Moustiers-Saint-Marie : Discover a romantic village in France
March 31, 2019
by Simone Olckers
If you are in the South of France and looking for a quaint, hillside town that promises to charm you with its old buildings and cobbled streets – I highly recommend visiting Moustiers located in the Verdon region, close to Lac St.Croix.
This hillside village is one of France’s best-kept secrets
My husband and I first heard about the village while we were still in Paris. Before heading to the South of France, we were asking for recommendations when a French girl told us about a romantic gem that is not well-known by tourists. When you think “Provence” or “South of France” there are numerous popular travel destinations that pop up and, as a result, has kept this little town off the big tourist radar. Every local that we speak to love this little town and think it to be exquisite. So my husband and I went to go see it for ourselves.
The town looks like a nativity scene.
The town is really special. If you google pictures of this place then you will see an old chapel perched high in a mountain, a small village at its feet, a light river stream flowing through the town center, and a star suspended high above the village where it hovers perfectly in place to make the whole scene appear like a picture from a children’s nativity book.
Majority of the village is built on a hill with a river running through it.
Walking around town, you can expect to wind a little uphill – since the whole town is built on a slant. Moustiers is split in two by a small river stream. Along the stream, you will find little shops, cafes, ice cream pit stops and excuses to ‘rest’ from the gradual incline as you wander the streets. Don’t forget to stop along the way to take snapshots of the picturesque scene!
Getting to Moustiers
The best way to travel there is by car.
We were staying in an Airbnb in a town called Aups, which is about 30 km away from Moustiers. We had a car rental so we drove there. You can also take a bus depending on which town you are living in in the South of France. However, I highly recommend taking a car and parking just outside the town because it can get hot (we went during the summer months which is usually July – August). Buses aren’t as frequent as what you might be used to so plan your trip beforehand to double check the bus schedules. There are no airports nearby and many tourists come through from Nice, by car, for day trips.
Top things to do in Moustiers-Saint-Marie
Explore the area slowly and take in the idyllic surroundings.
The whole town can be discovered on foot. It’s very romantic. I arrived and immediately looked for a little coffee shop where I can sit outside in the sun and watch people – because everything feels so calm and the scene is very picturesque. I often find myself sitting back and trying to feel the surroundings before exploring it. I become sensitive to new smells, embrace new sounds and literally, people watch. This might seem strange but in fact, is considered quite popular in France. They call it flâneur which, according to the Oxford dictionary, is someone that saunters around observing society.
Discover authentic, French ceramics.
Moustiers is infamous for French pottery, or “Faience”. It’s basically a style of pottery that is pale, lightly tin-glazed and is adorned by finely hand-painted, often floral decorations. You’ll notice the design and think “Provence”. Also, every piece of crockery is individually handcrafted by local artisans. You can discover the history and journey by visiting the museum and/or neighboring shop. The items are expensive – but they are unique and the man in the shop, next door, will tell you stories about every piece of earthenware that enters their door. If the price tag puts you off – little stores all over the village have smaller, pocket-sized, souvenirs that are more affordable versions of Faience.
Visit the local market on Friday mornings.
The size of the local market fluctuates depending on the season – summer being the largest.
Every Friday morning up until about 1 pm, outside the town hall, you can expect to be greeted by French people selling all kinds of local delicacies and crafts. Try local produce such as lavender honey, cheese, meats, seasonal vegetables, and fruits. I recommend passing through this typical provencal market on your way into the town.
Hike up to Chapel “Notre Dame de Beauvoir”.
The best view of Moustiers is from the Chapel overlooking the town.
The church overlooks the town because it’s perched high in the mountain. You can get there easily by walking up lots of steps. The walkway is wide and easy to find.
Before embarking on the walk to the top, make sure you:
- Wear flat, comfortable shoes,
- Take water with you,
- Bring a phone or camera to capture the views, and
- Ensure that you don’t have any serious health or heart issues.
- A 14th-century old church nestled in the mountain,
- Panoramic views of Moustiers, Lake St Croix and surroundings, and
- A little bit of shade and level ground to rest before making your way down again.
You can eat here on a budget.
Of the three times that I visited Moustiers, I have had to do it quite frugally. Exploring Provence can add up quickly. However, grabbing a bite to eat doesn’t always have to be costly – especially when you know where to go.
The best place to eat for cheap:
Situated near the top of the town, there’s a little corner spot that sells affordable (and delicious) burgers, crepes, salads, ice-cream etc. This is a no-frills joint and here you’ll pay a good price compared to a more formal setting anywhere else in the village. I recommend trying the burgers and ice cream because they are impressively good – especially for a little town in the middle of, almost, nowhere.
Top place to do gift shopping
I highly recommend visiting L‘Artisanat, a shop located by Place de L’Eglise.
This gem has two floors filled with everything Provence. It is perfect for buying last minute gifts. I keep returning to this shop with friends and family to grab something that will remind me of my visits here. A personal gift recommendation is scented hand creams. I first discovered local French brands while visiting L’Artisanat in Moustiers and I have been using them ever since. So whenever I reach into my purse for my luxuriously scented hand cream, I am reminded of the fond memories from visits to Moustiers St. Marie – the most romantic village in Provence, South of France.