Why you need to see this stone village in French Provence?

Provencal village of Les Baux-de-Provence…

Its the heart of the rustic Luberon valley of French Provence, 15 km from Arles and 25 km from Avignon. Purple lavender, green herbs and black truffle color the landscape. One of the million scenic roads leads to a rocky outcrop under a shocking blue sky. Where the postcard-pretty village of Les Baux-de-Provence is perched on a hilltop, elegantly dressed in shades of classic cream. Forget the etymology (its named the bauxite found there). This is one of ‘the most beautiful’ of 160 Provencal villages listed by the Plus Beaux Villages de France Association. See and believe!

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A generous shot of digital art

For a preamble of a very different kind, indulge your eyes in a majestic spectacle below the village. Take a walk through living pictures and music in the Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Lights). Spine chills guaranteed! Even if you know what to expect in the 35-minute digital art show that graces the interiors of the limestone quarry caves in the magical Val d’Enfer (Valley of Hell).

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Its pitch dark inside, but no possibility of stumbling. Because you’re surrounded by dozens of parallel slideshows of bright, colourful artworks slipping and sliding onto the surface of the wall caves, ceiling and floor. You’re walking through the images, inside 7,000 square meters of gigantic walls of white limestone rising to a height of 14 metres. Cutting edge technology of 100 video projectors and a 3D audio system create a brilliant kaleidoscope of colours and dazzling images, overflowing one after the other. Its a treat for the eyes, ears and mind…unlike any art museum in the world.

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Stony beauty on a hilltop

Real sensory extravaganza awaits in the fortified pedestrian village of Les Baux-de-Provence, home to 400 locals. As you stop to gasp at the spectacular views of the stony Alpilles mountain valley, consider these facts. 22 listed monuments crammed into just 18 square kilometres. Time to get selective.

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Carved out of one giant rock…is the thought that comes to mind, as you step onto the crooked, steep cobbled streets, which almost seem to blend into the walls of the rugged houses lining either side. A folded sun umbrella of a terrace cafe matching the cream of its stone facade. Bright red shuttered windows and a casually displayed advertisement of ‘Bonbons’ enhancing a nearby store’s appeal. A classic Renaissance mansion doorway bearing the inscription “Post Tenebras Lux 1571” (After the Darkness, Light). An intriguing courtyard adorned with flower urns and a solemn statue in stone. Faded amber tiled-roofs breaking the monotony of the scene. Inhale the serenity, feel the grace.

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Stop at the craft shops to pick up local Provençal products like tapenade, extra virgin olive oil, special biscuits and hand-painted clay products. Explore the alleys running off the main thoroughfare, enjoy a coffee under the blue sky, or indulge your inner art-lover at the exclusive galleries. Admire the carefully restored ancient houses and imagine life centuries ago, when when the population used to be 4000.

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For a dose of history, make way to the Citadelle des Baux, the ruined castle on the upper part of town. Relive the medieval era with catapult games, archery lessons, crossbow shooting, sword fights and pony rides. Or just float into fantasy with unforgettable views of vineyards, olive groves and pointy mountains.

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Find one of the oldest buildings in Les Baux…the 10th-century Romanesque church of St Vincent. A unique wrought-iron cross marks the entrance. The stained glass windows in the nave bear uncanny resemblance to digital art. To the south of the church stands a circular turret, topped with a dome decorated with gargoyles. In the olden times, a fire was lit in the turret whenever a local died…closely-knit community.

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Wasted village to tourist hotspot

A solitary iron bell makes strong statement on a partially destroyed wall. The town-hall, various Renaissance town-houses and chapels stand as silent reminders of the 12th-century regional powerhouse, which was razed to the ground in 1632 by a paranoid Louis XIII. Today, what is left behind is a reconstructed ‘live city’ carved into, out of and on top of a 600-foot-high rock. Who knew that hundreds of years later, this wasted village would attract 1.5 million tourists a year!

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Provencal village of Les Baux-de-Provence #provence #southfrance #frenchcountryside #provencalvillage

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46 thoughts on “Why you need to see this stone village in French Provence?

  1. There are so many great spots to visit in France. But Provence is special. And lavender season would be heavenly. So interesting to find street art in just an old historic town. I am sorry we missed Les Baux-de-Provence. I would not be sure where to start with 22 listed monuments. I would certainly love to wander in the small alleys and browse the local crafts. Definitely a spot to add to our plans the next time we visit France.

