Provence is one of my favorite French regions that I’ve had the opportunity to visit. I used to associate it only with lavender, but now I know it is a land rich in natural wonders. So today I’d like to invite you to read an article about what to see and why you need to visit Provence France. You will learn about the most exciting sights and attractions that you should not miss while in Provence and the best curiosities. Lastly, I also share at the end of the article some practical advice to organize your stay.
Map of Provance France
Before going through the essential points of interest to visit in Provence, it is advisable to consider what this geographical area represents. It is located in the South-East of France, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, with :
To the north, the mountainous area of the southern Dauphiné.
To the south, along the coast, between Cassis and Menton.
The center of Provence, inland, essentially spread over the departments of Vaucluse and Bouches du Rhône.
Visiting Provence is mainly about discovering its villages, sites, and landscapes. But this region also includes some cities that can be formed during a visit to Provence. In particular, to add an artistic touch to your stay.
What to see in Provence, France
If you have ever wondered what to see in Provence, France, the lavender fields of Provence are one of those places that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. So knowing when the lavender blooms are essential when planning a trip to Provence is.
Lavender blooms from the second half of June to the middle of July, with some fields blooming as early as the first half of August. The higher up the lavender field, the later it blooms. It is unlikely that you will be able to see any lavender fields in bloom if you visit the region in the second half of August. Furthermore, the lavender bloom map below will assist you in locating areas that will be in bloom on a specific date.
Thus, Provence is quite a large and diverse region of France. Beautiful landscapes, picturesque towns, the sea, mountains, valleys, vineyards, and numerous purple lavender fields stretch to the horizon. In addition, the most significant number of lavender fields can be found in Haute Provence. Also the most popular lavender spots are the Plateau de Valensole, Plateau de Sault, and Massif du Luberon.
Suppose you don’t have much time to search for lavender. In that case, I recommend focusing on the area around Plateau de Valensole, where I think the most beautiful fields are located. Besides the fabulous lavender fields, I also suggest you see the tiny but noteworthy towns in Provence: Roussilon, Gordes, Salut, Simone-La-Rotonde, Rougon, Moustiers-Santa-Marie, Aurel, and Lourmarin, as well as the Verdon Canyon, the Côte d’Azur, the Colorado of Provence and the Abbey of Senanque.
Areas of Provence France
One of the most beautiful areas of Provence France, is the Verdon Canyon (French: Gorge du Verdon). Did you know that the Gorges du Verdon is the largest canyon in Europe? Indeed, it is a spectacular site located on the border of the departments of Alpes de Haute Provence and Var.
It is another crucial step when you want to visit Provence. Obviously, I even advise you to stay there for a few days. To enjoy all the wonders of the Gorges du Verdon, between spectacular viewpoints, small villages, sports/leisure activities, and relaxation at the lake of Sainte-Croix. There is so much to do!
My must-sees in the Gorges du Verdon: hiking on the Blanc-Martel trail, the Imbut, the Pêcheurs, the Bastidon, climbing, canyoning, canoeing/kayaking, visiting Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Rougon, la Palud Sur Verdon, swimming in the turquoise waters of the Sainte-Croix lake, taking the Route des Crêtes by car, motorcycle or bike.
Best places in Provence France
Provence also has no shortage of tiny towns that transport you back to medieval times. So places that I think are absolutely must see are Sisteron, Gordes, Aurel, Moustiers Sainte Marie and Fontaine de Vaucluse. And, of course, the famous Avignon. Its historic center was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in the 90s of the twentieth century.
The most important monuments are the Gothic Palace of the Popes (fr. Palais des Papes), the Romanesque Cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms, the medieval defense walls with a length of more than 4 kilometers, and the twelfth-century partly demolished bridge Pont Saint-Bénézet known from the song On the Bridge of Avignon (fr. Sur le Pont d’Avignon).
Also known as the French Riviera, stretches along the Mediterranean from Cassis to the border with Italy and the tiny Principality of Monaco. Includes many seaside resorts, medieval villages, nature parks, and Roman ruins. Therefore, it’s the perfect place to spend an active vacation. The most beautiful places that should be on your must see list are Nice, Villefranche sur Mer, Èze, Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Menton, Saint-Paul de Vence, Antibes and the tiny village of Ramatuelle.
Located in the heart of the Verdon Regional Park, Moustiers Sainte Marie is a must-see if you are planning to visit Provençal towns. Despite not being significant, this town has been recognized as one of the most beautiful towns in the south of France. And indeed, it is hard to disagree.
Moustiers Sainte Marie
Is a very atmospheric place, extremely picturesque, and it is difficult to deny its charm. Not only the town itself is dramatic, but also the surrounding landscape delights. So it is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Provence.
Built at the foot of a steep cliff, Moustiers-Sainte-Mariespremains as if it were squeezed into a small ravine that divides the town into two parts. Moustiers Sainte Marie is also a place of stone houses. Narrow cobblestone streets full of atmospheric restaurants and cafes, charming little alleys where you can get lost, stores with ceramics and lavender souvenirs, and the ever-present sound of water.
Situated at the top of a steep hill, Gordes prides itself as the most picturesque village in France, listed as Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Without a doubt, Gordes is one of the most beautiful places in Provence. With many vantage points overlooking the Luberon Regional Park, you can admire the idyllic scenery surrounding it.
