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The South of France Is My Favorite Vacation Destination — Here Are Its 20 Best Places to Visit

The lavender fields, quaint villages, and beautiful beaches have my heart.

Lindsay Cohn is a writer, editor, and avid traveler who has visited 45 countries across six continents — and counting. She contributes to Travel + Leisure, Hotels Above Par, InsideHook, Well+Good, The Zoe Report, and more.

places to visit in the south france

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France ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe — of course there are remarkable destinations in the country that gave us boeuf bourguignon , the Eiffel Tower , and Champagne. But with alluring beaches along the Côte d'Azur , magical lavender fields, and the vineyards of the Luberon, the South of France is a superb destination all on its own. I'm a professional travel writer who's been to 45 countries across six continents, and it's my absolute favorite place in the world to visit. If you’re planning on spending even just a few days in le Midi , this list will help you choose which of the region's many, many highlights to include in your itinerary.

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Gordes is one of the most beautiful small towns in the world , with roads and facades that seem to have sprung from the pages of a children's storybook. Unsurprisingly, tourists beeline to this enchanting Luberon village to see — and snap photos of — its cobbled lanes, white stone buildings, and churches.

Saint-Tropez

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A French Riviera hotspot put on the map by Bridget Bardot and other members of the jet-set pack in the 1960s, Saint-Tropez still sizzles. Sun-kissed holiday goers crowd glamorous beach clubs here, moor their mega yachts in the harbor, shop for breezy linens at the boutiques, and traipse around the old fishing quarter.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

Just outside the tourist-trodden center of Gordes lies Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a photogenic monastery founded in 1148 by Cistercians monks. Guided tours of the church and cloisters are available throughout the year. When the lavender fields bloom in the summer, this site reaches peak prettiness.

Île Sainte-Marguerite

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Île Sainte-Marguerite floats about half a mile offshore from Cannes. In contrast to its mainland neighbor, the largest of the Lérins Islands is small, slow-paced, and steeped in nature. Expect rocky beaches, turquoise waters, and a eucalyptus forest, as well as a very interesting underwater sculpture museum.

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It’s not hard to find enchanting hilltop towns in Provence. The enduring charm of Mougin that lured Edith Piaf and Christian Dior enamors all who visit. This medieval village has a snail-shaped center with cobbled lanes and flower-clad houses, plus large-scale art sculptures and award-winning restaurants overlooking the leafy countryside.

Oppède le Vieux

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In stark contrast to the Disneyland-like atmosphere of Gordes, Oppède le Vieux is an under-the-radar village that’s built atop rocks and surrounded by overgrown trees. The stone pathways, steps, and structures here are in various degrees of ruin, which imbues a time-worn charm.

Porquerolles

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Escape to Porquerolles, off the coast of Hyères, for a peaceful respite that can include time lazing on near-empty beaches, swimming in placid tides, sipping your way through vineyards, cycling in the countryside, and wandering through old forts.

Plage des Marinières

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Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the French Riviera, crescent-shaped Plage des Marinières in the darling village of Villefranche-sur-Mer is the perfect spot for a day of basking in the sun, strolling across golden sand, and splashing in the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

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The exclusive commune of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has long attracted the attention of artists and jet setters with deep pockets and a desire for privacy. Exquisite villas are obscured from sight by lush vegetation. Pristine beaches, scenic hiking trails, and a yacht-filled harbor define this desirable destination.

Site Archéologique de Glanum

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Named after the Celtic god Glanis, Site Archéologique de Glanum traces its roots back to 600 BC. It’s at this extensive site just outside the town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence that visitors can walk through remarkable surviving remains of both Gaulish and Roman settlements.

Le Sentier des Ocres

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The most iconic and unmissable sight in the Luberon village of Roussilian, Le Sentier des Ocres is a former ochre quarry with walking paths through rust-hued hills. The setting certainly provides spellbinding photo ops.

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Nice is a vibrant seaside city with a lovely historic core. If Vieux Nice is on your itinerary, begin with the Promenade des Anglais, then wander through the narrow cobblestone streets, admiring the pastel-hued facades and shopping for Niçoise soaps. Experience a Provencale market, grab socca (chickpea pancake) at one of the outdoor cafes, and soak in the views from Colline du Château before you depart.

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The untamed region between the Mediterranean Sea and the two branches of the Rhône River delta, Camargue defies preconceptions with its vastly different landscape. Rather than olive groves and grape vines, expect salt marshes and reed beds inhabited by free-roaming white horses and pink flamingos.

Valensole Plateau Lavender Fields

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Lavender is the emblem of Provence. The fields on the Valensole Plateau that erupt into a fragrant and gorgeous purple bloom each summer are some of the most popular — and photogenic — attractions in the region.

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Fragrance fans are no doubt familiar with Grasse, a French Riviera town in the hills behind Cannes that’s considered the perfume capital of the word. Rare roses and jasmine for designer luxury scent makers grow in this sunny village. It’s also home to many perfumeries.

Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole

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If you’re at all interested in the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, consider a visit to Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole. This is the monastery-turned-psychiatric facility in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where the tortured Dutch artist sought treatment and famously painted “The Starry Night.”

Palais des Papes

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The standout attraction in Avignon, the enormous Palais des Papes served as a pontifical residence in the 14th century. It's also on the shortlist of the most significant medieval Gothic buildings in all of Europe, with ceremonial halls, chapels, a cloister, and frescos.

Mines Bruoux

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Mines Bruoux , near Gargas, gives visitors the chance to tour a maze-like complex of tunnels and galleries in a 19th-century ochre mine. You will learn about the fascinating mining process as you go. The cool underground temperature provides a reprieve from the summer sun, too.

Promenade de la Croisette

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Few places embody French Riviera glamor quite like Promenade de la Croisette. Running along the Mediterranean Sea, the famous palm-fringed thoroughfare is crowned by Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, which hosts the Cannes Film Festival, and you'll find many upmarket hotels, shops, and restaurants here as well.

Carrières de Lumières

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For an unforgettable experience that speaks to Provence’s artistic pedigree, head to Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux-de-Provence. Housed in an old quarry, this contemporary art center hosts multimedia shows that combine larger-than-life projections of famous paintings and music.

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20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

Written by Lisa Alexander Updated Aug 24, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Just mentioning the "South of France" conjures up images of stylish seaside holidays, complete with private beach clubs, upscale boutique shopping, and fancy gourmet dining. This description fits the French Riviera (especially Cannes, Monaco, and Saint-Tropez), but it's just one aspect of the South of France.

A street in Saint-Paul de Vence

After the French Riviera, the second most-visited area in the South of France is sunny rural Provence . A patchwork of small farms, fields of lavender and sunflowers, and colorful open-air markets characterize the Provençal countryside. There are also fascinating medieval hilltop towns, Roman ruins, and historic cities such as Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and Avignon.

Would you like to discover the South of France's less touristy side ? Then head to Marseille for a glimpse of a real working city with a cosmopolitan vibe. Toulon is another authentic seaport with tourist appeal.

In Southwest France, the Basque seaside resort of Biarritz boasts an elegant Second Empire hotel, beautiful sandy beaches, and spectacular coastal scenery. Biarritz also has a superb aquarium and many fine-dining restaurants, as well as trendy bistros.

Slightly off the beaten path, the Languedoc-Roussillon region includes outstanding attractions like the UNESCO-listed fortified city of Carcassonne and the lively university town of Montpellier.

The most undiscovered area in the South of France is the rural Gascony region . This unspoiled countryside is known for its quiet villages and hearty cuisine. Toulouse is the biggest city in Gascony yet has the feel of a small town, thanks to its relaxed and convivial ambiance.

Plan your French sightseeing itinerary with our list of the best places to visit in the South of France.

1. French Riviera Seaside Resorts

2. nice: art museums and beaches, 3. aix-en-provence, 4. historic monuments in avignon & arles, 5. saint-tropez: a charming village with beautiful beaches, 6. the upscale seaside resort of biarritz, 7. the walled medieval town of carcassonne, 8. hilltop villages of provence (villages perchés), 9. the glamorous seaside city-state of monaco, 10. montpellier, 11. lourdes & pyrénées nature sites, 12. marseilles, the calanques & cassis, 13. ancient roman monuments & archaeological sites, 14. unesco-listed albi, 15. toulon & île de porquerolles, 16. the gascony region, 17. bordeaux, 19. the camargue, 20. plage de l'espiguette, map of places to visit in the south of france.

Beach in Cannes

The sunny weather, mesmerizing deep-blue sea, and leafy palm trees give the French Riviera a dreamy quality. Also known as the "Côte d'Azur," the French Riviera delivers fabulous beach holidays with a hefty dose of culture.

During the early 20th century, artists flocked to the Côte d'Azur to capture the sublime scenery on canvas. As a result, many local museums display the works of Renoir, Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, and other painters who were captivated by the coastal landscapes.

Nice is prized for its gorgeous waterfront promenade and art museums, while Cannes is known for private beach clubs and the annual film festival.

Antibes on the French Riviera

Other top resort destinations include Monaco and Saint-Tropez . The French Riviera also has smaller lesser-known towns that are full of charm, such as Fréjus, Antibes, Villefrance-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Èze, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and Menton.

Of all the French Riviera resorts, the coastline near Antibes has the best beaches, especially along the Golfe Juan on the Juan-les-Pins and Cap d'Antibes headland. In this area, there are about a dozen public beaches. The Plage de la Garoupe is the prettiest beach, with a fine white-sand shoreline, but much of it is occupied by private beach clubs during the summertime.

Place Massena in Nice

One of the highlights of the Côte d'Azur, the town of Nice deserves special mention because of its charming historic city center and amazing art collections: the Matisse Museum, Chagall Museum, Fine Arts Museum, and Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

With its scenic beachside location, balmy weather, and pleasant Mediterranean landscape, Nice has it all. The centerpiece of Nice is the Promenade des Anglais , a palm-fringed seafront promenade, while the Vieille Ville (Old Town) is a delightful warren of medieval alleyways and winding cobblestone streets.

Beach along the Promenade des Anglais

Surrounding Nice, the sunny Provençal countryside brims with day-trip possibilities, such as Grasse and Fréjus. Within a 30-minute drive are the atmospheric hilltop towns of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Èze , as well as the fetching seaside villages of Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villefranche-sur-Mer .

Other highlights include the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula and the sea-facing Villa Kérylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, designed to resemble an ancient Greek nobleman's mansion of the 2nd century BC. Both villas are open to the public for visits.

The Fontaine de la Rotonde in Aix-en-Provence

To experience the quintessential lifestyle of southern France, visit Aix-en-Provence. This elegant city epitomizes the Provençal region's character with its open-air markets, bustling outdoor cafés, and refreshing fountains that adorn the public squares.

As in most towns of Provence, the ambiance is slow-paced and relaxing. Aix-en-Provence residents have perfected the art de vivre, with leisurely meals and strolls along graceful tree-lined streets.

Top tourist attractions in Aix-en-Provence are Vieil Aix (the Old Town); the Cours Mirabeau , a tree-lined avenue with many sidewalk cafés and restaurants; and the Quartier Mazarin neighborhood, which was developed in the 17th century.

If you appreciate Post-Impressionist art, visit the Atelier de Cézanne , the studio where Paul Cézanne created many famous paintings. Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence and spent his childhood here. The Cézanne Trail gives you a chance to explore the landmarks associated with the artist on a self-guided walking tour.

Palais des Papes in Avignon

Discover the cultural heritage of Provence in Avignon and Arles. The UNESCO-listed Palais des Papes in Avignon stands as an awe-inspiring testimony to the grandeur of Christendom during the 14th century.

Avignon also has an outstanding museum of fine arts (the Musée du Petit Palais ), noteworthy medieval churches, and lively festivals throughout the year.

In the heart of Provence, Arles boasts a must-see Roman Amphitheater that was built in the 1st century to accommodate 21,000 spectators, as well as several other Roman-era archaeological sites.

In Arles, it's fun to wander the town to find the landmarks painted by Vincent van Gogh such as the Café du Forum (now called the Café van Gogh) on the Place du Forum . To see more sights painted by Vincent van Gogh, try the Van Gogh Route self-guided walking tour .

Vieux Port in Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez was just a humble fishing village until 1956 when the film And God Created Woman (starring Brigitte Bardot) made it famous. Scenes from the movie were shot on location throughout the town, including at the Plages de Pampelonne where private beach clubs continue to draw a fashionable clientele.

Today, this alluring beach resort still has the charm of a bygone era with its picturesque old fishing harbor ( Vieux Port ) and quaint historic town center ( La Ponche ). At the Musée d'Histoire Maritime , learn about local fishermen who began traveling beyond the Mediterranean Sea in the 16th century.

Besides its old-world charm and pristine sandy beaches, Saint-Tropez offers interesting cultural attractions . An outstanding collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art is on display at the Musée de l'Annonciade , housed in a chapel that dates to 1510.

To soak up the ambiance of Saint-Tropez, spend time at the Place des Lices . This tree-shaded square features outdoor cafés where you can take in the everyday scenes of men playing pétanque (the Provençal version of bocce ball) and women shopping at the open-air produce market (on Tuesday and Saturday mornings).

If you are outdoorsy, take a hike on the Sentier du Littoral , a trail with superb views of the coastline. The trail begins in La Ponche and continues along a seaside path until Tahiti Plage (beach). Keep in mind that this trail has some rocky areas. Tip: Wear good hiking shoes.

View of Grande Plage in Biarritz

Stunning coastal scenery and elegant architecture distinguish Biarritz from other seaside resorts in the South of France. The town was once a holiday destination for aristocrats and royalty, and for that reason is known as the "Queen of Resorts and the Resort of Kings."

Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) adored this seaside location in the Basque region because of its dramatic natural beauty. Thanks to the empress and other aristocratic visitors in the 19th century, the little fishing village became a sophisticated and genteel beach town. The regal air of the past is evident in opulent oceanfront mansions and streets named after royalty.

The magnificent palace built for Empress Eugénie now houses the five-star Hôtel du Palais overlooking the Grande Plage , one of the top tourist attractions of Biarritz . The hotel offers sumptuous accommodations and exquisite fine dining.

Even if you don't stay at the Hôtel du Palais , you can splurge on a meal at the La Table d'Aurélien Largeau . This Michelin-starred restaurant serves contemporary Basque cuisine in a lavish Second Empire salon with ocean views.

The walled town of Carcassone

Carcassonne gives you the impression of stepping into the scene of a fairy tale. Perfectly preserved, this fortified medieval town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . The turreted towers lend a Disneyland-like quality.

By exploring the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets of Carcassonne, you can imagine what life was like during the Middle Ages. Check out the Grand Puits de la Cité , a listed Monument Historique . Townspeople once withdrew drinking water from this 14th-century well.

As early as the 12th century, residents worshipped at the Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse , an impressive Gothic monument that is now a basilica. For a peek at a medieval fortress, head to the Château Comtal , where the Viscounts of Carcassonne resided in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Another nearby UNESCO-designated site in the Languedoc-Roussillon region is the Canal du Midi . This 360-kilometer canal was created in the 17th century to link the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

Walking through Saint-Paul de Vence

Hilltop villages ( villages perché s in French) encapsulate the old-world charm of Provence. Many of these ancient towns are still enclosed by ramparts, which adds to the magical feeling of being enclosed in a little medieval world.

You will enjoy wandering narrow cobblestone streets and pedestrian lanes to discover small boutiques, fountain-adorned squares, and historic churches. Provençal hilltop villages also will delight you with splendid views of the rural landscape.

If you are traveling by car, you can create a driving itinerary to discover the quaint country villages of Provence, especially in the remote Luberon region , which is designated as a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve.

Saint-Paul de Vence

For those based in Nice, several interesting hilltop villages are easy day-trip destinations . These are beautiful little towns, although this area is no longer rural and instead is part of the suburban sprawl around Nice.

It's hard to resist the allure of Saint-Paul de Vence , about a 30-minute drive from Nice. This well-preserved walled town stands high on a precipice overlooking the landscape. The town's quaint cobblestone streets, enticing boutiques, and fabulous views make up for the fact that the village is overrun with visitors even in the off-season.

Beginning in the 1920s, many famous artists were drawn to the beauty of Saint-Paul de Vence, and their work is on display at the Fondation Maeght , two kilometers outside the village.

Along the French Riviera coastline , Èze is a captivating hilltop village (only 12 kilometers from Nice) perched 400 meters above the sea. This picture-perfect village affords sweeping vistas of the Mediterranean and the Cap-Ferrat coastline. Luxurious accommodations are found at the Château de la Chèvre d'Or hotel , a Relais & Châteaux property with a two Michelin-starred restaurant.

A 45-minute drive from Nice in the foothills of the Maritime Alps is the town famous for its perfume factories. Grasse also has a wonderful Vieille Ville (Old Town), full of narrow pedestrian streets, small squares, and historic buildings. To soak up the ambiance and sunshine, stop for a leisurely al fresco lunch on the Old Town's main square (Place aux Aires).

One of the Plus Beaux Villages de France , Gourdon (40 kilometers from Nice) boasts many artisan craft boutiques and an impressive château with gardens designed by André Le Nôtre. From Nice, you can go on a full-day Provence countryside small-group day trip to visit hilltop towns Grasse, Gourdon, and Saint-Paul de Vence as well as the seaside resort of Cannes.

Medieval hilltop villages are scattered throughout the Haut-Vaucluse area of Provence. Two more of France's Plus Beaux Villages are Séguret (10 kilometers from Vaison-la-Romaine) overlooking the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range and Venasque , which affords views of Mont Ventoux.

Gourdon

Presiding above rocky gorges in the Haut-Vaucluse, Monieux has a museum dedicated to truffles, the Musée de la Truffe du Ventoux, and hosts a Medieval Festival in September.

Crillon-le-Brave offers the charm of a quiet hilltop hamlet along with a five-star Relais & Châteaux resort property, the Hôtel Crillon Le Brave .

The Luberon natural regional park in the Haut Vaucluse has many medieval hilltop towns on the Plus Beaux Villages list: Gordes , dramatically perched on a steep promontory; Ménerbes , made famous by Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence novel; Lourmarin , which has a majestic château that hosts cultural events and festivals; Roussillon , built alongside an ochre cliff and surrounded by woodlands; and Lacoste , a tiny village full of art galleries and outdoor cafés.

Also in the Luberon natural park, Bonnieux stands out because of its traditional Provençal market and its fantastic museum devoted to the history of bread, the Musée de la Boulangerie. The town also has an interesting Romanesque church.

Apt is known for its large Provençal market (held on Saturday mornings) and museum of archaeology, while Cadenet has a luxurious boutique hotel, the Auberge La Fenière , with a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Goût de Bonheur .

View of Monaco on a beautiful summer day

Perched on a promontory above the sea, Monaco boasts an impressive ancient castle and splendid coastal views. This dazzling city-state on the French Riviera is home to a royal family with a heritage that dates back to the 13th century.

Just a 30-minute train ride from Nice, Monaco draws fashionable crowds to its high-profile yacht shows, the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco car race, and the Opening Gala at the Opera House.

Opera House, Monaco

Even if you only visit for a day or afternoon, you can see many of the highlights of Monaco including the Palais Princier (Prince's Palace), the Musée Océanographique , and the ritzy Place du Casino in the Monte-Carlo district. These top attractions are all within easy walking distance.

Old Town of Montpellier

Despite being a modern urban city, Montpellier has retained its historic character in L'Écusson (the Old Town) with its jumble of winding medieval streets, elegant squares, beautiful churches, and stately hôtel particuliers (aristocratic mansions).

Encircling L'Écusson, spacious tree-lined boulevards were created by Baron Haussmann (who designed the Grands Boulevards of Paris) in the 19th century, replacing the city's medieval ramparts. The best of the 21st century is seen in Montpellier's sleek tram system with new cars featuring decorations by Christian Lacroix.

An air of trendiness and youthful energy reigns throughout Montpellier, thanks to the university-student population. Buzzing sidewalk cafés and chic gourmet restaurants delight locals and tourists alike.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes

Densely forested, rolling hills provide an inspiring backdrop for the Lourdes cathedral alongside the rushing Ousse River. Pure spring waters flow into a Grotto where Saint Bernadette received visions of the Virgin Mary. Water from this source is believed to have healing properties.

Millions of pilgrims visit Lourdes annually, making it the biggest pilgrimage destination in France and one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. Pilgrims visit the Grotto of the Apparitions, worship at the Basilique Notre-Dame du Rosaire (Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary), and participate in candlelit Marian processions.

One of the top attractions of the French Pyrenees , Lourdes draws many pilgrims who hope for cures to an illness by bathing in the sacred waters. So far, the Catholic church has validated 70 official miracles.

Lourdes is an ideal starting point to explore the Pyrenees Mountains. The UNESCO-listed Cirque de Gavarnie awes you with its spectacular scenery of sheer granite walls and rushing waterfalls. The highest summit (the peak of Mont Perdu ) soars to over 3,300 meters; the Grande Cascade with a 422-meter drop is Europe's tallest waterfall .

An easy walking path at the Cirque de Gavarnie allows you to soak up the scenery of snow-dusted mountains, alpine chalets, and goats grazing on the grass. You'll also enjoy listening to the refreshing sounds of a meandering stream and the chirping of little birds.

Fishing Boats in the Port de Cassis

To experience an authentic Mediterranean seaport, spend a day or two exploring Marseilles . A bustling harbor explains the city's raison d' ê tre , as well as its rich multicultural heritage.

The Old Town ( Le Panier ) of Marseille brims with historic buildings, artisan boutiques, and authentic restaurants, while the Vieux Port dating back to the 6th century BC is still in use today as a launching point for fishing boats.

A fish market is held every morning at the harbor, and the restaurants around the waterfront are the best places to visit to sample the gastronomic specialty of Marseilles, bouillabaisse (seafood stew). The upscale Restaurant Miramar (12 Quai du Port) is famous for its bouillabaisse.

From the Vieux Port in Marseille, you can hop on a ferry to reach two favorite tourist destinations: the 16th-century Château d'If (fortress) on the île d'If, and the Calanques , a national park featuring white limestone coves filled with seawater. You can also take cruises and private boat excursions to explore the Calanques (coves).

It is even possible to take an Electric Bike Tour to the Calanques from Marseille . This full-day tour traverses the wild terrain of the Calanques with a stop at a beach for swimming and concludes with a visit to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, one of the top tourist attractions in Marseille .

Less than 30 kilometers from Marseilles is Cassis . The pastel-painted houses, picturesque port, and bright Mediterranean sunlight of this Provençal fishing village appealed to Post-Impressionist painters such as Paul Signac, Henri Matisse, and Raoul Dufy, who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century to paint scenes of the harbor and coastline.

Today, Cassis is a recreational getaway for residents of Marseille as well as travelers who appreciate the charm of a small seaside town. If you would like to visit Cassis and the Calanques as a day trip from Marseille, an organized sightseeing tour is the perfect option.

Arènes de Nîmes

Both Arles in Provence and Nice on the French Riviera have fascinating ancient Roman ruins, among their other tourist attractions. The Arènes d'Arles was once used for gladiator fights and today hosts cultural performances. In the Cimiez quarter of Nice are the ancient ruins of Cemenelum, revealing vestiges of the Roman baths and amphitheater.

Nîmes in the Languedoc region has some of the most impressive ancient Roman monuments in the south of France. The Arènes de Nîmes , a perfectly designed Roman amphitheater, and the Maison Carrée (Roman temple) are remarkable for their exceptional state of preservation.

An important town during classical antiquity, Orange boasts a UNESCO-listed Théâtre Antique (Roman theater dating to the 1st century). This incredibly well-preserved ancient theater today hosts the renowned Chorégies d'Orange music festival, as well as other cultural events.

In the Haut-Vaucluse area of Provence , Orange is a 30-minute drive away from Vaison-la-Romaine , which is considered one of the Plus Beaux Détours de France (France's official list of places worthy of a detour).

Vaison-la-Romaine has remarkable archaeological sites dating to the 1st century. The old Roman theater of Vaison-la-Romaine is used as an open-air venue for Vaison Danses , an international dance festival that takes place every year in July.

Also in the Haut-Vaucluse area, Pernes-les-Fontaines was founded during the Gallo-Roman era. This relaxing town was named for its many fountains that provide abundant drinking water, a legacy of the Roman heritage.

View of Albi and the Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile

The historic episcopal city of Albi is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its exceptional architecture and cultural value. An imposing fortress-like cathedral presides over the medieval town.

Founded in the 13th century, the enormous Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile is the world's largest cathedral built from brick. The breathtaking vaulted interior features over 18,000 square meters of frescoes and an ornately decorated Gothic choir with 200 intricate statues. Not to be missed is the Last Judgment fresco, a masterpiece of Renaissance painting.

Housed in the UNESCO-listed 13th-century Palais de la Berbie, the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum is devoted to the work of the famous artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born in Albi. The museum displays Lautrec's distinctive posters, as well as paintings and drawings.

Albi is a worthwhile day trip from Toulouse (a one-hour drive) or combined with an itinerary of other attractions such as Carcassonne (about a two-hour drive).

Toulon

Toulon is less touristy than other seaside cities along France's Mediterranean coast yet offers plenty of attractions. This characteristic port town has an attractive palm-fringed waterfront, which is full of shops, and restaurants with outdoor terraces.

Highlights of Toulon are the atmospheric Le Mourillon quarter, an old fishing village; the historic harbor including the Porte de l'Arsenal , an 18th-century military building that houses the Musée National de la Marine (seafaring museum); and the astounding coastal views from Mont Faron (accessible by the Téléphérique du Faron cable car).

A traditional Provençal market has been held in Toulon since the 18th century. Today, this market takes place every day (except Mondays) at the Cours Lafayette from 7:30 am until 12:30 pm; vendors sell fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, specialty food products, and Provençal fabrics.

From the Port of Toulon, you can sail away to the dreamy Île de Porquerolles just an hour's ferry ride away. The island features unspoiled natural scenery, sandy beaches, and secluded coves. It's the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway. Besides sunbathing, the Île de Porquerolles offers opportunities for snorkeling, hiking, and mountain biking.

Lavardens Castle in Gascony

If you really want to get away from all the tourists, go to Le Gers (the Gascony region). This pastoral region in Southwest France is exceptionally charming, yet almost completely undiscovered by travelers.

Unspoiled forests and farmlands blanket the undulating countryside in a colorful patchwork while hilltops are dotted with imposing castles, walled medieval towns, and quiet country villages.

Toulouse is the largest city in the region, but it has a slow-paced, small-town feel. With its sultry climate and sidewalk cafés found at every turn, Toulouse immerses you in a relaxing ambiance typical of southern France.

There are plenty of things to see in Toulouse , including a UNESCO-listed Romanesque basilica and stately civic buildings constructed from the red bricks that earned the city its name, La Ville Rose .

Place de la Bourse

UNESCO has designated the entire historic city center of Bordeaux as a World Heritage Site because of its cultural value and architectural treasures from the Age of Enlightenment. The city boasts nearly 350 buildings that are listed as Monuments Historiques .

Built up along the Garonne River in Southwest France, Bordeaux is a cosmopolitan port town with a heritage that stretches back to antiquity. The city flourished during the 18th century, which explains the coherence of Neoclassical buildings dating to that era.

Among Bordeaux's top tourist attractions are the UNESCO-listed 12th-century Cathédrale Saint-André and the 18th-century Grand-Théâtre, which hosts ballet, opera, and music performances.

Village of Cotignac in the Var Region

Le Var region is a hidden gem of Southern France, nestled between Provence and the French Riviera. Lush woodlands, rolling hills, and farmlands define the landscape of this rural area. The countryside is dotted with historic towns, ancient abbeys, and beautiful villages.

You may visit La Chartreuse de La Verne , a serene Carthusian monastery (and listed Monument Historique ) that is open to the public. You will appreciate the peaceful setting, as well as the monastery's 12th-century Romanesque church and the ceramics (for sale at the monastery's boutique) that are handcrafted by the resident nuns. The boutique is closed on Sundays.

The Abbaye du Thoronet is another 12th-century abbey (classified as a Historic Monument ) hidden deep within a forest of oak and olive trees. The Thoronet Abbey is one of three important Cistercian monuments in the South of France (the others include the Silvacane Abbey and the Abbey of Sénanque in Provence). You may visit the abbey year-round.

The Var region is full of traditional country villages and towns featuring fountain-adorned squares and inviting outdoor cafés. Lorgues is typical with its many fountains, an impressive historic church, an atmospheric medieval quarter, and a weekly open-air market that draws many visitors.

Near Lorgues are two tourist attractions that appeal to luxury seekers and gourmands: the Château de Berne (in the town of Flayosc), a five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel set amid vine-cloaked fields and olive groves; and the famous Chez Bruno fine-dining restaurant (in Le Plan Campagne Mariette near the Château de Berne) that specializes in dishes made with truffles.

Sheltered by steep limestone cliffs, Cotignac (23 kilometers from Lorgues) is classified as a Village de Caractère du Var (Village of Character of the Var) as well as one of the Plus Beaux Villages thanks to its lovely ambiance, picturesque streets, and pleasant tree-lined central square.

If you love the great outdoors, be sure to see the Gorges du Verdon in the region's northeastern corner. Part of the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon , this 700-meter-deep river canyon offers opportunities for swimming, water sports, and hiking.

Wild Horses in the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue

About a 20-minute drive from Arles, the Camargue is a unique landscape of wetlands, marshlands, beaches, and sand dunes. The Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue is home to wild white horses, Camargue bulls (used in bullfighting), and over 300 species of birds including pink flamingos.

Within the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer delights tourists with its sandy beaches and a wide selection of cafés, restaurants, and shops.

Just outside the Camargue Natural Regional Park are several noteworthy historic towns. Dating back to the 13th century, Aigues-Mortes has its medieval fortifications completely intact. These ancient walls conceal an atmospheric warren of narrow streets, steeped in the ambiance of the Middle Ages.

Salt marshes surround the town of Aigues-Mortes and less than two kilometers away is the Salin d'Aigues-Mortes , where the prized Fleur de Sel de Camargue sea salt is harvested by artisans in the centuries-old manner. At the Salin d'Aigues-Mortes site, you can take a guided or self-guided walking tour of the salt marshes. During July and August, watch workers harvest the Fleur de Sel salt.

The area around the Camargue Natural Regional Park boasts seaside vacation destinations: Le Grau-du-Roi (seven kilometers from Aigues-Mortes), an old fishing village that has been transformed into a modern resort; and Port Camargue (12 kilometers from Aigues-Mortes), which has sandy beaches.

Plage de l'Espiguette

The Plage de l'Espiguette ranks as one of the best beaches in France because of its pristine environment and calm deep-blue seas. This dreamy stretch of white-sand shoreline is a favorite summertime destination in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (a 45-minute drive from Montpellier).

At this wild unspoiled beach, outdoor activities are the main draw. Things to do include swimming, nature walks, horseback riding, kitesurfing, and fishing.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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Other Highlights of France : Many travelers begin a vacation in France by visiting the capital city of Paris . The TGV high-speed train takes just over 2.5 hours from Paris to Avignon, a good starting point to explore Provence. For more trip-planning inspiration, read about the best places to visit in France . Other top tourist destinations include Normandy and the Loire Valley.

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16 Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in the South of France

By: Author Angela Price

Posted on Last updated: October 29, 2023

16 Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in the South of France

Are you planning a trip to the south of France and want to know the best destinations? This travel guide details sixteen beautiful places in the South of France you will want to visit, from bustling towns to secluded villages.

The South of France conjures up images of style, wealth and sophistication, so what’s not to love about it?

Impressive towns along the French Riviera, like St Tropez and Cannes, bring back memories of a bygone era and are some of the most popular tourist spots in France.

It was a time when beautiful actresses and film producers enjoyed leisurely lunches along the seafront. And a time when arriving by boat was the only way to travel!

The South of France is now accessible for all budgets to enjoy. While decadent hotels attract the wealthy, camping holidays in Southern France are also very popular.

If you are wondering what to do in the South of France, why not explore Marseille, France’s oldest city, soak up the sun in popular seaside towns like Nice and Cassis or wander around fairytale hillside villages like Gassin and Eze .

Head inland to the beautiful natural areas of the Calanques, easily reached from the main towns in Southern France. And, of course, take time to visit the Provence lavender fields, some of the prettiest flower fields in Europe.

Cycling holidays in Provence are very popular if you want to explore by bike. And walking holidays in the South of France include routes through some of France’s most beautiful countryside.

So whether you want to visit France for its history, beaches, art, food or landscape, this South France bucket list of the best places to visit in the South of France will help you decide which destinations are perfect for an epic French holiday.

This travel guide may contain affiliate links – please read my  disclaimer and privacy policy for more information.

Do you need to arrange travel insurance, car hire or accommodation? Please check out my  resources page  to help you plan your trip.

Table of Contents

How to Reach the South of France By Air

Travel to the South of France from the UK and Europe couldn’t be easier with Easyjet. Flights are quick and cost-effective.

Ten international airports in Southern France are accessible from over 240 countries, making holidays to the South of France accessible for most international travellers.

Pick up a car on arrival from Europcar to add a little freedom to travelling in Southern France.

South France Travel Map

If you fancy a South of France road trip, this travel map will help you to plan the perfect trip.

Best Beach Towns in the South of France

Discover the best beaches in the South of France, fabulous hotels, and first-class restaurants along the French Riviera, France’s most beautiful seaside destination. And for the budget traveller, there are plenty of South of France campsites by the beach.

sweeping view of the beach, promenade and pastel coloured buildings lining the coast in Nice.

Nice is one of the most popular places to visit in France and is at the hub of the Cote d’Azur or “Blue Coast”. It’s a vibrant city with an international airport, offering the traveller a perfect base to visit the other sensational places in the South of France.

On my trip to Nice , I found plenty of things to do in and around the town. We loved passing the time by walking along the 7km Promenade D’Anglais.

Stops for lunch on the beach and a refreshing Aperol spritz made the walk perfect. Many South France beaches are exclusive, so you must pay to use them.

We headed to the top of Castle Hill and were rewarded with amazing views of the marina and the coastline.

And we couldn’t miss strolling around the Old Town in Nice. Narrow streets with charming restaurants and artisan shops led to the 17th-century Nice Cathedral with splendid Baroque architecture.

Other things to do in Nice include visiting one of the daily markets in Cours Selaya, visiting St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral (not a sight you would expect to see in France) and wandering around Port de Nice Marina to see the mega-yachts!

Nice Harbour with a Mega yacht moored alongside smaller vessels.

Nice is a great place to stay on the French Riviera, and an inexpensive place to stay in Nice is Hotel Victor Hugo , which I would recommend.

For pure indulgence, Hotel Negresco is the place to book!

Best Nice Tours To Book For Your Trip

Villefranche-sur-mer.

view of the coastline of Villefrance with its multicoloured buildings and harbour in the south of France

The picturesque town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is a charming place to visit in the South of France. Located close to Nice and Cannes, its vibe is that of an upmarket French fishing village.

It has a scattering of lively harbour restaurants where we ate delicious freshly caught fish. Sitting beside the water and enjoying the beautiful views of colourful fishing boats bobbing on the blue waters of the Med was perfect.

Ochre-coloured buildings with pastel shutters are a stunning backdrop, and we found ourselves wandering down tiny alleys and climbing lots of steps (it is a hilly town) to discover the historical landmarks in town.

As Villefranche is a deep-water port, boats of all sizes can stop off here, and passengers can explore the delights of Villefranche and the French Riviera . Beach lovers wanting to relax will find this small sandy south of France beach a real delight and perfect for families.

From the harbour in Villefranche, we could see the Cap Ferrat peninsula, voted one of the best places to live in the South of France.

It has some of the most beautiful French Riviera villas, like the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild , a magnificent mansion I would recommend visiting. Cap Ferrat also has Plage de la Paloma, considered one of the best beaches in South France and the French Riviera.

Jump on the train from Nice and you can be in Villefranche in just 15 minutes

Angie walking through gardens at Villa Ephrussi

Best French Riviera Tours To Book For Your Trip

Want to stay in villefranche-sur-mer check out accommodation availability and rates.

saint-tropez-citadel-and-town-viewed-from-the-hillside

Saint Tropez has long been synonymous with the rich and famous since the likes of Picasso and Bridgette Bardot graced its shores. Today, this holiday hotspot on the French Riviera can be reached from Cannes by road in 90 minutes.

Spend your days “people watching” from cute cafes or enjoy the weather in Saint Tropez on one of the many beautiful beaches.

If you want a piece of the action in Saint Tropez, head to Pampelonne Beach or Nikki Beach for beach clubs offering DJs, champagne and hefty prices.

For a more sedate day out, visit one of the beautiful vineyards on the hillsides above Saint Tropez. Two of the best wineries in the Saint Tropez peninsula are Domaine Bertaud Belieu and  Domaine la Tourraque.

Other things to do in Saint Tropez include exploring the nooks and crannies of the old town.

Walk up to the Citadelle de Saint Tropez for great views over the area, checking out the 16th-century Chapel Saint-Anne, where Mick Jagger wed Bianca.

Then, hike around Cap Camaret to see France’s second-highest lighthouse and the varied wildlife in the area.

And don’t forget that if you are a UK resident and holidaying in France, you can now  shop Tax-Free at the designer shops in Saint Tropez!

Saint Tropez accommodation prices can be high. Check out La Bastide Du Port for a great stay with parking at a moderate price level, or stay at one of the many campsites near St Tropez

beach loungers and straw umbrellas on a white sandy beach.

Best St Tropez Tours To Book For Your Trip

aerial view of Cannes rooftops and harbour

Cannes is one of the most beautiful coastal destinations along the fashionable Côte d’Azur and arguably the French Riviera’s most famous city.

Think glitz, glamour, mega yachts and, of course, the annual Festival de Cannes (Film Festival), and it gives you a pretty good idea of what this seaside town is all about.

Add to that a mix of luxury hotels (after all, the rich and famous need somewhere to rest their heads), first-class gastronomy and an abundance of designer label stores, and you can see why this French beach town is a magnet for those wanting to escape reality even for just one day.

Away from the main promenade, head to the old town, Le Suquet, to discover the authentic side of Cannes. Winding streets, French architecture, traditional restaurants and views over the Bay of Cannes make it a lovely area to explore.

A beautiful trip to take from Cannes is to Sainte-Marguerite island. A 20-minute sea crossing takes you to an idyllic area where you can swim, relax, eat and visit the Fort Royal Museum , a former prison that held “the man in the iron mask” for 11 years!

Stay on Sainte-Marguerite for the day and return to Cannes in the late afternoon. Watch the town come alive as the “beautiful people” stroll along Cannes beaches and delightful harbour setting.

Fancy staying in one of the most quirky hotels in Cannes? Check out Hotel Verlaine for a stay close to the beach

Best Cannes Tours To Book For Your Trip

Harbour in Cassis with buildings lining the waterfront

The historical village of  Cassis  is one of those places in the South of France that has it all.

The quaint village feeling, the hilltop chateau, the countryside with some of France’s best vineyards , beautiful beaches, a tremendous bi-weekly market, and a bustling port epitomize everything good about Provence.

Being only a 45-minute drive from home, it’s a place we return to repeatedly. Sometimes to show visitors around, other times to hike, hit the beach, and enjoy the picturesque surroundings.

Market day (Wednesday and Friday) is always a good time to visit. Browse the stalls, pick up some fresh produce, then head to the bakery for a baguette, and you’ll have a deliciously simple picnic!

Afterwards, wander along the waterfront, stopping at Maison Casalini for ice cream, or walk through the cobbled back streets to see what hidden treasures you can find.

Medieval remnants remain scattered throughout the village. You can pop into the town hall to glimpse a kitchen from the middle-ages beneath the glass floor.

Beach lovers will adore the pebbled shores of Cassis, and you can easily hike into the Calanques National Park for more secluded coves.

Don’t worry if hiking isn’t for you or you’re short on time; boat excursions leave from the port and are a fantastic way to get acquainted with the area by the sea.

At the end of the day, settle into one of the seaside tavernas or head along to Chez Poulette , where you’ll find something to please even the fussiest of eaters!

Best Cassis Tours To Book For Your Trip

Want to find out about eastern france please read, 11 most beautiful towns in eastern france on a road trip, south of france best hillside villages to visit.

Medieval perched villages steeped in history offer the visitor a glimpse into France’s past. Wander the narrow streets and immerse yourself in a world away from the beach.

view across cactus plants to Mediterranean Sea

Eze is one of the most beautiful hilltop villages in the South of France.

As you wander along its cobbled lanes, with hidden doorways and flowers tumbling across blue shuttered buildings, this medieval village is reminiscent of something from the pages of a fairytale.

I loved the artisan shops and charming cafes scattered around Eze. Tiny courtyards offered a place to sit before I headed higher up to the Jardin D’Eze.

The summit’s 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and the Mediterranean Sea were sensational. Shaded seating areas amongst the cacti offered a reprise from the soaring temperatures on the Cote D’Azur.

If you fancy a glass of local French wine after the garden visit, I recommend visiting the 5-star Chateau Eza ; the balcony view from here is breathtaking.

Back in the main town of Eze, you will find the tourist office, a few restaurants, and the Fragonard perfume shop. I had fun choosing perfume as a souvenir of my day in Eze.

Eze is a fantastic day trip from Nice and can be reached by train in under one hour or by car in 25 minutes.

Best Eze Tours To Book For Your Trip

While you are in eze, why not head over to villa ephrussi de rothschild.

Escape to the beautiful village of Gassin,  close to the famous beach destination of Saint Tropez and discover a picturesque French village perched high up on a rock, only a few kilometres from the sea.

Gassin is one of the most sensational places to see in France, with the most incredible coastline views of the Gulf de St. Tropez in one direction and mountain views in another. You can see why it’s known as  Les Plus Beaux Villages de France  or one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.

Lose yourself in the winding pedestrian-only streets, admiring the ancient houses brimming with pretty flowers. Rue Androuno holds the record for being the smallest street in the world, measuring only 29 centimetres at its narrowest point.

Gassin became a fortified village at the end of the 15th century. Its landmarks include chapels from the 11th and 16th centuries, an 18th-century church bell, and a 16th-century Town Hall.

It also has the area’s oldest art galleries and a beautiful botanical garden featuring plants native to Provence. 

Follow along the terrace wall, the Promenade Dei Barri, where you will find the village’s restaurants. 

A stay at  La Maison de Village Gassin  is a must. This highly stylized loft apartment features a terrace with awe-inspiring views, perfect for sunset watching. 

Cream building with pastel blue shutters in Gassin France

A leisurely hour’s drive to the northwest of Nice is the beautiful Pays de Fayence region in the Var. It is a much quieter location than the coast, where you get a taste of authentic Provence.

I have been visiting the Var for the last twenty years. While I love the whole region, my favourite place is the town of Fayence.

Fayence is one of the “perched” towns and villages in Provence. These hilltop towns cascade down the hillside with steep winding roads taking you up from bottom to top.

Visiting Fayence is the perfect day out to combine shopping, sightseeing and eating great food. I prefer driving to the car park at the top of the town as this is the hub of Fayence.

Market Time in Fayence

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the best place to be is Church Square for the markets.

I love selecting fresh fruit and vegetables, sampling the olives, tapenade and local cheeses, browsing the clothes and chatting with the stallholders. 

Every time I am in Fayence, I walk up the steps past the creamy-coloured houses to the Clock Tower. The views from here over the surrounding countryside are stunning. Each season the view is different.

One of my favourite cafes is  L’Entracte ,  perfect to while away my time and watch the world go by me. Next door is a Cave de Fayence. It has a vast array of local wines, oils and vinegar, to go with the food from the market.

places to visit in the south france

The lovely hillside town of  Grasse  in the south of France is the home of French perfume and is the best place in France to visit if you are interested in finding out about France’s perfumery industry.

