Provence (or Provence-Alpes-Cotedazur) is a region in the South of France. The two main cities in the region are Nice and Marseille. Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, while Marseille is surrounded by charming French villages, vineyards, and lavender fields. Both cities have airports easily reached from within Europe. To visit Provence, flying to either airport is feasible. The airport you pick should depend on your desired itinerary and the flight options available.
Marseille is ideal if looking to visit the wine regions in Southern France, the coastal towns of Cassis or Marseille, Les Calanques National Park, the Verdon Gorge, Provence lavender fields or any of the smaller Provence towns (Avignon, Gordes, Lourmarin etc.). This area is more easily accessible with a car and provides a charming and more authentic holiday, with small villages and natural places to visit.
Alternatively, Nice is a convenient starting point to visit the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur) and perfect if looking to visit Monaco, the village of Eze, Cannes, Antibes, or St. Tropez. Exploring the French Riviera section of Provence will provide a different experience than areas around Marseille as it will be more focused on beaches, shopping, fashion and luxury vacationing. If both types of holidays interest you, plan a longer trip and use either Marseille or Nice as a departure and arrival point into Provence.
The train between Nice and Marseille is about 3 hours so it is also possible to do any of the options noted above from either airport. Simply keep in mind that flying to Nice to visit areas around Marseille (or vice versa) will require some additional travel time by train so plan accordingly.
Marseille and Nice will both be accessible with a direct flight from many cities in Europe. If traveling from within France, consider taking a train as both cities have train stations with trains traveling across the country. Both the Nice and Marseille airports are located about 30 minutes from the city centre.
For a diverse Provence itinerary, a car is highly recommended as it provides the most flexibility. When renting a car, I recommend picking a more established rental company like Avis, Hertz, or Enterprise. Be sure to assess the car for damage, taking photographs to document the vehicle beforehand so you are not incorrectly charged for damages upon return.
In Europe, and especially in Provence, renting a bigger car is not necessarily the better option. The roads and parking spaces are smaller, which can make driving a mid to large vehicle much more challenging. Outside of the city, parking can be difficult for a midsize SUV, both on the street and in parking garages as spaces are often quite small. Finally, remember to ask what type of fuel the rental car requires, as many cars in Europe may use diesel instead of petrol.
If you are not interested in renting a car, plan to stay in one or two locations which are easily accessible by public transport and consider booking tours to visit places outside your home base location. Avignon or Aix-en-Provence would be a good option if looking to see small French villages, lavender fields, and wineries.
Of course if your intentions are just to relax at the beach and stay local, then a car or tours will not be necessary. Plan to visit the French Riviera in Provence for the nicest beaches and little need for a car. Nice and Cannes are both easy cities to stay in on the French Riviera where a car would not be required.
Provence-Alpes-Cotedazur is a vast region, meaning the options for accommodations are expansive. Depending on the length of your trip, I would recommend picking a few places as a home base and then using a car to take advantage of visiting all the region has to offer.
Marseille is one of the two main cities in Provence and has its own airport. The city itself is busier and does not have the charm some of the smaller towns more inland offer. With this in mind, only stay in Marseille if it is for convenience directly before or after traveling to the region. For other nights, choose from the options below for a more delightful experience.
Located 30 minutes NW of Marseille, Aix-en-Provence (pronounced “X”) is not as large as Marseille but still feels like a small city. The city centre has lots of shopping, restaurants, wine bars, and cafes. The town itself is very centrally located and can accommodate daytrips to visit the wine regions around Provence, other small towns (Avignon, Gordes, Lourmarin, etc.), the Verdon Gorge, Lavender fields, Cassis, and Les Calanques. This makes it a great option for a home base for a few nights if you prefer not to move around to different accommodations.
In summary, Aix-en-Provence is nicer than Marseille, but not as cute and quaint as Avignon or other small villages.
Located about 1 hour north of Aix-en-Provence, Avignon is a fortified town with walls around the border of the town. The town itself has an old, cute feel to it and has plenty of dining and shopping options. I preferred Avignon to Aix-en-Provence and would recommend staying 1 – 2 nights here if you are more willing to move accommodations. Avignon is further from some of the other common daytrips (i.e. the Verdon Gorge, Les Calanques, St. Tropez) so best to plan a shorter stay here.
A port city, Cassis is about 1 hour east of Marseille. It is a fairly easy highway drive to reach Cassis from Marseille. The town itself is a bit rundown, similar to Marseille, but provides a convenience factor because transport around Cassis is limited. If you choose to stay outside of Cassis, plan to drive or walk into town for meals as taxis are limited.
That being said, there are a lot of vineyards around Cassis, some of which provide vacation rental options. We stayed in a rental around the vineyards, with incredible views over the surrounding region. This was perfect for two nights, but did come with challenges when traveling into Cassis for meals. It is possible to walk in the daylight, but walking back in the dark to accommodations can be nerve-wracking as some paths are not lit and there are wild boars in the area.
Tiny, adorable village about 45 minutes north of Aix-en-Provence. This hillside village overlooks the surrounding land. The town itself can be easily explored in a quick visit. It can also be a nice option for a single night stay where you arrive late afternoon and enjoy the quieter, more peaceful countryside with dinner overlooking the area around.
Part of the French Riviera, St. Tropez sits about halfway between Marseille and Nice on the coast. This makes it a feasible daytrip from different locations in Provence. From both Aix-en-Provence and Cassis, the drive takes about two hours. We decided to visit St. Tropez between Aix-en-Provence and Cassis, departing Aix-en-Provence early and arriving at St. Tropez around lunch time where we explored the town and had a lunch on the beach. Following lunch, we checked out the beach but then departed to reach Cassis.
Visiting St. Tropez is a feasible daytrip, but also can be done at a slower pace and more relaxing if one night is booked in St. Tropez. It is a very upscale, fancy location. If looking for a luxurious spot on the coast to stay, consider a few nights here, but if just trying to drop-in and check out the upscale lifestyle, a day is perfect.
Capital of the French Riviera with its own airport. The cities along the French Riviera (Cannes, Antibes, and Nice) are well connected by trains. Nice is centrally located if wishing to visit different cities and towns along the French Riviera including Cannes and Antibes, but also provides quick transport to Monaco and the small mountaintop village of Eze
Located a short train ride away from Nice, Cannes is an upscale beach town with good beaches and shopping in town. Cannes is great if planning to relax on the beach. If interested in visiting Monaco and the village of Eze, the journey will be slightly further from Cannes than from Nice as you need to pass through Nice to reach Monaco and Eze if traveling from Cannes.
4 nights in central Provence
2 nights in Aix-en-Provence
2 nights in Avignon*
*if prefer not to move around, then 4 nights in Aix-en-Provence will be more centrally located for different daytrip options
1 night St. Tropez
2 nights around Cassis
And if looking to expand the trip and spend more time visiting the French Riviera part of Provence, swap the order of Cassis and St. Tropez. Then stop in St. Tropez for a night and continue onto Nice or Cannes.
Provence is part of Southern France sitting on the Mediterranean coast with a great climate. It is known for its numerous wine regions, the French Riviera, rocky mountains, fields of flowers, and quaint French villages. It is the oldest wine producing region in France, making Reds, White and Roses with the main focus on Rose.
The Verdon Gorge is a river canyon and the deepest canyon in Europe. It is a spectacular site with the teal green water in the canyon and white cliffs on each side. The canyon river then opens up into Lake St. Croix with an aquamarine blue color.
Plan a day to visit the Verdon Gorge as there is a variety to do here.
The bridge at the mouth of the river which opens up into Lake St. Croix. This bridge is a famous photo spot for beautiful views of the Verdon Gorge from land. Around here will be the busiest with other visitors looking to take-in the view and enjoy the natural beauty from the water
The most common place, and recommended location to rent a boat from is around Pont du Galetas. There are various vendors on both sides of the bridge. None of the vendors allow for rentals in advance. With this in mind, plan to get to the Verdon Gorge in the morning. When visiting at the end of June, we had no issues renting a boat around 11 am. However, in busier periods, boats may be rented and you would need to wait for some to be returned and available. People can take them out for an hour or the entire day depending on their desires so better to reach the Gorge in the morning before it is busy. Additionally, the earlier you arrive, the quieter the river will be and it can be nice to explore the waters with fewer boats around.
Food options at the Gorge are limited to non-existent. Keep this in mind when visiting so pack snacks or eat before stopping here.
Take the boats over to Lake St. Croix from the Gorge and jump in for a swim. The water is a beautiful aquamarine blue. The lake itself is quite large so if not visiting the Gorge, you can access it from other locations.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a small town located about 15 minutes from Pont du Galetas. This town is slightly up on a hill. Park your car in one of the public parking lots, noting you will need to pay to park at one of the pay boxes and then put a printed parking slip in the window of your car. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is definitely worth a stop, and is an ideal option for lunch around your Verdon Gorge visit. Wander through the little streets, enjoy some gelato, shop around and sit for a drink or a meal.
