This post was most recently updated on April 18th, 2016
Château de Baux is a fortified castle built atop a mountain about 30 minutes from Arles, in southern France. It was built in the 10th century, and overlooks a vast valley. Its position made it a very strategic location during medieval times. Today, it is an attraction you won’t want to miss. Besides spectacular views and the unique landscape here, Château de Baux boasts the largest trebuchet in all of Europe, a quaint medieval village of shops, and the ruins of a castle with great stories to tell.
Arriving at Château de Baux
As we approached Château de Baux by car, the landscape changed abruptly from flat fertile farmland to a hilly terrain littered with large boulders. (click on any photo to enlarge)
The higher we climbed, the more boulders there were, interspersed with occasional evergreen trees and bushes. Château de Baux actually means ‘castle of the rocky outcropping’ in French, so I guess that’s a very fitting name. It was a beautiful sunny day, but it was also very windy.
Nearer the top, we found a few small parking lots and then a long perimeter road where paid parking was available. It was only a short walk to the entrance where we entered one of the most quaint medieval villages I have seen. It has actually been officially named one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. Very small shops and businesses lined a cobblestone walkway (no vehicles here). As we most wanted to tour the castle, we didn’t stop to browse, but we did see some colorful merchandise displays.
There are actually hotels, restaurants, museums, and a cemetery in the village as well. For more information, you can check out this map of the village.
The Château de Baux Compound
We finally reached the Château de Baux gift shop and entrance where we needed tickets to proceed. Adult tickets are €8,00 each and optional audio tours are included in that price. We didn’t opt for the audio tours because we wanted to be free to roam as we desired. Restrooms are available here as well.
The first thing we saw as we entered the ancient castle compound was the Saint-Blaise Chapel, built in the 12th century by a guild of weavers and wool carders.
During summer months, these weapons are often used for demonstrations. There are crossbow & fencing lessons as well as archery and jousting. When my sons were young, they were very intrigued with all medieval weapons. I would expect this area to be quite a draw for all the ‘knights’ in your family (and princess wannabe’s too)!
Paths meander past hidden passageways, pigeonniers, chapels, lookouts, service quarters,and more. You could easily spend several hours here and still not see everything. While much of the castle was demolished by the orders of King Louis XI in the 14th century and again by Cardinal Richelieu in 1632, there is still a good idea of what was here. There is no sign of the castle kitchens, but the dungeons remain. There is no throne or any of the lavish decor, but you can definitely get a feel for the immensity of this once impregnable fortress.
I climbed a deeply eroded set of narrow stairs to a lookout about halfway up the castle compound. The Mistral winds were blowing at least 50 mph, and it was a challenge to keep my balance here. I could see all the way to Salon de Provence (close to Aix-en-Provence). I’m sure it was a lonely assignment to keep watch here, but the spectacular views might make up in part!
Our visit was about two hours in length, probably the least amount of time you would want to stay. This website gives some more interesting information about what is here and what you might want to do. I found it a little easier to read and navigate than the official website of Château de Baux, unless you read French!
If you are anywhere near Arles, I highly recommend a visit. It will give you a much greater appreciation for the hardships and the glory days of French medieval history. It was one of the highlights of my trip to France. What I loved best? The views of the white castle rock walls and boulders in contrast against a beautiful deep blue sky and a mixture of pine, cypress, and olive trees. Château de Baux is an incredibly beautiful place! Is it a place you’d like to visit, too?
- Château de Baux’ first inhabitants were Celts and Romans, who quarried stone there and then transported it by boat to Arles.
- In the early Middle Ages, it was ruled by the princes of Baux, who controlled over 70 villages in the area. They claimed to be descendants of Balthazar, one of the three wise men. Their coat of arms, featuring the star that led them to Bethlehem, is still on the municipal flag.
- The Baux family was officially declared extinct in 1426 AD. The governors of Provence took over Château de Baux, and in 1481 it was absorbed into France.
- In the 1600’s, Château de Baux was used as a Protestant refuge, and its final demolition was ordered after their unsuccessful revolt.
Even though Château de Baux is French, the title of Marquis des Baux remains with the rulers of Monaco to this day.