Located a short way inland from the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and the French Riviera, Grasse is easily accessible by public transport from Nice or Cannes.  

I visited Grasse without knowing too much about the town or its history. It was a delight to find all the quaint perfection of an old European town without the heaving crowds of tourists I experienced along the coastline.

The pastel-coloured buildings and coloured window shutters feel positively provincial, and the many cobblestone streets and market squares offer plenty of cute little French cafes to grab a coffee and pastry. 

The Perfume Capital of the World

The first thing I recommend doing in Grasse is to immerse yourself in the world’s fragrance capital.

There are many French perfumeries here and fragrance factories that visitors can tour. I loved the opportunity to make my own fragrance under the instruction of one of the town’s esteemed Nez (fragrance makers).  

Grasse is also the perfect place for perfume shopping. I found the perfect gifts for loved ones back home after shopping at the flagship stores of France’s three major perfume companies: Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard.  

I was spoilt for choice regarding dining options in the South of France. Grasse offered me one of the loveliest upmarket dining experiences I’ve ever had at the Hotel La Bastide Saint Antoine . It’s a 1 Michelin-star restaurant serving delicious seasonal produce from chef Jacques Chibois.  

I loved visiting Grasse and would thoroughly recommend a visit for anyone who loves perfume, history or lovely old towns slightly off the beaten path. 

houses and a large hotel scattered on a mountainide covered with forest.

Best Grasse Tours To Book For Your Trip

St. paul de vence.

hillside village with church in the centre and surrounded by rolling green fields and cypress trees.

I instantly loved the fortified Medieval village, Saint Paul de Vence. Every nook and cranny provided photo-worthy moments: window boxes, fountains, doors, and even the carefully laid cobblestone streets!

I also found numerous spots on the windy roads to capture the walled city nestled in the hills of Southern France. 

We spent the morning strolling through the narrow streets, ducking into the quaint boutiques, the main church, and numerous art galleries. For 20 years, the artist Marc Chagall lived in this charming town.

We found one of the best art collections while enjoying lunch at the famous Provencal restaurant, La Colombe d’Or. Unique art pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and Calder are inconspicuously scattered all around.

Even if you are not an art lover, I recommend eating here to enjoy delicious gourmet  French food  in a lovely setting.

After lunch, we were hungry for more art and visited the nearby Foundation Maeght Museum just a few miles outside the fortification.

With a large sculpture by Miro standing at the entrance, Chagall mosaics, and a Giacometti sculpture garden, we spent just as much time admiring the works outside the museum as we did inside.

Our last stop was outside the village walls to visit the Chapelle du Rosaire, designed and constructed by Matisse as a gift for the nun Monique Bourgeois, who had nursed him through his cancer. 

Saint Paul de Vence makes a perfect day trip from so many cities in the south of France, or if you want to spend the night, the Hotel Colombe D’Or also offers 13 rooms for rent. 

Best St. Paul de Vence Tours To Book For Your Trip

Ochre red buildings and rooftops of the mountain village of Rousillon

As I drove among the  best Luberon villages in an area of Southern France, so well known for its Provencal lavender fields, I spent far too much time gazing upwards at the tiny hilltop villages that have cemented this region’s reputation.

Choosing favourites is impossible, as each village has something to offer the traveller that is unique and different from the others; however, my eyes were immediately drawn to the beauty of Roussillon.

Its bright, vivid ochres can nearly blind you when the sun hits them; whether inside the village or far away, looking up, you will be stunned by its brilliance.

The buildings are clothed in ochre, each tint different and unique, yet bound to the others by a common thread. In fact, in Roussillon, if you wanted to paint your walls green or blue, you wouldn’t be allowed. The village’s harmony is guaranteed by ochre, although you can be creative with shutters.

Walking the Ochre Trail

In the centre, across the tiny bridge, is what most people come here for – to walk along the village’s Ochre Trail , part of a network of ochre that cuts through the Luberon’s former ochre quarries.

Roussillon had 16 ochre quarries and plants at one point, but most production ceased with the advent of artificial colours in the 20th century.

You can still walk along the trail, kicking up a bright yellow powder as you go, marvelling at the ochre cliffs and formations that look more lunar than Provençal.

And if you finish with the trail in Roussillon and still want more ochre, head over to Rustrel, with more amazing formations.

Are you visiting Southern France and want to stay in Roussillon? Check here for availability and rates for La Maison des Ocres .

Ochre red walking trail through the town of Rousillon

South of France Best Cities to Visit

The lively and flamboyant cities of the South of France entice visitors with heritage, gastronomy and culture.

turreted stone palace with crucifix on the stairs outside.

Avignon  is one of the most famous French cities in Southern France and a great place to explore for history lovers.

It has direct train connections with the French capital and is also a great base to explore the Luberon region and other incredible sites in Provence.

Avignon is best known as being the city of the Popes. In medieval times, seven Catholic Popes ruled the Christian world from Avignon, and they built a magnificent palace where they established their court.

Today, the Palais des Papes Avignon is the leading site to visit and is one of the best places to go in Southern France for history buffs. Listed as UNESCO World Heritage, the Palace of the Popes is famous for being the most extensive urban building built in Gothic style. 

Apart from the palace, the car-free historic centre of Avignon is beautiful to explore. I loved strolling around the narrow, medieval streets, browsing the little shops selling the French soaps of Marseille and other souvenirs, and enjoying evening drinks in any of the little squares. 

Another must in the city is the Pont d’Avignon, a medieval bridge and the object of a famous French song for kids with the same name. It is also worth visiting the city during the international Avignon Theatre Festival, held every July.

For your stay, I recommend  Hotel Central , one of the best hotels in Avignon, which is centrally located not far from the train station and has a beautiful inner courtyard where guests can take breakfast in the morning and some drinks in the afternoon.

Best Avignon Tours To Book For Your Trip

Colosseum in Arles South of France

Van Gogh is one of my favourite artists, and I make it a point to visit museums with his works and locations significant to his life.

There is no better place in France to walk in his footsteps than in Arles, where he lived and painted from February 1888 to May 1889. Sadly, he also famously lost his ear there.

One of the best things to do in Arles is to take the Van Gogh self-guided walking tour, which is incredible and takes you to the places behind the paintings.

You can visit the actual location of Cafe Terrace at Night (yellow cafe). It’s now called the Cafe Van Gogh and is on the northeast corner of the Place du Forum.

Unfortunately, the Yellow House, where he painted with Paul Gauguin, was destroyed during World War II, but a plaque exists to commemorate the location.

Arles Historical Centre

Besides Van Gogh and its connection to art, Arles has a vibrant ancient Roman history. The Arles Amphitheatre is a prominent landmark in town and one of the most remarkable things to see in France.

From 90 AD, it held up to 20,000 Roman fans for chariot races and bloody gladiator fights. It also housed an entire town with over 200 houses inside. It has also operated as a bullfighting arena that is still in operation today and has attracted the likes of Picasso and Hemingway!  

There is also the Roman Theatre and the Alyscamps (Roman necropolis).

Both were built between the 1st – 4th centuries AD. Gaugin and Van Gogh made beautiful autumn paintings set in and around Alyscamps.

Dante even referred to the Alyscamps in The Inferno. It’s incredible to walk through these sites in the footsteps of talented people before you.

For Van Gogh fans like me, you can continue in his footsteps following his departure from Arles, when he checked in to the asylum at Monastery of Saint-Paul de Mausole in nearby Saint Remy de Provence. He stayed there from May 1889 to May 1890.

Along the way in Les Baux-de-Provence, is  Carrières de Lumières  – a digital art exhibition housed in an old stone quarry. Artworks are projected onto the large stone walls, and when I visited, I experienced Matisse, which left me breathless. 

van Gogh painting of trees in a forest.

Best Arles Tours To Book For Your Trip

Aix-en-provence.

pastel yellow buildings.

Once the seat of aristocracy in Provence, Aix-en-Provence enjoys charming streets lined with opulent Provencal palaces and manicured trees, making it one of the most beautiful places in the South of France.

Named the ‘City of a Thousand Fountains’, the quaint town boasts intricately carved stone fountains on every corner. The town has deep Roman roots, established by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus in 122BC.

The pride and joy of Aix-an-Provence is the famous 19th-century post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne.

You can see where the painter lived and worked by visiting Atelier Cezanne for an authentic look into the home’s condition and layout.

Also frequented by the famous painter is the Le Terrain des Peintres park, which inspired some of Cezanne’s work. Grab a picnic basket and head there for a day of people-watching and musing.

Explore the Farmers Markets

Aix-en-Provence is well-known for its many excellent farmers’ markets and is one of the best places in France to enjoy the country’s top wine regions .

The best local French produce, including olive oil, cheese, bread, wine, flowers, linens and antique finds, can be found on the lively streets of this delightful town.

Everywhere you turn, there is a farmer’s market. Grab yourself a local delicacy of calissons, a diamond-shaped sweet made from almonds and candied melons covered in icing.

Spend your nights at Maison Alberta , located in the heart of Aix-en-Provence. This self-catered apartment has one spacious bedroom and bathroom, a kitchenette and free Wi-Fi. Step outside your door, and you have Aix-en-Provence at your fingertips.

If you fancy a dip in the Mediterranean, you can head to Marseille to spend the day at any of the city’s beautiful beaches. The trip will take you 30 minutes by car. Haley Blackall

Fountain with a lion head in South of France

Best Aix-en-Provence Tours To Book For Your Trip

Want to find out more about northern france please read, 18 most beautiful towns and villages in northern france, best national parks in the south of france.

Get close to nature in areas of absolute natural beauty on a South France trip. Swim, kayak, hike and then relax in the tranquillity of one of France’s beautiful national parks.

Calanques National Park

turquoise water and beach surrounded by towering mountains

If you are looking for French places to visit that are full of natural beauty, the Calanques near Marseille and Cassis tick all the right boxes. They comprise 15 Calanques that could be described as steep limestone coastal cliffs coming inland, stretching over 24km.

I went there for the first time around 15 years ago, and I was so impressed by the landscapes that I knew I would have to visit again.

My second visit was in the summer, and it was even better than in my memories! The crystal blue waters and jaw-dropping cliffs create a unique environment that left me – and will leave you – speechless.

On average, 1 million visitors come here yearly as it is one of the most beautiful places in France.

The Calanques National Park is perfect for adventures and outdoor activities: you can hike, enjoy the beach, swim in the Mediterranean Sea, or do some kayaking.

The most impressive of the Calanques is the Calanque d’En-Vau, which I visited recently, which has one of the most unique beaches in southern France.

Hiking the Calanques

The hike there was a bit hard, especially under the hot sun, but when I discovered a beach and turquoise waters in the middle of high cliffs, the hike was worth the effort!

There were also some magnificent scenic views on the way there. If you want to hike to Calanque d’En Vau, you can see two other Calanques: Calanque de Port-Miou and Calanque de Port-Pin.

I recommend staying in the Sofitel in Marseille , as it’s in the nearest big city in the area. This 5-star hotel has an ideal location in the Vieux Port and offers excellent views.

Best Calanques Tours To Book For Your Trip

Verdon natural regional park.

Lake in Verdon South of France

Gorges du Verdon is one of the most beautiful places in southern France.

Located within the spectacular Verdon Natural Regional Park, this 25km gorge cuts through the heart of Provence and is known for its mesmerising turquoise river colour.

It’s often called “The Grand Canyon of Europe,” and it’s easy to see why – the scenery is simply otherworldly.

We knew Gorges du Verdon would be the perfect place for hiking and canoeing, so we decided to go camping in the South of France one summer to enjoy the lakes and trails of the area.

We pitched our tent at Camping de l’Aigle, near Lac de Sainte-Croix, a beautiful and well-known lake in the national park.

This gorgeous South of France campsite was in a great location, meaning we could easily get around the area and visit all the main attractions.

Verdon Watersports

Regarding water sports, we were spoilt for choice, like rafting, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

We spent afternoons canoeing along the water and trying our hand at paddleboarding on Lac de Sainte-Croix. We also visited Lac Castillon one afternoon – a less popular but equally beautiful lake – which we had all to ourselves!

The Gorges du Verdon is home to a famous hiking trail called the Blanc-Martel Trail, a 16km walk following the Verdon River through an impressive limestone canyon.

We tackled this hike one afternoon, and while hot and challenging, it was simply spectacular.

All in all, Gorges du Verdon is an ideal location for those who love being outdoors and want to experience the beautiful scenery of the south of France. I could not recommend it enough.

river running through mountains on either side.

Best Verdon Tours To Book For Your Trip

Want to find out about france’s best seaside resorts, read my post: 9 most beautiful coastal destinations in france.

No trip to the South of France would be complete without a day trip to Monaco. Although it is not part of France, the principality of Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world and fits like a glove into the coastline adjoining France.

Wander around the cobbled lanes and watch the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace before stepping inside Monaco Cathedral.

See the resting place of the Royal Grimaldi family and Grace Kelly – once a Hollywood star before becoming a well-loved princess before relaxing in Jardin Exotique – a botanical garden with sweeping views of the Mediterranean.

Don’t head back to Nice before trying your luck at the Monte Carlo casino. You may not see James Bond, but there will be no lack of Aston Martin’s, Ferrari and Lamborghinis parked outside, and who knows, you may win enough to sail home in one of Monaco’s mega-yachts!

A day trip to Monaco with its mega-yachts, casinos and luxury hotels should definitely be added to your South of France itinerary.

yachts in the harbour with dense buildings on the hillside.

Best Monaco Tours To Book For Your Trip

places to visit in the south france

 I would like to receive occasional updates and new travel posts.

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Julian Nelson

Wednesday 29th of March 2023

Can anyone offer up advice on how many of these 16 cities my wife and I can visit over a 2 week period? Any advice would be greatly appreciated

WhereAngieWanders

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Hi Julian, I am assuming you will have a car and so I have given advice based on that. If you have a look at the map on the post, the towns are in two clumps, so I would concentrate on seeing the ones in the west or the ones in the east if you want to travel at a slow pace and have time to simply relax without rushing around to see everything. Nice is an excellent base from which you will be able to visit Eze and Villeneuve (day trip), Monaco (day trip) and Cannes (day trip) Grasse (day trip) I would suggest spending 4 to 5 days in Nice to also have time to explore the town and spend some time on the beach if you are travelling in summer. Afterwards, if you have a car, you could head to one of the national parks and spend a couple of days exploring them then drop back down to St Tropez and Gassin and base yourself around those towns for 2 to 3 nights. If you are travellers who like to be on the go, then you could drive to Cassis from St Tropez in 2 hours and explore the area for 2 nights then on to Marseille (a 30-minute drive) to finish your trip. I hope that this has helped you a little. You can read more about staying in Nice and the French Riviera here https://whereangiewanders.com/3-nights-french-riviera-itinerary/ I hope you have a wonderful trip!

Saturday 11th of June 2022

Very well done! This is very helpful as we’re trying to find a good area for us to move to for our early retirement and do slow travel around Europe. We love Paris but the south wins when it comes to weather. We can wait to explore these beautiful places and hope we’ll find the right spot for us that’s well connected. Thank you for sharing :)

I am so glad that the post was helpful for you Jean. I am sure you will find somewhere idyllic to retire to in the South. Good luck with choosing where that will be, I am sure you will have a great time exploring the region.

Wednesday 11th of May 2022

Two of these French villages are on my list for a return visit for sure. Great and comprehensive post about the area.

Francia Henriquez Benson

Saturday 8th of January 2022

Thank you for writing this post! I am obsessed with getting to know more places in France. I have only been to Paris. My name is Francia (France), maybe that's why I like French culture so much. I am definitely visiting Nice. I love beaches, warm weather, and playing with the waves. It amazed me that there are 10 international airports in South France. It must be huge! Honduras, where I am from only has 1. I also want to go to Nice and Monaco. Can't wait to plan my trip to South France.

Sherianne Higgin

Wednesday 5th of January 2022

I want to go to the French Riveria! I have a trip planned for July put it looks like I will postpone another year because of COVID. This is the first I have heard of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Eze; they will be added to my stops for sure.

Thursday 6th of January 2022

South of France is beautiful and I hope that your trip happens this year. I fell in love wit the village of Eze - I hope you do add it to your trip itinerary.

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The Mindful Traveller

The Mindful Traveller

Eco Travel Blog & Photography

20+ Best Places to Visit in The South of France

9 December 2023 · In: France , Travel

places to visit in the south france

Are you looking for the  best and most beautiful places to visit in the South of France ? You have come to the right place! This article walks you through  20 locations to add to your bucket list  for an unforgettable sunny vacation, whether you are travelling as a couple, family with children or with friends.

The South of France, including the French Riviera or  Côte d’Azur , is a  stunning region with a lot to offer ! From picturesque hilltop villages and spectacular landscapes to pristine beaches and delicious local cuisine, you will find  plenty of things to do and places to see  on a holiday full of surprises and hidden gems.

Even though France is my homeland, I am constantly discovering  something new . My trip to the South and Provence was one of those moments where I  felt like I was in another country ! It is a unique and authentic destination where time stands still, a place that will truly recharge your batteries.

So, are you ready to discover the  top 20 South of France places that you must visit ? Let’s get started! And, of course, let me know in the comments below if you have any other suggestions ☀️

Disclosure : Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, we will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase. For more information, read our full affiliate disclosure  here .

Overview: must-visit South of France places

1- Avignon & Pont du Gard 2- Nice  3- Aix-en-Provence 4- Carcassonne 5- Arles & La Camargue 6- Hilltop Provence villages 7- Cassis & Les Calanques 8- Albi 9- Moustiers-Sainte-Marie & Verdon Gorge 10- Valensole & Lavender Fields

11- Menton 12- Île de Porquerolles 13- Marseille 14- Saint-Tropez & Port Grimaud 15- Montpellier 16- Antibes 17- Grasse 18- Cannes 19- Biarritz 20- Monaco

best places to visit south of france

Top sights in Southern France – Map

Click on the top left of the map to display the list of stops and locations.

20+ best places to visit in the South of France

best places to visit south of france

Remember that this list is only a recommendation! You will find many other beautiful places to explore in the South of France, whether you are travelling for a short weekend getaway or a week-long vacation.

Avignon, nestled on the banks of the Rhône River in southeastern France, is a stunning city  steeped in history and cultural richness . Renowned for its  medieval Papal Palace  (Palais des Papes), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the iconic  Avignon Bridge  (Pont Saint-Bénézet), the city was once the centre of the Catholic Church under the Avignon Papacy. 

Stroll through its  charming Old Town  with narrow streets, bustling squares and a vibrant atmosphere, and do not miss the annual  Festival d’Avignon , a  celebrated theatre festival  attracting artists and spectators from around the world.

Avignon is, without a doubt, a  captivating travel destination  for all ages, perfectly blending its  historical legacy  with a  contemporary and picturesque charm  – a must-visit on a trip to the South of France.

READ MORE: Most Scenic Road Trips in France: 12 Epic Routes

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN AVIGNON

  • Explore the  Palais des Papes
  • Visit the Musée de Petit Palais
  • Cross Pont Saint-Bénézet
  • Wander through the Old Town
  • Shop local at Les Halles Market
  • Go  wine tasting  at a local vineyard
  • Relax in the Rocher des Doms garden 
  • Marvel at the Avignon Cathedral
  • Walk down Rue des Teinturiers
  • Take a day trip to  Pont du Gard

PONT DU GARD

The Pont du Gard is an  ancient Roman aqueduct bridge  not far from Avignon. Built in the 1st century AD, it spans the Gardon River and was part of a larger aqueduct system which supplied water to the city of Nîmes. 

The bridge is an  architectural marvel  worth the visit, consisting of 3 levels and reaching a height of 49 meters.

Recognised as a  UNESCO World Heritage site,  the Pont du Gard is not only a testament to Roman engineering but also a  popular tourist destination , offering you the chance to admire its  well-preserved structure  and  picturesque surroundings .

UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCES I RECOMMEND

2- nice .

Nice is a picturesque city on the  French Riviera , renowned for its stunning  Mediterranean coastline, vibrant culture and historic charm . It is a top destination for summer vacation as it offers a mix of  cultural, scenic and leisure activities . 

The  Promenade des Anglais , a famous  waterfront promenade , provides breathtaking views of the azure sea and iconic pebble beaches, whilst its  Old Town (Vieux Nice)  will captivate you with narrow cobbled streets, colourful buildings and a  lively atmosphere  filled with  markets, boutiques and bistros . 

Former home of Henri Matisse, art lovers will also love exploring Nice as they discover the  Marc Chagall National Museum  and the  Matisse Museum , with a stop at the  Colline du Château  to enjoy panoramic views of the city. 

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN NICE

  • Stroll along the Promenade Des Anglais
  • Enjoy the views from Castle Hill
  • Visit the Marc Chagall National Museum
  • Explore the charming Old Town
  • Marvel at St Nicholas Cathedral
  • Relax on one of its beaches
  • Take a  day trip to Monaco
  • Discover the nearby Cap Ferrat
  • Shop at Marché Aux Fleurs
  • Tour the Musée Matisse

3- Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is a  charming city in the Provence region  of southeastern France, famous for its elegant boulevards,  historic architecture  and  artistic heritage  as the birthplace of Post-Impressionist painter  Paul Cézanne .

As you explore the city, you will come across significant landmarks such as the  Saint-Sauveur Cathedral , the  medieval Clock Tower  and its central hub,  Cours Mirabeau , adorned with fountains, trees and vibrant bustling, creating a lively local atmosphere. 

Aix-en-Provence also has a  rich cultural scene , with plenty of museums, including the  Granet Museum , showcasing a diverse collection of art. It is a city full of surprises and a  quintessential Provençal gem  to add to your bucket list.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN AIX-EN-PROVENCE

  • Stroll along Cours Mirabeau
  • Explore Saint-Sauveur Cathedral
  • Visit the Granet Museum
  • Relax at the Thermes Sextius Baths
  • Tour the Atelier de Cézanne
  • Discover the Pavillon de Vendôme
  • Admire the architecture of the City Hall
  • Immerse yourself in  local markets
  • Marvel at the Fontaine de la Rotonde
  • Bike up  Montagne Sainte-Victoire

4- Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a  hilltop town  and  medieval fortress city  located in the Occitanie region in southern France. Its most distinctive feature is the  Cité de Carcassonne , a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a  well-preserved medieval citadel  with double walls and 53 watchtowers. 

Renowned for its  picturesque setting  and its role in preserving the spirit of the  Middle Ages , the city is a captivating destination  for history buffs , especially for its medieval fortifications, including the  Château Comtal  (Count’s Castle), a 12th-century castle offering  archaeological exhibitions  and a  visit of the inner ramparts .

In addition, the Newer Town, known as the  Ville Basse , offers a charming contrast with its more  modern architecture  and  picturesque location  along the Aude River.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN CARCASSONNE

  • Explore the  Cité de Carcassonne
  • Venture inside the Château Comtal
  • Take a walk along the fortress walls 
  • Visit the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire
  • Experience La Cité Market
  • Wander the Ville Basse
  • Stroll along the Canal du Midi
  • Admire the medieval Pont Vieux
  • Tour the Musée de l’Inquisition
  • Sample traditional Languedoc cuisine

5- Arles & La Camargue

Arles is a  picturesque town  in the Provence region of southern France, celebrated for its  rich Roman history, well-preserved architecture and vibrant cultural scene . It is a must-see destination that harmoniously combines antiquity and artistic charm.

The city has  impressive Roman monuments , including the UNESCO-listed Roman and Romanesque Monuments of Arles, such as the iconic  Arles Amphitheatre  and the  Ancient Theatre , now hosting plays, concerts and bullfights.

Arles is also famous for  inspiring the paintings of Van Gogh , which influenced the contemporary art exhibited at the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh. As a result, you will be able to  explore locations depicted in his artwork , including the well-known  Café Terrace at Night .

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN ARLES

  • Explore the Arles Amphitheatre
  • Discover the Ancient Theater of Arles
  • Join a Van Gogh walking tour
  • Admire the Saint-Trophime Church
  • Wander through Alyscamps
  • Visit the Van Gogh Foundation
  • Relax in Place du Forum
  • Have a drink at Café Van Gogh
  • Walk through Place de la République
  • Tour the  Camargue National Park

LA CAMARGUE

La Camargue is a  unique and expansive natural region  located in the delta of the Rhône River near Arles. Famous for its  vast wetlands, salt marshes and lagoons , the area is a haven for diverse flora and fauna, including the  iconic white Camargue horses , black bulls and  pink flamingos . 

The region is also known for its  traditional cowboy culture , where you can explore the natural beauty and wildlife through  guided tours, horseback rides and birdwatching excursions .

6- Hilltop Provence villages

The hilltop villages of Provence are known for their  charming and picturesque settings ,  narrow cobbled streets  and  stunning views  of the surrounding countryside. They are excellent stops on a road trip across the South of France and perfect for  immersing yourself in the rich history, culture and beautiful landscapes  of the region.

Here are some  hilltop villages in Provence  to add to your bucket list:

  • Gordes:  perched on the southern edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse, Gordes is a beautiful village with stone houses and a Renaissance castle. It also offers panoramic views of the Luberon Valley.
  • Roussillon:  renowned for its vibrant ocher cliffs, Roussillon is a striking hilltop village. Stroll through its narrow streets and appreciate the warm colours of the buildings, which blend harmoniously into the natural surroundings.
  • Lourmarin:  nestled in the Luberon region, Lourmarin is a charming village known for its Renaissance castle, bustling markets and tree-lined squares. It has also attracted artists and writers over the years.
  • Ansouis:  this fortified village is dominated by a medieval castle and surrounded by vineyards and olive trees. It is also a member of the  Les Plus Beaux Villages de France  association.
  • Bonnieux:  located on a hill overlooking the Luberon Valley, Bonnieux is home to a medieval church and a 12th-century church tower. It is also surrounded by vineyards and olive trees.

7- Cassis & Les Calanques

Cassis is a  charming coastal town  located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southern France. Nestled between the  Calanques  (rocky inlets) and  vineyard-covered hills , it is renowned for its picturesque harbour, buzzing markets and  crystal-clear Mediterranean waters . 

Explore the  narrow streets of its Old Town , relax on the pebble beaches or enjoy the breathtaking views from the  Cap Canaille cliffs . Cassis exudes a  peaceful and idyllic atmosphere , making it a popular destination for those seeking the beauty of the French Riviera  without the bustling crowds .

In addition, the town offers different types of  cultural and natural activities , from its  famous white wines , including the Cassis AOC, to boat excursions allowing you to explore the nearby  Calanques National Park .

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN CASSIS

  • See the Calanques on a boat tour
  • Enjoy the views from Cap Canaille
  • Stroll along the picturesque harbour 
  • Relax on the pebble beaches 
  • Sample the local Cassis white wine
  • Explore the local market 
  • Hike to Calanque d’En-Vau
  • Visit the Château de Cassis
  • Rent a kayak to explore the coast

LES CALANQUES

Les Calanques is a  stunning and rugged natural area  located along the Mediterranean coast near Cassis. Characterised by a series of  deep, narrow coves with steep limestone cliffs , the Calanques offer breathtaking landscapes,  crystal-clear turquoise waters  and  hidden beaches . 

This pristine and protected environment is a  paradise for nature lovers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts . You can explore the Calanques by boat or on foot, or enjoy water activities like swimming and snorkelling, immersing yourself in the beauty of this  unique coastal ecosystem . 

Albi is a  historic city  located on the Tarn River in the Occitanie region, known for its  well-preserved medieval architecture  and  rich cultural heritage . It features charming streets, squares and historic buildings, creating an atmosphere that will  transport you back in time .

Its centrepiece dominating the skyline is the impressive 13th-century UNESCO-listed  Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile , a Gothic landmark with a  striking red-brick exterior  and  large interior frescoes  such as the spectacular  Last Judgment .

Albi is also renowned for its  many museums , including the  Toulouse-Lautrec Museum  dedicated to the works of the famous post-impressionist painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, born in Albi, and the  Fashion Museum  housed in a former convent, presenting 18th–20th-century costumes. 

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN ALBI

  • Explore the Cathedral of Saint Cecilia
  • Visit the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum 
  • Discover the Berbie Palace
  • Cross the picturesque Old Bridge
  • See the Saint-Salvi Collegiate Church
  • Relax in the Albi Gardens
  • Stop by the Lautrec’s birthplace
  • Experience the local market
  • Walk along the Tarn River
  • Tour the Fashion Museum

9- Moustiers-Sainte-Marie & Verdon Gorge

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a  captivating hilltop village  nestled in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region within Verdon Natural Regional Park. Renowned for its  picturesque setting , the town is  perched on the edge of cliffs  beneath imposing limestone rocks. 

The village is known for its  emblematic star suspended between two cliffs , a symbol of a medieval legend. In addition, its charming streets are lined with  artisan shops, cafés and galleries , creating a tranquil and idyllic atmosphere. 

Surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and ideally located  near the Verdon Gorge , Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a popular destination for those seeking the  charm of Provencal villages  and the  beauty of the natural surroundings .

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN MOUSTIERS-SAINTE-MARIE

  • Wander the narrow cobbled streets 
  • Discover Notre-Dame de l’Assomption
  • Hike to Chapelle Notre-Dame de Beauvoir
  • Admire the iconic star
  • Visit a local faïence workshop
  • Explore the artisan boutiques
  • Take a trip to the Verdon Gorge
  • Relax at the Saint-Maurin’s Fountain
  • Travel to the nearby Lake Sainte-Croix
  • Tour the Museums of Ceramics

LES GORDES DU VERDON 

Les Gorges du Verdon is a  spectacular river canyon  located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Carved by the Verdon River, the canyon is renowned for its  breathtaking turquoise waters ,  imposing limestone cliffs  and  spectacular landscapes . 

It is often considered one of the  most beautiful river canyons in Europe  and is a popular destination for  outdoor activities  such as hiking, rock climbing and water sports. 

10- Valensole & Lavender Fields 

Valensole is a  charming Provençal village  located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France. Known for its  picturesque setting amidst lavender fields and olive groves , it is a popular destination, especially during the lavender blooming season.

The village itself features  narrow streets ,  stone houses  and a  central square  with cafés and shops. Surrounded by the scenic landscapes of Provence, it offers a  tranquil and idyllic retreat , inviting you to explore the  vibrant lavender fields  and experience the beauty of the  French countryside .

The best time to explore the lavender fields is  during the summer months , usually from late June to early August. This is when the vibrant purple hues of lavender are  in full bloom , creating a stunning visual spectacle – a  paradise for photo lovers !

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN VALENSOLE

  • Explore the lavender fields
  • Tour a lavender farms
  • Take in the views from Plateau de Valensole
  • Stroll through the cobbled streets
  • Venture on hiking trails
  • Discover a sunflower field
  • Picnic in the fields
  • Rent a bike and explore
  • Visit the Church of Saint-Denis

Menton is a  charming coastal town  located on the French Riviera, near the border with Italy. Known for its  picturesque Old Town ,  pastel-coloured buildings  and  stunning seaside promenade , it offers a delightful blend of Mediterranean beauty and historical charm. 

Famous for its  annual Lemon Festival  (Fête du Citron), where elaborate citrus-themed exhibitions and parades attract visitors from around the world, the town is surrounded by  lush gardens , including the famous  Jardin Serre de la Madone , showcasing rare plants. 

Menton also features a  historic Old Town  with narrow streets, lively markets and the  Basilica of Saint-Michel  with its 18th-century bell tower. Thanks to its mild climate, colourful architecture and mountain backdrop, the town is a  tranquil and inviting destination  not to be missed.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN MENTON

  • Explore the Old Town
  • Visit the Basilica of Saint-Michel-Archange
  • Discover the Jean Cocteau Museum
  • Wander the Serre de la Madone
  • Stroll along Promenade du Soleil
  • Do not miss the Lemon Festival (February)
  • Relax on Plage des Sablettes
  • Walk along the Cap Martin peninsula
  • Venture around Menton Garavan Port
  • See the Chapel of the Penitents-Blancs

12- Île de Porquerolles

L’Île de Porquerolles is a  stunning Mediterranean island  located off the coast of Hyères in the Var department of southeastern France. It is the largest of the three Îles d’Hyères and is part of the  protected Port-Cros National Park . 

Known for its  crystal-clear waters ,  pristine beaches  and  diverse landscapes , the island is a paradise for  nature and outdoor lovers . Explore its  many trails  on foot or by bike, visit the historic  Fort Sainte Agathe  and relax on beautiful beaches like  Plage Notre Dame . 

With its natural beauty and untouched landscapes, Porquerolles provides plenty of  activities for all ages , perfect for travellers seeking a  fun island experience . And do not miss the charming village centre of the island, which also adds to its charm, with  cafés, shops and a tranquil atmosphere . 

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN PORQUEROLLES

  • Relax on Plage Notre Dame
  • Rent a bike and explore the island
  • Visit the historic Fort Sainte Agathe
  • Follow one of the hiking trails
  • Stroll through the village centre
  • Explore the local vineyards
  • Hike to the Phare de Porquerolles
  • Go kayaking or snorkeling
  • Discover the Église Sainte-Anne
  • Climb to the Observatory Tower

13- Marseille

Marseille, a  vibrant port city  in southern France, is characterised by a  rich cultural tapestry ,  historical significance  and a  Mediterranean allure . Its  bustling Old Port  (Vieux-Port), where fishmongers sell their catches along the boat-lined quay, is a lively hub of activity, filled with  cafés and seafood restaurants . 

As you discover the city, you will come across iconic landmarks such as the  Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde , a Romanesque-Byzantine church offering panoramic views, and the historic  Fort Saint-Nicolas . 

In addition, the diverse neighbourhoods of Marseille feature a mix of  traditional markets ,  contemporary art scenes  and  a vibrant maritime atmosphere . It is a perfect stop for travellers venturing on a road trip across the South of France.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN MARSEILLE

  • Stroll along the Old Port (Vieux-Port)
  • See Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde
  • Discover the MuCEM
  • Visit Fort Saint-Nicolas and Fort Saint-Jean
  • Wander through Le Panier
  • Admire Cathedral of Sainte-Marie-Majeure
  • Take a boat trip to Château d’If
  • Explore the Calanques
  • Walk along La Corniche
  • Shop at Les Terrasses du Port

Take a guided tour:  Magnificent Neighborhoods Guided Walking Tour .

14- Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez, nestled on the French Riviera, is a  glamorous coastal town  known for its  chic atmosphere ,  luxury yachts  and  vibrant nightlife.  Originally a fishing village, it gained international fame in the 20th century as a  favoured destination for celebrities and artists .

Its  iconic Old Port (Vieux Port)  is lined with upscale boutiques and waterfront cafés, whilst the  Place des Lices  is home to a lively market. You will also find  beautiful beaches , including  Pampelonne Beach , and cultural attractions like the  Citadelle de Saint-Tropez , offering panoramic views.

Whether you are looking for  relaxation on the beach ,  cultural experiences  or a taste of the  glamorous lifestyle , Saint-Tropez provides a  diverse range of activities  for a memorable sunny vacation on the French Riviera.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN SAINT-TROPEZ

  • Explore the picturesque Old Port
  • Ramble through Place des Lices
  • Relax on Pampelonne Beach
  • Visit the Citadelle de Saint-Tropez
  • Discover the Maison des Papillons
  • Wander through La Ponche
  • Hike along the coast to Cap Taillat
  • Go  kayaking  or paddleboarding
  • Enjoy the vibrant nightlife

PORT GRIMAUD

Port Grimaud, often nicknamed the  Venice of Provence , is a  charming seaside town  on the French Riviera. Designed by architect François Spoerry in the 1960s, it is a modern and purpose-built resort   known for its  picturesque canals ,  colourful houses  and  waterfront ambience . 

Take a  boat tour  through the picturesque canals, relax on the  sandy beaches  along the Mediterranean coastline, stroll along the  waterfront promenades  and stop at  Place des Artisans , a lovely market square surrounded by shops, cafés and the clock tower.

15- Montpellier

Montpellier is a  vibrant city  in the Occitanie region of southern France, known for its  youthful energy ,  historic charm  and  thriving cultural scene . Home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, the city enjoys a lively atmosphere with a  mix of medieval and modern architecture . 

Its historic centre features  narrow streets ,  elegant squares  and  significant landmarks  such as the  Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Pierre , characterised by conical towers, and the  Place de la Comédie . You will also find many museums, including the  Musée Fabre , and  vibrant street life, café and markets . 

With its perfect blend of history, culture and modernity, Montpellier offers a  variety of activities for all ages , making it a must-visit on your summer holiday in the South of France.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN MONTPELLIER

  • Discover Place de la Comédie
  • Visit Saint-Pierre Cathedral
  • Explore Promenade du Peyrou
  • Immerse yourself in art at Musée Fabre
  • Wander through the Antigone district
  • Admire the Peyrou Water Tower
  • Stroll through the botanical garden
  • Attend a performance at the Corum
  • Experience the local markets
  • Take a  wine and olive tour

16- Antibes

Antibes, located on the French Riviera, is a  charming coastal town  with a  rich history  and a  picturesque setting . Known for its  well-preserved medieval Old Town , it features narrow cobbled streets, historic buildings and the iconic star-shaped  Fort Carré . 

The town is home to the  famous Picasso Museum , housed in the  Château Grimaldi , where the artist Pablo Picasso once lived and worked. It also has beautiful beaches, including  Plage de la Gravette , and the bustling  Port Vauban marina  with luxury yachts. 

The blend of  cultural heritage ,  Mediterranean charm  and  picturesque landscapes  makes Antibes a popular destination on the Côte d’Azur and a must-see on your stay in the South of France.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN ANTIBES 

  • Wander the Old Town
  • Visit the Château Grimaldi and  Picasso Museum
  • Discover the historic Fort Carré
  • Walk around the Cap d’Antibes peninsula
  • Hike to the top of the Garoupe Lighthouse 
  • Relax on Plage de la Gravette
  • Stroll through Port Vauban
  • Explore the Naval and Napoleonic Museum
  • Walk along the city walls
  • Stop by the Thuret Botanical Garden

Grasse is a  picturesque town  nestled in the hills of Provence, renowned as the  perfume capital of the world . Surrounded by lavender fields and aromatic flowers, it has a  rich heritage  in the perfume industry, celebrated at the  Musée International de la Parfumerie .

The town is  dotted with perfumeries , including historic houses like Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard, where you can  explore the art of fragrance creation  through guided tours and workshops.

In addition, its  medieval Old Town  is full of narrow streets, charming squares and cultural attractions not to miss, such as the  Cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Puy , a former Roman Catholic cathedral housing many paintings, including some by Rubens.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN GRASSE

  • Visit renowned perfumeries like Fragonard
  • Tour the International Perfume Museum
  • Stroll through the Old Town
  • See the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Puy
  • Relax in the Jardin des Plantes
  • Explore the Fragonard Museum
  • Admire the Chapel of the White Penitents
  • Take a scenic hike to the Clives
  • Experience the Provencal market
  • Wander the gardens of Parfumerie Galimard

Cannes, located on the French Riviera, is a  glamorous and internationally renowned  seaside resort. Famous for its  annual film festival , the  Palais des Festivals et des Congrès  stands prominently along its iconic  Boulevard de la Croisette . 

The town has  pristine beaches ,  luxury boutiques  and  upscale hotels . Beyond the glitz of the film festival, Cannes also offers a charming  Old Town (Le Suquet) , historic sites like the  Church of Notre Dame d’Esperance  and panoramic views from the  Lerins Islands . 

With its mix of sophistication, cultural events and Mediterranean charm, Cannes is a  symbol of Riviera elegance  and a destination to add to your  South of France bucket list,  offering a range of activities for all ages.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN CANNES

  • Stroll along the Promenade de la Croisette
  • Visit the iconic Palais des Festivals
  • Experience the Cannes Film Festival (May)
  • Explore the Old Town, Le Suquet
  • Take a boat trip to the Lérins Islands
  • Tour La Malmaison Art Center
  • Discover the Gardens of Villa Rothschild
  • See the Church of Notre Dame d’Esperance
  • Relax on the sandy beaches 
  • Shop on Rue d’Antibes

19- Biarritz

Biarritz, located on the southwestern coast of France, is a  sophisticated seaside resort  known for its picturesque beaches,  exceptional surfing conditions  and  Belle Époque architecture . Once a favoured destination for European royalty, Biarritz offers a perfect blend of  elegant charm  and  vibrant surf culture . 

The town boasts  iconic landmarks  like the  Rocher de la Vierge , a rock formation with a statue of the Virgin Mary offering sweeping views of the Bay of Biscay, and the  Hôtel du Palais , a former imperial residence. 

The lively atmosphere,  wealth of outdoor activities , famous surf spots and a mix of Basque and French influences make Biarritz a  versatile and appealing destination  on the Basque Coast.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN BIARRITZ

  • Enjoy sandy beaches, like Grande Plage
  • Discover Rocher de la Vierge
  • Admire the grandeur of Hôtel du Palais
  • Take a  surfing lesson  or watch the surfers 
  • Visit the lighthouse, Le Phare
  • Explore the Musée de la Mer
  • See the Saint-Martin’s Church
  • Wander around Le Port des Pêcheurs
  • Spend time at Côte des Basques
  • Shop and dine in Les Halles

Monaco, a  tiny sovereign city-state  on the French Riviera, is synonymous with  luxury, glamour and opulence . Nestled between France and the Mediterranean Sea, it is renowned for its iconic  Casino de Monte-Carlo , the prestigious  Monaco Grand Prix  and the lavish yacht-lined harbour of  Port Hercules . 

Monaco is a haven for  high-end shopping ,  upscale dining  and  entertainment , offering a blend of historic charm, modern extravagance and breathtaking coastal views.

From exploring the  Prince’s Palace of Monaco , the official residence of the ruling Grimaldi family, to soaking up the sun and sea at  Larvotto Beach , there is  plenty to do and see  in this captivating destination.

BEST THINGS TO DO & SEE IN MONACO

  • Experience the Casino de Monte-Carlo
  • Explore the Prince’s Palace of Monaco
  • See the  Formula 1 Grand Prix
  • Visit the  Oceanographic Museum
  • Discover the Jardin Exotique de Monaco
  • Admire the Saint Nicholas Cathedral
  • Stroll around the Princess Grace Rose Garden
  • Relax in Fontvieille Park
  • Enjoy the sun at Larvotto Beach
  • Wander through Monaco-Ville

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places to visit in the south france

Tips for reducing your impact in France

Sustainable travel  means exploring the world whilst being aware of your surroundings and having a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the places you visit.

Being a responsible traveller in the South of France is possible! Here are some  eco-friendly travel tips  for reducing your carbon footprint:

  • Use the train to reach the area . The South of France is well-connected by train to the rest of France, Europe and the world, especially from Nice or Marseille, so prioritise travelling this way to lower your carbon impact.
  • If you need to take the plane, book direct flights  (which require less fuel than indirect flights)  and  offset your carbon footprint . But, do not use carbon offsetting as a complete solution. Combine it with other sustainable practices, like avoiding single-use plastic on the plane and mindfully packing your suitcase for your green city break. 
  • Select an eco-friendly accommodation . It is not always easy to determine whether a hotel has eco-conscious practices, but try to look on their website for green credentials and ask questions. You can also use  Bookdifferent  or  Ecobnb  to help you decide.
  • Be mindful of your energy and water consumption . Turn off lights, electronics and heating/cooling when you do not need it. Reuse towels and linens at your hotel or guesthouse to reduce your usage and impact.
  • Once there, use public transport . The South of France has an efficient public transportation network with buses and trains that can take you anywhere easily and quickly. And if you prefer to move freely,  rent a hybrid car . Finally, for the most courageous, you can  travel around by bike , a great green way to enjoy the sights whilst reducing your environmental impact.
  • Eat at local restaurants or markets  that use produce from the area and emphasise organic and sustainability. It will contribute to the local economy and reduce your carbon footprint by supporting restaurants where food does not come from long distances.
  • Respect flora and fauna . If you are exploring the natural areas of the South of France, such as Verdon Gorgoe or les Calanques, follow designated trails and respect the local flora and fauna. Avoid disturbing, touching and feeding wildlife.
  • Always respect the local heritage . Treat people and their surroundings with respect. Sustainable travel is not only about the environment but also about the local communities. So, always be respectful, smile and learn a few French words.

