Vaucluse (84100) Population: 27,989 Altitude: 50 m
Orange is an ancient Roman town in Provence, on the east side of the Rhône and north of Avignon. The historic center of Orange is like a small town with narrow streets, picturesque squares and its famous Roman Theatre and Triumphal Arch.
Orange is a full-fledged town of about 30,000 people, but the ancient center is compact, interesting and easy to explore. The center of Orange is more like a village, and can be visited in a half-day, exclusive of the Roman Theatre and museum or exploring the hilltop park.
The old town is ringed by main roads on three sides, with Bvd Daladier on the north and east, and Cours Aristide Briand on the west.
Rue Madeleine Roch crosses the south side of the old town, with the Théâtre Antique on the outside edge and the large hill of Colline St-Eutrope extending south of the center.
Cours Aristide Briand is a double boulevard paralleling the main road along the west side of the old town. (In the Middle Ages this was the location of the defensive walls on the west side of the town.) The 19th-century municipal theatre [our photo] is at the south end of the Cours. Most of the week the Cours Aristide Briand is used for parking; on Thursdays it becomes a large and busy town market.
There a lot of small streets to wander in the center of Orange, but we didn't find many of them very interesting, except as links between some of the squares. The Rue Victor Hugo, for example, is a long narrow street leading from the center to the north edge; it's narrow and full of shops, but pretty low-market, grim and run-down. Continuing north from Rue Victor Hugo is Ave de l'Arc de Triomphe, the main road north from Orange, which goes out to the Roman Arc de Triomphe, about 6 blocks away (400 m).
Place de la République is a large square in the very center of Orange, ringed with colorful buildings, terrace café-restaurants, shops and even an all-weather covered carousel. Place de la République is guarded by the statue of Raimbaud II, Count of Orange, decked out in Knight's cloak and chain mail, ready to set out on the First Crusade.
Immediately north of Place de la République is the large open square of Place Clemenceau, in front of the Orange Town Hall (Mairie). There are some interesting shops on Place Clemenceau, and a few terrace café-restaurants, but it's a bit quieter that Place de la République. The town hall is an imposing building, and has a bell tower topped with an amazing campanile with bright gilding.
A small river, the Meyne, circles around the north side of town, passing tightly between buildings and backyard gardens. The cleanliness of this town-center river can be attested to by the fish it has. While taking a picture of a typically shady part of the river, a lad fishing first offered to move out of the way of our photo. He then held up his catch for us, proudly displaying a half-dozen or so foot-long fish.
Roman Theatre - Théâtre Antique
The Roman Theatre, located at the south edge of the town center, has a very large rectangular main building, with a tall, open stage and backdrop facing south, and ringed by a semi-circle of high, steep seats. There are archeological digs of the old Temple just outside at the western end of the arena building.
The theatre stage and backdrop are three stories tall. Not much remains of the facade, but one high statue and remnants of a few pillars. Still, it's an impressive sight. The best view of the stage is, of course, from the top of the arena seats. The steps up through the seats to the top are many, high and steep, with no reduced-mobility access.
The archeological digs of the Temple just outside the arena are mostly closed off. You can walk into part of the area, where two bright-blue porta-potties stand, but there's not a good view of the digs; you actually have a better view from the outside street, through the fence railings. There is a circular terrace behind the digs area, at the perfect height for a view, but that's privately owned by an up-market restaurant, and not accessible to most of us.
We found the cost (9.50€, 2016) a bit expensive for what you actually see. The price does include entry to the museum across the street, but not everybody would have wanted that as well. Other than just a visual tour, audio guides are included with the price of entry, and the information they provide is very good and very interesting.
Chorégies d'Orange - Summer Music Concerts, Every July-August the Roman Theatre of Orange hosts a series of classical music concerts.
Colline St Eutrope
Colline St Eutrope is the main green space of Orange. It has the municipal swimming pool (piscine) and a very large park area across most of the hilltop at the south end of the town center. There are open grassy areas, big shade trees, and walking and running paths, and a promenade botanique. Our photo shows a carved wooden statue that stands in a part of the park.
With an altitude of 105 m, this is the highest point in the area and has a commanding, and strategic, view across the town to the north. This site was occupied continuously prehistoric times until the end of the 17th century. In the 12th century, Count Raimbaud of Nice established his astrum Aurasice here. In the 14th century, the Princes of Baux built a fortress here, with walls and donjon, to resist the bands pillaging Provence in those times. In the 17th century, the original chateau, which had been severely damaged in the Wars of Religion was rebuilt into a formidable Citadel, with moats, towers and "extraordinarily" thick walls around the entire hilltop. And an esplanade big enough to hold 10,000 battle troups. In 1672, the Count of Grignan, under the orders of Louis XIV, laid siege to the citadel and eventually destroyed it, and its thick surrounding walls.
There's a fantastic view from parts of the hill, including across the plains to the Dentelles de Montmirail in the east, or down on to the Roman theater at the base of the hill.
