Lacoste village: Hillside splendor and the Marquis de Sade (Provence)

Explore the tiny village of Lacoste in the Vaucluse near the Luberon in Provence. From its history with the Marquis de Sade, what to see, and more.
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Lacoste is a charming village located in the Provence region of France that is famous for its connection the Marquis de Sade. It is near the Vaucluse mountains next to Luberon Valley, in an area that is popular with visitors looking for provincial charm.

It is not nearly as popular as the nearby villages of Ménebres, Bonnieux, Roussillon, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and the Pont Julien, but it still attracts its fair share of tourists and admirers.

cobblestone path in Lacoste, on the way to the Château de Marquis de Sade

The village of Lacoste has a rich history that spans back to the prehistoric era. The village known as “La Coste” or “the coast” as it was attached to the French crown from 1481, on the frontier of the Kingdom.

A major historical event in the history of Lacoste was the Lacoste Massacre. In 1545, a man named Meynier d’Oppede decided to cleanse the region of its heretics, many of whom lived in Lacoste. He and his army arrived at the gates of the city and promised the villagers that they would be spared.

When they let him in, his men would have massacred all the local inhabitants, leaving no survivors.

During the 20th century World War II, the French Resistance took their foothold in the steep Luberon Mountains around Lacoste, and you can still see the trenches and barbed wire in the area.

In the 1960s, the English writer Peter Mayle took an interest in the village, leading to a renewed attention and restoration. (The town of Lacoste has no seeming connection to the French brand Lacoste.) So let’s have a look at what attracted so many people to Lacoste, shall we? Allons-y!

Things to do in Lacoste

1. Château de Lacoste (Château du Marquis de Sade)

The biggest highlight in Lacoste has to be the Château de Lacoste, even though it is in ruins. It is also known as the Château du Marquis de Sade because of its former resident, the infamous French writer Marquis de Sade.

The château was built in the 11th century on the hilltop overlooking the village. It was property of the Simiane family for centuries.

In 1627, Diane Simiane married Jean-Baptiste de Sade, ancestor of the Marquis de Sade. Eventually bequeathing the the château became the property of the Sade family, although the exact circumstances are unknown.

Château du Marquis de Sade

The Marquis de Sade stayed there from 1769 to 1772, as he tried to escape prosecution for this writings. With a vast number of short stories, novels and anonymous tracts about his “libertine habits in the bedroom”, the Marquis de Sade was considered a public menace.

He took refuge here until he was incarcerated in the Château de Vincennes in Paris 1777, eventually ending up in the fortress prison at the Bastille during the 1789 French Revolution.

Sade was never able to return to the town of Lacoste, and the château fell into ruin under the weight of vandalism and debts. It was bought by various owners, before eventually being purchased in 2001 by French fashion designer Pierre Cardin.

Cardin installed the bronze art installation, and visitors are invited to walk around the castle ruins and admire the views of the village of Lacoste and countryside below.

2. The Village

The village of Lacoste is quieter and more peaceful than other nearby villages like Ménerbes or Bonnieux. The pedestrian paths of the village are winging paths that go up towards the Château de Lacoste.

Beautiful arch in Lacoste

The hilltop provencal village is filled stone houses and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. There are also several charming shops, cafes and restaurants to enjoy the local food and wine.

The fashion designer Pierre Cardin has purchased several buildings in Lacoste and is slowly renovating and putting his stamp on the town.

3. Church of Saint-Trophime

Another landmark in Lacoste is the Church of Saint-Trophime, with its impressive medieval architecture.

The church was built in the 12th century, with its belfry dating to 1550 with a wrought iron campanile. It is a small village church that is still the center of village life for its local residents.

4. Abbaye Saint Hilaire

About 4 miles from Lacoste is the historic Abbaye Saint Hilaire. The ancient abbey is an official historic monument, dating back to the 12th century.

It was built by the Carmelites monks, hermits from Mount Carmel in the Holy Land who were displaced, and built a convent here after arriving in France.

Abbaye Saint Hilaire

With archeologists still working nearby to explore its lands, it is today privately owned by those working to preserve its historical past. You can read more about Abbey Saint Hilaire here.

5. Market days

Market days in Lacoste are a great way to experience the local culture and sample some of the region’s food and wine. The Lacoste Market is held every Tuesday morning from 9am to 12pm from May to September.

Like much of Provence and the Luberon, the area is famous for its olive oil, truffles and its wines.

Mairie of Lacoste
Mairie and Hotel de ville in Lacoste

How to get to Lacoste village?

The village of Lacoste is only accessible by car or bus. The city of Avignon is the largest big city nearby with high-speed train TGV access from Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Paris.

For a day trip, Avignon is about 30 miles (50 km) away from Lacoste, and which can take about 45 minutes to travel.

How easy is it getting around?

The Château du Marquis de Sade is at the highest point of Lacoste and the pedestrian path to get there can be tricky if you are not wearing walking or running shoes.

It is not the most stroller or wheelchair-friendly, but you can also drive around to the château from around the town to get there, rather than walking the narrow pedestrian paths.

How many days should you spend?

It takes about a half a day to explore Lacoste, and you can easily combine it with one of the nearby Luberon villages like Bonnieux or Ménerbes.

Where should you stay?

There are not any hotels in the center of Lacoste, but there are some wonderful lodging options within 5 miles of the village.

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If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about traveling around Provence. A bientôt!

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