The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France unites contrasts like no other: small towns, playful villages and luxury resorts, as well as mountainous country, sea and picturesque landscapes. In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, a holiday in France is sure to delight. Lively beaches, lovely landscapes, old towns full of history - the region encompassing Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur appeals to all the senses. Visitors are enthralled by the light, and the intense colors that once inspired Vincent van Gogh. Dive into the jet-set hustle and bustle around St. Tropez or explore hidden villages in the hinterland, where celebrities meet bohemnians and nature lovers.
Provence-Alpes-Côte d‘Azur: Most important regions & places at a glance
High Provence: lavender fields, wide landscapes & individual vacationers
The color violet dominates the landscape south of the French Alps where lavender fields extend to the horizon (Plateau de Valensole). For many, this is the true Provence. Beyond sightseeing miles you can enjoy the endless expanses or seek out mountainous worlds (Luberon, Verdon Gorge). Travelers looking for peace and quiet stay in the Jabron valley, villages and towns such as Forcalquier have an authentic feel.
Biking, Canyoning & Extreme sports: the rivers of Durance, Verdon and Aces surround the Plateau de Valensole. From late June to early August, lavender is in full bloom. The landscape is so flat that it can be easily explored by bike (about 30 kilometers round trip from Valensole). For hiking, the Luberon has a lot to offer: rugged cliffs, pine forests, lavender and vineyards. The wild, romantic landscape has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. It becomes even more adventurous along the D952 to the east: The Grand Canyon de Verdon is an Eldorado for whitewater rafters or cliff climbers. Even further in the direction of the Maritime Alps (Alpes Maritimes), the mountain ranges rise to impressive passes.
Village Life & Bohemian flair: Those looking for peace and solitude, will be in their element in the Jabron valley: bohemians and eco-farmers live between the mountain ranges of Lubéron massif and Lure mountains at their own pace. Boules is played on the village squares and there is a gush of lush market stalls. Locals flock to the large weekly market on Mondays in Forcalquier, a charming town in the north of the Parc Régional du Luberon. Be sure to try the goat’s cheese from this region.
Rhone Valley: Viticulture, Natural monuments & Mini-Alps
The name "Côtes du Rhône" can be seen on the labels of every good wine, but the Rhone Valley, which also forms the western border of Provence, doesn’t only attract wine connoisseurs. The region also offers cultural attractions in the cities of Avignon, Arles and Orange and some natural monuments (source of Sorgue in the Vaucluse plateau, ocher rocks near Roussillon). The Alpilles, which is a miniature version of the limestone Alps (Kalkalpen) at almost 500 meters altitude, makes comfortable mountaineering possible.
Wine castles & Fine dining: Vineyards in the north, vineyards in the south: The course of the Rhone changes the landscape of the famous wine-growing area. Connoisseurs travel straight on the D 192 to Châteauneuf du Pape (between Orange and Avignon), past fabulous castles to visit the former papal residence and the village at its feet. Little has been left of the castle ruins since World War II, but there are many wineries, restaurants and fine bistros overlooking the vines and sommeliers who know how to serve up the best vintages.
Hidden gems beyond mass tourism: Beyond the vineyards, it becomes more mountainous. At Malaucène the ridge of Mont Ventoux (1912 meters) rises. The climb is worthwhile so long as the weather conditions are favourable, because then you can see a panorama extending from the Mediterranean in the south to the snow-capped peaks of the Hautes-Alpes in the north. The Vaucluse plateau, with its picturesque villages lies to the south, and here, many are spared from mass tourism: historic market squares, medieval walls and pretty churches are among the hidden attractions. A literally overcrowded attraction, however, is the spring of the Sorgue at the eponymous village of Fontaine -de-Vaucluse. The largest spring in France occupies fifth place worldwide. At Roussillon, it is worth it to take a detour to see the orange-red rock formations: a footpath ("Chaussée des Géants") above the village leads through the imposing ravines. Non-slip footwear is a must.
Long-distance hiking trails & Olive groves: Just under 500 meters in altitude and yet a mountain range: the Alpilles between Avignon and Arles are made of limestone, rugged cliffs and gorges alternate with fertile valleys and a variety of Mediterranean plants. A long-distance hiking trail (just under five hours away) goes along the ridge, at times you will need to clamber and scramble your way up. Sprawling olive groves extend to the south of the ridge, around the village of Maussane-les-Apilles. Tip: The northeastern Alpillen foothills (Les Plaines) is also worth a hike.
