• Promenade des Anglais - Nice
  • Cours Saleya Market - Nice

Open seven days a week in the mornings. Every day offers a different type of goods for sale. When I was there in April, the Market had farm goods (vegetables, cheeses, salt), flowers, and other goods. Almost everything here is produced locally. Check the calendar so you can decide which type of products interest you. Another perk is the opportunity to meet locals shopping for their families and avoiding obvious tourist traps. If you still in the market at noon, the cannon will be shot off!

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YOUR PERFECT SOUTH OF FRANCE ITINERARY WITH COST-CUTTING TIPS July 12, 2019 by Steve Leave a Comment

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This post may contain affliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (if applicable). Having taken my first trip to Europe over four decades ago, in numerous trips since, I have learned that many famous destinations are overpriced, or disappointing. The South of France (Provence) exceeds all expectations for its Joie de vivre (joy of living), beauty, food, people, and sites. After two trips in the past two years, I am counting the minutes until my next trip to this magical place. This guide to the South of France includes practical tips for visiting the South of France with an itinerary based on multiple trips and budget tips within each city!

Even if you don’t have time for two weeks in the South of France, you can still cut the itinerary to see Nice, Aix-en-Provence, and Arles. This itinerary is a bit faster paced than some other South of France itineraries, so if you want to relax, I recommend spending more time in one city, such as Aix-en-Provence.

OUR ITINERARY FOR TWO WEEKS IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE Nice (2-3 days; ideally 4-5 days) Aix-en-Provence (2 days) Arles (2 days + 1 during festival season) Avignon (3 days) Nimes (2 days)5 DAYS IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE ITINERARY Nice (2 days) Day trip from Nice to villages (1 day) Aix-en-Provence (2 days) NICE (2-3 DAYS) Beautiful views of Nice port with flowers in background

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Nice is a great starting point for seeing the South of France due to its good connections with other parts of France by bus, train, and plane. Nice is world-famous for its beauty, many tourist destinations, food and its joie de vivre.

How to travel more with a full time job Pause Unmute Remaining Time -0:16 Fullscreen Essential stops include the Promenade des Anglais and the beaches. The Promenade has a very long boardwalk with many great restaurants and cafes which all have a great view of the Mediterranean Sea. (These cafes aren’t exactly cheap.) The beaches are very rocky so if you want to go for a swim, be sure to bring sandals and a mat as the rocks can be uncomfortable.

We stayed at the affordable and charming Hotel Mercure Nice Centre Notre Dame. It is within a 10-minute walk from the central train station or a tram ride to the seaport. Generally, staying in the city center is lower than staying by the beach during peak season. Close to the Promenade is Vieux Nice where there are many historic buildings on dating back 300 years ago. There are many stores in this district where the Opera House is also located. Tickets for performances are reasonably priced and you will also see the interior of the building while catching a show.

One important landmark is the Cours Saleya Market that is open seven days a week in the mornings. Every day offers a different type of goods for sale. When I was there in April, the Market had farm goods (vegetables, cheeses, salt), flowers, and other goods. Almost everything here is produced locally. Check the calendar so you can decide which type of products interest you. Another perk is the opportunity to meet locals shopping for their families and avoiding obvious tourist traps. If you still in the market at noon, the cannon will be shot off!

  • Castle Hill (Colline du Château) - Nice

One of the must-see places in all of Southern France. It offers an incredible view of Nice from 300 feet above the city. The first use of this site dates back to Ancient Greece in the 4th century B.C. The Romans later occupied it. Much of the buildings and the castle were destroyed over the centuries but the archaeological dig dates back to the Roman era. The elevator ride to the top is free, but to avoid a long wait arrive early in the morning. There are a nice cafe and a children’s playground on top of Castle Hill where you can enjoy the views for free.

  • Nice Port - Nice

Offers views of the many yachts in the harbor. Since I did not arrive by my personal yacht, I booked a harbor tour by boat. The tour took us around the port for one hour. Another great option is to use boats as transports to other cities. The boat cruises offer many spectacular spots in the Mediterranean. In the summertime, there are ferries going to Monaco and other destinations.

