Calanque de Morgiou, French Riviera, France

Provence Travel Guide: All You Need to Know & Best Places to Visit in Provence

February 29, 2024

Provence, nestled in the southeastern corner of France, is a region that captivates the soul with its timeless beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. From the azure shores of the Mediterranean to the rugged peaks of the Alps, Provence offers a tapestry of landscapes and experiences that beckon travelers from around the world. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the essence of Provence, uncovering its hidden gems, exploring its main cities, and immersing ourselves in its unique charm.

Introduction to Provence

Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, commonly referred to as Provence, is a region of France renowned for its stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Bordered by Monaco and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, Italy to the east, and French regions to the north and west, Provence is a land of contrasts, where rugged mountains give way to rolling vineyards, and ancient villages dot the countryside.

Geography and climate

Provence is characterized by its Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. The region is divided into several distinct areas, each with its own unique geography and attractions. In the north, the rugged peaks of the Alps offer breathtaking alpine scenery and outdoor adventures year-round. In the central part of the region, the iconic lavender fields of Provence stretch as far as the eye can see, painting the landscape in shades of purple during the summer months. To the east, the Verdon Gorge, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Europe, entices visitors with its dramatic cliffs and turquoise waters. And in the south, the French Riviera beckons with its glamorous resorts, sun-kissed beaches, and vibrant seaside towns.

Cultural heritage

Provence boasts a rich cultural heritage shaped by centuries of history and tradition. From ancient Roman ruins to medieval castles and charming hilltop villages, the region is a living museum of European civilization. The legacy of famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne is also deeply intertwined with Provence, inspiring generations with their depictions of the region’s landscapes and light.

Practical information for a trip to Provence

How to get to Provence

By air

For travelers coming from afar, the most convenient way to reach Provence is by air. The region is served by several international airports, including Marseille Provence Airport, Nice Cote d’Azur Airport, and Toulon-Hyeres Airport, which offer direct flights from major cities across Europe and beyond.

By train

Traveling by train is another popular option for reaching Provence. The region is well-connected to France’s high-speed rail network, with frequent services to cities such as Marseille, Avignon, and Aix-en-Provence. From Paris, the journey to Provence takes around three hours on the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse), making it an efficient and scenic way to travel.

By car

For those seeking flexibility and freedom to explore at their own pace, renting a car is an excellent choice. Provence has a well-maintained network of highways and scenic country roads, making it easy to navigate between cities and attractions. However, driving in urban areas like Marseille and Nice can be challenging due to traffic congestion and limited parking options.

Best time to visit Provence

Peak season

The busiest time for tourists in Provence is in the summer, especially in June and July. This is when the lavender fields are in full bloom, and the beaches on the French Riviera are the most enjoyable. Many people visit during this time, so it can be crowded, and places to stay get fully booked quickly.

Shoulder seasons

For those who want a quieter time, the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons are better. Spring is nice with flowers and festivals. Autumn is good for grape harvest and tasting fresh grapes.

Winter in Provence

While Provence experiences relatively mild winters compared to other parts of France, it’s still a magical time to visit, with festive markets, cozy cafés, and snow-capped mountains beckoning travelers to explore. The region’s ski resorts offer excellent opportunities for winter sports enthusiasts to hit the slopes and soak up the alpine ambiance.

How to get around Provence

Once you’ve arrived in Provence, getting around the region is relatively easy, thanks to its well-developed transportation infrastructure. Here are some options for exploring Provence:

  • Car rental:Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore Provence at your own pace and venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems. The region’s scenic highways and country roads make for picturesque road trips, with charming villages, vineyards, and olive groves waiting to be explored.
  • Public transport: Provence has an extensive network of trains, buses, and trams, making it easy to travel between cities and towns. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) offers high-speed rail connections to major cities like Marseille, Avignon, and Nice, while regional trains and buses provide access to smaller villages and rural areas.
  • Biking: Cycling is a popular way to explore Provence, with dedicated bike paths and scenic routes crisscrossing the region’s countryside. Many towns and tourist offices offer bike rental services, allowing you to pedal your way through vineyards, lavender fields, and olive groves at your own pace.
  • Walking: Exploring Provence on foot is a delightful way to immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. Whether strolling through historic city centers, hiking along coastal trails, or wandering through medieval villages, walking allows you to experience Provence’s charm up close and personal.

Is driving in Provence difficult?

