Hautes-Alpes (05200) Population: 6,143 Altitude: 871 m
Embrun is an ancient Roman and Medieval town that retains its old center, with picturesque buildings, pleasant squares, ancient sights, old fountains, and lots of shops, cafés, restaurants and hotels for visitors. Market day Wed, Sat.
Our first visit to Embrun was a one-day stop in the middle of the summer, 1998, when the town was full of activity and visitors. On our most recent visit, Sept 2015, we stayed here for a week while making day trips to the surrounding area. Although much quieter in the Autumn, we thoroughly enjoyed both aspects of Embrun.
There are enough narrow old streets to make exploring interesting, and the main pedestrian street through the center is an active market place. The Place E. Barthelon, in the center of the old town, has a large fountain, several terrace cafés and other shops, and a Provençal-pastel city hall.
Many of the fountains are of a particular type, the Embun style fountain: round stone basin with a short column in the center, topped with a globular stone top with four carved faces, the whole thing often decorated with flowers. These "globe" fountains are located in the squares, Place Barthelon (the main square), Place Font-Guiers (at the top of Rue Clovis Hugues, Place Dowgois and Place Font-Guers (Rue de la Liberté).
There are several smaller, rectangular stone fountains scattered throughout the old town of Embrun.
Stone Lions of Embrun
The columns of the porche of Embrun's Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Réal are supported by a pair of stone lions, carved from rose and white stone, in the Italian Lombarde style. (The porche, along with the stone lions, is very similar to the Cathédrale Saint-Zénon de Vérone (Italy). The right-hand stone lion is crouched with a small person (or child) between its paws and the other is holding a sheep or ram.
A copy of the carved stone lions support the pillars on the church in Guillestre.
We found a pair of identical lions, also holding their prey between their paws, supporting the columns of the church in St Véran.
In the village of Les Orres, in the mountains 12 km east of Embrun, the village church has an ancient carved lion crouched with prey between its paws; this one is on a stone wall in front of the church, but may have supported a column back in the 12th or 13th century.
There's a shady little park area at the edge of town past the Cathedral, at the edge of the "Roc" overlooking the Durance valley. Called the Jardin de l'Archevêche, it's a pretty and shady little park,and has this wonderful realistic bronze statue of a girl and boy reading a book.
At the side of the park is lookout point on the Promenade de l'Archevêche, a walkway along the top of the cliffs, with a great view out across the valley to the mountains towards the southeast.
Medieval Bell Tower
Embrun's 12th-century Cathedrale Notre-Dame has a very tall square bell tower, with three layers of 3-bay and 2-bay bell openings. The tower has a steep pointed steeple and sharp pointed spires at each corner. This style of bell tower, with its tall steeple, has some nearly identical copies on Medieval churches in the region, and as far away as the Alpes-Maritimes:
• Eglise de la Transfiguration, Saint-Sauveur d'Embrun, 8 km east and visible from Embrun.
• Saint-Antoine, Eygliers, a village just north of Guillestre and Mont-Dauphin.
• Saint-Marcellin, La Salle-les-Alpes
• Saint-André, Saint-André d'Embrun, a small village 6 km NE of Embrun
• Notre-Dame de l'Assomption, Le Monêtier-les-Bains
• Saint-Marcellin et Saint-Antoine, Névache, a village 10 km NE of Monêtier-les-Bains.
• Saint-Laurent des Vigneaux, Les Vigneaux, 5 km north of L'Argentières-la-Bessée.
• Saint-Etienne, St Etienne-de-Tinée (Alpes-Maritimes)
• Saint-Pelade de Réallon, Réallon, small village in the mountains 15 km NW of Embrun
There's a very nice sundial, dates 1987 but in the old style and colors, on the wall of the ancient hospital building at the south edge of the old town.
A truly ancient sundial, dated 1732, is on the side of the Chapelle des Capucins, beside the Espacee Delaroche parking lot on the east side of Embrun old town.
History of Embrun
First record, Eburodunum
Gallo-Roman: Eburodunum was an important Roman town on the Briançon--Arles Roman road. In the 4th century, a bishopry was founded here by Saint Marcellin. In 804, the bishop became an archbishop, and soon after Embrun was attached to the Germanic Roman empire Saint-Empire.
Market day: Wed, Sat.
June (Beg) - Les Radeliers de la Durance, between St Clément and Embrun (17 km) - historic reconstitution of log rafts
• GPS: 44.565643, 6.496891
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #7 "Hautes Alpes"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #10 "Queyras Pays du Viso"
A short, marked trail leads from the town northwest up the flank of Mont Guillaume to join the GR50 (2 km, 1286 m).
To the west, the GR50 circles the flanc of Mont Guillaume, follows the river valley to Les Gourniers (about 15 km), then comes back southeast before again going west to Ancelle and beyond. To the northeast, The GR50 goes past Châteaureaux and St Marcellin and points north.
There are other shorter trails on the east side of Mont Guillaume, and there are some loops possible using part of the GR50. Because of the steep rocky nature of the northern part of the mountain, no trails circle Mont Guillaume other than following the river valley northwest of St Marcellin, well to the north.
Southeast of Embrun, a trail crosses the river and goes out past St Sauveur, then through the Forêt du Meale or southeast to Les Orres.
- Rafting and kayaking on the Durance.
- Mountain biking (VTT cycling), with 380 km of marked routes.
- Horse riding
- A multitude of water sports on the adjacent Lac Serre-Ponçon