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It’s a good life in the south of France! What’s not to love about romantic hilltop villages, dreamy lavender fields, and lazy sun-drenched days by the sea? From the Luberon and Rhone Valley to Marseilles and the fishing villages on the Mediterranean, Provence has been delighting visitors throughout the ages with its colorful and relaxed joie de vivre. Here are some of the best towns in Provence to add to your travel itinerary…
Best Provence Villages and Towns
It may be small, but Moustiers-Sainte-Marie has been named one of the most beautiful villages in the South of France. Not only is the town itself picturesque, but the surrounding countryside is also truly a breathtaking sight. It’s one of the most stunning Provence destinations.
Moustiers is perched dramatically on the edge of a limestone cliff and offers spectacular views over the valley below. The village is located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region of France and it’s a 2.5-hour drive from Nice along a twisty mountain road. I highly recommend taking the route that passes through the Gorge-du-Verdon for some particularly stunning views along the way.
Don’t miss out on the short but beautiful hike that starts in the village and leads up to the 12th-century church, Nôtre Dame de Beauvoir, which is built into the cliffs above the village. The chapel is small but it’s the incredible views from the top that make the trek up worthwhile!
Another highlight of visiting Moustiers is the weekly market that runs in the town center on Fridays. You can expect to find fresh vegetables, goats cheese, tapenades, lavender sachets, and many more locally produced goods.
If you choose to spend the night in Moustiers, bear in mind there is limited accommodation inside the village itself. A good option is to stay in one of the many guest houses or B&Bs that lie on the outskirts of the village.
I enjoyed my stay at “La Ferme du petit Ségriès Bed and Breakfast” which is located 10 minutes away from the village by car. It’s a traditional old farmhouse in a lovely countryside location with pretty lavender fields nearby.
Ann | The Road Is Life
Located high in the Vaucluse, the adorable hilltop village of Roussillon is a Provence must see. It’s not like anywhere else! In fact, with its deep orange soil, it looks a lot like parts of the American Southwest!
The main attraction here is the opportunity to walk the gorgeous “Le Sentier des Ochres”, or the Ochre trail. At just three euro per person for admission to the beautiful trail and a bit more to park in the convenient hilltop lot, a 30- to 60-minute walk here takes you through a lush pine forest set among the vivid ochre cliffs.
Afterward, walk into the cute little village of Roussillon itself. It’s one of my very favorite Provence towns. On an earlier visit, we watched a bride wave to her guests from a balcony here during a local wedding.
Homes are lovingly tended and mirror the deep-hued colors found on the path. There are art galleries, restaurants, and plenty of cafés to sip a well-earned pastis here.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
Leave the Driving to a Local. Day Trip with a Provence Tour.
No rental car in Provence? Or need a break from driving? No worries! Join a day tour. You could:
- Take a full-day wine and villages tour from Aix-en-Provence. This tour visits Bonnieux, Roussillon, and Gordes i the Luberon. Check prices and availability here.
- See the Best of Provence. This tour visits Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Saint Rémy-de-Provence, and Les Baux-de-Provence. Check prices and availability here.
- Take a lavender tour. This tour from Marseille visits Sault (the lavender capital) with panoramic views of deep purple lavender fields in bloom. Check prices and availability here.
Nestled on top of a quiet hill in the Luberon Valley, you’d never guess when staring out at the surrounding countryside from the town of Goult that you were within a 20-minute drive of some of the region’s most touristed villages like Bonnieux and Gordes.
Uncrowded, unpretentious, and utterly charming, the tiny village of Goult is easily among the most beautiful villages in Provence…and part of that beauty comes from the fact that there is very little to do or see here.
Come by on a Thursday to see Goult at its busiest, when the market comes to town and stalls selling fruits, vegetables, lavender satchels, and more descend onto the cobblestone streets, but for most of the week, Goult is a very quiet place.
This is authentic Provence…a village you visit to sit quietly and admire the view of the Luberon Valley (stop by the Jerusalem Windmill at the top of town for some of the best views), to enjoy a leisurely lunch outside, and to stroll down delightful, small streets without having to fight crowds.
