Things to do in Provence, France - Travel Addicts

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10 Ways to Spend a Day (or Longer) in Provence

There are so many great things to do in Provence, France. From visiting seaside towns like Cassis to visiting historical sites like the Theater at Orange, there is no shortage of ways to spend your time in this beautiful region.

Provence has something for just about everyone. This brilliant corner of southeast France is punctuated with villages full of winding lanes, cliffs that plunge to the sea, and 2000-year-old Roman ruins still begging to be explored. From standing where Van Gogh stood to breathing in the bliss of the local markets, there are so many marvelous things to do in Provence, France, whether you have one day or ten.

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Things to do in Provence

There are so many fun things to do in Provence. Spending some time in Avignon's Place de l'Horloge is a great way to enjoy an afternoon.

Place de l’Horloge in Avignon

Lose yourself in Avignon

Avignon is a unique combination of an historical town (with medieval walls, no less) and a modern city teeming with businesses, cafes, and tons of character.

Stop by the Palace of the Popes and imagine what it might have been like 700 years ago when pontiffs walked the halls. Have a leisurely lunch at one of the restaurants on Place de l’Horloge or stroll through the Parc Rocher des Doms, a seven-acre park where locals enjoy the open space and relax under the warmth of the Provencal sun. End your day at one of the wine bars on Rue des Teinturiers, people watching with a glass of local wine in-hand.

Manguin Distillery outside Avignon, France, is famous for its pear brandy

Manguin’s “imprisoned pears”

Stop in for a sip at Manguin Distillery

Head out from Avignon to the Île de la Barthelasse where you’ll find Manguin Distillery. Manguin has been making its famous Poire Williams Eau de Vie, an amazing pear brandy, for over 50 years. Not quite as delicious (but even more interesting) are the bottles you’ll see attached to the trees outside – the pears are actually growing inside the bottles.

On Saturday mornings you can join a tour of the facilities at Manguin and taste a variety of their products. A visit here is one of the more unique things to do in Provence.

The Roman ruins around Provence are very impressive. The Ancient Theater at Orange is 2000 years old and still in relatively good condition.

The impressive theater at Orange

Take a step back in history

Provence and the surrounding area are full of Roman ruins and other historical sites. Whether it’s the remains of the ancient “upper town” of Vaison la Romaine or the archaeological site of Glanum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, there’s lots to see and learn about in the South of France.

Some of the most important historic sites have even been classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Don’t miss the opportunity to tour the 2000-year-old Ancient Theater of Orange where the original statue of Emperor Augustus still looks out at the crowd. The Pont du Gard aqueduct – perched high above the Gardon River – and the Arles Amphitheater are also must-sees.

Visiting the calanques at Cassis is one of the best things to do in Provence.

It’s easy to see why the beach at this calanques is so popular

Relax in Cassis

Cassis has it all – stunning natural features, adorable seaside restaurants, a twisty mountain drive, and a bit of history thrown in for good measure. In an area full of great towns, this is one of the best.

The most unique feature of Cassis is its calanques, white cliffs of limestone that plunge dramatically into the Mediterranean. You can walk the trails, hike, or take a cruise to see some of the largest ones. After your excursion, relax at one of the cafes with some fresh seafood while you marvel at the colors of all the boats in the marina. After lunch, drive (or take a taxi) on La Route des Cretes, a breathtaking mountain drive that takes you high above the town for one of the most picturesque things to do in Provence.

The vegetables, cheeses, and meats at markets in Provence, France, are sort of irresistible. Visiting the markets is one of the best things to to in Provence.

It’s hard not to buy everything at a market in Provence

Absorb the ambiance of the markets

Markets in Provence overflow with seasonal produce, fresh meats, spices, cheeses, and all variety of homewares. They are truly a feast for the senses. Most are temporary, outdoor markets that take place once or twice a week, generally in the main town square. The permanent, indoor markets have fixed hours.

