Hautes-Alpes (05000) Population: 4,071 Altitude: 745 m
Gap is an interesting market and shopping town with busy town squares, colorful buildings and great historical sites. The town is full of shops, restaurants and cafés; its a main stop on the routes to the ski stations of the French Alps. and makes a good base for visiting the area.
The historic center of Gap has a tremendous amount of shops, from large and high-end shopping along Rue Carnot to the myriad smaller shops throughout the old town. Clothing shopping is especially good, with a vast number of clothing shops and boutiques of all types and styles.
Gap, the capital of the Haute-Alpes department (05), was founded by the Gauls. It was established as a station on the Turin (Italy) to Sisteron route down the Durance valley by local Pre-Roman tribes allied with the Romans, via Briançon and Embrun. [see Gap Relief Map]
A couple of thousand years after the Romans, in 1815, Napoléon Bonaparte marched through Gap on his way to Grenoble, along the now-famous Route Napoléon.
The narrow and picturesque Rue Colonel Roux passes through most of the town, continuing at the east end as Rue de France. Rue Colonel Roux is the oldest street in Gap; it was once the main road for the Roman camp in 14 BC, when the town was called Vapincum. Most of the buildings along the street are 18th century.
The wider and more modern Rue Carnot runs along the southern edge of the historic town center, and once followed the defensive walls. It was known as Rue Neuve (New Street) until 1894. Rue Carnot has wide pedestrian walkways and is lined with more up-market shops, including some excellent clothing stores.
Gap Town Squares
The most central square in Gap is the Place Jean Marcellin, where several streets converge, including Rue du Colonel Roux, Rue Elisée and Rue de France. The Office de Tourism is located here, scads of large terrace café-restaurants surround a couple of sides, shops line the periphery, and beautifully painted, pastel-colored houses close in the square.
Place de la République in the western part of the center is surrounded by really beautiful old houses [other features, cafés], is use for the part of the town's Saturday morning market and other events. During our visit in early September there was a busy flea markets taking up the whole square.
Place Alsace Lorraine at the northeast end of town, where Rue Pasteur, Rue de France and Rue Carnot converge, is small but has its shops and terrace cafés, and a nice fountain with a bronze lady sitting and reading.
Place des Herbes. A nice square directly behind the Cathedral Notre-Dame xxxxx. On Saturday mornings its filled with its share of the extensive town market. The place is lined with some of the lovely old houses, a few shops, a small fountain, and the Belle Epoque restaurant, where we thoroughly enjoyed an evening meal.
Place Grenette. Is a bit more of an open intersection than a village square. Has a large fountain in the center, with a roadway that circles it. The surrounds of the Place Grenette are pretty, with a nicely decorated building that used to be a 15th-century Dominican Convent. It was destroyed during the War of Religion in 1567, but rebuilt and enlarged in 1605.
There's a small Roman bridge at the east end of town out Cours Ladoucette, just before the junction that continues as Ave Maréchal Foch, the Pont de Burle sits back to the left over a shady, tree-lined stream, the Torrent de Bonne, between the buildings. It's not very impressive, but we checked it out because we're passionate about Roman sites.
Park and Playground.
At the east end of town, one block out Cours Ladoucette to Ave Maréchal Foch, is a very large parc, with the small river La Luye running along one side. The park has lawns and huge shady trees. At the far end is a very nice kiddies playground, and an adjacent area has larger swings for larger kiddies.
We found only four sundials in the historic center of Gap. This one [photo] with the hoopoe bird at the top is at the Place de la République. A tall, colorful sundial with a mountains motif is located at Place Grenette.
A large but very faded sundial, very close to blank, is in behind the roux museum, on a high wall of a closed courtyard. There's a very ancient monochrome sundial on a square stone base on the Rue Eymard.
History of Gap
Celto-Ligurian: Gap was founded by the Gauls until 14 BC when it was seized by the Romans.
Gallo-Roman: The Romans renamed Gap Vapincum when then took it over from the Gauls. The town was a station on the Roman Domitienne Way (Voie Domitienne). The Domitienne Way crossed into Gaul at Briançon and passed through Gap before heading southwest via Apt, Nîmes and Béziers to Spain.
The French crown annexed Gap in 1512.
Route Napoléon: Napoleon reached Gap on 15 March, 1815, with 40 horsemen and 10 grenadiers. He had thousands of copies of the Proclamations printed here, and the whole population of the town accompanied him when departed for Grenoble.
Place Jean Marcellin, in the heart of the historic center.
Tel : 04 92 52 56 56; Fax: 04 92 52 56 57
• GPS: 44.559901, 6.075901
IGN (1/25,000) #3338 ET "Gap, Montagne de Ceuse"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #7 "Hautes Alpes"
Gap is too large and built-up to have hiking directly from the town.
In the mountains about 10-15 km to the northwest there's great hiking, with (Grande Randonnée) trails GR 94 and GR 93, on of the trails crossing the Plateau de Bure (2565 m altitude) past the Observatoire du Plateau de Bure.
We found restaurants, café-restaurants and brasseries in just about every part of central Gap. The cluster in some of the squares, and line some of the even-narrow little streets. There are enough restaurants to provide a wide variety of styles, and prices. The most typical fare here often includes lamb or regional mountain-town dish, tartiflette, with potatoes and reblouchon cheese. Another regional favorite is tourton, small, square pastries with a variety of fillings, the most classic being the reblouchon tourton. This is served with salads in restaurants, or you can by them freshly made from market stands.
Stage 16 of the 2015 cycling Tour de France finished here. After a stage in nearby Digne-les-Bains, Stage 18 of the Tour departed from Gap for Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
Gap Departmental Museum - Musée Départemental du Gap
- This is a large museum in a fine old building, with extensive historical collections of the region.
- Location: 6 Ave Maréchal Foch; A couple of blocks east of the town center.
- Open: 1 July - 15 Sept: daily 10h-12h, 14h-18h; 16 Sept - 30 June: Mon, Wed, Thur, Fri 14h-17h; Sat-Sun 14h-18h, closed holidays
- Entry: Free, 100% Free
- Tel: 0492 510 158; Fax: 0492 526 430
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web: museum.cg05.fr
Gap Transportation is listed on a separate page.
All public transport in the town of Gap is free, including this cute shuttle bus (navette) that circulates around the old town, and even free bicycles (vélos gratuits), available at the tourist office.