When visiting the Gorge, take your car for a slow drive on the roads around the Gorge. There are towns nearby and roads with spectacular views over the Verdon Gorge and Lake St. Croix.
This hiking trail is a 16 km one way trail, with the two ends at Chalet de la Maline and Point Sublime. The hike has an elevation of approximately 600 meters and takes about 3 hours for a quick hiker.
One of the many reasons people come to visit Provence is for the wine regions. You can plan to take your car and book a few wineries to visit on your own, or alternatively, book a tour to chauffeur you around to different vineyards.
If you intend to visit wineries on your own, pick a region and take note of which vineyards require bookings and which take walk-in guests. Most prefer bookings to be done at least 1 day in advance, but there will be some you can drive up to and pop-in for a wine tasting.
Organized tour options vary by tour type (2-3 vineyards and lunch, 2 vineyards and a town visit with a break for lunch, 1 vineyard and multiple towns, etc.) duration (half-day or full day), departure location (Marseille, Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon will be the most common departure locations), and tour size (private, small group, large group) so find what is best for your itinerary.
Provence Wine Tours offers excellent private tours. Communication ahead of the tour was quick and informative, and the day was well-planned. The company offers a variety of different wine tours (private and small group) and provides different options for areas to visit. A few options we considered are noted below. Stephane was our tour guide and he was perfect; he was very friendly and taught us about the wines and region as a whole. He was a great guide and we had a great time exploring and tasting wine with Provence Wine Tours.
Check out a few of their tours available below, among many others to choose from on their website:
Private full-day wine tour around Aix-en-Provence
Private full-day wine tour around Bandol & Cassis
Private full-day wine tour around Luberon
Located about 30 minutes from Avignon, there are around 300 wineries in this region. Consider a wine tour of the region or make a stop at one after visiting Avignon.
Chateau La Nerthe is a beautiful chateau open to the public. It is a very old winery in Chateauenuf du Pape region and has a large estate. Wine tastings and tours can be booked in advance, or you can stop in for a free wine tasting. It is well worth a stop as the grounds are beautiful and the employees are very welcoming at the chateau to visitors.
This is an area of three mountain ranges in Provence dotted with picturesque villages around. Chateau Fontvert is an organic and biodynamic winery in Luberon.
The largest region, most well known, and most diverse within Provence. It includes four subregions: Sainte-Victoire, La Londe, Rejus, and Pierrefeu which each hold unique characteristics impacting the grapes and wines created. The majority of wine made here is Rose. Chateau de Beaupre and Chateau la Verrerie are a few wineries here.
The second largest region focused heavily on Rose
Here vineyards sit on the Alpilles mountains
Area sitting on the Mediterranean coast with a focus on white wines. Le Bagnol is a winery just outside the Port city of Cassis. Be sure to contact the winery to book a tasting or visit in advance.
Neighbouring Cassis with a focus on red wines
Smallest AOC region in Provence
Sitting on the east side of Provence near Nice
Located next to Luberon, home to some of the highest altitude French vineyards
This is a charming town sitting on the Rhone river, and is known as the gateway to Provence. Wander around the winding streets of Avignon’s Old Town within the city walls and take-in the cultural history the city offers. Stop by the Palais des Papes and walk up the hill for a view over the Rhone river.
Hillside village overlooking the region around it. The town is tiny and can be easily explored in a short visit. As the town is quite cute, plan to grab a bite to eat or drink at one of the restaurants with a view around the area. It is especially beautiful in the evening when the sun begins to set and the land is illuminated by the setting sun.
Do not miss the view of the town from the Gordes viewpoint. Plug in Town View Point Gordes into the Googlemaps as this is the best spot to admire the quaint town from afar.
Provence is very well-known for its lavender production, made possible by the lavender fields growing across the region. The best time to see lavender in bloom is late June to early July. If renting a car and planning to drive throughout the Provence region, you do not need to go out of your way to try to find a specific lavender field to visit. Simply drive throughout the region and you will come across the purple fields of lavender. If you are lucky, you will also spot some sunflower fields.
Located between Nice and Marseille, St. Tropez is part of the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur). It draws in many wealthy visitors as it is known to be a luxury destination. This explains why you will see tons of large yachts in the St. Tropez port and in the surrounding waters.