  • Place Garibaldi - Nice

One of the main squares in the city. There are many restaurants and famous gelato places in the square. In the evenings, there are many street performers including musicians in the square. I encourage travelers to spend time here.

  • Albert 1er Garden - Nice

A lovely park close to the beach close on Place Messan. The park dates back to one century. It is a great place to eat lunch, read a book, look at art exhibits among other activities. It is free and worth visiting

  • Le Cenac - Nice

The plat du jour specials were fantastic.

  • Musee Granet - Aix-En-Provence

A world-class museum with two different separate buildings. Each building has different collections. The main building has archaeological relics and classical paintings from Rembrandt and other masters. The second building Granet XXE, Jean Planque Collection, has numerous works painted by modern artists including Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Picasso. I particularly loved the Granet XXE as a lover of modern art. Since you will be issued two tickets and the two buildings are separated, safeguard the entrance tickets. There is a short walk between the buildings.

  • Atelier Cezanne (Cezanne’s studio) - Aix-En-Provence

Just outside of town and easily reachable via bus and open for tours. Unfortunately, there are no sketches in the studio. Visitors can see Cezanne’s workspace and see his inspiration for many of his paintings. The tours are offered throughout the day and provided in English and French at different times. Make a reservation as the studio is very small and due to the popularity, it sells out early. Save time to work around the grounds since they are beautiful.

  • The Outdoor Market - Aix-En-Provence

Very popular with locals. The Market is located next to La Rotonde where clothing, fruits, vegetables, and records are for sale. Check the calendar since each day since the Market specializes different merchants and products for sale during the week.

  • Cours Mirabeau - Aix-En-Provence

The main avenue in the center of town. I spent time strolling around this famous street with its many trees and stores. It offers a wide selection of cafes. There are many museums in this district. I particularly enjoyed the wide boulevard and should be experienced while in Aix.

  • Old Aix - Aix-En-Provence

Dates back more than 300 years ago with many historic buildings. I spent time strolling around these famous streets with its many trees and stores. It offers a wide selection of cafes. Spend time looking at the architectural wonders from an earlier age. Calisson is the local pastry that is sold everywhere in Aix. You can find it everywhere. Caisson is a mixture of almonds, melons, oranges and other ingredients. Sample one at the numerous stores throughout Aix.

  • Aix is La Brocherie - Aix-En-Provence

The restaurant offers tremendous value in a casual setting. La Brocherie is next to Granet XXE. The luncheon menu has an open salad bar with various types of seafood and many fresh vegetables at a low price. Skip breakfast if you are going there for lunch since the selection is amazing. The hot meals are also very reasonably priced. The restaurant was formerly the horse barn for royalty and the building shows its historic past. (Be warned the chefs stop cooking before 2 pm.)

  • Camargue National Park - Arles

This stunning marsh preserve is home to wild bulls, horses, flamingos, and other birds. If you love nature, we highly recommend spending at least a day exploring this stunning national park. There are many ways of seeing the Camargue including using a tour guide. (Click to book a tour to the Camargue with a guide.) For more information about bird watching in Camargue National Park on your own, I recommend this independent travel guide to Camargue National Park.

  • La Maison Carree - Nimes

Over 2,000 years old and considered one of the excellent landmarks in France from the Roman era. It was dedicated to the grandsons of Caesar and has been restored by numerous parties to the current state. Thomas Jefferson wrote that this building exceeds anything in Rome, Greece, or Palmyra. He used the design for designing buildings in the United States.

  • Temple of Diana - Nimes

(next to Jardin de la Fontaine) is a former Roman temple dating back to the 2nd century. It is free to explore the building’s architecture. It has not been restored, but admission is free and it’s worth it to imagine this building in its glory. Next to the Temple is the Jardin de la Fontaine. It was the first public European garden in the 1800s. It is very large and has a beautiful garden with Mediterranean plants. Great place to picnic or simply enjoy a coffee or tea from the cart vendors.

  • Les Halles - Nimes

A terrific market that has great local vegetables, cheeses, bread, seafood, meat and other locally produced foods with low prices. Everything is fresh and has tables to enjoy your food. It is cheaper than a conventional restaurant.

  • Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes.) - Avignon

It dates back to the 14th century. Although very few objects remain today, the virtual reality tablet provided upon your entrance, which shows what the Palace looked like in the 14th century when occupied by the Pope. It is an amazing and unforgettable place. Buy tickets early to avoid lines.

  • Pont Saint Benezet (Pont d’ Avignon) - Avignon

It was originally built in the 12th century and has been destroyed many times and rebuilt on numerous occasions. You will need a ticket to cross the Bridge. You can buy this at the Palace. We liked the audio tour! It has a great view of the Palace.

  • Les Halles (Market) - Avignon

Many locals regularly shop for produce, bread, fish, meats, and chickens although it closes at 2 PM. I enjoyed the omelets and cheeses. I particularly loved the olives and fresh sardines.

  • Cotignac

The closest town to the Verdon area. Cotignac is a beautiful medieval town with a number of cafés, shops and outdoor markets. It’s around 35 minutes from the Gorges du Verdon. We stayed in this 2 bedroom Airbnb, a couple minutes’ walk from Cotignac’s restaurant area.

  • Gorges du Verdon
  • La Mère Germaine - Villefranche-Sur-Mer

Dinner on the water at La Mère Germaine. Reservations are recommended but the tables in front are first come first serve, so I suggest going right when it opens (around 7pm).

  • Les Garcons - Villefranche-Sur-Mer
  • Soléa Gelateria – Villefranche-Sur-Mer

The mango sorbet was my favorite.

  • Coffee at Welcome Hotel - Villefranche-Sur-Mer

Each morning, so we could watch the boats come in and the town wake up.

  • Ville Ephrussi de Rothschild - Villefranche-Sur-Mer

A beautiful villa with picturesque gardens overlooking the ocean.

  • Buying local fruit, ham and cheese from local grocer and having a picnic on the beach - Menton
  • Papayou - Nice

A French-Vietnamese bistro with outdoor seating

  • Local Market - Antibes

The local market, which is located in the center of Antibes and runs daily until 1pm.

  • Confiserie Ballanger - Nice
  • See Lavender fields in Provence (Mid July)

Recommend to stay in airbnb with pool

  • Oppède - Lavender fields

Oppède is very convenient to one of the most famous lavender fields in the region, located at Senanque Abbey. It’s also a great starting point to explore different lavender fields routes. As a town, it’s quite small and sleepy with a couple local restaurants and vineyards nearby. It’s also great for accommodation, since many rental homes are budget-friendly for groups. What I loved about staying here was barely running into other tourists — most of the people we met were locals or French families vacationing in Provence! Oppède Highlights: Lavender fields near our Airbnb in Oppède. Picking up delicious fresh macarons and pastries from the local bakery, Boulangerie Patisserie Lyse. Dinner overlooking the hills at La Bergerie, a local spot just outside downtown Oppède. Spending the day lounging at the pool, exploring the olive groves and local vineyards from our Airbnb in Oppède (pictured below).

Gordes - Lavender fields

Gordes is one of the most famous hilltop towns in the region. There’s a beautiful lookout of the town itself from the road as you drive in. It has a number of restaurants and winding streets, great for exploring and for views of the valley below. The only downside is that it tends to get crowded midday as there are a number of tour buses that include it on their Provence route. I’d suggest going early or late in the day if you want to maximize your time here. Gordes Highlights: One of our favorite spots for dinner of the trip, sitting outside in the evening at L’Artegal. This picturesque photo spot of Gordes, looking out over the town and the surrounding vineyards as seen below. Strolling the winding cobblestone streets, shopping and stopping for gelato in the town square.

Lourmarin - Lavender fields

I absolutely loved Lourmarin. The town is beautiful and very photogenic, with cobblestone streets, shops, and plenty of cafes with outdoor seating. There are a a handful of trendy bars and restaurants, plus a great outdoor market in the city center. Lourmarin is also ranked as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. In my opinion, a must-visit! Lourmarin Highlights: Le Galiner de Lourmarin, our favorite place we stayed of our entire South of France trip. A boutique hotel surrounded by gardens, less than a 5 minute walk to Lourmarin town center. Locally sourced, modern and delicious cuisine at Numero 9. Order the scallops! Drinks at Maison Café, a hidden gem tucked away with a rooftop bar, ivy covered walls, and live music. Wine tasting at Chateau Constantin, a local family-run vineyard set next to a charming French villa. The outdoor market on Friday mornings — I took home a French linen dress for 40 euro.

