Fortress of Louisbourg - History and Facts | History Hit

Fortress of Louisbourg

Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada

The Fortress of Louisbourg was an 18th century French fortified town which has been carefully reconstructed.

About Fortress of Louisbourg

Surrounded by Cape Breton’s rocky shoreline, The Fortress of Louisbourg (Forteresse De Louisbourg) was an 18th century French fortified town which has been carefully reconstructed. In fact, it is the largest reconstruction of its kind in North America, and today is a hugely popular living history museum.

History of Fortress of Louisbourg 

Begun in 1719 on what the French called the Ile Royale (Cape Breton Island) at the eastern end of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the Fortress of Louisbourg was a thriving cod fishing port town and trading centre.

It was originally home to L’nu, also known as the Mi’kmaq, and throughout the 18th century a combination of French, Basque, German, English, Irish, Scottish, and African people were drawn to its shores.

Named after Louis XIV of France, the fortifications which surrounded the town were mainly constructed between 1720 and 1740, and were one of the most extensive and expensive European fortifications constructed in North America.

Twice successfully besieged by the British in 1745 and 1758, the Fortress of Louisbourg was also dismantled by the British. The British continued to have a garrison at Louisbourg until 1768.

The town and fortress were partially reconstructed in 1960 and 1961 using some of the original stonework, which provided jobs for unemployed coal miners.

Fortress of Louisbourg Today

As the largest reconstruction project in North America, the Fortress of Louisbourg is a time capsule of its own past frozen in its heyday in 1744.

French soldiers march down the streets while ladies dance in formal parlours. Cannon fire shakes the ground as harpsicord melodies mingle with the aroma of baking bread which drifts from the stone bakery.

It is possible to chat with fishermen, sailors, and servants, while sipping rum and watching lace-making and children playing 300-year-old games.

Visitors can tour the town including shops, homes and defences. From June to mid-October, there are daily guides and costumed actors around the site (available by pre-booking at other times).

Getting to Fortress of Louisbourg 

From the centre of Nova Scotia, the Fortress of Louisbourg is reachable in just under 5 hours by car via the Trans-Canada Hwy/NS-104 E roads. From the centre of Cape Breton Island, the site is reachable in 2 to 2 and a half hours via the Trans-Canada Hwy/NS-105 E roads.

Featured In

Canada Historic Sites

Discover the best historic sites in Canada, from Kejimkujik National Park to the Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, as well as Canada's national history museums.