Fields of lavender, wide-stretching olive groves, and bustling street markets aren’t hard to find in Provence. But with the dramatic slopes of the Alpilles Mountains in the background and a captivating history on display, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence stands out from the crowd.
Just a few hours north of Marseilles and the French Riviera’s famous beaches, you can explore the winding cobblestone streets and lush gardens that once captivated Vincent Van Gogh. Step back in time at ancient Roman ruins and taste the region’s unique flavors at local vineyards and olive groves. From galleries and museums to outdoor excursions, here’s how to spend your time in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Many people know the story of Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his ear, but fewer know that after the incident, he came to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. In 1889, he admitted himself to the Saint-Paul Asylum and found himself inspired by the beauty of the region.
Saint Paul de Mausole
Built in the 11th century, the Franciscan monks at the Saint Paul de Mausole Monastery first created an asylum in the building in the early 1600s. Today select rooms are open to the public as an exhibit for its most famous patient, Vincent Van Gogh. You can visit the room he stayed in and see the same view that inspired many of his paintings during the period.
Van Gogh Trail
Enjoy a relaxing walk from the monastery to the Old Town and see it through the eyes of Vincent Van Gogh. Look for the metallic trail markers to make sure you’re on the correct path. Along the way, you’ll encounter information boards featuring Van Gogh’s paintings, the context surrounding them, and excerpts from letters Van Gogh wrote during his stay. As you walk in his footsteps, it’s not difficult to see why he was so inspired. Once you’re back in town, take Rue Lafayette to Le Goustarou, one of the best Créperies in town.
Van Gogh’s Painting
Van Gogh painted almost 150 paintings during the year he spent in Saint-Rémy. A large number of these paintings featured the Monastery’s garden and wheat field. Many of these paintings are in private collections, but if you pass through Paris on your trip to France, you can see Pine Trees with Figure in the Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital at the Musée d’Orsay.
If you’ve ever seen Van Gogh’s Starry Night, then you’ve already seen Saint-Rémy. It was inspired by the view outside his room at the asylum and the town silhouetted against the night sky is meant to represent Saint-Rémy. The painting itself is housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but you can learn more about it at the Museé Estrine in Saint-Rémy,
Exploring the Old Town
Wind your way through Saint-Rémy’s Old Town. Step into boutiques and cafés or spend an hour or two exploring one of the area’s museums or art galleries.
Rue Hoche and Rue Carnot
Rue Carnot has some of the Old Town’s best cafés and restaurants. If you’re exploring the Old Town on a warm day, head to the Boulevard end of Rue Carnot and visit RAVI Glaces de Provence where you can enjoy delicious ice cream. Embrace the local flavors with their lavender ice cream. Rue Hoche, at first, seems like an unassuming residential spot exemplifying the narrow streets of the old town. However, at 6 Rue Hoche, you’ll find a slice of history: the birthplace of Nostradamus.
Operating out of the Hôtel Estrine this museum is mostly home to modern art from the 20th and 21st century. It also features an exhibition focused on Van Gogh’s time in Saint-Rémy and the works he created during that period. (Though it doesn’t have any Van Gogh originals.) Stay moments from the museum at the L’Auberge de Saint Rémy. Run by Chef Fanny Ray and her partner (and pastry chef) Jonathan Wahid, this charming hotel doubles as one of the best restaurants in the area.
After visiting the Saint Paul de Mausole, you’ll be just a few minutes from two ancient Roman Ruins: The Triumphal Arch and the Jules Mausoleum. Both date back to the 1st century, although the arch was restored in the 18th century. The Mausoleum has been extremely well preserved, towering over visitors at a height of 18 meters. Situated against the backdrop of the St Rémy countryside and Alpilles Mountains, these historic structures cut an imposing figure.
Boulevard Victor Hugo
The Boulevard Victor Hugo runs around the outside of the Old Town. It’s home to a number of restaurants, gourmet grocery stores, and boutique shopping experiences. In particular, it’s home to one of the best patisseries in town: La Troprovencale.
Local Art and Culture
Saint-Rémy’s artistic roots don’t stop at Van Gogh. The town is able to support a number of artistic endeavors, including boutique galleries that support contemporary artists and historic curations that speak to the town’s past.
Saint-Rémy’s numerous Art Galleries are mostly concentrated in the Old Town. For example, the Point Rouge Gallery is a unique, welcoming gallery that showcases a small number of emerging artists for a few months at a time. In between galleries, visit Maison Marshall for a bite to eat. They serve up excellent main courses, but they’re best known for their pastries and desserts.
Hôtel Estrine and Hôtel de Sade
Like the Hôtel Estrine, the Hôtel de Sade is a historic mansion that’s been turned into a museum. Inside, you’ll find artifacts from the nearby Roman ruins as well as remains of a Roman bath, including the heating system. Stay close to the museum at the Hôtel et Restaurant de Tourrel. You’ll be in the heart of the Old Town, experiencing the best of Provençal hospitality.