  • Saint-Remy-de-Provence

This charming little town is filled with little boutiques, local cheese shops, and cafés. We spent an afternoon exploring the main square and the little side streets, popping into stores along the way. I loved the main street leading into the city, which was bustling but not overcrowded. If you’re driving to Saint-Remy-de-Provence, there’s also a beautiful sunflower field on the way located here.

  • Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is a picturesque town set along the local Sorgue River and surrounded by cliffs. It’s a bit different than the neighboring towns as it’s tucked away rather than perched on a hilltop. The town center is a roundabout with a handful of cafés, some of which are on the water. From this area you can also walk along a paved path to visit the mouth of a nearby cave (about a 15 minute walk from the center). Fontaine-de-Vaucluse Highlights: I love the façade of La Pointe Noire restaurant, right in the town center. You can’t miss it. Strolling along the water and enjoying cooler temps on the walk to the cave.

  • L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a small town technically located on an island, as it’s completely surrounded by the River Sorgue. It’s known for its many antique shops and an antique market that takes place on Sundays. It’s a great stop for lunch or dinner since it features a variety of waterside cafés and restaurants.

  • Apt

Apt is known for having one of the best outdoor markets in all of France. We visited during the market day (Saturdays in summer). Apt is a fairly large town with lots of boutiques and restaurant options. It’s great for mid-afternoon when you want a variety of choices to eat and explore. The rooftop terrace at Le Platane is beautiful and such a treat hidden away in ivy (below).

  • Menerbes

A neighboring town to Bonnieux, Ménerbes is perched on a hilltop and features old villas and narrow winding streets. The center of town has a historic old square surrounded by shops and restaurants, including a Michelin restaurant and a more casual cafe perched on the hillside. I recommend visiting both Menerbes and Bonnieux in the same afternoon.

  • Bonnieux

Bonnieux has beautiful views of the surrounding region and is less touristy than the neighboring village of Gordes. It’s a great town to wander, with sloping streets, old churches, and fountains. A short walk from the center is the Jardin de Louve, a contemporary French garden created by Nicole de Vésian (the previous textile designer for Hermès) that is open to the public.

  • Sault

We arrived at Sault after the sun went down, mainly because the drive to get here is so beautiful we couldn’t resist pulling over! Driving north to Sault, you’ll get incredible views over the vineyards, wheat fields, and lavender fields — all of which were free of other tourists during our visit. Sault is small but charming, with a few restaurants and a soap factory you can visit during the day.

  • Lacoste

Lacoste is very small, but a worthwhile visit if you’re in the region. I loved it because of its one main cobblestone road that winds up to the top of the hill, with beautiful facades and stone buildings along the way. You can also walk up to the castle at the very top. Not great for food options, but the neighboring towns of Bonnieux and Menerbes are nearby and have plenty of restaurants.

  • Valensole

Valensole is most commonly known for its rolling lavender fields and sunflower fields, and is the location seen in the famous photo featuring one olive tree with lavender in the foreground. The village itself is often overlooked but has a number of restaurants and old winding streets. We drove through Valensole en route to Cotignac and stopped to see the lavender fields, but it was incredibly crowded in summer so it was a quick visit for us. The famous lavender field in Valensole is marked in purple on our map here.

  • Gorges du Verdon

I highly recommend visiting the Gorges du Verdon if you’re headed to the Provence region. It’s a body of water known for its bright turquoise hue that comes from glacial runoff. It’s perfect as a day trip but you could easily visit a couple times. From the main bridge there are boats for rent, and you can also swim nearby.

