The tiny town of Ménerbes is famous for being labelled one of the “Most Beautiful Villages” of Provence and indeed all of France. Nestled in the heart of the Luberon region, it is one of those villages that attracts visitors and tourists by word-of-mouth from those who have already been fortunate enough to visit.
From its winding streets and pastel architecture, it has so many art galleries, shops, and cultural activities, there is something for everyone in this picturesque village.
Ménerbes is also surrounded by natural beauty, and there are many outdoor activities to enjoy in the area. Hiking, cycling, and horseback riding are popular, and visitors can explore the scenic countryside and enjoy the stunning views.
This beautiful village in Luberon is also home to several wineries nearby, and wine tastings are a must-do for any visitor.
Ménerbes has a rich and varied history dating back to Gallo–Roman times. It is located near the ancient Via Domitia and the Pont Julien bridge, with hordes of Roman soldiers and settlers traveling across the area in numbers.
During the Middles ages and the French Wars of religion, Ménerbes was a center of Protestantism besieged by the royal Catholic forces. In 1573, the Protestant Huguenots took the village and occupied it until 1578.
In the 1960, it 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.
This put Ménerbes on the map, with many of colleagues and friends, as well as fans making a visit to village to see it in person. In addition to art and cuisine, Ménerbes is also home to a vibrant local community with lots of cultural events.
Whether you’re interested in provençal life or simply soaking up the sunshine, Ménerbes is a destination that is sure to delight. So let’s have a look at the top things to see and do in Ménerbes, shall we? Allons-y!
Things to do in Ménerbes
1. Tour de l’Horloge
One of the most iconic landmarks in Ménerbes is the Tour de l’Horloge, or Clock Tower.
This 14th-century tower is the only remaining part of the former castle of Ménerbes. The original château here was largely destroyed during the Huguenots seige between 1573-1578.
Today, the square where the Tour de l’Horloge stands is the central meeting point in the village, where the Mairie (town hall) now sits. It is also where the weekly markets are held. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower for a small fee and take in the views.
2. Eglise Saint Luc
On the other side of Ménerbes is the Church of Saint Luc. It is on a small plateau that is one of the highest points in the village.
The current building of the Saint-Luc church was rebuilt in the 16th century after the Wars of religion, likely on the site of a priory named Saint-Sauveur.
There is an open square just in front of the church, lined with trees and benches, that overlooks the cliffside. It is a wonderful place for views of the countryside below.
3. The village center
The village is situated on a hilltop, offering panoramic views from many different points. Visitors can wander through the winding streets and admire the traditional Provençal buildings, many of which date back centuries.
The village also boasts several art galleries and shops, along with a variety of restaurants, since it is such a popular tourist attraction in the area.
4. Abbey Saint Hilaire
The ancient Abbey Saint Hilaire is an official historic monument, located about 2 miles outside of Ménerbes. Dating back to the 12th century, it was built by the Carmelites monks. They were hermits from Mount Carmel in the Holy Land who were displaced, and built a convent here after arriving in France.
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. Musée du Tire-Bouchon
About 1 miles outside the center of Ménerbes is the Musée du Tire-Bouchon, or rather, Museum of the Corkscrew.
It is a private museum, dedicated to displaying over 1200 types of corkscrews that have been used over the centuries to cork and pop open wine bottles. The earliest corkscrews date back to the 17th century, before which wine was kept in barrels rather than barrels, and tapped into pitchers when serving.
It is an interesting visit, and quite different from other museums that you may come across in France. The museum is regularly open, especially in the summer, but check their website before heading over.
6. Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon
Another must-visit for food lovers is the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon. It is right next to the Tour de l’Horloge and is dedicated to all things truffle, with several varieties available for sale.
Truffles are a type of edible mushroom that grows in the surrounding countryside, and are regularly used in French haute cuisine.
The restaurant at the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon serves a lot of dishes featuring this famous delicacy, including desserts!
7. Wines from the Luberon AOC
There are several small vineyards around the village as well as wine shops next to the Tour de l’Horloge where you can purchase a few bottles of wine to take home.
8. Chapelle Saint Blaise
Another religious site worth visiting is the Chapelle Saint Blaise. This 18th-century chapel is located 500 meters away from Eglise Saint Luc.
This newer church was built in the center of the village and is a recognized historic building built by the Confrérie des Pénitents Blancs.
Menerbes is very famous for its marché which takes place once a week. Market days are every Thursday from 8.30am to 12:30pm.
Ménerbes is famous for its truffles and during the marché you can find plenty of local producers recolting them from the terroir. There are also plenty of other varieties of provencal foods, souvenirs and wines.
How to get to Ménerbes?
For a day trip, Avignon is about 30 miles (50 km) away from Ménerbes, and which can take about 45 minutes to travel.
How easy is it getting around?
Most of Ménerbes is pedestrainized with only local residents allowed to drive around. Nevertheless, the village of Ménerbes is quite stroller-friendly with large pedestrian paths to walk around and climb to the views from the top.
Where to park?
There are several large parking lots on the outskirts of Ménerbes, but it does get quite busy in the busy summer season and on market days. Parking is mostly free, but you will have to arrive early to grab a spot.
How many days should you spend?
It takes about a day to explore Ménerbes, but you may want to spend the night in order to explore the restaurants and bars in the village at nighttime.
Where should you stay?
There are some wonderful lodging options in and around Ménerbes:
- €€€ – Hôtel particulier de Tingry – Pierres d’Histoire
- €€€€ – La Bastide de Marie, Maisons et Hôtels Sibuet
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about traveling around Provence. A bientôt!