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Occupying the steep sides of a limestone outcrop in the foothills of the Alpilles mountains, the village of Les-Baux-de-Provence is a jumble of endearingly wonky 16th- and 17th-century houses, chapels and mansions.

They line tiny medieval streets that weave organically around giant spurs of rock on their way to the village's crowning glory, the 11th-century fortified Château des Baux. Les-Baux-de-Provence is undeniably a very popular destination, but our specialists can help you discover it in a more authentic manner, and at quieter parts of the day.

Les-Baux-de-Provence, ProvenceInhabited since 6,000 BC, the elevated position and excellent views over the plains gave Les-Baux-de-Provence a defensive advantage. The hilltop was first fortified in the 10th century, with the fortress extended and developed over the following years until the princes of Baux controlled much of Provence.

By the 12th century, the court was also renowned for its highly cultivated lifestyle and, although the last princess of Baux died in the 15th century, the honorary title of Marquis of Baux was retained and passed to the heir to the throne of Monaco.

The Château des Baux commands a position at the top of the village and, although largely destroyed in the 17th century, its ruins are substantial. It's worth the climb to seek out the expansive views from its towers, and to explore the dungeons and see the reconstructions of medieval weapons such as trebuchets (a type of giant catapult), ballistas (an ancient missile launcher) and battering rams. In summer, you can watch the weapons in action as well as themed entertainment and duels by costumed actors.

Apart from the castle, the village's charm lies in its rustic architecture and its setting where the outcrops of rock are woven into the very fabric of the streets. The cobbled, car-free lanes are lined with cafés, a clutch of excellent restaurants and little shops selling local products and produce such as wine and olive oil.

There are several old churches and chapels to seek out, and you can visit the town's former limestone quarries to see a light show that illuminates the cavernous galleries. The Carrières de Lumières teams rousing music with giant projections that light up the walls, floor and ceiling in dramatic fashion. Nearby, you will also find the monastery-asylum at Saint-Paul de Mausole where Vincent van Gogh admitted himself in 1889. He stayed here for a year, painting the surrounding wheat fields and recuperating. You can visit his reconstructed room and walk along trails through the tranquil gardens where he set up his easel.

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Suggested itinerary featuring Les-Baux-de-Provence

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