The rumors are true—the south of France is indeed one of the most magical places in the world. Whether you plan a trip during peak tourist months (summer) or one of the shoulder seasons, you’re sure to leave feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to move to a lavender farm in the hills of Provence for the rest of your life.
Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most beautiful towns, both big and small, both popular and off-the-beaten-path, that may inspire your next vacation. There is truly no shortage, and it’s nearly impossible to go wrong when exploring the striking coasts, vast valleys, and hillside villages of this beautiful pocket of France.
Perhaps one of the most popular destinations in the south of France, Aix-en-Provence is both a bustling university town and a relaxing getaway. There is no shortage of things to do: amble through museums like Musée Granet, explore important historic sites like Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence, and walk through Le Terrain des Peintres and Le Grand Marché. And of course, there are plenty of idyllic French restaurants (like Pointe Noire from Michelin-starred chef Alexandre Mazzia )and charming hotels (like Hotel le Pigonnet) to keep you happy and comfortable during your stay.
Cradled at the foot of Monts de Vaucluse, Roussillon is famous for its iconic red cliffs and expansive ochre quarries, which is used on the facades on many of the village’s homes. As you wind through the streets and squares, we’ve no doubt that you’ll be charmed by the vibrant colors, the sweeping vistas of the quaint countryside, and the plentiful art and restaurants throughout the town.
Aptly called the crowned jewel of the Côte d’Azur—and known as the capital of the alluring French Riviera—Nice is one of France’s dreamiest destinations. Between the sparkling aqua waters of the Baie des Anges, the ochre streets, the blossoming parks, the annual jazz festival, the local cuisine (you must try both Pissaladieres and of course, ratatouille), and the buzzing arts culture, Nice yields unforgettable and dynamic travel experiences for locals and foreigners alike.
Wandering along the storied Rhône River in Avignon, the capital of the Provence region, is an experience unlike any other. Walking past the emblematic Pope’s Palace and the Saint Bénézet Bridge (both UNESCO World Heritage sites) feels a bit like time travel in this famed city. You’ll want to take your time exploring the architecture and historical sites of Avignon, particularly the Place de l'Horloge at the city’s center. Between its rich history and culture, and the beautiful Medieval architecture, we have a feeling you’ll be back for more.
This hilltop village nestled into southeastern France, within the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur région (what most call Provence), Gordes is one of those storybook towns that will leave you lusting for another era. With cobblestone streets, striking hilltop vistas of the Luberon Valley below, and a buzzing hotel and restaurant scene, Gordes should be at the top of your list when planning which villages to prioritize on your itinerary.
You may know Cannes as a major hub for the French Riviera’s party scene, or perhaps recognize it for its world-renowned film festival. While both of these factors give it a well-deserved draw, reasons to visit Cannes extend far beyond its nightlife and film festival. Stunning beaches, seafront restaurants, luxury hotels, beautiful parks, and award-winning restaurants abound in this beautiful pocket of southern French culture on the sparkling waters of the Bay of Cannes.
The port of Marseille is one of the biggest cultural hubs in France—and the nation’s oldest city, boasting 26 centuries of rich history, readily reflected in its storied art scene, architecture, and famed historic sites. From the Notre-Dame de la Garde to the Old Port, the Saint-Victor Abbey to the beautiful Frioul Islands, opportunity for exploration and cultural immersion abound in this beautiful and bustling port city.