15 Best things to do in Provence (France)

The mere mention of Provence conjures images of lavender fields, sunflowers, olive groves, cicadas, vineyards and the kind of unspeakable light that inspired Post-Impressionist painters like Cézanne.

You can follow in their footsteps and hang out in the cafés of Aix before heading out into the countryside to find medieval abbeys and dreamy villages in this desolate landscape blown by the northwesterly.

Whatever your taste, there’s always something you shouldn’t miss on your trip, whether it’s Avignon’s Place du Popes or the incredible rocky entrance between Marseille and Cassis.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Provence:

1. The Papal Palace of Avignon

Papal Palace, Avignon

In the 14th century, this world-famous building was the residence of six popes and the seat of Western Christianity.

It is one of the UNESCO-listed complexes in Avignon and one of the largest and most important Gothic buildings in the world.

It’s safe to say that it has to be on your agenda if you’re in the area.

The building is the height of medieval craftsmanship and will bring home the opulence and splendor the Pope enjoyed during his exile in the Vatican.

You will have access to more than 20 rooms, including the Pope’s apartment of Clement IV, where Matteo Giovanetti’s exquisite Gothic frescoes are preserved to this day.

2. Senanque Abbey in Gold

Senanque Abbey, Gold

This is one of the must-visit spots from June to August when the lavender is in bloom.

If everything in Provence embodies everything people love, it’s the pale grey walls of this Romanesque building, next to the cypress trees behind the lavender fields.

The monastery was built in the 1100’s and is often included in lavender tours: try to get there early if you can, as the sun is weak in the fields and there aren’t that many people around! The monks lived on the fields and kept bees.

The building is typically Romanesque, unpretentious but complements the gorgeous setting!

3. Old Port of Marseille

old port of marseille

From the 6th century BC, it was one of the trading centers of ancient Europe.

The rectangular water finger we see today, with piers on three sides, is mostly from the 1700s.

A symbol of Marseille, it is where locals meet, dine and take part in evening entertainment.

Visitors will be blown away by the rows of yachts that seem to go on forever.

You can walk around the port for about half an hour, or take the ferry from Quai du Port to Quai du Rive Neuve for 50c.

The port isn’t just a tourist trap either, as fishing still plays a role in the city’s economy.

There is a fish market at Quai des Belges where the catch of the day is sold.

4. Verdon Gorge

verdon canyon

The 25km drive through Verdon Regional Park is one of the most admired natural environments in Europe.

In some places, this limestone canyon is more than 700 meters deep, and as you gaze down at the river, you’ll be drawn to its bright turquoise color.

It attracts tourists from all over the world, and you can enjoy the views of a lifetime without even leaving the comfort of your car.

But, of course, it will be more valuable if you do! Many tourists rent boats for a few hours, stopping occasionally to swim in these sparkling waters.

You can approach the canyon through a series of hiking walks, and there are approximately 1,500 climbing routes on the limestone cliffs of the valley walls.

5. Carrières de Lumières, Les Baux-de-Provence

Carrières de Lumières, Les Baux-de-Provence

You’ve probably never seen a cultural attraction like this.

Carrières de Lumières is an audio-visual experience set in a vast cathedral-like gallery in a former limestone quarry.

About 100 Ultra HD projectors project images totaling 6,000 square meters onto pristine transparent walls, accompanied by music and ambient sounds.

Even the ground is completely covered, and the pattern is in constant motion like a wall.

The theme changes every year, but always has to do with art.

Past exhibitions have featured works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh and Marc Chagall.

6. Old Aix

old aix

In the streets of the centre of Aix, a true Provençal flavour can be tasted.

Those interested in French culture will shudder to follow in the footsteps of icons such as Emile Zola, Albert Camus and Paul Cézanne who have lived here.

Stroll along the Cours Mirabeau under the plane trees and sit down in one of the many cafés full of cultural history from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Go to the medieval cathedral, which contains tapestries from the 1500s and a triptych from the 1400s depicting René of Anjou, Count of Provence before 1480.

7. Téléphérique du Mont Faron, Toulon

Téléphérique du Mont Faron, Toulon

Some of Provence’s premium sights may be beyond the comprehension of the youngest visitor, but taking a cable car up Mount Fallon in Toulon is something everyone agrees on.

This is the only cable car in the area that takes you to an altitude of 584 meters above sea level.

From the top, the panoramic views of the port of Toulon and the famous azure sea are unparalleled.

There is a small zoo, a chapel and several places to stop for lunch at the top of the mountain.

Afterwards, you can take the cable car back or take a scenic route via one of the hiking trails.

