Discover the best of the culture and art in the French Riviera and Provence in 10 days on this incredible self-drive tour. Visit vibrant Nice and Monaco, stroll through hill-top villages of Luberon, and discover the peaceful countryside of Aix-en-Provence. Follow the footsteps of some of the world's greatest artists (Van Gogh, Picasso & others) and explore the landscapes that inspired them.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a gourmet foodie tour in Nice
  • Create your own perfume in the world's perfume capital, Grasse
  • Follow in Picasso's steps in Saint-Paul-de-Vence
  • Discover the history and peaceful countryside of Aix-en-Provence
  • Explore history in the Roman and medieval towns of Avignon and Arles

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Southern France Nice
Day 2 Gourmet Foodie Tour of Nice Nice
Day 3 Past and Present of Monte Carlo Nice
Day 4 Perfume Tour of Grasse Cannes
Day 5 Arts and Culture in Saint Paul de Vence Cannes
Day 6 Free Cultural Day Around Vallauris, Antibes, and Mougins Aix en Provence
Day 7 Cultural Aix-en-Provence Aix en Provence
Day 8 Cultural Tour Across the Hill-top Villages of Luberon Forcalquier
Day 9 Van Gogh and Roman Monuments Arles
Day 10 The Roman Treasures of Arles Arles
Day 11 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Southern France

Nice skyline at night
Nice skyline at night 

Welcome to Nice! Arrive at Nice International Airport and pick up your rental car, then transfer to your hotel. Enjoy a relaxing evening stroll along the shore, then head to a fantastic local restaurant for a welcome dinner.  
After taking an evening stroll along the shore, a gastronomic introduction waits for you with a welcome dinner at the restaurant.  

Day 2: Gourmet Foodie Tour of Nice

Stroll through Nice's famous plazas on a foodie tour
Stroll through Nice's famous plazas on a foodie tour

At the eastern end of the French Riviera, near the border with Italy, lies Nissa la Bella—or, "Nice the Beautiful." This Mediterranean coastal gem has earned its nickname due to its abundance of ancient buildings, expansive plazas, long and inviting beaches and a historic legacy that dates back to the city's founding in the Ancient Greek Massalia region around 350 BCE. It's a densely populated city overflowing with the sights and smells of local open-air markets.

This is a guided walking tour that embarks in the morning and culminates around noon. Your local expert guide will lead you through this 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.

Day 3: Past and Present of Monte Carlo

Coastal village of Eze
Coastal village of Eze

In the morning make your way to Monaco, a 12-mile (20 km) drive from Nice. Monaco is one of the world's smallest countries, and it considered a city-state. Visit the famous Monte Carlo district with its legendary casino and travel to the Old Town on the Rock. Learn about this incredible community's history and anecdotes about the dynasty which has reigned there for decades. 

From here continue to an unusual medieval village, the small town of Eze which perches high above the 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. 

At the end of the day head to your hotel in Nice, a beautiful 30-minut drive away. 

Day 4: Perfume Tour of Grasse

A wide street in Grasse, Southern France
A wide street in Grasse, Southern France

The Provence region of southeastern France is the picture of French bucolic life, with its tiny hill-top villages like Fayence, Seillans, Tourette, and others. It's also home to the famous French Riveria, and in the hills north of Cannes you'll find Grasse, a charming village that happens to be the perfume capital of the world. Visit its historic city center where shops and vendors deal in the region's culinary specialties like Provencal stew, aioli, anchoïade, herbes de Provence, olive oil, truffle, figs, honey, and more. And then there's all that great Provençal wine!

But the real art of Grasse is found in its perfume industry. This is the heritage of the town, a local legacy since the 18th century that's defined by luxury, refinement, and the supreme quality of ingredients used to make Grasse's famous fragrances. This artisanal trade has been passed down over generations and is evident in its many perfumeries.

You'll discover this seductive art on a visit to one of the premier perfumeries in town, Gallimard. Make your own fragrance, selecting the "notes" (scents) and combining them on a specialized perfumer's organ to create your perfect signature scent. Gallimard will then register your unique formula so you can order your perfume even after returning home.

Continue to Cannes in the evening. 

Day 5: Arts and Culture in Saint Paul de Vence

Saint-Paul-de-Vence landscape
Saint-Paul-de-Vence landscape

In the morning drive to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a 16 mile (26 km) trip from Cannes. 

Follow in the footsteps of the legendary artists Prévert and Chagall on this private guided tour of the Folon Chapel and the Maeght Foundation, the historical monuments of the city (including the keep, collegiate church, and ramparts). Afterward, get an insider's look at the local artist work on an exclusive visit to the workshops and art galleries of contemporary artists.

Day 6: Free Cultural Day Around Vallauris, Antibes, and Mougins

The beautiful seafront of Antibes
The beautiful seafront of Antibes

On the second day in the region, drive around and freely follow the Picasso route and that of other artists through different museums and art sites.

Start at The Picasso National Museum in Vallauris to see War & Peace, a work by Picasso which has been on display on the chapel of the Castle of Vallauris since 1959. The old building lends the paintings a sacred feeling, with the obvious references to ancient art. This work was Picasso's last great political composition. 

