A small selection of the many places to see and things to do in Provence – France. Our quick guide to some of the regions top sights.
Provence is an extraordinarily beautiful place. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of south eastern France, this diverse area has it all. Charming hilltop villages, impressive roman ruins, stunning sandy beaches, rolling vineyards and picture-perfect canyons. And with an average of 300 sunny days every year, it’s no wonder Provence is such a popular holiday destination.
When some of our close friends selected Le Petit Hopital in Isle sur la Sorgue, Provence as their October wedding destination, we didn’t need any convincing to attend. In fact, it was the catalyst for our last 18 month travel stint. The highlight of our time in Provence was undoubtedly sharing this special occasion with our friends. But with a few days either side of the wedding spare, we were keen explore this amazing area. There’s so many awesome things to see and do in Provence, you could literally spend weeks exploring this magical part of the world. But with only a few days here’s some of our favourites:
Flying into Marseille, France’s second largest city was our starting point. Not big city fans, we weren’t expecting much, but Marseille pleasantly surprised us. The Vieux Port (Old Harbour) was a particularly nice area to stroll around. The beautiful Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooks the port from the hilltop. And it’s well worth venturing up there for the amazing views. The charming Le Panier (Old Town) and its modern MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée), were also fun to explore.
Hands down, Gordes is one of the prettiest villages we have ever visited! Perched on the edge of the Vaucluse plateau overlooking the Luberon area, this hilltop village is simply stunning. With its tiered stone houses and their terracotta roofs scattered over the hill, its arguably best viewed from afar. But don’t just stop for a quick photo, it’s well worth allowing plenty of time to explore here. Aimlessly wander through the maze of windy cobbled stone streets to really appreciate this beautiful old village.
Not far form Gordes (10km drive), is another of the regions pretty little villages – Roussillon. Perched high on one of the largest ochre deposits in the world, this village stands out against the green trees and blue skies. The rusty ochre colours are everywhere. Its houses are all of reds, oranges and yellows, all colours coming from the ochre. Take some time to wander through the charming village and finish your visit off with the Ochre Trail. Complete the ‘short’ or ‘long’ walk, which wanders through the Mars-like ochre rock formations, shaped by years of erosion and quarrying.
Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, is yet another idyllic village of the Luberon area. Lourmarin’s windy cobblestone streets lead through ancient squares and past lovely fountains. Its many charming café terraces and restaurants, waiting to lure you in. Wanting a taste (literally) of Provençal life, we purposely visited on a Friday morning. Our visit coincided with the weekly market, one of the most beautiful in the area. Filled with amazing local produce, the enticing sights, smells and colours of Provence were everywhere.
Surround yourself with history in one of the most impressive places in France! Located on the banks of the Rhône, this UNESCO listed medieval city is spectacular. Home to the massive Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace) and Pont Saint-Bénézet (Bridge of Avignon) Avignon is unmissable! A great base to explore the Provence region, allow yourself plenty time to see all the city has to offer. Wander the old town, explore the massive Cathédrale Notre-Dame-des-Doms, stroll along the Pont Saint-Bénézet and dine out in front of the Palais des Papes.
Pont du Gard
Literally right on the border of the Provence and the Languedoc-Roussillon region, is the amazing three-tiered Pont du Gard. This ancient aqueduct is an architectural masterpiece, built to channel water over the Gardon river from the Eure springs near Uzès, 50km from the city of Nîmes (formerly Nemausus). It’s a true testament to Roman engineering. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its’s surely also one of the most scenic spots to ever take a dip. In the hotter months, bring your swimwear and picnic and just take it all in.
Close to Pont du Gard, Nîmes is technically found just inside the Languedoc-Roussillon region, rather than Provence. But, let’s not be pedantic! A city on the Via Domitia (the first Roman road built in Gaul to link Italy to Spain through Southern France), Nîmes is packed full of architectural treasures. Many Roman monuments remain, having stood the test of time and are still in fabulous condition. Les Arènes – the impressive Roman amphitheatre and the well-preserved Maison Carrée, are just two of the many historic sites found here.
This part of France is truly stunning. And it certainly deserves a lot more time than we could give it on this occasion. Our visit was always going to be a taste of Provence, a sampler of what the region had to offer. And boy, did it whet our appetite! We’ve already planned an epic road trip through the south of France, for the not too distant future. And we can’t wait to see more of this picturesque part of the globe.
Planning a trip to France? Don’t miss these posts: