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Provence, France – most beautiful towns and villages

Photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash

Provence is worldwide known due to its unending picturesque lavender fields. But its hundred years old towns and villages perched on top of hills, surrounded by vineyards and olive plantations are nonetheless spectacular – Rousillon, Bonnieux, Gordes, Menerbes, Arles and many others, more or less known. Many of them have inspired artists and painters with their cobbled maze streets, boutiques and pretty houses. Provence is a fairytale destination and one of the most beautiful areas in France.

In order to best enjoy everything Provence has to offer, you should consider a visit at the end of June or first half of July, when the lavender is in full bloom. Also, a minimum of 5-7 days is recommended, as the area is quite large and has a lot to offer. Besides, you probably don’t want to just hurry from one town to the other, but truly enjoy them.

How do you get to Provence?

If you travel by plane, your best bet would be to get a ticket for Marseille, that is close to the beautiful towns and villages below. As there aren’t many local public transport options, you should also rent a car from the airport. The towns aren’t far apart. This means that you can even visit 2-3 villages in one day.

The most beautiful towns and villages in Provence, France

I didn’t get to Provence yet, even if it’s high on my to do list, but I asked 13 international bloggers for their favorites and here they are:

AIX-EN-PROVENCE

Aix-en-Provence

Celebrated for being the center of aristocracy in Provence, Aix-en-Provence is a must-visit in France. The streets of this charming town are lined with impressive palaces and manicured trees. Aix-en-Provence is also well known as the ‘City of a Thousand Fountains’ as intricately carved stone fountains can be found on every corner, making Aix-en-Provence one of the most beautiful towns in Provence.

The town is also home to the famous 19th-century post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne, a point of pride for locals. The Atelier Cezanne is where the painter lived and created his best works, and gives an authentic look into his home’s condition and layout. Cezanne also frequently visited the picturesque garden of Le Terrain des Peintres. Grab a picnic basket and spend the day musing in the park.

Aix-en-Provence is also recognized for its many sensational farmers’ markets. The streets come alive daily with rows of fresh produce, olive products, cheese, bread, flowers, linens and antique finds, and many more. In addition to classic Provencal dishes elevated by local ingredients, Aix-en-Provence also specializes in calissons, a diamond-shaped sweet made from almonds and candied melons, covered in icing.

If you are visiting Provence when the lavender fields are in bloom, Valensole de Plateau is within an hour’s drive from Aix-en-Provence and is one of the finest lavender fields in France.

The best time of year to visit Aix-en-Provence is the shoulder months of March through May and September to November when the weather is fair and the crowds are sparse.

Recommended by Haley Blackall of Haleyblackall.com

AVIGNON

Avignon is probably the most beautiful town in the Provence region. It attracts many tourists from all over the world every year due to its rich cultural heritage that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In history, it became famous when the seat of the papacy was there, between 1309 and 1377. Le Palais des Papes is the largest Gothic palace in the world and it’s open to visitors. In there you can see a wonderful collection of sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

The second point of interest would be the famous Avignon Bridge – Pont Saint-Benezet that was built in the 12th century. Today less than half of the original structure has been preserved, as the other half collapsed. There is also a wine shop on the bridge with the best wines from the region.

If you have a sweet tooth, you should try Les papalines d’Avignon – oregano dessert that was invented in 1960. Desserts cannot be prepared by every confectionery, as they must first obtain a special certificate beforehand.

The best time to visit Avignon is in July when the year’s main event is held – the Avignon Theater Festival. At the festival, which is considered one of the oldest and most famous festivals of art and culture in the world, you can see hundreds of musicians, dancers, and theater performers taking over the city.

Recommended by Džangir of Dr Jam Travels

Ménerbes

Menerbes, Provence

Ménerbes is a hilltop village surrounded by glorious uninterrupted views of the countryside featuring countless vineyards and endless fields of lavender and sunflowers. It sits in the heart of Provence, in the department of Vaucluse, where the greatest number of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France can be found.

