Planning Your Trip to Provence
It can be hard to know where to start when planning an itinerary in a region as big and beautiful as Provence, but we're here to help. For a holiday that covers multiple areas and highlights, most travelers should plan on spending at least a half a week. This gives you enough time to explore a few different towns and villages by train, bus, private driver, or rental car at a relaxed pace.
What most people don't realize is that Provence actually encompasses the Cote d'Azure leaving you with numerous options as to how to spend your time. In four days, you can explore an inland city—like Avignon—while also visiting a few Provençal villages and seeing a bit of the Mediterranean coast. You could also choose to focus your itinerary on either diverse landscapes, wine and gastronomy, history (think Roman ruins, monuments, and abbeys), or glittering beach towns in the French Riviera.
If you have less than four days, you'll have enough time to see Aix-en-Provence and Calanques National Park—while a full week will allow time to slow down, get lost, and see more towns, villages and lesser-known beaches (and everything in between). We've created a sample itinerary that loops around the region (depending on how many days you have), below.
While Provence is a fantastic year-round destination—it averages 300 days of sunshine per year—the best months to visit are said to be May and June, or September and October, when the weather is beautiful and crowds have thinned. Peak summer months of July and August tend to see an influx of Parisians and international travelers where hotels and restaurants are in high demand with prices to match.
Provence in 1 to 2 Days
Experiencing a piece of the local atmosphere, no matter how short, is well worth it. Call it a research trip for your future adventures where you can dedicate more time here.
A classic introduction to the region is the upscale little city of Aix-en-Provence (or simply “Aix"), located amidst smaller Provençal villages, as well as vineyards, lavender-blanketed fields, and limestone cliffs—landscapes that inspired famous paintings from artists like Cezanne and Picasso.
You could easily spend an entire day discovering Aix's rich heritage, art, and culture. Walk through hidden streets, elegant churches and fountains, public squares, and famous thoroughfares like Cours Mirabeau. Here you'll find leafy plane trees for shade, mansions from the 17th century, and café terraces for people-watching, like Les Deux Garcons—the legendary brasserie that once hosted the likes of Edith Piaf and Jean Cocteau—perfect for sipping an espresso or pastis.
In addition to its many homewares selling quintessential goodies, make sure to visit one or more of Aix's welcoming markets. Any day of the week you can visit the bountiful grocery market on Place Richelme, a delightful square selling fruits, vegetables, cheese, olive oils, honey jars, sun-dried tomatoes, and the small, almond-shaped pastries called calissons in a variety of flavors. Meanwhile, the grand marché (big market) is held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays on Place des Precheurs; the colorful flower market is also held on on the same three days on Place de l’Hotel de Ville. These three markets can all be reached on foot in the city center.
You can also sample Provence’s wine industry by visiting some family-owned wineries in Côtes de Provence. Many of these vineyards surrounding Sainte Victoire Mountain offer tours and tastings of fruity and dry rosés, delicate and aromatic whites, and full-bodied reds.
If you have an extra day and the weather is cooperating, take a drive to the port town of Cassis, in under an hour. Explore the quaint harbor or board a private vessel for a cruise through the beautiful bays and undeveloped inlets of Calanques National Park—some that allow you to stop and swim in areas of the park only accessible by boat. If you'd prefer to stay on land, hikers can pick between a number of gorgeous trails in the park's 21,000 acres (8,500 hectares) that meander through pine forests with frequent views of the translucent turquoise water. In addition, the park offers many beaches for swimming and kayaking where you can take in the unique Mediterranean scenery.
Here is more information on a guided kayaking excursion in Calanques National Park.
Provence in 3 to 4 Days
With a few more days to explore, you can spend time in Provence's Luberon area, a spectacular setting of vineyards, orchards, and perched hill-top villages dating back 1000 years or more.
A good place to base yourself is the medieval city of Avignon that once housed the Pope in the 14th century. Visit the UNESCO-listed Palais des Papes—the largest gothic palace in history, which offers tours of the popes' private apartments with their fabulous frescoes, along with the medieval bridge along the Rhone River. In the evening, walk through the city's pretty squares and eclectic dining options that range from relaxed cafés and bistros to notable Michelin-star tasting menus.
Avignon also offers close proximity to the famous vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape where 13 varieties of grapes combine with the dry, pebbly Mediterranean soil to create a big palette of full-bodied, powerful red wines and elegant white wines. You can easily enjoy an impromptu tasting (or join a guided excursion) at some of the numerous cellars of this wine village.
From here, head east towards the villages of the Luberon as you meander through oak forests, olive trees, fruit orchards, and gentle hills. Consider putting Gordes at the top of your list—a beautiful hilltop village dominated by a fortified castle and surrounded by lavender fields (in bloom from June to August). You can get an easy workout and walk uphill along the narrow cobblestone streets to gain great views over the valley and surrounding hills. The nearby Sénanque Abbey, located downhill from Gordes, is worth visiting as well, founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks. Also nearby is the Fontaine de Vaucluse, the location of the largest natural spring in France. Here, you can take a canoeing excursion on the River Sorgue followed by a 30-minute hike on the Ochre Trail.