If you’re looking for a quiet escape from some of Provence’s summer crowds, be sure to add a stop at Goult to your south of France itinerary–you won’t be sorry.
Kate | Our Escape Clause
Wondering where to go in Provence? Not far from Avignon (and its UNESCO World Heritage designated bridge), Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue is known as “the Venice of Provence” due to its numerous canals on the Sorgue River. On a warm summer evening, you can sit on the riverbank with your feet in the spring-fed water, just watching the world go by.
If you’re feeling more active, walk the canal to the water wheels at the center of the river and think about how they’ve powered industry here for hundreds of years…first in corn mills and later in silk and wool mills. Today, just 14 of the water wheels survive. You’ll find them near the center island in the river, known as the “Partage des Eaux.”
Isle-Sur–la-Sorgue is also famous as the site of one of the most extensive markets in Provence, particularly of antiques. During two international antique fairs in Easter and midAugust, the market swells to more than 500 antique dealers!
Pop into Fondation Villa Datris to check out the latest contemporary sculpture and art exhibition. Or visit the lovely La Collegial Notre Dame des Anges, featuring 122 gold Baroque angels inside!
You’ll find more tourists in Isle Sur La Sorgue, but it’s still one of the most beautiful villages of France, particularly on market days. Just avoid the restaurants with inflated tourist prices and mediocre food that are riverside. Head to the center of town for better menus and prices.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
Bonnieux, France in Provence is one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is one of many historic “hill villages” located in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur that will take your breath away. Built upon a high plateau, you can wander through the narrow cobblestone streets while peeping out at the stunning views of the valley below.
The church tower that dominates the town at Bonnieux will be visible from a distance, long before arriving at the village. Monuments and evidence of earlier inhabitants are scattered throughout the village and surrounding area, from Pont Julien—a Roman bridge—to 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-century residences.
Traverse the 86 stone steps to the Vielle Eglise to discover ancient cedar trees and take in a view from the top of the village.
A trip to Bonnieux would not be complete without a visit to the infamous Boulangerie Museum where you can sample copious amounts of bread and learn about the history of bread! What could be better?
Vanessa | I Heart France
6. Les Baux-de-Provence
Les Baux-de-Provence makes a wonderful half-day visit if you’re in the Luberon. People have been living in this incredible walled village high in the Alpilles Mountains since 6000 BC! Then, during the Iron Age, residents built dwellings creating a village with streets and houses with a trading economy.
The Middle Ages saw Les Baux become the center of a feudal domain and the building of a serious fortress. This was a power center ruled by alleged descendants from Balthazar of biblical times who took up residence in the Chateau des Baux here.
Today, you can walk this beautiful village in le Provence inside the walls, ducking into any number of tiny restaurants for a beautiful Provencal crepe or salad. Be sure to watch the amusing catapult demonstration by period actors!
And then, when you’ve completed your visit to Les Baux, head directly below to Carrières de Lumières. (Reserve tickets ahead of time and plan your visit according to the assigned time slot.) Light shows are all the rage in Europe at the moment, but this is one of the very best.
Held in a former quarry just below Les Baux, the show changes every few months but broadcasts full-size famous paintings—think Van Gogh, for instance—onto the otherwise dark quarry walls accompanied by everything from Mozart to AC/DC music. It’s an incredible experience!
Chris | Explore Now or Never
Chances are, if you’ve seen a photo of Provence, you’ve seen a photo of the hilltop village of Gordes. Its advantageous position perched above the plains of the Luberon Valley makes it a spectacular sight and a magnet for photographers and Instagrammers alike.
Within the village, you’ll find cobbled laneways delicately winding down through the stone houses, pretty façades, and plenty of viewpoints from which to take in the surrounding bucolic scenery. At the head of the village is the 10th-century château, which has been restored and rebuilt throughout the centuries.
Nowadays, it houses the Pol Mara Museum with its permanent artworks, visiting exhibitions, and at Xmas time the chateau hosts the annual Xmas markets.
