The Observatoire de Haute-Provence (OHP, Haute-Provence Observatory in English) was established in 1937 as a national facility for French astronomers. Astronomical observations began in 1943 using the 1.20 m telescope, and the first research papers based on observations made at the observatory were published in 1944. Foreign observers first used the observatory in 1949, when Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge visited.
OHP is situated in the southeast of France, about 90 km east of Avignon and 100 km north of Marseille. It lies at an altitude of about 650 m, on a plateau near the village of Saint-Michel-l'Observatoire in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département at .
The site was chosen for an observatory because of its generally very favourable observing conditions. On average, 60% of nights are suitable for astronomical observations, with the best seasons are Summer and Autumn. About 170 nights per year on average are completely cloudless. The seeing is usually around 2" but can reach 1" or lower on occasion. Seeing degrades severely, sometimes to over 10", when the cold Mistral wind blows from the northwest. This happens on about 45 days per year on average, mostly during winter. Good weather conditions often follow a Mistral. On average, atmospheric absorption at OHP is roughly twice that seen at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at La Silla, Chile.