The picturesque towns and villages of Haute Provence combine the beauty of a natural setting with the richness of a cultural and historical heritage.
Land of Giono and L’Occitane
Manosque was the birthplace of famous French author Jean Giono (1895-1970), who lived there all his life. The town largely inspired his work. Don’t miss a visit to the Jean Giono Centre and Le Paraïs, the house where he lived for 40 years, to delve into the soul of this great local figure, whose spirit continues to echo throughout the historic quarter. You can enter the quarter through one of the two medieval gates: Porte Soubeyran to the North or Porte Saunerie to the South. From there, you will come to a maze of lanes and passageways, fountains, sunny little squares and pretty café terraces. To the North-East, Mont d’Or hill, laden with olive trees, stands over the town. Manosque is intrinsically linked to L’Occitane en Provence: the resolutely-Provencal cosmetics brand has set up its production site and museum there. Push open their doors to discover a world of fragrances and top-quality products formulated with natural ingredients.
Manosque Tourist Office
Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
+ 33 (0)4 92 72 16 00
A Town of History
Treat yourself to a delicious immersion in the spirit of Forcalquier – the epicentre of the powerful former County of Forcalquier, an independent state in the 11th century – with a stroll through the lanes of the old quarter. First stop: Notre-Dame-du-Marché cathedral. Completed in the early 13th century, the cathedral combines medieval and gothic art. From Place Saint-Michel, adorned with a 16th-century fountain, head to Passage Roubaud leading to the historic heart of Forcalquier. Take time to admire the beautiful old houses and their remarkable doors, complete with pediments and columns. Next, walk to Impasse des Cordeliers, where you will come to the superb 13th-century Franciscan Cordeliers Convent, also a summer festival venue. From the old town, a path leads to the citadel and neo-Byzantine style Notre-Dame-de-Provence chapel, perched on a rocky outcrop.
Forcalquier Tourist Office
13 place du Bourguet
+33 (0)4 92 75 10 02
Long live lavender!
Digne-les-Bains is one of France’s largest spa towns and its renown dates from Roman times. The town’s Roman baths have now been fully refurbished. The town is set at the crossroads to the Alps and Provence. Dotted with stone staircases and covered passageways, its historic quarter, called the “ville haute”, is instilled with a resolutely southern atmosphere. Digne is a richly cultural town too: don’t miss a visit to the Musée Alexandra David-Néel, where the passionate explorer of oriental civilisations lived until 1969 and the grand old age of 101. A stone’s throw away, at the Musée Gassendi, you’ll come to the start of the Andy Goldsworthy Refuge d’Art land art trail, combining contemporary art and hiking. Last but not least, it would be impossible to speak of Digne without evoking the lavender fields surrounding the town. Every weekend in August, the town pulses to the beat of the Corso de la Lavande lavender fair, with its fragrant floats, shows and concerts.
Digne-les-Bains Tourist Office
Place du Tampinet
+33 (0)4 92 36 62 62
The earthenware capital
Tucked at the foot of a cliff, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is truly a sight to behold and fittingly ranked as one of “France’s Most Beautiful Villages”. The village is even prettier when it is bathed in the soft light of dusk on a summer’s day… As you stroll its streets, you will come across picturesque lanes lined with ochre, peach and beige houses. Down below, a bubbling stream forms little waterfalls. Founded by a colony of monks in the 5th century, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie owes its renown to its earthenware industry, which prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries. The village is also an inspiration for Provence’s traditional Christmas crib scenes. On your arrival or departure, don’t miss a stop-off on the banks of Sainte-Croix lake.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie Tourist Office
Place de l’Eglise
+33 (0)4 92 74 67 84
Perched over the Durance river
Built on a rocky spur, Lurs is located at the crossroads to the Luberon, the Durance river and Valensole plateau. This is a favourite place to stop off for some pics on the way to Forcalquier. Lurs is also set on the famous Camino de Santiago (Saint Jacques de Compostelle) pilgrims’ way. People come here to seek peace and rest for the soul. You might be disturbed at dawn by the whirring of a hot air balloon – raise your eyes, the show is simply magical! Lurs is a truly gorgeous place to visit in every season. In February, blossoming almond trees adorn the village with silver white. In April, when the tulips bloom, the fields light up with a thousand colours. From late May, thyme flowers instil the village with their delicate fragrance. Lurs also hosts a spectacular summer festival featuring theatre, music and the Rencontres Internationales de Lure, dedicated to graphic arts and calligraphy.
Ville de Lurs
+33 (0)4 92 79 10 20
History and Nights Underneath the Stars
Perched at an altitude of 485 metres, the old town of Sisteron, dominated by its citadel, watches the Durance river flow past. Where Provence meets the Alps, Sisteron charms with its maze of little streets with Roman façades, its carved doors, its stairs and its andrones – covered passages which are typically Provençal. Head to the citadel, listed as a historic monument. Once you reach the top, stroll around through the terraced stairs, the round path and the keep . From here, the view of the Val de Durance is quite simply exceptional. Every summer, the Nuits de la Citadelle Festival makes these age-old walls shake to the beat of concerts and performances underneath the stars.
Office de tourisme de Sisteron
1, place de la République
+33 (0)4 92 61 36 50
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CRAFTS AND SAVOIR-FAIRE IN PROVENCE
In Marseille, Aix or Aubagne, shops and workshops offer tours showing how traditional Provençal products are made, combining modernity and respect for traditional craftsmanship. Seeing their fabrication up close, it’s hard not to fall for santons, pottery, ceramics, fabrics, soaps or gastronomic specialities made in Provence.