Pau is a commune overlooking the Pyrenees, and capital of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France. Pau had 77,130 inhabitants as of 2017.
The city is located in the heart of the former sovereign principality of Béarn, of which it was the capital from 1464. Pau lies on the Gave de Pau, and is located 100 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean and 50 kilometres from Spain. This position gives it a striking panorama across the mountain range of the Pyrenees as well as the hillsides of Jurançon. According to Alphonse de Lamartine, "Pau has the world's most beautiful view of the earth just as Naples has the most beautiful view of the sea."
The site has been occupied since at least the Gallo-Roman era. However the first references to Pau as a settlement only occur in the first half of the 12th century. The town developed from the construction of its castle, likely from the 11th century by the Viscounts of Béarn, to protect the ford which was a strategic point providing access to the Bearn valleys and to Spain. The city takes its name from the stockade which surrounded the original castle.
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