A little further down the village, you’ll see the iconic Saint Firmin church with its Italian inspired frescoes; it’s well worth peeking inside the grand doors. But not all of Gordes’ attractions are hidden in plain sight, the cellars of Saint Firmin are an intriguing network of caves that showcase the village’s fascinating history and are well worth the time to explore.
Back above ground, it’s time to sit back in a village café, or, if you feel like a treat, head to La Bastide de Gordes’ L’Orangerie restaurant for lunch with a view. Gordes makes a beautiful base for exploring the Luberon, or it can be visited as a day trip from Aix-en-Provence.
Nadine | Le Long Weekend
The Mediterranean gem Cassis is tucked away between Marseille and Toulon. It’s one of the very best towns in the south of France. In fact, it enjoys a privileged location along the French Riviera, far away from the tourist magnets between St Tropez and Nice. The Carolingian Château de Cassis overlooks the picturesque port, fringed by pastel houses and their charming terraces. Several beaches dot the town’s gorgeous coastline.
You’ll find postcard views around every corner. Charming alleys offer plenty of shade as you make your way to the provencal market on the Place Baragnon to find that perfect lavender-scented souvenir. But it doesn’t end there. Those visitors wanting to add some adventure to the classic Mediterranean vacation have plenty of options in Cassis.
With its location conveniently sandwiched between the Calanques National Park—known for its rocky inlets and aquamarine waters—and the Cap Canaille—with its ochre-colored cliffs and endless views—this seaside town delights the most active travelers. Cassis knows delivers the perfect blend of a traditional Provencal experience with an adventurous touch.
Whether you plan on kayaking or hiking to the spectacular Calanques de Cassis or spending the afternoon people-watching from a convivial terrace, the most magnificent Mediterranean memories are made in Cassis.
Sarah | Cosmopoliclan
Lourmarin is an often overlooked but equally lovely town in Provence. Vineyards and olive trees surround it and on the outskirts of the town you can find Lourmarin castle.
Lourmarin is one of the few towns in Provence that isn’t up a hill and is very easily accessible. There is also lots of free parking here, unlike many villages in Provence.
I would recommend coming here for lunch and a wander around, as well as visiting the castle. There are plenty of little cobbled streets here with lovely shops and small art galleries. In fact, there is one main junction where a few roads meet here, where you’ll find most of the restaurants.
It’s not like the usual squares in France, but rather, a lovely wider street with plenty of food to choose from. Alternatively, you can come on a Friday for the market day.
Here you can buy many handmade items as well as food and clothing. During lavender season, there are also lots of lovely lavender products including soap and plants to buy. (Lavender season is from July to August. Provence is really lovely at that time!)
Lourmarin was one of my favorite little towns here and really is not to be missed while you are in Provence.
Hanna | Solar Powered Blonde
Vaison-la-Romaine is located in the Vaucluse department, 30 kilometers northeast of Orange. As the name suggests, it was once part of the empire of ancient Rome, and today the ruins of that Roman town make up the largest archaeological site in France.
The buildings that have been excavated include a bath complex, a rock-cut theater, and a number of richly decorated villas where wealthy patrician families lived. In fact, this was one of the richest cities in the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis.
A treasure trove of beautiful mosaic pavements from these villas have been unearthed. Some of these can be viewed in the on-site museum, although many of the artifacts discovered at Vaison have been shipped off to other museums and private collections in Europe and beyond.
The theater could once seat up to 6,000 people, although in the Middle Ages its seats were reused as Christian tombstones. It’s now been restored and is used as a venue for cultural events during the summer.
All of these Roman ruins lie down in the valley, but there’s also a medieval portion of the town that sits high up on the hill on the opposite side of the Ouvèze river, which is crossed by a single-arched ancient Roman bridge.
The medieval period was characterized by instability, and the frequent attacks and armed conflicts led the population to relocate to a rocky promontory with a better defensive position.