Stroll the wonderfully narrow cobblestone streets winding up and down between the old buildings. You can just sense the history here from the ancient fortified wall, towers, and sundial etched in stone. The village’s main sites include a 14th century church, an 18th century chapel, an 18th century wrought-iron belfry and even a corkscrew museum. Visit market day on Thursday and watch this quiet village come alive.

At the top vista sits an elegant 17th century mansion, now restaurant and wine cave featuring some of the best vintages from this region. Treat yourself to a delicious meal at La Maison de la Truffe et du Vin de Luberon. Be sure to time your reservation and watch the sun slowly set behind the mountains and see the sky turn a kaleidoscope of the prettiest hues imaginable.

Recommended by Renee of Dream Plan Experience

Arles

Arles is a picturesque town in the Provence region of France with a rich history dating all the way back to 800 B.C.E. When visiting Arles make sure you bring your travel daypack to get the most out of your day. The area is most famous for its Lavender fields that are a delight to spend the day hiking through. When planning a visit to the fields, it is best to visit in late June or early July. This will ensure that you will see the fields when they are in full bloom, while also avoiding most of the crowds that swarm the area when school holidays begin.

Picturesque lavender fields aren’t the only thing to offer when visiting Arles, the town’s rich history seeps into you as you stroll through the city streets. No visit to Arles would be complete without taking the time to explore the Arles Amphitheater, a Roman arena, built-in 90 CE. The Amphitheater hosted over twenty thousand spectators to watch chariot rides and gladiator fights. There is also the Roman Aqueduct and Mill, an engineering marvel at the time of its construction that still stands to this day.

Any art lover will find Arles and the surrounding area full of inspiration. Vincent Van Gogh spent time in Arles in 1888, which inspired several of his painting, including Cafe Terrace at Night. Arles has several art galleries that are open year-round to absorb the beauty of the area and the art it inspires.

Arles asl offers a market with fresh, local produce and flowers as well as several restaurants, tours, and unique accommodations. There is so much to see and do in Arles, Provence, France, from exploring its history, to experiencing small-town French culture and more. The worst thing you could do is try to cram a trip to Arles into one single day. You could spend an entire week in the area and still have plenty more to explore for your next vacation.

Recommended by Catalin Geangos of traveltrained.com

Bonnieux

Bonnieux, Provence

Surrounded by fragrant lavender fields, abundant vineyards, and ancient olive groves, the village of Bonnieux sits in a prime location in Provence’s Luberon Valley.

The stereotypical perched village, it appears like something out of a fairytale. Blue shuttered houses clamber for space among the cobblestone lanes, and cypress trees compete for the tallest vantage point. Among the tight-knit streets, there is a scattering of boutiques, galleries, chambres d’hôtes and wine shops vying for your attention.

At the top of the village, after a steep climb, you’ll find a small 12th-century church. It’s here you’ll benefit from outstanding views over the village and beyond, and can take respite from the heat in the small leafy park. Afterwards, settle into one of the beautiful café terraces for a well-earned drink al fresco.

At the foot of the village sits Pont Julien – a Roman bridge that dates back to 3 BC. If you’re a keen cyclist, you can find there the main Luberon cycling trail. Don’t miss the weekly farmer’s market on Friday mornings, or the annual potter’s market that takes place every Easter. There’s also a small bakery museum where you can learn about the traditional baking methods of the area.

Recommended by Nadine of Le Long Weekend

Roussillon

Roussillon, Provence

Roussillon is one of the most beautiful hilltop villages in Provence. It is located in the Vaucluse department, in the heart of the Valley of Luberon.

Most people visit Roussillon on a day trip or guided tour from Avignon, the main city in this area. However, it is well worth spending at least one night on site so you can see the village also when the day crowds are gone. If you visit Roussillon during the lavender season, from July to mid-August, you can also spend some time exploring the Senanque Abbey and the Provence lavender fields in the Luberon.

Roussillon is famous for the rich deposits of ochre pigments found in the clay near the village. All the houses in the village are painted in yellows, reds, and oranges, and it is a beautiful show to see when the sun shines. One of the former ochre quarries can be visited via the ‘Sentier des Ocres’ (Ochre Trail), a walk through the old workings.

