Prehistoric cave gets a makeover in the Ardèche, boosting tourism in the Rhône-Alpes

The development of the prehistoric Chauvet Cave in the Ardèche, which could see tens of thousands of visits each year, boosts and diversifies the region’s tourism sector and generates new jobs, making its economy more competitive.

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The Chauvet Cave in the Ardèche, south-east France, was discovered in 1994, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site had to stay closed for conservation reasons. Its well-preserved figurative paintings, which are thought to be around 36 000 years old, are now accessible to the general public due to a replica of the original cave that has been painstakingly recreated with the help of EU funding. The site will also host a permanent exhibition providing a rich source of information on prehistoric life in the Ardèche and its surroundings.

The gorges of the Ardèche region are the site of numerous caves with geological or archaeological importance. The Chauvet Cave is uncharacteristically large and the quality, quantity, and condition of the artworks found on its walls are considered exemplary.

A prehistoric site boosting tourism and the local economy

The biggest asset of this project is that it not only boosts the tourist sector, but also diversifies its cultural activities, ultimately strengthening the appeal of the Rhône-Alpes region. Attracting more tourists is one of the main objectives of the EU’s Rhône-Alpes national operational programme. A second priority is to strengthen the economic base of the region. Revenue is mainly generated in the form of entrance tickets as well as through commercial and animation activities. In total, 65 permanent jobs have already been created.

Attracting visitors with 15 hectares of culture

The entire archaeological site extends over an area of 15 hectares and covers not only the restoration work on the original Chauvet Cave, but also a ‘discovery centre’ with a permanent exhibition, as well as indoor and outdoor spaces dedicated to workshops, conferences and temporary exhibitions. A restaurant with a terrace, gift shop and bookstore complete the site, which is expected to attract over 300 000 visits each year. 

The replica of the cave shows 1000 drawings and is believed to be the world’s largest replica of a decorated cave. Works started in autumn 2013 and were completed at the beginning of 2015. It was officially inaugurated in April 2015.

Both the replica of the cavern and the ‘discovery centre’ benefited from EU financial support. 

Total investment and EU funding

The “Réalisation de l'espace de restitution de la Grotte Chauvet de Pont d'Arch Ardèche” project represents a total investment of EUR 51 000 000, to which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 9 785 676 during the programming period 2007-2013.

Draft date

14/04/2016