At the top of this hill sits an imposing castle, now partially in ruins. The steep, narrow alleyways of the medieval town are perfect for aimless explorations. In more modern times, the center of town eventually moved back down to the valley, in amongst the ancient ruins. This is now where most of the activity of the modern town takes place, including the weekly market every Tuesday.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence makes a great base—it’s one of the best villages to stay in Provence—as it’s just a short hop down to larger cities like Avignon or Arles or up to the tiny hill towns and fields of lavender. Get lost here on beautiful cobblestone streets shopping the beautiful and trendy clothing boutiques and cheese shops!
Or take the Van Gogh walk. Saint Rémy is where Van Gogh spent the last five years of his life, culminating in his stay at the St. Paul de Mausole Monastery mental hospital. As you retrace his steps through this picturesque little town, information plaques with excerpts from some of his letters sketch his time here.
Other stops to enjoy near San Rémy: Stop in at Moulet du Calanquet, a family-run olive oil business just outside of town. History buffs won’t want to miss exploring the incredible Roman artifacts at the historical site of Les Antiques.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
As you climb high on the road leading to the charming hilltop village of Ménerbes, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the valley below. This little walled town has been inhabited since prehistoric times!
It was home to a Carmelite order back around 1250 and also home to the center of the Protestant movement between the 12th and 16th centuries. (Picasso even owned a home here!) It’s known worldwide today, however, as the setting of Peter Mayles’ best-selling book and movies, A Year in Provence, chronicling the author’s move to Provence.
Stop in to see the Abbaye de Saint Hillaire while you’re here to settle into serenity. Then taste some wine at nearby Le Domaine de la Citadelle (and take a garden tour while you’re there). Finally, make an evening reservation for an apertif (or dinner) on the terrace of Bistro Le 5. It’s just about the only spot in town to catch the sunset!
Chris | Explore Now or Never
If you’re in search of “south of France” towns, see Arles! Not far from Avignon, Arles is another large city on the Rhône River. Arles offers visitors a rich history beginning with the Ligurians who lived here in 800 BC. Eventually, the Romans arrived expanding the town and turning it into a prosperous trading port.
The Arles Amphitheater—a two-tiered Roman amphitheater—still stands today and you’ll see it peeking out formidably between winding cobblestone streets as you explore the town. This is another UNESCO world heritage site.
Van Gogh also lived in Arles for a year during the most prolific and creative painting period of his life, just before his mental breakdown. Some of his best-known works were painted here. In fact, you can walk the town today, revisiting sites of famous paintings and following in Van Gogh’s steps as we did on our visit.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
Avignon, on the Rhône River, is a veritable metropolis compared to many of the tiny villages included here. Visit Avignon for its impressive history! It’s one of the best towns to visit in France.
In the fourteenth century, seven different popes all resided here after a schism in the Church with Rome. And today, the magnificent Palais des Papes still dominates the skyline here in the heart of the old center. As the biggest Gothic palace in Europe, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When you tour the palace, you’ll see up to 20 rooms—including the Popes’ private chambers— hat are scenes straight out of history. The Palais des Papes is something special.
After touring the palace, wander through the narrow streets here and take a stroll on the Avignon Bridge. If you find yourself humming the popular nursery rhyme “Sure le Pont d’Avignon”, you won’t be alone!
Chris | Explore Now or Never
When we were on our Southern France road trip, we visited the markets in Aix-en-Provence to get some lavender products. We were there past lavender season and most lavender fields were already harvested.
One of the vendors at the market mentioned that there might be some fields near Sault that still had lavender. We didn’t want to leave Provence without seeing it so we decided to extend our stay in Aix-en-Provence and drove to Sault the next day looking for lavender fields.
Sault is an old fortified village located in Vaucluse. It is perched on the top of a high ridge overlooking a wide valley, with large lavender fields spread out below to the south and west. During peak season you can see beautiful blue fields along with fields of wheat for as far as your eye can see!
The streets are so picturesque with all the pale yellow stucco houses and their pretty Provencal blue shutters. The town was not crowded like most other European cities during summer. The village of Sault was open and relaxed, with wide squares and a good selection of cafés to enjoy crepes, macaroon, and coffee.
Priya Vin | Outside Suburbia
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