Orange in Provence is a sunny city with oodles of charm that has been built up over the centuries quite literally. The Romans were here two millennia ago and the town is proud of its ancient legacy.
The UNESCO Listed Roman ruins
You just can’t miss the incredible Roman theatre at Orange. It’s one of the best preserved Roman theatre’s in the world and it’s still in use to this day. A stunning facade with a statue of the Emperor Augustus who’s watched over the stage since 1 AD. It’s simply stunning.
Read all about the Roman Theatre at Orange here, including what’s behind the famous 37m high theatre wall.
The Roman Museum in Orange
Across the road from the Roman theatre is the Museum of Art and History. It’s a great little museum located in a 17th century mansion with an eclectic collection and a very famous map. In France a cadastral plan is a map that shows property in a village or town. In Roman times it was the same and amazingly fragments of a cadastre of Orange has survived. Quite how anyone could put all these tiny fragments together to come up with a map is beyond me, it must have been like doing the hardest jigsaw in the world with loads of missing pieces. It’s enormous and seeing it hanging on the wall makes you realise just how amazingly advanced the Romans were. Entry to the museum is free and on a warm day, it’s cool inside.
The Roman Triumphal Arch of Orange
A short distance from the theatre is yet another souvenir of the Romans – a grand triumphal arch. Until recently it was a place that cars drove though (it really doesn’t bear thinking about). Incredibly this vast, ancient monument has managed to withstand the pollution and vibration of traffic hurtling by. It hasn’t been ostensibly harmed by having a road run right through the middle. Thankfully the authorities have seen sense and have begun a programme of preservation. The arch is now surrounded by a roundabout and traffic is directed round it so you can see it up close safely.
The inside track
The centre of Orange is an easy place to get around on foot There are plenty of shops, restaurants and places to while away hours in the sun.
Orange is more than its Roman legacy. The town is lovely and great for spending a day relaxing, spoiling yourself with fabulous food and enjoying sitting in the sun watching the world go by. It makes for an excellent base in Provence.
Wine and dine in Orange
The pretty town centre has lots of choice for eating out…
Locals love: If you’re looking for somewhere fabulous for lunch or dinner, you can’t do better than La Grotte, built into the Roman wall of the theatre! It’s popular with the artists who perform at the theatre. And, the locals love the ambiance, the menu and the friendly service. www.restaurant-orange.fr
Ice Ice Baby: in this sunny place an ice cream is always a good idea. Head to Regal Tendance (1 Rue Madeleine Roch) by the theatre for the best ice creams in town. In summer lavender flavour is de rigeur and in winter the chocolate ice cream is delish. The flavours change regularly according to the seasons but if they have the Baladine Irlandaise flavour when you visit, don’t miss it, a whisky and marmalade ice cream that’s utterly delectable.
Aperitifs: Rosé wine is the most popular aperitif in Provence. Enjoy a glass at the laid-back Salon du Charlotte (4 Place Georges Clemenceau). Listening to the bells of the cathedral next door as you watch the locals meet and greet, faire la bise and chat animatedly = priceless.
Have a picnic: Shop at the terrific Thursday morning market. Or head to the lovely Le Comptoir des Gourmets shop in the centre of town next to the ancient Cathedral (1 rue Notre Dame). Run by renowned patissier Lionel Stocky who came to Orange via Alsace and Paris and Michelin star restaurants, this fabulous gourmet shop is full of the most amazing goodies. From tea, jams and honeys and every Provençal delicacy plus he makes the most spectacular cakes daily. Open Tuesday to Sunday, when, in the morning the shop is packed with church-goers buying their sweet treat for Sunday lunch after the service.
For the best cheese, Pleine de Terre in the rue de la Republique will stop you in your tracks.
Nip to the theatre shop for posters and books that make great gifts and are easy to pack in your suitcase. The theatre boutique also stocks Provencal goodies and Augustine’s chocolates, though they may not make it all the way home.
Take a selfie in Orange Provence
Take a selfie at the Roman theatre or on top of the mountain behind it – with the theatre in the background. Well worth the climb for its cool, shady landscape and in the summer an outdoor guingette (restaurant with music). On Sundays there is an orchestra and tea dance and on Saturday nights there’s a DJ and young people flock to dance under the stars (details from the tourist office).
Stay at: Au Vin Chambré is a lovely B&B with big, cool rooms and a gorgeous garden which makes for a brilliant breakfast venue – what a place to start the day. It’s within walking distance of the theatre and the train station. There’s also a fabulous restaurant here at lunch times only plus a wine shop. It doesn’t get much better than that does it?! www.auvinchambre.com
Around and about in Orange: Hire a bike and take a leisurely 6km ride for a picnic and lake swimming at Caderousse where you’ll find a pretty little town.
Get there: Avignon is 25 minutes by train, Marseille 1 hour, Lyon 2 hours and Paris from 3.5 hours by train.