The tiny French village of Venasque perched on a rocky edge of a cliff, has been officially recognized as one of the “plus beaux villages de France” (one of the most beautiful villages in France). With ancient buildings made of stone, this lovely little town feels like it belongs to another era.
The elevated mountain village welcomes thousands of visitors per year, which is a lot for a little town which is so small, cars are to be parked outside the town limits.
Venasque is located in the Vaucluse Mountains and is the perfect place to relax and unwind away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The village of Venasque in the South of France, epitomizes small-town Provence.
With a population of around 1000, the beautiful hilltop village is surrounded by countryside views, medieval villages, charming fountains and quaint cafés.
Venasque is a popular summer vacation spot and a great base for exploring Provence, in addition to being a great starting point for hiking and cycling in the area. The stunning Gorges du Verdon are also close by, for those that enjoy a good balade (walk) in the mountains.
When the sun is shining, this little village is a stunning place to visit, with its medieval stone buildings and historic church. It is near four other villages also voted “the most beautiful”, Gordes, Roussillon, Lourmarin, Ménerbes, and Moustiers-Saint-Marie.
As you can see, this region is famous for its beautiful villages! Provence is one of France’s most popular regions, and the tourist destination for French people as well as foreigners. With its blue skies, stunning countryside and sun-drenched towns and villages, it is not hard to see why.
Humans have settled in this area since antiquity. However, the village really established itself in the 12th century under the Counts of Toulouse. the rocky outpost was a good strategic point to see approaching invaders.
These days it is tourists and French holidaymakers who come down from the rainy north to their summer homes who really fill the village with activity. And with a beautiful chateau, charming town center and historical church, there is plenty of culture and history in the area as well. So let’s get to the best of Venasque, shall we? Allons-y!
Things to do in Venasque
1. The Ramparts
As soon as you arrive, you will notice the ancient ramparts that used to protect the village. The village’s main parking lot is outside the town centre, near these ramparts.
Climb up and have a walk all the way around to the Place des Tours. You can also enjoy a meal or stay at the lovely Hotel Restaurant des Ramparts that offers many traditional Provençale dishes in a beautiful setting overlooking the valley.
2. L’église-cathédrale Notre-Dame and Baptistère
At one end of Venasque, you will find the village’s historic Notre Dame church and next to it, its Baptistry.
The church dates back to the Middle ages, and has a beautiful altarpiece of the 17-century carved wood.
But indeed, it is the Baptistry that is the most impressive. Built below ground, it dates back to the time of the Romans. Originally, the building was probably a temple dedicated to Diana, Venus or Mercury.
According to tradition, it then became a baptistery in honor of St John the Baptist, founded in the Merovingian period by St. Siffrein, in the 6th century.
Its architectural construction and arches are stunning considering the era that it was built in. Beautifully preserved, this a visit that you should not miss.
3. The Village
Further into town, you will notice the beautiful fountain in the main square of Venasque.
There are a number of small kiosks and shops in the area, offering everything from ice cream and local delicacies, to provençale souvenirs and pottery. There are several small cafés in the area, but they can fill up in the busy summer months, so make a reservation early.
In Venasque, weekly markets are only held during the summer months, and are held in the evenings. From June to the end of August, a weekly market is held every friday night from 6pm to 9pm in the center of the village.
How to get to Venasque?
Venasque is about 25 miles (40km) from Avignon, and about 80 miles (125 km) from Marseille. Both Avignon and Marseille have a high-speed train connection as well as local airports connecting from across Europe. You will need a rental car to get to Venasque, as public transportation is limited in the area.
How many days should you spend?
One day is enough is Venasque, although you could base yourself in the village in order to explore the surrounding cites of Provence.
Towns like Carpantras, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, etc. are all under an hour away.
Where should you stay?
I would recommend staying in the village next door, Gordes, which is slightly bigger and is also one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is about 10 miles (16km) away, with equally lovely views of the valley. Crucially, it has more cafés and restaurants for visitors, while keeping that same village feel.
If you enjoyed that post, you may want to read more about traveling around Provence and the French Riviera. A bientôt!