In the Alpes de Haute Provence, the marvel that is Entrevaux is situated a bit northeast of Castellane, 60 kilometres from Nice and a thousand leagues from the present-day world.
Entrevaux is a feast for the eyes, an invitation to dream in a fairy tale setting. Dominated by an imposing citadel and surrounded by craggy slopes and terraced hills covered in olive trees, this medieval hilltop village stands guard over the Var Valley and the river that flows at the foot of its fortifications. The site is nothing but impressive. A high stone bridge crosses the river to an arched guard house flanked by two towers through which you enter into an authentic fortified city.
The narrow and dark streets exude all the mystery of the Middle Ages and fire the imagination. The tall houses are narrow also, just like the incredible stairways.
Balconies and ancient doors, fountains and small squares, a sundial from 1572, there's so much to see. The Tourist Office can provide you with a walking tour so that you don't miss anything. And be prepared to walk...
The medieval village of Entrevaux
Entrevaux, between the river and mountains
The village of Entrevaux dominated by its citadel
The bridge in Entrevaux
The Cathedral of Entrevaux
The Citadel of Entrevaux
The Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Cathedral can be found at the other end of the village. Built in the 17th century in gothic architecture, it has a sumptuous door, a baroque choir, richly ornamented features, 17th century paintings, a reliquary bust of Saint John the Baptist in silver-plated copper and an organ from 1717 that is today listed.
The citadel of Entrevaux stands proudly on a rocky peak overlooking the village. You reach it by way of a steep cobbled path: about a 30 minute walk (taking into account the time to catch your breath) but the panoramic views that await you reward all your effort.
Built in the 11th century and fortified by the royal military architect Vauban in the 17th century, the citadel puts to lie the affirmation that no fortress is impregnable. The site is open to the public with an admission fee – remember to get your tokens for the turnstile BEFORE you start the climb up the hill! The tour of the citadel gives you an idea of medieval defence systems and life in a fortress. You can also see the cells where prisoners were held during the First World War. For those who don't want to do the climb, the Poudrière Museum situated in the old ammunitions depot below the citadel recounts the military history of Entrevaux
On a more light-hearted note, Entrevaux also has a motorcycle museum. A collection of seventy vintage motorcycles completely fills two floors, literally from floor to ceiling, of an old house in the village centre.
Across the river, streets zigzag up the hill facing the old village, offering beautiful perspectives of the historic site. Sign-marked, you will come across the old flour and olive oil mills. The latter, dating from the 18th century, is still in operation, quite rare in Provence. Both are open to the public.
For those who really like to walk, the festival of Saint Jean-Baptiste takes place in June. Accompanied by a show of halberds and spontoons, the bust of the saint is carried in a procession to the chapel of Saint-Jean du Désert, 12km from Entrevaux on the GR4 hiking trail.
On the RN202 above Entrevaux, engineers might like to go see the “Elephants”, aqueduct bridges across the route and the railway tracks that carry away rainwater.
Finally, gullible tourists should keep in mind the story of the “miracle”.
In 1953, a savvy café owner claimed to have in his possession a statue of Saint Anne of which one of the fingers bled. Coming from all parts to see it, the pilgrims also became his customers and helped him make a tidy sum. Unfortunately for him, he had to admit his hoax and was sentenced by the courts.