- Fall in love with sun-kissed Provence – a land of wine and food, culture and history
- Explore ancient cities, natural wonders, beautiful beaches and sleepy, sun-drenched villages
- Discover this beautiful region of France on an escorted tour or Rhône river cruise
Medieval towns, Roman cities, the wild Camargue, delicious food, fine wine, sunflowers and lavender fields – Provence has all this and more. If you’re thinking about holidays to France, put the region of Provence on your bucket list for all these wonderful reasons. Here are our top 20 reasons to visit Provence, France.
Even if you’re not shopping for warm bread, fresh pastries, sun-ripened tomatoes or shiny olives, a visit to a vibrant Provençal market is a must. Produce stalls are set up in cities, towns and villages every week. The Arles’ Saturday market is considered one of Provence’s best.
Once the seat of Catholic popes, Avignon is today an immaculately preserved city with many chapels, churches, convents and a magnificent Gothic palace that is the largest in the world. The aptly-named Popes’ Palace (Palais des Papes) was built in 1335, and the ceremonial hall and cloisters are unmissable.
If you’re planning to visit Provence and want to witness the wondrous sight of purple lavender fields in bloom – and smell the herb’s intense fragrance – book a holiday between the last week of June and the beginning of August, before the harvest begins.
Delicious, locally grown, sun-kissed produce is in abundance in Provence, so every meal is a gastronomic treat. Vegetables, aromatic herbs, garlic and olive oil are tasty ingredients in many popular regional dishes, such as ratatouille and tapenade, savoured all the more with a glass of local wine. Discover the delights of the region’s wine and local cuisine on a gastronomic cruise along the Rhône river.
Pont du Gard
Also near Avignon, the 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard aqueduct is one of the wonders of the ancient world, standing over 48 metres high. A highlight of any trip to Provence, the three-storey arched bridge was built without mortar, with stone blocks each weighing up to six tons.
The wild Camargue
One of Europe’s major wetlands, the Camargue is famous for its white horses, black bulls and flamboyance of pink flamingos. There are around 400 species of birds residing in the flat saltwater marshland. Keen twitchers wondering when to visit Provence should choose spring or autumn.
Although full-bodied reds and dry crisp whites can be enjoyed on the south of France holidays when in Provence raise a glass of rosé. Usually a pale pink colour, rosé wines account for nearly 90 per cent of the region’s wine production and are refreshingly light.
Standing on the famous Rhône river, the city of Arles is a Roman treasure and a popular stop-off on a French river cruise. An important stronghold on the Roman road to Spain, impressive UNESCO-listed remains still stand, including a splendid amphitheatre and ancient necropolis.
Sunflowers and sunlight
Artists have been seduced and inspired by the light and colours of Provence for centuries. Vincent Van Gogh lived in Arles for over a year and created a multitude of works during that time, including Starry Night over the Rhône and five large canvases, all of sunflowers in a vase.
Possibly the most alluring port in Provence, Cassis is a delightful spot to take time out and watch the world pass by from a waterfront café or seafood restaurant. With fishing boats bobbing up and down in the harbour and a mighty medieval fortress looking down on the port, it’s picture-postcard perfect.
While you can’t deny the beauty of cities such as Arles and Avignon, Provence’s villages are every bit as picturesque. Uzès, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and Gordes are all worthy of a sightseeing trip. Gordes’ Sénanque Abbey, especially when it’s lavender season, will be a memorable highlight.
Everyone likes to take home a souvenir of a holiday and fortunately, in Provence, there is plenty of choices. From lavender-scented toiletries and Savon de Marseille soap to a jar of herbes de Provence and bottle of olive oil, hopefully, there’s space in your suitcase.
The French Riviera
The seemingly endless coastline of Provence is one of the most stylish in France, with glamorous beach resorts such as Saint-Tropez and Cannes. However, if you want to escape the summer crowds, one of the best-kept secrets is Menton. Visit in February for the fruity Lemon Festival.
Also known as Pont Saint-Bénézet, the unusual medieval bridge in Avignon once upon a time had 22 arches and was 920 metres long. Today, as a result of a siege and floods, only four arches and a tower remain. It ends abruptly in the middle of the Rhône river.
Take an enthralling journey through the Luberon countryside and you’ll pass olive and peach groves, lavender meadows and a swathe of mimosa and pine trees – the latter’s fresh scent also fills the air. No wonder the area enthused author Peter Mayle to write A Year in Provence – one of our 21 best travel books to inspire the traveller in you.
With its labyrinth of alleyways and squares, the ‘city of a thousand fountains’ was originally a spa town and is provincial France at its best. While in Aix-en-Provence, visit the workshop of Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne – it looks exactly how it did when he died in 1906.
Petit Palais museum
Located in Avignon, this 14th-century former archbishops’ residence is now a remarkable art gallery, with a collection of over 300 paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Don’t miss Sandro Botticelli’s famous Virgin and Child, and various artworks by Vittore Carpaccio.
Those with a sweet tooth take note, Provence has lots of sugary temptations. From candy-coloured berlingots with their distinctive sugar stripes and angular shape to calissons, traditional candied fruits and almonds topped with royal icing, confectionery fans will not return home empty-handed.
While you may struggle to get a ticket for the Cannes Film Festival, there are other events to enjoy in Provence. France’s largest arts festival takes place in Avignon over three weeks in July, while Camargue cowboys ride through Arles’ streets on horseback during Fête des Gardians every May.
Majestic Mont St Victoire
A symbol of Provence and the name of a series of paintings by Cézanne, Mont St Victoire is a white limestone mountain range, reaching an altitude of 1,011 metres. The highest point, Pic des Mouches, can be clearly seen from Aix-en-Provence, where Cézanne had a home.
Plan your Provence adventure
With so much to see and do, explore and discover, and eat and drink, a holiday in Provence is a treat for all the senses. Easy to visit on an escorted tour or Rhône river cruise, it’s a region of southern France that will entice you back time and time again.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.