In the heart of the Ubaye Valley, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, Barcelonnette is on the border with the Hautes-Alpes department and Italy. A mountain town, Barcelonnette reveals its two facets. In summer, the green landscapes are an ideal playground for hiking, walking or mountain biking, but also for aerial sports such as paragliding or ultralight aviation. In winter, when the mountains are covered in their white coat, the town becomes a real ski resort, where you can practice snowshoeing, or ride a snow scooter, for example. From Barcelonnette you can reach the ski resorts of Pra-Loup, Sauze and Sainte-Anne.
As you stroll around the town, you will appreciate the lively streets lined with stores as well as the tourist attractions to be discovered. Head for Place Manuel with its fountain, colorful façades and café terraces. The square is dominated by the Cardinalis tower, dating from the 14th century, which is more than 40 m high.
As you walk through the center of the city, you can also see the Mexican villas. They are the witness of the “Barcelonnettes” who came back from Mexico where they had left to make a fortune in the textile or commercial sectors. Upon their return to France in the 1930s, they built colorful villas with typical architecture. One of them, the La Sapinière Villa, houses Musée de la Vallée. Others such as the Bleue Villa or the Villa Costebelle are worth a visit.
By visiting the town, you will also see, here and there, sundials, the oldest of which date back to the 18th century, churches such as the Saint-Pierre-ès-Liens church or the church in Saint-Pons.
Your stay will also be an opportunity to visit the surrounding communes such as Enchastrayes, Uvernet-Fours or Jausiers.
Musée de la Vallée
The La Sapinière Villa, built in the 19th century, is home to Musée de la Vallée, which has various objects reminiscent of the culture of the host country of the “Barcelonnettes” who emigrated to Mexico. The town is, indeed, marked by this influence. Many “Barcelonnettes” had left their city for Mexico to make a fortune. The visit of the museum will allow you to admire emblematic objects of Mexico, but also various statues and works of art from China, Japan, Myanmar brought back by the naturalist traveler Emile Chabrand.
The Saint-Pierre-ès-Liens church was first built in the Middle Ages. It was destroyed many times and then rebuilt to become what it is today. The bell tower dates from the 17th century. It was raised by one floor to house the bells. Decorated with gargoyles, it is crowned by a wrought-iron campanile bearing a statue of the Virgin. The first stone of the building was blessed in 1924. It is still embedded at the base of the left pillar of the choir. The façade is inspired by Romanesque art with the sculpture of Christ in glory and the four evangelists.
Overlooking Place Manuel, the Cardinalis tower, or clock tower, reaches more than 40 m in height. It is one of the most beautiful bell towers in the department. Built in the 14th century, the square tower was originally the bell tower of the Dominican convent. You can still see the gargoyles that decorate the corners of this tower as well as a clock on one of its two faces. The Cardinalis tower is classified as a Historical Monument.
Col de la Cayolle
Col de la Cayolle, which peaks at an altitude of 2,326 m, is a famous place and is ranked among the 30 most beautiful climbs in Europe. It links Barcelonnette to the upper Var Valley for six or seven months of the year. It is on the border between the Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence departments. Various hiking trails crisscross the natural site and will allow you to admire the beauty of the landscapes. The Four Lakes hike offers you an exceptional panorama and the opportunity, perhaps, to meet marmots along the way.
Listed as a Historical Monument, the Blue Villa dates back to the 1930s. It is covered with an orange roof and has a stained glass window on the north façade depicting textile factories and looms, which give it a picturesque charm. It is the work of the architects Joseph Hiriart, Georges Tribout, Georges Beau, the glass artist Jacques Grüber and the metalworker Schwartz. It is also listed as a 20th-century heritage site. The Blue Villa marks the return of the “Barcelonnettes” who left for Mexico.
- Tourist Office of Barcelonnette: https://www.barcelonnette.com/
- Road service: A51 Highway (from Lyon or Aix-en-Provence)
- Air access: Marseille Provence Airport (2 hours and 25 minutes)
- Railroad access: train station of Gap (1 hour)