Surrounded by canals, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, nicknamed the Venice of Provence, is an enchanting village criss-crossed by several canals, dotted with old wooden waterwheels covered in moss, which once numbered more than 70.
It is one of the most charming villages in the area, permeated with the atmosphere that only the most authentic Provence can provide. You will lose yourself observing the colourful shutters surrounded by ivy, the terraces on the water where mallards doze, the antique markets, the hôtel particuliers.
You will be enchanted to admire the clear sky reflected in the bubbling canals, the market on the flat-bottomed boats once used by fishermen, the little restaurants overlooking the water, all bathed in a sense of sleepy tranquillity.
Lively streets, Provençal flavours and aromas, a Mediterranean climate and welcoming inhabitants are the elements that characterise this town that has preserved a spirit of yesteryear.
Celebrated by the greatest poets, from Petrarch to René Char, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the symbol of a happy coexistence between man and nature. Paddle wheels, quays, streets and alleys, churches and chapels, not to mention fishermen and their strange flat-bottomed boats called Nego-Chin (which literally means ‘drowning dog’).
The Old Town district is made up of stone buildings, cobbled streets, churches, open-air cafés, grand period buildings and the largest concentration of vintage shops in France outside of Paris.
In 1212, the bishop of Cavaillon founded a collegiate church with the name Notre-Dame-des-Anges, probably to counter the powers of the consulate. No trace remains of this building, which must have been one of the first regional Gothic constructions. At the end of the 15th century, it was decided to rebuild the entire building.
Begun in the Southern Gothic style, in vogue in the Comtadine region since the 14th century, around 1538 it saw an evolution towards the Renaissance style.
Most of the nave was rebuilt between 1645 and 1675 to a design by the Avignon architect François Royers de la Valfenière. The austere exterior architecture, influenced by the Jesuit style, contrasts with the ostentation of its interior decoration. The wide vaulted nave is bordered on each side by a network of six side chapels, surmounted by circulation galleries protected by balustrades.
This design is particularly suited to the Catholic Counter-Reformation period: a large nave for the reception of the faithful and preaching, together with hidden chapels to house the confraternities. Many artists from the region, such as Mignard, Vial, Péru and Parrocel, contributed to the quality and abundance of the building’s decoration.
From the town centre, walk along the Sorgue to reach the Partage des Eaux, a 1.5-km path. This is where the Sorgue, which originates a few kilometres further on at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, splits into two branches: the Sorgue de Velleron and the Sorgue d’Entraigues.
It is a pleasant place to picnic by the water, rest, watch the ducks or read a book.
In L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, between 1690 and 1780, many aristocratic residences were built or renovated according to the tastes of the time.
The Hotel Donadeï de Campredon was built in the second half of the 18th century for Charles Joseph de Campredon, from a large landowning family that had been present in the town since the 14th century. The project was designed by the island architect Esprit-Joseph Brun, who designed an L-shaped palace with a remarkable façade on the main street. The two interior façades were developed in a simpler manner to give more breathing space to a garden enlarged by three fountains or nymphaea.
The entrance vestibule opens onto a wide staircase with three suspended flights, with a wrought-iron railing, giving access to the adjoining salons on the first floor, decorated with sober plasterwork. The Hôtel de Campredon, acquired by the municipality of L’Isle in 1978, is listed in the inventory of Historical Monuments and has housed an art centre since 1984.
Bouïgas, from the Provençal bouleguer (to stir, shake), refers to the agitation of the water at this point on the river. The Bouïgas or Villeneuve district, known for its old rampart gate and basin, appeared at the beginning of the Middle Ages and was an extension of the primitive agglomeration.
La Sorgue has always been famous for its waters rich in fish and local tradition has it that the first inhabitants were fishermen who lived in huts built on stilts. Along with industry and agriculture, fishing was an important activity in the town. From the 12th century, various privileges were granted to fishermen by the Count of Toulouse. They were renewed until the Revolution.
