- Walk the ancient streets of Marseille, France's oldest city
- Cruise the waterways of Calanques National Park on a private boat tour
- Visit a historic religious palace in the medieval city of Avignon
- Experience the Provence way of life through its cuisine
|Day 1||Arrival in Aix-en-Provence - Private cultural tour||Aix en Provence|
|Day 2||Aix Cooking Class: From Market to Table||Aix en Provence|
|Day 3||Avignon, the Luberon, and Villages||Aix en Provence|
|Day 4||Explore Marseille, France's Oldest City||Marseille|
|Day 5||Half-Day Cruise to Calanques National Park||Marseille|
Day 1: Arrival in Aix-en-Provence - Private cultural tour
Welcome to Aix-en-Provence!
Today you'll uncover the rich heritage, art, and culture that defines the famous city of Aix-en-Provence. On a two-hour walking tour, you'll stroll a labyrinth of narrow streets, passing historic fountains as your expert guide points out both famous and hidden gems.
You’ll visit the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, a Romanesque/Gothic church built on the site of an ancient Greek temple to Apollo. You'll also see the town hall (known locally as the Hotel de Ville), which dates to the 14th century and sits on a charming old plaza. The tour includes a walk along the Cours Mirabeau, a busy thoroughfare lined with plane trees and abounding with markets and cafés—perfect for people watching. You'll even see some ruins dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.
After the walking tour and the day after, you'll have time to enjoy the city however you see fit. For dinner, you'll savor a typical gastronomic meal in one of our favorite restaurants.
Day 2: Aix Cooking Class: From Market to Table
Today, you'll get a chance to experience Provence's rich way of life with a foodie tour and cooking class!
This full-day adventure starts with a shopping trip in the food markets of Aix's old town. Along with your guide, you'll meet local purveyors and choose fresh regional produce and products like herbes de Provence, olive oil, truffles, figs, honey, and more.
Next, you'll bring these ingredients to your host's country estate, which follows a route that passes through the scenic Montaiguet Forest. You'll even stop at a local chateau to select some great Provençal wine to pair with your meal.
Upon arriving at the country home, you can take a stroll around the property and search for wild aromatic herbs. Then it will be time to start the cooking class—this is where you and a group of culinary enthusiasts will actively participate in the preparation of various recipes. After two hours of cooking, everyone will sit down at the long communal table for a fun and rewarding meal.
Return to your hotel in Aix-en-Provence in the late afternoon.
Day 3: Avignon, the Luberon, and Villages
After breakfast, you'll travel about an hour northwest of Aix-en-Provence to the medieval city of Avignon. There's quite a bit of history here, as this is where Pope Clemente V moved his court in the 14th century. For several decades after that, it was the seat of the Catholic popes. On a guided walking tour of the city, you'll visit the Unesco World Heritage Sites of Le Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) and the Pont Saint-Bénézet medieval bridge— the subject of the famous song Sur le Pont d’Avignon, composed back in the 15th century. You'll also visit Avignon Cathedral, Doms Garden, Saint Pierre Basilica, and the Place de l'Horloge, Avignon's main square.
Then it will be time to embark for the surrounding Luberon region, an area known for its countryside vineyards, orchards, and charming hill-top villages. You'll travel at a leisurely pace as your guide takes you to the town of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, famous for its outdoor weekend markets and antique stores. Here, old wooden waterwheels churn over the Sorgue River, bisecting the village. There are few better spots to enjoy a relaxing lunch than here in town, which is what awaits you next.
After eating, you'll head to Gordes. This is arguably the most beautiful of all the hilltop villages in the Luberon. Its fortified castle dominates the skyline of Gordes, and from its winding cobbled streets, you can look out to extensive views over the valley and surrounding hills. From Gordes, it's just a few kilometers to the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a Cistercian abbey founded in the 12th century.
This caps the day's eight-hour tour and once finished, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 4: Explore Marseille, France's Oldest City
Today you'll head out and explore this historic Mediterranean city. "Historic" might even be an understatement—with 2600 years of history, it makes for France’s oldest city. It's so old that it was founded on the site of the Ancient Greek colony of Massalia around 600 BCE.
We recommend exploring Marseille's most impressive and historic neighborhoods, like the colorful district of Le Panier. This is the "old Marseille," where the city was founded. It's a working-class enclave on the central port and is the picture of Mediterranean beauty, with its old plazas, ancient churches, and brightly colored facades of the tenement buildings. You'll also find street art on the walls in the form of colorful frescoes.
Other must-visit areas of Marseille include the waterfront, the hilltop basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the roman monastic foundation of Saint-Victor Abbey. You can follow the walkway to Fort Saint-Jean—a fortification dominating the port that was built in 1660 by Louis XIV.
Be sure to pay a visit to the fascinating Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM), which feature permanent exhibits devoted to the history of these regional societies from ancient times to the present day. You'll want to end the excursion in Vieux-Port in the heart of the city, where you can finish off the day by enjoying a good pastis or beer accompanied by a beautiful sunset.
Day 5: Half-Day Cruise to Calanques National Park
This morning, you'll make the drive from Marseille to the port town of Cassis along the Mediterranean Sea—a route of approximately 45 minutes.
This is where you'll board a private vessel for a half-day cruise to visit a series of inlets formed by limestone cliffs, which in turn created a series of beautiful little bays. In fact, the area has a very specific eco-system that has been protected since 2012 when the entire 20-mile stretch was designated as Calanques National Park. The park's 21,000 acres (8,500 hectares) spans between Marseille, Cassis, and La Ciotat with endless trails and places to explore for every fitness level.
It only takes a few minutes to enter the park and glimpse its stunning limestone sea cliffs and hidden coves. The waters in these famous inlets are an irresistible kaleidoscope of blues that become milky turquoise and crystalline the further you get to shore. You'll have ample time for swimming in these hidden coves, which are only accessible by boat.
After the boat cruise is complete, you can check out more of the park, explore the streets of Cassis, or return to Marseille.
Day 6: Departure
In the morning you'll transfer to Paris by train, where you'll catch your flight home. This concludes your grand Provençal adventure. Au revoir!