The open-air museums in Les Baux de Provence are the highlight of our visit to this ancient village. Perched on a limestone hill in the Alpilles, Les Baux de Provence has a great location. It has awesome views across the plain that stretch to the south beyond the Mediterranean, and the scenic Alpilles rocky landscape.
The picturesque Medieval village is between Arles and St Remy-de-Provence. In the distance, Les Baux de Provence looks like grown out of the rock. The extensive fortified-chateau area is on the highest point of the village, a site that has a significant impact when it came to shielding the village against any attacks.
Open-air museums in Les Baux de Provence
When we planned our two-week southern France summer road trip, an image of an artwork light show caught our attention. Through quick research, we found out it was about the Les Carrières de Lumières just down the road near Les Baux de Provence. Therefore, our visit included three open-air museums in Les Baux de Provence:
- The ancient village of Les Baux de Provence
- Chateau des Baux
- The Quarries of Lights (Les Carrières de Lumières)
The ancient village of Les Baux de Provence
The village stretches out along a steep hillside, with a valley and steep rock walls low on the west side. The main entrance is on Rue Porte Maga. After the entrance gate, the tourist office is on the left side. The most important museum, Musée des Santons, is on the right about 100 metres after we entered the village. It exhibits numerous figurines made in Naples, scenes illustrating the traditions of Provence.
In the village centre, we reached a small plaza, Place du Prince Rainier III de Monaco. The plaza built in the old stone is pretty. From there, we followed the Rue de Chateau that continues towards the castle ticket office. Saint-Vincent Square is next to the Penitents Chapel, an attractive site as well.
The village has plenty of cafes and gift shops. One of the reasons that France has frequently been my holiday place is the local food and products. While my husband and my son were trying their lens, I rambled on the local shops that sell treasures from Provence and the Mediterranean area, such as olive oils, truffles, balsamic vinegar, biscuits, salts, and pepper. And I also found tapenades, which I bought on the other day in Aix en Provence.
Les Baux de Provence has grown the enormous popularity among the tourist. Later, after the castle visiting, we turned into Rue de la Calade and walked downhill via Eyguières Gate. The shady walkway has partially stone stairs and leads straight to the main road D27 where we had parked our car.
Chateau de Baux
The Chateau sits at the summit of the village and is as large as the village, quite an extensive area. At the entrance to the Chateau stands the White Penitents chapel and the Saint-Vincent church at the Saint-Vincent square. As we entered the Chateau area, a flat area brought us to several full scale replicas of medievel weapons, such as the Trebuchet and catapult. We also noted that the site offers many picnic areas.
Turning left and taking the stony steps path, we passed the troglodyte caves and were at the foot of the high walls and fortress ruins. On the Chateau ground, the staff was demonstrating the calculation of an arch using a method dating back to the middle ages. They visualized the ancient technique method through the applying of several simple geometric theories.
At two different places, steps are leading up to the top of the high rocky ridges. The stone steps, passages are ancient and eroded extremely. Besides, the stairways that lead us to the towers required urgent care. I had to support myself with the aid of the iron railings. Soon, we were out of breath but found ourselves already up the Paravelle Tower. The views, overlooking the courtyard of the castle on one side and the valley on the other, remain spectacular.
With the air temperature at around 35°C, it was too hot to walk around on the Castle ground for more than an hour. So we decided not to climb up the other ridge. Longing for coolness, we left the village via Eyguières Gate and strolled down to the main road that partially cuts through the solid rocks.
The Quarries of Lights (Les Carrières de Lumières)
Carrières de Lumières, a digital exhibition of the great artworks from the world’s famous artists, takes place inside an old quarry. Initially, the limestone from the quarry was the building material for the medieval village of Les Baux de Provence, and the construction of the Chateau de Baux. Later, when the new building materials such as steel and concrete emerged and more economical than stones, the production of the limestone declined, and the quarry eventually forced to close.
Since 2012, the quarry has been holding the digital projection that immerses visitors in a visual and musical universe. The projection surface spans 7,000 m² from the floor to the ceiling, to a height of up to sixteen metres. Large bright images are projected on the stone walls of the quarry. It is like a giant slide show in the dark.
This year, the show was about the artworks of Dali and Gaudi. We were surrounded by colours, images, and sounds. When we were tired, it was possible to perch on one of the stones there. And, because it was so spacious inside, that we did not feel the crowds around. The show took about 30 to 40 minutes, but we could stay inside as long as we would like to. As it was quite refreshing inside, our body got refreshed after being exposed to the sun for nearly two hours in the village and on the Chateau ground. The abandoned quarry is a unique venue for visitors of all ages.
Where to stay
Other than the open-air museums in Les Baux de Provence, the village has several indoor museums that worth visiting as well. If you use the Les Baux de Provence as a base to discover Arles, St Remy-de-Provence, or other hilltop villages in Luberon, then you will have a handful choice of accommodations:
- Domaine De Manville a luxury hotel and spa set within an 100 hectare golf course.
- Maison de la Fontaine is a budget accommodation with very good location.
- Baumanière – Les Baux de Provence has two restaurants, L’Oustau de Baumanière, which has 2 Michelin stars, and la Cabro which offers 2 dining rooms, a lounge-bar and several terraces.