Pont Avignon Vaucluse JpeterPont Avignon Vaucluse Jpeter
©Pont Avignon Vaucluse Jpeter

Take it to the bridge in May!

A warm and deliciously carefree time of year, the month of May heralds the official start of summer and, of course, France’s famous succession of long weekends (referred to as “ponts” or “bridges” in French!). An apt time to take a break and discover Provence’s most beautiful bridges.

Pont d’Avignon

The most famous

What better than one of the world’s most famous bridges to kick off France’s long weekends or “ponts” in the month of May! Yet the real name of the Pont d’Avignon is a bit less well-known: in actual fact, it’s called the Pont Saint-Bénézet. Legend tells that a young shepherd called Bénézet, from the Vivarais region of France, fostered the bridge’s construction in the 12th century, after receiving “divine inspiration” prompting him to build a bridge over the Rhône river. A supernatural power is said to have laid the first, extremely heavy stone of the bridge. Whether or not the story is true, the bridge was indeed built and became one of the rare constructions crossing the Rhône river between Lyon and the Mediterranean. Over the centuries, the bridge suffered both floods and wars, and had to be rebuilt several times until a succession of floods in the 17th century finally destroyed it, leaving behind the half-bridge we know today. Listed as UNESCO World Heritage since 1995, the Pont d’Avignon nevertheless remains a magnificent remnant of bygone days and is easy to visit!

Pont du Châtelet

The dizziest

Suspended at an altitude of 108 metres above the river Ubaye, this little stone bridge appears to be holding up the two immense cliffs set on either side of it, rather like a carefully placed keystone. Built in the late 19th century, Pont du Châtelet measures 27 metres in length and just 3 metres in width. It connects Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye to the little hamlet of Fouillouse, which, interestingly, was very dear to the famous French Catholic priest Abbé Pierre, whose family originated from the hamlet. The bridge can be admired from afar, from the road connecting Maurin and Serennes, if you want to capture its full height. You can also walk across it if you’re a fan of vertical thrills, but if not it’s best to keep your distance! The view down into the void from the bridge, with the river Ubaye snaking its way through the gorge below, is palpitating. From there, you can continue on to Châtelet tunnel carved into the rock, leading to the little paradise of Fouillouse – a genuine hiker’s haven!

Pont de Savines

The longest

As its name implies, this bridge forms part of the municipality of Savines-le-Lac and spans Serre-Ponçon lake. Measuring an impressive 924 metres in length, it gives you plenty of time to admire the captivating and particularly photogenic panoramic views surrounding it: a mirror of turquoise waters reflecting the high peaks of the Hautes-Alpes, including the Aiguilles de Chabrières and Grand Morgon. Completed in 1960, the Pont de Savines offers a privileged passage to Italy via the Montgenèvre pass and is an integral part of several mythical endurance races, such as the Tour de France and Embrunman. If you want to admire its full length, you can cross the lake by boat on board the “Carline”, departing from Savines-le-Lac. And if boating isn’t your thing, the beach of Savines-le-Lac offers fabulous vistas over this majestic construction, especially at sundown.

Pont de l’Artuby

The highest

Also known as the Pont de Chaulière, this bridge was built between 1938 and 1940 and connects the two banks of the river Artuby. Just nearby, the Artuby and Verdon rivers meet at La Mescla, meaning “mix” in Occitan. Comprising a single, sweeping arch, the Pont de l’Artuby measures 142 metres in length and 182 metres in height, making it one of Europe’s highest bridges. It boasts remarkable panoramic views over the surrounding natural scenery and verdant limestone relief, as well as the dizzy and sublime Verdon Canyon over which it stands. Extreme sports aficionados can even opt for a headfirst plunge into this impressive void with a bungee jump courtesy of Latitude Challenge. 3, 2, 1… Open your arms wide and get ready for an unrivalled shot of adrenalin. And if you opt for the onboard camera, you’ll be able to take a memorable souvenir of your feat back home!


Pont Van Gogh

The most artistic

Located along the canal stretching from Arles to Bouc, this bridge (or tather its twin) was famously portrayed by Vincent Van Gogh, to whom it now owes its name. In 1888, the Dutch artist set up home in Provence. Fascinated by the double-leafed drawbridges dotted along the canal, he decided to paint one of them, known at the time as the Pont de Langlois. Sadly, the canal’s bridges were all destroyed during WWII, including the one depicted by Van Gogh. At the time, the only remaining example identical to the original Pont de Langlois was found in Fos-sur-Mer and the town of Arles purchased it in 1962 and installed it along the canal, slightly lower down than the original bridge painted by the artist. The new Pont Van Gogh was named in tribute to him. Easy to reach, it is situated just 10 minutes by car, 15 minutes by bus or 30 minutes by bike from Arles town centre. On site, take time to admire it from every angle and compare it to the version painted by Van Gogh!

Pont de la Mariée

The most mysterious

Completed in 1923, this bridge located in the Var area was used as a passage for the old tramway linking Pont de Gueydan to the village of Guillaumes. Its name is owed to a sad incident that occurred in 1927, when a newly-married young couple decided to spend  their honeymoon in Guillaumes. That evening, at nightfall, they decided to leave their hotel by car to visit the gorge. On the road, they stopped off at the famous bridge and disaster ensued: the young bride leant down to look at the void and fell. The groom rushed back to the village in a panic to seek help. But the young woman’s body could not be located until the following morning. This tragic story subsequently whipped up rumours about the husband’s potential role in what was considered, at the time, as a tragic accident. The bridge was later renamed the “Bride’s Bridge” in memory of the unfortunate spouse. Today, it is not open to traffic but you can cross it on foot to admire the magnificent panoramic vistas over Daluis gorge, or test your limits with a bungee jump. Don’t lean over too far though…