Driving in Provence can be challenging, but it has beautiful views. Some roads in the countryside are narrow and curvy, especially in places like Luberon and Verdon Gorge with mountains. Be careful with tight turns and steep hills, especially in remote areas.

Cities like Marseille and Nice often have heavy traffic, especially during busy times. Plan your trips to avoid busy hours and consider public transport or different routes.

Finding parking in cities and tourist areas can be hard. There may be limited street parking, and parking garages can be expensive.

Most road signs are in French, so understanding basic French traffic signs is helpful.

How much time to plan for Provence

To visit Provence, you will need at least 4–7 days.

If you want to enjoy the Riviera, hike in the mountains or just relax, you will need even more time.

The ideal duration would be a minimum of 7 days.

Services and costs

Altogether, France is a rather expensive country. It is expensive to use the highways, the fuel, the restaurants and the shops. But even though you can see that these areas are expensive, the final sum is not really more than elsewhere in Western Europe.

Although the hotels and restaurants are at the average Western European price level, but because the programs don’t require too much spending, it is not what we would call expensive. The most expensive is obviously Marseille, the largest city and the center of Provence. The countryside offers cheaper options.

Other information about Provence

Public safety

A major drawback of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is public safety. Unfortunately, it is one of the places in Western Europe where the highest rates of theft, very high rates of pickpocketing and car crime occur. Especially in coastal areas, you need to be aware of your belongings.

Language use

The other thing to mention is the language. The French are proud of their language, and this also means that English is not spoken everywhere. So sometimes you may need a little knowledge of French or a good translation app.

Best souvenirs in Provence

No trip to Provence would be complete without bringing home a few souvenirs to remember your experience by. Here are some quintessentially Provençal items to consider:

  • Lavender products: Provence is famous for its lavender fields, so why not bring home some lavender-scented soap, candles, or sachets as a fragrant reminder of your time in the region?
  • Olive oil: Provence is renowned for its high-quality olive oil, made from locally grown olives. Look for bottles of cold-pressed olive oil infused with herbs and spices for a taste of Provencal cuisine.
  • Herbes de Provence: This aromatic blend of dried herbs, including thyme, rosemary, oregano, and lavender, is a staple of Provençal cooking. Pick up a jar of herbes de Provence to add flavor to your dishes back home.
  • Provençal fabrics: Brightly colored fabrics in traditional Provençal designs are a popular souvenir choice. Look for tablecloths, napkins, or tote bags adorned with vibrant floral patterns and motifs.
  • Pottery and ceramics: Provence is home to many talented artisans who craft beautiful pottery and ceramics. Whether it’s a decorative bowl, serving platter, or set of hand-painted tiles, a piece of Provençal pottery is sure to add a touch of rustic charm to your home.
  • Wine and spirits: Provence produces some excellent wines, particularly rosé, which is the region’s specialty. Pick up a bottle of locally produced wine or a bottle of pastis, an anise-flavored spirit popular in Provence, to enjoy a taste of the region back home.

The absolute best places to visit in Provence


The Calanques National Park is our personal favorite in the Marseille area. We think it is a real must-see place.

The Calanques, near Marseille, are a truly unique sight, with their magnificent white rocky bays and varied landscapes. The Calanques coastline stretches for about 20 km between Marseille and Cassis. The landscape is dotted with magnificent limestone cliffs, pine trees, small islands and peninsulas. The rocky coves have been here for over 200 million years. The bays often hide small beaches with crystal clear water. The coastline is so spectacular that even if the weather is not suitable for swimming, it is still worth a trip.

The Calanque de Sormiou is the biggest calanque of the Calanques National Park. Located in the 9th arrondissement of Marseille, it is famous for its climbing areas, hiking trails and breathtaking views. In summer, access by car is limited due to the risk of forest fires.

Calanque de Sugiton is perhaps the best known of all the Calanques around Marseille, simply because it is easily accessible to hikers. There is also a small beach at the end of the calanque.

The nearby Calanque de Morgiou is also easily accessible by car, with a small beach at the end. And between the two Calanques, it is important to mention a viewpoint offering a magical panorama, the Belvedere de Sugiton viewpoint, which can be reached by a short hike from Redon.

The Calanque de Port-Miou is one of the three great calanques. It is very long and narrow, making it an excellent place to build a harbor.

Provence lavender fields

The lavender fields of Provence cover a large area and several municipalities. Most of them are in the villages of Valensole and Sault. If you only have time to visit one, we recommend Valensole.