World Heritage Site in Orange & Arenas in Arles: In addition to Avignon, you should also visit the other historic Rhône destinations. The well-preserved amphitheater and Triumphal Arch of Orange have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Arles Amphitheatre is still used today for concerts and bullfights. The city of Arles is the gateway to the Camargue and has been immortalized in many works by van Gogh.
Camargue: Horseback riding, Birdwatching & Salt lakes
The marshy, wetland landscape in the Rhone Delta is famous for its robust, grey Camargue horses. Riders and trekking fans can get into the saddle right away. Even for birdwatchers, the Camargue is a paradise, not only because of the magnificent flamingos. The landscape itself is of a barren beauty, but those who look closely, discovers many hidden wonders (play of colors in the salt pans). You should also visit the historical sites (Arles, Aigues Mortes).
Cowboys & Horse-watching: Rough marsh grass and salt water characterize the habitat of the Camargue horses, known for their fast galloping and maneuverability. Experienced riders will find many opportunities to try it out - right down to the "Gardian" course, where the French cowboys’ techniques are taught. The sight of the drovers in the middle of the wild herds is worth the trip, as well as the harsh landscape.
Salt lakes & Flamingos: Salin de Giraud offers a fascinating view of the surrounding salt lakes, where flamingos fish for food. Incidentally, most of the French salt is extracted by evaporation (Salins du Midi).
Medieval walls: In addition to the city of Arles in the north, Aigues Mortes offers many impressions for culture lovers seeking sightseeing opportunities. A completely preserved city wall, of which a tour is possible, encircles the historical center. When your feet are tired, the cafés around Place St. Louis have some shady spots to enjoy French drinking.
Alpes Maritimes: Winter sports, Hiking & Sea air
The French Maritime Alps form the natural mountains to Italy; the name "Alpes Maritimes" also refers to the entire department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, which extends from the Côte d’Azur (Nice) up to the alpine hinterland. Winter sports enthusiasts, climbers and free climbers will enjoy the high altitudes, whereas the lush valleys offer beautiful hiking opportunities. An excursion to Grasse ("The Perfume") is a must.
Winter sports, Outdoor & Archeology: Around 20 kilometers beyond Nice, the peaks reach the 1000-meter mark. Popular winter sports resorts such as Auron, Isola 2000 and Valberg are located further north. Hikers and nature lovers will find impressive views in the Mercantour National Park, with its seven valleys, some of which are nestled along the great long-distance trails that run through the département (GR 4, GR 5, GR 52, Via Alpina). Mercantour (Vallée Merveilles) is also home to one of the largest deposits of prehistoric Bronze Age engravings in the Alps.
Picturesque villages & Mountainous worlds: The partially abandoned hamlets and villages (Sainte Agnes, Piene Haute) of the Maritime Alps seem to have grown out of the hillsides. In the steep, winding streets, the Middle Ages come alive. Rustic restaurants and, in some places, tourist restaurants invite you to sit back and relax.
Perfume Capital: Near the coast, the perfume capital of the world emits its fragrance: especially since the novel by Patrick Süßkind, no traveler in the south of France can help but to stop by. Some of the resident perfumers allow visitors to watch them while they craft or offer workshops, and of course there is a perfume museum (2 Boulevard du Jeu de Ballon).
Côte d’Azur: Jet set, Cultural celebrities & Beach life
Many associate the Côte d’Azur with luxury, but the strongholds of the jet set are mainly in the eastern French Riviera. Although Marseille and Cannes are also known for being places where you can see and be seen, especially in St. Tropez, there are also more down-to-earth fishing villages here and unspoiled beaches. In the more prominent areas, are the most relevant fashion events and the film festival of Cannes. Many of the approximately 150 beaches are lined with promenades, where the sunny side of life can be enjoyed with top-class gastronomy and cultural highlights.
Scenic beaches, Luxury bars & Nature: Bright sand, turquoise water, you will find the holiday dream behind the promenades, where you might prefer to stroll or sip on Cassis in high-priced beach bars. On the peninsula of St. Tropez, scenic beaches line up one after the other, multi-million dollar yachts line the front of Pampelonne. However, at certain sections of the Côte d’Azur you can also enjoy long walks on the beach (Cap de Brégançon) or along the rock formations (Route de Crêtes). A boat trip to the offshore islands of Hyères offers enchanting experiences in nature (National Park Port-Cros).
