Provence is one of those magical places that inspire any travellers. A trip to Provence gives you a very varied experience with all kinds of attractions. Amongst the coolest things to see in Provence, you will find everything from ancient ruins to precious castles, surprising natural sights and much more. In addition, in this fascinating natural environment of the Provence Region, you will also find some of the most beautiful villages in Southern France.
Nevertheless, Provence is much more than its picturesque places, it’s also about a cheerful but calm ambiance. Many hours of sunshine, magical light, local festivities, and of course lavender that blooms every summer. The atmosphere in Provence is really unique and hard to describe with words. We have already traveled many times in this part of the Southern France, and every time we get to know astonishing natural attractions and beautiful villages in Provence. In order to share our love for this region with you, we collected together the 14 places we consider essential to visit in Provence.
Things to do in Provence – The essentials
Although Nimes doesn’t belong strictly to the Region of Provence, but it’s found in Languedoc-Roussillon, near the border between the two regions, you can’t miss out on this wonderful city when you visit Provence. Nimes is often referred to as the “French Rome” because of the several antique sites are found here from the era of the Roman Empire. The two highlights are the Arena of Nimes, which is a Roman coliseum and the Maison Carrée, the only Roman temple that remained intact in Gaul, as this province was called then.
If you fancy visiting antique ruins, one of your favourite places to visit in Provence will be Arles. Van Gogh also lived some time in this city on the banks of the Rhone River. Arles is full of constructions that date back to the Roman Empire and the Old Town of Arles is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arles has a fantastic Roman coliseum (in somewhat worse shape than that of Nimes) called the Arles Amphiteatre, a Roman theatre, underground crypts and the baths of Constantine. In addition to the Roman ruins, it’s worth simply getting lost in the narrow streets of the Old Town with a lot of picturesque places to take great pictures.
Although Nimes and Arles have several wonderful monuments from the Roman era, if there’s one monument from this period that is essential to visit in Provence, it’s the Roman Theater in Orange. It’s the only Roman theater in Europe that conserves the original theater wall (the others are in Siria and Tunisia), in addition, it’s in a perfect shape. In the Roman era more than 10,000 people could attend the performances and even nowadays interesting shows and concerts are organized here.
Apart from the theater, Orange also has an impressive Arch of Triumph from the 1st century BC.
The most impressive historical neighborhood to see in Provence is Avignon without any doubt. The sights that stand out in this fantastic medieval town the Papal Palace (the residence of the popes during the period when the papacy stayed in Avignon), the precious Pont Saint-Bénézet (Bridge of Avignon), the Notre-Dam-des-Doms Cathedral, the Little Palace and the city walls.
In addition to visiting the main highlights, we recommend you to just walk amongst the cobbled streets in the Old Town or enjoy the atmosphere in the great squares the city has.
One of the most elegant cities to visit in Provence, and probably one of the most beautiful cities in France is Aix-en-Provence with its bourgeois atmosphere and fantastic cultural heritage. Its ample boulevards such as the marvellous Cours Mirabeau, the elegant squares and the daily markets all contribute to the charm of this city. When we talk about Aix-en-Provence, we can’t forget to mention Cézanne, the impressionist painter who lived several years in town and whose art was deeply influenced by the ambiance and the colors of this beautiful Provençal town.
¡Find here the best organized excursions in Provence! or you can book directly one of our suggestions clicking on the banner below.
The second largest city in France, Marseille is located in a perfect place on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea with some attractions that will amaze you. Although it’s probably not the kind of city we love the most, since it’s noisy, busy and quite polluted, it’s an indispensable stop in any itinerary around Provence. From the different neighborhoods of Marseille, we like the old harbour and its surroundings the most, perfect for a romantic walk. Near the harbour you can find a hill with the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica on the top. The views from up there are simply astonishing.
While you are in Marseilles, you should seriously consider a trip to Nice, a beautiful city in the Côte d’Azur of the Provence Region.
Find great budget accommodation in Marseilles!
