Le Paradou is really tiny but it has everything you could ask for! Once a medieval village, it has very old stone houses, admirably restored, with shutters in pastel tones, flowering gardens in vibrant colours and narrow pedestrian streets that let you stroll around as you please. There are plenty of crafts shops and if you want a bite to eat you have a choice of restaurants and cafés. The Bistrot du Paradou with its daily menus offering simple and typically French dishes has become an institution for the locals. Even Charles Aznavour has his favourite table there and Caroline de Monaco is a regular customer.
But Le Paradou also has a rich history.
In the past, the medieval village was called Saint-Martin-de-Castillon and was situated on the Rochers de la Pène range higher up. This site was already an oppidum in the 2nd century BC. Excavations uncovered a Roman stele, sepulchres, a small altar and the Lion d'Arcoules, a truncated statue from the 1st century BC. The objects today can be seen at the Museum of Antique Arles.
The site continued to be occupied up until the 15th century but only three towers dating from the 13th century still remain from the old castle of Saint-Martin-de-Castillon. The whole area, however, is open to the pubic.
The townhall of the village
Typical houses in the village of Le Paradou
Walk the streets of Le Paradou
In the heart of the Alpilles
With the draining of the swamps, the townspeople abandoned the old site to settle a few hundred metres to the north. The 10th century Saint-Martin church was partially reconstructed in 1632. Both the church and the cross in the cemetery have been listed as historic monuments.
And then the village took the name Le Paradou. It would be nice to think that it means paradise in the Provençal language but it comes from the word for the water-powered mills used by the weavers along the Arcoule river.
If you like santons, those clay nativity scene figurines, you should go visit the Petite Provence du Paradou. In a 500m2 space, more than 400 santons of Provence people a miniature village. They are the work of the best santon-makers of France. And you will find everything: the villagers, the houses, the animals, the objects...
In the area around Paradou
Les Baux de Provence, 3 km away, a hilltop village that boasts an incredible history and architectural heritage with its château and fortress,
Fontvieille, 6 km away, with Alphonse Daudet's windmill,
Mausanne-les Alpilles, 1.9 km away, with its charming village, its olive oils and its Provençal market on Thursday mornings.