Pierre
  • Home
  • Blog
  • Bonnieux in Provence: What To See and Do
Gems of Paris by French Moments

Bonnieux is one of the most beautiful perched villages on the northern slopes of the Luberon. Some people call it the "Mont Saint-Michel of Provence".

It is part of the golden triangle Gordes - Roussillon - Bonnieux, but, unlike its two neighbours, the latter is less busy, which makes it more authentic.

The village comprises two churches, ramparts, sloping streets and several old buildings, all of which give Bonnieux a unique character.

As you can see, Bonnieux offers a wide variety of natural and historical sites within its territory.

Watch this short video on the Luberon!

Why you should visit Bonnieux

Bonnieux stretches from the Calavon valley to the Luberon crests and the Combe of Lourmarin, the access route to the southern Luberon.

Arriving at Bonnieux from Lourmarin © French Moments

Arriving at Bonnieux from Lourmarin © French Moments

The commune is not far from Apt (12 km), the small capital of the Luberon. Avignon is 45 km away, Aix 40 km and Marseille 90 km.

The municipal territory covers 5112 hectares. It includes the village itself and, in the plain, the famous Pont Julien, built in Roman times (27 BC - 17 AD) on the Domitian road. On the crest of the Luberon mountain, the beautiful Cedar forest is a haven of cool air in summer.

Plan your trip

Discover Bonnieux

Bonnieux stands on the northern slopes of the Petit Luberon, opposite the village of Lacoste.

Bonnieux © French Moments

View of the village of Bonnieux from Lacoste © French Moments

The perched village lies on the north side of the Combe de Lourmarin which was and still is the only road that crosses the Luberon mountain range.

Combe de Lourmarin © French Moments

The D943 road crossing the Combe de Lourmarin © French Moments

The old church surrounded by hundred-year-old cedars dominates the village. Its panoramic terrace offers the visitor an exceptional view stretching from the Petit Luberon to the Mont Ventoux, passing through the Vaucluse mountains.

Bonnieux © French Moments

Sunset after a visit to Bonnieux © French Moments

A (very) steep village

The village elders had taken into account the constraints of often steep terrain and the roads criss-crossing the village. They built a network of lanes, paths, covered passages, calades and stairways to shorten journeys and promote relations between the lower and upper parts of the village.

Most of these charming pedestrian routes have been restored and embellished. To discover the village on foot, follow the itinerary punctuated by 15 informative panels that retrace the history of Bonnieux (about 1h30 to 2h).

A bit of history

Roman Bonnieux

The Romans occupied the Bonnieux and its surrounding during Ancient Times. The most important Roman heritage in the commune is the Pont Julien, built on the Via Domitia linking Spain and Italy (3 BC).

Pont Julien © Médard - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Pont Julien © Médard - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

In addition, archaeologists have found remains of Gallo-Roman villas in the plain, close to the Via Domitia.

The Middle Ages

In the 6th century, monks founded a monastery on the site of the pagan temple of Mithra.

In 972, the village already had a fortress and walls.

Then 1103, the village of Bonnieux is mentioned under the name of Castrum Bonils. At that time, it was under the jurisdiction of the county of Forcalquier. In 1220, the village fell to the county of Provence.

Also in the 12th century, the Templars built the Saint-Sauveur chapel, which was the basis of the upper church.

Bonnieux © French Moments

The rooftops of the village © French Moments

From a papal land to a French village

At the beginning of the 14th century, Bonnieux became pontifical land (Comtat Venaissin) and remained so until 14 September 1791, when the village became French.

The fact that it belonged to the pontifical domain made it an enclave in the lands of the Count of Provence (and consequently in the kingdom of France), and thus gave it a special place in the history of the region. The village was Catholic, as opposed to Ménerbes, a Protestant stronghold.

On 12 August 1793, the French administration transferred Bonnieux from the département of Bouches-du-Rhône to that of Vaucluse.

Bonnieux Rue de la République

Rue de la République (old postcard)

Places to see in Bonnieux

Walking tour itinerary

From the Place du Terrail in the lower part of the village, take the Rue Victor Hugo, Place du 4 Septembre, Rue JB Aurard, Rue Voltaire.

Climb the steps of Rue des Pénitents Blancs to reach the old church and the belvedere.

Take the lane that joins the parking des Croix. Return to the village via Rue Droite and Rue de la République.

