Provence, Southern France famous for its colorful landscapes, delicious wines, flavorful markets, crystal clear waters and lavender fields, is a dream for many travelers. I was born and raised in Provence, I am a professional guide and I will tell you where and how to find everything that you hope for and more.
If you have the opportunity, try to stay a week in Provence. There is a lot to explore and here I will focus on what to do from Avignon.
To make your itinerary planning even easier, don’t hesitate to contact me !
Settling in Avignon
Coming to Avignon
The best way to reach Avignon is by train. The city benefits from a TGV (High Speed Train) station connecting it perfectly with Paris, Marseille, Nice or Lyon.
If you arrive by car, parking in Avignon is impossible. Head straight to one of the city parking lots.
From Avignon TGV to Avignon center
It takes around 10 minutes to travel from Avignon TGV to Avignon Centre by train. There are about 12 trains per day connecting Avignon TGV to Avignon Centre and tickets for this journey start from 2 euros.
Where to stay in Avignon ?
Regardless to the kind of accommodation you are looking for, the most important is to host yourself inside the walls. Avignon is totally surrounded by ancient city walls and all the city inside the walls is UNESCO Heritage.
If prices inside the walls are too high, check the few options in front of the walls or along the tramway line.
Where and what to eat ?
My top 3 restaurants in Avignon
Where the locals go: Le Vintage
Good value for money: La Cour du Louvre
Once in a lifetime experience: La Mirande
Avignon is a beautiful medieval city and a UNESCO world heritage site.
I would be honored to guide you in the old town by foot, segway or electric bicycle since no cars are admitted. Don’t miss the Rocher des Doms, the Pont d’Avignon, the 12th century cathedral where 2 Popes are burried, the antiquaries neighborhood and the covered market.
But the must here is the Popes Palaces; the biggest Gothic Fortress in the World. Beside its unique architecture, the Popes Palace was the center of the christian religion during the 14th century. Join me for an exploration of the Palace and you will understand everything about Avignon, the life of the Popes, the wars between France and Italy, the Templars and the Inquisition.
Exploring around Avignon
Pont du Gard
Only 30 minute by car from Avignon is the Pont du Gard: the best preserved Roman Aqueduct on earth and a masterpiece of UNESCO heritage.
Take a swimsuit, and let me invite you for a perfect day in Provence. My wife and I will prepare a picnic for dinner, and I will drive you to the Pont Du Gard aqueduct for afternoon and sunset.
After a cultural tour of the Pont du Gard and its museum let’s have a moment of pure life enjoying a swim in the river and a glass of wine while looking at the sunset. A unique moment in a unique site that you can’t find anywhere else.
Such an experience of the Pont du Gard can also be combined with a visit of Nîmes, Arles, Orange or Châteauneuf du Pape in the morning for a full day exploration.
Get ready for another perfect full day. Prepare your swimsuits, beach towels, sun cream, and camera and I will take care of everything else: picnic (anything you like, water, soft-drinks and any drink you wish).
About 1h30 from Avignon we will arrive in the heart of the lavender production on the Plateau de Valensole. To fully enjoy the experience of the lavender fields I recommend this tour between early June and late July, when the lavender is in flowers.
By the end of July sunflower fields are also at their very best. After many photo stops on the road we can visit a lavender distillery or just stop in a local shop selling authentic lavender oil.
We can have a stop for lunch in Valensole or wait to reach the next destination, the Verdon Canyon, 1 hour from Valensole.
The Verdon Gorge and the lake Sainte Croix are known for their turquoise green water, swimming, kayaking, and hiking. It is a perfect spot for a picnic and an outdoor activity or a refreshing jump in the water.
The panoramic road up the canyon is a must. It offers breathtaking views over the lake and the canyon.
There are a couple very peaceful and authentic villages by the lake. I recommend a stop in Moustiers Sainte Marie before driving back to Avignon.
The Luberon Natural Park
The Luberon Natural Park is the heart of Provence. It offers a preserved countryside and authentic villages more beautiful than each other.
30 minutes from Avignon is l’Isle sur Sorgue. A small town built on a island in the middle on the Sorgue river. I recommend going to L’isle sur Sorgue on a Sunday morning if possible. Sunday market from 8 am to 1 pm is a real experience of Provence way of life. Market in l’Isle sur Sorgue is also on Thursdays even if smaller than Sundays.
