stunning scenery from a great elevated viewpoint.
Les Forges des Pyrènes is an expansive property featuring various craftsman at work. Picnic tables, a playground and a restaurant are also on-site.
Some of the area’s best shopping comes at the local markets. Some nice ones to visit include the Ax-les-Thermes market, held mid-June through mid-September on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Foix’s markets are held the third and fifth Mondays of each month, and every Friday. The farmer and local artisan’s market is Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., from July through August.
Take a hike that blends history with activity. Follow along the trail of Frenchmen, Jews and downed World War II pilots along le Chemin de la Liberté. The challenging foot path was used by hundreds to escape occupied France and enter Spain. For details about the route and hiking there, contact the Comité Départemental du Tourisme Ariège Pyrénées, located at 31 bis, avenue du Général de Gaulle in Foix.
Where to Stay in Foix, France
Hôtel Lons has a wonderful river-front glass-enclosed terrace where you can buy tasty but inexpensive meals. The rooms aren’t too fancy, but the décor is friendly and clean.
Hôtel Pyrene has a nice location in the shadows of Foix’s castle. It features an outdoor pool and wi-fi access.
Camping du Lac is a wonderful lake-front three-star site just a mile from the center of town. Tent sites are available, as are mobile home and caravan rentals. The site features a pool and tennis court.