Eglise Neuve

The new church dates from 1870. In the shape of a Latin cross, the building contains many objects from the old church: four 16th century paintings representing scenes from the Passion of Christ(the flagellation, the crowning with thorns, Christ before Pilate and Jesus carrying the Cross).

Eglise Neuve Bonnieux © French Moments

Eglise Neuve at the bottom of the village © French Moments

Anecdote

The new church does not belong to the commune, unlike most churches in France, which were requisitioned during the French Revolution. It was built much later and is the result of a private subscription. It is an alternative to the other church in Bonnieux, known as the "old church" or "high church". Because of its difficult access via a staircase of 86 steps, it was considered "deadly for all the suffering and infirm members of the parish". It now belongs to the Archdiocese of Avignon.

Hôtel de Rouvil

The Hôtel de Rouvil is a beautiful 18th century residence and the former home of a notable Bonnieux family. It housed the town hall from 1859.

Hôtel de Rouville © Wayne77 - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Hôtel de Rouvil © Wayne77 - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Because of its location in the upper part of the village and its difficult access, the town hall moved to the lower part of the village in 2006.

Bonnieux © French Moments

The rear of the Hôtel de Rouvil © French Moments

Musée de la boulangerie

The small bakery museum occupies the building of an old bread oven. It invites you to discover the world of "baking", from the wheat field to the slices of toast!

Musée de la Boulangerie © French Moments

The Bakery Museum © French Moments

The museum will show you all the stages of bread making, from the tools to the cereals and the clothing.

Rue Droite

This cobbled street is one of the oldest in the village still visible. The Rue Droite is a treasure trove of small-scale heritage. Discover old houses, a wheel fountain and the remains of ramparts.

Bonnieux © French Moments

Rue Droite from Porte du Castellas © French Moments

Bonnieux © French Moments

Rue Droite: an old street crossing the village © French Moments

Porte du Castellas

You can see the remains of a medieval gate to the east of the village. It is known as the Porte du Castellas or Portail des Chèvres and was probably the only entrance to Bonnieux from the road to Lourmarin.

Porte du Castellas © French Moments

The medieval gate of Porte du Castellas © French Moments

On the outside, the fortification is made of well-cut stones assembled around the gate, which consists of a triple vault.

On the north side, you can still make out the remains of a construction that may have been a guardhouse.

Rue des Pénitents blancs

Magnificent stone staircases lead you to the belvedere of Bonnieux.

Bonnieux © French Moments

The stairs leading to the upper church © French Moments

Bonnieux © French Moments

A calade © French Moments

Eglise Haute

At an altitude of 425 metres, the old church dominates the village of Bonnieux.

Bonnieux Eglise Haute © French Moments

Eglise Haute © French Moments

The Eglise Haute (or Vieille Eglise) dates back to the 12th century and is a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque. Indeed, it has a Romanesque section and two side chapels added later. 

The interior has a large 16th century altarpiece, a 17th century high altar, numerous works of art and an 18th century organ.

Today, parishioners use it mainly for Sunday masses, ceremonies, weddings and funerals.

Note: the church is only open in summer and at Christmas for the Nativity scene.

Bonnieux Eglise Haute © French Moments

Eglise Haute © French Moments

Belvedere

Below the church is the famous belvedere of Bonnieux.

This viewpoint offers a breathtaking view of the lower part of the village of Bonnieux, the agricultural plain, the Calavon valley, the neighbouring villages (Gordes, Roussillon), the Vaucluse mountains and the Mont Ventoux.

Bonnieux © French Moments

The village view from the belvedere © French Moments

Cavalon valley © French Moments

The Cavalon valley © French Moments

Roussillon and the Monts de Vaucluse © French Moments

The view to Roussillon and the Monts de Vaucluse © French Moments

An orientation table allows you to locate the main villages and natural sites in the region.

Bonnieux Belvedere © French Moments

The orientation table at the belvedere © French Moments

The place is perfect for unforgettable photos of you or your friends!

Cemetery of Bonnieux

About 300 metres from the old church is the cemetery of Bonnieux offers an immense panorama on the surrounding countryside of the Luberon and in the distance towards the Mont Ventoux.