The best thing to do in Roussillon is to wander around its cobbled streets. Take your time and enjoy the beautiful facades with their intricate, antique doorways. The shutters, wrought iron, historical plaques, and stonework of some buildings are a photographer’s dream. Because Roussillon is on the top of a hill, there are also some terraces offering beautiful panoramas of the Luberon.

NB. this village is on the top of a hill so bicycle here is hard hard…

Recommended by Elisa from France Bucket List

Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence, Provence

Without a doubt, the perfectly preserved Medieval village of Saint Paul de Vence is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Provence, France. It’s not only one of the most beautiful villages, but also the complete package for lovers of photography, history, art, and the food of France.

This picturesque village offers ample opportunities for wonderful photographs both in the walled city and from afar. From the winding roads approaching this charming Provencal town, you will see views of it perched high on a hillside. Inside the fortification, you will find yourself snapping the quaint stone buildings, window boxes, and even the paved main street.

Take some time while strolling through the village to visit the artisan galleries, the main church, and the cemetery where Marc Chagall is buried where you’ll also enjoy sweeping views. Chagall lived in Saint Paul de Vence for 20 years, and the village has a rich relationship with art. At the town’s most famous restaurant, La Colombe D’Or, you can even enjoy a gourmet meal surrounded by works by Matisse, Calder, and Picasso.

If that leaves you hungry for more art, head outside of the walls to the Fondation Maeght Museum, or the Chapelle du Rosaire which Matisse designed and constructed as a gift for the nun, Monique Bourgeois, who had nursed him through his cancer surgeries.

Recommeded by Denise of Chef Denise

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Provence

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Provence

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is one of the most beautiful villages in Provence. This charming place is nestling in a valley at the foot of a cliff of the Monts de Vaucluse. Fontaine de Vaucluse is famous for the mythical source of water surging forth from the 230-meter cliff on site. This impressive spring is actually the most powerful one in France and the fifth in the world! Its name comes from “Vallis Clausa”, meaning closed valley in English. But this village is also worth the visit because it’s enchanting!

Walking around in Fontaine de Vaucluse will allow you to enjoy how lovely it is! You will be able to admire the traditional houses. They are typical from Provence with their ochre colors and their louvered shutters. Also, the river Sorgue is flowing through town, making it even more magical! The highlight of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse being the spring, you should walk up to it. This turquoise blue eye is quite stunning! On the way to the spring, you will find many cute shops selling local traditional handicraft and some cafes and restaurants. Take the time to enjoy a delicious lavender ice-cream!

Fontaine de Vaucluse is at around 25 min by car from the iconic Abbaye de Sénanque and its lavender fields.

If you visit Fontaine de Vaucluse at the beginning of the summer, you will enjoy some hot weather and the lavender fields in Provence. Spring or fall are flood periods and at that time the spring is even more spectacular!

Recommended by Ophelie of Limitless Secrets

Brantes

Brantes is a beautiful little town located in the French Provence. This area is known for the beautiful lavender fields and its little villages that seem like time stood still. Brantes is also the location of the highest mountain in the Provence. Mount Ventoux is just under 2000 metres high and perfect for hiking and exploring.

If you love the great outdoors then this is the perfect town to visit. It’s small so you won’t encounter crowds of tourists here. Just under 100 people live here permanently and there isn’t much going on. You should absolutely come here for a relaxed vacation stay full of long walks and sunshine.

This area is especially beautiful from June to August when the lavender fields bloom. Definitely pack your camera and keep an eye out for the stunning fields that surround Brantes and its neighbouring villages. Brantes is exactly what you’d imagine a tiny French village to look like. It has small stone houses and narrow roads and most places in town have incredible views of the mountains and the valley below. Keep in mind how small Brantes is. It’s a great place to come for a day trip so you can explore the area and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Recommended by Victoria of Guide Your Travel

Gordes, Provence

Perched on a hill, Gordes is one of the best known and most visited villages in the area. This is also the place where many film stars and artists have chosen to buy a holiday house.

While walking around, you’ll discover arches, pretty old doors, cobblestone alleys, stylish boutiques and beautiful stone houses. On the other side, there’s also the panoramic view over the valley and the mountains in Luberon. The principal landmarks are the 1000-years old renaissance castle, Pol Mara Museum and the Church of Saint Fermin.

