Eat and drink your way through the South of France on this 8-day itinerary that blends culture and cuisine. Start in beautiful Aix-en-Provence, where you'll learn to cook Provençal fare and tour the hilltop villages of the Luberon. Head to the coast to stroll the colorful neighborhoods of Marseille, sample the best rosés in Cassis and Bandol, and visit the famous vineyards of Château de Berne. After exploring the forests and waterfalls of the Provençal Alps, hop over to the glittering Riviera for a gastronomic journey through Nice's bustling open-air markets.

Highlights

  • Learn to cook Provençal favorites in Aix-en-Provence
  • Explore the charming villages & countryside of rural Luberon
  • Taste the region's best reds, whites & rosés 
  • Discover the ancient rhythms of Marseille, France's oldest city
  • Embark on a gastronomic odyssey through Nice's famous open-air markets

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Train to Aix-en-Provence, Guided Walking Tour  Aix-en-Provence
Day 2 Provençal Cooking Class in Aix-en-Provence Aix-en-Provence
Day 3 Avignon & Hilltop Villages of the Luberon Region Aix-en-Provence
Day 4 Discover Marseille, France's Oldest City Marseille
Day 5 Cassis & Bandol Rosé Wine Tour Marseille
Day 6 Explore Rural Provence, Continue to Nice Nice
Day 7 Nice Gourmet Foodie Tour, Explore Monaco, Monte Carlo & Eze  Nice
Day 8 Train to Paris, Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Train to Aix-en-Provence, Guided Walking Tour 

Aix town hall
Bright sunshine over the Aix Town Hall
Your journey to the South of France starts this morning, with a 3.5-hour TGV (high-speed train) ride from Paris to Aix-en-Provence. Upon arrival at the station, you'll be picked up by a private driver and transferred to your hotel in town.
 
After settling in, it's time to explore "Aix" on a two-hour guided walking tour, uncovering the rich heritage, art, and culture that defines this famous city. Stroll through a labyrinth of narrow streets, passing historic churches and squares as your guide points out famous and hidden gems.
 
Visit the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, a Romanesque/Gothic church built on the site of an ancient Greek temple to Apollo. Then, stop and see the Town Hall (known locally as the Hotel de Ville), which dates to the 14th century and sits on a plaza from the same era. The tour also includes a walk along the Cours Mirabeau, a busy thoroughfare lined with leafy trees, markets, and cafés—perfect for people watching. And keep your eyes peeled for ruins dating back to the days of the Roman Empire!

Day 2: Provençal Cooking Class in Aix-en-Provence

Food market in Aix
A colorful produce market in Aix

The southeastern French region of Provence is one of the most scenic in the country. It's the land of the Riveria, medieval villages, lavender fields, and endless olive groves and vineyards. But Provence is as much a way of life as it is a point on a map. Today you'll experience Provence's culture and rich way of life on a food tour and cooking class in one of the most beautiful towns in all of France, Aix-en-Provence.

On this day-long cooking adventure, you'll browse the various food markets of Aix's Old Town and meet local purveyors. Enjoy learning about fresh regional produce, like herbes de Provence, olive oil, truffles, figs, honey, and more. Then, you'll bring these ingredients to the home of your host to prepare a feast using local recipes. On the way back to the country house, which follows a route that passes through the scenic Montaiguet Forest, you'll stop at a local chateau to select some regional wine to pair with your meal. 

Upon arriving at the country home, take a stroll around the property and search for wild aromatic herbs. Then it will be time to start the cooking class, and you and a group of culinary enthusiasts will actively participate in the preparation of various recipes. Finally, after approximately two hours of cooking, it's time to sit down at the long convivial table and enjoy your gastronomic creations!

Later in the afternoon, return to Aix for the evening.

Day 3: Avignon & Hilltop Villages of the Luberon Region

Aerial view of Avignon and Pont Saint-Bénézet
Aerial view of Avignon and Pont Saint-Bénézet

After breakfast, travel about an hour northwest of Aix-en-Provence to the medieval city of Avignon. You'll find centuries' worth of fascinating 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.

Spend the day exploring the city on a guided walking tour. 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 15th-century song "Sur le Pont d’Avignon." You'll also visit Avignon Cathedral, Doms Garden, Saint Pierre Basilica, and the Place de l'Horloge, Avignon's main square. 