More inspiration for your green vacation:

  • Best Travel Apps for Exploring Sustainably
  • 15 Travel Books to Inspire Your Next Eco-Adventure
  • Best Ecotourism Activities Around the World

Eco-friendly gear you might love:

  • 10 Best Sustainable Backpacks for Travel & Hiking
  • 10 Best Reusable & Eco-Friendly Travel Mugs
  • 8 Best Filtered Water Bottles for Travel & Hiking

Check out  this page  for more inspiration on eco-friendly products & gear.

places to visit in the south france

France travel planning guide

Yes, buying insurance is always valuable when travelling abroad. Enjoy your sunny vacation in the South of France stress-free with one of my favourite providers,  Nomad Insurance .

Yes, tap water is safe to drink all over France, including the south. However, I also recommend travelling with the  UltraPress Purifier Bottle , a lightweight filtered water bottle perfect for reducing plastic and staying hydrated.

Yes, renting a car in France is easy and is a great way to explore the country freely. I recommend booking yours with  Rentalcars.com  – they offer a variety of operators for all budgets.

The best way to book your accommodation in France is with  Booking.com  – my favourite platform to compare and reserve places to stay each night, from affordable hostels to luxury resorts with sea views.

I recommend booking your plane with  Skyscanner . It has been my favourite platform for years, as it allows me to book the cheapest flights whilst lowering my carbon emissions.

best places to visit south of france

Best South of France places – FAQ

I suggest spending a minimum of 7 days or more exploring the South of France, given the abundance of activities and sights. Allowing a week provides the opportunity to uncover hidden natural gems whilst allowing plenty of time to unwind and relax under the delightful French sunshine.

The best time to visit the South of France is from May to June and from September to October. During these two beautiful seasons, the roads and towns are less crowded, temperatures remain pleasant and the colours of the surroundings are simply stunning.

The South of France is considered a relatively expensive destination, particularly in popular tourist spots on the French Riviera. Whilst it can be seen as an upscale location, it is still possible to manage your budget by planning ahead, choosing affordable accommodations, eating at local markets and exploring less touristy areas.

best places to visit south of france

And you, what is your favourite place to visit in the South of France? Let me know in the comments below!

With love ♡ Lucie

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22 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

Written By: ThePlanetD Team

Updated On: February 9, 2024

Looking for the best places to visit in the South of France ? You’ve come to the right place. It had been quite some time since we’d traveled to the South of France, but this summer we had the good fortune of spending nearly a month revisiting this beautiful region. While taking a Canal du Midi cruise on our luxury houseboat with Le Boat , we had the chance to explore some of the lesser-known places in Southern France.

During this trip down the historic waterway, we were reminded of all the beautiful places in the South of France that we’ve taken over the years. France really has it all. So, if you are looking to branch out from the ordinary, check out the best places to visit in the South of France to create a holiday that will ignite all the senses.

Table of Contents

Top Places to visit in the South of France

places to visit in the south of france city at sunset

Historic cities , the French Riviera, and beautiful beaches; the South of France oozes with energy and excitement. But what are the best places to visit in the South of France? Are you looking for a city filled with elegant architecture and cultural attractions? Or perhaps one of the beautiful medieval villages, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by olive groves? Be it sandy beaches, art galleries, or traditional French cuisine , Southern France is a timeless holiday destination, and it’s easy to see why.

This guide will cover everything from the stunning natural attractions in the South of France to national parks and the best cities. Are you ready to get started? Let’s take a look.

Best cities and towns to visit in the South of France

places to visit in the south of france cities

When looking for the best places to visit in the South of France, a great place to start is with the region’s urban areas. South France has some incredible cities and towns. Let’s dive straight in.

1. Toulouse

places in southern france toulouse

Toulouse was an unexpected city in the South of France, located inland along the Spanish border. The city has the nickname ‘La Ville Rose’, meaning the pink city due to the pink bricks used to build most of its buildings. Toulouse is France’s fourth largest city after Paris, Marseilles, and Lyon and yet it is easy to explore on foot. When visiting Toulouse, you’ll feel as if you are visiting the authentic France with locals dining in outdoor cafes and students relaxing by the river’s edge. It is what we imagine Paris was like 50 years ago.

A bustling university city, Toulouse may be small, but it is filled with energy. There are plenty of attractions to see in Toulouse like the main square of La Capitole, Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, and the Musee Aeroscopia. Toulouse is the center of the aeronautics and space industry in France and this museum showcases its history and development.

things to do in Toulouse Pass

If you go, make sure to pick up a Toulouse Pass to really explore the city. The Toulouse Pass  offers 1, 2, or 3-day passes that include public transport and free entrance into most of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

There is an old town to wander, plenty of museums, and a fairly cutting-edge fashion scene. It is also the starting point of the Canal du Midi which winds its way down 240 km to the French Riviera. Toulouse is a fantastic place to visit in South France, and will definitely keep you entertained. Read more: Best Things to do in Toulouse France

2. Marseille

cities in the south of france marseille

Marseille is the oldest city in Southern France. In fact, it is the oldest city in all of France and it is second in size only to Paris . Located on the Gulf de Lyon, which is part of the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is the perfect blend of African and French culture. A trading hotspot and port hub since 600 BC, Marseille is one of the best places to visit in the South of France if you want a taste of history and ancient culture.

The most important part of Marseille is its Vieux Port. It is here that fisherman once sold their catch, and hundreds of years later, many still do. You should also visit the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, the Musee des Beaux-Arts, and Palais Longchamp.

Fun things to do in Marseille France Vieux Port

We suggest spending a minimum of three days in Marseille so that you experience the seafood scene, and its best attractions including a day trip out to Chateau d’If made famous by Alexander Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo written by Alexander Dumas.

When visiting Marseille, we suggest getting a  Marseille City Pass  – The city pass is valid for 1-3 days and lets you hop on hop off to see all the top tourist attractions. With unlimited access to public transportation plus a tour on the Tourist train to Notre-Dame de la Garde or through the Old Marseille. You’ll have entry to MUCEM, and Regards de Provence Museum, plus crossing Frioul Island, or If Island with entrance to Chateau D’If. There are plenty of discounts, entry to municipal museums, and a guided city tour.  See details here.

cities in southern france cannes

Who hasn’t heard of Cannes? If you are visiting Southern France and craving a city experience, you must visit Cannes. The city is perhaps the most famous spot on the French Riviera thanks to the glitz and glamour it exudes on an annual basis. It is loved by celebrities, and adored for its annual film festival, The Cannes International Film Festival. It has many beloved beaches and cultural attractions as well.

Much of Cannes and its attractions can be experienced by walking (or driving) along the Boulevard de la Croisette. The boulevard spans the Cannes coastline, with stunning views over the Bay of Cannes on the Mediterranean Sea. The Boulevard de la Croisette is lined by luxury hotels, boutiques, and restaurants and caters perfectly to an upscale crowd.

Cannes is best for those who want luxury, resort-style atmosphere. When we visited Cannes, we couldn’t afford the luxury hotels and instead stayed at a campsite just out of town. But we still had the chance to brush shoulders with the rich and famous as we visited the beaches to work on our tans and enjoy a taste of that five-star hospitality.

cities in south france nice

Nice is the biggest city on the French Riviera which makes it one of the top places to visit in the South of France. It has the most urban feel out of all the places on our list and is ideal if you want to feel in the middle of all the action. A good choice for a hotel is Hotel Nice Riviera . This 4-star hotel is one block from the beach with reasonable prices.

Like Cannes, Nice has a scenic stretch of road along its coastline. Promenade des Anglais stretches 7 km and is where you’ll find the majority of attractions and the best ocean views. It is on the Promenade des Anglais that you’ll find the Nice Carnival, which takes place every February or March. You should walk the promenade, Old Town, and make time to visit the Castle Hill of Nice – an old medieval fortress overlooking the city.

Interestingly, Nice is also surrounded by a number of beautiful towns and villages – many of which date back to the Middle Ages. You can spend days relaxing in the city and on its beautiful beaches, taking the odd day trip to a medieval town for the best of both worlds. Read more: 24 Hours in Nice – Sometimes You Only have a Day to See it All

5. Aix en Provence

cities in south france aix en provence

The region of Provence is one of the most magical regions in France, and Aix en Provence is everything you’d expect of a city in southern France. It has class, elegance, and history by the bucket loads. The former capital of Provence is perfect for tourists who value culture when choosing a holiday destination. Aix en Provence has a number of nicknames, including “The city of a Thousand Fountains” and “The City of Counts”. It is packed with things to do and see, and it has a noble atmosphere to match.

Aix en Provence is an artsy university town just 20 minutes north of Marseille.  It was also the birthplace and home of the great painter Paul Cezanne. The city is proud of this historical fact and traces of Cezanne can be found everywhere in the city. The Cezanne walk is your best way to see everything Cezanne.  This is a fun and interesting self-guided tour that Dave and I did on a sunny afternoon during our visit. Our walking tour took us around the Old Town, visiting Cezanne’s Studio, and Camp De Milles.

Some of the best things to do in Aix en Provence is to explore its art galleries, museums, and other historical attractions. Expect a lively nightlife scene and plenty of temporary exhibitions and events.

6. Saint Tropez

southern french cities saint tropez

Yearning to be steps away from the ocean? Saint Tropez is the ideal candidate. Saint Tropez is perfect if you want glamour and beauty, yet a quieter feel than big cities like Nice. The small town sits on the French Riviera and was once a little fishing village.

The fishing village shot to popularity after being used as a filming location for And God Created Woman starring Brigitte Bardot in 1955. Since the 1960s tourists have been flocking to one of the most popular places to visit in the South of France, but Saint Tropez has still retained some of its most charming village qualities. You can still spot some little fishing boats in the Old Port, and La Ponche Quarter is still full of narrow streets with cobblestones.

The best beaches in Saint Tropez are Plage de Pampelonne, Plage St. Tropez and Bouillabaisse Beach. However, once you’ve spent a day on the beach make sure to experience the town’s hospitality scene, and don’t miss checking out the central square at the market at Place des Lices. It has a reputation for delicious food and fantastic locally owned restaurants; definitely try the fresh seafood and locally grown olives.

7. Saint Paul de Vence

places in south france saint paul de vence

Saint Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval villages on the French Riviera. Picture a walled town with cobblestone streets and historical, overhanging buildings. Everything is built from traditional stone and Saint Paul de Vence is the sort of place where every inch of rock feels like it has a story to tell.

The town sits on a hill overlooking the French Riviera. It is relatively easy to visit as a today trip from Nice but, if you can, you should try to stay in the town itself. Saint Paul de Vence feels like somewhere out of a fairy tale. Just walking through its cobbled streets and Old Town (remember a camera) is enough to keep you entertained for a full day.

It was once the home of famous painter Marc Chagall and when you visit one of its top attractions, the Cimetière de Saint-Paul-de-Vence, you will see his grave.

You should also dine at La Colombe d’Or , where the Roux family once let artists such as Picasso, Braque, Calder, and Matisse dine in exchange for now famous paintings. Eating delicious food is even better when you are surrounded by works of art while you eat.

8. Les Baux de Provence

places in france south les baux provence

Okay, we may be concentrating on cities and towns but the village of Les Baux de Provence was too beautiful not to include. This hilltop village is still protected by medieval walls and makes a wonderful, memorable getaway. In fact, it is so beautiful that the city is deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The top attractions in the village are, The ruins of Castillo de Los Baux, a 12th-century castle, and Carrieres de Lumieres. Carrieres de Lumieres (the quarry of lights) is a unique attraction with artwork projected onto the disused quarry’s limestone walls. Art enthusiasts will love the novelty of a digital exhibition, and the artwork displayed changes frequently which keeps the quarry exciting to visit.

Sure, Les Baux de Provence is quiet and distanced from the Mediterranean Sea, however, the village has a film set feel and is bursting with history and charm. If you want a quaint, lesser experienced impression of Southern France, Les Baux de Provence is a fantastic place to visit. You may also like Enchanting Medieval Villages in France – The French Riviera

9. Saint Rémy de Provence

places in france south saint remy de provence

Saint Remy de Provence is another gorgeous, rural town located on the outskirts of the Alpilles Natural Regional Park. Not only does Saint Remy de Provence have beautiful architecture and quiet urban scenery, but its natural beauty was also the muse of a very popular artist.

Vincent Van Gogh lived in Saint Remy for a year, where he checked himself into a mental hospital and began one of his most prolific working periods. It was in Saint Remy that he painted The Starry Night. Whether you are a Van Gogh fan, art enthusiast, or just intrigued, Saint Remy is a great place to learn more about art history.

Musee Estrine Presence Van Gogh is the best attraction for learning more about the artist. Glanum is the best attraction for history and is an old Roman town and extensive archeological site. You can also visit the Monastery Saint Paul de Mausole – the psychiatric asylum where Van Gogh was admitted. Saint Remy de Provence has lots to keep you entertained.

10. Vers Pont Du Gard

southern france places to visit Pont du Gard

Vers Pont Du Gard is another small town and, like Saint Remy, has lots of surrounding Roman heritage. The most famous Roman attraction is the Pont du Gard bridge and aqueduct, which have been protected and maintained to still stand today. I remember taking our road trip in the South of France and making a detour for the sole purpose of seeing this bridge. Vers Pont Du Gard is full of impressive architecture, and if you like visiting places with character, you will certainly be in for a treat.

Once you’ve visited the town’s bridge, the Pont du Gard Museum and Chapel Notre Dame de Laval are the best attractions to enjoy. You can also swim and fish in the River Gardon. Despite being inland, being located next to a river makes Vers Pont Du Gard an enjoyable destination even in the height of summer. You aren’t sacrificing much by skipping beach days for river days, and taking a dip is refreshing on a hot day.

south of france amphitheatre arles

Arles is our final recommendation and easily one of the best places to visit in the South of France. In the ancient Roman period, Arles was once a provincial capital. Today, many of the architecture and historical sites remain – including Arles Amphitheater.

We recommend catching a performance at the Arles Amphitheater, taking a Van Gogh walking tour to see the areas which inspired famous works, and visiting the cloisters at St. Trophime. Arles has lots of religious and artistic history, so allow lots of time for sightseeing.

The city itself sits on the banks of the Rhone River. It is flanked by the Camargue Nature Reserve and, while located inland, is less than an hour’s drive from some of the best beaches on the Riviera. If you are looking to hire a car and explore lots of France, Arles is a wonderful base.

Best natural places to visit in the South of France

Natural Places to Visit in the South of France

Now that we’ve covered the best cities and towns let’s look at the best natural places to visit in the South of France.

Southern France is full of amazing natural places to visit, whether you want to use them as a day trip or just arrange to stay nearby. You best have a Google Maps account because you’ll need offline maps to head to these spots. These places are the creme de la creme.

12. Verdon Natural Regional Park

natural wonders in the south of france verdon nature park

Verdon Natural Regional Park is one of the best places to explore natural attractions, not just hiking trails and beautiful views. Located in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, the 180,000-hectare park is most known for the Gorges du Verdon and Lake Croix.

The Gorges du Verdon is a 25 km (15.5 miles) long river canyon with a brilliant milky blue river. Expect white water rapids and steep cliffs reaching up to 700 meters (0.4 mi) on either side of the river. This natural wonder is the deepest gorge in France. You can hike to numerous viewpoints, or even book a rafting experience for a bit of extra exhilaration. The Gorges du Verdon is a big deal and is known as France’s answer to the Grand Canyon .

After exiting the Verdon Gorge, the river runs straight out into the Lake of Sainte-Croix. There are three villages along its shores and you can take your pick to grab a bite to eat and go for a swim.

13. Calanques National Park

southern france attractions Parc National des Calanques

Calanques National Park covers both ocean and land, and the 128,000-acre reserve is situated on the coastline an hour’s drive from Marseilles en route to Cassis. If your idea of heaven is coastal hikes with hidden coves and dramatic cliff faces, then Calanques is a perfect spot. It is the only national park in Europe that is located near urban areas and is both on land and sea.

The word ‘Calanques’ describes a dolomite or limestone inlet – basically dramatic pale grey or white sea cliffs. The park is full of these beautiful areas and you should definitely invest in a good quality camera so that you have pictures to cherish after your holiday.

Keep your eyes peeled while hiking as well, as the marine reserves are popular spots for pods of dolphins. The park has over 140 species of protected animals and plants, which is a nature lover’s dream.

14. Natural Reserve of the Courant d’Huchet

things to do in the south of france

Compared to the other spots on this list, the Natural Reserve of the Courant d’Huchet is tiny. However, it has some of the most striking landscapes and is easily one of the best natural places to visit in the South of France. It is located an hour’s drive north of Biarritz and makes for a fantastic day trip.

The reserve is primarily marshland but has a beach in the midst of the park. The beach contains high hills of sand dunes that beautifully contrast the surrounded marshes and forest. Visitors can head to the beach to swim and climb the sand dunes.

You can also hike the network of trails, spotting native animals and flora as you walk. If you want something really different though, we recommend a boat tour. You can hire a boat to explore independently or take a tour for a more informative experience – whichever takes your fancy.

15. Baronnies Provencales Regional Natural Park

lavender fields south france travel

Have you ever seen those artsy lavender field photos plastered all over Instagram? Well, Baronnies Provencales Regional Natural Park is where you can take your very own. Apart from its remote villages and low-lying mountains, Baronnies Provencales is full of lavender fields. If you visit the South of France between June and September, you should definitely make your way to the park to see them.

Baronnies Provencales Regional Natural Park is about an hour and a half drive from Avignon. You could visit on a day trip or find accommodation in one of the park’s villages. Apart from the lavender fields, you’ll find thousands of hiking trails and other outdoor activities.

16. Regional Park of Camargue

places in france carmargue

Camargue Park is famous for many things, including the once wild herds of Camargue horses. The Camargue horses are highly prized in France and are considered to be one of the most ancient horse breeds in the world. While breeding is strictly regulated now, you might still be lucky enough to spot a semi-feral herd.

Apart from the horses, Camargue Natural Regional Park features wetlands, rough grazing areas, and a marine reserve. It is also located along the coastline, just outside of Marseilles and near the city of Arles.

The best things to do in Camargue are animal related. You can spot flamingoes at Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau and visit a ranch to take a horseback ride out to spot the semi-feral horses from afar.

17. Alpilles Regional Nature Park

Top places to visit in the South of France Alpilles Regional Nature Park

Fancy getting active? Alpilles Regional Nature Park has the most to offer in terms of biking, hiking, and horseback riding trails with plenty of equestrian centers. With all its limestone rock formations and cliffs, there is plenty of climbing opportunities as well.

Alpilles has a great mix of activities. Whether you want history, culture, a fitness challenge, or a new profile picture, Alpilles has enough diversity to match your needs. It is a walkers paradise with hiking trails through pine forests, olive groves, and vineyards.

You can also easily visit the castle, and quarry art display in nearby Les Baux de Provence which we already mentioned above.

18. Sainte Baume Natural Regional Park

Natural Placers to Visit in the South of France Sainte Baume Natural Regional Park

Sainte Baume Natural Regional Park is where the alpine meets the Mediterranean. The park is full of dramatic limestone mountains, ridges, and pine tree forests.

Climbers will love Saint Baume, which is centered around a long mountain ridge. There’s a great range of climbing routes to explore, ranging in difficulty and style. Sainte Baume also holds lots of religious significance. Visitors will find a grotto where Mary Magdalene allegedly lived. The site is popular amongst pilgrims and can be reached via a pretty forest path in around forty minutes.

19. Pyrenees National Park

pyrenees south of france

Pyrenees National Park is one of the best places to visit in the South of France. The park sits on the French-Spanish border and we were surprised to find them in South France. We had known the Pyrenees from our time in Spain, but we always thought of them as further north. We were surprised to see the mountains while cruising in 40-degree heat to Carcassonne.

From alpine meadows and high-altitude lakes to towering, craggy mountains, the park is stunning. If you want an exciting, beautiful place to visit in Southern France, Pyrenees National Park is bucket list worthy.

Cirque de Gavarnie is one of the most famous attractions in the Pyrenees of France. A cirque is a large cliff face that curves in shape like a huge, natural amphitheater. Cirque de Gavarnie is best known for its many waterfalls, which cascade down the cliff walls.

Apart from the Cirque de Gavarnie, the park is full of hiking trails, endless outdoor activities, and climbing opportunities. If you love mountain climbing in particular, you’ll love it here.

20. Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park

natural parks in the south of france

Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park is a nature reserve first and foremost, which we love. The park caters to tourism but in environmentally friendly ways, and there are attractions like an eco-museum and bird sanctuary to visit.

The park sits in southwest France, including some coastal areas and some inland. Visitors can kayak down rivers, swim in natural lakes, or hike the numerous trails. Landes de Gascogne is a serene, beautiful park that is bursting with nature. Visitors can cherish being surrounded by hundreds of different species of flora and fauna.

21. Narbonnaise en Mediterranee Natural Regional Park

Narbonnaise en Mediterranee is a diverse region. You’ll find beaches, cliffs, forests, and even vineyards. The vineyards are particularly popular, and some people refer to the park as the land of wine.

You can go wine tasting, take a hike, or go for a camping getaway. Narbonnaise en Mediterranee is about an hour and a half’s drive from Montpellier and Toulouse. It sits on the Mediterranean coastline and is ideally combined with a beach holiday. If you want somewhere to wine taste and explore, it is a small, beautiful, and easy natural place to visit in Southern France.

22. Mercantour National Park

southern france mercantour

A stunning 167,297-acre park, Mercantour is a mixture of alpine lakes, irregular mountain ranges, and lots of scenic hiking trails. Even better? It is just an hour’s drive away from Nice.

The park is diverse and relatively unvisited compared to France’s other national parks. For those that make the trip though, there are endless rewards. You’ll discover tiny villages and mountain communities where many people still live off of the land. You can sample decadent cheeses and sumptuous honey and maybe even bring some home as a souvenir.

After appreciating the cultural side of Mercantour, you can dive straight into its outdoor activities. Hike, bike, climb, swim, and ride until your heart is content.

It’s no secret that the South of France is mesmerizing. This is just the tip of the iceberg of places to visit in the South of France.

We hope that this helped give you a sense of what you can see and do from walking cobblestone streets in medieval towns or lazing on sandy beaches on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. All of these places to visit in the South of France are worth visiting. Glamorous, historical, and naturally beautiful, the South of France is sure to guarantee memories for a lifetime.

Plan Your Next Trip to France With These Resources

  • 22 Beautiful Cities in France To Visit
  • Where To Stay In Paris – Best Neighborhoods and Hotels
  • 3 Days in Paris: The Best Paris Itinerary for Your First Visit
  • French Food: 24 Traditional Dishes To Try in France or At Home
  • 11 Interesting and Fun Facts About France
  • 27 Free Things to do in Paris, France

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO . 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

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The World Was Here First

The Ultimate 7 to 10 Days in the South of France Itinerary

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places to visit in the south france

Planning a south of France itinerary is one of the highlights of visiting this incredible country. France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and, although many visitors will stay in Paris, plenty head down to spend 7 to 10 days in the south of France to soak up the sun on the pristine beaches, visit the stunning mountain ranges or learn about French culture on a city break.

A south of France itinerary can be extremely diverse, taking you to all of the above, or allowing you to pick and mix as you please. Whichever stops you end up choosing, you’re sure to have a fantastic holiday surrounded by lush natural areas, historic locations or beautiful city centres.

Table of Contents

How Many Days in the South of France?

To explore the whole of the south of France, from the Atlantic coast of Bayonne to the Mediterranean principality of Monaco , you would need at least two weeks to freely explore each wonderful town and city en route without rushing. However, to enjoy the Mediterranean coastline and its neighbouring cities, towns and quaint villages, 10 days in the south of France is ideal.

Although, if you want to concentrate your stops in one area, such as Languedoc-Roussillon or Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, you can spend a very pleasant 7 days in the south of France, without spending too much time on the road. 

Part of the fun of a south of France road trip is seeing the sights from a car window and stopping when your interest is piqued by a looming château or spectacular view. So it can be a great idea to plan a few days of activities but leave yourselves a day or at least an afternoon here and there for travelling and taking in the scenery.

Equally, if you prefer not to drive and would rather take trains or buses, you can pack picnics for your journeys and enjoy the views; you may still be on the move rather than on your feet or a sun lounger, but it’s a great way to make the most of every moment of your holiday.

The itinerary for the south of France outlined below covers a range of highlights to be found in the area. However, if you’re keen to dig deeper into various regions, make sure to check out our Provence itinerary or our French Riviera itinerary if you’ve already decided where you want to go.

Marseille in the South of France

Getting To & Around the South of France

Driving tends to be the best mode of transport to get around the south of France, as you’re then free to move around according to your own schedule, and there are many free (or at least cheap) places to park to be found in most cities and towns across the country.

All of the airports and city centres will have rental car companies where you can find various vehicles for reasonable prices, although it’s advisable to book in advance to guarantee you get the car of your choice.

The French have an expression that roughly translates to “there may not be work, but there are always roadworks”, so if you’re planning a south of France road trip itinerary outside of the summer months, it’s useful to have Google Maps open to have live traffic information for your journey so you can take alternative routes where necessary.

However, from June to September, as both French and foreign tourists travel around the country, there tend to be very few problems on the road, and you can almost guarantee excellent road surfaces to make your car journeys significantly more comfortable.

What’s more, the south of France has an excellent reputation for hitchhiking, so if you’re feeling adventurous and have a loose schedule for your trip to the south of France, this can be a great way of travelling around and getting some insider information about the hidden gems. Just make sure to follow safety precautions.

Getting to the south of France in the first place is also very simple as there are many airports located all along the south.

There are major airports in Toulouse, Montpellier, Marseille and Nice, so you can start your journey easily from any of these cities, although you can also arrive from the UK and other neighbouring European countries in the smaller cities of Carcassonne, Nîmes, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Toulon. You can book airport pickups here.

Each of these cities also has excellent public transportation, so you can visit much of the south of France by train. However, if you’d like to spend time in more rural villages and historic sites, there may not be trains and only a few buses each day, so having your own car is definitely advisable.

Most of the stops on our southern France itinerary will be well-known towns and cities that can easily be accessed by train or bus, but there are a couple of more out-of-the-way destinations that will be harder to reach without a car. So try to choose the best stops for your own south of France itinerary accordingly. You can view train and bus schedules here.

Train arriving into Nice

7 to 10 Day South of France Itinerary

From cities and towns to lakes and villages, our southern France itinerary will show you the best that France has to offer, without spending too long on the road so you can make the most of the bright sunshine, bustling streets and beautiful landscape.

Day 1 – Toulouse

Toulouse is a great place to start your 7 days in the south of France, as the airport has excellent connections to major European cities like London , Paris , Amsterdam and Munich , without being so busy that you spend your whole first day waiting at border control.

You can rent a car from the airport to start your road trip, or take the tram into the city for just a few euros and arrive in the centre ready to explore.

The centre of Toulouse has a wonderful large square lined on one side by the beautiful pink and white building Le Capitole that houses the town hall and the theatre of Toulouse.

This square is a great welcome into the city, leading off into winding streets full of boutiques and restaurants showing off the famous red brick of the region and the amazing cuisine.

You can wander around the city and discover the other incredible red brick structures like the Saint-Sernin Basilica and the Jacobins Convent with its enormous stained glass windows and occasional evening light show on the exterior façade. You can also  organise a walking tour  or  a food tour  if you want to learn more about the area from a guide.

The Canal du Midi also flows through Toulouse, as does the River Garonne, which provides a lovely place for an afternoon stroll, admiring the Occitan architecture, sunbathing on the steps leading to the river and sipping a cocktail on one of the floating bars. Plus, if you look closely under the Pont Neuf, you can spot one of James Colomina’s curious little red statues…

As a city, you can find plenty of places to stay within Toulouse from budget hotels and B&Bs to luxury apartments. Or, for a more rural gîte, you can head slightly further out of the city to enjoy nature, which is particularly beautiful around the Tarn and Garonne Rivers.

Pont Neuf in Toulouse

Where to Stay in Toulouse

Hôtel Héliot – Mid-range visitors to Toulouse will love this cool, 3-star hotel. Located in the centre of the city, they have a range of lovely rooms along with a great breakfast on offer in the morning. Click here to check availability

Boutique Hotel SOCLO – This boutique hotel is an excellent option for those after a luxury stay in Toulouse. They have a range of plush rooms to choose from along with an excellent location for exploring all the city has to offer. Click here to check availability

Appartements Design Hypercentre – If you’d prefer to have your own flat while in the South of France, then these apartments in Toulouse are a great choice. They come fully furnished and have a great, central location. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Toulouse hotels!

Day 2 – Carcassonne

Moving further south from Toulouse, you come across the amazing walled city of Carcassonne – the perfect place for a day trip. You can visit independently or go on an organised trip such as this full-day tour or this full-day tour.

Having been occupied since 500 BCE, this land was transformed by the Romans into a walled city which was further enhanced in the 12th century to create the incredible 3 km of ramparts we see today.

You can see the 52 towers rising in the distance as you approach by car, train or plane and the inside of the city takes you back in time with its traditional French shops selling everything from sweets to swords.

In the summer, the city comes to life with jousting tournaments, battle reenactments, opportunities to learn how to write with a quill and ink and people dressed in traditional mediaeval clothing wandering around the city. It’s a great place to visit with the family, but equally interesting for anyone with an interest in history, architecture or French culture.

The highlight of Carcassonne is the mediaeval city, however, there is a more modern town on the other side of the river which has hotels, restaurants and some apartments to rent, so if you haven’t brought your campervan, this is an excellent place to stay.

Carcassonne

Day 3 – Montpellier

Moving further south still, we get to the real entrance of the south of France: Montpellier . Located on the Mediterranean coast, the amazing city has everything, from Roman ruins and neoclassical architecture to beaches, parks and exquisite gastronomy.

Visitors can happily stroll around the streets of the city centre, coming across the main square La Comedie, named after the huge theatre on one end, where the locals gather for entertainment, or simply to pass through on their way to work.

A short walk will take you to the magnificent 17th-century Triumphal Arch and stunning 18th-century tiered aqueduct that’s still working to supply the city’s fountains with water.

If that’s not enough to entice you, Montpellier has a fantastic botanical garden, which is the oldest in France, as well as plenty of murals and trompe d’œils dotted around the city streets, making for a wonderful walking tour. You can also easily take the tram around the city if you don’t feel like walking too far, as well as to the enormous beach with wild flamingos nearby.

Montpellier is a large city and has a very popular university so you can find activities for young people around every corner, as well as cheap hotels and apartments so everyone can have the chance to explore this amazing coastal city. Even if you can only stay for 7 days in the south of France, make sure you stop by Montpellier – you won’t be disappointed!

Montpellier Cathedral

Where to Stay in Montpellier

Hôtel Royal – This 3-star hotel in the centre of Montpellier is a fantastic choice for those looking for a central place to stay in this French city. They have a range of chic rooms to choose from along with breakfast on offer each morning. Click here to check availability

Hôtel Oceania Le Métropole – This chic hotel is an excellent choice for those after a luxury option while staying in Montpellier. They have an excellent, central location along with an array of plush rooms plus many other amenities available. Click here to check their availability

Appart’City Confort Montpellier Saint Roch – If you’re keen for a self-catering option while exploring the south of France, then these apartments are a great choice. They have an array of fully-furnished flats all within easy access of all Montpellier has to offer. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Montpellier hotels!

Day 4 – Arles

Carcassonne and Montpellier were simply appetisers for history buffs, who can now rub their hands in glee at our next destination, the fabulous city of Arles . Arles is a perfectly sized town to wander around the streets and get a glimpse of the Provençal architecture and Roman ruins, namely the spectacular amphitheatre, Arènes d’Arles.

This 20,000 seater, two-tiered arena was built in 90 CE for gladiator fights and chariot races to entertain the locals and had towers added during the mediaeval era and looks unbelievably incredible today.

You can easily spend a few hours learning about the history of the structure or even watching a performance as it now hosts live music, bullfighting and other events in Summer, before heading off to experience the city’s other claim to fame: van Gogh’s house.

Having lived in the city for just a year, Vincent van Gogh created hundreds of artworks during his stay, having been greatly inspired by the natural beauty and pastel colours of the houses. Unfortunately, the house where he resided (and cut off his ear) was destroyed during the Second World War, however, you can visit a museum dedicated to the artist nearby.

Don’t miss out on the amazing and spooky Alyscamps either, with its incredible Gothic sarcophagi on either side of the ancient road leading down to a 12th-century church.

There aren’t lots of hotels within Arles city centre, however, with the Rhône River flowing through the landscape, there are some wonderful campsites and gîtes surrounded by countryside just five minutes driving out of the city. It is also very feasible to continue onto Marseille for the next few nights.

Roman Amphitheatre in Arles

Where to Stay in Marseille

Hôtel Life Marseille VP – Mid-range visitors to Marseille will love this cool 3-star hotel in the centre of the city. They have an array of wonderful rooms to choose from, a fantastic location and plenty of other perks to ensure you have an excellent stay. Click here to check availability

La Residence Du Vieux Port – This luxury hotel in the Old Port area of Marseille is perfect for those looking for a chic and romantic place to stay in this French city. There are plentiful rooms to choose from along with an excellent location for seeing the city. Located in the Old Port area of Marseille, those looking for luxury will love this opulent boutique hotel. Click here to check availability

Vertigo Vieux-Port – Those looking for a budget option or if you’re after a great social atmosphere will love this highly-rated hostel in the Old Port area of Marseille. They have great common areas and self-catering facilities along with both dorms and private rooms available. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Marseille hotels!

Day 5 – Marseille

There’s not much to be said about the oldest and third-largest city in France that hasn’t already been said, and all of the great things you’ve heard about Marseille are true. Founded by the Greeks over 2600 years ago, the port city has seen a great deal of migration from all across the world making it a spectacularly diverse melting pot of architecture, cuisine, culture and religion.

The Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is a must-see place within the city, and fortunately, you can see it from all around Marseille as it towers high above the otherwise quite flat city.

On the opposite side of Marseille, close to the train station is the equally spectacular but less well-known black and white striped Cathedrale La Major, which looks particularly magnificent at sunrise when the daylight causes the domed roof to glow orange.

A short distance away is the famous fish market and port of Marseille where you can see the fishermen selling their catches, as they’ve done for centuries, and take amazing photographs with the beautiful boats in the fore and the basilica in the background.

It’s possible to spend a few days in Marseille and not get the chance to see everything, so it’s a great destination for a weekend break, but even if you’ve got 10 days in the area, you’ve got to spare one for Marseille – even if it’s just to eat seafood (or take a food tour ) and enjoy the views.

Similar to other cities in France, you can find many hotels across the city for all kinds of budgets, as well as smaller B&Bs in the suburbs.

But there’s great transportation in the city, so rather than driving in, it’s a good idea to leave your car parked by your accommodation and just take a bus in and out of the city when you need to. 

City of Marseille

Day 6 – Gorges du Verdon

So far each destination has been easily reachable by public transport, however, it’s more difficult to reach our next stop if you’re seeing the south of France by train. But, the Gorges du Verdon is one of the most breathtaking locations in the whole of France, so if possible, you have to include it on your southern France itinerary.

This 25 km long canyon has been cut out of limestone by the brilliant turquoise Verdon River that reaches down 700 metres at its deepest and is a popular place to take a pedalo or kayak, or go hiking and even rock climbing.

You can travel through the gorge into the Sainte-Croix Lake which was created in the 1970s by flooding the small village of Les Salles-sur-Verdon, later rebuilt on the banks of the lake. You can stop here for lunch in any number of delightful restaurants with mesmerising lakeside views, or bring a picnic with you to enjoy a full day out exploring the canyon and surrounding lakes.

There are several hotels in the village of Les Salles-sur-Verdon and near the small village of Boulogne, on the south side of the gorges, and you can find plenty of campsites surrounding the Sainte-Croix Lake, some with cabins that you can rent if you haven’t got your own tent.

But be wary that the Gorges du Verdon is a very popular place to stay in Summer, so you’ll need to book your accommodation well in advance. Alternatively, continue onto Cannes for the evening, where you can be based for the next few days of this itinerary. There are also a number of other places to stay on the French Riviera that are great choices.

For those who don’t want to make the drive out to the gorge, there are other great options available for this day. You could, for instance, spend another day exploring Marseille. You could also opt to take a day trip to the lavender fields and take in a hilltop village in Provence.

Another great option would be to visit the Calanques du Marseille and the village of Cassis for a gorgeous area very close to the city.

Verdon Gorge

Where to Stay in Cannes

Villa Claudia Hotel Cannes – If you’re on a mid-range budget while in Cannes, then this hotel is a good choice. It has a good location for exploring the city, breakfast is available in the mornings and there is a great garden to enjoy. Click here to check availability

Hotel Splendid – This hotel is a fantastic luxury option for those looking to live the high life while on the French Riviera. They have a myriad of incredible rooms to choose from along with a great location for exploring the city and area. Click here to check availability

La Bastide de l’Oliveraie – Those after a bit of an alternative accommodation option will love these plush suites in Cannes. They have an excellent, central location and there are plenty of rooms and suites available to choose from. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cannes hotels!

Day 7 – Saint-Raphaël

Back down to the Mediterranean coast, between the picturesque but incredibly busy town of St Tropez and the large and equally popular city of Cannes , is the small yet delightful town of Saint-Raphaël.

With a small harbour, a huge cathedral and beautiful beaches, this lovely little town is a great place to spend a relaxing final day of a south of France itinerary if you’re on a week-long holiday.

The charming town is a wonderful place to wander around, perusing the little shops and soaking up the sun, but during the Summer, the town really comes to life after 7.30 pm with its famous night market! This is much different than market day in other Provençal towns.

Stalls line the boardwalk all evening, selling local products from traditional Provençal soaps and perfumes to sweet treats and jewellery, so after you’ve had your traditional fish soup, anchovy paste, stuffed peppers or Bouillabaisse, you can’t miss out on a wander around the market to bring your 7 days in the south of France to a close.

If you’ve got time, you’ve also got to check out the superb amphitheatre of Fréjus, just a ten-minute drive from Saint-Raphaël centre.

Saint-Raphaël doesn’t have its own airport, however, it’s just a 45-minute drive from Cannes Airport, or 1 hour along the coastal road so you can say your farewells to the Côte d’Azur as you head home.

If you’re staying on, you can find many different hotels and apartments to stay in for the night all along the coast, although as we head into the more glamorous coastline, you’ll notice the prices can jump up quite a bit from other properties on our itinerary.

Saint Raphael Promenade

Day 8 – Valbonne

For your eighth day in the south of France, it’s time to head away from the coastal towns and cities to experience life in a small village, and there’s none better than Valbonne.

Just north of Cannes and Antibes, you can easily reach Valbonne by car from Saint-Raphaël, or if you’re travelling on public transport you can take a bus from Cannes to Valbonne for just a few euros.

This little village may lack big landmarks and resorts, but it’s bursting with character, with charming cobbled streets leading you around the village, from quaint squares to historic churches.

This style of architecture and tiny community nestled into a valley surrounded by wilderness is archetypal of the area, so a must-visit place for anyone looking to get away from the busy cities and tourist-filled beaches to get a glimpse into the real south of France.

There are a number of wonderful places to eat, including Auberges, serving traditional dishes using produce sourced directly from the surrounding countryside to heighten your experience of rural French life. You can stay in the village, but there are only two hotels, so you’ll want to book well in advance if you want to stay overnight.

However, the large city of Cannes is not far away so there will be much more choice of hotels, as well as gîtes and B&Bs dotted around the countryside if you prefer to stay in a more rural location.

Monastery of Valbonne

Day 9 – Nice

After a day in the countryside, it’s time to get back into the city, and one of the French Riviera’s most unmissable cities has to be Nice .

With its bustling city centre full of designer shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, you won’t be short of things to do as you walk from street to street, under the intriguing street lamps. But Nice isn’t your average city.

As you head out of the modern centre, you can come across the delightful old town, with more traditional boutiques and eateries, and you can even visit one of the first Russian Orthodox Cathedrals built in France, the beautiful Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas de Nice.

With its intriguing shape, red brick exterior, turquoise domed roofs and pointed turrets, it may be small but it’s well worth visiting while you’re in Nice – just remember to wear long sleeves and trousers to be allowed entry.

You can also walk up the Colline du Château to see the ruins of an old castle and a beautiful waterfall as well as have incredible views over the whole of Nice.

There’s plenty to do in the city for all ages and interests, as well as accommodation for all budgets in the city centre and further out in the suburbs. You can also  organise a walking tour  or  food tour  if you prefer to explore with a guide.

Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Nice

Where to Stay in Nice

Nice Garden Hotel – This is a great mid-range hotel in Nice to round out your south of France trip. They have a number of lovely rooms to choose from along with a great location within easy reach of the Promenade des Anglais. Click here to check availability

Palais Saleya Boutique hôtel – If you’re looking for a luxury hotel while in Nice, then you can’t go wrong with this lovely place. They have a number of delightful rooms to choose from along with plenty of amenities to ensure you have a great stay. Click here to check availability

Aparthotel AMMI Vieux Nice – Located in Old Nice, these apartments are a wonderful choice for those keen for their own space in this coastal metropolis. They have a number of great flats, all equipped with everything you may need for your stay. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Nice hotels!

Day 10 – Èze

Nice Airport is the best place to fly out of the south of France if you’ve come along the south coast from west to east, and fortunately, it’s not far from the wonderful village of Èze, which makes for a remarkably relaxing final day of your holiday.

Simply wander around the picturesque village with cobbled streets and stone houses, stunning views over the Mediterranean and the nearby millionaire’s playground that is Monaco.

Or, take a free tour of the renowned Fragonard perfume factory before heading to a cliffside restaurant to enjoy your final plat du jour and a crisp local vin blanc before heading home.

Village of Eze

Have More Time?

If you have more than 10 days , there are plenty of other highlights to stop in en route.

Stop in one of the only papal seats outside the Vatican in Avignon to explore the Pope’s Palace, the famous destroyed bridge Le Pont d’Avignon and the nearby Pont du Gard for a day before visiting Arles, or continue your journey along the French Riviera to the flash principality of Monaco to see how the other half live or try your luck in the famous casino.

Or if Roman history piques your interest, stop by the incredible city of Nîmes near Arles to see a 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre that gives Arles a run for its money, as well as its perfectly preserved white Roman temple La Maison Carrée.

En route from Carcassonne to Montpellier, you can also stop for a day of hiking and art in the community of Mayronnes to walk along the impressive 6 km long sculpture trail – but bring plenty of water with you as it can get very hot, especially in the height of summer.

Avignon City Walls

Whether you take a south of France road trip or see the south of France by train, there is plenty to do across the whole region for all interests. Over a week or 10 days in the south, you’ll get to experience some amazing food, architecture and natural areas that will surely have you aching to get back as soon as your feet are off French soil.

