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The village of Gordes is perched on a rock at 340 metres high, on the south flank of the Vaucluse plateau, above the plain of the Calavon River and in front of the Luberon. It is the most visited locality in the Luberon and enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year.

Watch this short video on the Luberon!

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Why you should visit Gordes

Gordes truly deserves the title of one of the most beautiful villages of France with its two abbeys (Saint Chaffret and Sénanque), the Saint Firmin palace, ancient paved streets, mills, chapels and washhouses.

Gordes © French Moments

An old street in Gordes © French Moments

One can guess the Celtic past of the village due to the presence of oppida at the top of the rock on which the village is now situated.

Gordes © French Moments

Gordes © French Moments

Every time I visit Gordes, I am enchanted by the beauty of the place. I never get tired of the impressive view of the hilltop village from the Bel-Air belvedere.

I choose to avoid visiting Gordes in the middle of the summer season to avoid the hordes of tourists... and then, it's much easier to find a parking space off-season.

Pierre in Gordes © French Moments

Pierre in Gordes © French Moments

What to see in Gordes

The castle

The most striking monument is the castle (le château), the most visible part of which is in Renaissance style.

Castle of Gordes © French Moments

The castle of Gordes © French Moments

This imposing building, rebuilt in 1525, stands in the centre of the village and currently houses a painting museum dedicated to the Belgian artist Pol Mara and the tourist office.

Inside, several fireplaces, including one dating from 1541, decorate the rooms.

Castle of Gordes © French Moments

The castle of Gordes © French Moments

Castle of Gordes © French Moments

The façade of the castle © French Moments

The fountain

A beautiful fountain is in the square of Place Genty Pantaly to the south of the castle. The first mention of it dates back to 1342, and for a long time, it was the only water source in the upper part of the village.

Gordes © French Moments

The central square of Gordes © French Moments

The church

The church of St. Firmin stands on the foundations of an old church from the 13th century, rebuilt in the 18th century and dedicated to St. Firmin.

Village of Gordes © French Moments

The bell tower of the church © French Moments

The square tower, which probably dates from the 14th century, serves as a bell tower. It was perhaps a former belfry and has the particularity of having an external staircase that leads nowhere. This curiosity seems to indicate that another building was once attached to it.

The interior is noteworthy for its woodwork and colourful murals.

The views

The upper part of the village offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. You will admire the wide Cavalon valley, the hilltop villages of Roussillon and Bonnieux in the distance and the Luberon mountain, which closes the horizon to the south.

Luberon © French Moments

A view of Roussillon and the Luberon from Gordes © French Moments

Luberon © French Moments

A view of the Luberon from Gordes © French Moments

Luberon © French Moments

The view towards the Luberon mountain © French Moments

The calade streets

Several calade streets (Provençal word for stone-paved alleys) lead from the castle square to the remains of the old fortifications, including the Porte de Savoie (first mentioned in 1540), as well as several private mansions (Hôtel Pluvinal, Maison André Lhote, the Saint-Jacques chaplaincy, etc.).

Village of Gordes © French Moments

A calade © French Moments

The steps of the calades made it easier for the donkeys and mules, which were very numerous in Gordes, to get around, as they were the only means of transporting heavy loads in the sloping streets.

Village of Gordes © French Moments

A calade © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

One of the narrow streets © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

One of the narrow streets © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

A "porte cochère" (carriage door) © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

A calade © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

Rue de l'église © French Moments

Further down, at the foot of the village, in the area known as "Fontaine basse", there are old wash houses, a mill and several old chapels, including the "chapelle d'en bas" carved into the rock.

Village of Gordes © French Moments

One of the narrow streets © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

The lower part of the village © French Moments

A few anecdotes about Gordes

Crucial building standards

Building standards are rigorous throughout the commune. Stone is omnipresent, and any new construction must respect the traditional use of stone, in addition to burying electricity and telephone lines.
This commitment to building in stone comes with other obligations, such as using canal tiles for the roofs, the substantial height limitation, the respect for specific paraseismic building standards, etc.

Village of Gordes © French Moments

One of the narrow streets © French Moments

Vultures in Gordes!

Many vultures and predatory birds can be seen, and typical Mediterranean forests (with many oaks with truffles growing beneath) around Gordes will delight walkers and nature lovers.

Gordes © French Moments

The view from Gordes © French Moments

An artists' den

Since the post-war period, the village has attracted more and more artists, including Marc Chagall and Jean Deyrolle. The latter discovered the village in 1947 and brought many of his friends (Serge Poliakoff, Vasarely, Dewasne, etc.).

Gordes © French Moments

A vaulted passage in Gordes © French Moments

Gordes also used to have a critical silkworm breeding industry and the usual Luberon activities around olive trees and leather.

Finally, Gordes was among the numerous headquarters of the ‘Resistance’ during the Second World War.

Village of Gordes © French Moments

A "porte cochère" (carriage door) © French Moments

What to see around Gordes

The commune of Gordes boasts some amazing sites to see, including the romantic abbey of Sénanque and the curious Bories.

