The village of Aigues Mortes is a real jewel, completely enclosed by walls and perfectly preserved, an essential stop for any visitor.
Unlike the classic fortified Occitan village clinging to the rocks, this village is flat, surrounded by salt marshes and marshlands. It was from here, in 1248, that the French fleets set off on their seventh crusade to the Holy Land.
Situated on the border with the Camargue, despite being technically in Occitania, in Aigues Mortes one breathes an already Provençal air, among the refined workshops of master chocolatiers, handicraft shops and pleasant bistros in which to sip a good glass of wine, admiring the bustle of the people and the grace of these perpendicular streets full of life.
Characterised by its imposing medieval walls, Aigues-Mortes is famous for the Salins du Midi, which attract many tourists for the summer holidays, the season when the town celebrates its past with the Saint-Louis weekend.
Autumn is also popular, which sees the arrival of the grape harvest and another local tradition: non-violent bullfighting. In October, the Fête Votive is organised, full of Camargue horse races and musical evenings.
Salt mountains rise up around the fortified village, surrounded by the pretty pink hues of the ponds. Lovers of flora and fauna will delight in the salt pans of Aigues-Mortes, home to 200 species of birds, including flamingos, and 208 species of plants.
The salt marshes of the Camargue are truly impressive for their size and their pink colour that comes from the algae Dunaliella, which adds joy and magic to the superb natural space.
Salt production in Aiges-Mortes dates back to antiquity, although the famous salt pans only saw the light of day at the end of the 17th century. Today, only a dozen or so producers continue to oversee the process of salt formation in the basins and collect an average of 300,000 tonnes each August. Harvesting is done manually, given the delicacy of fleur de sel. In fact, this material is less than half a millimetre in size and contains the coveted fine, crunchy crystal.
The ramparts of the fortified enclosure of Aigues-Mortes were built in 1240 by Saint-Louis, the first king of France, to protect the town from outside intrusion. They open onto the Mediterranean and are known for their architectural beauty, which testifies to the Gothic era of the 13th century.
At 1.6 km long, they are entirely walkable: from their summit you can admire absolutely fabulous views. From the top you can peer into the city, taking in the urban grid, the roofs of the houses and the wonderful inner courtyards.
But above all, you will have an exceptional view of the salt pans. In particular, in the heart of summer, in August, under the effect of the wind and sun, the water is so saturated with salt that it almost turns purple. This white gold, as it was called in the Middle Ages, is stored in the open air at a height of more than 20 metres and forms veritable mountains of salt.
Built in place of the Matafère tower at the behest of Charlemagne in the 8th century, this imposing keep, once the king’s tower, is over 30 metres high and although slightly detached from the ramparts, remains connected by a small bridge.
The tower imprisoned many Huguenots within its walls, who were hunted down after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1683. The best known is undoubtedly Marie Durand, imprisoned here for 38 years, as well as many Templars.
After a tour of the ramparts, stroll through the alleys that lead you to Place Saint-Louis, dotted with cafés and restaurants.
Sit on one of their terraces and admire the statue of Saint-Louis and the Capuchin chapel. The square also houses the town hall, tourist office and Notre-Dame des Sablons church.
In the heart of the town you will find dozens of artists’ and craftsmen’s galleries. A riot of paintings, sculptures, lithographs, collages, photographs, celebrating the region, an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
Witness to the embarkation of Saint-Louis for the Crusades, the church of Notre Dame des Sablons is undoubtedly the oldest monument in the town: dedicated to the Virgin, it is named Notre Dame des Sablons, probably in reference to the sandy marshes that once surrounded the town.
Built in Gothic style, it has undergone numerous transformations over the centuries. In 1634, its bell tower collapsed. It remained closed from 1738 to 1744, when the first renovations were undertaken: raising the square clock tower and changing its orientation. During the revolution, the church served as a civil building, barracks and salt storehouse. It was only in 1804 that Notre Dame des Sablons became a church again. Its interior restoration was undertaken in the 1960s.