In their flat-bottomed boats(Nego-chin), the island’s fishermen caught trout, eels and crayfish with their nets and tridents(fichouire). Fishing remains a practised activity on the Sorgue today and a brotherhood of fishermen from Islois(Pescaire Lilen) is still very active.
The Robert Vasse esplanade is one of the main entrances to the town centre and an essential crossing point for residents and visitors.
The esplanade is topped by an unmissable building: the Château Dumas that today houses the Caisse d’Epargne. This extraordinary building was built in 1880 by Honoré Dumas, designed by the architect Reboul, then sold by his son, Hyppolyte Dumas, to the Caisse d’épargne in 1918.
The park behind it was inaugurated in 1945. It was occupied from 1828 by a mill, then at the end of the century by a chalk factory run by Émile Char and Xavier Dumas.
Château Giraud is located south of the city, along the Moulin Vert canal. It is a bourgeois house built in 1885 with a square plan, in the middle of a park, called Parc Gautier. The building stands on four levels, one of which is underground, and is topped by a gabled roof supported by a truss above.
The decoration of the façades is a mixture of styles and periods. Thus we find Gothic in the cornice, classical gables and columns, Renaissance windows, Louis XIII bricks, a Victorian bay window and a 19th-century wrought-iron balcony, making the Château Gautier an eclectic building characteristic of the town’s architecture.
It cannot be visited but you can linger in the park that surrounds it.
In L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, water is omnipresent and flows through the canals in the heart of the small town centre. It is from here that the town draws its richness and originality.
This wild river originates in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse: water thus occupies a primordial place in the life and history of the town. To fully understand it, just follow the route of the wheels, proposed by the tourist office. For over 2 km, this pedestrian circuit runs along the cool waters of the Sorgue to discover the paddle wheels, vestiges of the textile industry that ensured the prosperity of the town.
You can admire 15 water wheels, once used by various industries: paper mills, silk and wool mills, oil mills and flour mills.
Serpenting from alleyways to quaysides, passing by several squares and terraces, the Sorgue offers the city a certain charm and a formidable tourist resource. From the heart of the city, an interpretive route of another 20-30 minutes leads to the Partage des Eaux, where the Sorgue divides into two branches, giving rise to the Sorgue de Velleron and the Sorgue d’Entraigues
The Museum of Old Toys and Dolls comes from a private collection created by Mrs Huguette Jeanselme.
The exhibition space displays hundreds of pieces dating from 1880 to 1930, as original as they are remarkable both for their incredible state of preservation and for the magic they bring to the eyes of young and old alike.
Brun de Vian-Tiran, an important textile manufacturer from the 12th century, prospered during the industrial revolution with the installation of factories, exploiting the hydraulic energy provided by the Sorgue, a real source of nourishment. In operation since 1808, Brun de Vian-Tiran is the only textile factory still in operation.
A wing of the factory houses a museum displaying all types of yarns, merino, alpaca, cashmere, from the Crau plains to Mongolia, a sensorial and interactive journey that leads to the discovery of the most beautiful wools in the world.
Through interactive maps, videos and a laboratory of innovation and design, visitors discover ancestral and unique know-how. The 1808 Circuit combines a city tour, a unique visit to the factory workshops and a museum. From the thread of wool to the thread of history, you can discover the entire heritage of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue owes its fame to its traditional Provençal market10. On Thursday and Sunday mornings, gourmets flock from all over the department to immerse themselves in the colours and scents of Provence. Fruit growers, wine growers, food trucks, olive oil producers, cheesemakers, bakers and butchers, almost 230 exhibitors occupy the alleys of the town centre and the banks of the Sorgue. Carpentras strawberries, candied fruit, Cavaillon melon, Muscat du Ventoux or black truffles from Vaucluse offer a gourmet dive into the flavours and aromas of the region. At the end of the morning, a picnic with regional products is a pleasure to be enjoyed in the Gautier municipal park.