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  2. WOW! This is immediately going on my list. I always search out street art and visit a museum while traveling and I absolutely must see Carrières de Lumières. Bonus that the stone village is adorable and there’s bonbons!

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  3. I visited the Provence when I was a kid, and have always wanted to return ever since. Southern France is not that far away from our home, and yet we still haven’t made our way to this wonderful French region. Arles and Avignon are both on our bucket list, so it’s good to know that Baux-de-Provence is so close! And what a great idea to have projected the wonderful artworks inside the limestone quarry caves! We both love exploring stone quarries (there’s one not far away from our hometown) as well as caves, and we’re also huge art lovers! So this is simply perfect for us! Thanks a lot for sharing this post, it’s truly inspiring! 🙂

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  4. I have been to this part of Provence but totally missed out on this beautiful village! But I am driving through this area very soon so I am going to make sure I get to go this village. I do love rustic villages in beautiful surroundings. Loving this post and looks like you fell in love with the area.

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  5. I’ve now been to France 3 times in all different parts, but not really sure how I missed the art, culture, and beauty of this lovely area. It looks like we’ve been sent back in time and get to enjoy all of the wonderful architecture of the past mixed with some wonderful art of the modern era. Needless to say, we will not miss out on this next time we’re in the area ❤

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  6. Avignon has always been a place I have to visit once, but I didn’t know that this cute place was so close by. Sounds like we’ll have an extra stop on our road trip through France!

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  7. Le Baux seems as beautiful as it is historical. I love the underground art installation. You have so much control over the lighting and it’s one of those places in 1000 year will still be there and people will judge who we were from it. No so dissimilar from other cave art in France really. One time I went in a banquet underground in a quarry with over 16 square miles of room carved out of the rock. I always wondered what else you could do with that space and this is a brilliant answer.

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  8. Les Baux-de-Provence looks like a really stunning village, love the idea of the digital art exhibition combining something ancient with cutting edge modernity, I’d like to go see that. In fact just wandering around the town it looks as though you’d get great views at every turn. What a beautiful village!

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  9. I have never visited this part of France, or heard of Les Baux-de-Provence either, but it looks like a beautiful place to visit! France is full of these places all over the country, they truly are blessed with some beautiful places to visit!

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  10. Les Baux looks so beautiful – I love how the Provençal towns are taking their heritage and promoting it. The Carrières de Lumières is an amazing initiative! With so many listed monuments, I’m sure you could spend days in the area!

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  11. I have never heard of Les Baux, but it seems intriguing. The cobbled streets along with the fact that the buildings are stonewalled, that’s adds a unique perspective. Did you visit any of the 22 monuments, and how long did you stay?

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  12. I love how so many of the European countries are so dedicated to the arts. Who would have thought that the 7000 square feet would hold such a beautiful collection of new vs old. It is very deceiving to see the town of stone and mortar, all in grey and then have such a beautiful display.

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  13. I have wanted to visit the Luberon Valley for years. This little village looks like a magical place to explore. That digital art exhibit is so interesting, like nothing I’ve ever seen. I love the juxtaposition of old and new – very unique!

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  14. I’ve been here, but many decades ago. Sifting through some old photos a few months back (real ones, pre-digital), I found a pic of me, aged around 13 from the haircut, looking at a shop full of provencal cottons in this village. It’s lovely to see the colourful shops against those beautiful stone buildings so many years later. I remember the cobbles underfoot too. I think I’d have loved the digital art exhibit; what a good reason to go back and explore again! And you’ve brought back all those scents too – lavender, olive oil, soap. It’s a beautiful place.

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  15. I have absolutely got to see the “Carrières de Lumières”! That sounds amazing. There is a similar digital art show (albeit on a much smaller scale) that we experienced in Liepzig, Germany at the Kunstkrafwerk art museum and one you need to put on your list. And then if you like this sort of thing, be sure to check out the Festival of Lights next year in Berlin.

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  16. Wow, what a beautiful and historic place to visit, we would LOVE to explore this region in the future! I love seeing these smaller and more regional place, they usually are so much more interesting and a great look into local life. I love how this village is also up to date and modern too without loosing any charm.

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