Lively Locations, Film, Fashion & Jazz: The Cannes Film Festival (annually in May) attracts international celebrities, which is reflected in the prices - on the beaches along the Croisette berths cost a fortune, but you have a good view of the latest trends from Paris, New York and Milan. A musical highlight in July is the jazz festival of Juan Les Pins (Antibes).
Marinas & Water sports enthusiasts: It’s not always easy to distinguish those who only show off their boats and those who get out on the water in the marinas of Nice & Co. For real active vacationers, however, the Côte d’Azur offers the full program, including diving and kite surfing (tip: the snorkeling area of Port-Cros).
Marseille: Port Metropolis, Cosmopolitan & Culture Sightseeing
A colorful history, many immigrants, famous buildings (Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde) - this is Marseille. In the second largest city in France, the atmosphere of the port metropolis mixes with a rich cultural heritage. From extravagant sightseeing tours to beach holidays on the beaches close to the beach, everything is possible.
City life, Laissez-faire & Museums: Almost 1,4 million people live in the metropolitan area of Marseille, where the hustle and bustle of the big city meets the laissez-faire of the Mediterranean coast. Culture lovers should not miss the Basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, which also offers a wonderful view of the city. Take a stroll through the historic district of Panier and visit the Vieille-Charité, a 17th century almshouse. Many of the museums are home to Marseille’s multi-faceted past (Musée du Vieux-Marseille, Musée des Docks romains), but also the history of maritime commerce (Musée de la Marine et de l’Economie). On the neighboring coasts (Côte Bleue, Calanbanques), tourists meet locals for a Sunday excursion, while in the bars at the old port (Vieux Port) you can indulge in a glass of pastis at sunset. The Provencal Anise brandy is also a popular souvenir.
Market shopping, Trendy bars & Fish cuisine: Immerse yourself in the colorful life of Marseille, which is best served in the many markets (fish market on the Quai des Belges, multicultural on the Marché des Capucins). The nightlife takes place mainly in La Plaine (Cours Julien) and on the harbor mile (Quai du Port). Order baked fish at the local restaurants (Le Madrigal) or go for a hearty bouillabaisse in one of the bays nearby (Nautic Bar in the Calanque de Morgiou).
Aix-en-Provence: Student drifting & Greater bourgeoisie
Historical fountains in all places, lush markets and elegant architecture: even residents of Paris call Aix-en-Provence one of the most beautiful cities in France. Those who can afford it, set up weekend homes here. Everyone enjoys the old town (Place de Verdun with the Palace of Justice), as well as the Cours Mirabeau with its secluded cafes. Film premieres and concerts (Festival d`Àix) inspire a quietly intellectual audience.
Sycamore cafés, Boutiques & Theaters: Refreshment is guaranteed: There are more than 100 fountains in Aix-en-Provence, and they fit into a distinguished Baroque cityscape rich in cultural heritage (city palace, Saint-Pierre cathedral, Justice Palace "Cité judiciaire"). Under the shady plane trees of the Cours Mirabeau, students and locals immerse themselves in the "Le Monde" or the "Figaro." The Louis Philippe Hall in the Café Deux Garçons, which Paul Cézanne frequented, is legendary. The new quarter, "Les allées provençales" is great for shopping. In addition to numerous boutiques, the Center Chorégraphique National and the Grand Théâtre de Provence await culture lovers.
Cézanne Tour & Classical Festival: The artist, Paul Cézanne shaped Aix-en-Provence like no other, places where he stayed can be visited along the "Paul Cézanne" course (Jas de Bouffan). The former Atelier Les Lauves is located just outside the city (9 Rue Paul Czézanne). Classical music lovers will enjoy the festival d`Àix in July, where world-class soloists and conductors perform.
Avignon: famous bridge, art lovers & culture
Where the Rhône and Durance come together, a city of art and culture has grown. In addition to the world-famous bridge, the listed old town of Avignon with its medieval walls and charming squares (Place St Didier) is worth a visit. The wealth of art collections in the museums and the annual theater festival are also impressive.
