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
History of Les Baux-de-Provence
First record, 960: Balcium
The name Baou is the Provençal word for a prominent, elevated rock (like a protruding, narrow cliff).
The "Baux" family became powerful here in the 9th century and ruled as Lords until the 15th century (1426).
Les Baux-de-Provence has been occupied as a defensive site throughout history.
Celto-Ligurian: signs of these ancient peoples have been found here, and there are both Celtic-Ligurian and Roman necropolis nearby to the north.
Gallo-Roman: Several Roman artifacts, including burial tombs and stèles (monoliths) mark this as a Roman defensive town.
Medieval: The "Baux" family ruled from the 9th century until 1426 when the last of the lords died. Baux was integrated into the county of Provence, and then became part of France, along with Provence, in 1481. When the population revolted at this integration, Louis XI responded by "dismantling" the chateau. Baux became a barony, eventually ruled by Anne de Montmorency who rebuilt the castle and built the social life of the town to royal proportions.
On Rue Porte Mage, just inside the village entry. Open 7 days/week.
Tel : 0490 54 34 39; Fax: 04 90 54 51 15
June (Last Sat) - Fete de la St Jean; sound-and-light, fireworks from the plan du chateau.
July-Sept - Art and Music festivals
• GPS: 43.743312, 4.794811
The GR6 Hiking Trail goes through Les Baux-de-Provence.
• To the west, the GR6 follows the ridge of the Alpilles to the end, and continues on northwest to Tarascon and Pont du Gard.
• To the east, the GR6 drops down the northern slope of the Alpilles to St. Rémy-de-Provence, then climbs back up to continue east along the Alpilles past Eygalièeres and Eyguières, crossing the autoroute north of Salon-de-Provence.
Les Baux-de-Provence is in the region of its own appellation, Coteaux Baux-de-Provence wines. It's also on the edge of the appellation Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence. (see Provence Wines)
Transportation Les Baux-de-Provence
Arles, St-Remy-de-Provence Bus
- Line 59 (of the Bouches-du-Rhône bus company LePilot) connects Arles with Les Baux-de-Provence and St-Rémy-de-Provence. There are about 6 buses a day between Arles and St-Rémy. The trip takes 50 minutes.
Bus line schedules for the Bouches-du-Rhone department are available from the www.lepilot.com website, section Les Réseau - CARTREIZE, subsection Infos/Téléchargement. Click on Fiches-horaires du réseau CARREIZE for a linked list of the bus lines (http://www.lepilote.com/presentation/?rub_code=1010&thm_id=11705&gpl_id=&part_id=10)
- click on Line 59 for the schedule (PDF file). [http://www.lepilote.com/ftp/FR_documents/FH0059.pdf]
Department 13, Bouches-du-Rhône Buses
- See Beyond's Bouches-du-Rhone (13) Bus Schedules for downloading Bouches-du-Rhone bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).