The town itself is separate from the beach area people visit (about a 15 minute drive).
Get lost in the designer boutiques or luxury brand shops in town
Walk up the hill in town to the Citadel of St. Tropez where you can wander around the grounds and enjoy a nice view over the town and surrounding water. You will need to buy a ticket to the museum to enter the grounds (4 Euros) and will not be able to enjoy the view without entering the closed off premise.
Walk along the harbour where many massive yachts are parked and enjoy the surrounding views
Reserve lunch at one of the beach clubs to enjoy a fancy meal on the beach. Expect this will be an expensive meal.
La Reserve – right on the beach, the location and food are excellent and is a Michelin guide recommended restaurant. The atmosphere here is perfect for a nice, fancy lunch. Consider sharing the Paella with a few people as this was the highlight of our meal.
Nikki Beach – known for having a few locations in other notable places like Miami and Dubai, the location in St. Tropez is not right on the beach. Instead it is in a more enclosed venue about a 5 minute walk from the beach and also has its own pool.
Verde – right next to La Reserve, this beach club has a more party vibe with loud music playing for the beachgoers renting chairs on the beach and those dining at the beachside restaurant.
Gigi Ramatuelle – restaurant hidden off of Pampelonne beach (not right on the beach) with a pool for visitors
The nicest beach in the area. You can rent a cabana / beach chairs or bring your own towel to get comfortable on the sand
Known for being a nudist beach
Les Calanques National park sits between Cassis and Marseille along the coast. A calanque is a narrow, steep-walled cove formed around limestone mainly found in Southern France. The park has lots of hiking trails to explore. When visiting Cassis and les Calanques, plan to explore on foot and by water.
From Cassis, consider a hike to a few of the Calanques. In the following order, Calanque du Port Miou, Calanque du Port Pin, and Calanque d’en Vau are the closest Calanques to the town of Cassis.
Begin the hike at the base of Calanque du Port Miou, which is about a 30 minute walk from the Cassis port. Start walking along the path running next to the Calanque into the national park. On this hike, you will see color markers along the path to help guide you on different routes. This hike will follow the red / white, and blue paths. Enjoy the views over Calanque du Port Miou. This port allows boats to be docked within it and is more accessible by car than others.
Follow the path that curves around the Port over towards Calanque du Port Pin. This Calanque has a small beach and the walk to reach here is not too challenging, which means it will get more crowded with beach visitors. Continue past Calanque du Port Miou until you see a divided path. Here there will be a sign which points the red/white path in one direction and the blue path in another direction. Either path is feasible, but the red/white path will be the quicker option to reach the next Calanque. The red/white path ascends quicker while the blue path winds around the outer edge of the Calanque. If following the red/white path, you will quickly begin an upward climb. Once you reach a point where the ground opens up and levels off again, look for another trail sign. At this point, you are between Calanque du Port Pin and Calanque d’en Vau and this is a decision point.
For a panoramic view of the Calanque d’en Vau, follow the blue path (turning LEFT) until you reach a panoramic point around the Calanque. Note you will not be able to see the bottom of the Calanque from here but the views are beautiful. This will be the easier, and quicker, of the two options. If you are looking for a short hike that provides land views of the Calanques, you can turn back after reaching the panoramic viewpoint and return the way you came.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a longer, more challenging hike or full-day adventure with a beach break, then follow the red/white path. This path will take you down to the base of Calanque d’en Vau where there is a beach. The path down can be challenging and steep at times. It will add significant time to go down and up the calanque so it can be nice to spend some time relaxing at the beach at the bottom. This Calanque is beautiful, and definitely the nicest of the three visited on this hike, but it can also be seen by boat for those not interested in traversing down the side of the Calanque to reach the beach.
Seeing Les Calanques from the water is a must-do when visiting. There are numerous Calanques and the views from the water are stunning. When visiting by boat, it also gives you the chance to swim in different areas, snorkel and see the sea life around, as well as take-in the views of the white limestone cliffs soaring out of the Mediterranean Sea when traveling between the Calanques.
Blue Evasion offers a variety of tours departing from Marseille including an all-day catamaran tour, afternoon motor boat tour, and sunset evening tour. The afternoon half-day motor boat tour was excellent. It was supposed to depart from Marseille, but was rescheduled to depart from Cassis because of strong winds around Marseille. Our guide, Adrian, was fun, very accommodating and flexible to the groups’ desires. Blue Evasion also provided some snacks and drinks on board to the group and we were permitted to bring our own if desired.
