Bonnieux Through the Ages

Bonnieux, Luberon
Bonnieux front, Mt Ventoux back

Want to get away from the city and find that perfectly authentic Provençal village?

Where you can meander along the steep streets of the perched village and between the higgledy-piggledy houses with views over the snow-capped Mont Ventoux, Vauclause mountains and the towns of Gordes, Lacoste and Rousillon?

Or stay down in the valley amongst the vines and lavender fields close to the river Durance?

Let me tempt you with the village of Bonnieux and discover how it developed over the ages…

The Stone Age

St Julien bridge, Bonnieux

St Julien bridge, Bonnieux

On your way to Bonnieux, stop off at the Pont Julian. To the side of the tumbling stream, nestled into the rocks, lies the small Combette cave.

Archaeological studies of the dwelling’s floor have unearthed evidence of raw materials, the use of fire and tools.

Small groups of Neanderthals sporadically occupied this rock shelter whilst on hunting expeditions between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.

You are already in the perfect spot for our next historical age…

The Roman Age

Pont Julien, Bonnieux

Pont Julien, Bonnieux

The Via Domitia, a major trading route of the times linking Spain and Italy, runs past Bonnieux and over the Calavon to right here, where we have the 3BC Julien Bridge, named after Apta Julia, the Roman name for the local city of Apt.

‘It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time’ –David Allan Coe.

The piers appear to be emerging from the rocks and limestone soil. The holes had bronze staples that connected the stone blocks to the rocks in order to keep the structure solid. However, these staples are now missing yet the bridge stands strong!

It’s a perfect little spot to stop off for a picnic!

Tip: Once you reach the village, buy an inexpensive blue parking disk from the post office. It’s a one-off price and lasts year after year. It allows 1-2 hours of free parking -ideal if you are visiting several places in one day!

The Medieval Age

Church, Bonnieux

Church, Bonnieux

The feudal castle and the village developed during the middle ages. So much so that the inhabitants were required to dig caves into the rock to house their cellars, mills and silos.

Tip: Look out for a secret exit from a house which has 14 cave cellars, 30 metres below the ramparts.

Take the 86 stone steps to the upper, gothic church that was built in the 12th century and further redesigned and extended in the centuries to come. The pretty esplanade behind, planted with pines and cedars, is where the castle and tower once stood.

In the 13th century, Bonnieux remained a commune in the lands of the Count of Provence and was included as a papal village for 500 years.

The Modern Age



The surrounding farmlands and petits châteaux (mini castles) were owned by the Popes and bishops. Look around the village for evidence of this wealthy past.

By the 18th century, the village boomed to what it now resembles, in 1870 a more modern church was constructed along with 18 bistros, several gambling rooms and two brothels! Entertainment for all!

An overkill of grazing depleted the surrounding land so cedar seeds from North Africa were planted…

TheLuberon Cedar Forest is drought and fire resistant and hence survived the great fire of 1952. This species can survive for centuries and nowadays covers 250ha.

Just 9km away from Bonnieux you can discover a botanical trail in this forest, accessible to pushchairs and wheelchairs. You can discover the forest on foot or by bike and witness the rare species of bird such as; the Egyptian vulture, several specials of eagles and the blue monticulture.

1km from the start of the walk you will find the Enclos des Bories, 20 dry stone huts constructed by local farmers and shepherds.

On your way to the forest stop off at the Philippe Tower, built at the end of the 19th century by Philippe Audibert. He wanted to see the sea from his home. Poor thing… he died before completion; however now you can actually see the Etang du Berre (Berre pond) in Marseille from the top.

The Contemporary Age

Junk shop, Bonnieux

Junk shop, Bonnieux

You can visit the fountains, washhouses, castles and bastides -many of which are now part of wine estates and guest houses as well as private homes.

The area is popular for wine growing and Lavender honey…and the lavender bee – they do live on!

Did you know that Lavender honey contains compounds that are medically beneficial to us? It’s good for relaxation, as an anti-septic and neurotransmitter booster!

There are distilleries in Buoux (Les Agnels), in Apt (Apt Aromatiques) and Le Mas des Abeilles in Bonnieux offers aromatic lavender products.

Other activities:

  • Le Jardin de la Louve. A ‘remarkable garden’ in typical Provençal style
  • The Musée de la Boulangerie. The Baker’s Museum guides you through the history and manufacturing and sells a wide range of breads.
  • Provençal marketFriday morning
  • Potters’ market: Every Sunday and on Easter Monday
  • Votive festival: On the third weekend in August
  • Musical week: During the first two weeks of August
  • Easter to Christmas: The church facade is illuminated every Saturday and Sunday evening

Fancy staying in Bonnieux…

Go find yourself a rustic home to stay in and live the Provençal dream!

Maison Julien, Bonnieux