General view of Gordes © French Moments
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Last Updated: 20 February 2024

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. Rightly nicknamed the "Acropolis of Provence", Gordes is the most visited village in the Luberon and enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year.

Watch this short video on the Luberon!

Plan your trip

Why you should visit Gordes

Gordes truly deserves the title of one of the most beautiful villages of France with its Romanesque abbey (Notre-Dame de Sénanque), the fantastic caves of 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

Gordes' inclusion in "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" is far from accidental. Established in 1982, this French association and certification brand unites over 176 villages under its prestigious banner, celebrating their exceptional beauty and cultural heritage.

Among these, neighbouring villages such as Vénasque, Ménerbes, and Roussillon share the distinction, each contributing to the rich tapestry of France's most picturesque and charming locations.

Provence under the clouds © French Moments

The lower village of Gordes © French Moments

What I like about Gordes

I never get tired of the impressive view of the hilltop village from the Bel-Air belvedere.

I think all first-time visitors to Gordes will agree with me: when you discover Gordes for the first time with the view of the hilltop village, you're impressed by so much beauty. 

Here, you can admire the houses constructed from the very stone of the rock upon which the village stands.

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

Gordes Guided Walk eBook
Gordes Guided Walk eBook

The irresistible companion to your exploration of Gordes!

This comprehensive discovery guide takes you on an immersive 12-stop journey spanning 3.2 km (2 mi) of pure enchantment.

(£5 or about €6/ U$6.50)

The charm of the village lies in its limestone, drystone walls and terraced layout of stone houses and gardens. Here are some of the landmarks you don't want to miss!

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

Castle of Gordes © French Moments

The castle emerging above the roofs © French Moments

Place Genty Pantaly and 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.

It was the only water point in the village until 1956, when running water was finally installed in homes.

The water from the fountain was reserved for everyday consumption, and washing clothes was forbidden.

To wash clothes, the villagers had to go down to the wash-house at the very bottom of the village (Fontaine-Basse district).

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.

Gordes © French Moments

Inside the church © French Moments

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

View of Roussillon from Gordes © French Moments

View of Roussillon and Cazeneuve 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

Rue de l'église © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

One of the narrow streets © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

One of the narrow streets (Rue André Lhote) © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

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

Village of Gordes © French Moments

A calade (Rue du Four) © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

Rue du Belvédère © French Moments

Village of Gordes © French Moments

One of the narrow streets (Rue de l'église) © French Moments

The Porte de Savoie

The "Porte de Savoie" stands as the village's sole fortified gate remaining from the Middle Ages, marking one of the principal entries into Gordes.

To truly appreciate its significance, it's recommended to view it from its "Campagne" side, meaning from outside the medieval village boundaries.

Porte de Savoie, Gordes © French Moments

Porte de Savoie © French Moments

The gate is named after the allegiance the Agoult Simiane family pledged to Béatrice de Savoie, the Countess of Forcalquier, during her mid-13th-century conflict with her son-in-law, Charles of Anjou.

Beatrice of Savoy never recognized the French king's sovereignty over her territories.

Eventually, Charles of Anjou, who was the brother of King Saint-Louis of France, married Beatrice's daughter and thus came to inherit Provence.

The region remained under the control of the Anjou family for two centuries until Gordes, along with the county of Provence, became part of the kingdom of France in 1481 following King René's death.

The Aumonerie Saint-Jacques

Approaching from the Porte de Savoie and passing through a covered walkway, you'll discover on your left the ancient Aumonerie Saint-Jacques building.

Aumonerie Saint-Jacques, Gordes © French Moments

Aumonerie Saint-Jacques, Gordes © French Moments

The 14th-century Saint-Jacques chaplaincy features a large pointed porch and includes a vast rectangular room with three bays.

The edifice once served as a hostel for pilgrims journeying to Santiago de Compostela, offering them a place to rest for the night under the protection of the village ramparts.

However, to find refuge here, they were required to ascend to the village's summit.

Interestingly, most pilgrims chose not to divert from their path, opting instead to continue their journey through the Calavon valley on the Via Domitia, the historic route connecting Italy to Spain.

The Cave of the Palais Saint-Firmin

The Saint-Firmin Palace cellars in Gordes are a fascinating must-visit destination! A Historical Monument, the site blends man-made structures with natural rock formations, offering a dive into the hidden history of Gordes. Visitors can explore remnants of medieval craftsmanship, such as an olive oil mill and storage silos, revealing a glimpse into the village's past.

