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.
You might enjoy a night in Aix, in which case the stunning Chateau de la Gaude just outside of town. If you prefer to stay within the city, then head for La Villa Gallici.
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!
For 30 years, my husband and I have vacationed in “village perché” of Biot, know for its glass blowing and Leger museum. Tuesday is market day in the village–it’s small but fun and typically you can find a “to go” lunch of poulet roti at a food truck. We also love the restaurant, Le Vauban, in the beautiful city of Antibes, not far from Biot and about 20 minutes from Nice.
I don’t like to complain, but as of Aug26 I have not received my Jul/Aug magazine. Is there
anything you can do to get the issues out the beginning of each season?
Hi Elaine, Thank you for your message and our sincere apologies. I see that you subscribed in May, and as such you should certainly have received the July/august issue at the beginning of July. There have been some very severe disruption to the USPS service, meaning that while most people received their copies on time, some issues have been delayed or even lost. We shall send you an email today.
Picking a place to visit in the South of France … you can’t go wrong with just about any area. Beauty, history and charm is around every corner and down every lane. I hope to go back to L’Isle sur la Sorgue one day. My sister and I loved our time there. It’s in such a good location for wonderful day trips! Have really been enjoying your posts lately. And the August box … oh my, what treasures I found inside! I loved everything!
Lovely photos! I feel as if I was with you!
My first trip to France was in July of 1996. I had planed the trip for months. My friend and I rented a car for day trips out of Nice. The small village of St. Martin Vesubie was the highlight of my trip. In the center of the cobblestone street was a shallow drain (of stone) to allow the water to drain from the melting snow on the alps. It sparkled in the sun and made a lovely soft sound. As we looked for a place for lunch, I saw a poster advertising a traveling circus coming that night. It took my breath away. The image was a clowns face with the date of 10 July. Not only did the clown look exactly like one my mother had painted for me when I was a child, that date was her birthday. She had passed away the previous November, but I knew she was with me. This area holds magic. Seek and enjoy!
Hi Sharon, Can Not wait to get back to France. I have visited most of all the places you have listed in your blog and they are all enchanting. Since my cousins are from a small town in the Cevenne mountains, I have loved to explore around Languedoc. The town of Anduze, Florac and Saint-Jean-du-Gard are a few of my favorites. I so miss all the beautiful markets in the spring and summer.
I have not been to the south of France…..yet! I can hardly wait to travel again. Is it fairly easy to get around knowing only simple French phrases? Thank you for sharing some of your favorite places….I will keep them in mind.
I so enjoy your web site and the magazine.
I know many of the places you have mentioned Sharon and they are all delightful. Another very charming place is Uzès and of course the marvellous Pont du Gard where they have a fantastic sound and light show in the summer. Thank you for your wonderful blog which I have enjoyed reading over the years.
I have not received my July/August Issue of your magazine as of today. This is the second time this has happened to my subscription.. I would appreciate hearing from you.
I love the magazine … so tasteful!
Hi Pamela. Our apologies for this delay. With the Covid pandemic the postal system is very disrupted
We will write to you tomorrow
I have only been to France once. In mid 90s. I dream of the day I can return once again. I loved it all – but the south of France was so special.
Thank you for this tremendous info! I want to go back very much. My eldest daughter wants to go with me next time. ♥♥
Can I be added to list of not having recurve my July/August magazine . I am a first time buyer and really looking forward to receiving it many thank
Hi June. Our sincere apologies. As I have said in comments above the pandemic has played havoc with the postal system. We will write to you tomorrow
Twice we have stayed in the center of all the action in Bonnieux. Easy day trips to all the magnificent villages and their markets. I had a trip planned for Nice and the pink villages above when the pandemic hit. Still hoping to reschedule that trip! I also took girlfriends on my 2nd trip, sort of acting like their guide. And we always stop for Broconte shopping! Have some wonderful treasures from Ilse Sur la Sorgue. Have religiously followed you around, and now also Charlotte and Jamie Beck. It is where my heart is. Too old now to move there. But can still visit again !
My mouth is watering. I appreciate your beautiful posts so much more lately since we can’t travel to France right now.
Hope to see you soon.
i will have to be an armchair traveller as i am too ill to travel. looking forward to watching and sharing your adventues. every happiness and joy in your travels. best wishes. dr. maryanne menzies
If you would care to visit Provence from your favorite armchair, I just finished reading The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell. The descriptive quality of the novel brought me back to our visit of the region. Enjoy & Merci, Sharon, for your beautiful insights and photos. Maureen