Var (83170) Population: 11,239 Altitude: 220 m
Brignoles is a large market town, known for its peaches, honey, olives and olive oil. There are plenty of shops, and a Medieval old town a short walk up the hill from the center. Market day Wed, Sat.
Brignoles is brighter, cleaner and more welcoming than when we wrote our first report in 2001 (our remarks contested in recent years by Beyond readers). Houses in the old town are being renovated. More buildings are sporting Provencal pastel colors, and even the streets are cleaner. We saw posted signs indicating the town has an ongoing project to rehabilitate the center, offering property owners free advise and financial aid where necessary.
From the second half of the 19th century until the 1960's Brignoles was a mining center, with aluminium and bauxite mines, and the old mines are scattered all over this region. Since then, the area has evolved towards wine, agriculture and light industry. Also in the past, the marble quarries at Candelon were renowned; you can still see the quarries: about 3 km southwest, on the D554, turn right across the tracks just past Le Parradou. Brignoles plums were also famous throughout the kingdom, but since the trees were all destroyed in the 16th century, "Brignoles Plums" have come from Digne-les-Bains.
About 1 km south of town is a large, very Baroque looking Chapel Notre-Dame d'Espérance.
"Smoking or Non-Smoking?" The public non-smoking law in France has come easier in some places than others. In our travels we've run across cafés in remote places where the rules are "bent" somewhat, but for the most part the law is followed quite well. In Brignoles we found one café where the non-smoking law is ignored so thoroughly it was humorous. The Café du Cours is a bar-PMU on an edge of town; the type of place not usually frequented by tourists anyway (a kind of place we really like). Smokers blocked the doorway, and the very busy inside had more smokers than non-smokers. We had our quick caffeine fix, exited and finally inhaled.
This is the main square of Brignoles town center, hosting the Mairie (town hall), terrace cafés and a fine fountain [Photo-03].
One of the historical highways of France, the Route Nationale 7 from Paris to the Cote d'Azur, used to pass through the Place Caramy of Brignoles. A few years ago the RN7 was re-routed around the edge of town, bringing peace and quiet to this central square. The square was resurfaced and refurbished in 2005. One "improvement" was cleaning up the old fountain, but we really did like the previous moss-covered version [Photo-04].
Brignoles Old Town
The old quarters of the town date from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, and contains some ancient sites. The Place des Comptes de Provence [Photo-10], renovated in 2001, housed the first ever Palace of the Counts of Provence [Photo-12]. The 13th-c Chateau des Comptes de Provence contains an interesting regional museum.
Other ancient sites in the old town are the Eglise Saint-Sauveur with its 12th-c Romanesque doorway, the 16th-c Hotel d'Epernon, 16th-c Hospice St-Jean, 17th-c Hotel de Ville and the Hotel de Clavier (13th-18th c).
Abbaye de la Celle
Located 2 km southwest of town, this was originally a 13th-century Benedictine convent. The Prioress's house is 17th century and has been converted into a hotel. The Romanesque abbey church is now the local parish church (it has a 15th-c crucifixion). The cloisters, chapter-house and refectory can be visited.
History of Brignoles
First record, 558 Terminus Broniolacensis, in the Childebert charter; 10th-c Broniola; beginning of 12th c Brinonia. The name is thought to be derived from the Latin brinonia, plum, since plums have been grown here since Roman times.
Celto-Ligurian: Three dolmens are located at Les Adrets, in the forested hills just to the north of the autoroute, about 2-3 km from the town center.
Gallo-Roman: The Via Aurelia passed through Brignoles (probably along the current route of the N7 highway), and it was the junction of a north-south Roman road. Important Roman traces found here include villas and some of the contents. The 2nd-3rd century "La Gayole" tomb is on display at the local museum.
Medieval: Brinonia was the summer residence of the Counts of Provence from the 12th century. In the 16th century (1536) the town was beseiged and then occupied by the troups of Charles-Quint; he actually renamed the town Nicopolis, but that obviously didn't stick.
Other tribulations were vistited on the town by barbarian invasions, pillaging by mercenaries and massacring the Brignolais Protestants by the Catholic Lord of Carcès. By the time of the Wars of Religion there weren't many problems in Brignoles [probably because there was no longer much opposition], except for the 180,000 plum trees that were destroyed.
Market day: Wed, Sat.