There are several articles on the internet about lavender fields in Provence, with maps showing where the fields are located. It is worth looking at one or two of these maps and preparing in advance. Although we have seen an increase in the number of lavender fields recently, so it is not difficult to find them. The local economy is heavily based on lavender and its products.

We have been several times to the lavender fields in and around Valensole. One year the lavender was not yet in bloom at the beginning of June, another year it was already dried out and half of it had been harvested at the end of July. So the best time to visit the lavender fields in Provence is the end of June or early July. That’s when we will go next time.

Be prepared for the crowds, there are plenty of fields and things to see and do, but the tourists are all around. This can be a bit distracting when taking photos. If you want to take photos, it’s a good idea to go out to the fields in the morning, when there may be fewer tourists.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque is a quite hidden place in the western part of Provence, near Avignon. The park of the 12th century Cistercian monastery is covered with lavender fields in summer, which gives it its real fame. Guided tours of the monastery and its surroundings are available on request. An ideal Provence photo spot for photographers during the summer lavender bloom. The village where the monastery is located, Gordes, is also worth a visit.

Lac de Serre-Poncon

In the northern part of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, you will find a picturesque lake with magical blue waters called Lac de Serre-Poncon. The lake is home to a number of campsites and a variety of traditional and extreme water sports. We like it best for the panoramic views, it is a stunning area and a wonderful photo spot. If you have extra time in Provence or love water sports, this lake is a good choice.

Verdon Gorge

The Verdon Gorge is one of the most beautiful gorges in Provence and France. It is about a two-hour drive from Marseille.

The Verdon Gorge, famous for its turquoise green or azure blue waters, is a gorge formed by the Verdon River in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region of south-eastern France. It is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Europe or the most beautiful gorge in Europe.

Through winding roads in the mountains, you can reach the gorge and the artificial lake of Sainte-Croix, created from the water of the river.

On the shores of the artificial Lake of Sainte-Croix, near the Pont du Galetas bridge, you can hire a water-bike or a boat to explore the gorge. There are several campsites and beaches along the lake, but the real attraction is the Verdon Gorge itself.

Cascade de Sillans

The Cascade de Sillans is a waterfall in Sillans-la-Cascade, Var, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It is 1.5 hours by car from Marseille. The Bresque River, located southeast of the town center, falls from a depth of over 44 meters and creates a picturesque waterfall. It is mentioned as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in France.

Best cities in Provence

Provence is home to several vibrant cities, each with its own unique character and attractions.

Here are some of the best cities to visit in the region:


France’s second-largest city, Marseille, is a bustling port city known for its rich history, diverse culture, and vibrant street life. Highlights include the historic Old Port, the bustling Cours Julien district, and the iconic Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde.


Cassis is a picturesque coastal town located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France. It’s renowned for its charming harbor, vibrant waterfront, and stunning Calanques National Park. The town is nestled between Marseille and Toulon, making it a perfect stop for visitors exploring the French Riviera. With its colorful buildings, bustling markets, and inviting beaches, Cassis offers visitors a quintessential Mediterranean experience.

You can also enjoy boat tours to explore the breathtaking Calanques, where rugged cliffs meet crystal-clear waters, creating a landscape of unparalleled beauty. Whether you’re strolling along the harbor, hiking in the nearby hills, or simply relaxing on the beach, Cassis has something to offer for every traveler.


Located on the French Riviera, Nice is a glamorous city known for its stunning beaches, vibrant markets, and colorful Old Town. Highlights include the Promenade des Anglais, the Colline du Château, and the Musée Matisse.


Steeped in history, Avignon is famous for its well-preserved medieval architecture and its iconic Palais des Papes, the former papal residence. Explore the winding streets of the Old Town, visit the Pont Saint-Bénézet bridge, and experience the city’s lively cultural scene.


Known for its elegant boulevards, charming squares, and historic fountains, Aix-en-Provence is a city of art and culture. Don’t miss the Cours Mirabeau, the Musée Granet, and the atmospheric markets selling local produce and handicrafts.


With its ancient Roman ruins, picturesque streets, and vibrant arts scene, Arles is a city rich in history and culture. Be sure to visit the Arènes d’Arles (Roman Amphitheatre), the Alyscamps necropolis, and the Fondation Vincent van Gogh.

Most beautiful villages in Provence


Sault is a charming village in the northern part of Provence, famous for its lavender fields and stunning scenery. Explore the village center, where you’ll find traditional stone houses and picturesque streets. Don’t miss the lavender fields, which delight visitors with colorful views in the summer. Sault is the capital of lavender, and you can find various lavender products and local crafts in many shops and markets.


