Monday, March 3, 2014

Gordes, One of the Most Beautiful Villages of France

Every time we are in Provence, we head toward the Luberon mountains to visit one or more of the small hill top villages in the area. Many times, Gordes is one of the villages we visit, especially if we are touring first time visitors around Provence.

Gordes is a beautiful old village in the Luberon region about 1 hour southeast of our home in Sablet. The obviously strategic site where Gordes sits has been occupied since prehistoric times. The stone buildings were built against the base of the cliffs and spiral up around the rock to the top where the chateau was built with a panoramic view over fields and forests and small perched villages.

The village's setting is striking and lots of tourists come to visit in the summer. Gordes is classified as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, literally translated, one of the most beautiful villages of France; Gordes is one of 156 French villages with that classification. It is said to be the #1 tourist attraction in the Luberon.

Cubist painter André Lhote discovered Gordes in 1938 followed by Marc Chagall, Victor Vasarely and other modern artist who visited and summered in Gordes. More recently the village gained exposure as one of the locations for a movie filmed in the Luberon, "A Good Year" based on a novel of the same name written by Peter Mayle starring Russell Crowe.


At the top of Gordes and in the center sits the chateau which dominates the town. Built in 1031, reinforced in 1123, the castle was rebuilt in 1525. Today the castle is home to the Pol Mara museum, a contemporary Flemish painter who lived in Gordes, and the tourist information office. In summer there are concerts and plays in the castle's courtyard.


Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs is located near the castle. Dating from the 17th century, the white chapel is an art gallery today.

Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs

The main square and memorial to the children of Gordes who died in wars for France which Russell Crowe's character, Max Skinner circles several times in his little yellow smart car looking for the notaire in "A Good Year".

War memorial in center of Gordes

Every Tuesday morning is market day. Merchants from around the area set up stalls on Place du Château and sell their wares: fresh fruits and vegetables, Provençale pottery and linens, art work and clothing.

Shops near chateau with St Firmin church bell tower in background

Gordes shops

The fountain in the square by Hôtel la Renaissance where Max waits for Fanny Chenal, the character played by Marion Cotillard to get off work. Hôtel la Renaissance is Fanny Chenal's bistro in the movie, and where Max famously tells an obnoxious American couple that "MacDonalds is in Avignon, fish and chips in Marseille. Allez".

Fountain in center of Gordes

Pigeon drinking from fountain

Around the center of the village near the castle, you will find various cafés, restaurants, art galleries and souvenir shops.

Shops and cafés near chateau

Typical Gordes street

The original Romanesque church in Gordes was dedicated to Notre Dame. Rebuilt in 1704, it was then dedicated to its patron, St Firmin, a former Bishop of Uzès.

Interior of St Firmin Church

The walls of Gordes were built later than the heart of the town – they were needed in the 16th century to protect the inhabitants from the bands of marauders roaming about Luberon during the Hundred-Years War.

Caves below Gordes

One of the many narrow stone streets called calades - small paved, sometimes stepped alleyways lined with gutters defined by two rows of stone.

Stone street

Stone steps

Gordes shops

Every town and village in Provence has a Fête Votive, which is a festival specific to that town, rather than a National holiday. In early October, Gordes holds its Fête Votive which includes a boules tournament seen below, concerts and meals.

Boules tournament

During World War II, Gordes was an active resistance village and was later awarded a medal, the Croix de Guerre 1939 - 1945. On the 21st of August 1944, just 6 days after the start of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France, a German patrol was attacked by members of the Gordes resistance and the day after, the village was subjected to violent reprisals and much of Gordes was destroyed.


It is definitely worthwhile to visit Gordes. If you have time, you should also visit the Bories village, a collection of 30 stone huts made of dry flat stones made without mortar and the nearby Sénanque Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian abbey, that is surrounded by lavender fields.


  1. Hi I'm May, I'm living in Singapore. I love all your posting about France, it's really beautiful! :)

    1. Hello May. Thanks for stopping in to check out my blog. Thanks for the kind feedback. I hope you will be a frequent guest. I have not been to Singapore but my wife lived there and went to high school there for three years. She loved living there. Take care.

  2. I have stopped at the Gordes overlook many a time but have never stopped in the village itself. Next time I think I'll do so since these photos are so beautiful. Thanks for the play by play from A Good Year. One of my all time favorite movies!

    1. Liza, I can't believe you haven't taken the time to walk through Gordes. While there are always lots of people throughout most of the year, it is definitely worthwhile to visit. Also, if you are A Good Year fan, you should check out the movie locations for yourself.

  3. Gordes is one of those villages that I always made sure to take my visitors to see, it's so charming it barely seems real!

    1. I agree with you completely. This is one of the first times we have been to Provence that we have not visited Gordes. We went to Oppede le Vieux and we could see Gordes in the distance, we didn't make it there. Oh well, next time.

  4. I love Gordes! And the view from afar is fantastic. Another great stone hilltop village is Les Baux de Provence, home to the Carrières des Lumières art expos! This post really captures postcard perfect life in Provence :)

    1. Samantha - Thanks for stopping in to visit my blog. I appreciate this very much. We love Les Baux de Provence too but just found out about the Carrières des Lumières art expos a couple of weeks ago during dinner with friends in Vaison-la-Romaine. So we have put this on our list of things to do on our next visit. I hope you will be a frequent visitor to my blog.

  5. Thank you for your rewiew.
    It has been very useful for a university assignment.

    Signed student of tourism of spain