From the Saint-Pancrace chapel, the city of Digne-les-Bains is nestled in a preserved green setting, surrounded by mountainous massifs, the Pre-Alps, and is located on the Napoleon road. Situated at the confluence of the valleys of the Bléone, Eaux-Chaudes and Mardaric, this lively and flowery town lives happily in a clement environment where its curists, seduced by its beneficial waters, recover their health. Renowned for the cultivation of lavender in the area around the town, the Lavender Corso in August is a festival not to be missed

A major site in Europe

Located at an altitude of 600 m, Digne-les-Bains is at the heart of the largest geological reserve in Europe, the Geological Reserve of Haute-Provence, where you can admire an ichthyosaur fossil and the surprising ammonite slab. With a population of about 17,000 inhabitants, this tourist town has more than 300 km of marked hiking and mountain bike trails, a via ferrata in the town, a lake and an aquatic complex. Since the Antiquity, its hot springs attracted the Romans. Later, Christianity took root here, on the site of the current Notre-Dame-du-Bourg cathedral, under which the archaeological crypt (900m2) is now located. It is in 1180 that we find for the first time this cathedral mentioned in writings. It is considered today as one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Provence because of its particular architecture, a unique nave and huge spans. It is in fact the result of a much older construction: a primitive basilica from antiquity which became a necropolis in the 16th century. At the end of this century, Notre-Dame-du-Bourg, less protected, was abandoned by the population and suffered from looting. It is the cathedral Saint-Jérôme which becomes the cathedral of Digne. The archaeological crypt is a major site in Europe. It was during the excavations led by Professor Démians d'Archimbaud under the cathedral that ancient walls dating from the 1st century A.D. were unearthed. These walls gave rise to religious buildings from the5th to the 11th century. After thirty years of work and research, the 13th century building was consolidated and the crypt opened to the public at the beginning of the decade. On 870 m², it is the proof of the different strata of construction during 15 centuries which go back to the origins of Digne-les-Bains.

A city of art

As far as museums are concerned, the Gassendi Museum is not to be missed. Located in the heart of the city in a former 16th century hospice, this museum, renovated in 2003, is like a cabinet of curiosities. With a remarkable diversity, it offers five centuries of art, history and science, and has very rich naturalist and artistic collections. It also gives pride of place to contemporary artists from here and elsewhere, who are often inspired by the local environment to create bridges in situ. The museum is organized into four main areas: the 19th century, the ancient art collection, the science rooms and contemporary art. The landscapes room, particularly interesting, proposes Provencal paintings of the XIXth century and an earth wall built by the master of land art, the English artist Andy Goldsworthy. A special feature of this museum is that it goes beyond its walls thanks to CAIRN, the Center for Informal Art and Research on Nature, which covers more than 200,000 hectares. You can admire permanent works of art while walking in the middle of nature. An opportunity to reconcile art and rurality, but also art and nature. Unpublished and to be seen!

The House of the writer Alexandra David-Néel is also a must-see. She was the first European explorer to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa in Tibet in 1924. Reporter, writer, anarchist, feminist and journalist, this Dignoise of adoption born in Paris in 1868 has marked the very virile world of adventure and exploration. In 1911, she undertook alone a journey that would last almost 14 years through the Far East and Central Asia. She adopted a 14 year old monk who became her spiritual son. Disguised as pilgrims, they both crossed Tibet and managed to stay two months in Lhasa. This is how she introduced Westerners to this high country of snow called Himalaya. Back in France, Alexandra David-Néel settled in Digne in 1928 and named her house "Samten Dzong", "residence of reflection" which included her Tibetan room: she wrote her adventures there. She died there at the age of almost 101. Her house, now transformed into a museum, houses a Tibetan handicraft store and an association. One room presents Alexandra David-Néel's photos during her expeditions, her correspondence, her travel diaries; another shows a chronological film on her life. Humble and fascinating, like the destiny of this exceptional woman!

Finally, don't forget Andy Goldsworthy's art refuges, which combine contemporary art and rural heritage during a walk in the territory of the Geological Reserve, the Lavender Museum, which offers sound and light shows on the history of lavender growing in the vicinity of Digne-les-Bains, the Clues of Barles and their grandiose landscapes, or the charming Pignes train, which makes it possible to reach Nice in an antique steam train every day.

The Corso de la Lavande, a tribute to the city's emblem

The Corso de la Lavande is the most festive event of the year during which the town transforms itself to celebrate lavender, the little blue flower that is the town's emblem. For the occasion, between 10,000 and 15,000 people attend each year an event that celebrates its 76th edition in 2022. On the menu: day and night parades of decorated and illuminated floral floats, musical, costumed and cultural demonstrations by international groups, fireworks, funfair, boules competition, street sale, popular dances... Honored since 1900, lavender makes Digne-les-Bains and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence the leading producer of lavender and lavandin in the region. During the festival, attend demonstrations of distillation of this fragrant plant and leave with a few sprigs of lavender whose sweet fragrance will perfume your drawers and cupboards for a long time.

Smart info

When to go? You can of course go to Digne-les-Bains to visit the city.To attend the 2022 edition of the Corso de la Lavande, go to the Provencal city from Friday, August 5 to Tuesday, August 9.

How to get there. Digne-les-Bains is located in Haute-Provence, 1h15 from Gap, 1h20 from Aix-en-Provence, 2h from Avignon and 2h30 from Nice.

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