Les Baux-de-Provence and the Carrieres de Lumieres
Les Baux de Provence is a beautiful southern French village nestled in the lush Provencal countryside between Arles and Annecy. Although this city may not look like much on the map, it is home to a beautiful medieval fortress and one of the most unique attractions in France, the Carrieres de Lumieres. If you’re visiting southern France, stop in Les Baux for a few hours, or a day, to enjoy everything this unique village has to offer.
The entire city is home to fewer than 500 people, but plenty of tourists visit this site every year to see what has been called one of the most beautiful villages in France. People have lived in Les Baux de Provence since 6000 BC according to archeological evidence, and it was a major city during the medieval age. There are many remnants of this ancient history, making Les Baux a great place for history buffs to visit.
Getting to Les Baux de Provence
Les Baux de Provence is about a 30 minute drive from Arles, a 40 minute drive from Avignon, and an hour from Aix-en-Provence, making it a perfect day trip from most cities in southern France! There aren’t many options for public transport to and from Les Baux, so it’s best to travel by car!
What to Eat in Les Baux de Provence
There are lots of Provencal foods you should try if you visit Les Baux de Provence! There are a number of ice cream stands in the village, and I loved trying the lavender flavor because this region is known for its lavender! Olives grow in Provence, so lots of stores sell yummy olive oil and tapenade made with local olives. This area also creates a number of delicious wines from local vineyards. Les Baux is also home to a few Michelin star restaurants- you can find more details on the official Les Baux website. Delicious Provencal dishes you should try wherever you eat include ratatouille, daube, and bouillabaisse.
What to do in Les Baux De Provence
The biggest attraction in Les Baux is the medieval village on top of the mountain, which has a mix of shops, cafes, and medieval relics. The Chateau des Baux de Provence is a ruined castle that towers over Les Baux, offering beautiful views of the Provencal countryside. Although the castle is ruined, you can still see traces of its medieval past and climb around the grounds. There are demonstrations throughout the day where you can see what life was like in medieval times, and there are exhibits showing the different crafts that people used to practice hundreds of years ago. If you want to climb around the castle, make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes! I also enjoyed just walking around the village at the front of the park and wandering in the stores that sell local goods.
Looking to visit another small French city? Check out this guide to Limoges!
Carrieres de Lumieres
The Carrieres de Lumieres is quite possibly one of the most interesting attractions in all of France (tied with the illuminations at the nearby Pont du Gard). I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about this art exhibit inside an old rock mine, but I am SO glad my family and I decided to visit this incredible attraction. The Carrieres de Lumieres is an immersive art experience where famous works of art (which switch out every season) are projected onto the tall walls of an old quarry. In 1977, artists began using this previously abandoned space for shows, and it’s been active as a riveting 360 audio-visual art show since 2012.
It’s hard to accurately describe the Carrieres de Lumieres because it is such an immersive, amazing experience. There are moving projections of paintings on every wall set to music in the expansive space, which brings the art to new life! Right now, Picasso and other Spanish painters are being featured in the art show, but you can find out what’s on now on the official website. When I went, the show focused on Marc Chagall’s works. Here’s a (low quality) video I took inside so you can have an idea of what to expect!
Tickets for the Carrieres de Lumiere cost 12.50 euro per adult, and you can buy them online here. Bring a sweater, because it can get cold in the quarry! I think this is a great attraction for people of all ages – small children included! The combination of moving art work, music, and the interesting gallery space creates a really unique experience that will fascinate even people who don’t normally enjoy art museums.
Model Itinerary for Visiting Les Baux-de-Provence and the Carrieres de Lumieres
You could spend as much time as you want in Les Baux, and there are a number of lovely hotels in the area if you want to make a weekend out of your trip! However, if you’re short on time and just want to take a day trip to this area, here’s a model itinerary with ample time included for the activities!
9:00 AM: Arrive at Les Baux in time for the opening (hopefully before any tour busses arrive). Wander through the old village and make your way to the castle. Check out the exhibits and demonstrations and climb to the top of the castle ruins to enjoy beautiful views of the Provencal countryside.
11:00: Grab a snack in the village (like the lavender ice cream or floral cookies sold at the shops) and head down to the Carrieres de Lumiere (which is located at the base of the mountain). Enjoy the incredible art experience.
1:00: Find some lunch at one of the nearby restaurants- bonus points if you can find a cafe with a view of the beautiful countryside!
Check out Verdon Gorge for nearby natural beauty – it’s about 2 hours from Aix-en-Provence!
Les Baux is well worth visiting if you’re traveling through southern France for a lovely taste of Provence. It’s easiest to get there by car, and because its only an hour or less from the nearby major cities, Les Baux is an excellent day trip in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. I visited Les Baux on a trip from Avignon, a storied walled city located just 40 minutes away. In Les Baux, the Carrieres de Lumiere is an absolute must visit! Visiting this one-of-a-kind art exhibit is one of my favorite memories from my trip through southern France.
What are the coolest things you’ve stumbled upon while traveling? Let me know in the comments below!