Arles and Aix-en-Provence are definite winners, but there are so many to choose from. Be prepared for all the free samples, and if you think you might want to buy something, ensure you have a bit of cash on hand.

Cooking in a foreign country isn't always easy. With so much to choose from in Provence, though, cooking is an adventure.

Dinner is served!

Cook like a local

Food in Provence is homey and flavorful. It’s full of olives, herbs, tomatoes, garlic, and dozens of other delicious ingredients. If your accommodations allow, make a visit to a local market or grocery store and pick up something in season to cook at home.

In Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France, many of Van Gogh's paintings are shown in situ -- visitors can see an image of the work in the exact setting where it was painted. This one is at Saint Paul's asylum where Van Gogh was a patient.

The setting of one of Van Gogh’s paintings when he was a patient in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

Walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh spent the last two years of his life producing numerous paintings in the South of France. Two of the areas where he was most prolific – Arles and Saint-Remy-de-Provence – have self-guided walks showing his images in the exact locations where they were painted. From Starry Night to images of brightly-lit cafes, flowers, and bales of hay, visitors can trace where the master stood and (mostly) what he saw.

Aix-en-Provence is one of the top towns to visit in the South of France

Aix-en-Provence really could not be prettier

Wander the lanes of Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is famous for its markets, fountains, and twisting pedestrian lanes. A visit here is about being and soaking in the good life rather than doing anything specific. Wander. Get lost. Pull up a table at one of the trendy tables on Cours Mirabeau, or opt for one at a local place on a quieter square. Either way, enjoy.

The cliffs of Roussillon, France, are home to the largest ochre deposit in the world. They are a main attraction in this tiny Provencal village.

Roussillon’s unusual cliffs

Explore the Ochre Cliffs of Roussillon

Tiny Roussillon has been a protected village since 1943. There is no modern development here – just cafes, winding lanes, and amazing views. Many of those picturesque views come at the colorful ochre cliffs on the south end of town. These yellow, red, and orange hills are the largest ochre deposit in the world. Walking along the burnt orange path is like stepping into another (very colorful) dimension. Choose the short or the long path (30 or 60 minutes) and stroll to your heart’s content. But don’t wear any light-colored clothes because white and red don’t mix well.

The vineyards and mountains of the Cotes du Rhone. Driving through this beautiful region - famous for its wine and views - is one of the best things to do in Provence.

The vineyards and mountains of the Cotes du Rhone

Drive the Cotes du Rhone

A day driving France’s Cotes du Rhone wine road will take you through the South of France to charming villages, past vineyards, and over beautiful mountain passes. Along the way, you can taste the wine that the region is famous for – affordable, easy-drinking blends (mostly reds) known as Cotes du Rhone.

Don’t forget to stop and take in the beautiful views as the road runs through the mountains, hanging high above the valleys before dipping back down. It’s even better if you bring a picnic to enjoy at a scenic spot along the way.

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Have you been to Provence? What did you enjoy most or would you most look forward to there?

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From standing where Van Gogh stood to exploring the local markets, there are so many marvelous things to do in Provence whether you have one day or ten.

From standing where Van Gogh stood to exploring the local markets, there are so many marvelous things to do in Provence, France, whether you have one day or ten.

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What do you think about 10 Ways to Spend a Day (or Longer) in Provence?

  1. Stephen Garone March 2, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

    Very nice! I’ve always heard great things about Aix-en-Provence in particular.

  2. Sophia March 7, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    It’s nice. I love both Aix and Arles. Les Baux de Provence is amazing too.

    • Laura Longwell March 7, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      Les Baux looks beautiful. It poured rain on the day I had planned to go there (one of the few days of bad weather in Provence), so I didn’t make it. Next time!

      • Catherine Berry March 19, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

        And for us – the wind howled and nearly blew us across the barricades of Les Baux – but that is the magic of France – despite the weather, we were captivated.

  3. Cindy Collins February 8, 2017 at 12:23 am #

    Provence is such a beautiful area. Aix en Provence is so pretty. Your photos are so beautiful by the way. Great post.

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