Provence: what to do, what to see

Provence can be tranquil or social, wise or wild, unpredictable or calm, stormy or sensible. Seek out secret creeks along the coast, get drunk on the fragrance of lavender or take in a concert in the Roman amphitheatre in Nîmes. The one thing we can promise is that you’ll never be bored. 

Not to miss sights in Provence

• Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde and the Mucem in Marseille

Marseille knows how to seduce a vistor. From the top of Notre-Dame de la Garde, she offers her most beautiful profile, a cinematographic panorama of the Frioul islands, the creeks, the Old Port, its many ochre walls that run down to the sea—the crown jewel is the Mucem, draped with a black concrete lace, integrated harmoniously between the Fort Saint-Jean and the Cathedral of the Major.

• The city of Aix-en-Provence

In the 18th century, it was dubbed "the little Versailles" for its elegant architecture. Between the classic mansions, mossy fountains, and Renaissance houses, it's hard not to fall in love. Go up the Cours Mirabeau, make a cultural stop at the Hôtel de Caumont or the Granet Museum, and linger at the ancient Roman baths to taste living history in Aix.

• The palace of the Popes in Avignon

The capital of Christianity in the 14th century, Avignon was distinguished by its palace of the Popes, mainly built by Benedict XII and Clement VI. This huge Gothic building, with its powerful towers, courtrooms, chapels and ceremonial halls, imbued with delicate frescoes and vibrant colors. In July, the court of honor turns into a theater scene during the Avignon Festival.

• The Baux-de-Provence and its Quarry of Lights

Ranked among the most beautiful villages in France, this fortress perched on the Plateau des Baux has protected its inhabitants since the Middle Ages. Some main attractions are its old castle, its keep, its Romanesque church, and its Yves Brayer museum. Not to miss: the Quarries, which immerse the visitor in a bath of digital images, projected on the floor and the 14 meters (46 feet) high walls.

• Gorges du Verdon

This Provençal canyon, carves a spectacularly beautiful path between the Var and the Hautes-Alpes. The water sparkles emerald, surmounted by steep cliffs that soften when the Verdon flows into Lake St. Croix. Drink in the landscape by hiking on marked trails, climbing the walls, playing aquatic sports and taking the road ridges electric bike.

• Mont Ventoux

"Mount Bald" culminates at 1911 meters (6270 ft) of altitude emerging from the storybook fields of Provençal lavender—its steep slopes welcome the Tour de France cyclists. From its limestone summit, on a clear day, the view encompasses a panorama that goes from the Alps to the Central Massif, through the Camargue, the Cevennes and the Mediterranean.

• Gordes, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Roussillon ...

Villages are like the people that make them up—beautiful, and no two are exactly alike! In the Luberon Regional Park, Gordes stacks its stone houses on a hill overlooking the valley. Also in the Luberon, Roussillon lives in the heart of an ocher deposit, the clay coloring the houses and the land with a thousand glowing hues of orange-red. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, the small capital of the Alpilles, lazily embodies the Provençal art of living with its squares shaded by plane trees and artists' studios.

• Saint-Sauveur Cathedral in Aix-en-Provence

Built on the old Aurelian Way, between the 5th and the 17th century, this cathedral blends three different styles: Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque. An unmissable sight is the triptych of the Burning Bush, painted by Nicolas Froment in 1476, as well as the church's organs, piping music through this classified historical monument.

• Sainte-Victoire Mountain

From its height of 1011 meters (3317 ft), the mountain dominates the country of Aix, offering views to see the sea and the Alps in clear weather. Sainte-Victoire attracted the painter Cézanne, and nowadays sportsmen, walkers and lovers of religious heritage. The steps on the climb are called Prieuré Sainte-Victoire, Ermitage Saint-Ser, the Croix de Provence.

• The Camargue

The regional park of Camargue extends into the Rhone delta, and offering many routes of discovery, whether walking, cycling or horse riding. As far as the eye can see, lie vast wetlands, marked by salt marshes, flooded meadows, lagoons, home to horses, bulls and flamingos.