Caves du Palais Saint-Firmin, Gordes © French Moments

Caves du Palais Saint-Firmin © French Moments

After decades of excavation, parts of this underground world have been made accessible. The cellars, nestled beneath a grand Renaissance house, showcase a vast network revealing Gordes' rich artisanal history across about fifty interconnected chambers. These include oil mills, cisterns, and a magnificent bread oven, epitomising the village's ancient lifestyle.

Caves du Palais Saint-Firmin, Gordes © French Moments

Caves du Palais Saint-Firmin © French Moments

Three levels highlight the ingenuity of medieval architecture, harmoniously blending stone and carved rock, and showcasing a variety of styles from the 11th to the 18th centuries. Notably, during the 16th-century, these cellars provided refuge during conflicts, emphasizing their historical significance.

Caves du Palais Saint-Firmin, Gordes © French Moments

Caves du Palais Saint-Firmin © French Moments

For further details, check out the official website.

The Fontaine Basse District

The "Bas de Gordes" or Lower Gordes, nestled at the village's base, is affectionately known as the "Quartier de Fontaine Basse", the district of the lower fountain.

Fontaine Basse District, Gordes © French Moments

The Fontaine Basse District viewed from above © French Moments

This tranquil part of Gordes, reminiscent of a forgotten village, is adorned with stone houses, hidden gardens, and the fragrance of fig trees.

👉 Discover the Fontaine Basse District on the blog

Fontaine-Basse District, Gordes © French Moments

Rue Pavé d'Amour in the Fontaine Basse district © French Moments

Historically, the abundance of water made this district the village's economic hub from the 18th to the early 20th century. It was a thriving center for tanneries, craftsmen, a silk spinning mill, shopkeepers, and cafés. Unfortunately, earthquakes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, followed by German bombings in 1944, led to its decline.

Fontaine Basse District, Gordes © French Moments

Chemin de la Calade © French Moments

The Vieux-Lavoir

This unique fountain-wash house, backing onto the cliff, was sourced directly from four springs.

Vieux-Lavoir, Wash-house in Gordes © French Moments

The old wash-house © French Moments

Its design was aimed at preventing bacterial spread and providing ample washing space. It was last used in 1957, marking the end of an era but still standing as a testament to past village life.

Watch my guided walk of Gordes

A 37-minute video that starts at the Parking de la Gendarmerie (Place René Cassin) and passes by the Bel Air Belvedere, the district of Fountaine-Basse before ascending to the top of the village (church and castle).

A few anecdotes about Gordes

Gordes and the Resistance

During the Second World War, Gordes was an important site for the Resistance.

On the 21st of August 1944, a week after the landings on the coasts of Provence, a German patrol was severely hounded by the French Resistance fighters.

Provence under the clouds © French Moments

Gordes under the clouds © French Moments

The following day, the village fell victim to violent reprisals. The Germans set up cannons on the Bel Air rock to bombard the village.

These bombardments destroyed a dozen houses, while several others were blown and then set on fire, mainly at the entrances to the town to block the crossroads and slow down any pursuers.

In all, twenty buildings were destroyed due to reprisals or acts of war.
Thirteen people from Gordes were killed or executed during the Second World War.

It is said that the intervention of a monk from the Abbey of Sénanque with the Kommandantur prevented even more severe violence.

Three days later, on the 25th of August 1944, the FFI (French Forces of the Interior) regained control of the area, and the département of Vaucluse was liberated.

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 (Rue du belvédère) © 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.).

Shop in Gordes © French Moments

In old Gordes © French Moments

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

Provence under the clouds © French Moments

The old village of Gordes © French Moments

Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Provence

The spectacular hilltop village of Gordes is nicknamed the Saint-Germain-des-Prés of Provence because of its similarities to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district in Paris.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is an emblematic district on the left bank of the Seine in Paris, famous for its artistic atmosphere, cultural life and elegance.

And then, the Parisian patisserie LaDurée, famous for its macarons, opened its only shop in Provence ( not including the French Riviera). You'll find it prominently displayed in the village square. 

LaDurée in Gordes © French Moments

LaDurée in Gordes © French Moments

In 1988, the newspaper Libération wrote that Gordes was "less showbiz than Cannes but more intellectual than Deauville, where the political and literary Parisian elite meets up".

This glowing comparison evokes both places' charm, sophistication and quality of life. 

Like Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, Gordes in Provence is renowned for its timeless charm, picturesque architecture, art galleries, artisan boutiques, open-air cafés and refined lifestyle.

Gordes © French Moments

Café in the village (Place Genty Pantaly) © French Moments

Both places attract visitors looking for a quality cultural, artistic and gastronomic experience.

The narrow cobbled streets, well-preserved stone houses and warm atmosphere of Gordes are reminiscent of the historic character of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. 