Its picturesque location draws tourists, photographers, Instagrammers, painters, and artists from all over the world like a magnet. The village was home to famous artists such as Marc Chagall, Jean Deyrolle, Serge Poliakoff, André Lhote, Victor Vasarely, Dewasne, and Pol. Mara.
The Mediterranean climate and quiet pace of life create ideal conditions for relaxation. It is no wonder that French politicians, journalists, artists, and film stars have liked this place. So there are many local attractions in the Gordes area. Such as a village of dry-stone huts called Les Bories and the picturesque Abbey of Sénanque (where a local monk hid 13 elderly villagers during the bombing and repression of 1944). In addition to this, the most beautiful viewpoint is at the very entrance to the town – road D15.
Roussillon is often considered one of the most beautiful towns in Provence. It is hard to disagree with this designation due to its picturesque location atop a red cliff, one of the most significant ochre deposits globally, and the unique color that sets it apart from other towns. The village of Roussillon offers beautiful views of the surrounding Luberon Valley. Because of the orange hue of the soil, it is often compared to the Colorado River in the US (often referred to as the “French Colorado”).
Aix-en-Provence is very popular among tourists. And for several reasons. It is known as the place where Provence begins and fabulously colorful lavender fields. It is also reasonably deservedly called the city of a thousand fountains. Finally, it is here that Paul Cezanne created his paintings.
Aix offers visitors numerous prestigious cultural sites, museums, foundations and cultural spaces, and archaeological sites that bear witness to its rich heritage.
To see and do in Aix-en-Provence :
Take a walk on the Cours Mirabeau, one of the city’s most famous streets, where you can find beautiful mansions, bars, restaurants, beautiful signs, and its beautiful fountain.
- The Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is known for its flower market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
- The Mazarin district, with its beautiful residences and fountains
- The Painters’ Field: it is from this place that Cézanne painted the famous Sainte Victoire mountain. There are also reproductions of his most beautiful paintings.
- Enjoy the university atmosphere in the evening
- Taste the calissons of Weibel and Le Roy René, two local institutions
Cassis is a Mediterranean fishing port not to be missed when visiting Provence. Overlooked by a centuries-old castle, the town is famous for its small port and creeks with steep limestone cliffs and crystal clear waters.
The port is surrounded by colorful old buildings, cafes, and restaurants. The local vineyards are known for the production of Cassis white wine. I advise you to go to the Domaine du Paternal, the wine is excellent, and the site is worth a visit!
Hiking trails go through the immense Cap Canaille with its rocky walls and offer a panoramic sea view. The Calanque de Port-Miou (hiking), the Cap Canaille (cliff, hiking, and climbing), the Plage de la Grande Mer, and the Plage du Bestouan (pebble beach famous for swimming) are the main activities not to be missed in Cassis.
La Ciotat is located about ten kilometers from Cassis on the Mediterranean coast. Things to see and do in La Ciotat :
- The botanical garden of the Parc du Mugel, with tropical plants, pebble beaches, and playgrounds.
- The large Ciotaden museum, located among the cafes and bars of the restored Old Port district, offers exhibitions on the history of shipbuilding in the city and the invention of pétanque.
- The Eden Theatre is the oldest active cinema in the world.
- The Light Beach
- The Green Island accessible by boat from the port of La Ciotat
- The Route des Crêtes offers breathtaking panoramic views between Cassis and La Ciotat.
- Diving in the Figuerolles cove
When is the best time to go to Provence?
Provence is enchanting at any time of the year. However, from mid-November until the end of March, you can expect constant rain, so it is worthwhile to go on vacation in Provence at another time. It is warmer in April, and the flowers and trees bloom. In May and June, you can see poppies everywhere, and at the end of May, lavender starts to bloom.
As far as temperatures go, you can expect around 30 degrees Celsius in the summer and cooler winds. In fact, the heat is here from May to September.
Accommodations in Provence
If you want to spend more time in Provence, you have two options. Stay in one place and make day trips visiting selected attractions or plan a few nights and visit their surroundings. Which option will be the best? I will not suggest it here, because it mainly depends on the length of stay. If in doubt, write in the comments under the article. I will try to hint at something.
Accommodation in Provence is possible in larger cities, small towns (basically villages), and the complete wilderness. You can choose from Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon and Arles when it comes to cities. I suggest you consider staying in Aix, as it is a beautiful city, well connected with Marseille to the south and with easy access to the heart of Provence, the Luberon region to the north. An overnight stay in Avignon is also a good choice, but that’s on the western border of Provence.
In Provence, you can visit some of the most beautiful towns and villages, like the Luberon. The surroundings of Gordes, Lourmarin or Lacoste are places with much nice agritourism (in France, usually hidden under the name of gites). It is best to choose accommodation with a swimming pool because it is sweltering there in summer and afternoons are best spent on a deck chair by the water.
The last option is accommodation in the middle of nowhere. I’m thinking, for example, of the area between the Verdon canyon and Brignoles, near the Alpilles hill range east of Arles, and near Sisteron, in the northern part of Provence. Here are some recommended accommodations in Provence.
Have you already visited Provence France? Have you seen the lavender fields of Valensole? Or are you already making your travel plans?
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