There are a million ways to visit the South of France. Each visitor has their own favourite places to go and their own particular wish-list of things to see. Having just been in the South myself for a week, I thought you may like to read my own itinerary for this trip!
Although I’ve lived in Normandy for many, many years, I also know the South of France very well. I’ve lived in Nice, St. Tropez and further into the Var. We regularly visit friends and family dotted along the coast, and of course I’ve been hosting my Provence tours for several years, during which I love to show my guests some of my personal favourite spots.
Of course, I covered a couple of family stops during my own trip, so there were some variations, but here is a fun itinerary for a first-time trip to Provence and the Cote d’Azur. Let’s start out arriving in Nice.
Fly into Nice airport, and rent a car, arrange for a driver, or grab an Uber. Head for the old town, and check out the Cours Saleya for its morning flower market. If you’re here on a Monday morning, you’ll be able to enjoy an antiques market in the same place! Take a wander around the old town, admire the beauty of the cathedral on the Place Rosetti, maybe grab a bite to eat. There are plenty of places to enjoy a light lunch, and if you want to people watch with the “in-crowd” in Nice, then book in ahead of time at La Petite Maison.
If you have enough time drive out of town along the shoreline, head up to the charming village of Eze. The old town is beautiful, and for a fun lunch you can eat with your toes in the water at Papaya Beach – great service and good food.
Leave Nice and drive along the coast to St. Paul de Vence. Book yourself a room at the Colombe d’Or (they don’t believe in online reservations, so you’ll have to do this before you arrive by email). Freshen up, take a wander around the beautiful old village streets, then head to the Cafe de la Place for an aperitif before returning to the hotel for dinner in their leafy courtyard, under the watchful eye of a mosaique by the artist Leger.
The next morning, get up early and enjoy their beautiful pool just for yourself before having breakfast in the same courtyard, or possibly inside, in the company of their museum-worthy art collection.
After a leisurely breakfast, climb back into your car and drive along to Aix en Provence, where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of this city with majestic architecture. If you enjoy art, then the newly restored Hotel du Caumont is worth visiting. Enjoy a delicious lunch in the gallery and restaurant Gallifet, then pop around the corner to Caumont. Alternatively in Aix, the Musée Granet regularly stages beautiful art shows.
When you’re ready to wave goodbye to Aix en Provence, continue heading west and deeper into the Luberon. Find a fab address as your home base, and prepare for a couple of days visiting local attractions. St. Remy is a great place to use for this as you tour the region; you have a choice of lovely hotels to stay at, from the grandeur of Le Chateau des Alpilles, to the chic charm of La Maison du Village, to the country setting and fine cuisine of Le Mas de la Rose.
Day trips from St. Remy are easy to pull together. Drive out to the east and visit the charming villages of Bonnieux, Goult, Gordes and Lourmarin.
On a Saturday morning, head over to Villeneuve les Avignon for the morning brocante fair, and then spend the afternoon in the city of Avignon itself. If antiques and brocante are your thing, then you’ll enjoy Isle sur la Sorgue and its weekend shopping.
Another day could take you into les Alpilles, visiting the villages of Maussanes, Baux de Provence, and why not a stop at the Carrieres Lumieres, for their beautiful shows of art and light in the old stone mines.
I’m sure that many of you have visited Provence and the South over the years, and that you are looking forward to getting back here very soon. I’d love to hear about some of your favourite South of France addresses and memories… let me know in a comment below!