In addition, Gordes' spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and idyllic landscapes add to its appeal, as do the lively cafés and art galleries of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris.

The "Monkey Rock" of Gordes

The Rocher de Bel Air provides the most stunning viewpoint over Gordes, often hailed as the Acropolis of Provence for its breathtaking elevation and beauty.

This spot is among the most photographed in both Provence and France, gracing the pages of numerous tourist brochures, magazines, coffee-table books, and featuring prominently on social media platforms like Instagram.

The vista is magnificent at any hour, yet to capture the village bathed in sunlight, an afternoon visit is essential.

Photos of Provence: Gordes under the clouds © French Moments

Gordes seen from the Bel Air viewpoint © French Moments

Locally, some refer to this place as "the monkey rock." This nickname stems from the summer ritual of international visitors briefly alighting from their coaches to snap a quick photo before returning, often without venturing further into the village.

Conveniently, there's no need to trek 600 metres from the Gendarmerie car park to enjoy this view, thanks to a nearby parking area. However, spaces are limited, making parking a challenge during summer or on weekends.

Additionally, while this parking is complimentary, there's a 5-minute limit on stays. At the car park's end, turning left onto Chemin de Bel Air is advisable.

By choosing to walk towards the Fontaine Basse district, you'll discover more spectacular perspectives of the hilltop village, surpassing the fleeting glimpses caught by coach-bound tourists.

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.

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

Abbaye de Sénanque © French Moments

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

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

Abbey of Senanque © French Moments

Abbey of Senanque © 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.

Bories Village, Gordes © French Moments

Bories Village © French Moments

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.

Bories Village, Gordes © French Moments

Bories Village © French Moments

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. 

Bories Village, Gordes © French Moments

Bories Village © French Moments

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 © French Moments

Arriving in Gordes © French Moments

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:

Shops and restaurants in Gordes

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

Shops and amenities in Gordes:

Boulangerie Le Fournil de Mamie Jeanne (bakery)
55 Rue Baptistin Picca - Closed on Wednesday - website

Le Fournil de Mamie Jeanne, Gordes © French Moments

Boulangerie Le Fournil de Mamie Jeanne © French Moments

Boulangerie Maison Chazarin (bakery)
29 Rue de l’église - Closed on Monday - facebook

Boucherie itinérante (itinerant butchery)
Place du Jeu de Boule (Post office car park) - Every Wednesday from 8am to 1pm

Ladurée (pastry and tea shop)
68 Place du Château - Open every day - website

Le Miel Peyron (deli and grocery store)
2 Place Genty Pantaly - Open every day

Le Potager du Château (deli and grocery store)
Rue de la Poste - open every day - website

Supérette - Spar (convenience store)
52 Rue de la Poste - website - Open every day

Spar Gordes © French Moments

Spar Gordes © French Moments

Tabac-Presse Gordes © French Moments

Tabac-Presse Gordes © French Moments

Tabac-Presse du château (newsagent/souvenirs)
Rue de la Poste - Open every day

Agence postale (post office)
Place du Jeu de Boules - Closed on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday - website

Bibliothèque municipale (public library)
Located on the second floor of the town hall - Access to the media library and consultation of documents on site are free. website

Pharmacie (pharmacy)
1 Rue de l’église - Closed on Sunday - website

Gordes © French Moments

The Pharmacie of Gordes © French Moments

Cafés and restaurants in Gordes:

L’Outsider (restaurant)
Rue de la Gendarmerie - website

La Trinquette (restaurant)
Rue des Tracapelles - facebook

Le Teston (restaurant)
Route Neuve - facebook

L’Artegal (restaurant)
Place du Château

La Bastide de Pierre (restaurant)
Place du Château- website

Casa Rosario (pizzeria)
Route de Murs - website

Ladurée (pastry and tea shop)
68 Place du Château - website

Restaurant Gastronomique des Bories (restaurant)
Route de l’Abbaye de Sénanque - website

Le Renaissance (restaurant)
Place Genty Pantaly - facebook

Le Cercle Républicain (café)
Place du Château - website

LaDurée in Gordes © French Moments

LaDurée in Gordes © French Moments

Gordes © French Moments

Café in the village © French Moments

The nearest supermarkets to Gordes:

Super U in Coustellet (8 km / 5 mi) - website

Auchan in Cavaillon (18 km / 11 mi) - website

Lidl in Cavaillon - Cheval Blanc (19 km / 12 mi) - website

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 lower part of the 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 (Rue André Lhote) © 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

Gordes © French Moments

The village at the end of the day © French Moments

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 Discovery Courses and books about France.

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