Roussillon is one of ‘Les plus beaux villages de la France‘ – a list that honours some of France’s best rural villages that also boast a rich heritage. And this cultural offering is clear in the village’s pastel-coloured shuttered houses, pretty squares and winding streets. Its surrounding countryside also offers spectacular views and picturesque walks and it’s a great option for a half-day trip from one of the nearby towns or cities.
High on the hill above a plateau, the village of Roussillon attracts thousands of visitors each year who come, in particular, to see its picturesque red buildings, which are built from ochre, a mineral that naturally occurs in the surrounding cliffs. Throughout the 18th century, ochre was used as a pigment in the textile industry and, in its heyday, hundreds of people worked in Roussillon’s quarries. The ochre differentiates this village from others in southern France with its pink, orange and red hues giving a unique colour to the houses. It is made more impressive by the contrast with the deep-green pine forest that surrounds the village.
Roussillon has a creative feel; surrounded by such stunning scenery, artists have made Roussillon their home throughout the years and no less than eight art galleries are dotted around town. The renowned writer Samuel Beckett hid out from the Germans in Roussillon for three years at the end of World War II between 1942 and 1945. He was heavily engaged in helping the French Resistance in Paris and had to flee the Gestapo.
The logistics of getting in and out of an old village high on a hill can be difficult and parking can be particularly tricky during the tourist season. The small, free car park near Parking Ocres has about 20 spaces but it’s for short stay only. Instead, find a paid parking spot – these are signposted and cost €2 for the day. There aren’t many food shops in the village, but there is a bakery where you can buy sandwiches, pizza and cakes for a delicious picnic.