Best places to visit in the South of France
Hiking, canoeing, white water rafting
The South of France is a land of stunning natural beauty, rich history, and exquisite gastronomy. From the charming villages perched on hilltops to the sun-kissed beaches of the Mediterranean coast, the region is a traveler’s paradise. One of the best places to visit in the South of France is the Gorges of Verdon: a deep canyon carved by the Verdon River through the limestone plateau of the Verdon Natural Regional Park.
Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, the Gorges of Verdon offer a unique and thrilling experience. Adventure seekers, nature lovers, and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city will love it. Here are some of the best places to visit in the South of France, with a special focus on the Gorges of Verdon.
The Gorges of Verdon
The Gorges of Verdon, also known as the Grand Canyon of Europe, obviously belongs to the best places to visit in France. This breathtaking natural wonder stretches over 100 km and lined with vertical cliffs: they are the most impressive of Europe. Indeed, the deep turquoise waters of the Verdon River wind through towering cliffs, creating a dramatic landscape. It attracts hikers, rock climbers, kayakers, and nature enthusiasts from all over the world. Moreover, the canyon is also home to a rich flora and fauna, including eagles, vultures, and rare orchids.
In order to explore the Gorges of Verdon, visitors can drive along the scenic Route des Crêtes. Indeed, it offers stunning panoramic views of the canyon from several lookout points. Hiking trails also abound, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks that take you deep into the heart of the canyon. Kayaking, rafting, and swimming in translucent pools of water rhyme with the sun, gastronomy will make your vacations unforgettable. You can find all the tips and tricks on our website Les Gorges du Verdon in order to live La dolce vita provençale.
Secondly, known as the “City of a Thousand Fountains,” Aix-en-Provence is a charming town with a rich history and cultural heritage. Therefore, the town, known for being the official most beautiful city of France, is also called « The Little Paris of the South ». Unlike Paris, Aix has succeeded to conquer all types of tourism without being overcrowded. The town’s elegant boulevards and charming squares are lined with elegant mansions, art galleries, and museums.
One of the must-see attractions in Aix-en-Provence is undeniably the Cours Mirabeau, a wide avenue lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. The avenue is shaded by rows of plane trees and is a popular spot for a leisurely stroll or a cup of coffee. Another highlight is the Atelier Cézanne. The former studio of the famous Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne offers a glimpse into the artist’s life and works. Thanks to its very rich artistic heritage, several Historical sites, pastel colored facades, its 250 fountains and its hundreds of cafés, the city has succeeded to embody the typical town of the South of France.
The Hilltop villages of Provence
If you want a complete immersion in Provence, you must visit the village known as The Provencal crib: Moustiers Sainte-Marie. Indeed, this typical village, nestled between two rocks has everything of a postcard image! A visit to Provence without visiting Moustiers Sainte-Marie would be a bit like a champagne without bubbles. That village is so rich that we dedicated a whole article to it! You can read in order to discover more in detail this magnificent village.
The star attraction of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is the Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir chapel, perched on a rocky outcrop above the village. To reach the chapel, visitors can climb a steep staircase, passing by a series of small chapels and shrines along the way. The reward for the effort is a breathtaking view of the village and the surrounding landscape. That village is so rich that we dedicated a whole article to it! You can read in order to discover more in detail this magnificent village.
Gréoux les Bains
The Oasis of Verdon: so was called Gréoux Les Bains, the gateway to the Verdon Gorges, by the Provencal poet Jean Giono. The village is famous for its Provencal market and its Roman thermal baths. This is the place to go to learn more about the region. Moreover, the village has the one and only cinema that diffuses a movie called Verdon Secret. It makes you discover the beauty of the region in less than an hour on a giant screen.
An hour away from Aix en Provence, Gréoux with its 25 hotels is also an excellent base camp for the visit of the Gorges du Verdon.
If you’re visiting the French Riviera, don’t hesitate to take a day away from the crowds to immerse yourself in the hinterland of the Var. The village of Tourtour is home to many artists and a few gourmet restaurants. To learn more, read the article we dedicated to the village of Tourtour.
Avignon & Arles
Then, Avignon and Arles are two historic cities located in the heart of Provence. Avignon is known as the “City of Popes”. Indeed, Avignon was the seat of the Catholic Church in the 14th century. Its impressive Palais des Papes is a testament to its rich history. The palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses a museum that showcases the city’s medieval art and architecture.
Arles is famous for its Roman heritage, including the impressive Arena of Arles. It’s a 2,000-year-old amphitheater that is still used for concerts and events today. The city is also home to the Romanesque Saint-Trophime church and the Roman theater.
Montpellier & Nîmes
Last but not least, Nîmes and Montpellier are two cities located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Nîmes is known for its well-preserved Roman architecture, including the impressive Arènes de Nîmes. It is a 2,000-year-old amphitheater that is still used for concerts and events today. The city is also home to the Maison Carrée, a perfectly preserved Roman temple that dates back to the 1st century AD. In May, just before summer, you can go to the Féria and every evening for 5 days, enjoy evenings full of music in the Old Town. You can find several Street bars next to it (especially on the Victor Hugo boulevard) you can enjoy.
Montpellier, on the other hand, is a vibrant university town with a lively atmosphere and a rich cultural scene. The city is home to a number of museums, including the Musée Fabre. It houses an impressive collection of European art. There is also Musée Languedocien, which showcases the history and culture of the Languedoc region. Point often overlooked, Montpellier is the third largest city of the Mediterranean Coast of France. It is the perfect combination of old and new.
To conclude, both Nîmes and Montpellier are also great places to explore the local food and wine scene. Be sure to sample the local specialties and try some of the region’s delicious wines, such as the Côtes du Rhône or the Languedoc reds.