Next, explore the surrounding Luberon region, known for its countryside vineyards, orchards, and postcard-worthy hilltop villages. Then, 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, 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, head to Gordes, arguably the most beautiful of all the hilltop villages in the Luberon. Its fortified castle dominates the skyline, 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 short drive to the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a Cistercian abbey founded in the 12th century. 

At the end of this full-day tour, you'll head back to Aix for the night.

Day 4: Discover Marseille, France's Oldest City

The district of Le Panier
The Marseille district of Le Panier

Today you'll depart Aix for the historic Mediterranean city of Marseille. "Historic" might even be an understatement—with 2,600 years of history, this is France’s oldest city, founded on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Massalia around 600 BCE.

Get settled into your hotel, then start your explorations in 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 old plazas, ancient churches, and brightly colored facades on tenement buildings. You'll also find street art on the walls in the form of colorful frescoes. 

Other must-visit areas include the waterfront, the hilltop basilica of 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 5: Cassis & Bandol Rosé Wine Tour

The colorful waterfront of Cassis

On the coast of France's southeastern Provence region, you'll find two charming Mediterranean villages: Cassis and Bandol. Besides the 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 and Bandol for reds and rosés. You'll visit some of the most famous wineries in this region today 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 before returning to Marseille in the afternoon.

Day 6: Explore Rural Provence, Continue to Nice

Sillans waterfall
The idyllic waterfall of Sillans-la-Cascade

Today you'll leave behind the busy streets of Marseille and set out with your private driver to explore the hinterland of Provence along the Mediterranean coast. Surrounded by quiet countryside and unspoiled nature, you can truly appreciate the stunning landscapes of the French Riviera.

You'll start the day at Château de Berne, one of the most beautiful vineyards of the French Riviera. Here you have the option of enjoying a wine tasting before embarking on a tour of the history and architecture of the spectacular castle. For lunch, you can choose to splurge on a decadent three-course truffle menu or visit a traditional local restaurant for typical Provençal fare. 

Continue to the unusual village of Villecroze, perched at the bottom of the Provençal Alps and in a landscape of rugged cliffs and lush forests. From there you head to Sillans-la-Cascade to discover its famous 138-foot (42 m) waterfall that adds a special charm to the surrounding village.

After a morning spend in the wilds of nature, continue north up the coast to sophisticated Nice, your destination for the night. Nice sits at the northern end of the French Riviera, near the border with Italy. Nicknamed Nissa La Bella ("Nice the Beautiful") for its artistic spirit, grand plazas, crescent-shaped pebble beaches, Nice is inarguably the French Riviera's most popular city. The narrow cobblestone streets of its colorful old town, Vieille Ville,  are lined with pastel-colored buildings and a plethora of shops selling everything from soap to wine. 

After checking into your hotel, enjoy a relaxing evening stroll along the shore on the famous Promenade des Anglais, then head to a local restaurant for a welcome dinner. 

Day 7: Nice Gourmet Foodie Tour, Explore Monaco, Monte Carlo & Eze 

Fresh olives at the markets in Nice
Fresh olives at the markets in Nice

Savor the sights and sounds of Nice's open-air markets with a guided walking tour that embarks in the morning and culminates around noon. Your local expert guide will lead you through a gastronomic odyssey that will surprise and delight your palate with delicious flavors both familiar and exotic. Much of this adventure is an off-the-beaten-path tour that follows the narrow streets of Nice's colorful old town, Vieille Ville. All the while, your guide will introduce you to purveyors and market vendors who will treat you like a local while offering sweet and savory symbolic treats as they explain the history of Nice and its gastronomy.

After lunch, you'll travel 12 miles (20 km) along the coast to the city-state of Monaco, for a guided tour of one of the world's smallest countries. Visit the famous Monte Carlo district with its legendary casino and see Prince Rainier's car collection, then continue to the Rocher de Monaco (Rock of Monaco). This is the location of the town's oldest neighborhood, the medieval Old Town. From here, the views of the sunny coast are unparalleled. Learn about this community's history and anecdotes about the dynasty which has reigned there for decades. 

Proceed to the medieval village of Eze, which perches high above the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to its location and history, it's a popular destination with painters and artists. Explore the famous Chapelle Sainte-Croix and the ruins of the ancient castle, which allude to the city's strategic location on the coast. After a stroll through the town's peaceful gardens, you'll be driven back to Nice for the evening. 

Day 8: Train to Paris, Departure

Sunset over Nice

Enjoy a final leisurely breakfast in the Riviera sunshine before transferring to the train station to catch the six-hour direct TGV train back to Paris and your onward journey. Bon voyage!

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