Perched atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the expansive and beautiful valley below, Les Baux-de-Provence certainly lives up to its classification as one of "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" (the most beautiful villages in France). Located only 25 km south of Avignon in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, Les Baux should be on your itinerary when you're in Provence.
Archeologists have found proof of human habitation in Les Baux dating to 6,000 BC. In the Middle Ages a fortress was built, taking advantage of the village's elevated position. Today the village has been beautifully restored and it was one of my favorite stops when my cousin Kelly and I drove through the region.
We parked on the main street below and walked up only to realize that had we driven a little farther, we could have avoided some steps by parking closer to the village. Live and learn!
The village today has a population of less than 400 but welcomes more than a million visitors a year. When we were there on a beautiful mid-April day, there were quite a few other tourists, but not so many that it negatively affected our visit.
The Middle Ages saw Les Baux strengthen as a stronghold in the region. The fortress, which has a commanding view over the countryside below, was built between the 11th and 13th centuries.
When you reach the village it's almost hard to remember that you live in the 21st century.
Restaurants like this in the middle of town bring you back to the 21st century.
This was the view from our table at lunch.
And shops...and shops...and shops, most of which sold lovely local crafts, food and clothes.
There is a fortress that sits on 17 acres at the edge of the village. The trébuchet (catapult) below could hurl boulders up to 600 feet. I wouldn't have wanted to be in its field of fire!
Not surprisingly, the views of the valley below from the fortress are breathtaking.
This gorgeous facade is what is left of a Renaissance mansion built in 1571. The inscription, Post Tenebras Lux means, "Light After Darkness".
We spent quite a while walking through this little cemetery.
Some of the flowers on the graves were real and others were ceramic. The ceramic ones are called "immortelle" because they last forever. While not plentiful, they are not uncommon in cemeteries in France.
Across from the cemetery is the tiny Saint-Blaise chapel built in the 12th century. I loved the fossilized shells on the ground in front of it.
I loved everything about Les Baux. It was, in my opinion, the best of the best of the villages we visited during our two-day swing north of Aix. Here are some more photos of this charming place.
➜ Top Tips
You can spend as little or as much time as you want in Les Baux but I'd recommend at least three hours, especially if you have a meal. We didn't visit the history museum or any of the art galleries as this was one stop during a day of driving.
The best way to reach Les Baux is by car. As mentioned above, there are parking lots above the main street which will get you closer to the village, although the steps weren't a problem for us.
Wear comfortable shoes as you'll be walking on cobblestones for the most part.
Try to visit on a beautiful day for the stunning views of the valley.
Take a good camera!