Are you visiting the south of France? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

places to visit in the south france

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

About Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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Home » Europe » 20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

By Author Laura Longwell

Posted on Last updated: May 3, 2023

Endless vineyards, hillside towns, pastel villages, and cities packed with history–these are the places and sites that make the South of France an unmissable destination. From Roman ruins to dramatic landscapes and quaint city squares, you’ll find a little of everything here. Between Provence, the French Riveria, and the southwestern part of the country, we’ve spent considerable time exploring the best places to visit in the South of France. Here’s a look at some of our favorites.

Aix-en-Provence

Large ornamental fountain with statues of people on top and lions around the sides

Aix-en-Provence is one of the best cities in the South of France to visit. Often called the City of a Thousand Fountains, Aix is known for its water features, markets, and beautiful pedestrian lanes and squares dotted with plane trees.

A visit to Aix is about being and soaking in the good life. Wander the farmers markets , pull up a chair at one of the cafes, or sample some of the many Provencal specialties at the restaurants and artisan shops.

If you’re looking to visit some of the top attractions in Aix , there are several interesting places to go. The Hotel de Caumont in the city center is an 18 th -century mansion featuring period furnishings. It also has a charming garden and café and features rotating exhibits by well-known artists.

Just outside the center, the Atelier Cezanne is another must-visit. The studio of painter and Aix-en-Provence native Paul Cezanne looks now just as it did when the artists died in 1906. His smock, supplies, and some of his favorite subject matter is still displayed here in a space that looks like he just stepped out for lunch.

Exterior of a two-level ancient stone amphitheater with arched doorways

Splashed in blues, yellows, and greens, visiting Arles makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a Van Gogh painting for good reason—you have. The artist produced over 200 pieces when he lived here. Throughout the city, there are replicas of the works in the exact spots where he painted them with plaques that provide some of the backstory.

Arles has a lot to offer even for those who aren’t art lovers. It is packed with history, ambiance, and lots of great food. A visit here is a highlight of any southern France itinerary .

Right in the center of town is Arles Amphitheater , a two-tiered theater that dates from 90 AD and still hosts events. A short walk from the center is Alyscamps , a Roman necropolis that is now an open-air museum lined with sarcophagi and several chapels. Once the main burial site for the city, it is an interesting look back at thousands of years of history. Both places have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

If you visit Arles on a Wednesday or Saturday, the market on the ring road will be impossible to miss. Stroll through to see the Mediterranean and North African cuisines on display and buy provisions for a picnic.

Saint-Remy-de-Provence

Large Roman stone arch with ornamental detail

With less than 10,000 residents, Saint-Remy-de-Provence is the type of town where you just want to stay for a while. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and things to see, and the pace is typically relaxed, which can be welcome in contrast to some of the larger cities in southern France.

Visitors can see most of the town in just a few hours. Or you can linger much long and explore the honeysuckle and wisteria-covered buildings, fountains, and colorful facades.

Located in Chaine des Alpilles, a small mountain range, Saint Remy has been inhabited for centuries. In fact, one of its main attractions is the archaeological site of Glanum . Many of the ruins there are from Romans who took over the area in the 1 st century BC. Some of the most notable structures are free to visit right along the road and include a triumphal arch that dates from about 10 BC and a funerary monument of a similar age.

A somewhat more contemporary site is Saint-Paul de Mausole , the psychiatric hospital where Vincent Van Gogh was treated for a about year in 1889 and 1890 shortly before his death. His room is preserved as it was during his stay, and you can explore the grounds and the works he painted there, including Starry Night .

Verdon Gorge

Overhead view of people kayaking in a river gorge surrounded by limestone cliffs

The first thing that catches your attention at the Verdon Gorge is the electric blue water. One of the most stunning natural places to visit in the South of France, this river canyon is 15 miles long and up to .4 miles deep. The limestone cliffs make for incredible scenery.

Paragliding over the canyon and climbing its walls are also popular, but we’re partial to being on the water. 

There are three main ways to enjoy the Verdon Gorge river up close—by stand-up paddleboard, kayak, or electric boat. All the watercrafts are available to rent at Base Nautique de l’Etoile at the beginning of the gorge.

Basilica with a bell tower topped with a huge gold statue of Madonna and Child

The second largest city in France, Marseille is a sprawling metropolis with a history stretching back to 600 BC.  

The cosmopolitan city has been an important trading hub since the Middle Ages and has been influenced by all the cultures coming here to do business from southern Europe to North Africa, Asia, and beyond. The Old Port is still at the heart of the city where visitors and locals stroll along the harbor, watch the boats come in, and catch sightseeing cruises to visit the calanques.

One of the best views of the Old Port is from Notre-Dame de la Garde , a hilltop basilica filled with mosaics and topped with a gilded statue of the Madonna and Child. A visit here is one of the top things to do in Marseille.

Marseille has numerous notable museums and a sprawling park (often compared to New York’s Central Park) built around an 18 th -century mansion complete with walking paths, a rose garden, and a lake. For something completely different, visit Cours Julien and Le Panier, the biggest areas for street art in the city .

L’Isle sur la Sorgue

Waterwheel covered in moss

The picturesque town of L’isle sur la Sorgue is situated on the Sorgue River whose canals run beside the ancient streets. Many of the waterwheels that once powered the silk, dyeing, and paper industries are still in place, giving visitors a glimpse into the town’s rich past. Some of them still move, though the show is now just for people’s enjoyment.

In addition to its beautiful setting, people are drawn to L’isle sur la Sorgue for “treasure hunting” and the promise of a bargain. Nearly 300 antique dealers call the town home and specialize in art, furniture, and all manner of unique items. They have an important place in the large weekly market that spills forth all around the center of town.

Visitors will also enjoy the historic mansions that have been converted into art galleries. Don’t miss the Hotel Donadei de Campredon , an 18th-century mansion that is now an art museum featuring modern and contemporary art including sculpture, paintings, and photography.

Exposed cliff with red, orange, yellow, and white hues

Roussillon has been a protected village since 1943. With less than 1300 residents, it has no modern development – just cafes, winding lanes, and amazing views.

The village is most known for having the largest ochre deposit in the world, which is found on the south end of town. The yellow, red, and orange hills are hard to believe until you actually step foot on the brightly hued paths. If you want to walk through the unusual landscape ( a significant landmark in the country ), there are 30- or 60-minute routes to choose from, but pick your clothing carefully so you don’t end up with stained pants or shoes.

If you visit Roussillon on Thursday, take the opportunity to visit the small weekly market. It focuses primarily on specialty items such a linens, soaps, wines, and ochre pigments.

Pont du Gard

Three-level ancient Roman aqueduct towering over a river with people in a raft

One of the most popular places to see when touring the South of France is the Pont du Gard . It’s difficult to imagine the sheer size of the 2000-year-old aqueduct until you see it up close.

The three tiers of the impressive Roman ruin tower 160 feet above the Gardon River. In the summer, people flock to kayak and swim in the chilly waters that flow around the aqueduct.

Building covered with ivy and purple wisteria

The old town of Uzes is ringed by circular streets. In the Middle Ages, these streets were walls designed to protect the Duke’s Castle at its heart. Visiting the town, you can still see towers, medieval gardens, the castle, and streets that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in history about 800 years. 

While the towers and medieval structures are impressive, the real appeal of Uzes comes in wandering through its streets and among its limestone buildings. It’s even better if you find yourself in town on a market day.

On market days—Wednesday and Saturday—much of the town feels taken over by the market sprawling through the streets, though is it centered around the Place aux Herbes. Wednesday is focused on food, including locally grown produce and specialties. The Saturday market adds flowers and household items such as linens, housewares, clothes, and jewelry.

At the same time, regular businesses set up shop outdoors and all the sidewalk cafes fill with people. The atmosphere is welcoming and lively.

Ancient bridge extending partially across a river beside historic buildings

Avignon is a lively city teeming with businesses, cafes, a university, and tons of character. The attractions of its historic core have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites thanks to their architecture and the unique events that took place here. 

At the heart of Avignon is the Palace of the Popes, the largest Gothic palace in Europe. In the 14th century, it was the home of the popes when the papacy moved to Avignon from Rome. Seven legitimate popes and, later, two anti-popes ruled the Catholic Church from France while living here. Though it was was once lavishly decorated, the palace was plundered over the centuries. Nevertheless, it remains one of the top places to see in France. 

There are lots of things to do in Avignon beyond the palace as well. Walk along Saint Bénezet bridge (aka Pont d’Avignon), the famous 12th-century bridge to nowhere. Have lunch at one of the restaurants on Place de l’Horloge or stroll through the Parc Rocher des Doms. End your day at Pinotage, a floating wine bar in the Rhone River where you can watch the sunset over the city. 

If you’d like to explore beyond the center, head to Manguin Distillery, which has made its famous pear brandy for over 50 years. On Saturday mornings you can join a distillery tour and taste a variety of their products. You might even see bottles attached to the trees outside where the the pears are actually growing inside the bottles.

Roman temple with numerous marble columns

Nimes is a workaday city with a handful of well-preserved Roman ruins.

Its covered food market,  Les Halles , bustles with energy as locals buy Provencal specialties such as brandade de morue (pureed salt cod and olive oil) or green olives. As with the other markets, there is also plenty of meat and vegetables on offer plus a handful of restaurants where locals gather sipping wine and catching up on the news.

A short walk from the market is one of the ruins, the Maison Carree . It is one of the best-preserved temples in the Roman Empire, which is amazing when you consider that it is over 2000 years old. Nearby, the Arena of Nimes, which dates from 70AD, is a preserved Roman amphitheater where visitors can still walk the ancient arcades. 

Wrap up your trip with a stroll around the gorgeous Les Jardins de la Fontaine, a 18th-century public park with gardens and ponds. If you would rather be indoors, visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Nimes . It is a fantastic museum featuring a collection of 3600 impressive works of fine art and sculpture from Roman times to the Old Masters.

Porquerolles

People swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach

Off the southeastern coast of France, the small island of Porquerolles is a unique getaway. Only about 200 people live on this car-free island where much of the land is part of a national park and nature conservation area.

A 15-minute ferry ride from Hyeres on the French Riviera takes visitors to the port of Porquerolles where you can walk or rent a bike to visit the local beaches, shops, and vineyard. There is also an art gallery and a 14 th -century fort with a beautiful viewpoint. We spent a day relaxing on Plage d’Argent and are already plotting a return.

Colorful fishing boats in a marina with a hilltop building in the background

Cassis is a gem of a town. With stunning natural features, harborside restaurants serving great food, and a dramatic mountain drive, we love it so much that we’ve included it in our southern France travel on two trips.

The town is most noted as a jumping off point to visit the calanques— white limestone cliffs that plunge dramatically into the Mediterranean Sea. Some of them have small beaches that can be visited by hiking in. Sea kayaks and boat tours are also popular ways to see them from a little further away.

If you want to stick a little closer to town, walk the marina area to browse the shops or go to the beach that’s just steps from the center. Relax at one of the cafes with some fresh seafood while you marvel at the colors of all the boats. Consider a sunset drive (or take a taxi) on La Route des Cretes , a breathtaking mountain drive that takes you high above the town for one of the most scenic things to do in Provence .

Hillside village with stone buildings and trees overlooking a valley

The hilltop village of Gordes is one of the cutest in France. The impression it makes is dramatic from the moment you first see it, seeming to tumble down the hill from its perch high above the valley.

Close up, the stone buildings of Gordes are laced together by narrow cobblestone streets that climb or descend the hill, depending on your perspective. Major sites include Gordes Castle, which originally dates to 1031, and the Cellars of Saint Fermin Palace , a site carved out of rock by Gordes residents in the Middle Ages that includes an olive oil mill, cisterns, and more.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Vineyards surrounding a small village with a tall building at its center

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is all about wine. The tiny town not far from Avignon appears to rise up from a hill surrounded in every direction by vineyards.

At its center is part of the chateau built by Pope John XXII in the 14th century as a refuge from the city’s heat in the summer. During their time here, it was the popes who planted the town’s original grapevines. Over the years, the chateau was partially destroyed, but the part that still stands can be seen from miles around.

The tiny village has a selection of good restaurants and medieval houses in its winding lanes. And, of course, there are lots of wine shops and cellars. Many of them offer tastings of the area’s famous wines. Most are red, but there is also a selection of good whites available.

There are also lots of surrounding wine estates that welcome visitors. Chateau des Fines Roches is one of the newer, more commercial estates, but the wines are good and you’re guaranteed to be able to taste at almost any time.

Ancient Roman Theatre of Orange

Ancient theater with stone seats and a statue in the stone wall above the stage

The city of Orange, France, is renowned for its Roman architecture. Its main site, the Ancient Theater of Orange , is astonishingly well preserved for a 2000-year-old structure, and it is still used for special summer performances.

The original statue of the Emperor Augustus still looks down on the crowd from its original niche on the stage. Visitors can climb on the ancient seats and even walk on the historic stage.

Saint-Emilion

Bell tower of a large church as seen from below

The tiny town of Saint-Emilion has welcomed visitors for centuries to sample the rich red wines the area is known for. 

There are nearly 1000 chateaux to choose from in Saint-Emilion, so the decision about where to go can be a hard one.  if you’re not able to make plans in advance, the tourism office can suggest a few that are open the day of your visit. 

Beyond the vineyards, Saint-Emilion is known for its UNESCO-listed Monolithic Church . The underground church was dug out of limestone in the early 12th century in honor of the hermit monk Emilion who lived in a cave on the site 400 years earlier. The tourism office offers daily tours of the church, the catacombs, and related sites, which is the only way to get an inside look at this part of the village’s history.

Wandering the steep alleys of the village is also a great way to spend an afternoon. Stop at a restaurant, browse the shops, and take in the views. L’Envers du Décor is an excellent option for lunch, and you can stop by the historic Les Cordeliers cloisters to enjoy the grounds and taste their range of Crémant de Bordeaux sparkling wines.

Huge stone city gate topped with turrets

Exquisite architecture, fresh seafood, a vibrant city with an historic core, and some of the best wine in the world—these are the things that make Bordeaux one of the best places to visit in the South of France. Even better, the whole city is highly walkable, with pedestrian-only areas and welcoming squares.

There is an endless selection of things to do in Bordeaux . Visit Mirior d’Eau, a giant pool that creates a unique reflection on its surface. Stroll under the trees at Place des Quinconces, the largest city square in France, and visit one of the regular festivals there. For a break, check out the vendors at Les Halles de Bacalan , a modern food hall with over 20 different merchants.

Don’t miss La Cite du Vin , the amazing, interactive wine museum where you can learn all about wine making and sample lots of varietals from around the world. For a slightly different take on imbibing, visit Moon Harbour Distillery —the first whiskey distillery in Bordeaux. Take a tour or do a tasting at its unique facility, a former German World War II submarine bunker.

White-cap waves crashing on a beach with a boardwalk, buildings, and a lighthouse in the distance

Biarritz is all about the ocean. On the coast of southwestern France and just 20 miles from the border with Spain, this luxurious destination in the Basque Country welcomes visitors to enjoy its sun and sand.

Windy Biarritz is the surfing capital of Europe, drawing people from around the world for casual enjoyment as well as competitions. Even if you’re not surfing yourself, it’s fun to watch the riders do their best tricks among the waves.

The seaside destination also has attractions focusing on the ocean. At the Biarritz Aquarium , visitors can see 50 aquariums filled with thousands of species of sea life, including sharks, seals, rays, and turtles. Just down the coast at City of the Ocean , you can try the surfing simulator, experience the virtual reality shark exhibit, or listen to seafaring explorers explain the mysteries of the ocean.

For something a little calmer, enjoy the Grande Plage, try your luck at the Bellevue casino, or explore the Hotel du Palais—a grand hotel that was originally the imperial residence of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz

People eating at a cafe in a city square

A short drive from Biarritz, the coastal town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is where to go in the South of France if you’re in search of relaxation. It’s all about enjoying the beach, surfing, and discovering charming town squares.

Like its northern neighbor Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz has ideal conditions for surfing and sunbathing. Walking along the seawall provides a great vantage point for seeing all the activity.

When you’re ready for a break from the ocean, check out the town squares. One of the most inviting is Place Louis XIV, which has lots of bars and restaurants plus occasional live music and painters who capture the scene en plein air (outside), which is fascinating to watch.

A few steps from the square, you can visit Maison Louis XIV , a 17 th -century home where the Sun King stayed while anticipating his marriage to the Infanta of Spain, Maria Theresa. They married in 1660 at the church of St-Jean-Baptiste nearby, which is also open for visiting.

places to visit in the south france

Laura Longwell is an award-winning travel blogger and photographer. Since founding Travel Addicts in 2008, she has written hundreds of articles that help over 3 million people a year get the most out of their travel. In that time, she has visited nearly 60 countries on 5 continents, often returning to favorite destinations over and over again. She has a deep love of history, uncovering unexpected attractions, and trying all the good food a place has to offer.

In addition to Travel Addicts, Laura runs a site about her hometown of Philadelphia—Guide to Philly—which chronicles unique things to do and places to see around southeastern Pennsylvania. Her travel tips and advice appear across the web.

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Where Tiana Travels

20 Best Things to Do in the South of France & Places to Visit

By: Author Tiana Thompson

Posted on Last updated: October 15, 2023

Categories France , French Riviera , Travel Guides

Home » 20 Best Things to Do in the South of France & Places to Visit

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Grab a café au lait and a croissant, my friend, because we’re about to embark on a journey through the best things to do in the South of France. 

things to do in the south of france

Since 2019, I’ve called France my maison and have been painting my way across the sun-dappled landscapes of this culturally rich country. I’ve got miles under my feet, countless baguettes in my belly, and an insatiable love for everything French.

From savoring escargot in quaint bistros to catching sunsets over lavender fields, I’ve explored every nook and cranny and unearthed the best-kept secrets of the South of France – and I’m here today to share them all with you.

Ready to dive into the French charm and explore all the best things to do in Southern France? 

In this post, you'll find...

1. Les Baux de Provence

Les Baux de Provence

Alrighty, first stop: Les Baux de Provence. Nestled atop a rocky plateau, this charming village is like a scene straight out of a 14th-century painting. Its cobblestone streets, medieval fortress, and olive groves are a sight for sore eyes. Literally. You might want to bring your sunglasses because the sunlight bouncing off those limestone cliffs is no joke.

But it’s not just about the ‘gram-worthy views. The best thing about this little town is its history. You can wander through the ruins of the castle or lose yourself in the winding narrow streets. Don’t miss the famous Carrieres de Lumières, where art and technology meet in a magical light and sound show.

For a bird’s eye view of this spectacular sight, hop on a short drive to the viewpoint at Château des Baux. Trust me, your Instagram followers will thank you.

2. Vers-Pont du Gard

pont du gard

Moving on, let’s head over to Vers-Pont du Gard. Now, if you think bridges are boring, hold onto your berets, because this one will change your mind. The Pont du Gard isn’t just any old bridge, it’s one of the  coolest bridges in France , and for good reason!

This UNESCO World Heritage site is a marvel of Roman engineering that’s been standing tall since, well, Roman times. It’s not just a bridge, but an ancient aqueduct. Can you imagine carting water across this three-tiered behemoth? Those Romans didn’t do things by halves, did they?

For the best experience,  snag a skip-the-line ticket in advance . Because who likes to wait in line when there’s so much to see and do? With this golden ticket, you can stroll along the bridge, visit the museum to learn about its fascinating history, and even take a guided tour if you’re feeling extra adventurous. Plus, the surrounding area is perfect for a leisurely picnic.

Just imagine munching on a baguette, brie oozing out the sides, with this architectural marvel as your backdrop. C’est magnifique .

🎟️ Get your skip-the-line ticket to Pont du Gard here!

3. Lavender Fields of Valensole

lavender fields valensole

Next on the agenda, we’re trading in our berets for straw hats because we’re heading to the Lavender Fields of Provence. Imagine endless waves of purple rolling under the bright Provençal sun, the scent of lavender thick in the air. If it sounds like something from a dream, that’s because it is.

And let’s not even get started on the ‘gram potential (#nofilter).

The best time to visit is from mid-June to August when the lavender is in full bloom. You can just stroll through the fields, basking in the purple glow, or hop on a guided tour to learn more about this iconic crop.

Don’t forget to pick up some lavender oil or soap as a fragrant memento. So if you’re ever feeling the blues, just take a whiff, close your eyes, and you’re back in the South of France.

💡 Tip: I highly recommend  booking your tickets in advance  – since there’s such a short time period in the year where these blossoms are at their best, they tend to get really crowded!  Book entry tickets here

🪻 Want to visit the lavender fields on a day trip from a nearby city? Check out these tours:

  • Full-day trip from Aix en Provence (Guided tour)
  • Full-day trip from Marseille (Guided tour)

4. Gorges du Verdon

Gorges du Verdon

Pack your adventure hats, folks, because we’re about to take a detour to the Gorges du Verdon, Europe’s answer to the Grand Canyon.

This natural beauty in the heart of Provence offers more than just jaw-dropping views (although there are plenty of those). It’s the perfect place for adrenaline junkies, with activities ranging from white-water rafting to rock climbing. Not an adrenaline junkie? Fear not!

Hop in a paddleboat or canoe and gently float down the turquoise waters of the Verdon river. Don’t forget to look up and admire the towering limestone cliffs. And if you’re really looking for a chill day, there’s always the option of kicking back on the sandy beaches and soaking up the sun.

places to visit in the south france

Alrighty, it’s time to dust off the sand and swap our adventure hats for something a bit more chic because we’re heading to Nice. This gem on the Côte d’Azur is known for its beautiful beaches, Promenade des Anglais, and pastel-hued old town.

When it comes to how to spend a day in Nice , you have no shortage of options. Wander through Vieux Nice, where you’ll find narrow streets lined with bustling markets and little ice cream shops (because nothing says South of France like gelato on a sunny day). Art lovers, don’t miss the Matisse Museum, dedicated to the city’s most famous resident, Henri Matisse.

And for the best views in town, head to Castle Hill. It’s a bit of a climb, but the panorama of the city and the Mediterranean Sea is worth every step. From morning market strolls to late-night beach walks, Nice is definitely, well,  nice . It’s also home to tonnnnns of  “Instagrammable” photo spots !

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tiana (@wheretianatravelss)

I recommend  taking a food and wine tour through the Old Town of Nice  to really get a taste of the city.  This tour  will take you to taste local Nicoise specialities, cheeses, delicatessen, pastries and sweet delicacies, and even local olive oil and wine tastings. You’ll also learn some recipes to learn how to cook Niçois dishes from a local foodie!

⌛ Short on time? This tour  will take you through the highlights of the French Riviera – visit the village of Èze, explore Monaco, Monte Carlo, Saint Paul de Vence, Antibes, and Cannes in one day.  Book your French Riviera highlights tour here

6. Saint Tropez

places to visit in the south france

From Nice, it’s just a short drive (and ferry ride) to the glamorous town of Saint Tropez. A place where the rich and famous moor their yachts and soak up the sun on sandy beaches. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy St Tropez (although it wouldn’t hurt).

Stroll around the old town, with its narrow streets and vibrant houses. Explore the 17th-century Citadel for a touch of history and fantastic views of the port. And of course, take the time to enjoy the beaches – they are the main attraction, after all. Pampelonne Beach is the most famous, but there are quieter spots if you prefer a little more tranquility.

And who can resist a delicious ice cream while walking around the glamorous marina?

⛵ This ferry ticket  offers a roundtrip boat transfer from Nice to Saint Tropez – perfect if you want to visit just for the day!  Book roundtrip from Nice to St Tropez

Related read:  How to get from Cannes to St Tropez

7. Cap d’Ail

cap d'ail

Let’s head to the lesser-known but just as lovely Cap d’Ail. This small town, just a stone’s throw away from Monaco-Monte Carlo, is a beautiful place to unwind after the bustle of Cannes and St Tropez.

Here, you can enjoy beautiful beaches without the crowds. Mala Beach is a popular spot, tucked away in a cove with crystal clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

For those who prefer dry land, there’s a beautiful coastal path that offers stunning views of the Mediterranean. And when you’ve had your fill of sun and sea, why not explore the Château des Terrasses? This 19th-century mansion hosts a variety of cultural events throughout the year.

Cap d’Ail is one of the most picturesque places to visit on the French Riviera and makes for a great  day trip from Nice .

cannes

Next stop, Cannes. Famous for its annual film festival, the Boulevard de la Croisette, and luxury hotels, this is a city that knows how to make an impression. Walk in the footsteps of movie stars at the Palais des Festivals, and take a selfie on the red carpet. Visit some of  Cannes’ beautiful beaches   like Plage de la Bocca or Croisette Beach.

But Cannes isn’t just about the glitz and glam. It’s also a great place to venture out on a catamaran cruise and enjoy the sun-soaked Riviera from a different perspective. 

⛵ This full-day catamaran cruise  leaves from Cannes and takes you to enjoy the day on the water in the Bay of Cannes.

If you’re a nature lover, don’t miss the Calanques of Esterel. Their rugged beauty offers a stark contrast to Cannes’ polished façade.  This family-friendly guided tour of the Esterel natural park  will take you to tour the hidden coves, caves, and Calanques as you cruise on turquoise water.

And for a taste of Italy,  take a full-day tour of the Italian Riviera . With the azure sea on one side and picturesque towns on the other, this is road-tripping at its finest. You’ll explore open-air markets in San Remo or Bordighera, then explore the captivating village of Dolceacqua.

Related read:  25 Best Things to Do in Cannes  

9. Monaco-Monte Carlo

monaco

Just a stone’s throw away from Cap d’Ail is the glamorous city-state of Monaco-Monte Carlo, the world’s second-smallest country. Monaco-Monte Carlo is a testament to the adage, “Good things come in small packages.”

Despite its size, Monaco oozes luxury, class, and sophistication, making it a glittering jewel of the French Riviera. this city-state is bursting with glitz, glamour, and all things luxe.  

Monaco-Ville, the old town, is a great place to start. Stroll through its narrow streets, check out the Prince’s Palace, and get lost in its medieval charm. If you’re a car enthusiast, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Car Collection of H.S.H. Prince Rainier III are must-sees.

For sea lovers,  the Oceanic Museum  is an awe-inspiring dive into the deep blue. Filled with marine curiosities and exhibitions, it’s sure to captivate both kids and adults. To see the best that Monaco has to offer,  join a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour of the city . It’s an ideal way to ensure you don’t miss a thing!

10. Marseille

marseille

Marseille, nestled on the southeastern coast of France, is the heart of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Renowned as the country’s oldest city, it bursts with an eclectic blend of tradition and multicultural vibrancy.

The city is famous for its bustling Vieux Port (Old Port), filled with yachts and fishing boats that capture its maritime heritage. Close by is the historic quarter of Le Panier, a labyrinth of narrow, winding lanes adorned with quaint shops and charming cafes.

You can’t miss the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde, a basilica perched high on a hill, offering panoramic views of Marseille’s stunning cityscape and the Mediterranean Sea. From museums and historical sites to the Calanques National Park, Marseille is a treasure trove of cultural, natural, and gastronomical delights awaiting exploration.

🛥️ Want to take a boat cruise in Marseille? Check out my top two picks:

  • This catamaran tour with lunch  takes you on a voyage of discovery from La Madrague to the quaint town of Cassis on a maxi-catamaran. You’ll bask in the beauty of the Marseille Calanques and the Frioul Archipelago, and savor a delicious lunch featuring plancha (grilled food), assorted sides, and a sweet dessert. Book a catamaran cruise here
  • This sunset dinner cruise  is a romantic escapade, perfect for couples, families, or friends seeking a special evening. The journey will take you to the Frioul archipelago and its hidden coves, setting a perfect backdrop for a starlit meal. As the dinner concludes, let loose on the dance floor with tunes spun by an onboard DJ.  Book a sunset dinner cruise
🎟️ Combination Ticket: To get the most bang for your buck, the  Marseille City Pass  offers unlimited public transport and free access to several museums and attractions. Now that’s what I call a ‘bon plan’! Purchase a Marseille City Pass

11. Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence

Delve into the captivating charm of Aix en Provence, an elegant city located in the heart of Provence. Recognized for its classical beauty, Aix en Provence is a haven for art enthusiasts and foodies.

The city is punctuated with fountains, adding to its distinctive allure. Strolling along the tree-lined Cours Mirabeau is a must, where cafés, bookshops, and boutiques beckon. The Atelier de Cézanne, the studio of the renowned painter Paul Cézanne, offers a glimpse into the artist’s life and work. 

Beyond its artistic charm, Aix en Provence is a gastronomic delight, tempting visitors with Provençal cuisine, fine wines, and local markets brimming with fresh produce. For the foodies,  a Provençal market walking tour  is an absolute must. With fresh produce and local specialties at every turn, it’s a gastronomic adventure you won’t want to miss.

Here are my top two picks for tours in Aix en Provence:

  • For a taste of the French countryside,  join a tour of the hilltop villages in Luberon . You’ll see France’s rural charm at its best.
  • And, of course, no visit to Aix would be complete without a  wine tour of the countryside . The surrounding countryside is littered with vineyards that produce some of the country’s best vino.

cassis

Cassis, nestled between the towering white cliffs of Cap Canaille and the steep limestone Calanques, is a picture-postcard fishing village in southern France. This little town is a Mediterranean treasure, with its vibrant harbor lined with pastel-colored houses and dotted with café terraces. 

Here, fishermen still pull in their daily catch, adding a touch of authenticity to this idyllic setting. Venture towards the Calanques National Park to marvel at a series of stunning inlets with crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. On the water, you can  spend the day paddle-boarding , or  on a kayaking tour  through the Calanques.

Back in town, explore the narrow, winding streets brimming with Provençal charm, or treat your taste buds with the local specialty, ‘Bouillabaisse’. Don’t forget to visit the historic Château de Cassis, which offers breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding vineyards. Cassis is a small town with a big personality, steeped in tradition and beauty.

Related read: The 12 Best Things to Do in Cassis, France

13. Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence

High in the hills of the French Riviera, Saint Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns in the region. A paradise for art lovers, its cobblestone streets have been trodden by renowned painters and actors, including Chagall and Matisse. The town’s history comes alive within its well-preserved ramparts, where ancient houses are now converted into art galleries and boutiques. 

The Fondation Maeght, a museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, is a must-visit, boasting works by Miró, Calder, and Giacometti. Don’t miss a walk along the La Grande Fontaine, a 16th-century monumental fountain at the town’s entrance. The heart of the town, Place de la Grande Fontaine, is a perfect spot for people-watching. With its fairy-tale charm and artistic heritage, Saint Paul de Vence offers an enchanting journey through time.

I recommend visiting Saint Paul de Vence on a day trip from Nice. On  this half-day tour , you’ll grab a seat in a comfy minivan at your Nice hotel and prepare for a scenic drive to Saint Jeannet through the heart of Provence’s wine country. Your guide will share fascinating insights into French winemaking traditions as you head towards a local wine cellar.

There, you’ll get the chance to taste a variety of wines alongside an experienced winemaker. Wrap up the tour at Saint Paul de Vence, a historic village renowned for its artistic heritage, which has welcomed figures such as Renoir, Chagall, and Picasso.

gordes

Tucked in the picturesque Luberon region of Provence, Gordes is a mesmerizing stone village, often hailed as one of France’s most beautiful. 

Perched on a rocky hill, the village presents a stunning spectacle of stone houses spiraling down the slopes, capped by a 12th-century castle. The castle, now a museum, offers an insight into the village’s history and the cultural traditions of the region. Nearby, the Sénanque Abbey, a 12th-century Cistercian abbey tucked within lavender fields, is a sight to behold. 

In town, explore the winding, cobblestone streets and enjoy panoramic views of the Luberon Valley. Market day in Gordes, every Tuesday, is a feast for the senses, with stalls selling local produce, honey, cheese, and more. With its undeniable charm, Gordes is a testament to the enduring allure of medieval France.

15. Avignon

avignon

Positioned on the left bank of the Rhône River, Avignon, in southeastern France, is a city shrouded in history and architectural wonder. Best known for the Palace of the Popes, Avignon served as the papal residence during the 14th century, which is why the city is often referred to as the “City of Popes”. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is undoubtedly the heart of Avignon, offering an intriguing journey back to the Middle Ages. 

Another must-see is the famous Avignon Bridge, also known as Pont Saint-Bénézet, partially crumbled but nonetheless picturesque. Avignon is also renowned for its annual arts festival, a perfect occasion to immerse yourself in theater, dance, and music. The charming cobblestone streets, local markets bustling with fresh produce, and the vibrant squares make Avignon a delightful blend of history, culture, and Provençal lifestyle.

The best way to taste all that Avignon has to offer? A wine tour, of course! 

This 5-hour wine adventure  through the heart of Côtes du Rhône’s famed wine country uncovers the stories behind three Grand Crus: Gigondas, Seguret, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. On this immersive tour, you’ll marvel at picturesque vineyards and quaint villages, punctuated by charming bell towers, all nestled at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Gain insights into the intricacies of wine production and the diverse grape varieties that make this region so unique.

And the cherry on top? A delightful wine-tasting session led by a specialist, promising to make your foray into the wine world an unforgettable experience. Ideal for wine lovers and curious souls alike.

16. Toulouse

Toulouse

Toulouse, also known as “La Ville Rose” (The Pink City) for its distinctive brick architecture, is a vibrant city located in southwestern France.

It’s the heart of the European aerospace industry, home to Airbus headquarters, and the space-focused City of Space theme park – both offering captivating tours. Toulouse’s rich history can be traced back to the Roman times and is reflected in landmarks like the Saint-Sernin Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a gem of Romanesque architecture. 

Art enthusiasts will appreciate the Fine Arts Museum, housing an extensive collection ranging from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Don’t forget to explore the charming old town, with its narrow streets filled with shops, cafes, and the Capitol Square, the city’s epicenter. And for those fond of nature, a stroll along the Canal du Midi, another UNESCO site, is a must.

🎟️ P.S.  Make the most of your trip to Toulouse with the  Toulouse City Card  – your key to exploring the Pink City with ease and value! This card provides free access to major museums, discounts on guided tours, and unlimited use of public transportation.

grasse

Nestled in the hills north of Cannes, Grasse is a quaint town famous for being the perfume capital of the world. A stroll through Grasse offers a sensory experience like no other, with a variety of aromas wafting through its narrow, winding streets.

The International Perfume Museum and the historic perfume factories like Fragonard, Molinard, and Galimard offer fascinating tours where you can learn about the art of perfume making and even create your own fragrance.  This fragrance-making class in Grasse  will teach you the basics of perfumery as you create your own scent!

Grasse’s old town is a charming labyrinth of narrow alleyways, packed with historic buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Don’t miss the Cathedral Notre Dame du Puy, hosting artworks by Rubens and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

For nature lovers, the surrounding region provides ample opportunities for hiking and exploring the scenic beauty of the Maritime Alps. In spring and summer, the surrounding fields burst into a riot of color, making Grasse look even more beautiful.

Arles

If you’re chasing the sun in Southern France, Arles, nestled in the heart of Provence, should be on your itinerary. Once an important hub of the Roman Empire, Arles boasts an impressive array of well-preserved Roman ruins including an amphitheater, and Alyscamps, a Roman necropolis. 

This “little Rome of Gaul” also charmed the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh who produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time here. Walk in his footsteps, exploring the cafes and scenery immortalized in his art, like the “Café Terrace at Night”. The Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles is a definite must-see for art lovers.

In addition, Arles is the gateway to the Camargue, a magical landscape of salt lagoons, white horses, and flamingos. Take a short drive out to see this wonder of nature for a complete Arles experience.

Related read: 55 Most Iconic Landmarks & Monuments in France

19. Camargue Natural Regional Park

Camargue Natural Regional Park

Take a break from the cobblestone streets of the old towns and immerse yourself in the wild beauty of the Camargue Natural Regional Park. This unique wetland, sandwiched between Arles and the Mediterranean Sea, is a treasure trove of biodiversity. Bring your binoculars and prepare to spot white horses, black bulls, and the famous pink flamingos that call this park home. 

The Camargue is also a hotspot for birdwatchers with over 400 species, including herons, eagles, and waders. If you’re game, saddle up for a horse-riding tour to get up close with nature. In Camargue, the blend of wildlife, landscapes, and cultural heritage promises an unforgettable experience.

For an up close and personal experience, hop on  a half-day 4×4 safari adventure .  Guided by a local expert, you’ll venture through the park’s unique landscapes where salt, water, and wind converge, creating a haven for an array of wildlife. You’ll get up close with the park’s famous wild horses and bulls, and catch sight of the flamboyant pink flamingos dotting the marshlands.

This tour is perfect for nature enthusiasts and those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience, offering a mix of education, exploration, and breathtaking natural beauty. 

20. Pyrenees National Park

Pyrenees National Park

And now, let’s venture west towards the Pyrenees National Park, the perfect place for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.

This park, stretching along the border between France and Spain, is known for its spectacular mountain landscapes dotted with clear lakes and frothy waterfalls. Summer months are perfect for hiking; there are trails for every fitness level, from gentle walks in the valleys to challenging climbs up to peaks like Vignemale. 

In winter, the snow-covered mountains become a playground for skiing and snowshoeing. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, as the park is home to unique species like Pyrenean chamois, marmots, and even brown bears. In addition to its natural beauty, the park is steeped in culture.

Explore the hilltop villages like Cauterets and Luz-Saint-Sauveur, sample the local cheese, and experience the warm hospitality of the Pyrenees. It’s an idyllic escape from the bustle of the cities.

The South of France is best known for its stunning Mediterranean coastline, exquisite cuisine, diverse cultural heritage, sun-drenched vineyards, historical towns, and glamorous seaside resorts like Nice and Saint-Tropez.

While beauty is subjective, many consider Nice as one of the most beautiful cities in the South of France due to its vibrant Old Town, stunning coastline, and iconic Promenade des Anglais.

If you’re traveling on a budget, consider visiting cities like Toulouse and Montpellier, or exploring the natural beauty of areas such as the Camargue Natural Regional Park and Gorges du Verdon. These places offer affordable accommodation and plenty of free or inexpensive activities.

tiana thompson in paris

Hi, I’m Tiana – founder of and author here at Where Tiana Travels. I’m a 20-something with a love for all things travel, photography, and food. I have been living abroad for the past 5 years and solo traveling the globe in my free time. I created this blog to share my travel stories and inspire other women to go out and see the world. Read more about me here!

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The Crazy Tourist

Home » Travel Guides » France » 15 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

15 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

The South of France is the embodiment of style and sophistication, and might make you think of the jazz age, the jet set in the 50s, impressionist painters, ochre-hued Provençal villages or Roman ruins.

It’s all of that and a whole lot more, so we’ve tried to curate a list that ticks all the boxes, with famous cities that make the headlines, and towns forever linked to the artists or writers who were inspired by them.

So whether you’re drawn by the South of France’s history, landscapes, culture, food or beaches there should be a place on this list to tempt you.

Lets explore the best places to visit in the South of France :

Avignon

For a time in the middle ages this city on the banks of the Rhône was the centre of western Christendom.

Six papal conclaves were held in the spellbinding Palace of the Popes in the 14th century, and the building has fascinating little vestiges from this time, like the invaluable gothic frescoes still on the walls of the papal apartments.

The exalted ruins of Pont Saint-Bénézet are also from this period, poking out half-way across the river, guarded by a gatehouse and boasting the little medieval chapel of Saint Nicholas.

Browse the arty walled town, take a cruise on the Rhône, and see if you can come for the Theatre Festival in July, when Avignon becomes one giant stage.

2. Carcassonne

Carcassonne

The Cité de Carcassonne, above the right bank of the Aude is a sight that can you dream: Walls have encircled this part of the city since the 4th century, but they were beefed up in the 13th century to stand as a barrier against the Crown of Aragon to the south.

After the 1600s they were no longer needed and allowed to decay, until the architect Viollet-le-Duc came along and gave them a romantic overhaul in the 1800s.

Carcassonne has much more besides: The Canal du Midi crosses the city and is a mind-blowing accomplishment from the 1600s, while the stained glass windows in the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus are some of the loveliest you will ever see.

3. Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence

Aix differs from the first two entries in that people visit this town, not so much for sights, but for its less tangible, atmospheric qualities.

On the evocative Cours Mirabeau, with its plane trees, fountains and elegant mansion, you’ll visit the haunts of the many famous personalities connected to Aix, like Paul Cézanne, Ernest Hemingway and Émile Zola.

You can continue the Cézanne theme by making the pilgrimage to Montaigne Saint-Victoire, just to the east of the city.

This jagged limestone ridge was a scene that Paul Cézanne returned to paint time and again in the late-19th century.

Promenade des Anglais

Nice is grander, a city of spacious squares and long esplanades.

It was one of the first coastal destinations to attract tourists, furnishing it with imposing 19th-century palaces and hotels on the Promenade des Anglais.

You can duck down the alleys of Vieux Nice to shop at the boutiques and flower market at Cours Selaya, or ascend the Colline du Château for a view that never ceases to delight.

If you don’t mind pebbles you can also join the select few who go down to sun bathe on Nice’s beaches.

Even in July and August it’s never exactly heaving on the shore and most visitors stick to the promenade.

Nice also has a clutch of artists who swore by the city: Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse both have dedicated museums here.

Albi

Chances are you’ll know one of Albi’s most famous sons even if you don’t recognise his name: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painted those iconic scenes of dancers at the Moulin Rouge, and created the art nouveau posters inextricably associated with the Belle Époque.

The museum in his name at the Albi’s Episcopal Palace has the largest single collection of his work in the world, with more than 1,000 pieces.

Its brick gothic home is also a UNESCO site, part of a group of dominating red brick buildings designed to inspire awe.

None more so than Albi cathedral, which looks like a fortress and was erected in the 13th century as a declaration of Catholic power after the suppression of the Cathar sect in this region.

6. Lourmarin

Lourmarin

The little town just to the south of the Luberon Massif is the quintessence of Provence.

All the ingredients are here, particularly the landscape of mountains, orchards and vineyards that frames the Caselas belfry.

Lourmarin is one of France’s “most beautiful” villages, but is much more than an outdoor museum: It’s a lively little place, with 15 cafes and restaurants that make use of what little outdoor space they can find on this tangle of streets.

And, inevitably, there’s a cultural giant linked to the town.

Albert Camus lived and wrote here, and is buried in the town’s cemetery.

7. Biarritz

Biarritz

In the 19th century the European elites “discovered” Biarritz, and turned it from a seaside village into one of Europe’s most luxurious resorts.

Summing up this swift transformation is the Hôtel du Palais, built as a summer getaway in 1855 for Eugénie de Montijo, Empress of the French and wife of Napoleon III. Families flock to the Grand Plage, a broad golden sandy beach in front of regal turn-of-the- century landmarks like the Casino Barrière.

There are also good swells for surfers on the Grand Plage, as well as at Côte des Basques just along the shore.

Uzès

North of Nîmes, with its profusion of Roman monuments, is the understated town of Uzès.

The nerve centre of this little place is the Place aux Herbes, where in summer the sunlight is scattered by the square’s plane trees, and the arcades on all sides shelter restaurants and cafes.

One of the south’s most celebrated markets is also held in these arches on Saturdays.

The square is the best place to begin a walking tour of this town with its feudal towers and creamy limestone mansions from the 1600s and 1700s.

You can scale the 100 steps of the Royal Tower for the best view of the symbolic Tour Fenestrelle, the romanesque campanile of Uzès Cathedral.

9. Marseille

Marseille

Chaotic, cosmopolitan and edgy, Marseille challenges all of the stereotypes about Provence and the French Riviera.