Created around 1400 on the site of a former convent of the Cordeliers monks, it was offered by Louis IX to the inhabitants of Aigues-Mortes in 1248. The Cordeliers were the true founders of the Brotherhood of the Grey Penitents.
During the Wars of Religion in 1575, the chapel was destroyed and rebuilt around 1607. The confraternity became so large that, following disagreements between the leaders, it was necessary to create another confraternity to take the name of White Penitents .
This is why, right next to the Chapel of the Grey Penitents, you will find the Chapel of the White Penitents: the confraternity was founded in 1625 and the construction of the chapel dates back to 1668, rich in frescoes and remarkable paintings.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Today, Aigues-Mortes is a charming town, dotted with medieval festivals and characterised by an ever-increasing number of tourists.
The choice of where to stay depends very much on the type of holiday you have in mind, but the hotel offer is varied and meets all budget requirements.
For total immersion in the city’s magical medieval atmosphere, we recommend looking for a hotel inside the fortified citadel.
In addition to staying in a charming neighbourhood, you will in fact be very close to the main attractions of Aigues-Mortaises: the towers and bastions of Aigues-Mortes, the statue of Saint-Louis, the Church of Notre-Dame des Sablons, the various gates, cinemas, restaurants, craft shops and bars.
Of course, in the heart of the centre, prices go up considerably and accommodation possibilities are reduced if not booked well in advance, especially during festivals and events.
If you have found it difficult to locate a hotel in the centre, you can consider the station district: only 300 metres from Porte de la Gardette, you will have no parking problems and, besides being close to the heart of the city, you will enjoy the few but excellent restaurants in the neighbourhood, as well as a stroll along the canal or near the marinas.
Located east of Aigues-Mortes Intra-muros, the Bourgidou district is a rather quiet residential area less than a 10-minute walk from the Porte des Cordeliers. With much cheaper prices, it offers a quiet and peaceful stay, which you are sure to find while strolling near the town’s pond and salt marshes.
Once a fishing village, Le Grau-du-Roi is now an ideal seaside resort if you are looking for a place to sleep near Aigues-Mortes. Quite lively during the summer, you will be seduced by the authenticity of its old streets and dynamic marina.
Located only 6 kilometres from Aigues-Mortes, it will be easy to reach this town by bus, car or even bicycle. As it is a very popular tourist destination during the summer, we recommend that you plan your hotel and B&B reservations in advance.
About ten kilometres from Aigues-Morte is La Grande-Motte, recognisable from afar by its white pyramid-shaped buildings. A lively and charming town, it is the right compromise for those who want to visit Aigues-Mortes while enjoying the beach and its surroundings, such as the city of Montpellier. From La Grande-Motte, Aigues-Mortes can be easily reached by car in 15 minutes.
La Grande-Motte is a popular seaside resort for holidaymakers and here you can find all types of accommodation: hotels, flats, B&Bs and campsites.
Located at the western end of the Camargue, Aigues-Mortes is set in a unique natural environment, making it an incredible holiday destination.
The nearest airport is Montpellier Airport. Flights to Marseille Airport, which is 1½ hours away, are much more frequent. From there, we recommend renting a car directly at the airport, to have the freedom of movement that will make you appreciate all the wild beauty of the Camargue.
Alternatively, using the train, Aigues-Mortes station is served by TER, with trains arriving from Nîmes in 45 minutes. Reaching Nîmes by TGV is possible from many French cities.
By car, Aigues-Mortes is 40 minutes from Montpellier, 50 minutes from Arles and 1 hour 45 minutes from Marseille.
To go to Aigues Mortes, we suggest an alternative but very interesting route: from Saintes-Maries de la Mer, take the road along the sea and pass the town.
At a certain point, on your left, you will find the signs for le Petit Sauvage: here, there is a barge that allows you to cross the Rhone with your car in tow and go to Aigues Mortes via a small road through the countryside, decidedly longer than the traditional one but much more charming and solitary.
What's the weather at Aigues-Mortes? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Aigues-Mortes for the next few days.
Aigues-Mortes is located on the eastern border of Occitania, in the south of France, bordering the Camargue and at the mouth of the Rhone.