If you need a reason to visit Lacoste, perhaps it is to be found in the summer arts festival held in a quarry outside the haunting ruins of a Chateau once belonging to the notorious Marquis de Sade and now owned by Pierre Cardin. Lacoste is a small town, but hosts a School of the Arts now operated by Savannah College of Art and Design. Yes, English is widely understood here.
But the real reason to visit Lacoste is to wallow in the charm of its medieval architecture that seems unchanged over time, as well as the Sade castle ruins and the views over the valleys of the Vaucluse.
Lacoste is worth a half day and is easily combined with other Luberon villages as a day trip. The town spills down a ridge topped with the Chateau de Sade. You'll walk uphill quite a bit from wherever you park. As for public transportation, the local bus stops 4km outside of Lacoste.
The street leading up to the castle is stunning, set with all manner of little medieval architectural features you might miss in other places. You'll probably meet students of the College of Art and Design speaking English in the streets. If you go in the off season you'll have the place pretty much to yourself.
Lacoste is in the Luberon region of Provence in southern France. Here's a list of other Luberon towns I recommend visiting. All are within 10 km of Lacoste.
- Bonnieux (which you can see in the distance from the Chateau de Sade) 4km
- Goult 6km
- Ménerbes 6km
- Rousillon (and the interesting Ochre Trail) 8km
- Oppède 10km
The Chateau de Sade
Lacoste is crowned by the crumbling walls of the Chateau de Sade, the castle of the notorious Marquis de Sade. It's slowly being restored, having fallen into the hands of fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who has bought up many homes in Lacoste as well as the residence of Casanova in Venice. But, aside from the arts festival, it's really all about the de Sade family.
De Sade moved from Paris, probably running from his reputation and sexual transgressions, into the family chateau in 1771. He evidently loved it.
Like everything Sade undertook, including his orgies, his remodeling program was lavish and fastidious. He spent large sums redecorating the castle's 42-room interior. Amateur theatricals were the rage in 18th century France, and he installed a private theater that could seat an audience of 80. He was a passionate landscape gardener, and at the northern end of the estate, which overlooks the hills of the Ventoux, he fashioned a labyrinth of evergreens copied from the black-and-white motif of the floor in the cathedral of Chartres. ~ The Marquis de Sade at La Coste
The theater tradition continues at the Chateau de Sade, in summer the Festival de Lacoste is held in July and early August.
How do residents of Lacoste view Pierre Cardin's Lacoste land grab and arts festivals? One gets the impression that many residents are becoming disenchanted. See: Does Lacoste want the grand designs of Pierre Cardin? Non merci and It Takes a Wealthy Man to Raise a French Village.
Lacoste is extremely picturesque, and the views over the valley are stunning. See our Lacoste France Pictures for a virtual tour of the town and a look at the Chateau de Sade as well as a view of Bonnieux from the castle.
Lacoste, France: The Bottom Line
I give the village of Lacoste four stars, mostly for the ambiance, the views, and the rather foreboding castle. It's true that there's not much to do here after you've taken your walk and your pictures. You can have a coffee at the Café Sade or take lunch in the "panoramic" restaurant, but that's it. And there is a kind of creeping modernity in some of the Cardin and Cardin inspired shops that are starting to sprout in the village--not that that's entirely a bad thing, you'll have to decide for yourself.
As for me, I liked Lacoste quite a lot.