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Saint Rémy de Provence

Stylish town in Provence with Van Gogh connections and excellent restaurants

featured in Towns & villages Updated

Nestled in the hills of Les Alpilles, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a stylish town much favoured by the creative Parisien set. Its centre is full of narrow medieval alleyways, with fountains and shady squares and wonderful buildings.

It enjoys a wonderfully central location located just 20km south of Avignon, and 70km from both Aix and Marseille airport. The surrounding countryside is protected as Les Alpilles Natural Park, and vineyards and olive groves flourish.

The town is forever associated with Vincent Van Gogh, as this is where he checked into an asylum for a year (1889) in monastere St Paul de Mausole. He managed to paint 150 canvases during his stay, including 'Live Grove' and 'Starry Night'. The Mausole is open to the public every day.

Continuing on the art theme, this is where Albert Gleize (Cubism) spent the last 15 years of his life. The Musée des Alpilles holds a collection of ethnological pieces and a selection of paintings by locally-known artists. Other renowned figures associated with the village include the Marquis de Sade, whose family manor the Hotel de Sade is located here (now the Musée Archeologique). St Remy is also the birth place of Nostradamus.

The surrounding area is thick with olive groves, and the Moulin a Huile du Calanquet offers a wide range of products derived from the olive. St Remy continues to enjoy the works of artists who live in the area - glass blowing, artists and sculptors thrive and many original works of art are for sale in the town's numerous art galleries. There is a fantastic selection of accommodation and excellent restaurants in the town, and don't forget to try the local wine from Les Baux.

History & Culture in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

Whilst people have been living in the area since pre-historic times, the current site of St Rémy was probably first built upon in the 1st century AD. The first church was built in the 6th century around which the town was created, and the town was under the protection of the Abbey Saint-Rémi de Reims, and this is where the name came from.

St Rémy was the birthplace of physician and seer Nostradamus, who 'predicted' amongst other things, the French Revolution and both World Wars.

The area became popular with the bourgeoisie offspring of local farmers and artisans after the Revolution, and so became increasingly wealthy.

At the beginning of the 20th century, St Rémy attracted artists, writers and painters and this heritage remains in St Rémy today.

Sights & Attractions in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

For a small town, there is a lot to see and do.

Its artistic and Roman history has left it with a great deal of cultural heritage.

There are two museums:

  • The Musée des Alpilles is home to ethnographic treasures to help visitors understand the landscape and the human impact on it. The museum is housed in a wonderful Renaissance building with a lovely interior courtyard.
  • The Musée Estrine is dedicated to 20th century art. There are two rooms devoted to the cubist painter Albert Gleizes and an area which interprets the work of Vincent Van Gogh via audio-visual aids, letters, photographs and other documents.

The Church, Collegiale Saint Martin, was built in 1821 in a neo-classical style, but its origins go back to the 14th century. Each year in the summer it hosts the Festival Organa. The Hotel de Sade is a large Gallo-Roman villa that houses ancient baths.

One of the main attractions of St Rémy lies to the south of the town and features archeological remains from the 2nd century BC. The site of Glanum is a fascinating insight into an original civilisation that features religious and civic buildings. You can take a guided tour or wander around on your own. The well preserved Antiquities of Glanum are a wonderful sight just off the main road.

No guide to St Rémy would be complete without a mention of Vincent Van Gogh. The artist stayed in the Saint Paul de Mausole monastery in 1889, when the monstery had been converted to an asylum. Here he painted many of his famous works, and several rooms have been converted into a museum. You can visit the Monastere de St Paul de Mausole despite it still operating as a psychiatric hospital.

Events in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

On 1st May each year, there is a large horse and donkey fair that starts with a procession of donkeys and carts accompanied by children dressed in traditional clothing. A flea market occurs at the same time.

The Fête de la Transhumance takes place on Whit Monday and is a festival to celebrate the arrival of spring. Traditionally it was when the farmers took their sheep to their summer pastures in the Alps, and nowadays there is a parade around the town of sheep, goats and donkeys with their shepherds in traditional costume. A flea market and a cheese fair also occurs at this time.

From May to October the Route des Artistes is a market for local artists and artisans to show off their works. It takes place on selected Sundays during these months - check local press for dates.

Another arty festival is the Festival APART which takes place from early July to mid August and showcases the best of contemporary art in public and private art spaces.

The Terroir des Alpilles festival is a celebration of the locally grown produce of the Alpilles - it takes place at the end of July. Also at the end of July is the Fête du Vin and l'Artisanat d'Art where you can get tiddly on delicious locally grown wine, admire works of art in street stalls throughout the town, and enjoy live jazz music.

St Remy's big fair is held in the middle of August. The St Remy Feria is dedicated to the heritage of the bull, so expect bull racing, bull running and bull beauty contests (no bulls are killed at these events). The Feria welcomes street performers at this time and local musicians play their flutes and other wind instruments. Carmargue horses also feature during the fair and an enormous wagon filled with local produce parades through the town, pulled by 50 heavy horses. This procession always takes place on 15th August.

Things to do in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

St Rémy is pretty good for shopping, with a number of boutiques, antique shops and art galleries. The market is held on Wednesday mornings. There is a summer handicrafts market held every Tuesday evening from the end of June until September. Flea markets (Brocantes) are held on some Sundays during the summer - keep an eye out for local posters.

The more active among you will no doubt enjoy the wonderful countryside, whether you choose to explore by foot, by bike or on horseback. All these options are available to you. There is an open-air swimming pool open to the public during the summer (June to September) on Route d'Avignon.

The tourist office offers guided tours from mid-April to late September, and will also be able to provide more information and maps for hikers.

There are wonderful vineyards in the countryside around St Rémy and we recommend taking a trip to taste some wine, much of which is organically farmed. Also worth visiting are the pretty villages in the area, try Les Baux with its fantastic ruined castle.

Dining in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

One of the main attractions in coming to St Rémy is the quality and quantity of restaurants. It's a real foodie place, probably thanks to the large numbers of retirees and second home owners from the international community. The centre has many restaurants, you'll see many of them lining the main Boulevard Victor Hugo.

Explore some of the small pedestrianised side streets and you will encounter some real delights.

Hotels in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

St Rémy is blessed with a great selection of hotels to suit all budgets.


Map of the surrounding area