In addition to Gordes, Roussillon is regarded as one of the most beautiful villages of France. This is an area known to be rich in ochre, a natural clay prized for its rich yellow-to-orange color palette. Wander the town's colorful streets, or opt for a horse-drawn carriage ride through the nearby hills (you can also rent e-bikes).
More villages to add to your list include the medieval Lourmarin with windy streets, charming patio cafés, and a 16th-century castle. A short distance from here is the village of Bonnieux, another hilltop gem from the Roman era where you can wander through its kaleidoscope of narrow alleys and hidden staircases as you make your way to the Église Vieille du Haut, an iconic church perched atop the town.
For inspiration, check out this culture, food, and history tour that includes Avignon and aforementioned villages in the Luberon.
Provence in 5 to 6 Days
Use the extra time to spend exploring towns along the Cote d'Azure or French Riviera.
For example, from Avignon, you can stop in Les Alpilles Natural Regional Park for a hike or bike ride in the pine forests before continuing south the the coast. If you'd rather soak up some local culture, head to Saint Remy de Provence, a classically Provençal village that inspired the works of Vincent van Gogh (the town also offers impressive antique shops). Another option earby is Les Baux de Provence, which dates back as far as 6,000 BCE. The town became a defensive fortress stronghold in the middle ages, and today offers a can't miss multi-media art show called Les Carrières de Lumières held in a former quarry near the castle.
Once you hit the Mediterranean coast, take your time and drive slowly through narrow, scenic roads, with hidden creeks and wild beaches on your way to Saint-Tropez. Originally a fishing village, Saint-Tropez began attracting a wave of artists, painters, writers, and filmmakers in the 19th century turning this quiet town into a meeting point for culture and literature. There are enough shops, art galleries, and historic sites to spend a whole day. Sun seekers, for their part, can relax on the area's many beaches, which stretch along 7.5 miles (12 km) of shoreline. In the evening, stroll along the Old Port and enjoy a spectacular sunset before choosing one of the many chic restaurants.
Continue your road trip east passing through Port-Grimaud, nicknamed the "Venice of Provence" where you can explore the charming streets and authentic Provençal style houses by boat or on foot. You'll also pass through Théoule-sur-Mer where you'll find more quiet beaches before landing in Cannes. Although its famous as the host of the International Cannes Film Festival, Cannes has surprisingly humble roots as a modest fishing village. Spend a half-day hitting the beaches or exploring the Suquet, the oldest quarter and historic center of Cannes. Built on a hill, the Suquet invites you for a stroll along its steep medieval streets as you wander to the top for exceptional viewps.
If looking for the ultimate souvenir, take a day-trip to Grasse, the perfume capital of the world. Visit the town's historic city center and peruse many shops where artisanal perfumeries sell their wares, including Gallimard Perfumerie. Here, you can design your own fragrance, combining the notes on a perfumer's organ to create your perfect signature perfume. Gallimard will register your unique combination, so you can order the perfume even after you return home.
Here is a 10-day trip that combines Paris, Aix-en-Provence, and the French Riviera.
Provence in 7 Days or More
Having this much time in Provence is a real treat. In fact, the more days you spend here,the more likely you are to ponder quitting your job and making the move here (we don't blame you).
From Cannes, continue your journey to Nice on the eastern edge of Provence—a great place to stop for a night before beginning the loop back to Aix-en-Provence. Nice offers fabulous markets, glorious architecture, and excellent dining options. Walk through Vieux Nice as well as the city's daily market called Cours Saleya featuring a vast array of products from handcrafted carvings to fresh flowers and quality fruit and vegetables. Make sure to sample the city’s large concentration of restaurants featuring dishes made with olives and seafood, like salade niçoise. Perhaps you'd rather see the city on a guided tour that covers off-the-beaten-path attractions.
A great next stop is Eze, a rocky little village perched on an impossibly steep peak is often called the jewel in the French Riviera's crown. The main attraction is the medieval village itself, with small higgledy-piggledy stone houses and winding lanes (and plenty of galleries and shops), along with mesmerizing views of the coast. The village gets crowded during summer months; for a more peaceful wander, come in the early morning where you'll have peaceful views from Jardin Exotique d’Èze, a cactus garden at the top of the village where you’ll also find the old castle ruins.
Other stops nearby include the hilltop village of Saint-Paul de Vence where you can pick up herbes de Provence, garlic, basil, olive oil, truffle, figs, honey, and wine. There's also the village of Gourdon, one of Provence's most beautiful towns with sweeping views of the countryside.
Continue from here to the Alpes de Haute Provence, a geographically varied region framed by the French Alps to the north and the dramatic Gorges du Verdon to the south. This is the largest canyon in Europe (2,200 feet (700 m) deep) and is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, with adventurous activities like hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing. While here, visit the beautiful village of Moustiers Sainte Marie surrounded by Lac de Sainte Croix where you can shop for quality ceramics.
If your adventures ends back in Aix-en-Provence, consider taking a cooking class on your final day to learn some culinary skills before departing France that you can use long after you get home—perhaps the best souvenir of all.
Here is a complete list of France Tours & Itineraries.