  • Cotignac

Cotignac is most well-known for its location up against a rock face with old troglodyte cave dwellings. Some of the houses are built into the bottom of the rock and you can even stay some of the ‘cave dwellings’! We chose to make this our home base while visiting the Gorges du Verdon here since it’s one of the closest towns within driving distance (about 30-40 minutes away) and features a picturesque town square with a number of restaurants and daily markets. It’s a great size for a few days of exploring as everything is within walking distance and it’s not crowded with tourists. Highlights: Our favorite dinner in Cotignac at Hotel Restaurant du Cours. Taking a day trip to the beautiful Gorges du Verdon. Visiting the caves for a complete view of the city. The entrance is located behind the town square with the clock tower.

  • Chez Palmyre - Nice
  • Cours Saleya Market - Nice
  • Alsace wine route

This region in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains produces some of the finest wines on the globe. The stunning , whose restaurant has two Michelin stars, is the ideal place to start a sojourn. Visit top wineries like and for world-class Gewürztraminers and Rieslings. At , in Riquewihr, chef Philippe Aubron melds ingredients from France and Japan, where he spent 17 years — chanterelle soup with enoki and truffles, for example. Luxury travelers can even see Alsace by boat: , offers private cruises.

After a few days in Paris, a drive through the countryside could be a nice change, if you can tear yourself away from the Eiffel Tower views and morning croissants. If you have time for a two or three-day trip, consider spending a night in or near Strasbourg before touring the wine country. The actual drive time between Paris and Strasbourg is around five or six hours, but you’ll want to stop along the way in both directions, especially if you include the Alsace Wine Route. About two hours east of Paris on Route A-4, you’ll get to Reims, known for its magnificent Gothic cathedral as well as for its role as the center of France’s Champagne region. After another two hours or so of driving, you’ll arrive in the city of Metz, also home to a stunning cathedral, Saint-Etienne, one of the tallest Gothic buildings in Europe. Strasbourg is still around three hours away, so if you’ve driven enough for one day, you have your choice of lodging in this lovely city situated along the Moselle and Seille Rivers. A relaxing dinner and a walk along the river would be perfect after a day on the road. On to Strasbourg the next day and a trip down all or part of the winery route. Explore vineyards, medieval chateaux, and quaint villages. Before heading back to Paris, especially after a day in wine country, you may want to continue your Alsace experience with a restful night in historic and charming Colmar. With an early start the next morning, you can be back in Paris after five to six hours of drive time.

  • Le Panoramic - Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France

The best view of the highest peaks in the Alps are to be found at this restaurant/terrace located high in the mountains (so high that you can only reach it by cable car). If you want a spectacular view (and meal!), but hate mountain climbing, now you know where to go.

  • EZE

‘Not far from Nice, Eze is like something out of a Disney movie. Up on a cliff with never-ending views of the sea and narrow medieval streets, it might be small but it’s got some of the best lookout spots on the Riviera. Don’t skip the exotic garden for some of the best.’

  • CASSIS

‘This seaside village has a lovely harbour – get on a boat and sail to the Calanques. Choose a tour with the most stops! You will love these rocky inlets.'

  • OPPÈDE LE VIEUX

‘This is an incredibly peaceful village. There are magnificent old houses from the 16th century and a medieval church. Pictures don’t do enough justice to this beautiful hidden gem.’

  • PERNES LES FONTAINES

‘There are more than 40 fountains around the town, many from the 18th century, as well as a 17th-century covered market.' It’s particularly nice to visit Pernes before sunset so you can go get a drink at a wine bar called L’Instant Vin. If you like dessert wine or sweet white wine, order a glass of Pipi d’Ange (yes, it means angel’s pee!). It’s the best sweet wine you’ll ever taste.’

  • FONTAINE DE VAUCLUSE

‘As busy as it gets during the summer, this should be on your list of the best towns in Provence to visit. It’s a beautiful place known for its clear blue-green water and its giant spring – one of the largest in France. It’s only a 15-minute walk from the centre of the village to the source.' 'Winter is the best season to see the spring though, since at other times of year the river is low and there isn’t as much to see. The best dinner spot is La Figuière.’

  • ROUSSILLON

‘It’s called the red town for a reason – the colours are truly amazing. The town is located right by one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world and all the rust-coloured exteriors make it seem as though you’re living in a painting. Walk the Sentier des Ocres and you’ll feel like you’re walking in a canyon.’