15 minutes from L’Isle sur Sorgue is the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse. This is where the source of the river Sorgue springs up from 900 feet under the mountain ! Incredible, isn’t it ! The main attractions in Fontaine de Vaucluse is to walk about 15 minutes along the river to reach its spring and see the gap where it is coming from. It is a refreshing walk along the water and across the village.
20 minutes from Fontaine de Vaucluse is the magnificient Senanque Abbey from the 12 th century. This picture-perfect monastery surrounded by lavender fields still hosts a community of Benedictine monks producing their own lavender oils and creams. I invite you to follow me inside the abbey for a unique spiritual interlude.
15 minutes from the Senanque Abbey is the village of Gordes, perched on the top of the hill with its impressive castle. Wandering in the village is nice but quickly done. I invite for a unique exploration of the castle to understand life in the Luberon in the Middle Ages.
20 minutes from Gordes is Roussillon. The village of Roussillon became the most famous in Provence thanks the its orange color. It has even been nicknamed the “French Colorado”. It is perched on a hill in the center of the Luberon and offers a great panoramic view over the vineyards and the lavender fields. The thing to do in Roussillon is to have a little and easy hike in the ancient ocher quarries. I will tell you all about the time when men used to carve the ocher hills and how the ocher is still in use today.
Before driving back to Avignon and if time remains we can also have a look at the Pont Julien (built in 3 BC), Bonnieux, Lacoste or Ménerbes.
Arles, Les Baux de Provence & Saint Remy de Provence
This is one of my favorite day trips all over Provence. It combines the Camargue Natural Park, the Alpilles Natural Park, Arles (city of Van Gogh in Provence), Saint Remy (where Van Gogh Asylum is to visit) and Les Baux de Provence (the most impressive ancient castle of Provennce).
45 minutes from Avignon is the city of Arles and the Camargue Natural Park. Camargue is the name given to the delta of the Rhone river. In the middle of the delta is a wildlife reserve for birds. Farming in Camargue is crucial to the local economy so there are many bulls and horse to see on the road.
Arles used to be to major city of Provence under the Roman Empire. It offers wide range of Roman heritage combined with UNESCO heritage. A walking in Arles is a must in order to explore all its monuments but also to follow the footpath of Van Gogh and visit places where he lived and painted.
30 minutes from Arles is Les Baux de Provence. This village is literally perched on the top of the rock. It offers amazing views all over the countryside. Les Baux de Provence has 3 main attractions. First are the Quarries of Lights: ancient limestone quarries transformed into a spectacular art exhibition center. Second are the remains of the 11th century castle: climb to the top of the ancient dungeon and let me tell you why this castle had never been taken. Third is the village itself mostly from the 16th century fulfilled with nice restaurants and handcraft shops.
20 minutes from Les Baux de Provence is Saint Remy de Provence. After a short drive across the rocky mountains of the Alpilles Natural Park we will arrive in Saint Remy de Provence which entrance is shown by 2 majestic Roman monuments: The ancient city gate and a mausoleum from the 1st century AD.
Next to those monuments the monastery of Saint Paul de Mausole, being still today a psychiatric asylum, is where Va Gogh got admitted after cutting his ear. Let’s explore this place and dive in the spirit of the artist.
After our exploration of Van Gogh Asylum I invite you for a walking tour of Saint Remy de Provence where was born a so called…Nostradamus. The small town about 20 000 inhabitants is a perfect place for a shopping stroll.
What next ?
If you have some more days to explore Provence think about Châteauneuf du Pape and Orange. Châteauneuf du Pape is famous for producing the best red and white wines all over Provence. Orange hosts the only perfectly preserved Roman Theater on earth.
Another option is the spend one or two days discovering Aix en Provence, Marseille and Cassis.
Aix en Provence is an elegant and fully pedestrian city fulfilled with palaces of the 17th century and fountains. By the way, “Aix” means water.
Marseille is the capital city of Provence and the oldest French city thanks to its foundation by the Greeks in 600 BC.
Next to Marseille is Cassis and its Calanques National Park. The Calanques National Park is a must for a hike or sightseeing tour.