It’s France’s second city and the country’s largest port, with a lot of diversity, epitomised by the hectic Nouailles Market.

The colossal Old Port, founded by the Phocaeans 2,600 years ago, is still the best place to see Marseille in action.

And for one of France’s most recognisable landmarks, make your way up to Notre-Dame de la Garde, at the highest point in the city, just to the south of the Old Port.

The new MuCEM is a high-profile attraction devoted to the history of the Mediterranean, while Marseille can also be your gateway to the Calanques, those vast fjord-like cliffs to the south of the city.

10. Pézenas

Pézenas

Up to the late-1700s Pézenas was the seat of the Governors of Languedoc, which has left this town in Hérault with plenty of stately renaissance and  baroque architecture for a place with just 8,000 inhabitants.

More than 100 buildings have been listed as “historic” in Pézenas.

You can check in with the tourism office for the locations of all of Pézenas’ “hôtels”, and begin a walking tour you won’t soon forget.

A famous citizen from this period is the revered 17th-century comedy writer Molière, who performed at the theatre here several times in the 1650s and spent time in the court of Armand de Bourbon, the Prince of Conti, inspiring some of his early works.

There’s a small exhibition to the writer at this plush monument.

Arles

A UNESCO site for its abundance of Roman and romanesque architecture, Arles has a Roman theatre, amphitheatre, baths, necropolis and aqueduct to discover.

The 12th-century Church of St. Trophime is immensely valuable too, for the peerless romanesque sculptures above the portal.

The city didn’t miss out on impressionist painters either, as van Gogh produced some 300 works in his year in Arles, and shared the “Yellow House” with Gauguin for nine weeks.

Arles is also in the north of the Camargue, a region of salt flats, marshes and meadows where semi-feral white horses roam free, and fighting bulls are bred for export to Spain.

Between April and June the briny lagoons and reedy marshes in the Camargue teem with thousands of flamingos, one of the most amazing natural spectacles in the south.

12. Toulouse

Toulouse

On the Garonne River, the old centre of this university city is replete with stately 18th-century neoclassical buildings all made with a pinkish terracotta.

This has won Toulouse the nickname “La Ville Rose”, exemplified by the glorious facade of the Capitole.

There are older monuments in the city, sure to set historians’ pulses racing.

The Church of the Jacobins is the resting place of Thomas Aquinas, the 12th-century friar with a lasting influence on modern philosophy.

You can spot the World Heritage Basilica of Saint-Sernin by its spired bell-tower, and if you take a close look, you’ll see how the design of the arches changes with phase of construction.

Gordes

A typical “village perché”, Gordes is a small medieval town on a hilltop in the Luberon range.

Gordes is one of the “most beautiful” villages in France, and you can be sure that it intends to remain so.

Any new buildings in Gordes must be built with limestone and capped with terracotta tiles! Like many of Provence’s rustic settlements, Gorde has attracted celebrities in their droves.

The town’s cobblestone streets coil around the hill, and at the top is a renaissance castle containing the town hall and a small art museum.

Minutes from here is Sénanque Abbey, feted for the image of its walls at the end of a lavender field.

14. Bordeaux

Bordeaux

Another of the south of France’s many World Heritage sites is Bordeaux’s historic quarter.

This was mostly planned in the 1700s, when the city became too big to keep within the walls.

So there was a large urban remodel endowing Bordeaux with many of the sights and monuments people adore today.

This goes for Grand Théâtre, Place de la Bourse and the Place du Parlement.

Add these to the list of medieval must-sees, like the Grosse Cloche, the 15th-century belfry of the old town hall, and the ghostly gothic cathedral.

We haven’t even mentioned that Bordeaux is the world capital of wine, or that it’s a fun-loving university town with some of France’s best nightlife outside Paris.

15. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

The little capital of the Alpilles, a small range of low mountains to the south of Avignon, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a medieval town blasted by the legendary mistral in winter and spring.

On clear days this creates that unique light that attracted the impressionists, and van Gogh made 150 paintings in and around this town.

Art lovers will get frissons when they notice a scene or building immortalised by the artist.

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is adorned with mansions from the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was a prestigious place to be.

This was partly to do with Glanum, the ancient city a few minutes’ walk from the town.

There’s a 2,000 year-old triumphal arch, sacred spring and one of the most intact mausoleums in the former Roman world.

15 Best Places to Visit in the South of France:

  • Carcassonne
  • Aix-en-Provence
  • Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Senanque Abbey shot from above--the abbey is in the bottom left of the shot with lavender fields to the right--definitely stop here on your France road trip!

Ultimate South of France Itinerary: Provence + French Riviera

Home to everything from sprawling lavender fields to hilltop towns to fishing villages to the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, it’s no wonder that traveling through Provence and the French Riviera is a dream trip for many–and this south of France itinerary makes it easy to enjoy the perfect trip.

We absolutely love exploring southern France and have enjoyed a handful of road trips, train trips, and more throughout the region.

We designed this south of France itinerary for first-time visitors to the region who want a little taste of everything that Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has to offer, from the cobblestone streets of the Luberon Valley to the glamour of Nice’s promenade.

Hoping to visit southern France and find yourself overwhelmed with village names and potential places to visit?

This south of France itinerary is for you !

Table of Contents

Where Exactly is Provence?

Getting around during your trip to southern france, how long does this south of france itinerary take, south of france itinerary note: pay attention to market days, the complete south of france itinerary, more time in southern france, where to stay in the south of france , getting to provence-alpes-côte d’azur, south of france itinerary map, best time to visit the south of france, what to pack for the south of france.

Selfie of Kate and Jeremy in front of the Verdon Gorge. Both are wearing blue shirts and Kate is wearing sunglasses.

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When planning a trip to the south of France, Provence is often the first region that comes to mind–but what exactly is Provence, anyway, other than an endless collection of photos of blooming lavender fields?

Short version: Provence is part of the French administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, which is located in southeastern France.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is then divided into six subregions, whose names you’ll probably notice around you as you work through this south of France itinerary–Vaucluse is one example.

The bulk of this recommended south of France itinerary takes place in what is colloquially known as Provence (the southern and western part of the region).

The d estinations mentioned toward the end of the trip like Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Paul-de-Vence are located along the Côte d’Azur–aka the French Riviera–in the eastern part of the region.

Kate in a blue skirt in Goult, France. There's a stone building with blue shutters to her left, and she's facing away from the camera. Goult is one of the best places to visit in the south of France.

While the cities and towns visited throughout this south of France itinerary are generally walkable (even Nice !), you will likely need a car to get between them.

In a pinch, you can certainly complete this itinerary with a combination of buses, trains, and booked tours, but that would be far less efficient than a road trip!

A few tips on driving in southern France: budget generously for gas and tolls, book your lodging each night with the parking situation in mind, and rent the smallest car you possibly can.

ranger storm smiling in front of gordes france

We cover our tips for driving in France a lot more thoroughly in our broader France road trip guide , so be sure to check that out before taking off on your trip to southern France !

To book your rental car for the south of France, we recommend checking prices, inclusions and availability via Discover Cars .

They’ll search both local and international brands that have available cars, and allow you to compare prices, reviews, and inclusions side-by-side.

Shop rental cars for your trip to the south of France today!

Jeremy standing to the right of a country road during our road trip in France. He's standing in front of a black rental car with the rear hatch open, and he's wearing a black jacket.

We’ve structured this South of France itinerary with the assumption that you’ll be spending roughly 2 weeks in the region, and the number of days noted by each city is the minimum number of full days that we recommend spending in each spot.

In other words, when you pull into town at 7:00 PM, that doesn’t count as a “day” in the destination on this suggested route.

That’s not to say you couldn’t stay longer–you absolutely could!

blooming lavender fields in the valensole plateau, one of the best places to visit on an itinerary provence

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is an immense region that is absolutely packed with things to do, from strolling past lavender fields to perusing markets to going on adventurous hikes to relaxing on the beach, and so much more. 

There’s truly something for every interest here–and then some–so be prepared to start plotting your return visit by the halfway point through your trip!

If you have less than 2 weeks in the South of France, we recommend narrowing your focus to either the Cote d’Azur or Provence, rather than trying to squeeze both destinations into your limited time.

Cup of coffee sitting on an outdoor table at a cafe in Aix-en-Provence. There's a red and white checkered chair behind the coffee.

Perusing the open-air markets of the villages of Provence is an iconic part of any trip to the region–so make sure to structure your South of France itinerary so you don’t miss the best ones!

Most markets are open 1-3 days/week and different markets focus on different things.

Some will be about food, and others will be French flea markets/brocantes that focus on textiles, clothing, or antiques.

If you manage to time it right, on Thursdays Aix-en-Provence has three markets in town at once, so you can get the perfect experience all in one spot.

Collection of antique items for sale, laid out on a table at a market in Nice, as seen during a south of France vacation.

Avignon: 1 Day

Once the home of popes, Avignon is the perfect place to kick off your south of France itinerary.

Spend the day exploring the town, hitting up the impressive Papal Palace, the Pont d’Avignon, and the Les Halles Market in between wandering the streets and marveling that you’re finally in southern France!

If you have time, also consider ducking into one of the other beautiful art museums in the city.

If you’d like to get out of town for a bit in the afternoon, the 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard aqueduct is incredibly impressive and only a 30-minute drive from Avignon.

Photo of the exterior of the Papal Palace in Avignon. Don't miss this stop on your south of France itinerary!

Luberon Valley: 2 Days

Ah, the Luberon Valley: this is the area that tends to come to mind immediately when someone says the word “Provence”.

All hilltop villages and rolling countryside filled with lavender fields, the Luberon Valley is absolutely stunning and a must-visit on any Provence itinerary.

It also happens to be one of our favorite corners of France and one that we love to visit repeatedly!

kate storm and ranger storm in menerbes luberon valley france

Be sure to visit the town of Bonnieux for some of the best views over the valley, Gordes for its impressive location built into a hilltop, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse for its lovely spring and river, Roussillon for its majestic red cliff, and Goult for its understated and quiet beauty.

Other favorites include Lacoste for its picturesque views, Menerbes for its delightful charm (if you ever read A Year in Provence , this is the town!), and Lourmarin for its idyllic beauty.

That’s merely the tip of the iceberg, of course: Sénanque Abbey and Isle sur Sorgue are just a couple of the other spots that might hold your attention during this section of your south of France itinerary.

You probably won’t have time to visit all of those–but the great thing about exploring the Luberon Valley is that going slow and savoring the journey is half the fun anyway.

Depending on how fast you tend to go and how much each village captures your heart (okay, and how much French wine you indulge in at lunch), you can comfortably visit 2-3 villages a day.

Kate walking down a narrow street in Goult during our France road trip. There's a pink building to her left and she's wearing a long blue skirt.

The Alpilles: 1 Day

The first two towns on your list in the Alpilles?

Les Baux-de-Provence, often considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, the former home of Van Gogh and a bit of an artistic enclave.

Both towns are absolutely lovely, but in our biased opinion, we do think that Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is slightly prettier than Les Baux-de-Provence .

abbey in st remy de provence with lavender growing in front of it

However, w e do recognize that the views from Les Baux-de-Provence themselves are top-notch !

While you can whip through these highlights in a day if needed, outdoor enthusiasts–especially hikers and bikers–might prefer to set up shop in the Alpilles a bit longer.

We enjoyed Saint-Rémy-de-Provence so much the first time around that when we later returned to southeast France, we based ourselves there for almost a week!

It’s a beautiful, conveniently located place that makes an excellent addition to any France trip.

Cobblestone street and stone buildings in Les Baux-de-Provence--don't forget to add this village to your South of France itinerary!

Aix-en-Provence: 1 Day

The gorgeous city of Aix-en-Provence is known for its beauty, its accessibility–this is a great place to base yourself for part of your southern France trip–and most importantly, its markets.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the markets in Aix-en-Provence, which sell everything from flowers to fruits to fedoras, are some of the best that we’ve ever seen.

We have loaded up our backpack more than once on shopping extravaganzas here!

Though Aix-en-Provence does have daily markets, to see the markets at their biggest and best, plan to spend a day here on either a Thursday!

Tuesday and Saturday are great backup options.

Flower market as seen in Aix-en-Provence during a south of France vacation--you can see a clock tower in the upper left of the photo.

Cassis + Calanques National Park: 1 Day

The adorable fishing village of Cassis is a delightful addition to any south of France itinerary.

Much smaller and prettier than nearby Marseilles, Cassis is also the perfect jumping-off point for visiting Calanques National Park.

And, w hether you want to go for a hike or simply take a boat tour past the beautiful calanques, visiting this stunning part of the French coastline is a must !

While you’re in and around Cassis, be sure to also check out to picture-perfect Port de Cassis, visit the (extremely accessible) Calanque de Port Miou, and admire the views from the Cap Canaille.

Woman in floral dress standing in front of Port Miou near Cassis Provence France

Valensole Plateau + Verdon Gorge: 1 Day

Of all the suggested stops on this south of France itinerary, this one is probably the most anticipated for many summer visitors.

T he Valensole Plateau is the iconic home to those never-ending lavender fields pictured on tourism brochures around the world !

Sure, the Luberon Valley also has stunning fields, and they’re definitely worth seeing–but in Valensole, be ready to pull your car over nearly constantly, because every field seems to be more gorgeous than the last.

blooming lavender field on the valensole plateau, one of the best stops on a provence itinerary

Early July is considered the absolute optimal time for enjoying the lavender fields on the Valensole Plateau, though late June, the rest of July, and maybe the very beginning of August can work as well.

That being said, we have visited the Valensole Plateau outside of lavender season as well, and while it’s certainly not as magical as it is when the lavender is at its peak, it’s still a striking and beautiful part of Provence.

After you get your fill of snapping photos, head to the Verdon Gorge, home to cascading cliffs, turquoise water, the nearby Lake of Sainte-Croix, some incredible hiking, and–again for summer visitors specifically–excellent kayaking and rafting.

Though I’ve noted you can see the major sites of the area in one day here, like in the Alpilles, photographers and/or outdoor enthusiasts will probably want to spend at least a couple of days here if at all possible .

Photo of an empty road on the left, with the Verdon Gorge to the right. The turquoise river of the gorge is visible in the center of the photo. Definitely worth stopping here on a France road trip!

Saint-Paul-de-Vence: 1 Day

Perched high above the Mediterranean Sea along the Cote d’Azur, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is one of those destinations that we expected to enjoy but quickly move on from, but in actuality knocked us off our feet and charmed us completely.

For that reason alone, I can’t resist adding a day here to this suggested itinerary for the south of France!

Come here for a delightful combination of all the things that makes the south of France so charming , from the delicious food to the winding stone streets to the sublime views.

S tand on the medieval walls of the town, and you’ll be smitten with the views of the countryside and sea.

Photo of Saint-Paul-de-Vence France taken from outside the city. You can see the city walls.

Stroll through the tiny cobblestone streets of the village, and you’ll feel like you’re back in the Luberon Valley.

Sit down for a fantastic French meal on a stunning terrace, and you’ll immediately feel all the glitz and glamour of the Cote d’Azur.

Oh–and definitely grab a cup of coffee at the cafe just outside the town walls.

The coffee is merely average (by impeccable French standards, anyway), and I wouldn’t take chances on the touristy food, but it’s worth sitting down just to see if the adorable corgi who passes through regularly happens to come by!

Photo of a cobblestone street in Saint-Paul-de-Vence France, with stone buildings on either side and green plants along the street--don't miss this stop during your south of France itinerary!

Nice + The French Riviera: 3 Days

There’s no better place to close out your south of France itinerary than soaking up the sun along the French Riviera.

As the largest city in the region and home to a good airport, glamorous Nice is the obvious final stop for your south of France trip.

That being said, it certainly doesn’t need to be your only destination along the French Riviera!

view of promenade des angalis from above in nice france with med to the right

Antibes is another great option for a base in the area, and of course trips to places like Menton, Eze, and Monaco are all fabulous ways to spend a day.

(For travelers who happen to be visiting in the offseason, look up Menton’s February lemon festival !).

Of course, if all you want to do with the final days of your south of France vacation is lay on Nice’s famous beach, we certainly can’t blame you for that!

Be sure to at least make time for a quick stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, admiring the view from Castle Hill, and lunch spent diving into a plate of Nicoise salad.

Villefranche-sur-Mer as seen from across the water with sailboats and water in the foreground. Villefranche-sur-Mer is one of the prettiest villages in France

If you have significantly more time than the south of France itinerary outlined here suggests, we would recommend doing one of two things.

Option 1: Beaches

With more time in southern France, you can’t go wrong with s pending a lot more time along the French Riviera, especially if you’re visiting during the high season.

Highlights like Saint-Tropez, Cannes, and Antibes would be a great place to start, but there are endless gorgeous small towns and rural beaches to choose from in the region.

harbor of st tropez in the south of france road trip itinerary

Option 2: Small Town Vibes

Prefer to dive into the slower pace of village life for a few days?

After wrapping up this itinerary, pick your favorite place–maybe a tiny village like Lourmarin, maybe a city with plenty of day trip options like Aix-en-Provence, your choice–and settle into Provencal life for a while, savoring your experiences and slowly soaking up everything that makes southern France special.

Jeremy in a blue shirt and black jacket, holding a beer while eating lunch in a square of Aix-en-Provence

The most important thing to keep in mind when deciding where to stay in the south of France?

Limit your changes in lodging.

Packing and unpacking your belongings, loading and unloading the car, checking in and out of your hotels and/or apartments… all of these things take up more time than you might initially think.

Even as European road trip veterans of sorts, we still got too excited when planning our most recent trip to France and booked ourselves into an itinerary that moved around too much–and we paid for it in exhaustion.

Port de Cassis, Provence, France, with boats tied up to docks and the Chateau de Cassis in the background

We’d recommend only changing lodging every 2-3 days at the absolute maximum, and structuring your trip to the south of France as a series of day trips taken from various bases instead of actually sleeping in each location.

I’ve outlined some popular, well-reviewed, and well-located options in two of the most popular bases visited during this south of France itinerary: Aix-en-Provence and Nice.

That being said, we highly recommend basing yourselves at least once in a smaller village , too!

We’ve stayed in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and Lourmarin and absolutely loved our experiences in both.

hotel room in lourmarin france

Aix-en-Provence

Séjours & Affaires Aix-en-Provence Mirabeau — This is where we stayed when visiting Aix-en-Provence, and we loved it!

These studio apartments are within walking distance of central Aix-en-Provence and all its best markets, have access to affordable parking across the street, and are very clean and comfortable.

They’re not particularly charming, and the vibe is very “could be a modern hotel anywhere in the world”, but they absolutely get the job done for a budget or even mid-range traveler visiting Aix-en-Provence.

Having the kitchen was a huge benefit for us (especially after visiting the markets in Aix-en-Provence), and we’d be happy to stay again.

Check rates & book your stay at Séjours & Affaires Aix-en-Provence Mirabeau!

Street in Aix-en-Provence France, with a cafe to the right. The tables of the cafe are filled with visitors.

Les Quatre Dauphins — Located in the heart of Aix-en-Provence, Les Quatre Dauphins boasts light and bright decor–this is the kind of hotel that you dream of when booking a trip to the south of France!

Street parking is available nearby, and everything you could hope to visit within the center of Aix-en-Provence is at your fingertips when staying at Les Quatre Dauphins.

Check rates & book your stay at Les Quatre Dauphins!

La Maison d’Aix — This converted townhome makes the perfect luxury boutique hotel in Aix-en-Provence!

Boasting impeccable reviews–especially for the breakfast, cleanliness, and customer service at the hotel–luxury travelers will love both the creature comforts and central location of La Maison d’Aix.

Check rates & book your stay at La Maison d’Aix!

Street in Aix-en-Provence with a red Vespa in the foreground and a yellow building in the background

Boutique Hôtel Neptune Nice — This small hotel in central Nice is perfect for travelers hoping to stay (somewhat–Nice is pricey!) on a budget while still keeping themselves within walking distance of Nice’s best highlights.

Rooms are small, but customer service is wonderful! The hotel is known for its impeccable location, and you can’t go wrong staying here on your south of France trip!

Check rates & book your stay at Boutique Hôtel Neptune Nice!

Close up shot of a Carousel in Avignon France--don't miss Avignon when making a Provence itinerary!

Le Dortoir — Featuring near-perfect reviews and a crisp, bright interior, Le Dortoir is an excellent option for visitors to Nice who want to enjoy a spacious hotel room… without Nice’s top-end luxury prices.

From Le Dortoir, you’ll be able to reach all of Nice’s highlights on foot, and its fabulous customer service ratings mean that you’ll be able to ask for advice on just about anywhere you want to go!

Check rates & book your stay at Le Dortoir!

Deli in Nice France with a car full of fruits and vegetables parked in front of it.

Hotel Negresco — If you’ve seen photos of the French Riviera, there’s a good chance you’ve seen photos of the iconic Hotel Negresco, with its tiled dome and bright white facade.

This is one of the most famous luxury hotels in France and has built up quite the storied history (and held a number of famous guests) since it opened in 1913–and it’s also a whimsical and wonderful place to stay today.

Located right along the Promenade des Anglais, a stay at the ever-popular and unique Hotel Negresco is not something you’re likely to forget anytime soon.

Check rates & book your stay at Hotel Negresco!

famous white and pink dome of hotel negresco in nice france

The two biggest airports in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region are Marseille and Nice, and you can easily fly into either to start your trip to southern France.

If you fly into Nice, consider completing this south of France itinerary in the opposite order that I’ve written it.

Alternatively, check the prices of flights to Geneva (on one of our trips to France, we flew into Geneva, spent a few days in the delightful city of Annecy , and then drove to Avignon to start exploring Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) .

And, of course, there’s always Paris!

You can easily take a train from Paris to Nice, Marseille, Avignon, or Aix-en-Provence, but be sure to account for that cost and travel time when planning your southern France itinerary!

Shop train tickets from Paris to the south of France today!
Take This Map With You! Click each highlight to pull up the name of the destination. To save this map to “Your Places” on Google Maps, click the star to the right of the title. You’ll then be able to find it under the Maps tab of your Google Maps account! To open the map in a new window, click the button on the top right of the map.

Each season brings with it a reason to visit the south of France!

Unlike many other places, though, traveling during the high (read: summer) season here comes with enough advantages that unless you’re entirely allergic to crowds and high prices, I’d recommend planning your trip then.

Here are some quick pros and cons of completing this south of France itinerary in each season.

Kate in a blue skirt on a ledge overlooking Gordes, one of the best places to visit in the South of France

Summer is the best time to visit the south of France if you’re hoping for a classic trip.

The lavender fields will be blooming (July is the best time to aim for, though you might be lucky and still find some fields in early August), the beaches will be warm and lovely, and the sun will (most likely) be shining.

The downsides?

Everyone else also thinks this is the best time to visit the south of France, so prices will be high and crowds will be large.

Buildings in front of harbor of Cassis France, their reflections are on the water in the bottom half of the photo.

While you’ll experience a bit more rain than in the summer, fall can be a lovely time to visit the south of France if you’re looking for reduced crowds and prices while still experiencing quite a bit of sunshine and some lovely markets.

Except for perhaps in the very early fall during a hot year, though, you likely won’t want to swim during this time of year, and of course, there won’t be any lavender around.

Photo of a square in Saint-Paul-de-Vence France--there's a red banner hanging over a restaurant in the center of the photo.

Winter is very quiet in the south of France, and if you visit during this time, expect to find some businesses (including accommodation) closed.

Winter definitely isn’t an ideal time to be experiencing this south of France itinerary, but if cold weather and closed businesses are a worthy trade for rock-bottom prices and a lack of crowds, winter might be an option for your trip!

Plus, as a bonus, Provencal Christmas traditions (and markets!) are lovely.

wooden carvings in a provencal christmas nativity

We love the south of France in the spring, and would happily visit in the spring again.

Spring brings increased sunshine and temperatures, and businesses start to wake back up after the long winter. 

Spring is also an excellent time of year to be exploring Provencal markets, something that we have taken full advantage of when visiting during this time of year.

And sure, there isn’t lavender, but you do get to enjoy wisteria, which is the next-best thing!

If you come during spring, though, pack for varying temperatures, and definitely bring plenty of layers to guard against the viciously cold mistral winds that whip through the region during this time of year.

Kate in a long blue skirt standing in front of a building in Goult with green shutters. Wisteria is blooming on the building. Don't miss visiting Goult during your south of France itinerary!

Books About the South of France — What’s better to add to your packing list than a book about the region you’re visiting?

Provence in particular has spawned countless novels and memoirs–if you’re looking for an excellent starting point, Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence is a classic.

Travel Insurance — We don’t ever suggest traveling without insurance–anything can happen anywhere, and this is definitely a case of better safe than sorry.

We use and recommend Safety Wing for trips to the south of France.

Travel Adaptors for France — If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely need adaptors for your electronics.

Photo of an empty street in Avignon, with brown buildings to either side. The road is curving to the left.

Pacsafe — We can’t recommend our Pacsafe enough: this travel safe is affordable, sturdy, easy to pack, and will help keep your valuables safe in your hotel room (not that you should need to worry much about theft in France, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!).

places to visit in the south france

Bring a small pack of tissues, toss them in your day bag, and you won’t have to worry about it.

Having these saved me more than once during our last trip to France!

Tote Bag — Trust me: you’ll want a very sturdy reusable bag with you when you visit Provencal markets!

selection of cheese and sausage for sale at provencal market

Hand Sanitizer — We’ve never been sorry to have this floating around in our day bag.

Swiss Army Knife — Want to open wine bottles in your hotel room, slice cheese from the market, or cut up that baguette from the bakery?

You’ll be so glad you brought a Swiss Army Knife along for your south of France vacation!

Photo of the Verdon Gorge from above. There's text on the image in pink that says "South of France: The Ultimate Itinerary"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

42 thoughts on “Ultimate South of France Itinerary: Provence + French Riviera”

This is such a great guide! I love that you added books about the South of France as well. My husband & I just relocated to Amsterdam and we are planning a trip here for early July. Do you have any 2020 specific tips or anything you think might be closed or different?

Thank you so much, Mercedes! I wish I could offer some 2020 specific advice, but everything has been developing and changing so quickly that it’s hard to predict from one day to the next! Outdoor dining and activities will definitely be your best bets, but luckily, that’s generally where you’ll find the best of southern France anyway!

I loved reading this! I do have a question for you. I am interested in going to the South of France but would like to stay in a house or villa that we would use as home base, but do day trips to various areas. Is this possible to do? if so what area would be the best to stay? I am just starting my research and I was so happy to come across your blog. Any input or advice would be so appreciated. Right now I am thinking around 10 days but could extend a little if necessary.

Yes, that would absolutely be possible, and in fact is a great way to see the area. You can’t day trip everywhere from one base, but you can sure see a lot!

Personally, if I were renting a villa I’d look somewhere in the Luberon Valley, so near villages like Gordes or Bonnieux. From there, you can reach the southern coast (we highly recommend Cassis in the surrounding area) on a day trip, as well as the Valensole Plateau, Avignon, Aix en Provence, etc.

If you also want to see Nice and the immediate surrounding area, you’d want to move into different lodging for that. 🙂

Thank you so much Kate for getting back to me. You have now given me a starting point in planning my trip! I will be in touch as I plan! I am happy that I stumbled across your site.

Love your travels. We follow your travels and learned much from you when we did the 3-week family trip to the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Italy in summer of 2019. (Family of 4 with two college-age boys) Thank you. Scratch last year, ugh…

Question.. How do you think things are looking for an August 2021 visit to the south of France and Barcelona? Using Aix as a home base while in France. Splitting 2 weeks up between Provence and Barcelona… (a little of each) thx

Thank you so much, Kevin! So glad we could help a couple of years ago.

I wish I knew exactly what the situation was going to look like in August–it seems likely that some travel will be open by then (both France and Spain have mentioned a desire to open to vaccinated tourists this summer), but as for what that will look like, no clue.

I’d recommend booking things with as flexible as cancellation policies as possible. I’d also only recommend booking one country right now–whichever is your priority–and then giving it another couple of months to see how easy it will be to travel between the two (will you need to test or isolate, etc).

Anecdotally, borders just officially opened between all Spanish regions for Spanish residents and citizens this week, and France is experiencing a notoriously long and expansive list of restrictions. Could things be 100% normal by then? Maybe, but I’d bank on a contingency plan or two.

A bit long-winded, I know, and will likely be dated advice within a week, but that’s the best I can offer now! On a personal note, we’re planning to visit Europe this summer but stick to one country for ease/to limit the risks of things going wrong… at least that’s the plan as of today!

Hi, We are American citizens visiting Portugal and plan on flying to Nice (early July) to see French Rivera from there. Do you think things are opening up? Thanks,

I wish we knew! Things are definitely more open than they were a couple of months ago, but I’d say it’s still a bit of a gamble to plan on a trip to two countries right now. In theory, there’s supposed to be more news from the EU on this front June 7, but we’ll see!

Hi Kate, I really enjoyed reading your post. We are planning a trip to southern France (flying into Nice) in mid-July for our long-awaited honeymoon! We have about 2 weeks. What are your thoughts about 5 days in the French Riviera, 5 days in Provence, and then 3 days in Paris. Does this seem too rushed? I know you suggested 14 days in Provence and the French Riviera but we’ve never been to Paris! Thanks 🙂

That sounds lovely, and congratulations on your marriage! Your itinerary will leave you tired at the end, but it’s definitely realistic. 🙂

I’d recommend basing yourselves in one place in each the French Riviera and Provence to cut down on travel days that will eat into your exploring, aiming to only stay in 3 hotels/rentals during your honeymoon.

If you haven’t read it, we highly recommend checking out our 3 days in Paris itinerary as well: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/3-days-in-paris-itinerary/

Hi Kate! I loved discovering your site! My husband and I are fully vaxed and can’t wait to start travelling overseas again! Lots of missed celebrations…so our first planned trip is to France in September, I grew up there and can’t wait to share it with him. We’re driving from Paris south, areas I want to specifically hit; Bordeaux, Nice/Cannes & Montpellier and then driving back to Paris. We have two weeks, would love to get some route& sightseeing suggestions from you. Merci!

Thank you so much, Crystina!

Sadly we haven’t been to Bordeaux or Montpellier yet (hopefully soon!). Nice is fantastic–we highly recommend visiting Eze and Vence when in the area as well. Both are gorgeous small towns with excellent views. I’m not sure if you’re planning inland at all, but the Verdon Gorge is incredible and is a couple of hours from Cannes.

You are covering a lot of ground in two weeks, especially with Paris too. If you’re only planning on visiting the city of Bordeaux, you may want to consider taking the fast train from Paris to Bordeaux and then from Bordeaux to Montpellier to speed things up, and then only rent a car in the southeast. Just food for thought!

Hello, this is simply superb, thank you very much for sharing this. This is exactly the itinerary I plan to follow next month, and I just have one question. I know you have mentioned Aix-en-Provence and Nice as two potential bases for the itinerary but I understand that may not be enough (i.e. not everything in your itinerary can be done has day trips from these 2 bases alone), and you also seem to have suggested 2 days in Luberon valley. So can you suggest a list of all the places we should use as our bases (overnight stays) so that we can cover all these places and yet not be packing/unpacking every other day? Many thanks in advance.

Hi Ricardo,

It really depends on your personal tastes–some people prefer to move around, and others prefer to stay in one base. For the Luberon Valley, all the major towns such as Gordes and Roussillon have beautiful places to stay, but you’ll want to book in advance as they’re mostly small, boutique properties. We personally explored the Luberon from a base of Aix-en-Provence.

Thank you Kate, much appreciated.

Hi We are thinking of spending 1 week in Lyon and 1 week in Porto to relax and at the same time visit the sights in and around in Sept/Oct 22. Do you have any suggestions for some can’t miss day trips from Lyon? Thank you

Sounds like a wonderful trip!

From Lyon, I highly recommend a day trip to Annecy! Here’s our post on it: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/things-to-do-in-annecy-france/

Dijon is another great option, though I haven’t had a chance to visit yet.

So helpful! My daughter will be doing a course through SCAD in Lacoste in December and I will join her around the 15th to travel a bit before she comes home. I know it is not the best time of year, but excited to go anyway. I am wondering if you have a “1 week don’t miss” version and anyway to print your itineraries. Thank you!!

December may not be a traditional time to be in Provence, but it is lovely!

I’d consider skipping the Riviera and sticking to the areas surrounding the Luberon Valley since you’re short on time and visiting in winter.

Be sure to seek out the Christmas markets–a fun bonus of a winter trip. I know Aix-en-Provence and Avignon are supposed to have lovely ones, and I’m sure the smaller cities and towns will have plenty too.

Sadly I don’t have a printable version of our itineraries yet, but I hope to create them in the future!

My family would like to spend one month in South France visiting beautiful villages! Where would you suggest for us to base and in how many locations? Could to suggest some of the villages to visit? Is Spring (June) a good time or Summer is a better season?

Thanks and much Appreciated for your help!

Hi Han! Sounds like a wonderful trip.

June is a wonderful time to visit Provence, but I’d aim for the end of the month and into July if you want to catch the lavender fields at their best.

For a month, I’d probably base yourselves for 2 weeks in one of the villages in the Luberon Valley (or Aix-in-Provence if you prefer more of a city feel), and half in one of the cities on the French Riviera!

Hello, What a great source of information-so very helpful in planning our trip which begins in Avignon on July 31. Would it make sense for us to stay between Luberon Valley, Valensole and Verdon Gorge so that we have a single base while visiting both of those areas before we head down to Nice? If so, can you recommend a particular town or inn? Second question, it sounds like we may miss the lavender fields in bloom! If that is a highlight of those areas and there is so much to see elsewhere too, should we skip Luberon Valley since we are already squeezing quite a lot in?

Thanks so much, Mimi!

You can use one base in a pinch, but that’ll mean a lot of driving each day. I’d recommend maybe one base in the Luberon and then one between Valensole/Verdon Gorge.

The Luberon Valley is a stunning place, and I personally think it’s absolutely worth visiting with or without lavender! As a silver lining, if the lavender is gone some of the crowds will disperse also. 🙂

I love and admire your site and insights. I will be part of a group of 8 women, arriving in Paris in October for one week. We’d like to head visit the small towns/villages of the south of France. Do you have a one week recommendation that begins and ends in Paris, in October? We’ve been thinking of perhaps hiring a van and driver. Thank you so much. Ellen

Hi Ellen! Unfortunately, I don’t, but off the top of my head, I’d consider maybe Paris – Luberon Valley – Paris.

It’d be a busy itinerary, but the Luberon Valley has a high concentration of darling Provencal villages so you can see several in quick succession.

If your group is comfortable with it, I’d look into potentially taking a train from Paris to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon and then hiring a driver for the Provence portion.

Alternatively, if you drive down, you could add a day in the Loire Valley (a bit out of the way but beautiful) or even a lesser-visited city like Dijon.

Hope you guys have a wonderful trip! France with girlfriends sounds delightful.

Hello Kate Thank you so much for the detailed itinerary. I am meeting my daughter in Paris and plan to travel via train to Nice and hit some of your highlighted spots in reverse. We would like to end in aix-en-Provence and possibly Avignon. See as much of the French Riveria as we can then head towards Avignon. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Dominique! Near the French Riviera, hilltop towns like Eze and Saint-Paul-de-Vence are well worth adding in to mix up beach towns if you’re looking for great views. I also wouldn’t miss the Valensole Plateau as you’re heading toward Aix-en-Provence if you’re visiting during summer/lavender season.

Hello Kate, Thank you for such a helpful article! Great info! We will be coming from the U.S. in Sept. & only have 18 days, including travel, for France & Sicily. We were thinking of flying in to Paris (assuming cheapest, easiest), only staying1-2 night there. Really not interested in the city (no doubt fun, but save for another time). Would really only care to see Eiffel Tower at night, if that, on this trip. Planned to then drive to southern France & fly out of Nice to Sicily. Mainly wanted to see cute small towns & pretty scenery, not into the big cities for this trip. Several questions. Would you just skip Paris & fly into another city, or not that big of a deal to start there & drive, or take a train from Paris to the south & then get car? Sounds like we would like to be sure to see Aix-en-Provence, Gorge, Eze & Vence. Is that all doable from one location, or see part from Nice, as I imagine will need to stay there a night or two to be in the area to catch a flight out. Last, how many days would you choose for France & how many for Sicily? Also, enjoyed your Sicily blog! Obviously not enough time to see both in detail, but thought we could get a basic overview & know if there was somewhere we want to return with more time. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

Sounds like a magical trip–we actually flew from Nice to Sicily ourselves the first time we visit, and it worked out great.

If you’re not interested in seeing Paris on this trip, I’d definitely recommend checking flights to Nice as well, as that will save you time. If you do end up flying into Paris, definitely don’t drive to Provence/the Riviera, but instead book the fast train from Paris (probably to Aix-en-Provence). It’s much faster! However, book tickets in advance as prices for high speed trains increase as the date of travel gets closer.

Aix and Nice are both pretty big–not Paris big, but definitely small towns. For small towns I’d recommend the Luberon Valley–truly gorgeous and very typically “Provencal”. It’s where Gordes is as well as places like Bonneiux, Lourmarin, Roussillon, etc.

I’d think of that area–Aix + small Provencal villages–as a separate section from the Riviera. You’ll want one base there, and the one base on the coast.

Vence and Eze are both easy day trips from Nice, but if small towns are what you’re after, you may consider staying in one of them instead of Nice!

With 18 days you have some flexibility. I’d give Sicily a week minimum–with that timeline, you can cover the east coast (Taormina, Siracusa, etc.) at a pretty leisurely pace and enjoy some beach time!

Hope you guys have a fantastic trip! September is such a beautiful time to visit. 🙂

Hi! I love your site. I am having a hard time deciding where to go. I am a single woman and always travels solo to major cities like Paris, Rome etc. This time I want to go to the south of France but not sure the best way to do that if I am traveling solo. I will be in Paris then want to go to the South. I went to Cannes as a child with my family but obviously this trip will be different. I’d like a few beach dates where I can swim in the ocean, sit under an umbrella (basically being catered too lol) and then go out to fun dinners, walk around, shop (love antique markets etc.) Can you help me narrow it down if I am there for one week? Should I rent a car by myself or is that not recommended? Is it scary driving the roads? I also don’t want to do too much traveling and instead chill in a few cities and talk it all in!

Your help would be awesome. Oh, I’m thinking early/mid September…

I think you’ll definitely be able to find what you’re looking for.

Scary driving is a matter of perspective of course, but for confident drivers, the Riviera isn’t too bad! If you want to stay in only a handful of locations and have a more leisurely trip, though, you probably don’t need a car.

Most of the major beach towns/cities will have what you’re looking for, including Nice. You may want to look into Menton, too!

The hill towns about the Riviera are excellent for wandering around, restaurants, etc, but of course, you’re missing the beach.

Basing yourself in Nice and taking day trips (on non-beach days!) to places like Eze, St-Paul-de-Vence, Monaco, etc, might suit you perfectly.

Hello Kate, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts about all your wonderful travels. My husband and I are looking at going to southern France for a week or two in July 2023. … Celebration of my 70th birthday and my wedding anniversary in 45 years. We were looking at an Airbnb in La Ciotat. Is that a good place to stay to have opportunity for day trips? We also considered staying in Provence for a few days too. Is there somewhere you would suggest. We can get another Airbnb or a hotel. Someone suggested Avignon, but wondered if outside the city would be better. We will rent a car. WE are novice travelers to France and are really seeking guidance on our first journey. We just dont want to do a river cruise or a tour group really.

Happy Birthday and Anniversary! France sounds like a fantastic way to celebrate both. 🙂

We haven’t stayed in La Ciotat, but it looks darling (its reputation is for being a bit quieter, which can make a nice base) and is fairly close to Cassis, which we love: https://www.ourescapeclause.com/things-to-do-in-cassis-france/

For day trips right around the coast, it will undoubtedly work. I’d also recommend looking into a boat trip around the Calanques!

If you want to spend time both on the coast and inland, I’d recommend choosing a second base as well.

For a more classic Provence feel with small farming villages, lavender fields (July is a great time to catch the blooms!), etc, we can’t recommend the Luberon Valley more highly. Villages like Gordes, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Roussillon, etc, are an absolute delight, and the fun of the region is driving between them and visiting several in one stay.

Avignon makes for an excellent base as well, as do the villages near the Alpilles (we adore Saint-Rémy-de-Provence), but the Luberon is the most classic option.

All of the inland places I just listed are within day-tripping distance of each other, though, so you don’t necessarily have to pick and choose.

The absolute best lavender fields are over at the Valensole Plateau, which is a bit of a drive but worth it if you want to see the biggest fields.

Hello Kate, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts about all your wonderful travels. My husband and I are looking at going to southern France for six days in June 2023. … We are doing the River Rhine cruise and decided to visit southern France after the cruise. We should be arriving in Nice on the 26th of June. We were thinking of staying in Nice and visit the surrounding areas and then going to Provence region before flying back to California. Do you have any recommendations for hotels we can check out for the two areas and also if there are any small tour groups (no river cruise 🙂 ) you think would be good to use since we do not have a lot of time this time around.

That’s a beautiful time to be in southern France–it’ll definitely be busy, but not quite the peak summer crowds of July and August yet!

We have recommended hotels for some of the most popular places to stay in the area under the “Where to Stay” section above, including Nice! Hotel Negresco is the most iconic choice for its history and location alone.

If you’re looking for a small group tour, I’d look for day trips to the Luberon Valley area, probably leaving from Aix-en-Provence or perhaps Avignon. If you’d like to see several of Provence’s most iconic villages without driving, it’s a fun way to do so! We’ve always driven ourselves, but if we were planning to book a day trip like that, we’d look on Get Your Guide, which we use regularly.

thank you for the wonderful blog! I am definitely going to Provence this spring/summer and already imagining sounds, colours and vibes of the beautiful villages and small towns that you described. I am thinking, is it possible to arrange a multi-day round trip in Province, to avoid renting a car? There are lots of half-day or full day trips, but some round one lasting for few days would be perfect, like we did in Scotland. What is, in your opinion best alternative to renting a car? Thanks& enjoy your trips in 2023!

I’m sure they exist, though I’m not personally familiar with any! Rick Steves, for example, has a tour that touches on Provence but it doesn’t really focus on it.

If you search “Provence small group tours”, that’s where I found the results I think you’re looking for (as opposed to “Provence tours” that mostly suggests day trips). I can’t personally vouch for any of the companies that pop up in those results, though.

All of that being said, if there’s not a particular reason (not confident driving, etc) that you want to avoid a rental car, you will undoubtedly spend less and have more flexibility by driving yourself!

Driving in Provence is fairly simple–GPS directions work well, and you park outside the historic centers so you don’t have to worry about driving on tiny roads.

Hope you guys have a fantastic trip!

Hi Kate, We are going to Provence and the Riviera for a short 5 days. I would love to see best of both. I’ll be arriving in Avignon around noon on the 20th July and thinking of staying in either Saint Remy or Bonnieux or anywhere in those regions that make it easy to see the main villages and possibly fit in a hike. I would love to see a vineyard and maybe olive grove/mill and thinking of heading to either Aix en Provence or Cassis for the afternoon of 22nd. I see there is a vineyard/olive mill near aix so could go there is that makes more sense. Hoping to do the boat ride in calanques probably morning of 23rd and then head to Nice as a base until 25th…. Late flight at 10pm that day. It would be helpful if you can help me figure out the best route to take and where to base myself in Provence. Worried it’s too busy in Avignon and Aix with the festivals.My husband loves Rose wine so hoping to do a tasting wherever possible. Only have to do one vineyard. We have a 13 year old so have to really balance all the activities. Probably some watersport beach time in the riviera.

