Chapelle Saint-Jean, D558 – 0033 (0)4 94 56 04 93 – For information regarding opening hours, please visit the tourist office .
Place de la Mairie – 0033 (0)4 94 55 21 00 – For information regarding opening hours, please visit : their website.
40 Rue Saint-Jacques – Open from Tuesday to Saturday from 7.30am to 12.30pm & from 4pm to 7.30pm – Sunday from 7.30am to 1pm – Closed on Monday – 0033 (0)4 94 43 09 29
29 Route nationale – Open from Monday to Saturday from 7am to 12.30pm & from 4pm to 7.30pm – Sunday from 7.30am to 1pm – Closed on Wednesday – 0033 (0)4 94 43 69 20
21 Rue François Pelletier – Open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 12.30pm & from 3.30pm to 7.15pm – Saturday from 9am to 1pm – Closed on Sunday – 0033 (0)4 94 43 60 02
Things to Do
Cultural & historical sites
Le Fort Freinet
The Fort Freinet is a fortified village dating back to the Middle Ages (XII- end of XVI centuries). It is situated on a steep hill dominating the present village of La Garde-Freinet. The fort is registered as a natural exceptional site.
The panoramic view from this site is unique, stretching from the Pre-Alps to the Mediterranean Sea over the wooded hills of the Maures Mountains.
The strategic location of the fort, controlling the access of the plain of Vidauban at one side and towards the Gulf of Saint Tropez at the other made it an exceptional stronghold. The vestiges of this fortified village, counting thirty dwellings were discovered during archaeological diggings that lasted several years.
To get there, the path (in some places in the form of stone steps hewn into the rock) winds up the cliff, where the dwellings are laid out on different levels and are protected by an 8-10m deep moat.
The Saint-Clement parish Church
The parish church is dedicated to St. Clement, Patron Saint of the commune. In response to the growth in population of the village, the church was entirely rebuilt between 1782 and 1787 on the same site as the original medieval church.
In 1848, despite a petition of 150 names, not enough money was raised to buy the surrounding houses to create a gathering place in front of the church. Consequently, taking wedding photographs is almost impossible. The church has a simple plan with only one nave having been stripped of the confessionals, panelling and side altars, which once enhanced its interior.
The cross with the effigy of the Christ is one of the most recognised symbols of the village. It is 6 meters high and legend says that Reverend Father Mathieu who ordered its setting up decided to put it in the direction of the Place Neuve, responding in this way to the anti-clerical climate of the time and targeting particularly the atheist owner of the biggest house of the village. It is said he he told his opponent: “until the end of your days you will have the Christ in front of you!”. It was restored then in 1978.
The former Town Hall
The former Town Hall was inaugurated in 1827. The ceremony was preceded by a mass where the Priest blessed the building in the name of the Holy Ghost.
The ground floor of the building housed a classroom as well as the town jail or lock up. Its window can still be seen from Rue Droite. The first floor housed the council chambers and records office.
The old Town Hall and its surrounding narrow streets were the scene of a popular uprising in 1851. On 2nd December 1851, after news of the coup d’état by the “President Prince”, the future Napoleon III, the people of the Maures villages took up arms to defend the Constitution. Here, in La Garde-Freinet the inhabitants occupied the Town Hall and took the councillors hostage.
The jail was in use from 1827 until the beginning of the XX century.
Behind the barred window, the dark room is vaulted and measures 2,50m by 2,70m. The prisoners entered by a small door only 1,50m high situated under the staircase. During their stay, their only furnishings were two straw mattresses and two blankets.
The walls are covered with colourful drawings : signatures, horse shoes, sailing boats, portraits, crosses and poems. The prison was mostly used to sober up revellers like Camerio Giacomo, an Italian who wrote that he was put into prison on the 18th October 1870 “per avere berito tropo vino”
The Town Hall
The impressive new Town Hall of La Garde-Freinet was inaugurated in great pomp and ceremony in 1857. The building is decorated in serpentine, a green rock crystal worked as dressed stone. This extravagance was symbolic of the newly thriving and prosperous town.
The sale of chestnuts, the breeding of silkworms and above all the cork industry formed a solid economic foundation which tripled the population during the course of the XIX century.