Altstadt-Bummel & Papal palace: Those who have found their way through the new housing estates of the suburbs will find the hem of the old town: a perfectly preserved city wall with turrets and battlements. A walk through the streets is like a journey into the past, everywhere there are medieval buildings, chapels and churches. "Sur le pont d’Avignon …" The bridge, which is world-famous thanks to the popular children’s song, is of course a must see. It is located near the gothic Papal Palace, the 14th century residence of the highest cleric.
Art Collections & Theater Festival: The museums of Avignon showcase art collections from various eras - from prehistory (Musée lapidaire) through the Middle Ages (Petit Palais) to the Modern Age (Collection Lambert). Of course, the impressionists are also on display (Musée Angladon). The Court of Honor is the venue of the Festival d’Avignon, France’s famous theater festival (annually in July).
Nice, Cannes & Antibes: Glamor, Beach life & Movie scene
The three fashionable port cities are close together, and have in common attributes like "rich and beautiful, " but each shines in their own way (carnival, film festival, Picasso Museum). Nice, as the capital of the department "Alpes Maritimes, " clings to Monte Carlo and Monaco; further west, Cannes and Antibes are almost one unit.
Jet-Set & Filmmakers: Whether Nice with its "Promenade des Anglais" or the legendary "Croisette" of Cannes - seeing and being seen is a popular sport at the forefront of the Côte d’Azur, and the boutiques are accordingly "rich" in the luxury miles (Rue Paradis in Nice, Rue d’Antibes in Cannes), but classic tourism can also be done here: sightseeing in the old town, strolling around antique or weekly markets (Cour Saleya in Nice), and worthwhile museums visits.
Venetian Architecture, Parks & Carnivals in Nice: The influence of Italian architecture can be seen in Nice’s old town façades. The numerous gardens and parks (Place Massena, Parc du Château, Parc Phoenix) give the city tranquility. Art and culture lovers can also get their fix (Matisse and Chagall Museum). In the historic district, "Vieux-Nice, " there is an abundance of artisan, fashion and souvenir shops. The hustle and bustle in the streets for the annual carnival is especially colorful.
Luxury shopping in Cannes: Between Croisette, Rue d’Antibes and Pointe Palm Beach, luxury boutiques line up to the Palais des Festivals, home to the prestigious film festival. In April it’s all about the catwalk instead of the big screen, when fashion freaks arrive at the Cannes Shopping Festival. In addition, you should sample the wonderful regional products offered in traditional shops: sugar flowers or rose jelly from the Confiserie, Provençal cheese specialties (Maître Fromager Ceneri) or wines and liqueurs made by monks (Abbey on the island of St. Honnorat).
Picasso & Jazz in Antibes: The Picasso Museum in Antibes is at the top of the sightseeing list. But the old town with its fortified walls, the Fort Carré, the port of Vauban and the Cap d’Antibes (chapel and lighthouse of Garoupe) are also worth seeing. A musical highlight is the jazz festival (Juan les Pins) in summer.
Selected Hotels in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur
In keeping with the chic beach resorts of the Côte d’Azur and romantic Provence, many hotels also offer their guests exclusive luxury. The beautiful luxury hotels, Five Seas Hotel & SPA in Cannes and Hotel Saint Amour La Tartane in St. Tropez not only have a 5-star service, but are also close to the highlights of these two famous cities. Even hotels in quieter areas are worth a visit. The Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort in Fayence or the Hôtel Restaurant Alain Llorca in La Colle sur Loup are ideal for a wellness break in nature and have wonderful views of the French Alps.
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur - good to know:
No English: You need some foreign language skills when travelling to this part of France. In the tourist centers, employees may be able to help in English, but it is better to know the most important words and courtesies in French. Most locals will appreciate a friendly "Excusez-moi" (excuse me).
Midday Rest: In the land of culinary delights, a lunch menu takes time. There is a lot of chatting between the courses, after the crème brûlée one leans back with a sigh. Many streets are empty around midday, boutiques and other shops are closed. Exception: it is "très à la mode" to take the midday meal in a museum café or restaurant. In some places, sightseeing can be combined with a little break, without having to go to the hotel or a regular restaurant.
Mediterranean: Unlike the north of France and cities like Paris or Lyon, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is dominated by the Mediterranean climate. This is expressed in amenities such as several hours of sunshine and culinary specialties, but also by some negative aspects. The "Route du soleil", for example, is known for its muggings and robberies, and during the high season, the temperatures reach peak levels so don’t forget your sunscreen.