Hi Kinnari,

Honestly I think that’s a very long to-do list for 5 days, so I’d recommend cutting back where you can!

If you’re not too particular about which villages you see in Provence, I’d consider focusing your time there around the Luberon Valley, as you’ll be able to see several different villages fairly quickly.

From there, you can head down to Cassis, spend most of the 23rd there, and then drive to Nice for the night, which gives you the 24th and maybe part of the 25th on the Riviera.

I’d only prioritize Avignon and Aix if you want to see them in particular–they’re lovely places, but if you’re hoping for a smaller village feel with hiking options, I don’t think they’re worth prioritizing on this trip.

We have 14 days in Provence /south of France Fly in and out of nice We want to go to Gordes de Vernon Aix de Provence Avignon Arles Moustiers Luberon villages Cassis Antibes at the end We want to do wine tastings and markets Is it a good idea to spend 3 or 4 nights in a few places to use as base Thanks

Hi Maureen,

Yes, that definitely works! I’d probably choose 3 bases in your case, to give yourself enough time in each surrounding area while also not having to travel too far for day trips.

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solosophie

30+ Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France!

By: Author Sophie Nadeau

Posted on Last updated: 15th October 2023

Categories France

Last Updated on 15th October 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

The South of France is a wonderful area of Europe characterised by its sandy stretches, glittering Mediterranean coastline, and countless colourful villages. Inhabited since antiquity, you can’t go wrong by exploring at least several French destinations on any venture through the area. Here are 30+ sun-soaked places in the south of France you simply must visit…

Looking for the most beautiful places to visit in the South of France? Here's your ultimate French guide to the best of hidden gems, unusual towns, and stunning cities to add to your bucket list.

#3 Béziers

#5 narbonne, #6 biarritz, #7 marseille, #8 moustiers-sainte-marie, #12 nîmes, #13 carcassonne, #14 gorges du verdon, #15 aix-en-provence, #17 la ciotat, #18 antibes, #19 massif des calanques , #20 sète, #21 saint-paul-de-vence, #22 saint tropez, #24 saint-jean-pied-de-port, #25 èze, #26 lourmarin, #27 aigues-mortes, #28 martigues, #29 menton , #30 villeneuve-lès-avignon, #31 les baux de provence, #32 valensole lavender fields, #34 colorado provençal , enjoyed reading this post about the best places in the south of france pin it now, read it again later:, best places to visit in southern france, #1 montpellier.

Often referred to as the ‘Paris of the South,’ Montpellier is filled with Haussmannian architecture and plenty of historical museums and art exhibitions. As one of the largest cities in France, it’s also home to oodles of coffee shops, bars, and cafés.

Other highlights of the city include the impressive Gothic cathedral, Montpellier’s very own Arc de Triomphe in the form of Porte du Peyrou, and the breathtakingly beautiful Château de Flagergues in the outskirts of the city. For a greater look at this Southern French city, check out my  free and self-guided Montpellier walking tour .

Montpellier travel tip: The best time to visit Montpellier is in the late spring or early autumn. This way, you get the best weather for exploring (not too hot and not too much rain) and the crowds will be significantly less than in the high season (i.e. during the summer). For more inspiration, check out our suggestions for spending one day in Montpellier .

Planning a solo adventure in the south of france: tips, tricks, practical advice, and where to visit for a historical trip in Southern France, Europe!

The Roman ruins of Arles are often said to be some of the best archaeological sites in the South of France, if not all of the country. Complete with a two-tiered amphitheatre which was first founded in 90 AD, the city has inspired countless writers and painters over the years, including world-famous painter, Van Gogh.

Arles’ position alongside the River Rhone also means that it’s easy to access the Camargue from here, a region of France which is synonymous with grassy open plains, pink flamingoes, and wild horses. Other day trips from the Southern French city include St-Rémy, Pont-du-Gard, Uzès and Les Baux.

Arles travel tip: Be sure to truly check out all of the Roman history on offer, even if you’re not typically a traveller who enjoys historical sites. The size and preservation of the amphitheatre in particular is truly breathtaking and not to be missed.

arles france

Home to the UNESCO world heritage site of Les Ecluses de Fonserannes, a series of nine stepped locks which link the Canal du Midi to other French waterways, Beziers is one of the oldest cities in France. In fact, it’s only a couple of decades younger than the Provençal city of Marseille.

Today, highlights of Beziers include wandering around the city’s many cobbled lanes, seeing the city’s fortified old town, and exploring a side of France which many tourists never get to experience. Otherwise, be sure to make the journey to the nearby locks and search for  the best view in Béziers.

Béziers travel tip: Don’t miss out on the locks of Béziers (known as Les 9 Écluses de Fonseranes) in French. They are of such engineering importance that they’re now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s truly impressive to follow a boat going down the series of locks and gates.

Here’s a quick guide on where to find the best view in Beziers, a beautiful city in the Languedoc, Occitanie, France

Birthplace of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi is the kind of city you see on a vintage postcard. And the kind of place that you might believe no longer exists. Yet Albi does exist, and it couldn’t be easier to visit, making it the perfect place for a weekend escape.

Located in Occitanie , this city was founded thousands of years ago and is now home to a population hovering around seventy thousand inhabitants. Highlights of Albi include the Gothic 13th-century Albi Cathedral and the formal French gardens of Musée de la Berbie.

Albi travel tip: The stunning city of Albi should definitely not be missed on any trip to Southern France and the one must-see attraction that should be visited above all others is Albi Cathedral. The ecclesiastical building is constructed from brick and is also fortified, making it a particularly interesting French cathedral.

Albi Cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d'Albi)

Once a Roman port city, silt and sand have built up to such an extent over the years that the pretty town of Narbonne now lies some 15 kilometres or so from the sea. Today, instead of a sandy beach, you’ll find plenty of cobbled lanes, museums, and the birthplace of iconic French singer Charles Trenet (who is best-known for singing the hit song ‘la mer’) should you opt to visit this pretty southern French town.

Other reasons to visit Narbonne include the fantastic Roman ruins to be explored in the city, as well as Les Halles , which is easily one of the best covered markets in France. If you still want to experience some sea, sun, and sand, then simply take a day trip from Narbonne via bus to Narbonne-Sur-Plage.

Narbonne travel tip: The best way to explore this highly underrated destination in the South of West is on foot. Set aside at least a couple of hours during your stay in the city to simply stroll around and allow your feet to take you where they may…

Where o Find the Best View of Narbonne: Donjon Gilles Aycelin, Narbonne, Languedoc, France

For some sun-soaked sea adventures, then you simply must head to Biarritz , a seaside town on France’s Basque coastline. Located in the Pyrenées-Atlantiques, Biarritz is best-known for its historic lighthouse and great surf.

In fact, it’s often referred to as the ‘Capital of Surf’ for all of France. The town’s beaches are sandy and cloud coverage is minimal throughout the spring, summer, and autumn, making it an ideal destination for sun-seekers.

Biarritz travel tip: Though Biarritz town itself is fairly small and can easily be explored over the course of a few hours, you’ll want to dedicate at least a long weekend to exploring all that the surrounds of Biarritz has to offer.

Port des Pêcheurs

One of the oldest cities in France can be found in the form of Marseille, a city founded as early as 600 BC in antiquity. First known to the Ancient Greeks as  Μασσαλία ( Massalía) , today Marseille is the second-largest city in France after Paris and is well-known for its seafood scene.

The historic fishing town still functions as a working port and highlights of the South of France destination include Notre Dame de la Garde basilica, as well as the city’s ultra-modern Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. While in town, be sure to sample the Navette de Marseille , a local delicacy.

Marseille travel tip: Hands down, the most attractive district of Marseille is the Le Panier district. Characterised by its steep steps, pastel-hued homes, and family-run eateries, you could easily get lost for a good couple of hours discovering all that Le Panier has to offer. For even more inspiration, be sure to check out our guide to spending one day in Marseille .

places to visit in the south france

Located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department and close to the Western entryway to the Gorges du Verdon , Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which is often referred to as simply ‘Moustiers,’ is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in the South of France.

Highlights of this vibrant town include the Romanesque and Gothic 12th-century Church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, as well as the tiny chapel of Chapel Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir. It’s also worth noting that Moustiers is particularly famous for its glazed faïence pottery, which has been produced in the Provence settlement for centuries.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie travel tip: If you’re looking for a particularly unique souvenir to purchase during your time in the South of France, then I highly recommend picking up a piece of two of the faïence pottery of Moustiers Sainte Marie . The beautiful ceramics also make for great present/ birthday gifts.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Made famous in the South of France by the children’s nursery rhyme ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’, this city in the South of France is characterised by its imposing Gothic ‘Palais des Papes,’ as well as the remains of the 12th-century bridge, Pont Saint-Benezet, which inspired the famous French nursery rhyme ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’. Avignon is also home to a surprising number of beautiful hidden gems.

The city’s iconic bridge is named for a 12-year-old shepherd boy who lived during the middle ages. One day, Benezet allegedly heard a divine voice instructing him to venture to Avignon so that he could build a bridge.

The story goes that this is exactly what he did and so (most of) the bridge still stands to this day! For more South of France inspiration, check out this guide on  how to spend 5 perfect days in Provence.

Avignon travel tip: The name ‘Avignon’ comes from the original Latin name of ‘Avenio’ which refers to the strong winds that the city experiences. This is even the case in the summer and so be sure to wrap up warm in plenty of layers when visiting this Southerly French city.

Cafe Tulipe in Avignon, South of France,

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Southern France is that of Toulon, which is to be found somewhere along the coastline between La Ciotat and Hyères and is home to a population of around 167,000 residents.

A vibrant city situated alongside the coast, some of the best things to do in Toulon include hiking up the nearby Mont Faron, relaxing on sandy beaches, and learning about maritime history in the grand Musée National de la Marine.

Toulon travel tip: Despite not being near the top of travellers lists when it comes to visiting the South of France, Toulon still merits a second look thanks to the fact that it boasts one of France’s most attractive harbours.

The word ‘cassis’ in French is not only the name for ‘blackcurrant’ in the language, but also the name for a pretty port town that lies right beside the seaside. A must-see on any trip to Provence, highlights of Cassis include candy-coloured houses, a Carolingian hotel , and easy access to the now designated heritage site, Calanques de Cassis.

If you want a taste of the ‘real’ France then simply pick up an ice cream in a local flavour (lavender is a must-try!) and wander around the town. Just don’t forget your camera, almost every corner is picture perfect! For more town highlights, here are the very best  things to do in Cassis.

Cassis travel tip: Pack your hiking shoes/ boots if you’re headed to Cassis. The town lies on the fringes of the Calanques de Marseille, an incredible national park that is home to secret coves, hiking trails, and some of the most unique scenery in all of France.

Guide to the Best Things to do in Cassis, A Stunning Provençal Town, Provence, France

Yet another former Roman town which is a delightful visit in Southern France is that of Nîmes. Characterised by its sun-soaked façades and well-preserved Roman amphitheatre which is still in use to this day, you can’t go wrong by dedicating a long weekend to exploring the city.

Other highlights of Nimes include taking a day trip to the nearby Pont du Gard, an iconic Roman aqueduct that was constructed in the 1st century CE and is formed of three tiers, and seeing the Maison Carrée, a Roman temple in the heart of the city.

Nîmes top tip: Nîmes is so rich in history that it’s often nicknamed the ‘most Roman city outside Italy’. To discover more about the history of this ancient French settlement, be sure to book a guided walking tour like this one.

nimes

Fortified walls and a whole host of impressive structures come together to form a hilltop town that’s iconic the world over. Carcassonne was first founded as a fortified settlement in Gallo-Roman times and then further additions to the town’s defences were added during the Middle Ages.

Although the medieval fortress lay in pretty bad shape by the 19th-century (money constraints, the lack of a needy for defences etc. all contributed to the crumbling of the walls), the fortifications were heavily restored by architect Viollet-le-Duc (remember him from Mont Saint Michel? ) .

Today, Carcassonne is probably one of the most visited spots in the Occitanie region. Although there are certainly less touristic spots to visit when it comes to the South of France, Carcassonne remains worth a visit, if only to say you’ve visited this Southern French city!

Carcassonne top tip: If you want to walk along the historic Carcassonne ramparts, then the best time to visit is early in the day before the city gets pretty busy (this is one of the most popular places to visit in the south of France).

Carcassonne Carte Postale before 1940

If you’re looking for a natural phenomenon to visit in the South of France region, then you should head to the Gorges du Verdon, which is a river canyon in Southeastern France. Home to cliffs and white river rapids, the area is popular among water sports enthusiasts, with many companies offer water-based activities in the area.

Gorges du Verdon top tip: If you want to experience going out on the water, then you can actually rent a boat (no boating licence required). We searched local rentals in the area and were able to rent one for half a day.

gorges du verdon france

Warm stone, a hundred cobbled lanes, and plenty of fountains are the trademark of Aix-en-Provence, a fairly substantial city which lies to the base of Montagne Sainte Victoire. Once home to artist and impressionist Paul Cézanne, today you can follow in the footsteps of this famous Frenchman and even take your picture with a life-sized statue of Cezanne in front of the tourist office!

If you’re also looking for a little nightlife when it comes to your next destination, then I highly recommend considering Aix as it’s full of cafés, bars, bistros, and clubs thanks to its abundance of students!

What’s more is that Aix is home to plenty of secret spots . For a longer stint in Provence, Aix-en-Provence also makes a great base. After all, here are the 10 best day trips from Aix-en-Provence.

Aix-en-Provence: beautiful towns in provence

For a little glitz and glamour, you need to look no further than Cannes , a stunning resort town along the glittering French Riviera. Even if you’re ‘not really a beach person,’ then you may well have heard of this Southern French destination thanks to its annual film festival, ‘Festival de Cannes.’ And so, if you’re a movie buff, then you simply must head to this French destination!

admire the port cannes

Little and located by the sea, the charm of La Ciotat lies in its authentic French ambiance and well-preserved old town. Though there is little by way of attractions when it comes to this Provençal town (several seafood restaurants and a man-made beach), La Ciotat’s main claim to fame is that it is believed to be the birthplace of Petanque, a ball game similar to that of Boules.

La Ciotat: Most beautiful towns in Provence, France

Best seen just before or just after peak season so as to enjoy the city sans the crowds but with the best possible weather, Antibes is situated between the famous resort towns of Cannes and Nice. Home to a particularly impressive Museum dedicated to Picasso, 16th-century star-shaped fort, Fort Carré, is a must-see while in the city.

boats in antibes harbour

Stretching a 20 km length of coastline between Cassis and Marseille, the Massif des Calanques is a unique National Park in the world in that this terrain is formed of rugged limestone which has been worn away by the sea, time, and salty breeze.

Small inlets and impressively high peaks make this park a must-walk for lovers of hiking. Should you choose to plan a visit, make sure to avoid the summer months as the park is often closed due to the risk of a forest fire! Want to go and see the National Park for yourself? Here are tips for  hiking the Calanques de Cassis.

Adventure in Provence, Southern France: hiking the calanques de Cassis in a National Park:

A fishing city which still functions as a working port to this day, Sete is located between the historic cities of Beziers and Montpellier. Easy to visit as a day trip from Beziers, the area is well known for its sea-inspired dishes, notably ‘moules’ (mussels)!

Of all the beautiful towns and villages in the South of France, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is probably the most picturesque of them all. Characterised by its meandering walkways, floral displays, and cobbled lanes, wandering through this Southern French town feels akin to stepping back into a vintage postcard!

Other highlights of St Paul de Vence include the Fondation Maeght art museum and the breathtakingly beautiful 14th-century collegiate church. Easy to reach as a day trip from Nice , this quaint settlement is a must-see when in the Alpes-Maritimes area of France.

Saint Paul de Vence skyline as seen from a vantage point

For a seaside resort with a luxurious feel and countless hours of sunlight throughout the year, you need to look no further than Saint Tropez.

Situated along the world-famous French Riviera, some of the best things to do in this South of France city include visiting the Citadel, sampling the local cuisine, and embarking on coastal walks to explore the local region.

Nice is nice, or so they say… Bad puns aside, Nice is a stunning city along the glittering French Riviera. Best-known for its long boulevard along the sea named ‘ Promenade des Anglais ‘, the city became a place for the rich and wealthy when celebrities started flocking to the beach resort town during the 19th-century.

Ever since that time, Nice has featured in countless paintings, movies, and is well worth a visit if you’re looking for a European getaway from it all. After all, look beyond must-sees like the old town and you’ll soon discover that Nice has plenty of hidden gems as well as an excellent foodie scene (be sure to try the best socca in Nice while in the Southern French city).

Pretty cobbled lane in the old town area of Nice, France

If you’ve ever thought about hiking the famous Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain , then you’ll know that the traditional starting point for the Spanish portion of the pilgrimage is actually Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in Southern France.

Incredibly busy and close to the border with Spain, the town is characterised by its pretty river vista views and many albergues, which host pilgrims throughout the year.

The hilltop medieval crown jewel of the French Riviera, the town of Èze dates back centuries and wandering around its cobbled lanes and stepped pedestrian streets truly feels akin to stepping back in time.

Similar in appearance to the nearby Saint-Paul-de-Vence, wander around Èze and you can expect to find a botanical garden, little hidden chapel, main parish church, and too many boutiques to count on two hands.

A charming cobbled street in Èze France at sunset

Time and time again, Lourmarin is listed as not only one of the best places to visit in the South of France, but also as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Situated East of Avignon and in the Luberon, the medieval village is picture perfectly stunning, and is surrounded by almond and olive trees!

Lourmarin France

With a red sea that gets its appearance from the region’s rich salt deposits, Aigues-Mortes was founded by Louis IX in the 13th-century for the purpose of expanding France’s trade routes. Today, the walled city is breathtaking to look at and is filled with tiny coffee houses, narrow cobbled streets (many of which are pedestrian-only) and lots of shopping opportunities.

Aigues-Mortes, South of France

Situated to the North West of Marseille, Martigues has a population of around 50,000 and was founded in the 13th-century by Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence, on the site of what was once likely a Roman settlement. Today, visit the town and you can expect to find the ‘Provençal Venice’ on account of the town’s picturesque port and many winding canals.

The last major town before the Franco-Italian border along the French Riviera, Menton is a picture-perfect town that’s characterised by a glittering harbour and pastel-hued old town. This is the last large town before the border with Italy and each time a lemon festival is held in the town .

Highlights of the town include a centuries-old Cathedral, meandering pedestrian-only old town, and a cemetery that’s perched on the ruins of the old town castle, high above the Mediterranean sea below.

Menton harbour on a clear and sunny day in Spring

Just across the water from the world-famous Avignon and its semi-washed-away bridge, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon can even be spied from the Palais des Papes. Around a forty minute walk from Provence (and even less by bus or car) , highlights of this medieval town include a church with beautiful cloisters, and the 14th-century fortress, Fort Saint André.

Often alleged to be one of the most beautiful villages in France, Les Baux de Provence is a historic Southern settlement with just a couple of dozen residents in the historic old town.

Home to several churches (including an ecclesiastical building that’s quite literally been hewn out of the cliff face) , some of the more ‘hidden gems’ of this South of France village include a free-to-visit museum that’s dedicated to Nativity figures and an art museum that’s located in a former quarry.

Les Baux-de-Provence , Provence, France

Of all the beautiful places to visit in the South of France, the lavender fields are an absolute must, particularly those in Provence where swathes of purple stretch as far as the eye can see onto the horizon.

The Valensole lavender fields of Provence are widely regarded to be some of the prettiest lavender fields in France and are best seen between mid June and mid July, just before the harvest.

Your Guide to the Best of Lavender Fields in Provence

Grasse is a centuries old town along the azure blue French Riviera which is well worth a visit on any trip to France. Situated in the rolling hills to the North of Cannes, the picturesque town is famed for its perfume production.

Another major highlight of Grasse is its stunning cathedral, which even features some Rubens paintings. If you can’t make it all the way to Grasse to learn the secrets of fragrance making, then you might instead consider a perfume workshop in Paris.

Grasse France

One of the more unique places to see in the South of France Colorado Provençal . As its name would suggest, the Colorado Provençal resembles Colorado in the USA. Indeed, when I recently posted a photo of this magical French destination on social media, many people commented that it resembled the deserts of Colorado perfectly!

The Colorado Provençal is a former open-air ochre quarry close to the village of Rustrel in Provence. Since 1993, the site has been open to tourists and can only be seen on foot (no horses or bicycles are allowed within the quarry site).  Today the geological site is a true marvel to see and is fun for all age groups to visit.

How to visit the Colorado Provençal in Provence, France

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A Francophile at heart, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She splits her time between Paris and London and travels as much as she can! Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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susan kabuku

Tuesday 3rd of September 2019

such a beautiful read. im planning to visit France in the near future, this article is very informative. Thank you

francetaste

Monday 16th of July 2018

I live near Carcassonne, and while the fortified city is filled with visitors in summer, it's lower-key the rest of the year, and the rest of the city doesn't feel very touristy at all. It's an excellent base for visiting other sights, from vineyards and quaint villages to Mediterranean beaches. The summer crowds are worth bearing, though, because in July there's a huge music/theater/dance festival, and in August there are great medieval jousting shows--like rodeos but with the riders in chain mail.

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8 Incredible Places to Visit in the South of France

While the Riviera has maintained a glam reputation since the '50s (Brigitte Bardot basking on Saint-Tropez's beaches; A-listers strutting down Cannes' red carpet), there is more to le Midi than just its jet-set resort towns—including idyllic bohemian islands and hilltop medieval towns housing their own Michelin-starred restaurants. Whether you are looking for a day that starts (and ends) with rosé at a celeb-filled beach club or prefer a more secluded seaside escape, here are eight must-see destinations to check off during a visit to the South of France.

P.S. Check out What to Pack for a Beach Vacation before your next seaside getaway!

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Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez swells in the summer months as yachts creep into port, but a quick stroll through the narrow, cobbled streets of Old Town reveals what attracted celebrities to this former fishing village in the first place. Start your morning at La Tarte Tropézienne with an espresso and a slice of the patisserie’s namesake cream-filled brioche (a Brigitte Bardot favorite when she was shooting the 1950s film “And God Created Woman”), then take your petit-déjeuner across the square to the Place des Lices and stroll through the stands of cheese and flowers at the open-air Provencal market, held every Tuesday and Saturday morning. After gathering a basket-full of picnic fixings, head over to the 15th-century stone Portalet Tower and work off those breakfast calories during a coastal hike along the peninsula’s best beaches—accessed otherwise only by boat. At one of the most famous, Pampelonne, you’ll find the swankiest of Saint-Tropez’s beach clubs like Le Club 55 and Miami Beach transplant Nikki Beach , whose anything-goes spirit and lavish costume parties are known to draw celebrities. For something more low-key, trek down to the tucked-away cove of L’Escalet Beach, where you can spread out on a shore sans tourists. Back in town, pause on the port at Sénéquier for a coffee and prime people watching until dinner at the buzzy, Asian-inspired BanH-Hoï , a Saint-Tropez institution in Old Town. Night owls can dance the evening away at the legendary nightclub Les Caves du Roy in Hôtel Byblos ; for those ready to call it a night, head up the hill to the secluded 28-room Saint Amour La Tartane Hotel .

Do: Rent a small boat and explore the glamorous resorts and sun-soaked beaches of the French Riviera from the sea.

Explore More: See hotel details | See all Gassin, France hotels

Provence in South of France

Provence is a blanket term for the southeastern part of France that sprawls along the Mediterranean coastline and up into the rolling, vineyard-lined hills beyond. The best way to take in the region is by car, starting in the storybook-like medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence. Make the former farming estate of Domaine de Manville your home base, whose stylish hotel and pastoral 100-acre grounds are within easy reach of Les Baux’s more famous neighbors like Aix-en-Provence and the walled city of Avignon. Sit in the center of Aix and sip a glass of cool rosé on the terrace of Les Deux Garçons —the legendary brasserie has been frequented by everyone from painter Pablo Picasso to chanteuse Édith Piaf—or linger over a spread of foie gras, beef tartar, and black tiger prawns at the shabby-chic restaurant L’Agape in Avignon. When you’re ready to hit the road and cruise through Provence’s signature lavender fields, set your GPS to the 13-room Les Gorges de Pennafort , home to Philippe Da Silva’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Not only is the restaurant a destination in itself, it’s also close to the Gorges du Verdon, a river valley carved with scenic hiking trails that’s been called the Grand Canyon of Europe.

Do: Discover the medieval villages and world famous wineries of Châteauneuf-du-Pape on a small-group day tour .

Explore More: See hotel details | See all Provence, France hotels

Porquerolles Island charm in Southern France

Porquerolles Island

Just a 15-minute ferry ride from the town of Hyères, less than an hour from Saint-Tropez, lies an archipelago of three islands with coastlines as white as the Caribbean and vineyards producing rosé on par with some of Provence’s most iconic wineries. On the largest of the islands, Porquerolles, a small village sits in a square along the port that’s full of locally owned restaurants like Pélagos . (Order the catch of the day grilled à la plancha and rosé from Domaine Perzinsky, one of island’s three wineries.) The four-mile-long-by-two-mile-wide (and car-free) island is lined with over 37 miles of marked trails that are best explored by bike. After packing a picnic of local produce and wine from one of main square’s market stalls, rent a set of wheels from Le Cycle Porquerollais (full-day rentals are 15 euros). It’s not hard to navigate the island, but one of the most beautiful beaches worth seeking out is Plage Notre Dame, about a 15-minute ride away on the north coast. After a day of beach hopping and biking, soak up views of the sea on the terrace at L’Orangerie . Because this isn’t a town that stays up late, call it an early night at one of the two stand-out hotels: the charming 25-room Villa Sainte Anne , which overlooks the main square, or the antiques-filled Le Mas du Langoustier , a regal Provencal residence-turned-hotel hidden away on the western side of the island.

RELATED: The Most Romantic Hotels in Paris 

Beachfront Bedroom Cannes Southern France

Cannes has been synonymous with cinema for the past 70 years, so slip on your chicest set of heels and take a walk just like the stars along the infamous Boulevard de la Croisette, which separates boutiques like Chanel from the beach. For parties that seep from day into night, Bâoli Beach Cannes is your place. At midnight, the restaurant transforms into a roaring nightclub where sparkler-filled magnums are the norm. (Its sister spot , on the far end of the Croisette in the Port Pierre Canto, is also known for hosting some of the hottest events during the film festival.) If you want to get a sense of where the city started over 400 years ago, take a stroll through the streets lining the hill of Le Suquet, the Old Town. From the Old Port below, hop a ferry to the Lérins Islands, where you’ll find untouched sandy shores and wine crafted by Cistercian monks, the islands’ only residents. Île Sainte-Marguerite is the largest and closest island to mainland Cannes and home to historical sites like the cell of the Man in the Iron Mask as well as haute seaside eatery, La Guérite . Back in town, dine in a villa at L’Antidote , whose menu weaves market-fresh ingredients into rich dishes like foie gras-stuffed ravioli. JS Tip: If you want to sample a Provence specialty, try Chef Christophe Ferré’s version of bouillabaisse seafood stew. After a day of sightseeing, rest your feet in one of the major hotels hugging the Croisette, such as the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez (home to the city’s only two-Michelin-starred restaurant) or the Belle-Époque palace known as Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic .

Do: Cruise the charming streets of Cannes on a Vespa with an expert guide leading the way.

Explore More: See hotel details | See all Cannes, France hotels

Antibes Southern France

Tucked on the coast between Nice and Cannes, Antibes got its start as a Greek colony in the 5th century BC. In the mid-1800s, the town transformed into the haute holiday destination it is today. Admire remnants of its stronghold past by walking along the remaining rampart walls and into the castle housing one of the Old Town’s main attractions: the Picasso Museum. After getting your cultural fix, grab a baguette from one of Antibes’ most famous boulangeries, the three-generation Le Pain JPV , then skip the beaches in town and head to the villa-lined peninsula of Cap d’Antibes for a picnic lunch along the water. The two-hour light hike around the coast on the Chemin du Calvaire path leads to some of the cape’s best coves like La Garoupe beach, a favorite of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Literature buff? You can even sleep in the same spot the writer lived during the 1920s, Hôtel Belles Rives , a 40-room villa on the sea wall in neighboring Juan-les-Pins that’s home to La Passagère, one of the top eateries in town. While the villa inspired Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night,” Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc was also immortalized in the work of another artist—photographer Slim Aarons. Spend your evenings there sipping bubbly at the rooftop Champagne Lounge, which exclusively collaborates with 14 top champagne houses, or sway to the sounds of piano in the Old Town at the cave-like Absinthe Bar.

Do: Have a bike delivered to your hotel and explore the beachside town of Antibes at your own pace on wheels.

Explore More: See hotel details | See all Antibes, France hotels

Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Medieval towns dot the hillside along the Riviera, but one so charming that artists like Calder and Chagall decided to call it home is the thousand-year-old walled city of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Soak up village vibes at the legendary Place du Jeu de Boules square, where you can people-watch while sipping coffee on the terrace at Café de la Place . Just across the square, you’ll find the famous Colombe d’Or . What started as a bar and three-room inn grew into a restaurant and 25-room hotel that became one of the most popular meeting places for artists like Picasso and Matisse. At that time, artists exchanged paintings for a free night’s stay or a few meals, and you can still see many of these works on display around the hotel and restaurant (be sure to make lunch reservations months in advance to ensure a table). You can also take in one of the largest collections of 20th-century art in Europe, including works by greats like Braque and Miró (who also spent time in Saint-Paul-de-Vence), at modern art museum Fondation Maeght , while the neighboring town of Vence is home to the magnificent stained-glass Chapelle du Rosaire , a Matisse masterpiece. For lunch, head next door to Les Bacchanales , a three-story villa with an outdoor sculpture garden and terrace overlooking the sea. In the hills above Vence, the former 12th-century Knights Templar Commandery, Château Saint-Martin & Spa , remains one of the most stunning spots to rest your head in the Riviera. If you’d rather stay in St.-Paul proper, the tucked-away Le Mas de Pierre is a great pick for views over the valley—plus private gardens and villas if you really want to live like royalty.

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While often seen as a stopover town, Nice is the Riviera’s main point of entry for good reason. One glance at the Cours Saleya flower market and you’ll quickly fall in love with the city. Tourist trap-style restaurants line the square, but if you head one street back, you’ll find the husband-and-wife-run Papayou , which serves a mix of Mediterranean and Asian-influenced plates (think Thai curry and fish stew). Nearby, La Petite Maison (whose empire spans from Dubai to Miami Beach) is a celeb fave, but for something just as charming yet slightly less flashy, walk across the street to owner Nicole’s newer bistro, Le Comptoir 2 Nicole . Start the your evening here with a cheese plate and rosé, or take your apéritif above water at La Réserve , a restaurant perched on a rock jutting over the harbor. If you want something that truly captures the Riviera’s party spirit, drive 10 minutes to neighboring Villefranche-sur-Mer for Le Palm Anjuna, the restaurant version of lively beach bar Anjuna Bay nestled along a hidden bay in Eze. Here, musicians serenade guests in a bohemian enclave of tropical plants, Balinese statues, and reclaimed wood tables. Curl up for the night back in Nice along the half-moon Promenade des Anglais at century-old Le Negresco , whose regal, antique-filled rooms have enticed everyone from Princess Grace to The Beatles. Château de la Chèvre d’Or , in the cliffside medieval village of Eze, is just as breathtaking: statues and waterfalls transform gardens into open-air museums, while each of the 40 rooms (formerly village homes) offers up something different, from chimneys to private pools and panoramic bay views.

Do: Taste the flavors of Provence with a small-group food tour.

Explore More: See hotel details | See all Correze, France hotels

Monaco in Southern France

While not technically part of France, Monaco is still one of the major highlights to hit while touring the south. Just a 10-minute drive from the Italian border town of Ventimiglia, the petite principality of Monaco—it measures roughly three times the size of the National Mall in Washington D.C.—offers plenty of pursuits that can be as decadent or demure as you’d like. Lounge by the sea in Cap d’Ail at beach bar Eden Plage Mala , or treat yourself to a day of pampering at the iconic Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, whose alfresco Jacuzzis overlook the port and Prince’s Palace. Before hitting the town, get your hair styled like the stars at the recently opened Rossano Ferretti salon (a stylist favored by the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge) in the Hôtel de Paris , then pause for a cocktail at the property’s iconic Bar Américain or take your pre-dinner drinks down to the water at Wine Palace , whose plush couches sit along the port. If you want to keep the party going, dance to live music at portside Rascasse or head to high-energy Jimmy’z , dubbed Monaco’s “temple of clubbing.” When you’re ready for some beauty sleep, rest your head at the sumptuous Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo , where you can soothe away any signs of a hangover at the spa by Givenchy.

Do: Book a private yacht (with your own personal skipper!) and experience Monaco in luxe style.

Explore More: See hotel details | See all Monte-Carlo, Monaco hotels

What to Pack

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Best Places to Visit South of France

Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info.

Visit Southern France

There are so many unique places to visit in South France that you could spend weeks here and not see everything!

If possible, try to see as much as you can (you won’t regret it!), but if you have limited time, this article has all the best places to visit South of France.

This is not a definitive list of South of France destinations – we could easily include another 50 places! – but a good start to deciding where to go in South of France.

Sénanque Abbey

Beautiful Places to Visit in South France

Where to go South of France? Here’s the list of beautiful places to visit in South of France, best places to visit in Southern France for any kind of traveler.

1. French Riviera

Hotel Negresco - Nice

If you can only visit one place in Southern France, it should be the French Riviera . The region is in southeast France, close to Italy, and truly has something for everyone. There are cities where you will get a truly French experience, smaller towns on the coast bathed by turquoise waters, and some hilltop villages begging to be explored.

Nice is the capital of the French Riviera and one of the best places to visit in the South of France because of its stunning baroque architecture and historic neighborhoods.

Cannes is glitzy and glamorous and is the perfect place to relax after exploring Nice. The town is most popular for its hotel resorts and beaches and hosts the world-famous Cannes Festival of Cinema.

TIP: This top-rated French Riviera in One Day tour from Nice always gets excellent reviews

Monaco is another of the best places to visit in the French Riviera , famous for its casinos and being home to the Grand Prix de Monaco.

Finally, don’t miss the French Riviera’s beaches, bathed by the Mediterranean Sea. The French Riviera beaches are ideal places to relax in the summer, but you can also enjoy them from the water on a catamaran tour.

2. Calanques of Marseille-Cassis

Calanques Marseille Port Miou - France

The Calanques of Marseille-Cassis is a French National Park on the Southern coast West of the French Riviera. There are beaches, hiking paths overlooking the water, and many different cliffs to climb, but you can also explore it from the water on a catamaran tour from Marseille .

If you are looking for some of the best scenery near Marseille , this National Park is the place for you! Whether you are exploring or just relaxing on the beach, you will see some of the prettiest views in all of France. The water is a vibrant blue, and it contrasts with the sandy beaches.

The Calanques of Marseille makes for one of the best day trips from Marseille , and it’s one of the best places to visit in Southern France if you want to spend time in nature.

3. Cité de Carcassonne

Carcassonne Castle

The Cité de Carcassonne is a citadel within the city of Carcassonne in the Occitanie region . The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in the Southeast part of the city on a hill.

The Citadel was built by the Romans in the 3rd century when they settled in the town. Over time, the Citadel came under Visigoth, Crusaders, and French rule. It was used as a military fort until it was abandoned in the 17th century.

One of the Cathars’ main strongholds, who were considered heretics by the Catholic Church, Carcassonne is today one of the main stops of any Cathar Country road trip . This is also one of the best places in South of France for history lovers, but anyone and everyone will find it enjoyable as it is rated as one of the top landmarks in France .

During the visit, you can explore the Cité de Carcassonne alone or on a guided tour with an expert guide to learn about its history.

Avignon - France

Avignon is one of the most beautiful cities in southern France . Today part of the Provence region in Southeastern France, the city sits on the Rhône River, and it was the capital of the papacy from 1309 to 1377.

Avignon is one of the best places to visit in South of France to explore for history lovers. Visit Avignon’s Medieval Town, the Palace of the Popes , Le Rocher des Doms and, the Pont d’Avignon .

TIP: This combo ticket Palace of the Popes + Pont d’Avignon saves you money!

If you can, visit this UNESCO city during the famous Festival d’Avignon . The theatre festival occurs every July, with the main events held in the Palais des Papes’ courtyard.

5. Lavender Fields of Provence

Wine of Provence, France

If you want to visit Southern France in the summer, there is nothing better than exploring the endless fields of lavender flowers in Provence. The smell of lavender is one of the best and most relaxing, and the flowers are all a vibrant purple.

The fields are a unique place to visit, and everyone will love them. Even if you are not into flowers, it is interesting to see where the lavender comes from since it is an important part of Provence. For this, combine the most photogenic lavender fields in Provence with a lavender workshop or a visit to a lavender museum – check out our suggested lavender route in Provence .

However, the lavender season in Provence is short – generally from the end of June to early August – so you must plan ahead and know where to go depending on the area and altitude of the lavender fields.

6. Gorges du Verdon

Gorges du Verdon Road Trip

The Gorges du Verdon is a spectacular natural canyon with a river running through it. It is the largest canyon in Europe, and you will certainly notice its size as soon as you arrive.

There is plenty to do here, no matter what you are interested in. In the area, you’ll find hiking trails with views of the Gorges, the oh-so-pretty village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie , and many water activities and river beaches.

The Gorges du Verdon is in Southwest France, north of the French Riviera. It is an easy day trip from Aix-en-Provence or Nice, but if you have more time available, try this Gorges du Verdon road trip .

7. Hilltop Villages of the Luberon

Gordes - Provence

Another great place to visit for a South of France vacation is the Luberon and its hilltop villages. The  Luberon  is a massif in central Provence, part of the French Prealps.

The towns here are beautiful as they sit on top of mountains and are surrounded by amazing landscapes. You can also see many vineyards and (in the right season) some lavender fields too.

The list of most popular hilltop villages in the Luberon includes Bonnieux, Lacoste, Lourmarin, Cucuron, Gordes, Castellet, Auribeau, and Roussillon. All these beautiful villages have winding streets, stone houses, and picturesque little squares.

If you want to spend some time exploring small French towns away from the coast, consider this Luberon road trip which starts from Avignon. If you don’t have a car, this guided tour from Avignon visits the best villages in the Luberon . No matter which of the towns you choose or how long you have to spend here, you will love it!

8. The Camargue

Flamingos - Camargue

One of the most popular places to visit in South France is the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue , which is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Located between Arles and Montpellier, the region is mostly natural land, with one-third of the area being either lakes or marsh. There are also 400 species of birds, like pink flamingos, which you can see in the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau.

The cities of Aigues-Mortes and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer are two excellent places to explore the Camargue. If you want to visit Camargue on a day trip, consider this 4×4 Camargue Safari from Arles with an informative guide, which includes bird-watching, scenic views of the area, and free time in the famous village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

9. Canal du Midi

Canal de Midi

Stretching from Toulouse to Sète, the Canal du Midi is a feat of architectural genius that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. This 17th-century construction designed by Pierre-Paul Riquet required 12,000 men over fifteen years, from 1666 to 1681.

Today, the Canal du Midi is one of the best places to visit South of France. Here, visitors can hire boats, hotel-barges, or rent bikes and make their way along the Canal at their own pace.

If you are in Toulouse , you can explore a section of the Canal du Midi by bike . Some hikers use the trail along the Canal to make their way toward the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

10. Bonifacio

Bonifacio - Corsica

The last of the best places to visit in the South of France is Bonifacio and the surrounding areas, including Figari, Sotta, and Porto-Vecchio.

Bonifacio is on the southern tip of Corsica , one of the French islands in the Mediterranean Sea. When you visit, you should check out the Citadel overlooking the cliffs, the Old Town, and the area by the water and the port. If you have the time for a day trip, this boat tour from Bonifacio always gets the best reviews. Discover cliffs, sea caves, and beaches, and stop to snorkel with the provided gear.

If you are staying on the west coast of Corsica, you can take a full-day boat tour to Bonifacio from Ajaccio or Porticcio.

And there you have it, our list of the best places South of France for a memorable trip. Which Southern France destinations would you like to visit next?

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10 Amazing Places To Visit In The South Of France

Places To Visit In The South Of France (18)

Doesn’t matter if you’ve been before or if you’re a first-timer, the South of France is amazing to visit. Not only that, there are heaps of the best places to visit in the south of France dotted all across the coastline and inland regions. 

From the stunning beaches, and amazing Mediterranean cuisine to a plethora of cute little French villages; it’s a stunning region of France to visit. 

Photos And Postcards From Carcassonne In The South Of France... (14)

So it’s decided! You’re heading to visit the South of France this summer. The next question is, where to visit?  It’s not like you can just visit ‘The South of France” – that’s like attempting to book plane tickets to “Florida” – you need to be a tad more specific. 

So, to help you along your merry way, here are some of my favourite and best places to visit in the south of France. Have an amazing trip to France. 

1.) Avignon

Places To Visit In The South Of France (15)

Avignon is a city steeped in rich religious history and stunning architecture to see. You see, there was a time in the Middle Ages when this charming city was the centre of western Christendom. This alone makes it one of the best places to visit in the south of France, especially if you’re interested in religious history. 

No fewer than six papal conclaves were held in the breathtaking (UNESCO World Heritage) Palace of the Popes in the 14th century. Best of all, it still has fascinating little relics from this time. You can still see such gothic frescoes on the walls of the papal apartments.

Essentially, if you want a city break that’s filled with amazing sights to see and perhaps aren’t too bothered by catching some rays on the beach, then Avignon is perfect for you.

Oh, almost forgot to add; the magnificent ruins of Pont Saint-Bénézet (also known as the Pont d’Avignon) poke out across the Rhône and are also a UNESCO World Heritage sight that’s worth seeing in the city.

Shift down a gear and browse the arty walled town, take a cruise on the river, and see if you can come for the Theatre Festival in July when the city becomes one giant stage. 

Read more: Best beach holiday destinations in France

2.) Carcassonne

Places To Visit In The South Of France (11)

The centre of Carcassonne , above the right bank of the Aude, is truly a sight to behold. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the best places to visit in the south of France that is small enough to walk around but large enough to fill a few days’ trip. 

Not only that, the ancient walls have hugged this part of the tower since the 4th century and they were even reinforced in the 13th century. This was to help act as an even mightier barrier against the Crown of Aragon to the south. 

Places To Visit In The South Of France (11)

After the 17th century, the barriers were no longer needed and left to decay, till an architect with a sense of purpose (and a whole lotta time) came along and revamped them in the 19th century.

To see the full grounds and the wider castle of Carcassonne, book these tickets that’ll get you right into the main areas. With these tickets , you’ll even get to see the Salle Pierre Embry that’s been here since the 1400s. 

Photos And Postcards From Carcassonne In The South Of France... (11)

Top tip: Be sure to pop by to see the stained glass windows in the Basilica of Saints Celsus and Nazarius – these 17th-century windows are pretty impressive in their own right.

Read more: Visiting Carcassone

3.) Aix-en-Provence

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Aix differs from Carcassonne and Avignon in that people visit this town, less so for its plethora of amazing sights, but for its more laidback charm, the and the beautiful Cours Mirabeau.

That’s what makes it one of the best places to visit in the south of France, especially if you’re looking for a chilled-out trip. 

Places To Visit In The South Of France (17)

Oh, don’t forget to visit those famous lavender fields that the area has become very well-known for.

