Fontvieille and its Windmills

Writer Alphonse Daudet's pretty little Provencal village...

Publié le 3 May 2017 Mis à jour le 7 May 2018

Every year, Fontvieille celebrates its windmills on the second weekend of April. A great opportunity to discover this charming Provencal village and its secret, gourmet addresses at the foot of the Alpilles.

Fontvieille is home to a mythical windmill, brought to fame by French writer Alphonse Daudet, together with many oil mills, vines, Roman and Romanesque architecture (so romantic) and a host of traditional celebrations. In short, the perfect place for a weekend in Provence!

Here are lots of ideas for visiting Fontvieille.

Welcome to the party!

Plunge into Provence with the traditional 'Fête des Moulins' celebration in Fontvieille, including the election of the 9th Lady of the Windmills in the Roman arena. Don't miss the highlight of the show: the procession through the village streets guest-starring the new Queen of Arles!

Fontvieille simply loves heritage events such as the Camargue Races (the season starts on May 1st until October) and Saint Peter's Day on the 1st weekend of August. Food buffs will love the village's gastronomic line-up, including tasting events in June and December and the Estiv’halles summer fair, where you can get your fill of local produce.

Want to find out more? Check out the Fontvieille events diary.

An oh-so romantic Roman and Romanesque village …

When the party's over, take time to visit the village and explore its cultural treasures. Situated just next to Arles, the village is home to a fascinating Roman heritage – you'll find the ruins of two Roman aqueducts and Barbegal flour mill less than 3 km from the centre. In Roman times, there were up to 16 working mills here.

Like many Provencal towns and villages, Fontvieille also boasts a Romanesque legacy, with old stone houses, Troglodyte dwellings, Canillac watchtower, the remains of the ancient castle and Chapelle Saint-Gabriel (to the north of the village) offering a seductive dive into the Middle Ages.

But above all, Fontvieille is a romantic village – and rightly so. In addition to Château de Montauban where Alphonse Daudet stayed when he visited Provence, a visit to the windmill that inspired Daudet's famous work "Letters from My Windmill" is an absolute must. What's more, the view from the mill over the Alpilles and Rhône Valley is simply breathtaking...

*During your stay in Fontvieille, we recommend the Sentier des Moulins windmill walk: a delightful family excursion you can enjoy on foot or on a donkey.

Keeping it local…

Fontvieille is a genuine hub of local produce, overflowing with secret addresses where you can stock up on gourmet goodies to savour on site or take home in your luggage. Get a taste of what's in store with the "Ma Cigale est Fantastique" itinerary, featuring the main – and best – gastronomic, craft and cultural addresses.

And if you haven't had your fill yet, head over to Fontvieille market, held on Mondays and Fridays, where you'll find Les Oliviers de l’Aqueduc (Vallée des Baux AOP olive oil), wine producers (the Fontvieille terroir spans over 20 hectares and benefits from the AOP Baux de Provence appellation) and, of course, the typical colourful atmosphere of our Provencal markets.
Not to be missed too: the Alpilles area produces very high-quality honey. Buzz over to the Rucher de la Cala Melosa, where you can taste, buy and enjoy an introduction to beekeeping.

*Another quick word: Moulin Mas de Daudet is a pretty, stone flour mill run by cereal farmer Rémy Thieuloy, where wheat, corn, polenta and chickpeas are milled… Well worth a visit!

Starting out from Fontvieille, the wide-open spaces of the Alpilles

Once you've filled your belly and bags, it's time to get moving again with a nature walk. Fontvieille is located in the heart of Provence and is the ideal departure point for many delightful excursions. The village is crossed by the GR653 A and D long-distance footpaths, the Way of Saint James and "Heritage & Nature" footpath leading from the village to the hills.

_Another idea: the Sentier des Parcelles is a signposted footpath crossing the magnificent vineyard of Château d’Estoublon. _

And how about a whole holiday in Fontvieille?

We know you're tempted now! And we know you know one day won't be enough... So here are our favourite places to eat and sleep in Fontvieille.

Where to eat? Our top 3 addresses in Fontvieille:

  • Top of the list: Le Patio. Listed in the Michelin and Gault & Millau guides, this eatery run by Catherine and Jean-Pierre Cote is all about local ingredients and short circuits and serves delicious fare in the rustic setting of an 18th-century sheepfold.

  • Another choice address: L’Ami Provençal. Set on a little village square and complete with terrace in the shade of plane trees, this restaurant run by young husband and wife team Fanny and Yoann Palmero serves simple, tasty Provencal specialities topped with a heart-warming welcome.

  • Don't miss La Cuisine au Planet. Stéphane, holder of the 'Maître Restaurateur' quality label concocts Provencal market cuisine, spiked with Italian and Oriental touches.

And if you fancy spending a night or green holiday in Provence, our fave address is Camping Huttopia, offering a nature-focused, ecological and 'slow' camping experience ideal for families and friends alike. Ready for a glamping holiday in the Alpilles?!

If you'd like to see more addresses, check out our Fontvieille Holiday Guide.

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