Provence has long been one of France’s most popular holiday destinations, not least because of its sunshine record and glorious beaches. Artists and writers have been inspired by its landscapes for centuries and today its laid back lifestyle attracts visitors from all over the world. Here are six reasons why everyone should visit Provence.
Walking and cycling
Walking or cycling through scenery that bewitched the likes of Van Gogh and Matisse is truly a tonic for the spirit. From the drama of the Lubéron mountains to the vibrancy of lavender and sunflower fields, the Provençal landscape provides an unparalleled opportunity to forget the pressures of daily life. There are numerous tracks and trails to follow, leading over hills and peaks, through sun drenched olive groves and along the beautiful Mediterranean coast.
Evidence of Provence’s long and eventful history exists all over the region. The most famous structure is the Pont du Gard, built by the Romans and spanning the River Gardon. The site now houses a museum that traces the history of the aqueduct with multimedia and reconstructions.
Other impressive structures include the twin-tiered Les Arènes amphitheatre in Nîmes, the medieval Monastère de la Verne, a monastery perched precariously on mountainside and the 14th century Palais des Papes, which housed nine Popes and today hosts art exhibitions and theatre performances.
Provence’s position on the Mediterranean coast means that the region enjoys a reputation for fine seafood. A trip to Marseilles isn’t complete without a dish of bouillabaisse, the city’s classic, rich seafood broth, which is typically served with thick slices of bread. Provençal cuisine also includes lots of Mediterranean vegetables – ratatouille originated here – and sweet treats such a nougat and Tarte Tropézienne, a brioche cake filled with orange flower cream.
It goes without saying that the beaches of Côte d’Azur are some of the most famous in Europe. The white sand and glittering waters of the Mediterranean Sea have attracted sunseekers and the well heeled for decades, with the Cap d’Antibes proving particularly popular. But it’s also possible to find quieter coves. The beaches around the Calanques, for example, are sheltered inlets that can be reached by boat and remain less crowded, while just three miles from Monaco is the Plage Saint-Laurent, a secluded and beautiful beach.
To the east of Avignon lie the hills and mountains of the Lubéron, where the mistral wind buffets ancient trees and vineyards and cherry orchards bask in sunlight. The undulating terrain is dotted with charming villages, among them Buoux, a tiny hamlet that’s home to a ruined fort and Saignon with its distinctive silhouette that continues to attract artists and photographers. It’s here that life is slowest, the relaxed pace proving infectious to all who visit.
For a livelier taste of Provençal culture, there are plenty of cities to explore. The Vieux Port of Marseilles is always bustling and the Palais Longchamps has beautiful gardens and fountains. Avignon has a wealth of museums, churches and architectural marvels including the clock tower and town hall in the Place de l’Horloge. Monaco, of course, is always worth a visit, with its old casino dominating the main square and many waterside cafes and restaurants to enjoy fine cuisine.
About the author
Charlotte Carlton works for Belle France, a company with 30 years experience in delivering handcrafted walking, cycling and canal/river cruising holidays in France. With specialist knowledge of the regions and long standing relationships with hoteliers, bike suppliers and taxi firms, it is ideally placed to offer customers a unique experience in a beautiful country.Last modified: June 10, 2021