If you want to see the lavender fields, enjoy the best of the outdoor in Provence and have nice weather, this region would be beautiful in spring and fall as well. This list of best places to visit is definitely not exhaustive, but these 8 most beautiful villages and towns will hopefully whet your appetite enough to get you packing.
Best Places to Visit in Provence
Home to the international skin care brand L’occitane, Aix-en-Provence is a small town south east of Avignon. Known as the city of a thousand fountains, you cannot leave Aix-en-Provence without checking out at least two of them: The Fontaine d’Albertas, a national monument, standing in an ornate baroque square (shown below) and Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Square of the four dolphins) built in 1667.
Take a stroll along Cours Mirabeau, one of the busiest and liveliest places in the city, and visit the nearby Granet Museum, considered one of the finest museums in France. Don’t forget to buy some Calisson (traditional French candy) from the famous patisserie Bechard on Cours Mirabeau.
Art lovers will enjoy walking in the footsteps of Paul Cézanne. A pedestrian route leads you from the house where he was born to his final resting place in the St Jean cemetery, with many other points of interest along the way.
Cassis is a beautiful coastal town at the end of Le Calanques (Mediterranean fjords). With spectacular cliffs that start at the coast of Marseille and stretch for about 20 km, this is a great area if you love hiking. The Calanques de Cassis are an incredible spectacle that must be seen to be believed. The only way (by land) to access the spectacular beaches hidden between the towering precipices is to hike up and over the unforgiving limestone landscape.
This little town offers a pleasant respite from Provence’s more popular port cities in it’s dramatic seaside setting, framed by the imposing white cliffs and the series of calanques tucked among them. Winemaking is now the primary activity in the region, but Cassis has maintained it’s idyllic fishing village vibe, with pastel colored buildings lining the harbor. Be sure to sample the local specialty, a very particularly prepared bouillabaisse, before you leave.
Avignon is probably best known as the center of the religious conflict that took place in the 14th century, when Pope Clement V decamped to the French city and moved the seat of the Catholic Church out of Rome for nearly 70 years. The main attractions in Avignon are Pont Saint-Bénézet (the famous medieval bridge on the Rhone river, also known as the Pont d’Avignon) and Palais des Papes where the Popes resided between 1309-1377 during the Avignon papacy.
Avignon is a great place to acquaint yourself with one of the most important things in Provence, the food. Sample some goat cheese, breathe in the olives, and grab a tart and a glass of white wine for a light lunch.
With it’s mix of culture, history, and delicious things to eat and drink, Avignon is undoubtedly one of the best cities in the South of France.
This town is also the perfect base for day trips to the Luberon villages.
Gordes is one of the most popular villages in the Luberon region and comprises of stone and ochre houses with an yellow tint perched atop a hill.
This lovely village is also home to the famous Senanque Abbey, which people from all over the world flock to for the lavender fields surrounding it.
You’ll find the best lavender fields around Gordes, so if you are visiting in Lavender season this is another great reason to see it. The town itself is very small and most parts of it can be seen within a few hours.
Roussillion is another super popular village in Provence, mainly because it’s buildings are all shades of red.
It’s home to one of the largest Ochre deposits in the world. You can also explore the nearby Ochre Trail.
Once an important economic source for the region, today the ochre mines bring wealth to the area in another way – with tourism! The former ochre mine has been mapped out for an easy walk and it’s an absolutely breathtaking experience walking through the deep canyons and marvelling at the shapes etched into the earth – first by industry, and then by nature. Located at the southern end of the Plateau de Vaucluse, Roussillon affords incredible views over the Luberon valley. On the road trip to Roussillion, stop at a lavender field near Bonnieux.
It may not have the official title of most beautiful in France, but Bonnieux could be of the prettiest villages in Provence. The old town is petit, and best explored by foot.
You’ll find some delicious looking treats in the boulangerie and can even experience first hand how bread is made traditionally in the bakery museum. Like most other medieval French villages, Bonnieux too has it’s fair share of churches. Perched at the very top of the village is the 12th century the top of the village is the “Vieille Eglise” (old church), and below is newer Church “Eglise Neuve” built in 1870. Don’t forget to get some gelato from Scaramouche when you are in Bonnieux.
One of the most well-preserved villages of Provence, Ménerbes shines as an example of a village that is both a beautiful place to visit and to live.
The charming village, whose buff-colored buildings seem to almost disappear into the leafy landscape, is dominated by the Protestant-built citadel, a remnant from Ménerbes’ time as an important Protestant stronghold during the French Wars of Religion. Ménerbes is an exquisite village that attracts holidaymakers from around the world in search of understated luxury in tune with nature. Given it’s location, it has an unsurprisingly strong wine culture.
The museum, which is privately owned, is located 2km from the village in the grounds of the Domaine de la Citadelle, a charming vineyard that’s open for tastings and tours.
Pretty town not far from Avignon. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is famous for the canals that flow throughout the town marked with antique shops, boutiques, cafes, and souvenir shops and has a real vibrancy to it.
And the moss covered water wheels that pepper the canals aren’t the only remnant of what was once a booming textile industry in the area.
It’s a beautiful place to wander around. The river Sorgue surrounds the city as if to hug it. Walking along the canals you will notice how they run between the narrow ancient streets.