Brocante; Promenade Caramy (big): 2nd Sun
• GPS: 43.40627, 6.061752
IGN (1/25,000) #3444 OT "Brignoles Le Luc"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #24 "Collines Provençales"
There's actually some pretty fair hiking not too far from town, with trails shown on the Didier-Richard map #24.
About 3 km southwest of town, near the old marble quarry at Candelon, a couple of trails go further south and southwest into the hills, towards Garéoult and la Roquebrussanne. Some of these hills are quite rugged and steep (far different from the plains where Brignoles sits), but the distances aren't too great.
One of the several possibilities will take you over Le Lube mountains (830 m) half way between Brignoles and la Roquebrussanne. There's a nice panoramic view from the top, and you can see the red slashes of the old bauxite mines amidst the trees. It's a 2-hour hike out and back to the peak.
The western-most trail joins with the GR99 about 5 km west of the quarry, and the GR99 will take you into the hills towards Signes.
Just north of town, a marked trail will take you past the autoroute to the dolmen. This trail then follows the burried gas pipeline straight west about 8km to join the GR99 4-km south of Bras.
Brignoles is considered the center of the Cote de Provence wines. The town has an annual wine fair (Foire de Brignoles) the first half of every April. You can get the date and more information directly from their web "http://www.foire-de-brignoles.com.fr/". (see Provence Wines)
Fun - Amusement - Kids
Touristique Train Center Var
A 24-km tourist train between Carnoules and Brignoles in the Var passes by the northern edge of Sainte Anastasie-sur-Issole.
• Open: April-May: Sundays; Jun-Sept: Sundays-Wednesdays; Oct-Nov 1st: Sundays
Summer: Depart Carnoules 10h, 15h; Depart Brignoles 11h25 (check their website for details)
• Entry: 9 € adults; Children 4-10 years, 5 €
• Web: attcv.ifrance.com
Brignolais Region Museum - Musée du pays Brignolais
A museum showing the history and life of the Brignoles area, with contents given by inhabitants of the region. The museum's chief exhibit is the Bayole tombstone, from the end of the 2nd century. The museum is nicely cluttered and interesting inside
Location: Place des Comtes de Provence, the 12th-c Chateau of the Counts of Provence
Open: Apr-Sept: Wed-Sat 9h-12h, 14h30-18h; Sun 9h-12h, 15h-18h
Oct-Mar: Wed-Sat 10h-12h, 14h30-17h; Sun 10h-12h, 15h-17h
Entry: 10€ (membership in the association)
Tel: 0494 694 518; Fax: 0494 694 518
Bus The Cars Phocéens bus company provides bus service between Nice and Aix-en-Provence. Two buses a day go via the Route Nationale and stop at Cros de Cagnes, Antibes, Golfe Juan, St. Raphael, Fréjus, Le Muy, Vidauban, Le Luc, Flassans, Brignoles, Tourves, St Maximin.
Brignoles has a bus to the villages:
- 4408: Brignoles, Forcalqueiret, Garéoult, Rocbaron, Néoules, Méounes-lès-Montrieux, La Roquebrussanne.
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.)
Marseille - Brignoles Bus
- VarLib line 4001 has several buses a day, between Marseille and Brignoles, trip time about 1h45. Stops: Marseille, Auriol, Saint Azcharie, Nans-les-Pins, Rougiers, Saint Maximin, Tourves, Brignoles.
Link to list of schedules, select line 4001 and click the PDF icon.
Contributed by David Langford, Eire, 7 March 2007
Hi. I totally disagree with your comments on Brignoles. We have stayed there over the last two years and are going back this year because we have found it central, accessable, easy to reach other places with short drives, very CLEAN and tidy and really interesting for those who bother to find out and look. Eating out at night is exellent and reasonably priced, I do think that whoever wrote your report was having a bad day.
[ Editor: In fact, ALL Beyond reports are written by Beyond (Russ) and based on personal observation, but including personal opinion and mood.]
Contributed by Pauline Davies, Le Val, France - resident for 6 years. August 2008
I think it must be some years since Russ visited Brignoles. It is a very attractive and clean town, set in a bowl between hills. A very attractive tree lined river runs through it and there are flowers everywhere. A newly opened ringroad takes traffic away from the town. The Place Caramy was totally renovated some three years ago, and is now a very pleasant place to sit and eat at one of the many cafes. Its central position, close to the motorway, makes it an ideal centre for visiting all other parts of the Var and Provence.
[ Editor: Ok, revisited and rephotographed June 2009.]