  • SIMIANE-LA-ROTONDE

‘If you’re driving around trying to find nice lavender fields, Simiane-la-Rotonde will definitely catch your eye. This town is on a steep hill but stick with it – there are so many adorable details, pretty doors and little cafés.' 'If you’re driving there, make sure to also visit the towns of Sault and Aurel nearby as they are great lavender spots as well.’

  • EYGALIÈRES

‘Surrounded by the craggy landscape of the Alpilles, this village is very charming and never busy. You’ll find cute cafés and pretty stone façades perched on a hill. Walk up through the village to its little chapel to get the best views.' 'Stop for a pizza at Gilles, which has a lovely courtyard.’

  • VALENSOLE

‘From mid-June till the end of July, you’ll drive past tons of lavender fields if you’re exploring Provence. But one of the places most famous for its lavender is Valensole – visit in the morning to avoid the crowds.' 'The town itself is adorable too. Don’t leave without picking up some lavender honey.’

  • ABBAYE NOTRE-DAME DE SÉNANQUE

‘Not strictly a town or a village, but well worth a visit, this abbey facing a huge lavender field is really close to Gordes. Obviously, it is at its best during lavender time, which is from mid-June to mid-July. The drive to get there can be a little scary if you don’t like twisty cliff roads but it’s very much worthwhile.’

  • GORDES

‘Gordes is one of the most well-known spots in Provence and the view from the village itself might be one of the most famous postcard images in the region, but it’s worth a trip for its hillside setting and its narrow alleys with catch-your-breath vistas around every corner.’

  • LOURMARIN

‘Lourmarin is a town you can’t miss if you’re driving around the Vaucluse. Get lost in the narrow streets, visit the castle, and if you’re there during the summer you can even attend one of the outdoor concerts.' 'Want to do some shopping? L’Apothicaire de Lourmarin is a cute concept store selling decorations and a variety of local products.’

  • L’ISLE SUR LA SORGUE

‘Quite busy on Thursdays and Sundays (market days), this town is generally quiet and lovely to walk around, and it’s wonderful for antique shopping. If you get lucky, you’ll even be able to listen to some great jazz musicians playing in the streets. The river Sorgue surrounds the town centre, making it an island.' 'Best spot in town: Chez Stéphane – it has a fabulous cheese selection and three large barrels outside used as tables where you can sit down and have a good glass of wine with your cheese.’

  • SAIGNON

‘This quaint little village is at the top of a hill and overflows with cute façades and adorable hidden street corners. It’s not crowded with tourists at all, and remains peaceful and authentic. 'Top tip: eat at La Maison de Solveig – a hidden restaurant, which makes it even more special. Great food and great staff.’

  • AIX EN PROVENCE

‘The hometown of Paul Cézanne and Emile Zola, Aix feels like it has stopped in time. Find yourself a seat at a sunny café terrace, like that at the iconic Les Deux Garçons, where Cezanne, Edith Piaf and Picasso all used to stop for a glass of wine. Don’t forget to go to Pavillon Vendôme, shown in my picture here, to walk around the garden.’

  • ARLES

‘Van Gogh depicted Arles in many of his paintings. Today there are bull runs and bull fights in the big amphitheatre which used to hold ancient Roman games. It’s also the gateway of the Camargue region, so it’s the first footstep towards a different part of Provence.’

  • MARSEILLE

‘Marseille is one of the biggest and oldest cities in France, and there are magnificent views of the sea from all over the city.' 'Drive to Les Goudes, just outside – it’s a small but beautiful fishing village that’s the perfect escape when the city feels too busy.’

  • THE CAMARGUE

‘This national park is a bit of a secret spot – there are fewer tourists in this region than on the Côte d’Azur. If you want to be surrounded by nature, this is the place to go. There are white horses, bulls, pink flamingos, lagoons and salt banks, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Aigues-Mortes – the most famous city in the region – you can go horseback riding or take a boat trip on the wetlands.’

jul 17 2019 ∞
may 13 2020 +