Draft

In just over a week you can visit the highlights of the Provence region of southeastern France, including its romantic cities, hill-top villages, national parks, and vineyards. On this itinerary, you'll also spend time in France's oldest city, Marseille, and tour the Luberon region, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. You'll even indulge in a food tour that offers delicious insight into the unique culture found only in the south of France. 

Highlights

  • 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
  • Sample the varietals of the Bandol and Cassis wine regions

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Aix-en-Provence Aix en Provence
Day 2 Aix-en-Provence - Private cultural tour Aix en Provence
Day 3 Provence Cooking Class Aix en Provence
Day 4 Avignon, the Luberon, and Villages Aix en Provence
Day 5 Explore Marseille, France's Oldest City Marseille
Day 6 Private half-day Cruise around the Rocky Creeks of Marseille Marseille
Day 7 Cassis and Bandol Rosé Wine Tour Marseille
Day 8 Return to Marseille - Depart Provence  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Aix-en-Provence

Your destination: the city of Aix-en-Provence
Your destination: the city of Aix-en-Provence

Welcome to France!

The adventure begins with your arrival in Paris, from where you'll catch a direct TGV (high-speed train) for a three-hour journey to the famous Provence region, located in the southeast of the country, or you'll fly direct from Paris to Marseille. If you do fly into Marseille, you'll then transfer 19 miles (30 km) north to Aix-en-Provence, a university city and the former capital of Provence. You can also pick up your rental car directly at the airport.

"Aix," as it's commonly known, is a city set in an exceptional geographic location, amid the picturesque charm of the surrounding villages. The rural landscapes here, famous for their vineyards, lavender-blanketed fields, and limestone cliffs of Sainte Victoire Mountain, have been immortalized in the works of painters such as Cezanne, Picasso, and Kandinsky. Over four days you'll be able to immerse yourself in this city, enjoying all the culture and beauty for which it is deservedly famous. 

You'll be lodging in the historic city center. Even though you might be tired from your journey, tonight you'll dine out at one of the fine restaurants that we recommend in this neighborhood. In the center, you have everything from intimate bistros and chic gastropubs to fine-dining eateries serving contemporary French and fusion cuisine. 

You'll then spend your first nights, and all the others, in a 4* hotel or a charming B&B in the heart of Aix-en-Provence!

Day 2: Aix-en-Provence - Private cultural tour

Quiet day in Aix
Quiet day in Aix

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.

Tour duration: 2 hours

Day 3: Provence Cooking Class

Food market in Aix
Food market in Aix

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 4: Avignon, the Luberon, and Villages

The Palace of the Popes, in Avignon
The Palace of the Popes, in Avignon

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, and for several decades thereafter 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, subject of the famous song Sur le Pont d’Avignon, which was 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 village of l'Isle sur la Sorgue, famous for its outdoor weekend markets, antique stores, and old wooden waterwheels churning over the Sorgue River, which bisects the town. There are few better spots to enjoy a relaxing lunch than here in town, which is exactly what you'll do. 

After eating you'll head to Gordes. This is arguably the most beautiful of all the hilltop villages in the Luberon. The skyline of Gordes is dominated by its fortified castle, and from its winding cobbled streets you can look out to wide 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 5: Explore Marseille, France's Oldest City

The Old Port of Marseille
The Old Port of Marseille

You can head out and explore this historic Mediterranean city. "Historic" might even be an understatement—with 2600 years of history, this is 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, what 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 also follow a 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 features 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 the day by enjoying a good pastis or beer as the sun goes down.

Day 6: Private half-day Cruise around the Rocky Creeks of Marseille

The Frioul Islands and Château d'If
The Frioul Islands and Château d'If

Today you'll discover the little gems of Marseille!
Just a few meters away from the tumult of the city center, you'll discover the most beautiful landscapes of the region, between rocks and water. Enjoy this privileged experience onboard your private boat! 

This half-day tour leaves from Marseille on a private vessel skippered by our local expert, Laurence. It only takes a few minutes to reach your first stop: the archipelago of the Frioul Islands! With its little port and famous Château d'If, this neighborhood of Marseille includes 4 little islands which you'll discover going around on your boat, from here you'll get the best views of these little rocky coves and this ancient Castle in the middle of it.
Then, continue your tour to Malmousque where you'll appreciate little hidden rocky inlets and turquoise water-you won't resist to the desire of swimming there, for sure- before finishing your tour to the beautiful Vallon des Auffes. This last spot is an ancient typical fishing port located near Malmousque and under a huge bridge. You'll have ample time for swimming in these hidden coves, which are almost only accessible by boat.

This 3-hours tour will show you the real beauty and diversity of landscapes and nature just outside, and even inside, the big city of Marseille! 

Back to the ground, you can enjoy the golden hour at the end of the afternoon with a local passionate about photography! Take your mobile phone or, even better, your camera with you and your local guide of the day will show you the best spots in town to bring back home the most beautiful souvenirs. During this experience, you'll explore the colorful and cosmopolite Marseille city while improving your photography skills with your professional photographer-guide!

Day 7: Cassis and Bandol Rosé Wine Tour

The port of Cassis
The port of Cassis

On the coast of France's southeastern Provence region lies two charming Mediterranean villages: Cassis and Bandol. Besides old-world charm, these villages are known for their breathtaking natural beauty. Cassis sits on the edge of Calanques National Park, which boasts hidden coves and large limestone sea cliffs. Bandol is known for its crescent white-sand beach, which appeals to sunseekers of all stripes. Both areas, however, are deservedly famous for their hundreds of acres of vineyards that produce stellar wines. On a full-day wine tour of these two villages, you'll get to sample some of the best.

Provence, in general, is renowned for its fine rosé wines, but Cassis is more famous for whites while Bandol is known for reds and rosés. You'll visit some of the most famous wineries in this region and enjoy tastings overlooking beautiful terraced vineyards and the Mediterranean Sea. The tastings also include tours of the facilities for some insight into the production process. Plus there's a stop at Cap Canaille, which overlooks Cassis from the east, for even more jaw-dropping views. The excursion ends with a leisurely lunch back in the postcard-worthy fishing village of Cassis.

Wine-tour duration: 5-7 hours

Day 8: Return to Marseille - Depart Provence

Goodbye, Provence!
Goodbye, Provence!

After breakfast, depending on your schedule, you'll transfer to the airport in Marseille to catch a direct flight or head to the nearest TGV station to board a high-speed train to Paris or Nice. This concludes your grand Provençal adventure. Au revoir!

Map

Map of Culture, Food, and History Tour of Provence - 8 Days
Map of Culture, Food, and History Tour of Provence - 8 Days