Also every Sunday from 09.00 to 18.00, meet at Avenue des Quatre Otages11 for the flea market in search of bargains. For almost 40 years, the weekly flea market has helped shape the city’s identity and given it an international reputation.
Along the river, the lucky ones can watch a training session of the Nègo Chin, the typical flat-bottomed Sorgue boat, resembling a gondola, once used by local fishermen. The island’s Nègo Chin association perpetuates the tradition and in summer often organises races on Sunday mornings. The helmsman must, with the help of a pole, maintain the direction and course of his boat without losing his balance, in order to swim upstream and pass under bridges.
Finally, the water market on the first Sunday in August is not to be missed: fruit, vegetables, lavender and soaps are loaded onto the Nègo Chin and sold by costumed merchants. A local and unique tradition that is worth the trip.
The French capital of flea markets, antiques and design, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has been attracting antique dealers, junk dealers, artisans and artists for 60 years. The town’s six old villages bring together some 500 exhibitors throughout the year. The large Easter and autumn fairs, highlights of the local calendar, attract up to 10,000 visitors from all over the world. The city is transformed into an open-air gallery, where art lovers, curious tourists and antique dealers in search of unique pieces stroll from stand to stand, taking advantage of the mild autumn weather. The galleries are open all year round from Friday to Monday and from Easter Thursday to All Saints’ Day.
Each area has its own specialities. Industrial lights, majolica, aircraft parts, sacred art paintings, bargain hunters for a day are carried away by curiosity and the flow of the crowd. Under the beautiful Eiffel-style setting of a former 19th-century spinning mill, Le Village des Antiquaires de la gare12, dusts off preconceived notions about the world of second-hand and antiques: vintage pieces, second-hand clothes and designer objects come together in a modern, rejuvenated spirit. The idea? To attract new customers, especially young people.
Open to the street or to gardens where the eyes no longer know where to rest, the galleries each claim their own identity. Thus, lovers of furniture from the 16th to the 20th century will hunt for sumptuous furnishings atHotel Dongier Antiques13, while L'île aux brocantes14 seduces with its tree-lined pergolas where one comes in search of freshness, losing oneself among industrial and garden furniture.
Sceptics indifferent to antiques will make a diversion to the boutique COTÉ PARC - ANTIQUAIRE15, a 1,000 m² showroom where old toys, antique furniture, household linen, enamel plates and other curiosities are on display. Depending on affinity and budget, visitors are free to let themselves be carried from gallery to gallery and along the quays by objects that will arouse their curiosity.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Surrounded by the two branches of the river that flow through it, the town centre of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is definitely the best place to sleep in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue . The beating heart is located along the water, where you can choose from many cafés and restaurants with the most beautiful views of the city. It is absolutely fabulous to take an evening stroll along the canals, through the narrow, winding streets and admire the heritage of incredible charm, with its old buildings and paddle wheels.
Alternatively, you can consider the elegant Saint Antoine district. Situated on a hill, this quiet area offers a few small charming hotels, lost among olive, oak and pine trees. It is the ideal place for relaxing family or couple holidays, where you will only hear the sound of cicadas.
Another perfect area for sleeping in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the Partage des Eaux district, whose name derives from its location: it is the place where the Sorgue divides into two arms, the Sorgue de Velleron and the Sorgue d’Entraigues. This pleasant district, located about 1.5 kilometres east of the city centre, is known for its tranquillity, especially out of season. During the summer, however, you will especially appreciate its freshness, coming from the Sorgue, known to remain at a constant temperature of around 13° all year round.
For those who are making a trip to Provence, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is 40 minutes from Avignon, 1 hour from Aix-en-Provence, just over 1 hour from Arles and 1 hour 30 minutes from Nîmes: it is a feasible half-day trip from some of Provence’s most famous towns.
What's the weather at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for the next few days.
L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is located between Nimes, Arles and Avignon, in the heart of the Vaucluse, one of the most beautiful areas of Provence.