It’s not surprising that Gordes is always mentioned on the lists of the most beautiful villages in Provence and in all France. This village situated on top of a hill will impress you from far distance with its stone houses and terracota roofs. It’s a real pleasure getting lost amongst the cobble stone streets with its clearly medieval atmosphere, visiting the castle or simply enjoying the view of the surrounding landscape that inspired Marc Chagall and many other famous artists.
One of the most picturesque villages to visit in Provence is Roussillon, a small Provencal village with little more than 1,000 inhabitants. Roussillon is very colorful: organge, red and yellow are the main colors, which is the result of the ochre that was used in the construction of the houses.
Near Roussillon, you can get to visit the antique stone mine, where the ochre was extracted. You can follow the trail named the Sentier des Ocres, in which you will get the chance to see lots of different colorful rock formations. Absolutely amazing!
9. Les Baux de Provence
Few villages show such a dramatic scenery as the spectacular village of Les Baux de Provence, situated on top of one of the peaks of the Alpilles mountain chain. The ruins of the castle preside the views of this village of merely 400 inhabitants, and walking along its medieval streets amongst the picturesque ruins will take you back a few centuries in time. It’s a very popular place to see in Provence amongst tourists, therefore, we advise you to visit early in the morning or around sunset.
10. Saint-Rémy de Provence
Saint-Rémy de Provence doesn’t only inspire travelers, but it already did inspire Van Gogh, the famous painter who lived his most productive years in this Provencal village. Saint-Rémy de Provence is a relatively large village with around 10,000 inhabitants, and the historical part of the city is really wonderful with many beautiful buildings and romantic spots.
The best thing to do here is to follow the steps of Van Gogh, an itinerary that follows the most important places where the Dutch painter created his impressive art-work. There are signs with detailed explanations and illustrations with Van Gogh’s paintings. Since we are big fans, we really felt emotional as we visited the places where some of the paintings we already saw in museums were created, and the paintings came to life this way. Some of the places are not easily recognizable, but these olive trees stay in the same place.
Many people call L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (Island on the Sorgue River is its literal translation) as the Venice of Provence. Although the Venice comparison is a large exaggeration as usual, but it’s really one of the most beautiful villages in the South of France. The cafés on the riverbanks, the watermills which are still functioning and the typical boats that you will find along the river, all contribute to the special atmosphere.
12. Lavender Fields
In summer visiting the blooming lavender fields is the ultimate thing to do in Provence. Every summer between the middle of June and middle of August, lavender fields turn into a purple sea that can be seen from far distance. Sitting down amongst the flowers in a blooming lavender field, enjoying the scent and listening to busy bees doing their jog is one of the most romantic things to do not only in Provence, but in the whole world. Lavender fields in different areas don’t bloom at the same time, but we tell you all the information about the best lavender routes in Provence so you can plan your trip.
13. The Provençal Colorado
One of the most surreal places to see in Provence is the Provençal Colorado, situated close to the village of Rustrel. It seems almost impossible that a few kilometers from lavender fields and vineyards, you can find such a surprising landscape. The Provençal Colorado was created as a result of the extraction of ochre in this area together with the erosion of the landscape during several centuries. There are several itineraries to follow, which will take you to different rock formations where you can get to see more than 20 colors of the ochre stones. This is one of the most impressive natural sights in France.
Find here the best rates for your rental car!
14. The Camargue
You can’t finish a tour around Provence without dedicating some time to the spectacular landscape of the Camargue Region. The Camargue is like a world apart in the Provence Region with swampy landscape, fishing villages, lagoons where group of pink flamingos dance and large fields where white horses, the main symbols of the region, run.
COLLIURE, one of the most beautiful villages in Southern France
Lovely villages around PERPIGNAN
The most beautiful lavender fields in PROVENCE
These are some of the main highlights to visit in Provence, but there are much more interesting places to explore in this magical region. If you have any favorite we haven’t mentioned, share it with us in the comment section.