Love your French wines? Then book this wine tour from Aix-en-Provence that will take you into the heart of the Cezanne Countryside. It’s so good and you’ll get some wines to try, too. 

Read more: Best places in Provence to visit

Places To Visit In The South Of France (7)

Nice is pretty much what everyone thinks of when they think of the South of France.

It is a grand city of long esplanades and spacious squares that make it one of the best places to visit in the south of France, especially if you’re flying in and out of its airport. In fact, Nice is a great gateway city to the wider south of France region because of its airport. 

Plus, it’s also the 5th largest in France so you won’t be feeling bored for a single second here. You come to Nice for that beach life, the stunning medieval old town and some pretty delicious French food.

Once here, make sure to stroll around Colline du Château (the gardens are beautiful), see the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and visit Magnan Beach for some chill time. 

Oh, and don’t forget to book this tour from Nice that will take you on a day trip down the French Riveria. It takes in so many of the best places in the south of France and it’s all stress-free as they organise all the timings and transport. 

Essentially, if you’re looking for a city break, but also a rather indulgent holiday in the South of France, Nice is where you head.

Read more: Best things to do in Nice

Places To Visit In The South Of France (18)

I’m willing to bet that you know one of Albi’s most famous sons (even if you don’t recognise his name).

It’s Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who painted those iconic scenes of dancers at the Moulin Rouge and created the art nouveau posters inextricably linked with the Belle Époque. This all makes it one of the best places to visit in the south of France when exploring the region’s art history. 

To honour him, there is a museum dedicated to him at the Albi’s Episcopal Palace, which houses over a thousand of his works.

It’s an absolutely beautiful town with the Episcopal City being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Plus, that’s not even mentioning the delicious wine of the region.

Fun fact: The vineyards in this region are more than 3 times the size of Bordeaux .

Read more: Best things to do in Bordeaux

6.) Lourmarin

Places To Visit In The South Of France (6)

The little village just to the south of the Luberon Massif is the quintessence of Provence.

All the ingredients for a stunning holiday are here; not least of all the picturesque orchards (to spend many an afternoon getting lost in), towering mountains (almost like they’re standing guard over the village itself) and vineyards as far as the eye can see.

Places To Visit In The South Of France (10)

We’re not the only ones impressed with this place. Lourmarin is regarded by most as one of France’s “most picturesque” villages and it certainly lives up to the hype!

It’s a lively little place, with over a dozen cafes and restaurants that make use of what little outdoor space they can find on its tangle of streets.

After arriving, make sure to explore Château de Lourmarin, wander the streets around the castle and just enjoy the small town. 

Read more: Best things to do in Paris

7.) Biarritz

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Back in the day, Biarritz used to be your regular French seaside town and over time turned into one of France’s most luxurious holiday destinations.

An embodiment of this transformation is the Hôtel du Palais. It was built as a summer getaway in the middle of the 19th century for Eugénie de Montijo. She was the Empress of the French and the wife of Napoleon III. To this day, still serves as a grand hotel open to the public 

Once here, don’t forget to visit the Casino Barrière, too. It has a lovely golden sandy beach right in front of it to chill out and enjoy. 

This all makes it one of the best places to visit in the south of France; especially when on the western fringes of the country. 

Read more: Best beach holiday in France

8.) Marseille

Places To Visit In The South Of France (9)

Love it or hate it, Marseille is the biggest city in the south of France to visit. Yes, it’s a little bit of everything. From chaotic, cosmopolitan to an edgy city, Marseille challenges all of the stereotypes about Provence and the French Riviera.

If you’re looking for some city action, even if it’s just for a day or two, Marseille is worth visiting. 

If you’ve only got a short amount of time here, then get these plans in place. Head straight over to Marseille’s Old Port. It was founded by the Phocaeans around 2,600 years ago and is epic to see. 

To make things easy, book this hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Marseille. It makes it easy to get to each of the city’s best sights to see; without any of the stress of public transport or taxis. The latter of which ripped us off on our last visit to Marseille.

9.) Pézenas

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Did you know, that up to the late 18th century, Pézenas was the seat of the Governors of Languedoc? Well, the reason why this is so significant is that it permitted lots of baroque buildings across the small town.

In fact, over 100 buildings here have been listed as historic and protected for generations to come.

Which is all quite impressive for a place of just eight thousand inhabitants.

Places To Visit In The South Of France (12)

Pézenas isn’t the most obvious place to visit when you’re in the South of France. That being said, it has a real and less touristy feel. This is especially true when thinking of more popular places in the South of France.

Once here, make sure to stop by the open-air Illustre Theatre for a show. We totally loved it and they have a lovely garden area to mingle. You can even try some local wines before the show.

Also, head over to the Musée International du Jouet (a toy museum) that’s so magical to see.

Finally, don’t forget to walk the winding streets of the historic centre. We loved the area around Rue Merciere. 

Places To Visit In The South Of France (19)

Arles is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its abundance of Roman and Romanesque architecture. In fact, it’s still got an impressive list of sites to see in the south of France. From a; Roman theatre, amphitheatre, baths, necropolis and aqueduct; to mention but a few.

Arles is one of the best places to visit in the south of France for its Roman history. 

Best Places In Provence To Visit

Every corner you turn is pretty much a guaranteed picture-perfect moment. In my opinion, it’s all the small cobbled streets make it one of the best places to visit in the south of France. It’s just stunning. 

This probably explains why this was home to Vincent van Gogh for quite a few years.

The Ligurians (yes, the same ones as in Cinque Terre), back in 800 BC were one of the first in this area. These were quickly followed by many others. From the Celts, and Phoenicians (from the Lebanese region ) to eventually the Romans. Hence this city has such a rich and strong heritage perfect to visit when in the south of France. 

After arriving, make sure to explore the Amphitheatre, which will take around 90 minutes to stroll around. Then, make your way over to the Museum of Ancient Arles to learn more about the region’s long history. The latter is a perfect place to visit on a rainy day. 

Finally, don’t forget to visit Espace van Gogh . It’s a great place to see some of the seasonal exhibits. Plus, you can learn about the (almost) 200 paintings that Van Gogh painted in Arles. 

Want to space the city, head out to Camargue Natural Regional Park. Book this Camargue Safari tour that will pick you up from the centre of Arles and take you to see wild horses, wild horses and flamingos that frequent the area. It’s a full-day tour and so much fun for the whole family. 

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10 Most Amazing Destinations in the South of France

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Few places in Europe offer a more memorable travel experience than the glitzy, glamorous and stunningly gorgeous south of France. From the warmth of its sun-kissed beaches to the aroma of its mouth-watering cuisine, a holiday in this sunny region is a treat for all the senses. Take in the scenery that inspired artists from Renoir and Van Gogh to Matisse and Cézanne.

Listen to a concert at an ancient Roman amphitheater. Dine sumptuously at a Michelin-starred restaurant. A great transportation system makes it easy to access every seaside resort, medieval fortress and world-class museum. Wherever you travel, the sights, sounds and sensations you encounter in southern France will stay with you long after your trip is over.

10. Aix-en-Provence [SEE MAP]

Aix-en-Provence

Tree-lined streets, monuments and elegant architecture greet you wherever you wander in Aix-en-Provence. Founded by a Roman general in 123 B.C., Aix-en-Provence came of age during the Renaissance Era when artists, academics and aristocrats made the cultural capital their home. With around 40,000 students swelling its population each year, Aix remains a highly regarded university city.

The city’s ultimate claim to fame, however, is its native son Paul Cézanne. The impressionist’s workspaces and the pastoral landscapes that inspired him are some of the region’s star attractions. With its mix of Romanesque and Gothic elements, the ornate Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur is a must-see too.

9. Cannes [SEE MAP]

Cannes

You don’t have to visit Cannes during its annual film festival to understand the appeal of this coastal city. With its long stretches of sandy beaches and 300 days of sunshine each year, Cannes attracts sun worshippers in the warm seasons. Start your visit with a stroll along the Boulevard de la Croisette. Curving around the city’s deep-blue bay, the promenade offers views of the sea and sand on one side and upscale hotels and boutiques on the other.

Set aside some time to explore Le Suquet, the historic quarter of Cannes. A number of bars and restaurants now line the winding, cobbled streets. Climb to the top of the hilly neighborhood for panoramic vistas of the Vieux Port.

8. Lourmarin [SEE MAP]

Lourmarin

Surrounded by vineyards, orchards and forest, Lourmarin is one of the most scenic villages in the Provence. Less overrun with tourists than other towns in the region, it offers an authentic Provençal experience. Lourmarin’s pretty squares, winding streets and open-air cafés invite leisurely strolls through the city.

One of the most beautiful structures to explore is the Château de Lourmarin. Built as a fortress in the 12th century, it was transformed into an elegant Renaissance manor in the 15th and 16th centuries. Visitors can tour the lovingly restored rooms to view rare antiques and artwork. Nobel Prize-winning author Albert Camus, who lived in Lourmarin from 1957 until his death in 1960, is buried in the village cemetery.

7. Biarritz [SEE MAP]

Surfers at Biarritz

Situated in the southwest corner of France along the Basque coast, Biarritz has been a popular holiday destination since Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie first visited in 1854. The emperor was responsible for the construction of the Hôtel du Palais, the town’s most famous landmark. Located across the street from the hotel is the Eglise Orthodoxe Russe.

Built in 1892, the Russian church is notable for its gilded dome. Down the road is the Place Sainte-Eugénie, an elegant old plaza that overlooks the Port des Pêcheurs, or fishermen’s port. Today, Biarritz is also known as the surfing capital of France. La Côte des Basques is considered the optimal beach for riding the waves.

6. Arles [SEE MAP]

Arena of Arles

Sprawled along the banks of the Rhône River in the south of France, Arles has been an important cultural center and trading port since Julius Caesar founded it as a Roman colony in 46 B.C. The city’s most striking example of those early days is the Roman Théâtre Antique, where plays, concerts and mock gladiator fights are performed during the summer.

Provençal-style bullfights, in which the bull is not killed, are held in the amphitheater too. Vincent Van Gogh created 300 works of art while living in Arles, and his Yellow House is a popular attraction. A walking map guides you to the places and scenery depicted in his famous paintings, including “Starry Nights Over the Rhône.”

5. Saint-Paul-de-Vence [SEE MAP]

Saint-Paul-de-Vence

The scenic beauty of Saint-Paul-de-Vence is reason enough to visit this hilltop village in southeastern France. With its thick ramparts, centuries-old structures and cobbled streets, it’s a poster child for a well-preserved medieval town.

Artists from Modigliani and Chagall to Picasso plied their craft in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, trading paintings for food, drink and board at the Auberge de la Colombe d’Or. Their creations still adorn the walls of the inn today. Art is the main attraction outside the inn too. The town’s winding streets are lined with galleries and museums. All paths lead up to the fortress tower and Gothic church at the top of the hill.

4. Carcassonne [SEE MAP]

Carcassonne

One of France’s oldest fortified cities, Carcassonne is situated near the scenic Canal du Midi, with Montagne Noire rising up in the background. The storybook setting draws 4 million tourists each year, most of whom come to tour the Cité, the almost too-perfectly restored medieval citadel. Tours lead visitors past gargoyles, turrets and grassy lists to the inner rings of the fortress.

With its quirky museums and one-of-a-kind shops, the ville basse on the lower ground near the River Aude is fun to explore too. Finish the day by dining at one of the tasty eateries located along the canal’s towpath.

3. Avignon [SEE MAP]

The Popes' Palace of Avignon

The city of Avignon is best known for the Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace in Europe. Built in the 14th century as an act of rebellion against the election of Pope Clement V, the fortified structure covers the top of a hill overlooking the Rhône River. Inside the temporary seat of the Papacy are treasures like a series of frescoes painted by Matteo Giovanetti in the 1300s.

The palace plays host to art exhibitions, conventions and festivals as well. Outside, hilltop gardens, ponds and landscaped terraces invite exploration. Housing the only Van Gogh painting in Provence, the Musée Angladon is well worth a visit too.

2. Nice [SEE MAP]

Nice panorama seen from Mt Boron

From world-class art and medieval architecture to stunning beaches, Nice offers everything travelers want from a holiday on the French Riviera. This vibrant city in southeast France offers an array of pedestrian-friendly attractions too, including waterfront promenades, grand plazas and open-air markets .

Vieux Nice, the Italianate-style old town district, lets you explore the city’s past while sampling delicacies from pastries to pizzas at the neighborhood’s eateries. When it comes to culture, no holiday in Nice is complete without a visit to the Musée Marc Chagall and Musée Matisse where hundreds of works by the two French artists are on display.

1. Monaco [SEE MAP]

#1 of Destinations In South Of France

Although Monaco is an independent city-state, its prime location on the French Riviera makes it an appealing destination for visitors to the south of France. A fabled playground for the rich and famous, Monaco is an appealing destination for budget-minded day trips too.

Tour the memorial rose garden dedicated to the memory of the Princess of Monaco and actress Grace Kelly. View the changing of the guard and tour “Les Grands Appartements” at the royal palace. Even if you don’t gamble at the famed Casino de Monte-Carlo, you can explore its gilded rooms any morning for a small fee.

Map of Southern France

Map of Southern France

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South of France | The 15 most unique places you should visit

places to visit in the south france

France is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It has a mixture of both natural and human-made beauty. Known for its stunning European architecture and historical importance. Paris, ‘The capital of France’ is located in the northern part of the country and is a world-famous tourist destination. A lot of people who plan trips to France tend to keep Paris and other Northern parts of the country on their list but what they don’t realize is that the South of France holds a similar amount of beauty as well.

The South of France is a popular place for a lot of Europeans. Many Dutch, Belgians, English, Italians and Spanish love to travel to the South of France. Locally known as “le Midi”. If you are planning on visiting France then you should definitely visit the south of France otherwise you would miss out on a fantastic travelling experience. Let’s take a look at some of the best places to visit in the South of France. And don’t forget to share below in the comments which place in the South of France you like to travel to.

Read our other blogs about France:

  • The 10 best Surfing spots in France
  • 15 reasons why you should visit Nice, France

Nice is the fifth largest city in France. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the South of France. The city is located in the French Riviera and is known for its exuberant beaches and rich art culture. You would find many art galleries and museums throughout the city. Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain is a perfect place for art lovers. It was opened in 1990 and exhibits artwork from the 1960s and 1970s. There is also a specific section for Yves Klein, who was an amazing artist and one of the leading members of the French Artistic Movement of Nouveau réalisme.

Musée Matisse is another fantastic place for art lovers. The museum houses an extensive collection of artwork by the famous French artist Henri Matisse. And Nice is also home to one of the most beautiful Orthodox Churches. The Cathédrale Orthodoxe Russe Saint-Nicolas was built in 1912 by Tsar Nicholas. It contains many different religious and historical items that were brought to the South of France from Russia.

Nice is also famous for its beaches. You’ll find a few of the best beaches in the South of France. La Plage Publique de Beau Rivage is one of the best beaches in the city. Many people visit the beaches to relax and have fun. You can also enjoy different watersports at these beaches. If it’s your first time visiting Nice, then you should definitely take the sightseeing tour which will help you enjoy Nice in its full essence. And read our blog about the 15 reasons why you need to travel to Nice once in your life!

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  • Places to stay in Nice
  • Rent a car in Nice

This blog about the south of France cannot be complete without talking about the French Riviera. There are several cities on French Riviera that are famous for its beaches and great vibes. Cannes is one of those major cities in the South of France. It is known for its importance in the global showbiz industry.

Film festivals are held in Cannes every year. It is a resort town with a large number of amazing beaches. When we talk about the beaches in France, we cannot ignore the beautiful beaches of Cannes. La Croisette is a strip of land along the coast that has many different restaurants, cafes, and shops. You should definitely take a stroll on La Croisette on your visit to Cannes. Other than visiting these sites you can also hike the Esterel Mountains for an added travelling experience in the South of France.

  • Places to stay in Cannes
  • Book your activities in Cannes
  • Cheap car rental in France

#3 Marseille

Marseille is considered as the oldest city in France. It is a bustling port city in the South of France with a lot of different attractions. As the city is quite old, you would find several historical attractions in Marseille. Le Vieux Port or the old port is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Marseille. The area was a bustling port for thousands of years.

The Mucem is another amazing place to visit in Marseille. The museum is devoted to showcasing the culture of the old civilizations of the Mediterranean region. Like Paris, Marseille has its own Notre Dame known as Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde . You can have an amazing view of the entire city from the top of Notre Dame. Other than visiting a large number of historical sites and amazing markets, you can also roam around the city on a bike with a local guide.

  • Places to stay in Marseille

#4 Biarritz

Biarritz is a wonderful seaside town located on the west coast in the South of France. Famous among surfers because of the great waves from the Atlantic Ocean. You can find many different restaurants here with a speciality in seafood. As Biarritz is a seaside town, it is also home to some of the best beaches in the South of France.

La Grande Plage is one of the most visited beaches in Biarritz. If you are someone who likes to play with luck then Casino Barriere should be on your list of places to visit. There are a lot of different tourist destinations in Biarritz that would make you want to stay there.

City Ocean is another great place in Biarritz. It was opened in 2011, which makes it a relatively new museum as compared to other museums in France. The museum is devoted to exhibits that relate to the ocean. You can also enjoy virtual surfing at City Ocean or just hop in the Atlantic Ocean to really experience surfing in the South of France.

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  • Places to stay in Biarritz

Pezenas is a small town in the South of France. The city is known for its beautiful architecture. More than 100 buildings in Pezenas have been considered historic. This shows the rich European culture of the town. It is a small town where you might not find as many things as other regions in the south of France, but it is still a significant place to visit.

If you are visiting Pezenas, then don’t forget to visit the local markets which are one of the most popular attractions in the commune. Like most of the other places in the South of France, Pezenas also has an amazing church called Eglise Collegiale Saint-Jean . The church has beautiful European architecture and is open to the general public.

  • Places to stay in Pezenas
  • Rental cars in France

Historically speaking, Arles is quite easily one of the most significant towns not just in the south of France but in entire Europe. The city has been labelled as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to a large number of Roman and Romanesque architecture in the city. The city was also the hometown of the popular Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh.

There are many historical tourist destinations in the city, including buildings from the Roman era like theatres, baths, aqueducts and many more. All these sites are open for the public, but you have to be very careful not to damage the buildings. You can also make your way down to some of the finest restaurants in the South of France. Other than the historical sites, you can also find many different art museums in the city. Even though the city has a lot of significance, you can find affordable hotels all over the city.

  • Places to stay in Arles

Located in the hills of Alpes Maritimes between Antibes and Nice, Vence is a charming town in the South of France. The Rosary chapel is one of the most beautiful chapels in the South of France. People from all over the world visit this chapel. Cathedral of the Nativity of Saint Mary is another popular religious site in Vence. If you are an art lover, then you should definitely visit Fondation Maeght which features artworks from many different French artists. You can also enjoy a bicycle ride on Col De Vence which would aid you in experiencing nature to its full extent.

  • Places to stay in Vence
  • Fun activities
  • Cheap Rental cars in France

#8 Lourmarin

Quite honestly, the most picturesque place in the South of France. Lourmarin is a small village which is known for its beautiful orchards and scenic views. The village is also home to a large number of vineyards. It has some of the most amazing restaurants in the country. Luberon Regional Nature Park is a spot for people who want to enjoy the natural beauty of the South of France. It is a small village with a lot of significance. While you visit Lourmarin, you can also get a little taste of history by visiting Chateau de Lourmarin which is a stunning castle.

  • Places to stay in Lourmarin
  • Book your activities

After Arles, Avignon is another place of historical importance in the South of France. The city has a rich cultural and religious history. At one moment in time, it was the most important place for western Christendom. Palais des Papes which translates to the Palace of the Popes is one of the most visited attractions in Avignon.

It has many different relics and items that are important to the entire Christian world. It is ideal to visit the city in summer (July) when the city celebrates a theatre festival by the name of Avignon Festival. You cannot miss the famous half bridge of Avignon Pont d’Avignon .

Other than the religious sites you can also find several different museums in the city including Musée Du Petit Palais . This museum contains artworks from the Renaissance era in Europe. You can find many different cafes and restaurants in the city that serves both local and continental food.

  • Places to stay in Avignon
  • Fun activities in Avignon

#10 Carcassonne

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Carcassonne is a very unique city in its own right. It is not as well known as other cities in the South of France, but once you visit it, you will never forget it. It is a fortified city which lets you experience the true essence of what people felt when they lived in fortified cities in the medieval era. A national religion monument with the name of The Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus is also located in Carcassonne.

It is an ancient church that is visited by people from all over the world due to its status as a national monument in France. One of the most unique places to visit in Carcassonne is the museum of inquisition. Which exhibits several different items that were used to torture people in the medieval era.

You can roam around the tight alleys of the city which are remnants of old European architecture. You will find several exotic restaurants in the city that serve both local and international cuisines. If you want to enjoy nature in Carcassonne, you can take a stroll or ride a bike along the Canal du Midi .

  • Places to stay in Carcasonne
  • Activities to book in Carcasonne

#11 Aix-en-Provence

You can enjoy a lot of different things while you visit Aix-en-Provence in the South of France. Lavender fields are one of the most popular attractions in Aix-en-Provence. Whoever visits Aix-en-Provence should surely visit the vast lavender fields. Aix-en-Provence is a university city and contains many attractions like historical sites, markets, museums and a lot of other sights.

It is also home to Atelier de Cezanne which is a museum that features work from the famous French artist Paul Cezanne. The city has many beautiful hotels that were built centuries ago and still rock old European architecture. Pavillion Vendome is another site art lovers should definitely visit. Aix-En-Provence also has a lot of religious sites like Cathedrale St. Sauveur . It is considered as one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the South of France.

  • Places to stay in Aix-en-Provence

Albi is one of the most exotic cities in the South of France. Known for its scenic views and amazing architecture. Like most of the other cities in the South of France, Albi also has a rich heritage. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum is a museum that features the largest collection of work from Henri de Toulouse Lautrec. If you are visiting Albi, you should definitely visit Sainte Cécile cathedral . It is an amazing building that showcases gothic architecture.

Pont Vieux might seem like just another bridge, but it is actually more than 1000 years old. Don’t forget to visit the market hall, which is a lovely indoor market where you can find a large variety of local products from the South of France.

Have you ever wondered about the difficult lives that miners live? Well, you can also experience that in Albi. Musee-Mine Departmental is a unique museum that is devoted to letting visitors experience how miners worked in a harsh environment to provide for their families. You would learn a lot about the lives and work of miners from this museum. Other than these sites you can also eat at a lot of amazing restaurants throughout the city.

  • Places to stay in Albi

#13 Antibes

Antibes is another beautiful town in the French Rivera. It is a port city with a lot of amazing attractions. Grimaldi Chateau is one of the most visited attractions in the south of France. It is a museum devoted to exhibiting the work of Pablo Picasso. The tourism industry acts as a backbone for the town’s economy.

Antibes you can find the most amazing beaches in the South of France. You can enjoy a relaxing day on the beach of Cap d’Antibes . There is something for everyone in Antibes. You can find both natural and manmade beauty in Antibes.

  • Places to stay in Antibes

Menton is known for its crescent-shaped bay. A town situated on the French Riviera near the border of Italy. The town showcases an amazing and colourful architecture. If you are someone who loves nature, then you can visit the Bioves Garden .

The most calming beaches in the South of France are the Menton Beaches. Jean Cocteau Museum is a great place for art lovers to visit. It features artworks from great French artists. The Lemon Festival is held every year in the town so it is ideal to visit Menton in winter when the lemon festival takes place.

  • Places to stay in Menton

#15 Villefranche-sur-Mer

It is one of the oldest towns in the South of France. Known for its cobblestoned streets. Like most of the other towns and cities in South of France, Villefranche is also home to several religious sites. Citadel St Elmo a beautiful Citadel that is visited by a large number of visitors every year.

Plage des Marinières is a one-kilometre-long beach and is one of the longest beaches in the South of France. Villefranche beach is also another great beach on the French Riviera. There are many different forts, castles, galleries, and museums that you can visit while you stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer. If you are someone who loves history, then you should definitely take a stroll on Rue Obscure which is an underground street built in the medieval era.

  • Places to stay Villefrance-sur-Mer

We would love to know if you have any additions to this blog and which place in the South of France you like to visit. Let us know in the comments below!

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The 18 most beautiful beaches in the South of France

By Rachel Everett and Katie Dailey

The 18 most beautiful beaches in the South of France

In Vincent Van Gogh’s words: “The whole future of art is to be found in the South of France .” The bevvy of beaches in the region is a testament to this – they are works of art in their own right. While the Cote d'Azur is renowned for its razzle-dazzle, the whole area spans the Camargue and down to Corsica , with its wonderfully wild beaches.

Overall, the South of France has it all: a rich heritage and steeped history, Provençal countryside villages and markets, and sparkly white beaches with azure coves. The big blue beckons on any trip here, with some of the most idyllic, exclusive and elusive spots aligned together. The French Riviera is known for its celebrity clientele and there are sophisticated, high-grade, sandy beaches to decamp to: some public, some private.

The plethora of pristine shores makes it hard to choose – be it Calvi, Porquerolles or Pampelonne, we’ve selected eighteen beach destinations you’ll long to be on. Glamorous beach clubs, superyachts and Breton stripes are optional. 

You’ll see why this area is home to some of the best beaches in France . Plus for more inspiration, see our edit of the best beaches in Europe .

Plage des Marinieres Villefranche sur Mer

Plage des Marinieres, Villefranche-sur-Mer

The good-looking French fishing village of Villefranche-sur-Mer, sandwiched between Monaco and Nice, is also the perfect beach stop. Its pretty Provencial scenes, rainbow-bright shuttered houses and flower-fringed markets are alluring on their own - it’s a must-visit even without the added beach attraction. Though the French Riviera has many pebble beaches, Plage des Marinieres ups the sandy shores game with its flour-soft sands. The beach has curves in all the right places: it’s a crescent of sand that sweeps around cobalt waves. The Citadel, a 16th-century medieval fortress, is perched atop a hill and affords sublime views of Cap Ferrat and the Cote d’Azur - go for a sundowner to remember.

Camp Long beach Agay Bay Agay

Plage du Camp Long, Agay Bay, Agay

Agay, a half-moon bay near St Raphaël (a mere 15-minute drive) is a spectacular destination on the French Riviera coastline. The bay itself is cloaked in greenery and rimmed by hills and secret creeks making it feel like a secretly-special part of the region away from the hordes. But Plage du Camp Long has long been a favourited beach in the South of France. Its natural asset is its breathtaking forest-clad beach under the shadows of the Esterel mountains. After spending time at this blissed-out beach bounty, head back to the seaside city of Saint-Raphaël for haute cuisine on the sparkling marina.

En Vau Massif des Calanques

En Vau, Massif des Calanques

For an adventure, journey to the Massif des Calanques - the spectacular limestone coves and cliffs that run some 20km from Marseille right the way to Cassis. Tip: grab your hiking boots. It’s not a place for the vertiginous as hiking this lofty area can be a challenge for some, but its natural, artistic beauty is soul-reviving. Astonishing En Vau is a hike with a memorable view of deep emerald waters and mighty, craggy cliffs. It’s one for Dora (the Explorer) and to experience the sheer beauty of the Calanques rather than idling by the sea - it’s your future screensaver.

Paloma Beach SaintJeanCapFerrat

Paloma Beach, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Paloma Beach on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat - named after Paloma Picasso, who spent time with his family in the tranquil, tucked-away spot - has always been considered one of the French Riviera’s most captivating beaches. Nestled deep within greenery, in a breathtaking location, Paloma is the best place for pure relaxation. Have time out on the beach where the rich and famous have been known to escape to and exclusivity reigns: a section of these special sands is reserved for private guests only. With its 1950s nostalgia, fine pebble beach and unreal coastal views, this is the place to hang out and people-watch. Paloma is also family-friendly, so there are lots of watersports on offer including paddleboarding, sailing and water skiing, keeping the kids busy - while you gaze at the gleaming yachts on the water.

Calvi Beach Calvi Corsica

Calvi Beach, Calvi, Corsica

The French island of Corsica is frequently voted a top beach destination. Why? For starters, it boasts an impressive 200 beaches - a blend of quieter, lesser-known adult havens and a selection of more boisterous family sands. In the north of the island, Plage de Calvi’s pure white whisper of sand is four miles long and a little bit of heaven. A bonus: families love it here too, with its soft granules ripe for sandcastles and sultry simmering waves - aquatic pursuits are the order of the day. There’s no need to bring a picnic, there are ample restaurants and cafes set back off the shores. Rating all of Corsica’s beaches would be a wonderful assignment you might not want to return from.

Antibes French Riviera

Antibes, French Riviera

One of the Riviera’s most dashing destinations, Antibes has a storied history filled with artists, writers and celebrities - Picasso, Fitzgerald, Di Caprio, Beyonce and Jay Z - it’s clear why they still descend in droves. Antibes’ soft, honey-hued swathes of beach and bright, crystalline seas are both part of its natural charms. Book a stay at super-luxe Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel or Art-Deco-design Hôtel Belles Rives (formerly Villa Saint-Louis) where Fitzgerald stayed with Zelda and penned ‘Tender is the Night’. Show off your Breton stripes at the ritzy beach clubs facing the turquoise waters or take the Picasso trail - a ravishing 5km walking route covering his creative inspiration that hugs the rugged coast. Tucked between Nice and Cannes , Antibes’ old town is perfectly Provencial and an amble around the local markets or a lingering lunch stop is essential. For families seeking an active beach, Plage de la Salis is family-friendly with stress-free gentle waters.

Pampelonne St Tropez

Pampelonne, St Tropez

When thinking of the French Riviera, flashy St Tropez always springs to mind with its swagger, superyachts and sublime restaurants. And Pampelonne Beach is the beach that gets the press. Bridget Bardot’s famed hangout and 40th birthday location is everything you’d imagine it to be: unapologetically ravishing. Glitzy deluxe hotels and clubs aside, the beach is public property. More importantly, the talcum-powder-soft sands and deep blue ocean are near-perfection. A Bardot bikini is optional: there’s also a nudist section for those that really want to sample the great outdoors. Summer gets stacked and temperatures rocket, so go off-peak to have more space and breezy sea air.

Porquerolles Island Var

Porquerolles Island, Var

It’s a mere five-mile ferry trip from the southern French coast to the petite island of Porquerolles . This gorgeous isle is ideal for escaping the masses and switching off - the Bali Hai-style island is the best advert for beachy paradise. The island’s nature is protected and no cars are allowed, making it feel all the more special. There is a magical mix of soft sandy sweeps, and dramatic hiking trails, both enveloped by the beautiful big blue. Notre Dame is the best beach to lounge on: this shady, tree-fringed stretch of beach feels far removed from the mainland, and - a note to snorkellers - the aqua waters are teeming with technicolour fish. Beach days couldn’t get better, just bring supplies and you’re all set.

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You have to access the white sands of Sylvabelle via quite a steep rocky set of steps which means even in high season...

Plage de Sylvabelle, La Croix Valmer

You have to access the white sands of Sylvabelle via quite a steep rocky set of steps, which means even in high season you’re likely to find a place for your towel. The sand is fine and golden, the sea clear – not so unusual for the area. But what is unusual is the complete absence of commerce: no music, no beach bars, no car noise. So bring lunch and a book.

This calm curve of a bay doesnt have the golden sand of nearby ArgelèssurMer or the crowds that come to sit on it. But...

Baie de Paulilles, Port-Vendres

This calm curve of a bay doesn’t have the golden sand of nearby Argelès-sur-Mer, or the crowds that come to sit on it. But it has a magnificent view of the Albères, and a rich (and highly protected) sea life that makes for wonderful snorkelling.

A golden family beach with soft sand and spectacular sunset views of Cap Nègre the peninsula owned almost entirely by...

Plage Rayol-Canadel

A golden family beach with soft sand and spectacular sunset views of Cap Nègre, the peninsula owned almost entirely by Carla Bruni’s family. ake a sun lounger at buzzy Club Tropicana, where neither the sunbeds nor the drinks are free, or just pitch up with a towel on the sand.\

The Provençal harbour of Sanary is worth a visit in itself  its a lovely example of simple South of France coastal...

Plage de Portissol, Sanary-sur-Mer

The Provençal harbour of Sanary is worth a visit in itself – it’s a lovely example of simple South of France coastal living, dotted with fish restaurants and smaller boats. A short walk away, the beach dominates this natural bay west of Toulon – posidonia (a natural sea grass) is allowed to encroach on the sand, which makes for a very natural environment and sparkly clean sea. There are some concessions to man: a diving board and steps allow visitors to plunge into the sea at its deepest point, and showers are provided for those exiting the bay. Otherwise the sea is shallow for several metres, meaning it’s great for non-swimmers, and pebbly underfoot, which makes it ideal for snorkelling.

Although its between the legendary summering spots of Monaco and SaintJean CapFerrat this small sandy beach is not...

Plage de la Mala, Cap d'Ail

Although it’s between the legendary summering spots of Monaco and Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat, this small sandy beach is not particularly crowded. Largely because parking is sometimes difficult and there is a steep rocky descent to get to the cove. But for those who make the trip, or have a boat to drop them directly on the sand, there are two Provençal restaurants with sunbeds, amazing views of the Caps and a little watersports hire centre. The beach is at its best off season, when you might have the sand to yourself.\

The stretch of coastline between SaintRaphaël and Cannes is quite extraordinary  with russet beaches backed by red rocks...

Pointe de l'Aiguille, Théoule-sur-Mer

The stretch of coastline between Saint-Raphaël and Cannes is quite extraordinary – with russet beaches backed by red rocks that look more like they’re from Mars than the Côte d'Azur. This area has been much colonised by the hotel industry, but Théoule is relatively untouched, protected by a preservation order. Don’t expect white sand – the Pointe de l’Aiguille beach is pebbly and dotted with large boulders, and it takes a walk along a rocky path to get to it, but it’s a stunning natural cove. From here you get great views of Cannes and the passing gin palaces sailing the Med. The craggy shore shouldering the beach is a challenge for the intrepid to go rock diving straight into the limpid water. Take your lunch, or look out for the little snack boat that pulls up in high season.

A secluded beach off the beaten track at the foot of the Pyrenees with completely transparent waters for snorkelling...

Plage de l'Ouille, Collioure

A secluded beach off the beaten track at the foot of the Pyrenees, with completely transparent waters for snorkelling around the rocks and peaceful swimming alongside abundant fish. If you don’t have a mask with you, the sea here is so clear that you can stand knee deep in the water and watch them glide past. Just one restaurant serves the beach, with unpretentious seafood and Catalan dishes. It’s a short walk from the pretty Catalonian harbour of Collioure, which is dominated by the Fort Carré, an 18th-century fortress built on the unspoilt coast.

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places to visit in the south france

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24 must-visit destinations in the South of France

After Paris, the South of France is the most popular region for visitors. There are so many amazing spots to visit, though. How does one choose an itinerary? Well, don’t worry. I’ve rounded up 24 of the best places to visit in the South of France!

Nice is the first destination that comes to most Americans' minds when considering a trip to the South of France. As the Côte d'Azur's largest city, it's likely where you'll arrive via either plane or train. Make sure to stroll the Promenade des Anglais along the Mediterranean, climb the stairs up to the ruins of the old fortress (where you'll enjoy the best views in town), and wander narrow, cobblestone streets in Vieux Nice. 

Just across the border from Italy is this small but totally charming small town of Menton. Perched on a hill amongst the mountains, with the Mediterranean at foot, there really isn't a better base to discover the region. As a bonus, it's generally less crowded than Nice if you visit outside the two-week Lemon Festival in February (also worth checking out if you're okay with many more travelers in town).

Villefranche-sur-Mer

What used to be a lesser-known fishing village is now much more popular thanks to the hit series Emily in Paris . In the second episode of the second season, the character French people love to hate wakes up in this picturesque town on the French Riviera. Villefranche-sur-Mer is quieter than other locations in the area, but that’s what makes it the perfect vacation spot.

Eze is a fantastic medieval town in the mountains above the Mediterranean. It's located a 15-minute train ride from Nice and is a great day trip!

Besides Nice, Monaco is the other destination in southern France that Americans are most familiar with. Known for insane wealth, super yachts, a famous casino, and F1, this small city-state is actually its own country. Though surrounded by France on all sides, it makes for an easy day trip from Menton or Nice.

If you love small towns along the water, then you'll love Cassis. Like Menton, it's a great alternative base and jumping-off point to explore Calanques National Park. The first calanque (small cove) is just a 30-minute walk from town.

France's second-largest city is located right on the Mediterranean, a nice change of pace from Paris. You can eat well cheaply at Les Halles (the public market) in Old Port, visit two amazing cathedrals that tower above the city, and learn about the history at the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean. And don't miss Le Panier, Marseille's hippest neighborhood!

In the Drôme department of inland Provence lies storybook-worthy Grignan. The hilltop town is perched above lavender fields and houses an impressive castle that once served as the residence for the Ademar family in the 12th century.

Les Baux-de-Provence

One of the most popular small towns in Provence, Les Baux is frequented for a reason. The old rocky ruins of the fortified town are well-preserved and make for a fantastic place to visit.

Italy isn't the only country with Roman ruins worth visiting! Arles, just south of Avignon, has a huge Roman arena and an adorable town that are well worth visiting.

Avignon is a beautiful town between Lyon and Marseille and a great base for exploring Provence. Most famous for being the one-time residence of the Pope, back in the 14th century when Rome was undergoing a lot of turmoil, the former Palais du Pope is a must-see.

As far east into the mountains as you can go and still be in Provence, Nyons is known as “la ville du soleil” or the “sun city.” So, most days, you’ll be graced by its presence. It's also a great hiking destination for all levels.

Another great southern hiking location, Sisteron is the perfect mix of the Alps and Provence. The Durance River runs right through town, and the peaks tower above. It's great for outdoor lovers.

Aix-en-Provence

Just north of Marseille is this picture-perfect southern France town. There isn't much in the way of sites, but if you're in the mood to walk around and shop leisurely at some of the best boutiques in France, Aix is your place.

A smaller city near Avignon, Nimes is most famous for its Roman arena and amphitheater, both of which are very well preserved.

Orange is a fantastic town a few minutes from Avignon. It has one of the most impressive arenas from Roman times. It also has a thriving art community, and you'll have a great time browsing boutiques all around town.

Gorge de l'Ardèche

The Ardèche region is full of characteristic villages, great wineries, and breathtaking nature. And nowhere lives up to the last category, like the large gorge in the regional park. Visit in summer to swim and kayak in its clear waters, but be prepared to share it with plenty of other visitors!

Montpellier

This student city in the center of southern France doesn't receive the attention it absolutely deserves! The streets are perfect for wandering, the markets and restaurants have some of the most affordable food in the region, and the beach is just an easy bike or tram ride away.

Often overlooked in favor of towns further east along the Mediterranean, Narbonne is perfect for those seeking a quieter destination. It's full of amazing art and archeology museums.

Southwestern France's largest city is also very young. This means there are plenty of cafes and bars to occupy would-be travelers. Additionally, Toulouse is known as "La Vie en Rose" or "The Pink City," thanks to specifically colored bricks that make up the city center.

Carcassonne

Only 40 minutes by train from Toulouse, Carcassonne is one of the best-preserved medieval citadels. Perched on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, it offers some of the best views in Provence.

Like much of southwestern France, Perpignan is influenced by Spain. The Gothic and Romanesque architecture and food are reminiscent of the neighboring country.

Luberon Regional Nature Park

If you want to hike on your southern France adventure, there's no better spot than Luberon Regional Nature Park! There are endless mountain trails and quaint towns, so you'll never be bored.

Camargue Regional Nature Park

Just south of Arles, in the wetlands that spill out into the Mediterranean, is a biodiverse park that is a must-visit. Additionally, the Camargue Horse of the same name can be found running wild within the park.

Sydney is a writer and language nerd from Seattle. She’s lived in Sydney, Montreal, and Luxembourg and is always on the lookout for her next adventure. When she isn’t downing another cup of coffee or conjugating verbs, you can find her in the mountains or near the water. She writes about travel, lifestyle, and language all over the internet. 

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The Best Hotels in the South of France, From Historic Villas to Glamorous Beachfront Properties

By Monica Mendal

Image may contain Architecture Building House Housing Villa Nature Outdoors Scenery Water Waterfront and Car

We may earn a commission if you buy something from any affiliate links on our site.

It’s not like you need an excuse to visit the South of France. Sipping sundowners at the glamorous beach clubs that propagate the sandy shores and cliffside hideouts along the French Riviera really shouldn’t take much convincing, but with so many charming seaside cities and villages to explore, deciding where to stay can be a challenge. Whether you want to revive the nostalgic glory of the golden age of Saint-Tropez , hit the markets in central spots like Nice and Antibes , or hike the Calanques in Marseille and Cassis, there are tons of hotels to choose from in the South of France.

Vogue’s Guide to the Best Coastal Stays in the South of France

  • Nice: Hôtel du Couvent
  • Théoule-sur-Mer: Château de Théoule
  • Saint-Tropez: Hôtel Lou Pinet
  • La Croix-Valmer: Hôtel Lily of the Valley
  • Marseille: Tuba Club, Marseille
  • Antibes: Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Cap d’Antibes

While there’s no shortage of glamorous five-star stays in the Côte d’Azur, there’s something fresh in the air here, as this pristine strip of Mediterranean coastline–which had become saturated with an abundance of unaffordable luxury hotels– is now a beacon for cute boutique stays, attracting that familiar creative revelry that defined the French Riviera in the ’60s and ’70s. From a healthy mix of classic, high-end resorts worth the premium rates, to affordable boutique stays and refurbished mansions-turned-design hotels, below are the best coastal stays in the South of France this summer.

Hôtel du Couvent, Nice

Image may contain Architecture Building Furniture Indoors Living Room Room Dining Room Dining Table Table and Couch

Set to open in June 2024 following a 10 year renovation, three buildings of a former convent nestled in the heart of Nice have been lovingly restored four centuries later to form the 88-room Hôtel du Couvent. The hotel’s fragrant garden extends over 2.5 acres perfumed with olive, lemon and apricot trees; this spiritual quality continues down below in the hotel’s thermal bath circuit, a tribute to the Roman baths in Cimiez, Nice, where guests can plunge into the three successive baths (temperate, hot and cold) before beginning their day in bustling Nice. Guests can then wind down with a drink beside the garden lap pool or in the Guinguette café.

Amenities: Restaurant, bar, spa

Insider Tip: On Saturday mornings, the hotel will open its courtyard to the local market, where the outsiders can buy local products from producers and farmers.

Address: 1 Rue Honoré Ugo, 06300 Nice

Château de Théoule, Théoule-sur-Mer

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After careful restoration of the former soap factory turned private mansion overlooking the sea, the historic Château de Théoule has reinvented itself as a 44-room boutique hotel featuring a private beach, two bars, a spa, pool, and two restaurants. Having preserved the original woodwork of the castle, while punctuating its interiors with carefully selected antiques and velvet upholstery, the property maintains a transportive Art Deco allure, seamlessly blended with modern comforts. From every vantage point on the property, guests benefit from sweeping views of the Bay of Cannes contrasted against the surrounding Massif de l’Estérel, a rugged red mountain range that surrounds the property–making it a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts who have access to an abundance of hiking trails and hidden coves right from their doorstep.

Amenities: Restaurants, bars, private beach, spa

Insider Tip: You won’t have to find your way to a nearby harbor to catch your boat for a day on the water as the property conveniently features a private boat slip.