A day in Gordes shouldn’t end before a visit to Abbaye de Senanque, an old medieval monastery from 1148, just 4 km away. Its famous lavender fields are one of the most beautiful and photographed attractions in Provence. From the end of June until the beginning of August, they make the monastery look magic.

Due to its location, architecture and Provencal charm, Gordes is one of the most beautiful villages in France. The village is also known worldwide because of its famous residents. The book of Peter Mayle, “One year in Provence”, and the movie “A good year” with Russel Crowe and Marillon Cotillard increased its fame even more.

Recommended by Raluca of Travel With A Spin

Sault

Sault

Sault, one of the most beautiful villages in Provence, is just 1 hour away from the city of Avignon. In the summer, it is a famous destination given that it is also one of the best places to see lavender fields in France.

Sault has even been called the Lavender Capital of France. Each year it holds a lavender festival in August. The lavenders here are very much preserved and prided upon by the French Locals. There’s nothing that compares to the experience of walking around the village of Sault, seeing the fields from atop, and taking in the historical buildings of the town. The city has a medieval feel to it that will make you feel like you’re taking a trip back into time.

Although the village is already surrounded by lavender fields, a hike through Le Chemin des Lavandes promises a unique experience for adventurers visiting Sault. The trail is 5 kilometers long and full of lavender fields insight. One can also opt to drive through D164, also known as the Route du Mont Ventoux, where the road is literally teeming with endless fields of these fragrant and incredible purple flowers.

Recommended by Antoine and Marielle of Offbeat Escapades

Cassis

Cassis

Beautiful Cassis is a gorgeous seaside village on the shores of the Mediterranean in Provence. The main beach and marina are lined with lovely cafes and restaurants, along with shops selling typical artisan goods of the area such as lavender, fabrics and Marseilles soap. It’s a brilliant spot for people watching while indulging in a delicious seafood drink and glass of pastis.

Surrounding the town are a series of cute little alleyways where you can wander and admire the gorgeous houses and architecture of the Old Town. Further afield, the town is surrounded by vineyards and if you’re lucky enough to visit in September you can take part in the annual Cassis Wine Festival.

One of the main highlights of Cassis is the beautiful Parc National des Calanques which features amazing inlets with sheer rocky limestone cliffs that are over 120 million years old, plunging straight down into the Mediterranean. There is over 20km of hiking trails which range from beginner to more advanced, and it’s such a great day out to hike along the trails with a picnic and lunch under the amazing pine trees. If hiking is not your thing, then it’s easy to arrange a trip out on a boat with one of the operators in Cassis. They will take you from the town out along the coastline and you can witness the beauty of the calanques in comfort.

Recommended by Kylie of Visiting Dordogne

Fayence

Fayence

Perched on the hillside, high above the surrounded plains and woods, is the medieval town of Fayence. About an hour’s drive north-west from Nice, Fayence is a pretty town with steep roads that wind their way up to the top. Once a fortified town, there are still remnants from earlier defences including the original 14th Century Saracen Gate.

Dotted throughout the center of the town are many cafés where you can sit enjoying a coffee or aperitif while watching the world go by. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, markets are held in the main square. The markets are filled with fresh colorful local produce, soaps, flowers as well as clothes and tools. The market is a great place to pick up some local delicacies like chevre, tapenade and honey. There are many artisan shops to explore and the Cave de Fayence is full of delicious local wines to try.

Wide steps take you up from the center of the town to the 19th Century Clock Tower at the top for 360˚ panoramic views over the plains of the southern Alps and the Esterel massif. On the edge of the tower there’s a painted tile fresco of the view before you.

For the adventurous, head down to the airfield just outside the town for an exhilarating experience in a glider.

Recommended by Larch of The Silver Nomad

In Provence there’s no reason to hurry, but just slow down and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and the hospitality of the people.  Also, don’t forget about a glass of rosé wine, typical for the area.

We hope this article inspired you to add Provence to your bucket list, just next to Alsace, as we did. If you get there, please let us know what it was like in the comments!

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