Bonnieux cemetery © French Moments

The cemetery © French Moments

More photos of the village
Bonnieux © French Moments

The village of Bonnieux © French Moments

Bonnieux © French Moments

In the village © French Moments

Bonnieux © French Moments

In the narrow streets of the village © French Moments

Bonnieux Village © Art Anderson - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

In the centre of the village © Art Anderson - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Le Fournil Bonnieux © Pmk58 - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Le Fournil © Pmk58 - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Places to see around Bonnieux

The territory of the Bonnieux commune is full of interesting sites to discover, between the plain and the mountains.

Bonnieux © Mathieu BROSSAIS - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

A general view of the village from the south © Mathieu BROSSAIS - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Pont Julien

The Pont Julien is a Roman bridge dating back to the year 3 BC, 5 km north of Bonnieux

The bridge was located on the Domitian Way (via Domitia). This Roman road linked Narbonne (Colonia Narbo Martius) to Turin (Augusta Taurinorum). It owes its name to the proximity of Apt, then called Colonia Apta Julia.

The 80-metre-long bridge consists of three semicircular arches.

Pont Julien © Allie_Caulfield - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Pont Julien © Allie_Caulfield - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The old bridge was part of the road network until 2005, more than 2,000 years of operation! Today, a new bridge nearby preserves the old bridge, which can be crossed on foot.

Prieuré de Saint-Symphorien

The Saint-Symphorien priory of Bonnieux is an ancient priory featuring a Romanesque bell tower. The most remarkable feature of the priory is indeed its 11th century bell tower, which stands alone among the vegetation.

Prieuré Saint-Symphorien Bonnieux © Calips - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Romanesque bell tower of the Saint-Symphorien Priory © Calips - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The priory is now privately owned and overlooks the old road from Marseille to Apt in the Aigue Brun valley. You will find the estate near the intersection of the D943 and D113 roads. More info...

Tour Philippe

Here is a monument that catches the eye of all visitors and onlookers on the road to the Cedar Forest.

Tour Philippe © Mon Œil - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Tour Philippe © Mon Œil - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

In 1885, Philippe Audibert, an artistic genius from Bonnieux, decided to build a tower in order to realise a crazy dream. That of having a view of the Mediterranean Sea from the Luberon!

However, it is impossible to enter the Tour Philippe (Philippe Tower) and you will never know if you can actually see the sea from the top of the five-storey tower!

Les Bories

Bories are dry stone huts that served as temporary or seasonal shelters for farmers working on plots of land far from their homes.

Bories Bonnieux © Art Anderson - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

A borie in Bonnieux © Art Anderson - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Around Bonnieux, you can discover two bories sites:

Near the Cedar Forest, the Enclos des Bories is made up of twenty or so dry stone huts spread over four hectares.

To the east of the village, the Claparèdes plateau also has many 19th century bories.

The Cedar Forest

Before leaving Bonnieux, don't forget to take a walk in the magnificent cedar forest. The Forêt de Cèdres spreads out at an altitude of more than 700 metres over the communes of Bonnieux, Lacoste and Ménerbes.

Forêt des cèdres Bonnieux © Anthospace - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Cedars Forest © Anthospace - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The cedar forest was originally planted with seeds from the Moroccan Atlas in 1862.

In 1952, a fire destroyed a large part of the surrounding trees. Cedars, more resistant, took the place of the burnt trees. Today, the site is home to the largest cedar forest in Europe.

Several signposted routes offer the possibility of continuing the walk in the forest.

The traditional market of Bonnieux

The traditional Provencal market of Bonnieux takes place all year round, every Friday from 9am to 1pm. It occupies the Place du Terrail at the bottom of the village.

Bonnieux Market © Doogsta - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

At the local market © Doogsta - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

You will discover the know-how of Provençal craftsmen and the stalls of local producers.

The wines of Bonnieux

The commune produces AOC Ventoux and Luberon wines. Wines that are not AOC can claim, after approval, the label Vin de pays d'Aigues.

Bonnieux Grapes © Art Anderson - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Grapes from the local vineyards © Art Anderson - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

La Canorgue

Pope Benedict XIV made the wine fief of La Canorgue a county on 24 April 1747. Today the Château de la Canorgue is a wine estate that has been in the same family for 5 generations. Its name comes from canourgue which means "canon" (in French, chanoine).

La Canorgue © Ainars Brūvelis - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

La Canorgue © Ainars Brūvelis - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The charm of the estate seduced Ridley Scott for one of his films starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard. Based on a novel by Peter Mayle, A Good Year (2006) was filmed at Château de la Canorgue.

