Var (83460) Population: 4,744 Altitude: 65 m
The old town Village Medieval of Les Arcs is very interesting and very picturesque, and the village is worth a visit just for that. The narrow streets are somewhat steep and with steps, so good walking legs are needed.
Vaulted passages, stone walls, ancient houses, medieval doorways, carved wooden doors and the remains of the castle are there for you to discover. Market day Thur.
Les Arcs is a fair-sized town, somewhat plain at a first glance. There are a fair number of shops, mostly along the main street, Bvd Gambetta. The Place de General de Gaulle in front of the Hotel de Ville was refurbished in the winter of 2001 and now looks pretty nice. Up along bvd Gambetta a fountain was rather pretty in the morning light [Photo-02].
Eglise St. Jean Baptiste, the main church of the town [photo-03] was completed in 1850. Inside is a clockwork creche representing the old village of Les Arcs, and a 19-panel polyptyque painted in 1501 and attributed to Louis Brea. We also rather liked the statue in front of the church.
The Medieval Village is the vieille-ville (the old town), an area of narrow, cobblestone streets rising up to the site of the 11th-century chateau-fort and "Saracen tower" (now hosting a hotel-restaurant) at the top [Photo-05]. The area is full of arched doorways and vaulted passages. Most of the buildings have ancient stone walls, and along with the cobblestones, the whole place does have the look of a well-tended medieval village. There are some ancient doorways and interesting old doors, like this one [photo-8] with a dozen panels sculpted in detail.
The old town was double-walled for defence, especially against the Saracen invasions, and the tall, square castle tower (12th-c) is called the Saracen Tower (shown in photo-5). The round, fortified clock-tower is topped by an interesting 17th-century campanile [photo-1].
The medieval village sits on a small hill, backed by a pair of higher wooded hills behind the town. From the top of the old village there are some views of the rooftops below, and at one spot you can see and hear the little stream cascading down towards the town. There's also a nice view from the hill with the old mills (Les Moulins, see below), just to the west of the medieval-village hill.
Les Arcs had a large silk spinning mill until the Revolution (1789), that was turned into a grape-sugar factory in 1810.
The Sainte-Roseline chapel and ex chartreuse, 3 km to the northeast on the D91 road, makes an interesting side trip.
Mills (Les Moulins)
On a small hill beside the medieval village, in what is now a residential area, are some ancient mills, or at least signs of where they were. To get there, follow the rue Pierre Renaudel (from opposite the restaurant Les Terrasses). Go almost to the top of the fairly steep hill, just past the junction with the Chemin St.Claude. (The O.T. has a brochure with this information.)
Double Mill - You'll see the ruins of the old "double-wheel" oil mill on the right, with the remains of one of the old wheels. Inside the old stone structure is a 8-meter waterfall, all that remains from where the other wheel used to be. This mill was built in 1777, and functioned as recently as 1956.
Moulin du Haut - Across the street on the left side of rue Pierre Renaudel (across from the ruined wheel), you can see the water channel and 3-meter cascade at the now-private house of where the flour mill was.
Le Petit Moulin - Go down the right-of-way path (marked "private") past the Moulin-du-Haut building and follow the road to the first little junction. The lovely old house on the right was "Le Petit" oil mill. You can see where the water channel leads along the side of the house to where the waterwheel was installed in 1755. On the gatepost of the house is a "Le Moulin" ceramic.
Le Fumeux - Continue down further, following the little canal and aqueduct to the ruins of where the oldest mill once stood. It was constructed in a Roman monument (columbarium) and was mentioned in 1626.
Le Gros Moulin - The big mill, located against the columbarium, was constructed in 1755.
Flood June 2010
There is one sundial in Les Arcs. It's very recent (1998) but nicely done in the old style.
History of Les Arcs
First record, Antiquity Castrum de Arcubus, thought to come from the fabrication of bows (arcs). 1010 Archos
Gallo-Roman: The Voie Aurelienne passed by just to the south and crossing the Argens river where the Route National 7 now rushes by. A Roman monument called "Colombarium" was later used as an oil mill (see "Mills"). Marc-Antoine and Lépide met here.
Medieval: Les Arcs was the domain of the lordship of the Villeneuve's from 1200 until the 17th century.
Market day: Thur.
July - Medieval - Les Festes du Castrum d'Arcus
Sep - Fete du Raisin et de la Vigne - Grape& Wine Festival
• GPS: 43.46405, 6.479128
IGN (1/25,000) #3544 OT "le Muy, Lorgues, Mont Roquebrune, Maures"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #25 "Maures Haut-Pays Varois"
You'll find the GR mark at the front-left corner of the train station (gare).
There seems to be a sparse selection of restaurants in the town. The Logis du Guetteur at the chateau site at the top appears very nice, but we avoided it in favor of lower-cost and faster lunching in a small pizzeria.
The restaurant-pizzeria Chez Vitto, at the corner of the main Place General de Gaulle, was very nicely decorated, with a cozy, comfortable atmosphere. The Brasserie des Sport, further down Bvd Gambetta, has brasserie-type food, with salads and hot sandwiches. Across the street from the Brasserie des Sport, the Café de Paris is a very nice café for a leisurly pause.
Transportation Les Arcs
Les Arcs is on the main rail line (Nice-Marseille; Nice-Lyon; Nice-Paris), and the station is only a medium walk (a few blocks) from the center of town. This station serves this part of the Var, so there's probably also bus service to some of the nearby villages and Draguigan, only 9 km to the north.
Department 83, Var Buses
- See Beyond's Var Department Bus Schedules for downloading the Var bus-lines map [Plan du Reseau] and bus-line schedules [Horaires] (link for PDF files).
- Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)
Les Arcs - Draguignan - Salernes - Aups Bus 1201
- Var bus line 1201 connects Les Arcs (Gare SNCF/TGV), Draguignan, Flayosc, Villecroze, Salernes, Aups.
Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number (1201) in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)