A Dozen Ideas for Your Stay in St-Rémy
St-Rémy-de-Provence is one of the most charming towns in Provence. It’s a great place to spend a few days nestled at the foot of the Alpilles Mountains and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Here are some fun things you can do while you’re there.
Walk in the Footsteps of Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh spent a year in St-Rémy, receiving care at the mental asylum at Saint-Paul de Mausole and painting masterpieces like Starry Night. You can visit his old room, which is kept just as it was when he stayed there. Also, be sure to ask the Tourist Office for information on walks around St-Rémy that show you places that van Gogh painted.
Have Your Mind Blown
Just outside of St-Rémy is the Carrières de Lumières, an indoor quarry that’s been turned into the world’s best sound and light show. Described as “an immersive art experience,” it’s hundreds of images of a great artist’s works projected onto the walls and floors of several gigantic rooms, all coordinated with beautiful music. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Provence, and you have to see it to believe it.
Shop Till You Drop
Provence is famous for its outdoor markets, and the very best one may be in St-Rémy. Held every Wednesday morning, it fills the centre of town and some of the side streets, plus the ring road that circles the old town. Full of delicious foods, lavender, colourful fabrics and more, it’s a great place to browse, sniff, taste, and buy a few souvenirs. And there’s no better place to stock up for a picnic.
Stand in Awe of the Romans
Glanum was once an important city in the Roman Empire, and its well-preserved remains sit at the southern entrance to St-Rémy. Wander through them and imagine what it was like back in Julius Caesar’s day. Next to Glanum is a Roman mausoleum and the oldest triumphal arch in France, both big and impressive.
Sip Some Wine and Think of Love
Just outside of town is an outstanding winery, Château Romanin, with a beautiful tasting room. The winery’s design is based on the original château, the ruins of which you can see nearby. In the Middle Ages, this château was the seat of an important Court of Love, where noble ladies ruled on questions of gallantry. So think about that as you sip your wine—could knights be sent to the dungeon for using the wrong fork?
Route de Cavaillon
Visits and Tasting: Tel:+33 (0)4 90 92 69 57
Up, Up and Away
On your way to Château Romanin, you’ll pass the Aérodrome de Romanin, a small airfield where you can see gliders take off and land. Stop and watch them for a few minutes—the planes are shot into the air with a kind of giant slingshot, and then they soar up and over the Alpilles. If you’re looking for a little excitement, you can go for a ride in one of these gliders yourself, piloted by a local expert.
Talk to the Animals
St-Rémy is famous for its festivals, many of which involve livestock (it’s an agricultural region, after all.) The transhumance, usually held in late May, celebrates the time when sheep are taken to higher pastures for the summer. Thousands of them are marched on the ring road, along with shepherds, herding dogs and the occasional goat. A few weeks later is the festival honoring St. Eloi, when a statue of the saint is paraded through town, followed by musicians, citizens in traditional outfits, and dozens of colorfully decorated horses (St. Eloi is the patron saint of horses.)
Here is a video of this fun event:
Enjoy the Tight White Pants
Course camarguaise is a kind of Provençal bullfighting, but unlike the Spanish variety, the bulls here don’t get hurt. Instead, they have ribbons and other doodads attached to their horns and the rasateurs, the brave and remarkably fit young men, have to run up and try to take them off. It’s fun and exciting, and the traditional rasateur outfit includes tight white pants—very popular with the ladies.
Stretch Your Legs
Ready for a little exercise? Try the hike up to the top of La Caume. If you want a challenge, you can start from St-Rémy, but an easier route is to begin partway up the Alpilles themselves, at the parking lot along the road to Maussane-les-Alpilles. You’ll get spectacular views on your hike—north to Avignon and beyond and south all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. If it’s too hot to be up in the mountains, enjoy a shady walk instead, along with one of St-Rémy’s canals.
Taste Olive Oil Fit for a King
Olive oil has been produced in St-Rémy since ancient times. The first Christian king of France, Clovis, was baptized using St-Rémy olive oil in 496.
To see an operating mill and do some olive oil tasting, visit the Moulin du Calenquet, a few miles west of town on the Vieux Chemin d’Arles. If you’ve never done an olive oil tasting, it’s interesting to find how different the various oils taste and how some give you a little burn on the back of the throat. The mill’s shop also sells olives (of course) and various olive-based products like tapenade. In addition, Calenquet has a shop in St-Rémy, at 8 rue de la Commune, if you would prefer to taste and buy.
Moulin du Calanquet (website)
Vieux Chemin d’Arles
13210 Saint-Rémy de Provence
Open all year, but the hours change seasonally.
Enjoy a Hidden Picnic Spot
Ten minutes from the centre of St-Rémy is a shady picnic spot popular with the locals. It sits along the shores of Lac du Peiroou. A lake was created thousands of years ago by the Romans.
Lac du Peiroou is a small reservoir created by a dam that spans a narrow gap between two rocky outcroppings. Although, in comparison, the current dam was built a century ago, the original dates back to the first century B.C. when it was built to supply water to nearby Glanum. The lake has a wide, grassy area at one end, with trees that provide welcome shade on a sunny Provençal day. It’s the perfect place to spread out a blanket and enjoy a lazy afternoon.
St-Rémy is lucky to have its own Master Chocolatier, Joël Durand, and people come from all over to visit his shop. Be sure to sample the Alphabet of Flavors—chocolates stamped with different letters of the alphabet. Each has a unique flavour, like chocolate with rosemary or chocolate with lavender. Buy some for your friends and spell out a message!
Joël Durand (website)
3, Blvd Victor Hugo
Prepare for your Visit
Tourist Office (website)
Place Jean Jaurès
Monday – Saturday: 9h15 – 12h30 and 14h – 18h30
Sunday and public holidays:10h – 12h30 and 14h – 17h
This article is based on content that Keith is collecting for his third book, “An Insiders Guide to Provence,” with a publication date of December 2021. Click here to pre-order the book.