La cave coopérative de Bonnieux

The Bonnieux winery (cave coopérative de Bonnieux) was founded in 1920 by a few winegrowers determined to pool their production resources. It was the first wine cooperative cellar founded in the Vaucluse département.

Cave de Bonnieux. Photo by Véronique PAGNIER (Public Domain)

Cave de Bonnieux. Photo by Véronique PAGNIER (Public Domain)

You will find the winery to the north of the village, along the D36 in the old station area. The cellar shop is open every day except Sundays and public holidays.

Practical Information

Here are some pages from our blog and other websites to find out more about this Provencal destination.

Booking.com

Shops and restaurants in Bonnieux

Here is a list of shops and restaurants in Bonnieux. Please note that this list is indicative and may change over time.

Shops and amenities in Bonnieux:

Boulangerie Cecile et Jeremy (bakery)
4 Rue Victor Hugo - Closed on Tuesday - facebook

Boucherie Isnard (butchery)
18 Rue Victor Hugo - Closed on Sunday and Monday

Supérette - Utile (convenience store)
Rue Jean Baptiste Aurard - Open Monday to Saturday (Closed on Sunday)

Presse (newsagent)
10 Avenue de la Gare - Open every day

Pharmacie (pharmacy)
145 Avenue des Tilleuls - Closed on Sunday

Agence postale (post office)
Rue des Aires de Foulage (in the premises of the Maison du Livre et de la Culture) - Closed on Sunday - website

Médiathèque (library and media centre)
Rue des Aires de Foulage - Closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday - Access to the media library and consultation of documents on site are free. However, to borrow documents from home, you need a subscription. website

Sun-E-Bike (Bike rental service)
1 Avenue Clovis Hugues - website

Cave coopérative de Bonnieux (winery)
Place de la Gare - Closed on Saturday and Sunday - website

Cafés and restaurants in Bonnieux:

Le César (restaurant)
Place de la Liberté - website

L'Arôme (restaurant)
2 Rue Lucien Blanc - website

Casa Bonilis (restaurant)
4 Place Carnot - facebook

Le Saint-André (restaurant)
1 Place de la Liberté - facebook

Le Fournil (restaurant)
5 Place Carnot - facebook

Un p'tit Coin de Cuisine (restaurant)
Place Gambetta - facebook

Le Kosy (restaurant and tea room)
Place Gambetta - website

La Flambée (restaurant)
2 Place du Quatre Septembre - facebook

Glacier-Crêperie (Ice-cream and crêpes)
Rue Victor Hugo - Closed on Sunday and Monday

The nearest supermarkets to Bonnieux:

Lidl in Apt (13 km / 8 mi) - website

E. Leclerc in Apt (14 km / 9 mi) - website

Super U in Puyvert (17 km / 10.5 mi) - website

What to do in the Luberon

Be inspired by a list of things to do in the Luberon:

Pin Bonnieux on Pinterest

Bonnieux Luberon Provence

English-French vocabulary

(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs.

castle

cheese

church

cicada

countryside

to eat

garden

fountain

French Alps

French Riviera

hill

hilltop village

holiday

house

lavender

lavender field

market

Mediterranean Sea

mountain

olive oil

olive tree

perched village

Prealps

restaurant

square

stay

street

town-hall

villa

village

vineyard

to visit

to walk

wash house

château (m)

fromage (m)

église (f)

cigale (f)

campagne (f)

manger (v)

jardin (m)

fontaine (f)

Alpes françaises (f,p)

Côte d'Azur (f)

colline (f)

village perché (m)

vacances (f,p)

maison (f)

lavande (f)

champ de lavande (f)

marché (m)

Mer Méditerranée (f)

montagne (f)

huile d'olive (f)

olivier (m)

village perché (m)

Préalpes (f,p)

restaurant (m)

place (f)

séjour (m)

rue (f)

mairie (f)

villa (f)

village (m)

vignoble (m)

visiter (v)

marcher (v)

lavoir (m)

Gems of Paris by French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

You might want to read these related posts...

Like it? Leave a comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Transparency: Some blog posts and pages may contain affiliate or sponsored links. If you are planning a trip, the use of these links helps us to run the site. There is no additional cost to you. All you have to do is click on the link and any booking you make is automatically tracked. Thank you for your support!

SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWSLETTER AND GET THE FREE EBOOK

20 OFFBEAT PLACES IN PARIS

Ebook 20 amazing offbeat places in Paris front cover