8. Parc National des Calanques

National Park

One of the top ten national parks in France, Calanques is the only national park that combines coastal and inland territories.

What everyone saw was that rocky limestone coastline, plunging into the sea from a height, with deep fjord-like indentations.

Hikers stroll along the GR-51 to refreshing vantage points such as the Corniche des Crêtes and Cap Canaille, and the best times to do so are in late winter and spring.

This is because of the fire hazard in summer and some trails may be closed.

Navigating the trails can be tough, so many people take a cruise from Marseille, and the views from the water are arguably better than on land.

You’ll love how the sea takes on a turquoise hue against the white limestone.

9. Arles and Provence Antique Museum

Arles Antique Museum

Arles’ Museum of Ancient Heritage is located where the city’s Roman Circus once stood.

After leaving this attraction, you will have a clearer understanding of the ancient civilization of Provence.

Take the Barbegal aqueduct and mill model, for example. The water in the aqueduct feeds two parallel sets of eight waterwheels that power the flour mill.

Meanwhile, the Arles Rhone 3 is a real Roman barge, excavated from the Rhone in 2011: it is on display with a large number of amphora.

If you’re interested in ancient history, you might take a few hours to re-emerge from this museum and its galleries, which feature early Christian sarcophagi, mosaics, and sculptures.

10. Provence Castle

Provence Castle

The fort on a rugged ridge has been in ruins since it was demolished in the 1600s.

Only fragments of decaying towers and chapels remain today, but the castle has brought feudal times back to life with its life-size siege machines.

These include ballistas (a giant crossbow), catapults (bg catapults) and, most excitingly, the largest catapult in Europe: this gigantic machine is loaded and fired several times a day during the summer.

There’s also a replica medieval forge where a blacksmith will show you how to make swords and axes, as well as demonstrations of swordsmanship and archery.

11. Moustier-Saint Mary


Considered one of the “most beautiful villages in France”, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is located on rocky terraces at the foot of the towering cliffs at the western entrance to the Verdon Gorge.

It’s a very photogenic place, with a large pedestrian street and a small stream running through the center.

Those with more energy can climb the 250 steps to the Church of Notre-Dame de Beauvoir.

As a souvenir, you can buy a piece of faience, tin-glazed pottery made in workshops around the village.

To get an inside look at this pottery technique, visit the museum, which will show you how it was made and has fragments of this fine glazed pottery dating back to the 1600s.

12. Mines de Bruoux

Mine Blue

This historic ochre mine is a real relief when the mercury rises in July and August, with a constant temperature of just 10 °C. The mine is unique in Europe, with galleries cut in a grid pattern extending over 50 kilometers.

Don’t worry: you won’t get lost as only 650 meters are safe for the public.

This part is amazing, though, with 12-meter-high vaulted galleries, all man-made between 1880 and 1950. If you’ve brushed up on French, you can come here on a warm summer evening and use the entrance to watch an outdoor theater production. Mine as a strong backdrop.

13. Solone Monastery

Le Thorone Abbey

The best time to visit this stately Cistercian monastery is early or late, when it’s almost empty, as the church’s sovereign acoustics carry even the slightest sound.

If you have the chance, you must attend one of the monastery choir shows that take place in the summer, which will take you back to the heyday of the 12th-century monastery.

It is a Romanesque and Gothic complex hidden deep in the oak woods, lacking in decoration, in the style of a disciplined Cistercian!

14. Provence Winery

Provence wine

Provence has many wine regions, including Coteaux Varois, Cassis, Bandol, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Les Baux-de-Provence and Côtes de Provence AOC. One of the most striking things about the region is how many up-and-coming winegrowers eschew modern cultivation techniques for fully organic production.

So you’ll even see sheep being brought in to weed or horses to work on vineyards.

This region of France is prized for its rosé wines, and you can immerse yourself in the culture (and avoid being a designated driver) overnight at a winemaker’s B&B, where you’ll talk through the production, and enjoy Enjoy delicious food in a sophisticated setting.

15. Savonnerie Marius Fabre, Provence Salon

Savonnerie Marius Fabre, Provence Salon

Now run by the fourth generation of the Fabre family, the soap factory is one of the oldest in the region.

Located in one of the factory’s old drying rooms, the company museum has enough information panels, archival images and antique tools to familiarize you with one of the most quintessential Provence industries.

Marius Fabre’s soaps are made with olive or coconut oil and scented with essential oils produced in the region, such as lavender.

Visit the shop at the end of the tour to buy some of the most amazing soaps you’ve ever seen, as well as eau de toilette and scented candles.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Provence, France
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