Gordes is a stunning hilltop village in the Luberon region, known for its medieval architecture and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Wander through its narrow cobblestone streets lined with centuries-old stone houses, and discover charming boutiques, art galleries, and cafés tucked away in hidden corners. Don’t miss the majestic Gordes Castle, offering panoramic vistas of the Luberon Valley. The village is also a great starting point for exploring nearby lavender fields and vineyards.


Famous for its vibrant red and orange hues, Roussillon is a must-visit village in Provence. Explore the ochre quarries and trails that wind through the stunning natural landscape, offering striking views of the colorful cliffs and rock formations. Wander through the village’s narrow streets lined with colorful houses, and visit the Notre-Dame du Village church with its distinctive bell tower. Don’t forget to sample local delicacies at one of Roussillon’s charming restaurants or cafés.


Nestled at the base of towering cliffs near the Verdon Gorge, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a picturesque village known for its faience pottery and scenic beauty. Take a leisurely stroll through the village’s narrow streets adorned with colorful facades and flower-filled balconies. Visit the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel perched high above the village for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Explore the local artisan workshops and galleries showcasing exquisite faience pottery, a tradition that has been passed down for generations.


Tucked away in the heart of the Luberon region, Lourmarin is a charming village renowned for its rich history, cultural heritage, and picturesque setting. Explore the village’s winding streets lined with centuries-old buildings, quaint cafes, and boutiques selling local crafts and artisanal products. Visit the imposing Lourmarin Castle, which dates back to the 15th century and offers sweeping views of the surrounding vineyards and olive groves. Don’t miss the vibrant weekly market, where you can sample fresh local produce, cheeses, and wines.


Steeped in history and surrounded by stunning natural beauty, Saint-Remy-de-Provence is a captivating village that has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Explore the charming old town with its narrow cobblestone streets, shaded squares, and elegant 18th-century mansions. Visit the ancient Roman site of Glanum, where you can wander among the ruins of temples, baths, and monuments.

Best things to do in Provence

Provence offers a wealth of activities and experiences for visitors to enjoy.

Here are some of the top things to do in the region:

Explore historic sites

From ancient Roman ruins to medieval castles and fortified villages, Provence is home to a treasure trove of historic sites waiting to be discovered. Don’t miss iconic landmarks such as the Pont du Gard, the Roman Theatre of Orange, and the medieval citadel of Les Baux-de-Provence.

Visit lavender fields

Provence is famous for its fragrant lavender fields, which come alive with color and fragrance during the summer months. Take a scenic drive through the countryside, visit a lavender farm, or attend one of the region’s many lavender festivals to experience this quintessential Provençal sight.

Try Provençal cuisine

From hearty stews and rustic bread to fresh seafood and aromatic herbs, Provencal cuisine is a feast for the senses. Sample local specialties such as bouillabaisse (fish stew), ratatouille (vegetable stew), and pissaladière (onion tart), and wash it down with a glass of rosé wine from the region’s vineyards.

Relax on the beach

With its stunning coastline and pristine beaches, Provence offers plenty of opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports. Head to popular beach destinations such as Saint-Tropez, Cannes, and Cassis to soak up the sun, explore hidden coves, and enjoy the Mediterranean sea breeze.

Hike in nature

Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails to explore Provence’s breathtaking natural landscapes. From the rugged cliffs of the Calanques National Park to the scenic trails of the Verdon Gorge, there are endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and exploration in Provence.

Attend festivals and events

Throughout the year, Provence hosts a wide range of festivals and events celebrating its cultural heritage, culinary traditions, and natural beauty. From music and dance festivals to food and wine fairs, there’s always something happening in Provence to delight and entertain visitors of all ages.

In conclusion, Provence is a region of France that offers a rich tapestry of experiences for travelers to discover and explore. From its stunning natural landscapes and historic landmarks to its vibrant cities and charming villages, Provence captivates the imagination with its timeless beauty and cultural heritage. Whether you’re wandering through lavender fields, savoring Provençal cuisine, or soaking up the sun on the French Riviera, a visit to Provence is sure to leave you enchanted and inspired by the magic of this captivating region.

So, these were the most important things to see and do in Provence. We hope our article has helped you organize your trip to Provence. If you are interested in other places to visit in South of France or Provence, read our other articles about them. And we hope you will be as impressed by France on your trip as millions of tourists are every year.

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