The sight of Sisteron is unparalleled: a tangle of houses and a maze of alleyways set against a vertiginous, almost pyramid-shaped rock spur, overlooking the rushing waters of the Durance.
Between Provence and the Alps, on the edge of the Durance valley, Sisteron is an active and lively town, nestled at the foot of its famous citadel that dominates the landscape. The town juts out in front of the rock of La Baume, recognisable by its vertical layers of limestone, world-famous and considered a true curiosity by geologists.
The town opens out into a labyrinth of stairs and vaulted streets known as andrônes, which rise naturally to reach the superb Citadel, of which Henry IV liked to say it was the most powerful stronghold in his kingdom. Take your time wandering through the narrow alleys: the city centre is home to many treasures, palaces, carved doors, passageways and a wide variety of craft shops, brasseries and restaurants that will tempt you with their specialities.
For those who no longer feel like walking, there is the possibility of taking the little train of the Citadel, which allows you to discover the historical heritage of the town through a commented circuit up to the entrance of the Citadel, from where you have a spectacular view of the cliff and the town.
On the banks of the Durance, Sisteron is an unmissable stop, nicknamed the pearl of Haute Provence. Indeed, the town enjoys an exceptional natural landscape: the village stretches out at the foot of the rock of La Baume, known throughout the country.
From the citadel that dominates the town, you will see the labyrinth of stairways and vaulted streets of the town. The historic heart of the medieval town can be discovered by strolling around and admiring the old houses, vaulted passages, stairways, fountains, restaurants, art galleries and shops.
Sisteron has many tourist sites such as the Clock Tower with its wrought-iron bell tower, the Romanesque cathedral of Notre Dame des Pommiers, the Museum of Earth and Time.
A jewel of architectural heritage, the Citadel consists of a vast collection of military structures from various eras. The keep and walkway, built on the narrow rocky spine, date back to the 13th century, the stratification of bastioned enclosures to the 16th century.
Of Vauban‘s design, conceived in 1692, only the powder magazine was realised. Major alterations were made to the north wall in the mid-19th century. It was during this period that the magnificent underground staircase connecting the fortress to the city was carved into the rock.
Deeply wounded by the bombardment in August 1944, the Citadel has been admirably restored and you can discover a museum recalling Napoleon‘s passage on his return from the island of Elba, the keep with its prison, an exhibition of horse-drawn vehicles, the Chapel of the Madonna of the Castle (15th century) and some temporary exhibitions.
At nightfall, the citadel wears its costume of light, twice awarded the 1st National Prize at the Lumières Competition in 2009. While in summer, it hosts a prestigious cultural event: Les Nuits de la Citadelle, the first and oldest festival in Provence. Music, theatre and dance come to enchant its walls and create a unique atmosphere.
The Notre Dame des Pommiers cathedral dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries and was designed in the Provençal style with Lombard influences. It is one of the largest religious buildings in Provence.
The cathedral is part of an episcopal complex next to the church of St Tirse, which also contains a baptistery and a cloister reserved for the canons. Various paintings can be admired inside the cathedral, the oldest of which dates back to the 16th century.
Housed in the former chapel of the Visitandine, dating from the 17th century, the Museum of Earth and Time collects rare and unusual objects that trace the different techniques used to measure man’s time and the earth’s time.
The exhibition invites you to discover, on your own or with a guide, a water clock with automata, hourglasses, a Foucault clock, sundials, calendars. Over time, man has created increasingly sophisticated instruments to measure time. The earth, on the other hand, has left signs of the passing of the ages through the growth rings of trees, the natural radioactivity of rocks or even the layers that have enabled man to decipher them.
An unusual but extremely interesting visit for young and old alike.
The town of Sisteron overlooks the rock of La Baume. This pyramid-shaped rocky outcrop is made up of vertical layers of limestone and folds. A hike on the rock of La Baume will allow you to enjoy incredible views of the town of Sisteron, but also of the Durance.
Discover the rocky cave through which you can reach the top of the mountain. The site is favourable for via ferrata climbing with walls spaced some ten metres apart.
Sisteron’s fortification towers, dating back to 1370, protected the old town from invaders during the Hundred Years’ War.
Two of them stand near the post office and at the foot of the citadel and three others occupy a prominent place in theAllée de Verdun. Over time, only five towers have been saved from destruction: the Fort tower, the Médisance tower, the Porte Sauve tower, the Notre Dame tower and the Gens d’Armes tower.
The permanent exhibition offers a thematic itinerary on funeral practices in antiquity discovered in the Sisteron area. Lapidary objects in metal, glass, ceramics and various coins are highlighted to explain to the public the cult of the dead among the Gallo-Romans.
Among the collections presented is an exceptional set from a mausoleum built by a rich Gallo-Roman family that lived in Sisteron during the High Empire. Archaeological furniture from the excavations of the Bevons mausoleum is also on display.
A beautiful 100 m² hall completes this cultural space. It hosts temporary art exhibitions throughout the year (painting, sculpture, photography) and a well-stocked bookshop completes the offer.
