Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a hidden gem in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France, a true fairytale town. As you wander through the cobblestone streets, with the fresh smell of lavender in the air, you’ll quickly understand why it’s been named ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France. Read on for a full guide to Moustiers. We’ll learn more about this adorable town and what there is to do in this charming village.
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What is Moustiers-Sainte-Marie known for?
Moustiers also is full of creativity. The town is known for the art of ceramics. So as you explore, you’ll find many shops with handmade faïence (tin-glazed earthenware) pottery. The distinctive blue and white or colorful designs on the pottery are highly sought after by collectors and tourists.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie lies within the boundaries of the Verdon Natural Regional Park. It extends over the departments of Var and Alpes de Haute Provence. Encompassing 46 towns and villages and boasting seven distinct landscape types, the park showcases a diverse ecosystem with an abundance of unique natural treasures. Among its rich wildlife are vultures, bats, mountain goats, roe bucks, and various endemic plant species.
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The Legend of the Star in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
The village dates to the 5th century. It is set within a huge cliff with an iconic gold star suspended along a 135-meter-long chain. The gold star has many different legends. The most common legend suggests that a prisoner of the Crusades, Baron Blacas, hung the star there to show that he returned to Moustiers alive. However, the real reason for the star is still unknown to this date. Nonetheless, this cute star hanging in the sky is so unique to the town. I adored seeing it in the backdrop. It even illuminates at night giving the town such a magical vibe.
How to get to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
If you are traveling from abroad, the nearest major airports to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie are Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) or Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE). From either airport, you can rent a car to get there. It is difficult to reach Moustiers without a car. Public transportation is limited and will take you longer. You also won’t have the chance to freely explore the surrounding areas. I’d highly recommend renting a car from Discover Cars to find the cheapest deal. That way, you can see all that the area has to offer. There are so many beautiful towns in Southern France to explore and you won’t be limited this way. The village is situated in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, along the Route Napoléon (N85) and the D952 roads.
Best things to do in Moustiers
1. Wander through the village
Moustiers is a small village and you don’t really need a whole agenda. Start by just strolling the streets full of charm. You will find so many nice pathways, shops, cafes, and more. Many can visit Moustiers in just a couple hours but if you want to go at a slower pace, chill in some of the nice cafes. It was one of my favorite towns in Southern France so if you can stay overnight, even better. There are so many nearby places to visit so it can be a great base for your Provence road trip.
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2. Try Lavender Ice Cream
The lavender ice cream is so delicious in Moustiers! I tried mine right at the entrance of the town. The best place to try it is at ‘l’Étoile Givrée’ but there are many places selling it. Even kiosk shops are set up outside selling all kinds of delicious ice creams.
3. Climb up to the viewpoint at Notre-Dame de Beauvoir
Climbing up to the viewpoint at Notre Dame de Beauvoir in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a must. There are 262 steps that lead to the 12th-century chapel perched high above the village. Once atop, you’ll be rewarded with the most stunning views of Moustiers. The church itself dates back to the 13th century.
4. Discover the Faience Pottery
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is known for its centuries-old tradition of faience pottery, a style of tin-glazed ceramic art. Visiting the village allows you to explore the charming artisan workshops and galleries where skilled craftspeople create faience pieces. The pottery often features intricate designs, vivid colors, and motifs inspired by nature.
Additionally, a must-visit attraction is the Faience Museum, which showcases the fascinating history and evolution of this art form in Moustiers. Inside the museum, you can see the diverse collection of contemporary faience pieces. You’ll also gain insight into the production techniques and appreciate the artistic significance of this local craft.
5. Shop locally at the Market
The charming Provençal market in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie takes place every Friday morning in the heart of the village. In the summer the market is extended to Sundays and Tuesdays from 9am to 7pm. In addition, there are night markets on Wednesdays from 6pm to 11pm making for a lively evening. Be sure to check the Moustiers Tourism site for up-to-date information on timings to avoid disappointment.
At the market, visitors and locals alike can shop for fresh produce, cheeses, or handcrafted items like pottery and textiles, lavender products, honey, and jams.
Admire the waterfalls
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie boasts two beautiful waterfalls. The most prominent one, known as the Waterfall of Riou, is located a short distance from the village center. A picturesque hike of about 30 minutes will lead you to the waterfall. It drops from a height of approximately 50 meters (164 feet) into a small pool below.
The second waterfall, known as the “Cascades des Sirènes,” is situated a bit farther from the village and can be reached by following a path along the Riou River. While somewhat smaller than the Waterfall of Riou, it offers a serene atmosphere. You can try water activities on the Lake of Sainte-Croix.
Day trip to Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon is a great little day trip from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie as it’s only a 40-minute drive away. The drive there is super scenic and picturesque. You’ll be in the beautiful Provençal countryside. Once you get there, you’ll be in awe by the stunning turquoise waters of Europe’s deepest river canyon. Choose from various activities like hiking along the canyon rim, taking a leisurely boat ride, or simply admiring the towering limestone cliffs that surround you.
Go Lavender field hunting
If you’re lucky to visit during the lavender season from the end of June to mid-July, then taking a short drive to Valensole from Moustiers is a must. You’ll be greeted with rows and rows of purple flowers. The best flower farms can be found in Plateau de Valensole. The best time to take photos is at sunrise or sunset so the beautiful sky will be full of warm colors. It also gets pretty busy in some fields so if you can go early at sunrise that would be ideal.
Where to Stay in Moustiers
La Bastide De Moustiers: A fairytale hotel located right in the heart of the center. With only 13 bedrooms, this hotel has an intimate and cozy feel.
La Ferme Rose: A charming 3-star hotel located near the Gorges du Verdon and Lake Ste Croix.