History of Orange, France
First record, 2nd-c BC, Capital of the Cavares: Aurosia; 36 BC: Colonia Julia Firma Secundanorum Arausio
Prehistoric: Neolithique remains have been found at La Bertaude, near Grès, and on the hills of Saint-Eutrope and Moure Rouge.
Celto-Ligurian: The Cavare confederation dominated the region from Cavaillon to Valence (dept. Isères) during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Their capital Aurosia was on St Eutrope Hill, overlooking the current Orange, and dominating a rich agricultural plain beside the Rhône and Aygues rivers.
Gallo-Roman: Marseilles and Rome traded with the Cavares. When the Cimbri and then the Teutons of Jutlan began migrating here, the Romans became more concerned with the strategic position, and brought in two armies, one which camped on St Eutrope Hill. In 105 BC, the Roman armies suffered their worst defeat since losing to Hannibal at Cannae.
The Roman colony was founded by Octavian (then called Augustus) in 36-35 BC, and the Legion II Gallica was given land here. The walled Augustian city enclosed about 70 ha, enclosing most of St Eutrope Hill and extending about a km north, just short of the Triumphal Arch.
Medieval: A bishop was installed here in the 4th century, and a small university was located here. The town was ruled by the Baux in the 12th century, and by the Chalon in the 14th. In 1530, it came under the rule of the Nassau, and was integrated into the Principality of Orange-Nassau. Later in the 16th century, the town suffered from the Wars of Religion.
In the 17th century, Maurice de Nassau built an imposing castle on St Eutrope Hill, cannabilizing other Roman buildings for the stone. The castle was dismantled in 1672 by order of Louis XIV, during the war between France and Holland. The Roman Triumphal Arch was converted into a castle guarding the northern approaches to the town; it was largely restored in the 1850s, and completed a hundred years later.
More Recently: In 1924, a major flood covered most of the town, with water about 2 m deep in the center, at the Place des Freres Mounet.
Rue de Tourre, bordering the south side of the town center, and the Roman Theatre is just across the street. There are broad walkways here, some nice squares with fountains and several terrace café-restaurants.
Tel : 04 90 34 70 88; Fax: 04 90 34 99 62
Market day: Thur.
Brocante, Cour A. Briand: Every Thur
Apr - Fete Medieval - Medieval Festival
June - Jazz Festival of Orange
July-Aug - Festival d'Orange - Chorégies d'Orange, at the Theatre Antique d'Orange; opera and classical music.
Sep - Roman Festival - Fetes Romaines - Legionairs, Roman dances, festivities, workshops for kids
• GPS: 44.136643, 4.805007
IGN (1/25,000) #3040 OT "Orange, Massif d'Uchaux"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #27 "Ventoux"
The area immediately around Orange is urbanized or farmland, and hiking isn't great. In the forested hills about 10 km north, between Sérignan-du-Comtat and Bollène, there is some good hiking, including the GR4 hiking trail and the "Tour du Massif" trails. About 15 km east are the Dentelles de Montmirail and the beginning of Mont Ventoux.
There are many good restaurants in the center of Orange. There are a few with nice terraces on Place des Frères-Mounet and Rue Madeleine Roch, near the Office de Tourisme and across from the Roman Theatre. You'll find others on the different town squares, including the Place de la République and Place Clemenceau.
Back in 1997 we had a great lunch at Le Garden restaurant on Place Langes; it's still there (2016) and still looks good. In Feb 2016 we had another excellent lunch at Les Amis on Place aux Herbes.
Orange is the center town for the main part of the Rhône Valley wines (excepting the narrow northern band between Vienne and Valence). Principal aoc vineyards in the commune and area of Orange include Côtes de Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. (see Rhone Wines)
Théatre Antique - Roman Theater
- Location: Place des Frères-Mounet
- Cost (2016), Theatre and Museum: adults 9.50€; under-7 free
- Open Daily: Jan-Feb, Nov-Dec: 9h30-16h30; Mar, Oct: 9h30-17h30;
Apr, May, Sept: 9h-18h; June-Aug: 9h-19h
Orange Municipal Museum
- Location: Place des Frères-Mounet
- Cost (2016), Theatre and Museum: adults 9.50€; under-7 free
- Open Daily: Jan-Feb, Nov-Dec: 9h45-12h30, 13h30-16h30;
Mar, Oct: 9h45-12h30, 13h30-17h30;
Apr, May, Sept: 9h15-18h; June-Aug: 9h15-19h
Transportation Orange, France
Park and Walk. Parking along the Cours Aristide Briand gets crowded, and is metered. About 8 blocks north of the center, at the Arch de Triomphe, you'll find free parking. It's only a ten-minute walk back into the center, and there's a free navette (shuttle bus) between the Arch and various points of interest in the town (Arch, Office de Tourisme, Théatre Antique, Colline St Eutrope, Maison de la Principauté).
Department 84, Vaucluse Buses
- See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 2: Vaucluse Department for downloading Vaucluse bus-lines map [Plan global des lignes] and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
• Avignon has train or bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nîmes, Saint Remy-de-Provence, Paris.
• Cavaillon has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Saint Remy-de-Provence.
• Pertuis has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.