Visiting Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

  • City Breaks
  • France
  • 7 min read
Visiting Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Look out on a summer’s day at the town where Vincent Van Gogh spent one of his last years. Take your shopping bags too!

Visiting Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a charming and idyllic town in the south of France. Its sun-dappled squares, vine-clad shops, cypress trees, restaurants and cafés is Provence at its most quintessential. 

Of course, the town’s most significant claim to fame draws art lovers from all around the world. Saint-Rémy is where Vincent Van Gogh spent a turbulent year at the end of his life, painting several famous works. 

Driving to St. Rémy from Calais

It is a ten and a half hour drive (with tolls) to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence from LeShuttle's Calais Terminal. We suggest a leisurely road trip via Paris and Lyon, perhaps stopping off overnight. The town sits in a fertile plain below the des Alpilles mountains, close to both Avignon and Arles. 

What is Saint-Rémy known for?

Saint-Rémy is known for its Van Gogh associations but also for much else: the well-preserved ruins of the Roman city of Glanum lie just outside the town. The triumphal arch and mausoleum, known together as ‘Les Antiques’, are among the best preserved legacies of Roman civilisation in Provence. 

Saint-Rémy is a haven for artists.  There is something about the quality of the light here, which Van Gogh captured so majestically, that still makes it popular for artists. There are numerous art galleries, artists shops and art fairs in the town. 

Saint-Rémy is also thought to be the birthplace of the astrologer and seer Nostradamus. Modern visitors are drawn to its many shops, boutiques and restaurants. 

Art and culture

Whether you are a Van Gogh fan or interested in the riches of the classical world, you won’t be short of cultural things to do in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

Van Gogh and Saint-Paul de Mausole

Black statue of a bearded man holding large sunflowers and paintbrushes, in front of a low wall on a summer’s day

The place of pilgrimage for art lovers is the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole. In the 19th century the monastery was a psychiatric asylum. Van Gogh committed himself  voluntarily in May 1889, a few months after notoriously mutilating his left ear. 

The artist spent just over a year here, occasionally leaving the asylum to paint the surrounding countryside, but generally being confined to his room and the monastery’s cloister and gardens. Van Gogh painted around 150 works during this time, including the famous ‘Starry Night’, a view of the town of Saint-Rémy which inspired Don McLean’s song ‘Vincent’.   

Saint-Paul de Mausole is still a psychiatric hospital but also houses a museum dedicated to Van Gogh. His room has been reconstructed to look exactly as it would have done during his stay, with the same view over wheatfields. It is open to the public seven days a week, but check the Saint-Paul de Mausole website for details. 

Le Musée des Alpilles

Housed in a Renaissance mansion in the centre of town, the Alpilles museum focuses on the ethnography of the local area and the artistic heritage of Saint-Rémy. Among the exhibition collection are fossils, dinosaur remains, exhibits from historic Provençal trades and bullfighting costumes. 

Large parts of the exhibition space is devoted to Van Gogh, of course, but the museum also highlights the work of the most famous artist to be born in Saint-Rémy, Cubist Albert Gleizes. 

Musee Estrine

Nestled in the tight cobbled streets of the old town is the Estrine Museum. Large swathes of the Estrine is dedicated to a permanent exhibition exploring the genius of Van Gogh, but there are other collections across a wealth of fine art, painting, sculpture and modern art.  

The museum is handily placed near the start of the Van Gogh Trail, which takes visitors on a fascinating walking route through the landscapes that inspired the artist. 

Ancient Roman ruins of Glanum

An ancient but well preserved stone arch and small tower stand close together, with trees behind them, with a cloudless blue sky behind

On the outskirts of Saint-Rémy is one of the finest ancient Roman sites in France. The Romans built the city of Glanum – with its forum, temples, baths, theatres and shops – around the sacred spring of an original Gallic tribal settlement. It was a flourishing Roman city before falling in the 3rd century AD. 

The triumphal arch and mausoleum (‘Les Antiques’) mark the ancient entrance to Glanum, and are remarkably well preserved. The arch features bas reliefs of Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. 

Getting to the monuments of Glanum couldn’t be easier – the archaeological site and ‘Les Antiques’ are either side of the main D5 road south of Saint-Rémy. 

