17 Place de la Liberté

The village of St Guilhem le Désert

View of St Guilhem
St Guilhem olive grove

The village is situated in a beautiful valley full of olive groves and wild flowers, with the Verdus stream running along its length providing small waterfalls and plunge pools for cooling off.

In 2012 St Guilhem was voted the second most beautiful village in France, perfectly preserved and full of historic interest and medeival charm. The narrow streets meander from the Herault gorge at one end, following the course of the Verdus stream, past buildings dating back to the XII century, through the stunning square and beyond to the valley au Bout Du Monde and the Cirque de l’Infernet. Thanks to its historic significance and beauty, the village is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

aerial view village

There are seven restaurants, ranging from simple pizzerias to excellent local cuisine. For bigger shops, there is a mini supermarket in nearby St Jean de Fos and Aniane, the nearest small town, is eight minutes’ drive away.

The village owes its existence to the Abbaye of St Gellone which was founded here in 806 by Guilhem, a knight and counsellor to the emperor Charlemagne.

The village square, Place de la Liberté, is shaded by “le Roi Platane”, the largest plane tree in France, planted in 1855. Alongside the tree is a fountain dating back to the Second Empire which, along with numerous other springs around the village, provides a constant flow of water along channels running through the village streets.

The square is lively during the day but come the evening all is quiet and peaceful. Local vendors sell their produce from stalls in the square: a butcher, greengrocer and fruiterer, charcuterie, olives, cheese – and the village has its own bakery (and small grocery), tabac and post office.

VIEW via cemetery
green waterfall 1

The Abbey houses three pieces of wood from the True Cross, allegedly given to Guilhem by Charlemagne in recognition of his faithful service on the battlefield. Sickened by warfare, Guilhem sought a place of refuge and discovered this secret valley where he founded his abbey.

It subsequently became a significant stopping point on the Chemin de St Jacques pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella.

village passage 1
village street

The river Herault runs through the gorge at the bottom of the village, offering numerous swimming spots. Some are secluded, others are more popular thanks to the shallow river beaches and cafe nearby.

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A path above St Guilhem
Outskirts of St G

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