Digne les Bains in Haute Provence
If you just intended to pass through the city of Digne Les Bains…you may well be convinced to stay longer! There is so much to see and discover! The historical capital of lavender, located at the gateway of Provence, has the sweetness, the charm and the wisdom inspired by the mountains surrounding it.
Digne les Bains, the birthplace of the worldwide Geoparks network, invites you to the discovery of its past and geologic times which has now become a health resort, renowned for the quality of its waters.
First of all, time was frozen. Proof of this are the 1500 ammonites remained frozen on a 320 m² seabed that will make you step back 200 million years ago. This Dalle aux Ammonites fossil slab, unique in the world, is located in the UNESCO Geopark of Haute Provence. The Promenade Museum, 400 metres away from it, will tell you about its amazing history and its must-see places.
The city is situated at the crossroads of three valleys (Bléone, Mardaric and Eaux Chaudes) which played an important part in shaping its physiognomy: in the beginning, life was focused around the Mardaric, which is the current Bourg district. You will find there the cathedral of Notre Dame du Bourg, a very beautiful Romanesque building where you will especially enjoy its archaeological crypt while disclosing the secrets of its historical vestiges.
This barely protected site was abandoned to the benefit of the Rochas. In the 11th century, the bishop built his castle on the rock overlooking the city. Over time, people found shelter within its walls and, in the 13th century, ramparts were built. Let yourself be carried away by the story of this medieval district and its history-filled street names during a guided tour offered by the Tourist Office.
Keep your ears open – the majestic Saint-Jérome cathedral proudly standing over Digne les Bains will whisper its secrets. Follow the gaze of the gargoyles and you will discover a breathtaking view of the Nine-Hour Rock, St Pancrace and Barre des Dourbes: you will be filled with an irresistible urge to reach the tops of these mountains or walk on the Nepalese bridge of the Via Ferrata!
If you are interested in the great figures of humanity…you won’t be disappointed! Have you ever heard of Pierre Gassendi, this renowned philosopher who was the interlocutor of the whole elite scholars of the 17th century to which Descartes and Galileo belonged? He was a great astronomer born in Champtercier, small municipality next to Digne les Bains, and loved to observe the stars from the Cousson mountain. A plain on the moon was even named after him! The Gassendi Museum pays tribute to him and offers a visit mixing Provencal painting, instruments of science and contemporary works.
On your way to the museum, you can stop at the botanical garden of the Cordeliers which is a pleasant place to wander.
Your trip through space and time will also lead you to faraway lands where you will be guided by Alexandra David-Neel, illustrious adventurer, who chose Digne les Bains and its magnificent mountains – that she nicknamed her “Himalayas for Lilliputians” – as the setting for her later years. Discovering her house is like embarking on a journey to the Orient!
With your head full of memories and your eyes filled with images, you will peacefully reach the end of your stay. Before leaving, treat yourself to a wellness break at the thermal baths – combining the beneficial properties of warm waters with those of essential oils – or enjoy a colourful stroll through the stalls of our Provencal market.