Trip Ideas

7 Splendid Reasons To Visit The Provence Region Of France

Even if you’ve never been to the Provence region, this colorful part of France can conjure images of lavender fields in late afternoon light, sun-soaked villas dotting the green countryside, sprawling vineyards, tiny villages with charming alleyways, and ritzy film festivals frequented by the rich and famous.

If this is your presumption, you wouldn’t be far off—Provence is certainly a magical corner of the world.

While most visitors head straight for Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and wander the Louvre, there are plenty of other destinations in France to consider. Just a few hours train ride from the capital city is the Provence region, located in the southeast bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea.

Here is an opportunity to slow down and get away from the hustle and grit of Paris, opting for things like lounging by the sea, drinking wine at a vineyard, and admiring the colorful countryside.

Thinking of making the Provence region your next getaway? Here are 7 reasons to visit:

1. Outdoor markets

Provence Region of France

You haven’t truly been to an outdoor market until you’ve meandered one in Provence. Markets here are mini-universes in and of themselves, enchanted worlds filled with vendors selling everything from sustainable garments to fresh produce, homemade soaps to artisan cheese. (So much cheese!)

In the small town of Uzès is what some may call the best market in the whole Provence region. Its Saturday market is huge, spreading across multiple streets and squares—truly the heartbeat of the town. As you begin to explore, the sunlight filters through the majestic leafy trees lining the road, the smell of lavender and fresh baguettes fill the air, and it feels as if it’s the only place that exists in the world.

Grab a fougasse (an herbed bread similar to focaccia) and try to convince yourself that you don’t need to buy one of everything in the local boulangerie (French for “bakery”).

On top of the plethora of things to purchase, the town itself invades your senses as well, distracting your eyes from the multitude of meat and cheese stalls and instead directing them to the gorgeous architecture looming up on either side of you.

Get there early, as the Uzès market is incredibly popular and fills up fast, making traffic and parking somewhat challenging.

2. Amazing architecture

Provence Region of France

Sure, Paris has the Eiffel tower and elegant wrought-iron balconies, but the Provence region has its own unique architectural delights. It’s filled with impressive sites dating back to the Roman Empire, medieval palaces and churches punctuating the countryside.

The Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct from the 1st Century AD, is a feat of Roman engineering. It is the highest existing Roman aqueduct, sitting at 50 meters above the river.

The Maison Carrée in Nîmes is one of the best-preserved temples from the former Roman Empire, built 16/19 BC—and it remains intact today because it was converted into a Christian church in the 4th Century AD.

Many castles and forts sit atop hills all over the region, such as in Les Baux-de-Provence, a village on a high rocky hilltop that was inhabited as early as 6000 BC.

On top of all that, there are the amphitheaters, or arenas. Arles, which was once the capital of Roman Provence, is home to the famous amphitheater built in the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD. It could hold 12,000 spectators, eager to watch gladiators battle.

Provence Region of France

3. Coastline

 

 
 
 
 
 
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One thing Paris doesn’t have? Miles of rich blue Mediterranean coastline. Imagine clear bright water below cliff-top villages, a mesmerizing scene of greens and blues.

Visit Paloma Beach in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a half-private, half-private beach frequented by celebrities. Explore the seaside towns, lounge on a bright yellow beach bed, and be astounded that you’re in little old France.

4. Indulge in all the local cuisine

Provence Region of France

France is known for its never-ending supply of indulgent treats, and Provence is no exception. In addition to all the obvious French delicacies—croissants, dry sausage, paté, cheese, macarons, crepes—Provence itself has some local dishes that deserve to be tried.

Try bouillabaisse, a fish stew specific to Marseilles, or daube, a “poor man’s” beef stew.

You can’t go wrong with Provence’s most famous dish, ratatouille—a vegetable casserole made with tomatoes, onions, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, garlic and herbs. (It’s so famous it even had a Disney film named after it.)

For sweets, try calisson, the traditional candy of Aix-en-Provence since the 17th Century, made from almond paste flavored with melon and orange preserves.

5. Explore the arts

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Vincent Van Gogh favored the small Provence town of Arles, and spent over a year there in the late 1800s. The Dutch painter had grown tired of life in Paris and pined for the sunshine and vibrant colors of Provence.

This was a hugely prolific time for Van Gogh, creating numerous works of art and developing a painting style known for its bold color and powerful brushstrokes. Some of his most important works were created here, such as “Bedroom in Arles,” “Café Terrace at Night,” and “Sunflowers.”

The success of Van Gogh, along with other notable artists who spent time in the Provence region such as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Auguste Renoir, infused the area with creativity and a reverence for beauty that still exists today.

Check out the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence or the Fondation Vincent van Gogh in Arles. In Nice, visit Matisse’s personal home at the Musée Matisse or the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC), enjoying a coffee on the terrace overlooking the city. There’s truly no lack of creative inspiration in Provence.

6. Wander tiny villages

Provence Region of France

The Provence region is brimming with endless villages, delightful little mazes of quaint streets, charming homes with terracotta rooftops, and picturesque shops. They’re easy to get lost in, and it’s one of the best ways to spend time in Provence.

Choose between seaside escapes, medieval squares, and tranquil towns amidst lavender fields. Try the cliff top village of Gordes and its incredible castle, the Mediterranean village of Seillans so steep that it’s only accessible by foot, or Porquerolles, boasting both a medieval center and scenic harbor.

7. See the lavender and sunflower fields

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Perhaps the most iconic of all the sights of Provence are its fields of lavender and sunflowers. You can’t visit the Provence region without passing by at least one, and they’re truly a must-see.

The “blue gold” is used for soaps, cosmetics, and even cuisine, while the sunflowers are harvested for their oil and seeds. The months between July and August are the best time to see both.

The best lavender destinations? Try Notre-Dame de Senanque, a Cistercian abbey in Gordes surrounded by acres of lavender, or the Valensole Lavender Festival. The best sunflower destinations? On the side of the road!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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For some of the best markets, architecture, cuisine, art, and countryside that France has to offer, don’t miss the Provence region.

Suggested next reading: 10 Beautiful Locations In The French Riviera Worthy Of Your Bucketlist

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