Stage town for the 6th time Canton chef-lieu in Hautes-Alpes (05)

Population: 6,500 (Embrunais, Embrunaises), 16,500 for the Serre-Ponçon Community of communes.

Specialities: honey, trout farming, cheeses, game, fruit jam tarts, apples from the Alpes de Haute-Durance (Golden)

Personalities: Saint Marcellin (1st bishop of Embrun, 4th century), Luc Eyriey (chocolate maker), Camille Combal (TV and radio presenter), Laetitia Roux (ski-mountaineering, multiple world champion), Coraline Hugue (cross-country skiing), Jean-Baptiste Chandelier (paragliding).

Sport: 41 clubs, 4,680 members. Events: Embrun Bad (March, badminton), Grand Trail de Serre-Ponçon (June), Outdoor Mix Festival (June, extreme sports), Embrun 10 km (June, running), Embrun Man (August, triathlon). Cycling clubs: RPP Roule Pas Perso mountain bike club in Embrun; Vélo Passion, road and mountain bike club in Chorges.

Economy: winter and summer tourism, downhill and cross-country skiing (3 resorts within 15 km), Lake Serre-Ponçon, Lake Embrun, agriculture (cattle and sheep farming, cheese production, market gardening, forestry).

Festivals: L'Heure de l'Orgue (Organ Hour), Trad'in Live Festival, Medieval Festival, classical music concerts, Les Radeliers de la Durance (rafting)

Labels: Tour de France cycling town / 5th of the Villes de rêve (Dream townclassification / Tourisme et Handicap / Land of Art and History/ 20th century Heritage / Green Holiday Resort / Fishing Resort / Villes et villages fleuris 2 / Winner of the Thomas Joly diversity prize in 2021

Signature: Petite Nice des Alpes

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Thanks to one of the driest and sunniest climates in the region, the town has earned its nickname of "little Nice of the Alps". From the top of its rock, it overlooks the artificial lake of Serre-Ponçon, one of the largest in Europe, where the most seasoned triathletes gather every summer for the Embrunman. But in 2013, it was a “yellowman” who stood out. By winning the time trial between Embrun and Chorges, Chris Froome put even more distance between himself and his rivals to take the title for good in the 100th edition of the Tour de France. In 2008, Carlos Sastre won the stage and the Yellow Jersey at l'Alpe-d'Huez after starting in Embrun. In that edition, the town had the privilege of hosting two stage starts, the first of which ended in Prato Nevoso with the victory of Australian Simon Gerrans. In 1973, the riders headed for Nice, where Spaniard Vicente Lopez Carril claimed the first of his three Tour stage victories, a year before finishing on the podium behind Eddy Merckx and Raymond Poulidor. Embrun is also the adopted home of Eric Boyer, fifth in the 1988 Tour de France and former manager of the Cofidis team. In 2017, Embrun was the start of a stage that ended in Salon-de-Provence with an opportunistic victory for Edvald Boasson-Hagen, who had negotiated the final roundabout better than Nikias Arndt, who had broken away with him. Finally, in 2019, the peloton left the town for Valloire, where Nairo Quintana won the stage. 


  • Notre Dame du Real Cathedral

Construction: 1170 to 1220

Style: Romanesque.

Characteristics: It is considered to be the most important religious monument in the French Alps. Its architecture is largely inspired by the Lombard tradition. The porch of the Real (or Magi), framed by its two stylophoric lions, housed the miraculous fresco depicting the Adoration of the Magi for over two centuries. The cathedral's treasury, on display in the chapel of St François, comprises a priceless collection of liturgical vestments and ornaments dating from the 15th to the 19th century, sacred urns, documents, paintings and furniture, all testifying to the past grandeur of the archdiocese of Embrun.

Special feature: the cathedral's great organ, originally built in 1464 as a gift from King Louis XI, was completely rebuilt in 1750 by Samson Scherrer and his sons. It now has three manuals: positive, great organ and recital, as well as a French-style pedalboard. The organ was restored in 2008.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1840 

  • The Brown Tower

Built in the 13th century.