Place Jean Jaurè
Place Jean Jaurè is home to the Alpilles tourist office. Being just an hour north of Marseilles and 30 minutes south of Avignon, Saint-Rémy is quite popular for day trips and this square offers free parking very close to the Old Town. Arrive early to grab a spot, particularly on market days.
Albert Gleizes was one of the most important Cubist artists of the 20th century. He is known for his role in the ‘School of Paris’ artist group, but it was just outside Saint-Rémy that he settled and began an artist’s commune. The Musée Estrine showcases his work as part of their permanent exhibition, tracing his development over the years.
Natural Beauty and Ancient Ruins
On the outskirts of Saint-Rémy lie tranquil fields that offer excellent conditions for olive trees and meadows of lavender. Amidst the countryside, you can find remnants of the civilizations that lived in the region. Just remember to pack sunscreen and a hat for days when you’ll be out in the sun.
Olive Grove and Olive Trees
Olives have been grown in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence since the Greeks and Romans occupied the area. Today, The Moulin du Calanquet is one of the best olive groves to visit, offering fascinating tours that provide insight into the process and a delicious tasting selection at the end. Stay close by at Les Château des Alpilles on the outskirts of Saint-Rémy (a dip in their pool is the perfect way to cool off in summer). In town, you can find a variety of olive oils at Maison Bremond, a gourmet supermarket on the edge of the Old Town.
The best time to see lavender in bloom in Provence is between June and September. Most guided tours that you can book ahead of time online depart from Avignon or Aix-en-Provence. If you’re looking for tours from Saint-Rémy, ask the tourist office in Place Jean Jaure when you arrive.
Ancient Ruins: Roman City of Glanum
On the outskirts of the town, you can visit the ruins of Glanum, a once prosperous city that was inhabited from at least the 6th century BCE. When they fled invasions in 260 AD, they settled in what would become Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It was excavated in the 20th century and today you can visit what’s left of towering columns, shrines and houses that were home to its ancient inhabitants.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is nestled in the Rhône Valley region, where some of the best wine in France is grown and made. Follow the winding roads southeast of Saint-Rémy, where you’ll find the Château Romanin winery at the foot of the Alpilles. They offer tours and tastings with a truly personal touch. The valley stretches far north of Saint-Rémy, and you’ll find several unique historic châteaux as you head further up north, such as the Château de Grignan.
Day Trips and Special Events
From neighboring attractions to bustling markets, you’ll want to block out a full day to enjoy these Saint-Rémy trips and activities.
Les Baux de Provence
While you’re in Saint-Rémy, pay a visit to Les Baux de Provence, a beautiful hilltop village nearby. Narrow cobblestone streets lead you past small shops selling local goods. Once you’ve seen everything in town, take a breath of fresh air in the fields of lavender surrounding the 10th-century Castle Baux.
Every year cyclists from around the world take on the intense climbs of Mont Ventoux, just over an hour north of Saint-Rémy. Making the trek yourself will reward you with swimming views of the Rhône Valley and the towns down below. As you make your way up the mountain, you’ll be surrounded by unique flora and fauna, even at its summit, where bright yellow alpine poppies bloom in the cold conditions.
Wednesdays in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
On Wednesdays, the streets of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence come to life as local shopkeepers, farmers, and craftspeople set up stalls to sell their goods. The scents of seasonal produce and fresh spices fill the air. It’s arguably one of the best markets in Provence (and it’s got plenty of competition). You’ll find plenty of classic Provençal offerings like lavender-scented soaps and olive oil, so grab your favorite travel purse and get your souvenirs sorted.
History and Heritage
Discover the history of Saint-Rémy beyond Van Gogh and the Romans, from 12th-century churches to the birthplace of the world’s most famous so-called seer.
This gothic-style church dates back to the 12th century with a fairly unassuming exterior and a breathtaking interior. Intricate stained glass windows, a stunning pipe organ, and a grand altar. Any donations are put towards restoration efforts.
Oppede de Vieux
Oppede de Vieux is less than an hour east of Saint-Rémy, where its historic buildings have been beautifully preserved. With stone walls covered in rose branches, it’s like something out of a fairytale.
Oppede de Vieux is something of a hidden gem in the region, but just 20 minutes north you can visit Gordes, one of the most popular historic villages in Provence. This is in large part thanks to its hilltop location, offering stunning views of the valley below. For lunch and a view, visit La Trinquette on Rue des Tracapelles.
Rue Nostradamus leads you down from the Gambeau Boulevard to the Fontaine Nostradamus, which features a bust of the famed prophet and astrologer. The Museé des Alpilles is just a short walk from Rue Nostradamus and features exhibitions on Nostradamus’ famous prophecies.