Shop till you drop!

Like most things in Saint-Rémy, shopping here is not to be rushed. Take your time, savour the experience. Just be sure you are in Saint-Rémy on a Wednesday – market day! 

The Wednesday market

The Saint-Rémy market is legendary. Farmers sell their freshest produce, from fruit and vegetables to truffles, cheeses and meats, while there is always a bargain to be had at the fashion, ceramics or craft stalls. The smells – from freshly baked bread to spices – are divine. The sounds – usually from a jazz band – give the whole event a festival air. 

Stalls open at 7am and parking spaces are snapped up very early in the town centre.

A narrow shopping street with an elegant clothes shop in the right foreground. Foliage covers most of the shop frontage

Shopping in the Old Town area 

There is no shortage of shops in Saint-Rémy; in fact it is a mecca of independent stores and small boutiques. Ebene on Boulevard Victor Hugo is a must for Provençal homewares, while Les Comptoirs des Alpilles sells very cool contemporary linen. If you missed the market there are wonderful cheese shops, florists, spice stores, bakeries and wine merchants. Even if you didn’t, pop in anyway! 

If shopping is your thing, here’s our guide to shopping trips in France.

Food & drink

You’re never far away from a leisurely lunch or delicious dinner in Saint-Rémy. The town has over 40 restaurants! A plethora of terrace cafés, bars, restaurants and brasseries cater for every budget and tastebud. 

Michelin-starred restaurants

There are two restaurants with Michelin stars in Saint-Rémy.

  • Hôtel de Tourrel, 5 Rue Carnot – the Michelin guide calls the restaurant on the ground floor of this Art Deco hotel ‘delightful’. The average price for a three-course meal is €120.
  • L’Auberge de Saint-Rémy, 12 Boulevard Mirabeau – according to Michelin the chefs here focus on ‘flavoursome market ingredients’. Pastry and desserts are specialities.

Food and drink shops

Balls of cheese in paper wrappers in a basket of a market stall or shop

Around every street corner of Saint-Rémy there is a patisserie, confectioners or deli to die for. Here are some of the best food and drink shops in the town: 

  • Joël Durand Master Chocolatier, Boulevard Victor Hugo – gourmet chocolates, nut creams and toffee
  • La Cave aux Fromages, Place Joseph Hilaire – authentic local cheeses, with fresh goats cheese a speciality 
  • Entre Sel et Terre, Rue Carnot – salt and peppers of the world, with jams, mustards and olive oils

More than 40 restaurants

With more than 40 restaurants in a town small enough to feel like a village, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining in Saint-Rémy. Whether you fancy authentic Provençal cuisine, something more exotic or just a dish of simple street food, there is a table with your name on it. Remember, dining in France is meant to be a leisurely affair, so restaurants serve and stay open later than they do in the UK, particularly in the summer. 

Festivals & events

The paved and cobbled streets of Saint-Rémy come alive with several festivals during the year.    

Route des Artistes

Over 100 local artists exhibit and sell their work in the town’s streets in this open air art fair. It is held on three Sundays, in June, September and October and is a great opportunity to take home a unique souvenir of your time in Saint-Rémy.  

Feria and Carreto Ramado parade

The Feria and Carreto Ramado are the festivals in August in Saint-Rémy which celebrates the town’s agricultural and local traditions. People wear traditional costumes, and a colourful float decorated with local produce is pulled by fifty draught horses. A history of bullfighting exists within Saint-Rémy and bulls are led into the town as part of the Feria.  

Organa Festival

This classical music festival, bringing together some of the world’s finest organists, takes place at the Collégiale Saint-Martin in Saint-Rémy. The magnificent organ of the church of Saint-Martin is considered to be a masterpiece. Concerts are held on Wednesday mornings and Sunday evenings in July and September. 

Several large trees overhang a quiet town square where people sit on benches and at a bar

Explore Saint-Rémy-de-Provence with LeShuttle

You don’t have to ‘sketch the trees and the daffodils’, as Van Gogh once did, to appreciate the beauty of Saint-Rémy. Just glimpsing the same views will make this a worthy addition to your road trip to the south of France. Start your journey by getting to France in just 35 minutes from Folkestone via LeShuttle.

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