Style: Romanesque

Characteristics: Tour Brune (Brown Tower) is a former keep of the archbishops of Embrun, and is one of the last remains of the episcopal complex built from the 13th century onwards in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral. This imposing square tower, crowned with merlons and machicolations, is a powerful presence in the Embrun landscape. It symbolised the temporal power of the archbishops of Embrun, princes of the Empire, and was intended to protect the canonical quarter surrounding the cathedral. Its name is thought to derive from its former name of Tour d'Ambrune.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1927.  

  • Maison des Chanonges

Built in the: 13th century.

Style: Romanesque.

Characteristics: the house of the Chanonges (canons) is a rare example of Romanesque civil architecture (13th century). The façade (top left) features a high-relief sculpture of a lion eating a goat. The beams on the ground floor have been dated to 1291, which is consistent with the stylistic features of the architecture.

Current destination: home to Embrun's heritage and cultural department, it hosts exhibitions, conferences and meetings throughout the year.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1988.  

  • Notre-Dame de Bescodon Abbey

Construction: 1142.

Style: Romanesque.

History: the abbey was built by monks from the Order of Chalais with donations from Guillaume de Montmirail. In the 18th century, the abbey became part of the archdiocese of Embrun, and part of its buildings were destroyed. During the French Revolution, the abbey and its estates became national property. Joseph Berthe acquired the buildings. A hamlet grew up around the abbey church, which became a stable, cowshed and dwelling. In the 20th century, the population gradually left the hamlet.

Current purpose: at the instigation of the Dominicans and the Association of Friends of Bescodon Abbey, the abbey was restored in 1972 under the direction of the National Monuments and the restoration of the cloister was completed in 2012. It is now open to the public.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1989.  

  • Mount Guillaume

An emblematic peak culminating at 2,552m and overlooking the town of Embrun, Mont Guillaume is of particular importance to its inhabitants. In early July, the fully restored Chapelle des Seyères hosts a mass dedicated to Saint Guillaume, adding an extra dimension to the walk. Mont Guillaume offers magnificent panoramic views and is a historic site for French skiing, as well as being the site of an annual procession.  

  • Lake Serre-Ponçon

The devastating floods of the Durance in 1843 and 1856 led to studies into the feasibility of a dam. However, the permeability of the soil meant that new techniques had to be developed, and it was not until 1948 that an engineer from Moscow, Ivan Wilhem, came up with a viable project. Development work began in 1955 with Jean de Mailly as architect, assisted by Jean Prouvé, and the reservoir was impounded in November 1959, with completion in May 1961. Around 1,500 people were displaced and their villages (Savines, Ubaye, Rousset) flooded. The village of Savines was rebuilt and the new Savines-le-lac was inaugurated in 1962. Lake Serre-Ponçon is the second largest artificial lake in Europe.

  • Embruman

Embrunman is undoubtedly one of the most difficult XXL (very long distance) triathlons in the world. Competitors have to complete a 3.8km swim, a 186-km bike ride including a run over Col d'Izoard and a marathon, making a total distance of 232-km. The event was created in 1984 as a short-distance triathlon, before adopting the Ironman format in 1990. Over the past 40 years, the Embrunman has produced its own heroes, including Spaniard Marcel Zamora, a six-time winner between 2009 and 2017 (who also won five times in Nice), and Frenchman Yves Cordier, who won five times between 1987 and 1999 (finishing on the podium eight times) and is now the organiser of the French Ironman events. Among the women, former Scottish world champion Bella Bayliss Commerford has the most titles (three between 2002 and 2009).


  • Donkey ears

A traditional dish from the Valgaudemar and Champsaur regions, this speciality takes its name from the wild tetragones, whose leaves take on the shape of donkey ears when they reach maturity. It is a gratin of wild spinach and lasagne, or a pancake pastry. Traditionally, small pasta rounds are cut into pieces and placed in boiling salted water. The pasta is then alternated with a layer of spinach cooked in its own juice, a layer of béchamel sauce, then a layer of grated tome cheese. Add as many layers as you like. Donkey ears are generally served with a white wine from the Alpilles, Hautes-Alpes or Alpes-de-Haute-Provence regions.


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