The Abbey of Sénanque

There are three renowned Cistercian abbeys in Provence: Sénanque, Silvacane and Thoronet. The Cistercians are a Roman Catholic order with very strict rules of obedience.

Sénanque Abbey near Gordes (South of France) © French Moments

Sénanque Abbey near Gordes (South of France) © French Moments

A very old abbey

The abbey of Sénanque (Abbaye de Sénanque) in Gordes was founded in 1148 and is still occupied by monks. It became prosperous so fast that in 1152 a second abbey was built in the Languedoc. This prosperity was mainly due to donations from the Simiane dynasty and the Lords from Venasque.

Sénanque Gordes Luberon Provence

The abbey of Sénanques © Olivier Risnes

In the 14th century, the abbey went into a period of decadence during which the riches accumulated over the years were hardly compatible with the vow of poverty taken by the monks.

In 1544, monks were hanged during the wars of religion, with the monastery burnt down and the lay building wholly destroyed.

By the end of the 17th century, only two religious people remained in the abbey.

During the French Revolution, it was sold as a national possession to a purchaser who not only preserved but consolidated the edifices.

In 1854 the domain was bought by a clergyman, and its original vocation was restored: new buildings were built, and 72 monks settled back there.

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

The lavender field of Sénanque © French Moments

An abbey open to the public

Nowadays, several parts are open to the public, such as the cloisters and the capitulary room (where the religious community gathers). A souvenir shop was opened at the garden level to sell books.

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

The shop entrance © French Moments

The return of the monks

The Cistercian monks came back to Sénanque in 1988.

Saint Bernard de Cîteaux inspires the Cistercian order and strictly follows the Rule of Saint Benedict: isolation, poverty, and simplicity, which is believed to be the only path to bliss.

These values are translated into rough living conditions for the monks: service, prayer, pious reading and manual work.

Rest periods are never over 7 hours, meals are frugal and to be taken in silence, and the monks sleep fully dressed in shared dormitories.

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

The chevet of the abbey church © French Moments

The abbey's business 

The business of the abbey’s inhabitants is the cultivation of lavender from which they make extracts and honey. The monks also sell religious books and products from other abbeys. In addition, the visits to the abbey are another source of revenue.

Although their primary source of food is the vegetables they plant, and they also offer hospitality to people wishing to share the prayer life of the community.

Interestingly, there have only been two baptisms in the last century and only one wedding in the whole history of the abbey.

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

In the vicinity of the abbey of Sénanque © French Moments

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

The Sénanque abbey © French Moments

The Village des Bories

The village des Bories is 3 km away from Gordes and comprises approximately 20 dry rock cabins for pastoral and seasonal agricultural use.

Village des Bories © Gortyna - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Village des Bories © Gortyna - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Bought and restored from 1969 to 1976 upon the initiative of Pierre Viala, the Village des Bories was classified as a historical monument on 17 October 1977.

The 'cabanes' 

They were called “cabanes” in the Napoleonic era and only got the name “Borie” during the second half of the 20th century. The huts date back to the 17th and 18th centuries when the land on which they stand was cleared, and many rocks were discovered. Various remains were found: ceramics, money, bronze objects and flint.

Village des Bories by Wolf Meusel (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The huts of the Village des Bories by Wolf Meusel (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Bories are made from flat limestone rocks between 10 and 15 cm thick, called “lauses” or “clapes” in the local vernacular. Most were either seasonal or permanent homes or stables, barns, sheepfolds, henhouses, sheds, silkworm nurseries, etc.

An agricultural role 

Their roles were essentially agricultural; their location indicates this on ancient olive and almond plantations and vineyards. They could have belonged to people, not inhabitants of Gordes but who had land in the area. The site is open to visitors. 

Village des Bories by Wolf Meusel (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Village des Bories by Wolf Meusel (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Find out more about Gordes

How to get to Gordes

The main access road to Gordes is the D2 road from Cavaillon and then the D15 road, which continues north to Murs after passing through the village.

This road gives access to the famous belvedere of Bel-Air, where you can admire a fantastic view of the village.

Gordes is about 38 kilometres (24 miles) east of Avignon and its TGV station, 75 kilometres (47 miles) from Marseille Provence airport and 87 kilometres (54 miles) from Marseille.

The nearest train stations are at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Cavaillon.

Gordes 08 © Olivier Risnes

The village view from the Bel-Air belvedere © Olivier Risnes

Holiday accommodation in Gordes

Gordes has a high capacity for holiday accommodation. The commune has several hotels, including two five-star hotels, many bed and breakfasts (covering all price ranges), several estate agencies offering seasonal rentals, gîtes and a campsite.

Click here to book your accommodation in the Luberon or browse the map below:

Booking.com

On the blog and other websites

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

What to do in the Luberon

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

Pin Gordes on Pinterest

Gordes Pinterest © French Moments

More photos of Gordes

Village of Gordes © French Moments

The hilltop village © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

The WWI memorial in Place du Château © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

Shops at the village centre © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

In the centre of the hilltop village © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

One of the narrow streets © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

A swastika sign on a door frame © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

In the village © French Moments

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)

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".

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