The Camargue (External link)
The Verdon Gorges (External link)
The city of Aix-en-Provence (External link)
The Papal Palace in Avignon (External link)
The Carrières de Lumières (External link)
Mont Ventoux (External link)
The Mucem - the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations - in Marseille (External link)
Mont Sainte-Victoire (External link)

Things to do in Provence

• Trek the lavender road from Sault to Valensole in early summer

The Romans perfumed their linen with lavender grown here thousands of years ago—the spiky purple flowers flourish on this territory from the Drôme to the Alpes-Maritimes, via the Hautes-Alpes, Vaucluse and the Alpes de Haute-Provence. Several routes run through the fields, following the blooms, between mid-June and the end of August. There's no splendor in France quite like the plateau of Valensole covered with purple in early July!

• An oenological initiation from Bandol to Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Provence has a wide variety of vineyards, and its AOCs are internationally renowned, be it the Côtes de Provence, Côtes du Rhône, Coteaux d'Aix, Bandol, Cassis, or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. On the wine roads, visitors can sip aromatic rosés, delicately fruity whites and reds of strong French character.

• Stroll through the villages of Luberon and Alpilles

The Luberon is full of medieval villages perched on its heights: Bonnieux, Lourmarin, Lacoste and Ménerbes to name a few. There's nothing like strolling their sleepy lanes at siesta hour or stopping at a terrace overlooking the orchards of olive trees. In the Alpilles, the villages crisscross through the scrubland: the Baux de Provence, Eyguières, Maussanne, Mouriès...

• Soak in the spectacle of the Calanques

About 20 carve out into creeks between Marseille and Cassis, in the national park. Accessible by hiking and boating, the calanques offer beautiful natural indentations between the clear waters of the Mediterranean and the steep cliffs of the mountains. Marseilleveyre, Sormiou, Morgiou, Sugiton, En-Vau, Port-Pin, each have their own beauty and character. They're a sight to be enjoyed and protected.

• Play the movie star in Saint-Tropez

This charming village always seems ready to party! Have a seat at Sénéquier, play pétanque Place des Lices, walk along the quays of the harbor along sumptuous yachts, swim at the beach of Canoubiers or dance at the Caves du Roy. The famous stories of Saint-Tropez are true!

• Tour the Provencal markets

In Provence, each city has its own market, a must for gourmets who love local products full of incredible taste. Some specialties: truffles in Carpentras, flowers in Aix-en-Provence, fish on the Vieux Port in Marseille, fruits and vegetables in Cassis or Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, muscat grapes in Vaison-la-Romaine, sausages in Arles. Grab your bag and haggle your way to some Provençal goodies!

• Take full view at ferias de Nîmes

Every year, at Pentecost and in September, Nîmes comes to life—la feria is an excuse to party in the city: bullfights, bull runs, fanfares, concerts, jousts on the canal or Sevillian dances. The feria promises a festive atmosphere that will please everyone!

• Fishing on the island of Porquerolles

The waters of Porquerolles teem with fish, and the pros accompany visitors on memorable fishing trips (subject to regulation), along the coast of the Hyères islands. Sabers, mackerel, amberjacks are just some of the beautiful catches.

• Fill with emotion during an opera at the ancient theater of Orange

For 150 years, the Chorégies d'Orange have been held largely in the ancient theater, one of the most beautiful sites of the Roman era. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it boasts perfect acoustics. Opera voices are magnified naturally to the terraces. Standing ovations guarenteed.

• Admire the work of Van Gogh in Arles

The famous painter stayed in Arles between 1888 and 1889, a period during which he made his most memorable works. His namesake foundation honors him and explores his impact in contemporary art, bridging artists from the past and present.

The Lavender Trail in Provence (External link)
The Calanques in Marseille (External link)
The Alpilles (External link)
Saint-Tropez (External link)
The Férias festivals in Nîmes (External link)
The islands of Porquerolles (External link)
The Roman theatre in Orange (External link)  • Van Gogh in Arles (External link)

Getting to Provence 

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