The Town Hall overlooks a large public square (which used to be the cemetery) and is close to the main road linking Le Luc and Grimaud. This new position solved the various problems of security that arose in the old Town Hall during the 1851 riots.
As was usual, the building housed the schools for both girls and boys and accommodation for their respective teachers, as well as council chambers.
In 1889 a memorial was erected in the square to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution. As in many French towns, the emblem of this memorial is a beautiful woman known as the “Marianne”.
The washhouse is fed from the same spring as the adjacent “Fontaine Vieille”. The basins and draining boards were built at waist height so that the washers (women) could do their laundry standing up. In 1791, it was covered, protecting them from wind and rain.
The washhouse was further refurbished in 1812 to bring it up to date with XIX century “lavoirs” and to accommodate a growing population much more aware of hygiene and cleanliness. The “lavoir” was used for everyday laundry, using the sloping surfaces to soap and scrub the clothes and the higher basin for rinsing.
The main wash
The main wash was done once or twice a year, only the prewash and rinsing done at the “lavoir”. The rest of the procedure was done in the “cuvier” (an enormous container made of wood and iron with a hole pierced in the bottom). The laundry, carefully placed in the wash tub was put on a tripod over a cauldron. In another cauldron water was heated. An old sheet was draped over the soap impregnated laundry and then filled with a layer of cinders. The subsequent mixture of soap and potash “le lessif” was then collected in the bottom cauldron. This process was repeated several times.
The Old Fountain
The “Fontaine Vieille” was for many years the only fountain in the village. It was fully restored in 1812 at the behest of Mayor Joseph Jacques Amic. The renovated fountain has three linked basins each fed via a grotesque pagan mask. The overflow feeds a smaller stone trough.
The size of the fountain emphasises the importance of water supply points at a time when mains water did not exist. In earlier times the use of the fountain was strictly regulated and there were heavy fines for misuse. There were limits to the number of people drawing water at the same time, so as not to suddenly lower the level in the basins. Large containers could only be used for firefighting. Vegetables had to be cleaned of soil and roots so as not to dirty the water. Meat could only be washed at lamb and roe deer season, and even then, only in the small side trough.
In Provence, it is said, “l’aigo es d’or” (water is gold) and access to public fountains can be restricted in times of drought.
La Garde-Freinet is the ideal point of departure to discover the Maures Mountains. Hiking, riding or trekking… there is something for everyone from nature lovers, experienced hikers or families simply out for a stroll, La Garde-Freinet offers a multitude of walks.
On the picturesque footpaths, you will discover an exuberant range of Mediterranean flora.
During the periods representing an important fire risk, it is forbidden to go into the forests or onto the mountains. For more information, please call 0033 (0)4 94 56 04 93 or visit the gouverment website.
French cuisine -Dishes cooked in the wood burning stove are available from Thursday to Sunday evening – 33 Boulevard de l’Esplanade – Open for lunch midday from Wednesday to Sunday & every evening from 7.30pm – 0033 (0)4 94 79 67 37
Moroccan, Tunisian & vegetarian friendly, this restaurant offers an alternative to the majority of French cuisine restaurants in this town – Take away available – 10 Place Vieille – Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11.30am to 2pm & from 6.30pm to 10pm – Closed on Monday – 0033 (0)4 89 99 15 56
Every Wednesday & Sunday from 8am to 1pm – Come and discover local produce such as fruit & vegetables, wine, cheese, charcuterie, bread and much more – 172-312 Rue Saint-Jacques
Its location on a pass provides the origin of its name : “La Garde” (the guard); the “Freinet” was added later and refers to the plain of Ash trees stretching in former times to Grimaud and Cogolin.
From the end of the XIV Century the population living in the Fort Freinet began leaving the site and settled on the pass of La Garde, which was easier to access and to live. This phenomenon of leaving a perched village in order to settle elsewhere is well known in Provence. The new small town was called La Garde-Freinet. The first new district was the present district of St Joseph and extended to the present Place du Marché.
With the arrival of the cork industry in the XIX Century, the village experienced a remarkable growth. In 1872, a total of 2687 inhabitants were registered, with 660 cork workers. Following this development of prosperity, new districts were created: the district “Les Aires” and the “Place Neuve” amongst others.