Address: 55 Av. de Lérins, 06590 Théoule-sur-Mer

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Cap d'Antibes, Antibes

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The Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc has been the pole star for luxury hotels on the French Riviera since its opening in 1870. In 1936, it became the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Hôtel des Étrangers in Tender is the Night, where he wrote: “On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-coloured hotel.” The author described it as being the summer resort of notable and fashionable people–a reputation it still manages to maintain, not simply with its star-studded roster of visitors but through remains of its glamorous past immortalized throughout the property, such as the restaurant’s menus designed by Pablo Picasso in 1955 following his very simple request for paper, ink, and a quiet table to sit and work.

Amenities: Restaurants, bars, pool, spa, fitness center, beauty salon, kid’s club, sea access

Insider Tip: Don’t forget to book a treatment at the new Dior Spa Eden-Roc, just opened last season.

Address: 167-165 Bd J. F. Kennedy, 06160 Antibes

Pan Deï Palais , Saint-Tropez

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In the heart of the village of St. Tropez, Pan Deï Palais forms a private residence originally built by General Jean-François Allard as a gift to his beloved, the Indian princess Bannu Pan Deï in 1835, and ultimately became their family home where their five children were raised. Today, the 12-room luxury boutique hotel preserves that same romantic spirit and warm atmosphere. Like all Airelles hotels, rooms are elegant and understated, and each feature direct access to the blue tile mosaic pool set in a fragrant garden shaded by palm and olive trees. Mini-Moke jeeps and the property’s signature Rolls-Royce are available to shuttle guests to the hotel’s private beach, Jardin Tropézina situated on the famed Pampelonne Beach.

Amenities: Restaurant, bar, pool, private beach, shuttle beach service, spa, fitness center, kid’s club

Insider’s Tip: Have the chef prepare you a picnic to enjoy in the gardens.

Address: 52 Rue Gambetta, 83990 Saint-Tropez

Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel , Antibes

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Opened last summer halfway between Cannes and Nice, the 35-room Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel is Antibes’s buzziest newcomer, making its marks with bubblegum pink sun loungers lining its private beach club and retro Palm Springs-inspired interiors subtly popping up on our Instagram feeds. At Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel, guests also have access to the lively Baba, the hotel’s beachside restaurant, in addition to the Rotunda bar located on a balcony overlooking the sea. If that wasn’t enough, the hotel is also host to Les Pêcheurs, the Michelin-starred fine dining seafood restaurant helmed by Nice native, chef Nicolas Rondelli. While there’s no spa on site, there are two wellness cabanas where guests can book facials or massages on request and yoga classes hosted in the hotel’s private garden or on the rooftop terrace.

Amenities: Restaurant, bar, pool, treatment cabanas, private beach, roof terrace

Insider Tip: Two paddle boats are available at the beach and free for guests to use at their leisure.

Address: 10 Bd Maréchal Juin, 06160 Antibes

Hôtel Amour Nice , Nice

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Fans of Amour Hôtels’ Paris addresses, Hôtel Amour and Grand Amour, can expect the same laidback sensibility at the brand’s seaside destination in Nice. The latest opening from the cult-favorite hotel group, the Nice property offers a welcome contrast to this traditionally pretentious stretch of the Riviera. The comfortable atmosphere is articulated through the hotel’s 38 rooms characterized by the brand’s familiar details, like well-appointed bookshelves and eclectic artwork. Also on the property, guests have access to a shaded patio restaurant (favored among locals and guests alike) and a panoramic rooftop with a swimming pool. Located just 5-minutes from the property, the hotel’s beach club is open in both summer and winter.

Amenities: Restaurant, bar, rooftop pool, beach club

Insider Tip: The hotel is conveniently located less than a block from the train station, making nearly everything in town within walking distance.

Address: 3 Av. des Fleurs, 06000 Nice

Château de la Messardière, Saint-Tropez

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Built within a 19-century chateau in the hillside of Saint-Tropez, Château de la Messardière overlooks the pristine Saint-Tropez Bay, Ramatuelle vineyards, and the glitzy beaches of Pampelonne; while on site, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips. Sporty types will be satisfied with a variety of activities to partake in–from tennis to petanque to pilates and yoga or boxing with a boxing champion—while those looking to relax can hide away in the luxurious Valmont spa or wind down with a drink by one of the property’s two pools. Although there are plenty of restaurants on site, the hotel’s free shuttle service is available for transfers to their private beach, or grab an electric bike or mini-Moke to cruise down on your own.

Amenities: Restaurants, bars, pools, spa, private beach, hair salon, tennis court

Insider Tip: While parents relax, children can enjoy themselves at Airelles Summer Camp – basically a luxury resort to themselves, where they’re encouraged to come and go as they please.

Address: 2 Rte de Tahiti, 83990 Saint-Tropez

Tuba Club , Marseille

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Suspended over a rocky cliff of the Goudes, an area of Marseille renowned for its fishing port, Tuba sits in a 100-year-old property that most famously housed a diving school in the ’80s, one that was frequented by the legendary French diver Jacques Mayol and his friends. Today, the small cliffside hotel is Marseille’s coolest hangout, featuring five eclectic rooms, designed by Marion Mailaender in the spirit of the French cabanon, or fishing shed, a restaurant and various terraces scattered throughout the property. This summer, Tuba will be unveiling a new rooftop terrace above the rocks and the restaurant, Bikini’s, where you’ll find a bar made from a converted old boat hull with a counter created by The Ateliers Laissez Passer , known for their work repurposing waste and materials from the port of Marseille.

Amenities: Restaurant, bar, sea access

Insider Tip: To enjoy the calanques, ask for a Tuba picnic baskets to take with you, which includes: a bottle of wine, anchovy dip, a pan bagnat , some snacks and a fluorescent snorkel.

Address: 2 Bd Alexandre Delabre, 13008 Marseille

Hôtel Les Roches Blanches , Cassis

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Cassis is a lesser-known port city near Marseille, beloved by locals for its pebbly beaches and charming string of cafés and restaurants lining the vibrant port and picturesque old town. Framed by the wild calanques it shares with the neighboring Marseille, the historic Hôtel Les Roches Blanches sits proudly in an old mansion on limestone cliffs, with a pool deck and solarium that descends directly to the sea. Its glamorous art deco past (it opened as a hotel in the 1920’s with Winston Churchill and Edith Piaf as notable guests) informs the architecture, while its modern interiors due to its recent renovation in 2018 create a comfortable and luxurious ambiance.

Amenities: Restaurants, bars, pool deck, sea access, spa, fitness center

Insider Tip: If you’re heading into the old town, ask the concierge for the free buggy service that shuttles guests to and from the town center.

Address: 9 Av. des Calanques, 13260 Cassis

Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, Cap-Ferrat

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Arriving at the iconic Club Dauphin pool, the scene feels as though it’s been plucked straight from a Slim Aarons photograph. Having survived many years of renovations and refurbishments by various owners, the hotel has somehow managed to preserve the very essence that made it a Côte d’Azur landmark in its heyday, especially under the watchful eye of Four Seasons who has managed the property since 2015 and brought with it its exceptional service. While the hotel does not have direct beach access, guests can take the various stairs and pathways or a private glass funicular ride down to Paloma Beach located nearby.

Amenities: Restaurants, bars, pool, spa, fitness center

Insider Tip: For extra privacy and butler service, book the hotel’s newly renovated, historic villas Villa Beauchamp or Villa Clair-Soleil , designed by the acclaimed architect Sybille de Margerie.

Address: 71 Bd du Général de Gaulle, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Hôtel Lou Pinet , Saint-Tropez

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Hôtel Lou Pinet is a dream carried out by the family behind Crillon le Brave and Le Coucou Méribel, and it’s exactly that: a family hotel. With the owners’ ancestral roots and ties to St. Tropez informing the sensibility felt across this bucolic five-star boutique hotel in the heart of St. Tropez, the property feels like you’re at home. With just 34 accommodations surrounding the fragrant garden’s swimming pool and beloved Beefbar restaurant, guests may be hard-pressed to leave the hotel at all. While the property doesn’t have its own beach club, for those that do want to trade the garden pool for the seaside, a free shuttle service to and from the Place des Lices and Tahiti beaches runs daily from 8:30am-12:00pm.

Amenities: Valet parking, spa, fitness center, restaurant, bars, pool, beach shuttle service, pétanque court

Insider Tip: As this is a family hotel–a chic one, of course–stuffed animals and Jacadi welcome products await your little ones upon arrival to your room, while bathtubs and changing mats are also available upon request.

Address: 70 Chem. du Pinet, 83990 Saint-Tropez

Hôtel le Sud , Antibes

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The delightfully low-key Hôtel le Sud makes the perfect home base for an affordable, no-frills seaside retreat on the French Riviera. Situated steps from the train station and in the heart of the lively Juan-les-Pins neighborhood, known for its bustling seafront promenade and long stretch of sandy beaches, the tiny-but-packs-a-punch Hôtel le Sud exudes warmth across its 29 whimsical rooms designed by Stéphanie Lizée , characterized by warm woods, scalloped edges, and playful hand-painted wall doodles. The young and playful energy of the hotel extends into the public spaces, which includes a bar and shaded backyard pool deck with a food truck, where guests can grab light bites throughout the day. While it lacks the bells and whistles of the nearby luxury hotels that line the Riviera (it’s self check-in, for example), the friendly staff makes up for it.

Amenities: Bar, food truck, pool

Insider Tip: Rooms are snug, to be sure, so manage expectations accordingly.

Address: 5 Rue Marcel Paul, 06160 Antibes

Hôtel Lily of the Valley , La Croix-Valmer

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Designed by the legendary Philippe Stark, Hôtel Lily of the Valley is the ultimate wellness stay on the French Riviera. Part wellness sanctuary, part luxury med spa, Lily of the Valley’s unique wellness program created by nutritionist and physician, Dr. Jacques Fricker, offers tailor-made programs customized for each individual following their first check up, including nutritional plans, yoga and exercise regimens, as well as a myriad of various treatments, such as cryotherapy and Indiba. The hotel also features fitness class studios, a semi-Olympic pool, and a spa with saunas, steam rooms, and a snow shower. When it’s time for recovery, guests can recline on a sunlounger on the hotel’s private beach and safely soak up some vitamin D.

Amenities: Restaurants, bars, spa and wellness center, pool, beach club, private parking

Insider Tip: Lily of the Valley is open year-round should you wish to begin your wellness journey ahead of the summer months.

Address: Colline Saint Michel, Boulevard Abel Faivre, Quartier de Gigaro, 83420 La Croix-Valmer

Hôtel La Ponche , Saint-Tropez

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After you’ve parked your car in the parking lot nearby, Hôtel La Ponche’s vintage Piaggio will whisk you to the family home-turned-hotel overlooking the cinematically-acclaimed cove of La Ponche, the famed backdrop in Brigitte Bardot’s And God Created Woman, which guests can treat as their own private swimming pool. Discreetly situated in this authentic fishing village, the hotel is the essence of quiet luxury, featuring 21 rooms and three apartments rooted in elevated simplicity, meticulously designed by Fabrizio Casiraghi , as well as a piano bar and Provençal restaurant that extends from the terrace to the sea. Ask the concierge to book you a motorboat rental for a day at sea with a skipper and a chef-prepared picnic to take with you.

Amenities: Restaurant, bar, beach access, private parking, valet service

Insider Tip: Pets are allowed at an additional fee of €25/day.

Address: 5 Rue des Remparts, 83990 Saint-Tropez

La Réserve Ramatuelle , Ramatuelle

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Often linked to its flamboyant neighbor, St. Tropez, Ramatuelle is a lesser-known town characterized by its medieval hilltop village and long stretch of sandy beaches–of which St. Tropez often claims as its own. To be sure, Ramatuelle is the quieter antidote to its more scene-y neighbor; evidence of this can be found at La Réserve Ramatuelle, a modern five-star resort comprising of an assortment of suites and spacious villas, set in a private estate in the tranquil hillside overlooking a beautiful bay. The property features a variety of dining options on site, as well as a tranquil spa bathed in natural light. While travelers may feel blissfully removed from the crowds, you can be whisked down to join the party at any moment. Just ask for the hotel’s three-wheeler shuttle to escort you down to La Réserve à la Plage optimally situated on Pampelonne beach.

Amenities: Restaurants, bars, pool, spa, fitness center, private beach club

Insider Tip: Ask about VIP rosé tastings at Château La Mascaronne , the hotel’s sister property, located just one hour inland from La Réserve.

Address: 736 Chem. des Cretes, 83350 Ramatuelle

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Condé Nast Traveler

Condé Nast Traveler

15 Best Hotels in the South of France

Posted: July 7, 2023 | Last updated: July 7, 2023

<p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/story/south-of-france-cities-and-towns-beyond-the-postcard-cliches?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication">South of France</a> is a vast area that unfurls from glitzy seaside hangouts (St. Tropez, <a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/story/best-things-to-do-in-cannes?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication">Cannes</a>, Saint-Raphaël) to thriving cities (Marseille, Avignon) and small, inland villages set among the craggy mountains and olive groves. This is our pick of the top stays across the area to inspire your next getaway.</p> <p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/hotels-south-of-france?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication">Condé Nast Traveller UK</a>.</em></p><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

South of France is a vast area that unfurls from glitzy seaside hangouts (St. Tropez, Cannes , Saint-Raphaël) to thriving cities (Marseille, Avignon) and small, inland villages set among the craggy mountains and olive groves. This is our pick of the top stays across the area to inspire your next getaway.

This article was originally published on Condé Nast Traveller UK .

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A vast palace hotel set right in the crux of La Croisette—the oceanfront road in Cannes that's home to exceedingly smart hotels and stores—might sound intimidating. Yes, the Art Deco design is as handsome as they come; all soft blues and whites designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon (also responsible for <a href="https://www.cntraveller.com/article/the-savoy-london-hotel-review?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication">The Savoy</a> in <a href="https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/things-to-do-in-london-this-weekend?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication">London</a> and <a href="https://www.cntraveller.com/article/four-seasons-hotel-george-v-review?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication">Hotel George V</a> in <a href="https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/paris-hotels?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication">Paris</a>). The seventh floor is home to two of Europe's biggest penthouses, so you might see filmmakers or A-listers hopping out of a Bentley out front before being whisked away by impeccably dressed staff. There's a top-notch spa and a garden for relaxing by the swimming pool, two restaurants (one that can lay claim to being the only two-Michelin-starred spot in the city), a bar and a buzzing beach club. This is an old school hotel that's always reinventing itself. —<em>Sarah James</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Hôtel Martinez, Cannes

<p><em>Featured on the U.K.'s 2022</em> <a href="https://www.cntraveller.com/topic/hot-list?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication"><em>Hot List</em></a> <em>of the best new hotels in the world</em></p> <p>This well-located, old-world-meets-new village property offers an ideal blend of quintessential countryside charm with trendsetting, tasteful design. The hotel’s ivy-covered stone walls and typical sky-blue shutters invite guests inside, where the feeling of warmth continues to permeate the decor and service. Creamy, curved rooms are dotted with art, ceramics and wildflowers, and there's the odd hangover from the building's former life as an oil mill (look out for the press in the dining room). <em>Apéro</em> is taken on the street-side terrace, supper is eaten in the rose-covered terrace outback, and you can pop in to the epicerie across the road to pick up local treats to snack on in your room. Everyone here works to lend a hand, be it with the luggage up those steps, giving directions to the Sunday market in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, or unlocking one of the free bikes for a ride around the village. Don’t skip the homemade Fougasse grilled with olive oil at dinner! —<em>Sara Leiberman</em></p><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Le Moulin de Lourmarin

Featured on the U.K.'s 2022 Hot List of the best new hotels in the world

This well-located, old-world-meets-new village property offers an ideal blend of quintessential countryside charm with trendsetting, tasteful design. The hotel’s ivy-covered stone walls and typical sky-blue shutters invite guests inside, where the feeling of warmth continues to permeate the decor and service. Creamy, curved rooms are dotted with art, ceramics and wildflowers, and there's the odd hangover from the building's former life as an oil mill (look out for the press in the dining room). Apéro is taken on the street-side terrace, supper is eaten in the rose-covered terrace outback, and you can pop in to the epicerie across the road to pick up local treats to snack on in your room. Everyone here works to lend a hand, be it with the luggage up those steps, giving directions to the Sunday market in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, or unlocking one of the free bikes for a ride around the village. Don’t skip the homemade Fougasse grilled with olive oil at dinner! — Sara Leiberman

It’s the dazzling light that strikes guests the moment they step inside this stylishly revamped Fifties waterfront retreat. The brainchild of boutique group Beaumier, which teamed up with Paris-based design firm Festen for its first Côte d’Azur property, the concept is refreshingly straightforward: an easy-going hotel, right on the water, inspired by the colors of the shimmering cobalt Mediterranean and rusty orange rocks. Near-identical rooms all have whitewashed walls, polished-concrete floors, minimalist furniture and balconies with canvas butterfly chairs. But the real star attraction is the saltwater pool carved out of the rock, which spills over right into the sea. The freshwater lap pool is surrounded by sunbeds and waiters bearing trays of Rinquinquin, the local peach apéritif. There are two restaurants serving everything Provençal, from pissaladière (onion tart) to steamed cod with garlic mayonnaise and vegetables or roast lamb with rosemary. Teas of cream-filled tarte Tropézienne can be balanced with paddleboarding and kayaking. In each room there are also walking-sticks for hikes along the pebble beach, or a less strenuous wander to the Institut Esthederm spa for a mineral-packed tan-boosting treatment. Afterwards, laze in a hammock with a copy of <em>Tender is the Night</em> (F Scott Fitzgerald’s former digs are close by). —<em>Lanie Goodman</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Les Roches Rouges, Saint-Raphaël

Life isn’t perfect. That’s why we have places like Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, where the world’s most glamorous people descend every summer to live on what feels like an impeccably styled film set. The last day of my most recent stay here—the one I had reserved to spend entirely by its swimming pool, cut into rocks overlooking a glittering blue Mediterranean Sea—turned out to be grey and overcast. By this time, I had already experienced the other attractions: the rose garden, the tennis courts, the private cabanas where I enjoyed a massage, the restaurants that manage to feel casually chic in the day and all dressed up at night, and the Manolo Valdés exhibition on its perfectly manicured lawns, where pine trees are being carefully planted to eventually replace the imposing ones standing now. This is a place where nostalgia is kept alive, where corridors are filled with photographs of its most famous guests from the past 150 years, where golden sunshine infuses everyone and everything with an air of romance, so that your time here feels lengthened and expanded, and etched in memory no matter how short your visit actually is. You will leave so well taken care of, so well-fed, so intoxicated by the heady, fragrant summer breeze, that even a cold final day on the French Riviera will not taint your mood. Instead, it seems like just a little twist in the plot, enough to make you believe that the rest of your life is pretty perfect after all. —<em>Divia Thani</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Cap d'Antibes

Here is a game-changer for this chunk of the Riviera. Amid the soignée old-world grandes dames, this paean to ambitious nouveau luxe from the Maybourne Hotel Group (The Berkeley, Claridge’s and more) faces the future playfully. It is a brazen block of white criss-crossed lines and floor-to-ceiling glass by veteran French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte. The cavernous lobby is a show-stopper, with its colossal sculpture of an intertwined couple by Louise Bourgeois. But the real draw is the light. From the terrace of the Riviera Restaurant (dishes with the finest products from Liguria to Nice), and from each of the 69 rooms and suites, the panorama of mega-yachts and swooping hang-gliders unfurls. Rooms range from apartment-style suites with wrap-around terraces to hill-hugging Corniche rooms with pine-shaded patios. There’s a cutting-edge holistic spa and an indoor and outdoor pool – the latter built into rock so you see only a mirage-like haze of water, sea and sky. The roll call of chefs is starry. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Pool Bar serves truffle pizza and lobster rolls; Japanese chef Hiro Sato steers the sushi; pastry wizard Benoît Dutreige the divine tarts. —<em>Lanie Goodman</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Maybourne Riviera, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

Regulars at this rambling, extraordinary place at the foot of Mont Ventoux will know that the seven stone houses Crillon le Brave occupies once formed part of a prosperous hillside settlement, abandoned after World War II. Swiss and American second-homers snapped up the lovely buildings in the 1970s, and hotelier Peter Chittick and his now wife converted their first property in 1989. Robin and Judy Hutson (of Hotel du Vin and The Pig) joined as investors years ago, and Judy redesigned many of the rooms during a recent refurbishment, giving them a lighter, distinctly seaside-y feel. Bedroom, suites and houses are all connected by passageways and courtyards. La Tour, aka Room 33, is one of the most thrilling, with twin bathtubs, a tower-top terrace and an arched window looking out over the olive groves and vineyards. —<em>Sophie Dening</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Crillon le Brave, Vaucluse

You'd never guess it but behind a massive unmarked iron gate at the end of an impasse lies a magnificent secret garden—Avignon’s largest—and a supremely chic new five-room maison d’hôtes. After seven years of painstaking restoration, Parisian owners Gilles Jauffret (an interior designer and self-professed antique-market addict) and Amaury de Villoutreys have transformed this former residence for cardinals into an enchanting theatrical space filled with rescued church relics, hand-painted screens, rich fabrics and crystal chandeliers. But a museum it is not: beyond the unique decor (inspired by Naples, Venice and the Middle East), the bedrooms are also deeply comfortable. Most romantic is Aphrodite, with its big round bed, ceiling-high white gauzy curtains and huge terrace for cocktail hour. Wild beasts and whimsy also feature: there are tables with Shrek-like feet, a life-size baby elephant sculpture in the salon, and a vintage merry-go-round horse watching over the stairwell. Wherever your eyes fall, there’s something to discover, including the collection of 200 historical regional artworks that decorate the monumental curved staircase. After breakfast in the sunlit conservatory, explore the garden (with a terrific view of the Palais des Papes’ crenelated towers), then follow the jasmine-scented path to the stone pool and a spa pavilion. Jauffret and de Villoutreys will arrange a private dinner in the orangery, or you can step next door to their bar, Le Complot, a converted barn where a switched-on theatre crowd drink local wines alongside plates of sardines and foie gras. —<em>Lanie Goodman.</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

La Divine Comedie, Avignon

You’d be forgiven for walking right past one of France’s most talked-about openings of the past few years. Set in the Marseille fishing neighborhood of Les Goudes, on the edge of the Calanques National Park, this is classic business-up-front, party-in-the-back territory. The former scuba-diving centre once frequented by conservationist Jacques Cousteau is not only facing the sea, it’s practically in it. Those who come without a swimsuit for a cocktail on the rocks—as in actual rocks—consider yourself forewarned: you will get splashed. Inside, a subtle Seventies dive-school theme flows throughout: a wooden beaded curtain in the restaurant; rough-hewn ceramic vases that look as if they were recovered from an ancient shipwreck; Fernand Léger flame-shaped wall lamps. But that’s all part of the appeal of this five-bedroom hotel and restaurant, founded by a self-dubbed friends collective of design and hospitality veterans, which has fast become the hangout for a creative set; staying here is an instant shortcut to the South of France’s hippest scene. —<em>Sara Lieberman</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Tuba Club, Marseille

There are good reasons why, in the first half of the 20th century, the French Riviera in general and St Tropez in particular became the stuff of legend. This is one of them. When it opened in 1936, La Résidence de la Pinède, as it was then known, was an elegant, uncomplicated maison by the sea, a short distance from the town centre. When it reopened in 2019, having been acquired by LVMH, it had been transformed into Cheval Blanc St-Tropez. Though outwardly still the same elegant, uncomplicated maison by the sea, things had actually changed beyond recognition. The interiors by Jean-Michel Wilmotte manage to be at once soothing and startling, with Provençal art everywhere you look. A 20th-century classic has turned into a 21st-century one, with no loss of charm. Cheval Blanc makes for an intriguing contrast with its sister property on St-Tropez’s main square, White 1921 (another LVMH gem), as well as with much-loved Hôtel Byblos, and it holds its own in spite of competition from the likes of Michel Reybier’s La Réserve Ramatuelle and Jocelyne Sibuet’s effortlessly stylish Villa Marie. —<em>Steve King</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Cheval Blanc St-Tropez

A pin-up hotel when the French Riviera was the most fabulous place to go on holiday—especially for stars of the silver screen—has been rebooted for a new generation. Italian designer Monica Damante has rebooted rooms with old-world charm—full of vintage ceramics and sisal rugs. The restaurant serves seasonal Franco-Californian dishes with lots of vegan hits (rare in France). The closest village is Ramatouelle which is smaller and quieter than the other towns on the Riviera. Understated, breezy sophistication on the quieter Riviera—this is a retro oasis for rosé by the pool. —<em>Tom Morris</em><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Epi 1959, Ramatuelle

Twenties café-hotel La Colombe d'Or is where Hitchcock came to finish writing <em>To Catch a Thief.</em> There's a pretty little garden with a tiled pool, where locals sip the lightest rosé and feast on local dishes. The art collection rivals any of France's major museums—an extraordinary hangover from the early 20th century, when guests would pay for their lodging with their work, meaning you can now spot pieces by the likes of Matisse and Picasso hanging on the walls. And the setting is fairytale perfect—on the top of a hill in medieval Saint-Paul-de-Vence, the second most visited <a href="https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/villages-in-france?mbid=synd_msn_rss&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=syndication">village in France</a> after Mont-St-Michel.<p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

La Colombe d'Or Hotel and Restaurant, Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Built into a pretty hillside, this 28-suite villa—an assembly of low-slung rectangles in natural stone with green-planted roofs—looks as though it may have sprung up from Mother Earth when no one was watching. The latest addition to the 600-acre Château La Coste, a wine estate and contemporary arts centre, it combines deep comfort with a minimalist, vaguely Asian vibe. Each of the big, valley-facing bedrooms is a luminous space with floor-to-ceiling windows and a vast terrace. There are gauzy white four-posters and all-marble bathrooms. Museum-quality art abounds (a Perriand bookcase, a Hirst painting) as do places to eat. Steps away is the glass jewel-box Louison and Le Salon, serving all-organic specialities such as chicken with olives and lemon-fennel tart. But the real star of the show here is the landscape, a wondrous vista of pines, oaks and distant foothills entirely in sync with the uncluttered aesthetic of the hotel.<p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Villa la Coste, The Luberon

Capelongue — France

Capelongue, Bonnieux

<p>At first glance, the majestic entrance to the 19-room hotel Domaine de Chalamon—a long narrow road lined with century-old plane trees—conjures a private country estate in deep Provence, which is precisely what seduced entrepreneurial French hôteliers Fréderic Biousse and Guillaume Foucher when they snapped up this 16th-century bastide and then gorgeously reinvented the 15-hectare property along with longtime collaborator architect Alexandre Laforcade. “We wanted to respect the soul of the manor house and also pay homage to Van Gogh, who lived in Saint-Rémy,” says Biousse. In the ever-stylish spirit of the Domaines de Fontenille collection, subtle handpicked details abound: the cathedral-ceiling rooms and salons are a medley of soft sage greens, blues and rose (“we used Van Gogh’s self-portrait as our palette”), with low-slung rectangular sofas by Caravane, custom cane-woven chairs and delicate floral wallpaper by artist Flora Roberts. Over in the Orangerie suites, you wake to birdsong and a view of the verdant French garden and gurgling fountains. Work up an appetite at the inviting stone pool or tennis court and dig in; from the open kitchen, chef Rémi Fasquelle whips up a locally sourced flavor fest—asparagus and wine-steamed morels, John Dory fish in a spicy cardamon sauce, wild garlic-spiked gnocchi and fruity sorbets.</p> <div class="callout"><p><a href="https://cna.st/affiliate-link/C5BN9bLtpHgEjjiNU9Zssnq5xjvHwUDyXqgJNKN9CHnNdhGdFANydg2SbLyVmexhFqpZT7ixjm5VfZmDAQyn1RQUNwHbWFa21DjK1Toqkt6gTR9MaV65veAKcAZEsYH9fRjo657Xpc2eD8NSyFgERXiXDQYk31DXNc3vGyScqLzMczeBmzgkuzx" rel="sponsored" title="Book now at Domaine de Chalamon">Book now at Domaine de Chalamon</a></p> </div><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Domaine de Chalamon, Saint-Rémy-Provence

At first glance, the majestic entrance to the 19-room hotel Domaine de Chalamon—a long narrow road lined with century-old plane trees—conjures a private country estate in deep Provence, which is precisely what seduced entrepreneurial French hôteliers Fréderic Biousse and Guillaume Foucher when they snapped up this 16th-century bastide and then gorgeously reinvented the 15-hectare property along with longtime collaborator architect Alexandre Laforcade. “We wanted to respect the soul of the manor house and also pay homage to Van Gogh, who lived in Saint-Rémy,” says Biousse. In the ever-stylish spirit of the Domaines de Fontenille collection, subtle handpicked details abound: the cathedral-ceiling rooms and salons are a medley of soft sage greens, blues and rose (“we used Van Gogh’s self-portrait as our palette”), with low-slung rectangular sofas by Caravane, custom cane-woven chairs and delicate floral wallpaper by artist Flora Roberts. Over in the Orangerie suites, you wake to birdsong and a view of the verdant French garden and gurgling fountains. Work up an appetite at the inviting stone pool or tennis court and dig in; from the open kitchen, chef Rémi Fasquelle whips up a locally sourced flavor fest—asparagus and wine-steamed morels, John Dory fish in a spicy cardamon sauce, wild garlic-spiked gnocchi and fruity sorbets.

Book now at Domaine de Chalamon

<p>When chef Christophe Baquié, formerly at the Hotel & Spa du Castellet, decided to hang up his apron and explore something new, he and his wife Alexandra found the postcard-perfect Provencal farmhouse surrounded by fruit orchards and an olive grove that would offer the extreme opposite of a Relais & Châteaux mega-resort experience. At Le Mas des Eydins, hidden away in a valley near Bonnieux, there are only five rooms, one suite and one studio; similarly, dining is an intimate affair with ten tables and one nightly fixed menu. The concept: to be closer to guests, like a <em>maison de famille</em>, with the added perk of utter peace, save rustling leaves and whirring cicadas. Nothing beats lounging at the dreamy pool beside a fragrant lavender field, but there’s also plenty to do and see in the Luberon. The spacious neo rustic rooms, designed by Alexandra, are a restful mix of grey, taupe and white, with exposed beam ceilings. Come dinnertime, Baquié serves an exquisitely refined six-course feast (plus tantalizing amuse-bouche tidbits and <em>mignardises</em>) to celebrate Provence—“modern” aioli with octopus, courgette flowers, lamb, langoustine, plus a cornucopia of local cheeses, cherries, strawberries, wild fennel, chocolate-olive madeleines, plus homemade elderberry sake to be savored under the stars.</p> <div class="callout"><p><a href="https://cna.st/affiliate-link/2YfVS2JkEsZbEbPErbyMRy3h7Vm9hefFkquKn4ZCDyfGSLgNnMJYx6Rzphhr3LAk2MSrzAp1JDXLYU8YhEQ4YVrT7aZ5JkeCifnD9tMVDbRE1ZR1LGhnHQBPNvwPLv6MNyKnkCp7Bry8j81LDiC2zmzBmBhYcYegkEt" rel="sponsored" title="Book now at Booking.com">Book now at Booking.com</a></p> <p><a href="https://cna.st/affiliate-link/FzrGcxRntjxTCwBJvgX58cjY9AegoCbF6CMP4YKJ6b4hkSBky89UReSbPmdUTPsbYW458Q3zM1WUW4YzYZ7ooA7tU6NBR6vkR3YUtc8UDwM8ejA279VuEKuxTA5eCWaJfiJ8w1rMvn5Yf1Ua72KUTGUDkTjyavPiRN8uqevoFB2g" rel="sponsored" title="Book now at Agoda">Book now at Agoda</a></p> </div><p>Sign up to receive the latest news, expert tips, and inspiration on all things travel.</p><a href="https://www.cntraveler.com/newsletter/the-daily?sourceCode=msnsend">Inspire Me</a>

Le Mas des Eydins, Bonnieux

When chef Christophe Baquié, formerly at the Hotel & Spa du Castellet, decided to hang up his apron and explore something new, he and his wife Alexandra found the postcard-perfect Provencal farmhouse surrounded by fruit orchards and an olive grove that would offer the extreme opposite of a Relais & Châteaux mega-resort experience. At Le Mas des Eydins, hidden away in a valley near Bonnieux, there are only five rooms, one suite and one studio; similarly, dining is an intimate affair with ten tables and one nightly fixed menu. The concept: to be closer to guests, like a  maison de famille , with the added perk of utter peace, save rustling leaves and whirring cicadas. Nothing beats lounging at the dreamy pool beside a fragrant lavender field, but there’s also plenty to do and see in the Luberon. The spacious neo rustic rooms, designed by Alexandra, are a restful mix of grey, taupe and white, with exposed beam ceilings. Come dinnertime, Baquié serves an exquisitely refined six-course feast (plus tantalizing amuse-bouche tidbits and  mignardises ) to celebrate Provence—“modern” aioli with octopus, courgette flowers, lamb, langoustine, plus a cornucopia of local cheeses, cherries, strawberries, wild fennel, chocolate-olive madeleines, plus homemade elderberry sake to be savored under the stars.

Book now at Booking.com

Book now at Agoda

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places to visit in the south france

Solar eclipse 2024: Follow the path of totality

Solar eclipse, here's what time the eclipse will be visible in your region.

Emily Alfin Johnson

places to visit in the south france

Visitors look through a pair of oversized eclipse glasses set up in the town square on Sunday in Houlton, Maine. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

Visitors look through a pair of oversized eclipse glasses set up in the town square on Sunday in Houlton, Maine.

On Monday, a solar eclipse will cross from Texas to Maine, putting over 30 million people in the path of totality , with a partial eclipse visible briefly for millions more.

Monday's weather forecast for the path of totality

Totality in the U.S. starts around 1:30 p.m. CT/2:30 ET and continues until 2:30 p.m. CT/3:30 p.m. ET, lasting for a few minutes in each location.

The folks at NASA have a detailed breakdown for anyone in the U.S. Just pop in your ZIP code .

If you're lucky enough to find yourself in the path of totality, you can also find a minute-by-minute breakdown of when totality begins in your area, here.

More resources to enjoy the eclipse

  • Sharing the eclipse with tiny humans?  Check out these  kid-friendly total solar eclipse learning guides  from Vermont Public's  But Why,  and this great explainer from KERA Kids on  the difference between a solar and a lunar eclipse .
  • Feeling whimsical?  Here are three ways to  sprinkle a little magic into your eclipse experience .
  • Plan to wander into the wild for the best view?   Here are some tips from outdoor experts.
  • Tips from Bill Nye  on the best ways to enjoy the eclipse.

NPR will be sharing highlights here from across the NPR Network throughout the day Monday if you're unable to get out and see it in real time.

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  1. 15 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

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  2. 10 Amazing Places To Visit In The South Of France

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  3. 8 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    places to visit in the south france

  4. 10 Amazing Places To Visit In The South Of France

    places to visit in the south france

  5. 10 Amazing Places To Visit In The South Of France

    places to visit in the south france

  6. 8 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    places to visit in the south france

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  1. Places To Visit France

  2. Top 5 places to visit in France🇫🇷 #fyp #nature

  3. Top 10 insane places to visit in France 🇫🇷 #france #travel #8daudio #8d

  4. Places to visit in france on your next trip

  5. NEW // VLOG // IN SOUTH FRANCE IN EUS🇫🇷

  6. South France to visit #frenchriviera #travel #summer #vacation #travelvlog #antibes #nice #france

COMMENTS

  1. 20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    Just outside the tourist-trodden center of Gordes lies Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a photogenic monastery founded in 1148 by Cistercians monks. Guided tours of the church and cloisters are ...

  2. 20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    The Camargue. 20. Plage de l'Espiguette. Map of Places to Visit in the South of France. 1. French Riviera Seaside Resorts. Beach in Cannes. The sunny weather, mesmerizing deep-blue sea, and leafy palm trees give the French Riviera a dreamy quality. Also known as the "Côte d'Azur," the French Riviera delivers fabulous beach holidays with a ...

  3. 11 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    Best Places to Stay. One of the more off-the-beaten-path destinations in the South of France is Sète, which is a seaside fishing town about 30 kilometers from Montpellier. It has been referred to as "Little Venice" because of the lovely canals along the streets of this coastal town.

  4. 10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

    While there, watch the Changing of the Guard at 11:55 a.m. daily. Then, explore The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, also known as the Jacques Cousteau Museum. At the end of the day, take time to ...

  5. 16 Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in the South of France

    Villefranche-Sur-Mer. The picturesque town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is a charming place to visit in the South of France. Located close to Nice and Cannes, its vibe is that of an upmarket French fishing village. It has a scattering of lively harbour restaurants where we ate delicious freshly caught fish.

  6. 20+ Best Places to Visit in The South of France

    7- Cassis & Les Calanques. Cassis is a charming coastal town located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of southern France. Nestled between the Calanques (rocky inlets) and vineyard-covered hills, it is renowned for its picturesque harbour, buzzing markets and crystal-clear Mediterranean waters .

  7. 22 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    Toulouse is a fantastic place to visit in South France, and will definitely keep you entertained. Read more: Best Things to do in Toulouse France. 2. Marseille. Marseille is the oldest city in Southern France. In fact, it is the oldest city in all of France and it is second in size only to Paris.

  8. 21 Epic Places to Visit in the South of France

    Sénanque Abbey. Located near the village of Gordes, the Sénanque Abbey is an unmissable place to visit in southern France for those exploring the Luberon Valley! Though the abbey was founded in the 12th century and is still the home of monks today, these days it is best known for its gorgeous lavender fields.

  9. The Ultimate 7 to 10 Days in the South of France Itinerary

    Planning a south of France itinerary is one of the highlights of visiting this incredible country. France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and, although many visitors will stay in Paris, plenty head down to spend 7 to 10 days in the south of France to soak up the sun on the pristine beaches, visit the stunning mountain ranges or learn about French culture on a city break.

  10. 20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    Aix-en-Provence. Aix-en-Provence is one of the best cities in the South of France to visit. Often called the City of a Thousand Fountains, Aix is known for its water features, markets, and beautiful pedestrian lanes and squares dotted with plane trees. A visit to Aix is about being and soaking in the good life.

  11. 20 Best Things to Do in the South of France & Places to Visit

    Cassis is a small town with a big personality, steeped in tradition and beauty. Related read: The 12 Best Things to Do in Cassis, France. 13. Saint Paul de Vence. High in the hills of the French Riviera, Saint Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns in the region.

  12. 15 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    Lets explore the best places to visit in the South of France: 1. Avignon. Source: proslgn / shutterstock. Avignon. For a time in the middle ages this city on the banks of the Rhône was the centre of western Christendom.

  13. Ultimate South of France Itinerary: Provence + French Riviera

    21 Epic Places to Visit in the South of France. Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is then divided into six subregions, whose names you'll probably notice around you as you work through this south of France itinerary-Vaucluse is one example. The bulk of this recommended south of France itinerary takes place in what is colloquially known as ...

  14. 30+ Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France!

    Best places to visit in Southern France #1 Montpellier. Often referred to as the 'Paris of the South,' Montpellier is filled with Haussmannian architecture and plenty of historical museums and art exhibitions. As one of the largest cities in France, it's also home to oodles of coffee shops, bars, and cafés.

  15. 10 Breathtaking Places to Visit in South France (+ Map)

    7. Cirque de Gavarnie. The Cirque de Gavarnie is one of the most awe-inspiring places to visit in South France. Located in the heart of the French Pyrenees, it's a natural horseshoe-shaped bowl formed by the mountains, about 3000 meters wide at the top and around 1500 meters high.

  16. 8 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    Provence. Provence is a blanket term for the southeastern part of France that sprawls along the Mediterranean coastline and up into the rolling, vineyard-lined hills beyond. The best way to take in the region is by car, starting in the storybook-like medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence. Make the former farming estate of Domaine de Manville ...

  17. Best Places to Visit South of France

    4. Avignon. Avignon is one of the most beautiful cities in southern France. Today part of the Provence region in Southeastern France, the city sits on the Rhône River, and it was the capital of the papacy from 1309 to 1377. Avignon is one of the best places to visit in South of France to explore for history lovers.

  18. 12 Coolest Things to Do in the South of France This Year

    Climb the Montagne Sainte-Victoire. This is a must-do while in the South of France. The Montagne Sainte-Victoire is a stunning natural landmark and a popular spot for hikers and climbers. Cezanne was so inspired by its beauty that he painted the famous Mont Saint-Victoire around 1906.

  19. 10 Amazing Places To Visit In The South Of France

    This all makes it one of the best places to visit in the south of France; especially when on the western fringes of the country. Read more: Best beach holiday in France. 8.) Marseille. Love it or hate it, Marseille is the biggest city in the south of France to visit. Yes, it's a little bit of everything.

  20. 10 Most Amazing Destinations in the South of France

    La Côte des Basques is considered the optimal beach for riding the waves. 6. Arles [SEE MAP] Sprawled along the banks of the Rhône River in the south of France, Arles has been an important cultural center and trading port since Julius Caesar founded it as a Roman colony in 46 B.C.

  21. South of France

    The South of France is a popular place for a lot of Europeans. Many Dutch, Belgians, English, Italians and Spanish love to travel to the South of France. Locally known as "le Midi". If you are planning on visiting France then you should definitely visit the south of France otherwise you would miss out on a fantastic travelling experience.

  22. 14 Best Places in the South of France: Must-Visit Gems!

    Best Places in the South of France. 1. Antibes. With its beautiful sandy beaches, friendly locals, impressive yachts in the marina, adorable old town, and some of the best gelato in the world, Antibes is my favorite all-time favorite place in the Cote d'Azur. Don't forget to visit the Picasso Museum in the former Château Grimaldi.

  23. The 18 most beautiful beaches in the South of France

    Paloma Beach, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Paloma Beach on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat - named after Paloma Picasso, who spent time with his family in the tranquil, tucked-away spot - has always been considered one of the French Riviera's most captivating beaches. Nestled deep within greenery, in a breathtaking location, Paloma is the best place for pure ...

  24. 10 Places to Visit in the South of France • The Blonde Abroad

    Menton. One of the best-kept secrets in the south of France, Menton sees more sun than most other places in the country. From the 13th century to the French Revolution, Menton was ruled by Monaco's Grimaldi family — the same Grimaldi family that Grace Kelly married into in 1956!

  25. 24 must-visit destinations in the South of France

    France's second-largest city is located right on the Mediterranean, a nice change of pace from Paris. You can eat well cheaply at Les Halles (the public market) in Old Port, visit two amazing ...

  26. 24 must-visit destinations in the South of France

    France's second-largest city is located right on the Mediterranean, a nice change of pace from Paris. You can eat well cheaply at Les Halles (the public market) in Old Port, visit two amazing ...

  27. The Best Hotels in the South of France to Book This Summer 2024

    Vogue's Guide to the Best Coastal Stays in the South of France. Nice: Hôtel du Couvent; Théoule-sur-Mer: Château de Théoule; Saint-Tropez: Hôtel Lou Pinet; La Croix-Valmer: Hôtel Lily of ...

  28. 15 Best Hotels in the South of France

    South of France is a vast area that unfurls from glitzy seaside hangouts (St. Tropez, Cannes, Saint-Raphaël) to thriving cities (Marseille, Avignon) and small, inland villages set among the ...

  29. When and where you can see the total solar eclipse

    When and where you can see the total solar eclipse : Solar eclipse 2024: Follow the path of totality This tool from NASA allows you to get your exact window to see Monday's eclipse; all you need ...

  30. Total solar eclipse: Where and when it was most visible

    A total solar eclipse created a celestial spectacle Monday in the skies over parts of Mexico, the United States and Canada after a nearly seven-year wait.