The androni are to Sisteron as the traboules are to Lyon. They are picturesque covered passages that allow crossing from one street to another. The municipality of Sisteron has been committed to renovating its androni for several years with constant urban renovation work.
Come and discover, in the town centre, the most famous androne, also known as the Rue des Pardenrières, which joins the very commercial Rue Saunerie to Rue Fontaine Chaude. To find these hidden passages, one has to walk in the lower part of the old town, thus quite close to the Durance.
Among the most significant are the Longue Androne that links the upper town to the lower town, from rue Mercière to rue Chapuzie, the shopping district to the farming district, on the banks of the Durance, Rue du Glissoir that joins rue Mercière, in the centre of town, to Place de la Grande Ecole in the Bourg Reynaud district, Fontaine Ronde that lies between rue Font Chaude and Fontaine Ronde in rue Saunerie and rue du Grand Couvert.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
With its source in the heart of the Southern Alps, at Montgenèvre, the Durance runs for more than 320 kilometres before flowing into the Rhone at Avignon. While its long tumultuous course has shaped the landscape, its waters have also irrigated fertile land and given rise to numerous villages. The Durance Valley is home to some of the most beautiful tourist destinations in Provence and southern France.
The village of Les Mées is famous for its high, narrow rocks, which rise proudly over 100 metres above the town and overlook the Durance Valley.
This geological mystery located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence départements does not fail to arouse the curiosity of travellers on their way: it is a series of pinnacles also called Les Penitants , which, according to legend, are nothing more than monks turned into stone, to punish the sin of impure thoughts towards Saracen women bathing in the Durance.
In reality, the rock formation is the result of an erosion phenomenon, which over the years has given rise to these fascinating shapes. Sculpted by the weather and time, the rock barrier, consisting of old pebbles washed away by water, dates back several million years. Today, these extraordinary conical rocks are the small pride of the village and the inhabitants of the region, but are little known to holidaymakers.
This magnificent Benedictine monastery preserves a marvellous mosaic, the largest in France. The Ganagobie monastery, classified as a Historical Monument, is located on the banks of the Durance, between Peyruis and Lurs, on a plateau crowned with rocks.
Like an island in the sky, the monastery of Ganagobie, a high place of spirituality and an exceptional testimony to Romanesque art in Provence, enjoys an extraordinary position directly above the Durance valley. The sobriety of its decor contrasts with the richness of its floor mosaic, unique in France.
Dominating the Buëch valley on its promontory since the 13th century, the castle of Mison belonged to the Counts of Provence.
The building is organised around a central courtyard and four bodies flanked by square towers, suggesting amilitary and residential organisation. This ancient fortress dominates the old village of Mison from its 638 m altitude and still offers a very impressive view. It is possible to tour the castle by following marked trails.
This remarkable 65-metre-long work of art on the Céans stream dates back to the 19th century and was used for the passage of an irrigation canal to supply water to the Saléon plain.
Lagrand has an important hydraulic heritage, thanks to its confluence of rivers and its water table. You will also find a fountain called La Calade, with a covered wash-house and a bridge over the Buëch.
Sisteron has been classified as a town of crafts, which wonderfully combines the pleasures of discovery with artistic practices.
Art lovers will be delighted by the numerous galleries and artisans’ workshops that flourish in every corner, such as in rue Saunerie, rue Droite, rue Mercerie: you will meet painters, portrait painters, mosaicists, ceramists, sculptors, but also photographers and cardboard artists. It is difficult to resist the pleasure of visiting their exhibitions, and above all to admire them at work, as they passionately work and shape the raw material to bring the design to life before your eyes.
Several private or municipal art galleries, such as Galerie Domnine or Espace d’Ornano, present varied exhibitions that change throughout the year, and the cultural department organises regular art exhibitions. The traders’ association organises a not-to-be-missed event with street artists during the summer.
While the summer period is characterised by a large number of events such as Rues en Fête, concerts and exhibitions, Sisteron is a town with a year-round cultural vocation.
From the Puppet Festival in spring to the Lamb Festival in May, with the passage of the transhumance through the town: the latter is a major event, attracting tourists from all over the region, thanks to demonstrations and lamb-based gastronomic stands, with which the tradition is renewed every two years.
In June, there are the archaeology days, the music festival, concerts and Sists’Arts meetings. Then there are the handicraft days, the book fair, the bocce days, the exhibition fair, not forgetting the Christmas market organised by the merchants to close the year and the traditional nativity scene exhibitions that mark the Christmas period.
The Sisteron area offers a wide variety of accommodation to meet all your expectations.
Whether you are looking for a B&B in Sisteron, a luxury hotel, a holiday home or a farmhouse, you will find the solution that best suits your needs. You can decide to stay within the village, to experience all its atmosphere, or rest in the surroundings, where you will also find unusual accommodation.
The quickest way to reach Sisteron is to land at Marseille Airport. After renting a car on site, you can drive to the town in 1 hour and 20 minutes. If, on the other hand, you land at Nice airport, you will continue to Sisteron in 2 hours and 35 minutes, again with a rented car.
What's the weather at Sisteron? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Sisteron for the next few days.
Sisteron is located in the Alpes de Haute Provence department, nestled in the Durance valley.