Reasons Why You Should Visit Provence at Least Once

There are so many amazing reasons to visit Provence | © Barat Rowland/Shutterstock
There are so many amazing reasons to visit Provence | © Barat Rowland/Shutterstock
Photo of Naomi Chadderton
26 July 2021

World-renowned artists have called Provence home over the centuries and for good reason. Lavender fields, Provençal rosé and Marseille’s Corniche Kennedy inspire visitors – whether painting or otherwise. There are numerous reasons to visit this sunny southeastern corner of France, which includes Aix-en-Provence and the fashionable Riviera around St Tropez and Cannes, so here’s our guide to make your holiday planning that little bit easier.

So you can sample delicious pale rosé wine

Winery
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aumerade-vin-juillet-2020-25-1800x1200
© Château de l’Aumérade
You might be more of a full-bodied red or crisp white wine drinker in the pub, but it would be sacrilege to travel all the way to Provence and not taste its world-famous rosé. Sometimes fruity, often dry and always distinctive in its very pale pink colour, Provencal rosé is made mainly from various combinations of red wine such as syrah, grenache and cinsault. You can sample them all at the numerous vineyards dotted around the region, such as Château de l’Aumérade, which is famous for producing Whispering Angel.

To shop the local markets for food, wine and antiques

Market, French, Mediterranean
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Marché Forville, Cannes, France
James Fenn / | © Culture Trip
Markets in Provence are a big deal – almost every city, town and village in the region has a market day. You can expect to pick up everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to flowers and antiques. Even if you’re not on the hunt for warm bread, ripening goat cheese, sun-baked tomatoes or a bucket of olives, visiting makes for an interesting day out. Some of the best include the flower market in Nice, the Marché Forville food market in Cannes and the fish market in Marseille.

You can see art from Cézanne, Matisse and Chagall

Art Gallery, Museum
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France, Alpes Maritimes, Nice, National Museum of Marc Chagall by architect Andre Hermant and created at the initiative of Andre Malraux, hall of the Biblical Message paintings
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Numerous painters, writers and sculptors have called Provence home: Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence on Rue de l’Opéra, Matisse and Chagall both lived in Nice, and Picasso resided in the small village of Vauvenargues. See their art in the Marc Chagall National Museum and Musée Matisse in Nice, while the Atelier Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence still contains all the painter’s furniture, still life model and work tools. Elsewhere, Avignon’s Petit Palais Museum contains over 300 paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The lavender fields are like nowhere else on Earth

Natural Feature
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Lavender fields in Plateau de Valensole with stone house in Summer. Alpes de Haute Provence, PACA Region, France
© Francois Roux / Alamy Stock Photo
Flowers bloom throughout the year in Provence, but none are more synonymous with the region than lavender, which turns acres of land purple. With more than 2,000 producers and roughly 25,000 people employed in the industry, working across 20,000 hectares, lavender is big business. You’ll want to book your trip between the last week of June and the beginning of August, just before the harvest begins, to see the flowers at their best.

To stroll around the historic commune of Avignon

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
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Avignon Bridge with Popes Palace and Rhone River at sunrise, Pont Saint-Benezet, Provence, France.
© Alpineguide / Alamy Stock Photo
Avignon, a city of less than 100,000 people, was the seat of the Catholic popes in the 13th century. Its history is preserved in chapels, churches and convents, plus the largest gothic palace in the world, Palais des Papes. Visit these places of worship along with Pont du Gard – a 2,000-year-old aqueduct that’s one of the wonders of the ancient world – for a rich history lesson. Plus, time it right and you’ll be able to enjoy France’s largest performing arts festival, Festival d’Avignon, which usually takes place over three weeks in July.

To hike around a natural wonder

Park, Natural Feature
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Breathtaking viewpoint on the cliffs, Calanques D'En Vau bay, Calanques National Park near Cassis fishing village, Provence, South France, Europe
© Janos Gaspar / Alamy Stock Photo
Calanques National Park, stretching between Marseille and Cassis, features meandering fjords that have been carved out by the sea over centuries, plus the Massif des Calanques. Pack your hiking boots to explore this rugged terrain that spans 4km along the coast – its highest peak, Mont Puget, is just over 550m high. Meanwhile, bathers might come in handy if you fancy exploring underwater caves.

The coastline is one of the most picturesque in France

Natural Feature
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France, Bouches du Rhone, Marseille, the Corniche of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (aerial view)
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
The seemingly endless coastline of Provence is known as the go-to place for beautiful people on private yachts, so its sandy sweeps are often packed to the rafters. Go beyond the obvious people-watching spots of Pampelonne and La Croisette, and instead head to Marseille’s Corniche Kennedy – where you can find private beaches with bars and restaurants such as Le Rhul, which has specialised in bouillabaisse since 1948. The small town of Menton is also a lesser-known but great option for families. It benefits from some of the cleanest waters on the French Riviera, thanks to its state-of-the-art purification system in the bay.

Its villages are charming

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
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Gordes is a commune in the Vaucluse departement in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region in southeastern France.The residents are known as Gordiens.
© Inge Johnsson / Alamy Stock Photo
Provence is full of chocolate-box towns and villages – many of them are members of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the Most Beautiful Villages of France), which promotes tourism in small rural pockets. Head to Vaucluse to discover seven of these villages, including Lourmarin, Ménerbes and Séguret – defined by their cobbled streets and sweeping views of the coastline and countryside. Uzès, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and Gordes are all worthy of a sightseeing trip too.

It’s a melting pot of culture

Museum
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Europe France Provence Avignon Musee Calvet
© Gregory Wrona / Alamy Stock Photo
From the coastal town of Cassis to the port city of Marseille – a great gateway to African culture – there’s centuries worth of history to uncover in and around Provence. Nice, which is close to the Italian border, shares plenty of cultural influences with its pizza-loving neighbour, while Aix-en-Provence is considered the cultural capital of Provence. The region is home to numerous museums, including Musée Calvet and Musée Lapidaire, and has a long association with history and nobility.

You’ll want to eat everything in sight

Restaurant, French, $$$
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La Tarte Tropezienne and box, a french cake and patisserie delicacy made in and around St Tropez and Cavaliare France.
© Julian Eales / Alamy Stock Photo
After sampling goods at various markets, you’ll be raring to tuck into local specialties in restaurants, including bouillabaisse (fish stew) from Marseille, chickpea pancake socca from Nice and a creamy Tarte Tropézienne (a cream-filled brioche) from St Tropez. The soil and weather conditions in the South of France are also perfect for growing culinary gold-and-black truffles, so you can sample some of the best in the business just after harvesting from November through to early March. Try a traditional truffle omelette at Chez Serge in the commune of Carpentras.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Alex Ledsom.

These recommendations were updated on July 26, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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