Baux-de-Provence tourism & sightseeing
Visit Baux-de-Provence (Provence, France)
Baux-de-Provence is a village 20 kilometres south of Avignon in Provence and within the Regional Natural Park of the Alpilles. Said to be the most visited village in France, apparently two million visitors a year crowd on to the streets of Baux-de-Provence. It is listed as a 'most beautiful villages of France', which will come as no surprise if you have ever visited and certainly deserves the accolade.
The village has a long and colourful history, with traces of occupation dating back some 8000 years. Little is known of the prehistoric occupation but in more recent centuries Baux was the scene of many troubles during the Middle Ages, resulting in Cardinal Richelieu ordering that the castle be demolished as a punishment for harbouring protestant insurgents.
As well as the village itself a major highlight of Baux-de-Provence is its great location - nestling in the Alpilles mountains it has great views across the plains that stretch to the south and on to the Mediterranean beyond, as well as the attractive rocky landscape of the Alpilles themselves. It is a typical 'Provence perched village' and the drive up to the village is also very scenic.
Exploring Les Baux-de-Provence
You can park just outside the northern end of the village and Baux-de-Provence tourist office is also here just next to the entrance to the village (see 'parking' further down). The village itself is pedestrianised, which is probably a good idea - I certainly can't imagine what the centre would be like if it also allowed one million cars a year into the narrow streets!
From here you can enter Baux-de-Provence through the Porte Mage gate. The village that you visit today largely dates from the 15th-16th centuries. As you explore, the steep cobbled streets lead you through the village passed medieval stone houses, many with ancient staircases or interesting architectural features, passing small shady squares and onwards and upwards until you reach the entrance to the castle.
France This Way comment: below I mention some of the individual historic monuments that you will see in Les Baux-de-Provence, but to be honest even if you knew nothing at all about any of them you would still love the village just because of its character and the great viewpoints...still, better to be informed!
There is plenty to see in the village itself including the parts of the ramparts that are still in place, small chapels and the Porte d'Eyguieres which is one of the original entrances into the town. Other interesting monuments include:
- the 12th century Church of Saint-Vincent, in roman style but also with a renaissance extension added in the 17th century and modern stained glass windows installed in 1960;
- the Hotel de Porcelet on Place Francois de Herain and the Hotel de Manville (now the mairie at the southern end of the Grand Rue) - these two 'Hotels' are both impressive 16th century townhouses.
- the curious renaissance style window that dates from 1571 and bears the inscription 'Post Tenebras Lux' - the window remains but the house around it has disappeared with the centuries! The saying is a Protestant expression meaning 'after the shadows comes the light' (French: Après les Ténèbres la Lumière')
En route through the village you also pass a couple of attractive viewpoints - the best is perhaps the one from the Place Saint-Vincent next to the Penitents Chapel.
You will also see a great deal of cafes and gift shops, which have taken over Les Baux-de-Provence (like some other Provencal villages) to the extent that it is quite hard to get a feeling for what the village was like before it became a tourist attraction. Certainly a local goatherd would have trouble getting his goats through the village on a busy day in August (a sight you can still see in quieter Provençal villages).
Château of Baux-de-Provence
The ruined castle - the Chateau of Baux-de-Provence - sits on top of a rocky outcrop above the village, and is now heavily promoted as one of the great monuments of Provence. You can enter the grounds of the castle compound via the 14th century Tour-de-Brau and tour the ruins of the castle, then relax and enjoy the views that stretch as far as the Mediterranean. There are also a series of recreations of medieval weapons and siege machines that are popular with children.
Les Baux-de-Provence also has a couple of small museums of passing interest. At the entrance to the castle you can visit the Museum of History of Les Baux-de-Provence while the Fondation Louis Jou (in Hotel Brion on Grande Rue) features medieval books and engravings by such illustrious names as Durer and Goya and in the Musée des Santons on Place Louis Jou you can see examples of the local craft of making figurines out of clay, called 'santons'.
Parking in Les Baux-de-Provence
There are various parking options along the road to Les Baux. If you are a registered disabled driver you can park in the village at Esplanade Charles de Gaulle car park (only 5 places available) otherwise either park in one of the car parks signposted on the D27 from Saint-Rémy de Provence or the D27a from Arles (5 euros charge) or park up at the Carrières de Lumières (free) and walk back down the hill to the village. This was my preferred choice but I like not paying for parking!
After exploring the village and castle we suggest you follow the road that leaves Baux-de-Provence from the north towards Maillane (it's not far, an easy walk) to reach the Carrieres de Lumiere (also known as the Cathédrale d'Images) and another stunning viewpoint across the valley.
The Carrieres de Lumiere are an ancient quarry that is now used for regular exhibitions with artworks projected against the quarry walls and ambient music as background. When we visited it was being used for an exhibition of Van Gogh paintings, and was a very memorable visit.
Keep walking just a short distance beyond the Carrieres de Lumiere and there is another exceptional viewpoint across the village and valley.
Note: Les Baux-de-Provence has no local industry except tourism and only about 20 residents (it was once home to several thousand people), but because it is a very popular tourist stop, especially during the summer, if possible try and visit early morning, evening or out of season to see the village at its very best.
Map of Baux-de-Provence and places to visit
Visit near Baux-de-Provence with France This Way reviews
... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Bouches-du-Rhone
Baux-de-Provence is classified as a one of the most beautiful village in France (plus beau villages)
Address: Baux-de-Provence, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Arles, Bouches-du-Rhone, Provence, 13520, France || GPS: latitude 43.743, longitude 4.7948
Plan your visit to Baux-de-Provence, Provence
Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Alpilles: regional natural parc (3km)
- Glanum: national monument (6km)
- Abbaye Notre Dame de Montmajour (Arles): religious monument (11km)
- Montmajour Abbey: national monument (11km)
- Jardin aquatique « Aux fleurs de l'eau: remarkable garden (12km)
- Jardin de l'Alchimiste: remarkable garden (13km)
- Beaucaire: recommended detour (14km)
- Arles: secteur sauvegarde (15km)
- Arles église St Honorat (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (15km)
- Roman Arles: heritage site (15km)
The French version of this page is at Baux-de-Provence (Francais)