Like stepping into the middle ages, the region of Provence is dotted with many historic “hill villages”. Many of these stunningly beautiful villages were built centuries ago, high on a hilltop for protection from marauding armies fighting over territory.
Like travelling back in time, these secluded towns and villages harken back to another era. Until the summer visitor season that is.
These villages and towns in Provence have become so famous for their beauty that they attract plenty attention from visitors looking for that quaint hamlet charm. So let’s explore the most famous hilltop villages in Provence, shall we? Allons-y!
Officially recognized as one of the plus beaux villages de France (meaning one of the “most beautiful villages in France”), the hilltop village of Gordes a tiny gem of a town. And it is a town that attracts quite an exclusive clientele.
The village of Gordes is in a stunning location on a clifftop and offers some expansive views of the valley below. The village itself is tiny and much of it is built on a slope.
With a 5-star hotel in its midst known as the Bastide in Gordes, this is a town that tends to attract the wealthy, looking for a getaway that can last all summer. You can read more about visiting Gordes here.
About 35 miles (55 km) from Avignon, you will come across orange and yellow ochre hills of an old quarry, surrounded by the lush greens of the forest. Nearby sitting atop a hill is Roussillon, the town officially recognized as one of the “plus beaux village de France“.
The town sits atop the hill, and its lower part is lined with all sorts of artisan shops. The main commodity here is pottery and pigments.
There are several organized tours that visit Roussillon and the nearby lavender fields from Avignon and nearby Aix-en-Provence. You can read more about visiting Roussillon here.
The village was founded by a group of monks in the 5th century, who built a church there, high on the hillside.
There are many small shops selling local artisanal products as well as a couple of small art galleries you can wander through. With beautiful views of the valley below, there are also several great restaurants offering local specialties to have lunch in rather exquisite surroundings.
People from all over flock to this beautiful part of Provence, which has managed to retain its charm and village feel in a fast-paced world. There are several tours visiting the village from Nice, and you can read more about visiting Moustiers-Sainte-Marie here.
4. Baux de Provence
The hilltop village of Baux-de-Provence has been named one of the “plus beaux villages de France“, with an impressively large Château, pedestrianized village, and more.
It is located around 52 miles (85km) from Marseille. In addition, within walking distance of the fortified town’s main gate is another attraction called the the Carrières des Lumières.
Ancient quarries that were used to dig out limestone for construction, have been taken over by a digital art studio.
The art exhibition projects the imagery of famous artists like Picasso and Van Gogh on these centuries old walls, of what is classified as a “Site naturel classé” (listed natural site).
You can take a tour to Les Baux-de-Provence from Marseille and read more about visiting Baux-de-Provence and the Carrières des Lumières here.
5. Saint Paul de Vence
Known as the town that the rich and famous flock to, the hilltop village of Saint Paul de Vence is about 12 miles (19 km) away from Nice. Once catering to Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre, it still attracts a high-end clientele looking for fun in the sun.
It is one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera. Some of its popular attractions include its modern art museums and galleries like Fondation Maeght, and for the 17-century Chapel Saint Charles-Saint Claude. You can read more about taking a tour from Nice to Saint Paul de Vence here.
The village’s main road cuts through its center. Most of the village’s stores and businesses are located in its lower section, while its higher section has meandering lanes that lead to the church perched on a hill.
There is also a small vinery called Château La Canorgue nearby, if you are looking to indulge in some Côtes du Rhône wines. And if you are looking for stunning views over the Luberon, a visit to the village of Bonnieux is a must.
With ancient buildings made of stone, the lovely little hilltop town of Venasque feels like it belongs to another era.
Perched on a rocky edge of a cliff, it is about 24 miles (38 km) from Avignon. It has been officially recognized as one of the “plus beaux villages de France” (one of the most beautiful villages in France), welcoming thousands of visitors every year.
When the sun is shining, this little village is a stunning place to visit, with its medieval stone buildings and historic church.
The hilltop town of Ménerbes is larger than some of the other towns on the list, and it is easy to see why. The town attracts plenty of visitors all year around, with a vibrant local community and many cultural events.
It is located near the ancient Via Domitia and the 2000 year old Roman Pont Julien bridge which is still standing nearby.
In the 1960, the village of Ménerbes became a cultural favorite after Dora Maar took up residence. She was an artist as well as a lover and muse of Pablo Picasso, and the widow of artist Nicolas de Staël.
In addition, the British author Peter Mayle moved to Ménerbes writing many books about a British expatriate who settled in the village of Ménerbes. You can read more about visiting Ménerbes here.
9. Le Castellet
If you are a racing fan, the small village of Le Castellet is perhaps most famous for being the home of the Paul Ricard Race circuit. But as a village, Le Castellet is so beautiful, it has been labelled one of the plus beaux village de France, meaning “most beautiful villages in France”.
This stunning hilltop village in Provence is located just a few miles away from the coastline of the French Riviera.
This stretch of the Mediterranean counts several popular towns including Bandol, Cassis, La Ciotat, Saint-Cyr-sur-mer, and La Seyne-sur-mer, all right next to each other. You can read more about visiting Le Castellet here.
If you enjoyed this article, you may like to read about the top tourist attractions in France. A bientôt!