What you must see in Provence
Provence is a land rich of culture and history for 3000 years. It has a lot to offer to the visitor with its colorful villages and pristine beaches. Land of delicious wines and tasty Mediterranean food culture, don’t miss the best of Provence during your stay !
Main cities of Provence
Capital city of Provence and oldest city in France, Marseille is as cosmopolitan as once the biggest port all over the Mediterranean can be.
In 600 BC Greek sailors coming from Foça (Turkey) founded Massalia. Some remains of the first port of Marseille are visible in the garden of the vestiges close to the old port.
Some of the first Christians also lived in Marseille. The most famous being Mary-Magdalene.
The real transformation came only in the 19th century when Marseille finally solved its water shortage and could finally expand to become the “Gateway to the Orient”.
Apart from its fascinating history Marseille is a real beauty. A wide open bay with the Château d’If in the center, a rocky cost with hidden creeks, the Calanques national park, secret neighborhoods with luxurious palaces and the hill of the basilica Notre Dame de la Garde dominating all the city.
The little sister of Marseille was founded by the Romans in 125 BC. “Aix” means water. That’s why, contrary to Marseille with its water shortage problem, Aix-en-Provence has always be the wealthy sister.
It was the center of life and administration in Provence all along the Middle Ages. The Saint Sauveur cathedral is the best proof of it with a foundation in the 4th century and a constant evolution till the 19th century.
The most important period for the history of Aix-en-Provence is the 17th century when Louis XIV ordered to transform and modernize the city. The best example being its main street “Cours Mirabeau” showing luxurious mansions from its beginning till its end.
As a university town, Aix-en-Provence is a pleasant place to stroll, along shady alleys with many shops and daily markets.
The painter Paul Cezanne was born and died in Aix-en-Provence. His former house and his workshop can be visited as well as many places where he painted. If you like art don’t miss a visit to the musée Granet and the “Hôtel de Caumont”
Arles is a Roman colony founded by Julius Caesar under the name of Arelate. Its Roman amphitheater, Roman theater and Romanesque cloister are classified as UNESCO World Heritage.
Arles holds a lot of heritage besides those three : Roman baths, Roman underground storage, Roman cemetery, Saint-Trophime church, Van Gogh’s hospital are the most famous.
Don’t miss a visit to the archaeological museum if you are interested in the Roman empire. If you want to know more about local culture and traditions of Provence you can visit the Museon Arlaten. If you are more interested in art you can see exhibitions at the Van Gogh foundation and the Luma foundation.
Explore Arles with a professional tour guide from the French ministry of tourism and culture. You will learn everything about the history of the city and also follow the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh.
In the history of Avignon there’s one century above all others. In the 14th century the popes decided to establish themselves in Avignon rather than in Rome. A fascinating history involving all the powerful kings of the period as well as the Templars.
The popes built a massive palace to insure their safety and show their power. The impressive fortress still stands into the heart of the old town. It is the hugest Gothic palace all over Europe.
After classifying this masterpiece, UNESCO world heritage also considered to classify to bridge of Avignon from the 12th century and finally the entire city within the walls.
Next to the Popes palace is also the cathedral where two popes are buried and the garden of popes where from the view over the Rhone river is the best. Exploring the center of Avignon don’t miss its opera on the “Place de l’Horloge” as well as its medieval neighborhood in its covered market for a food tasting.
Lovely villages in Provence
Next to Marseille is the world famous fishing port of Cassis. Between Cassis and Marseille is the Calanques national park and Cassis is the best starting point for a boat trip or a hike into the park the see the fjords and enjoy its pristine beaches with translucent water.
Cassis exists since the 1st century when the Roman empire created an exportation port for wine. Today Cassis is recognized as the specialist for white wine all over the south of France. Don’t miss the opportunity the taste some in one of the wineries of the village.
The sea, the stone, the wine, this is all about Cassis. A private tour will also lead you to the top of the cape Canaille, the highest cliff in France dominating the sea and the national park. From there the panorama is probably the most beatiful of Provence.
Once the strongest castle all over Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence is must destination into the nature park of the Alpilles. The lords of les Baux believed to be descendants of the wise man Balthazar. In the 11th century they built their fortress on the top of the rock which could never be taken until canons were invented in the 17th century.
By the top of the castle the view is vertiginous and on clear days one may see the sea even if it is 50 kilometers away.
Under the castle the village is mostly from the 16th century and offers a unique travel into time while strolling from a tiny shop to another.
Next to the village is the amazing ancient limestone quarry transformed into an art gallery known as the “Carrières de Lumières“. The best art show all over southern France without in doubt !
This former limestone quarry has tall flat walls where 70 laser projectors project movies and art on the walls and the floor. Together with a cinema grade sound system it creates a very immersive audio-visual experience.
Saint-Tropez, a village with 3000 inhabitants, became a world famous luxurious sea resort. During the last decades more and more wealthy people felt in love with Saint-Tropez, its bay, its beaches and its parties !
Authentic at sun light and crazy under the moon, there’s nothing like Saint-Tropez in southern France. Every year countless yachts are investing the bay and more than a million visitors is going Saint-Tropez each year.
The saint “Tropez” was a real man. He was general Torpesius under the Roman empire and got beheaded by emperor Neron for converting himself into a Christian. To story of general Torpesius is just fascinating and your guide will tell you all about it.
In the middle ages Saint-Tropez was also an independent city as well as Monaco can be today. People of Saint-Tropez were considered to be pirates by the kings of France who finally took the village under control.
In the 19th century Saint-Tropez was a secret destination for artists. Many impressionist painters worked here such a Paul Signac whose finally helped to create the Annonciade museum; a magnicient and tiny museum that one sould never miss being in Saint-Tropez.
Villages in the Luberon
In the heart of the Luberon nature park, Roussilon is a colorful village thanks to the nearby ocher quarries. Here all houses are painted with local pigment and it gives the village a unique atmosphere.
Next to Roussillon is Gordes. Gordes is famous for its castle but also for the Sénanque abbey located just next to it.
L’Isle-sur-Sorgue is beauty built on an island. It was once the center of paper production and is nowadays for its giant market on Thursdays and Sundays including antiquaries.
Next to L’Isle-sur-Sorgue, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is a must with the unique chasm where the river Sorgue is coming from to give life the village ans the entire valley.