Continue to the Picasso Museum in Antibes, which chronicles Picasso's 1946 stay in the Château Grimaldi in Antibes and the paintings, drawings, and ceramics which he produced during his time there. The museum also devotes part of its space to the works of Nicolas de Staël and a collection of modern art and brings together artists belonging to the major art currents of the twentieth century.

Your final stop of the day is the Museum of Photography in Mougins, located in the heart of the village of Mougins. This museum is devoted to photography and the artist's portrait via the works of its founder, André Villers who photographed Pablo Picasso for many years. 

At the end of the day, hit the road for the 106-mile (170 km) drive (an easy 2 hours) to Aix-en-Provence for the second part of your trip. 

Day 7: Cultural Aix-en-Provence

Street life in Aix
Street life in Aix

This morning 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 (also known 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, you'll have the rest of the day to enjoy the city however you see fit. In the evening, enjoy a 3-course menu in a gourmet restaurant very close to your hotel in the heart of Aix-en-Provence. 

Day 8: Cultural Tour Across the Hill-top Villages of Luberon

Gordes village
Gordes village

Start your day with a visit to the Provençal market where you can find plenty of local specialties such as macarons, calissons, goat’s cheeses, olive oil, honey, and fantastic local wines. Go shopping in the fashion boutiques of this “mini-Paris” or relax in the Spa of your hotel built on ancient Roman natural springs and swim in its outdoor pool at the foot of the ramparts.

After lunch, you go together to discover hinterland Provence. The Luberon is a fascinating region: a spectacular countryside of vineyards and orchards, fascinating hill-top villages and outstanding natural produce.

At your own pace, stroll through the cool air near the springs at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. Enjoy views of the hill-top village of Gordes dominated by its fortified castle and church and its cobbled streets with enchanting views over the valley and the hills. From here, visit Roussillon, located in the very heart of the biggest ochre deposits in the world. It's one of the most beautiful villages of France, and it's easy to see why—discover its flamboyant colors, narrow streets, squares, and steps where the town's life blends seamlessly with nature.
 
Spend the night in the small town of Forcalquier, between the Luberon and the Verdon natural parks. Tomorrow, you can visit Manosque, the birthplace of l'Occitane natural beauty products, or head to the Valensole plateau and enjoy the great plains of lavender.

The total drive today, from Aix-en-Provence—Fontaine-de-Vaucluse— Gordes—Roussillon is 53 miles (86 km).

Day 9: Van Gogh and Roman monuments

Cafe Van Gogh in Arles
Cafe Van Gogh in Arles

Spend the day discovering the places that inspired the legendary artist Van Gogh. Start your morning with a cup of coffee at the Café of Van Gogh, then continue to the Bridge of Van Gogh Pont de L’ Anglois.

Later, see the Arena of Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which tells the stories of the city's glorious past. From here drive to Saint Rémy de Provence, another village well known for its inspiration on Van Gogh. Visit Mausole de Saint Paul where the artist spent one creative year. Admire the olive trees around the abbey, Van Gogh’s room and the wheat fields from Van Gogh’s painting.

To finish the day visit Glanum, the antique Greek and Roman city before going back to your hotel in Arles.

Day 10: The Roman Treasures of Arles

The 1st-century Roman amphitheater of Arles
The 1st-century Roman amphitheater of Arles

Discover Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site abounding with culture and history. This ancient city is located in southern France between the Rhône River delta and the wetlands of Camargue Natural Park. It's a unique place in that it is defined as much by its historic Roman architecture as it is by its quintessentially French shaded squares and café-lined streets.

Arles is probably most famous in modern times as the city that inspired Vincent Van Gough—his famous 1888 oil painting Café Terrace at Night was done in Arles. It's possible to visit the exact spot where Van Gough painted this masterpiece, Le Café Van Gogh, located in the historic city center. But only stop for photos—the restaurant itself has nothing to recommend it.

Still, you'll be able to see much more of Arles than mere cafés on this self-guided tour of the city center. As you meander down the old streets you'll discover the historic legacy of this once provincial capital of ancient Rome. The tour includes stops to some of the most famous Roman, Christian, and medieval sites and monuments in the city, including the well-preserved amphitheater (which dates back to 90 ACE and still hosts bullfighting matches), and the 11th century Church of Saint Trophime

For artistic insight into the contemporary face of Arles, don't miss the photography exhibits at the Luma Foundation (11 am to 6 pm), a non-profit that supports the efforts of local artists. Every summer since 1970 this foundation has also held the Les Rencontres d'Arles, which is one of the most venerated photo festivals in the world.

Day 11: Departure

Say goodbye to Provence
Say goodbye to Provence

In the morning head to the Arles, Avignon, Marseille or Nice train stations, then transfer to the international airport for your connecting flight home. Au revoir!

Map

Map of Self-Drive Tour in Provence & French Riviera - 11 Days
Map of Self-Drive Tour in Provence & French Riviera - 11 Days