Barcelonnette travel guide

Photo of Barcelonnette

Visit Barcelonnette (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France)

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Barcelonnette is a small town situated in the Ubaye Valley, in the mountains to the north-east of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department.

There is much to enjoy in the town of Barcelonnette, although you will perhaps notice that there is little in the way of very old buildings - this is because most of the town was destroyed by a terrible fire in 1628, so most of the buildings date from the 17th century onwards.

Explore Barcelonnette

BarcelonnetteOne of the main highlights of a visit is the tall 14th century clock tower, originally part of an earlier convent established in the 13th century (the convent was rebuilt in the 17th century and has been further modified and restored in the 19th century).

Note also the decorative 17th century belltower on the Church of Saint-Pierre (the church itself was reconstructed in the early 20th century), and the fountain in Place Manuel, the main centre in Barcelonnette.

Barcelonnette is also notable for the sundials that appear on several of the buildings. Those on the Maison Paul Reynaud and in the Rue Honorat date from the first half of the 18th century, while others are more recent.

Another site not to be missed when in Barcelonnette is the cemetery! The tombs are huge and splendidly constructed from local, as well as Italian, stone and marble. These huge tombs have the spectacular mountain scenery providing a fitting back-drop.

There are also plenty of shops, restaurants etc to divert you from your explorations as you stroll through this pleasant town.

Mexican Villas

One very notable characteristic of the local architecture in Barcelonnette is the number of grand houses referred to collectively as'Mexican villas' and in a variety of styles, often surrounded by extensive gardens and many along the avenue de la Liberation.

These villas were built around 1890 - 1920 by those from the town who had made their fortunes in Mexico and then returned to establish a community here.


Strangely whilst many have Mexican-style names and are known collectively as the 'Mexican villas' they do not reflect Mexican-style architecture!

Among the most notable examples are the faux-gothic Chateau des Magnans, the Villa Morélia, the Villa Sapiniére (open to the public) and the Villa Laugier, although there are also many others of interest in the town. The town plays on the Mexican connection, for example with shops selling Mexican related products.


The Mexican connection

It was the harsh winters in Barcelonnette that led to the link with Mexico. Whilst some residents stayed at home during the snowy season, weaving wool or finding other indoor activities some went abroad to find work.

The Arnaud brothers from Barcelonnette went to Mexico in the 1820s and opened a textile shop. This did well enough to entice others from Barcelonnette to try their luck and many successfully made the move.

Some came home again, now wealthy, and set to building beautiful villas for themselves, many in the Belle Epoque style fashionable at the time.

Attractions nearby

The very picturesque scenery that surrounds Barcelonnette, including the Ubaye Valley and the Mercantour National Park, ensure it is active for much of the year, with outdoor activities being very popular in the region, both hiking and cycling in the summer and numerous ski and snow related sports during the winter.

You can find more travel ideas in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence guide and the Provence guide.

See also: 

Photos of Barcelonnette

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Visit near Barcelonnette with France This Way reviews

Vallee de l'Ubaye

Vallee de l'Ubaye

Starting near the Lac de Poncon, the Vallée de l'Ubaye is one of the scenic highlights in the Alps

Vallee de l'Ubaye guide


In the mountain village of Colmars highlights include the Fort de Savoie and fortified medieval gateways

Colmars-les-Alpes guide


The historic centre of Embrun is usually visited at the same time as the leisure lake of Lac de Serre Poncon

Embrun guide


In the mountain village of Seyne you can see various parts of the medieval defences that once stood here, and a pretty village

Seyne-les-Alpes guide
Lake Serre-Poncon

Lake Serre-Poncon

Among many beautiful Alpine lakes we mention the Lac de Serre-Poncon because of its spectacular setting and wide range of leisure activities

Lake Serre-Poncon guide


The fortified mountain town of Briancon, one of the highest towns in Europe, is dominated by its historic fortifications

Mont-Dauphin guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

Address: Barcelonnette, Provence, 4400, France || GPS coordinates: latitude 44.386667, longitude 6.653056

Plan your visit to Barcelonnette, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Col d'Allos: site of natural beauty (11 km)
  • Source - Verdon: site of natural beauty (11 km)
  • Col de la Bonette: site of natural beauty (14 km)
  • Col de la Cayolle: site of natural beauty (16 km)
  • Lac d'Allos: site of natural beauty (18 km)
  • Lac de Serre-Poncon: site of natural beauty (28 km)
  • Mont-Dauphin place forte (Vauban fortifications): heritage site (32 km)
  • Place Forte de Mont-Dauphin: national monument (32 km)
  • Clue de Barles: site of natural beauty (36 km)
  • Queyras: regional natural parc (41 km)
  • Col de la Lombarde: site of natural beauty (45 km)
  • Cirque de Viso: site of natural beauty (45 km)

Market days in Barcelonnette, France

A seasonal market is held in Barcelonnette on Monday all day.

Regular market(s) are held in Barcelonnette each Wednesday & Saturday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Barcelonnette (Francais)