Bouches-du-Rhône (13520) Population: 457 Altitude: 218 m
Les Baux-de-Provence is a very picturesque Medieval village at a fortified rocky site between Arles and St Remy-de-Provence. Les Baux is well worth visiting, for the ancient village, the extensive fortified-chateau area, the magnificent setting and views, and the museums. It's very crowded here in the Summer, so coming off-season is advised if you have a choice.
Les Baux-de-Provence is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France.
For visiting, you should consider the old village and the chateau-fortress as two separate visits. We spent a half-day in Les Baux, with two hours in the chateau area, and it wasn't really enough time. We will be returning. At Les Baux, the village is stretched out along a steep hillside, with a valley and steep rock walls low on the west side, and a long high ridge with Chateau fortifications above on the east side and on a rocky promontory to the south.
While much of the southern part of the Alpilles is exposed rock, the northern slopes, where the road zig-zags down to (or up from) St. Rémy, is thickly forested. The road up to Les Baux from the southeast passes through olive groves and vineyards, and passes the Cave Vignoble Sainte Berthe where you can stop and taste the local wines.
There are incredible rock formations in this part of the Alpilles, with the road sometimes seemingly cut through the solid rock with single strokes of some giant's knife.
The name "baux" means a prominent cliff (see below), but has become more well-known for the bauxite named after this region. Bauxite was first discovered in the Alpilles, and named after the village of Baux-de-Provence.
Les Baux Village
Les Baux-de-Provence village is long, narrow cobblestone streets between grey-stone Medieval buildings. This compact, ancient village does include lots of shops for tourist items, and lots of restaurants, which is actually quite handy. Even with the commercial aspect of shop everywhere, the village is still picturesque, and includes interesting sights and museums as well as the restaurants.
Chateau-Fortress des Baux
The Chateau-Fortress area of Les Baux-de-Provence is a high rocky pinnacle extending to the southwest of the village, and the high, narrow rocky ridge along the east side, topped with the ruins of castle walls and keeps. If nothing else, it's worth the trip for the view. For one spot you can see as far as Aix-en-Provence, Saint-Victiore mountain and Marseille; from another, towards Arles and the Camargue.
Entry to the Chateau area is up Grand Rue and Rue du Chateau to the 14th-century Hotel de la Tour du Brau. The entry has a large book and gift shop, and the ticket area for the Chateau and the Carrières Lumières. Audio guides are available, included with the price of entry (8-10 €)
As you enter the Chateau area, turning left and taking the stony steps-path will bring you past the troglodyte caves and out to the high walls and fortress ruins. At two different places along the "Basse-Cour" there are steps leading up to the top of the high rocky ridges. The stone steps are ancient and very irregular, and you'll need to pull yourself up with the aid of the iron railings. Difficult, but the views from the top are spectacular.
Straight ahead (south) as you enter the Chateau area takes you out to the flat, stony plain that juts out over the landscape. Here you'll find the siege engines, an old windmill tower and a great vista of the countryside and back towards the Chateau and the village.
Parking (at the edge of the village): 5 €
Visiting the medieval village: free
Chateau des Baux (castle area above the village): Apr-Sept, 10 €; Oct-Mar, 8 €
Chateau + Carrières de Lumières: Apr-Sept, 17.50 €; Oct-Mar, 15.50 €
Carrières de Lumières: 12 €
Chateau + Carrières de Lumières + Musée Brayer: 19 €
No ATMs: There are no banks and no ATM cash machines at Les Baux-de-Provence