Highly recommend booking a boat tour when visiting Cassis and Les Calanques.
Cassis is a smaller port town about 1 hour from Marseille. It is a great place to stay to visit Les Calanques and wineries in the Cassis wine region. The town of Cassis itself does not need much time to visit, but provides some nice options for meals. Stay away from the restaurants right on the port, and instead venture to some of the smaller backstreets where you will find more authentic and higher quality restaurants at a good price.
On Wednesday and Friday mornings, vendors set-up food stands in the historic city centre selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, olives, fish, seafood and more. The stalls stay open until about 13:00 in the afternoon.
In the summer evenings, craftsmen and clothing vendors set-up stands to sell their merchandise from jewellery and accessories to clothing to local Provence goods.
Cute wine bar sitting on a side street on the edge of the city centre. It is hidden away from other busier areas and clearly draws in a more local crowd. The wine bar has nice outdoor seating, with a variety of snacks and drinks available for order. This is a great spot for a wine and snacks or a lighter meal. It is also open later than most standard restaurants, providing a late evening option
Michelin star restaurant with beautiful grounds and outdoor dining. It is located about a 15-minute drive from the city centre of Aix-en-Provence. Consider booking in advance as last minute it likely will not be available. Since many restaurants in France are closed on Monday, Gaodina is typically open and can be a good option for a Monday evening.
French restaurant in the city centre. They offer indoor and outdoor seating, and serve traditional French dishes including frog legs and escargot.
French style tapas with a variety of options great for sharing. The restaurant is open on Sunday, which is helpful as it can be challenging to find places to eat on Sundays.
French restaurant in the city centre on a smaller street away from the port. The menu is smaller, but the food is tasty and provides a nice French meal.
Located on a side street just off the main port, this is a casual French restaurant with delicious options. Be sure to have fish or seafood while in Cassis as the town sits right on the Mediterranean Sea.
Cocktail bar and Japanese restaurant with spectacular view of the Luberon Valley. If not staying in Gordes, this is a great place to stop for an afternoon drink or snack.
Michelin recommended restaurant, L’Agape sits in a cute square in Avignon. They offer a tasting menu or a la carte and the food is excellent.
Another Michelin recommended restaurant, La Reserve a la Plage sits right on the beach in St. Tropez on the French Riveria providing stunning views of the Mediterranean from your table. The food is fantastic and service is excellent, but it will be quite an expensive meal. Call in advance to make a booking to ensure you have an opportunity to enjoy a long lunch on the beach here.
Boulangerie (French bakery) for good croissants and coffees in the morning
Bakery near the port in Cassis with croissants, bread, sandwiches, and other snacks
Little café on the way into the town with drinks, snacks and delicious gelato.
Provence has so much to offer and the duration of your trip will have to depend on how much you want to cover. 7 days is ideal to be able to cover a variety of the Provence region. See sample itineraries for different options to help define your ideal holiday in Provence.
Southern France draws in people for a holiday for many reasons, with its warm climate being a big appeal. June through September is an ideal time to visit Provence for warmer, beach weather. The lavender fields are in their prime bloom period at the end of June and beginning of July, which may impact your trip planning. If hoping to visit with less other tourists, consider May or September when the weather is still quite nice.
As Provence is in France, the dominant language spoken is French. From our experience, those who were able to speak English were happy to, but it is less widely known than in cities like Paris.
Many restaurants and shops will be closed on Sunday and / or Monday. With this in mind, if you are traveling on a Sunday and Monday, it may be worth looking at where you would like to eat in advance and make a booking. This allows you to then easily walk-in to other restaurants on other evenings.
Additionally, French restaurants are only open in specific timeframes. Most places traditionally are open for lunch from 12:00 – 14:00 and for dinner from 19:00 – 22:00. You may find some restaurants that expand their opening times past these few hours, but many will only be open for this period of time. Thus, be sure to plan you meals with this in mind as it can be challenging to find places to sit down for a meal between 14:00 and 19:00.
Provence is a key wine region in France, producing red, white and rose wines. Wines in France can be classified differently. If a wine is noted as an AOC wine, it means the grapes have been grown in a certain area and meet specified criteria often resulting in higher quality wine. The wines are required to meet specific blend percentages and follow strict protocols.
Rose is one of the main focuses in Provence. Note that rose is made from red grapes, where the skins are removed sooner than when a red wine is produced.
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks