From the picturesque villages to its beautiful beaches, what’s not to love about Southern France? But there is so much more waiting to be discovered within “le Midi”. Alluring history, inspiring art, timeless culture, and flavoursome food. No matter what time of year, there is no reason why Southern France should not be on that all important bucket list!
Here are my 10 Reasons why you should visit Southern France…
1. Explore the enchanting town of Saint Remy-de-Provence
Whitewashed stone walls, hidden behind cascading green vines. Rustic café style chairs and tables line the narrow alleyways, where pastel shaded doors and shutters welcome any avid photographer.
This captivating town is one of the oldest towns in France.The small city centre, shaded by many of its century-old plane trees, house many fine restaurants and cafes along with attractive boutiques and art galleries. Wandering through the cobblestone boulevards may lead you to one of a few small squares where pretty fountains entertain passers-by and the energy of Saint Remy is brought to life.
Whether it’s history, art, gourmet food or simply relaxation you are after, Saint Remy delivers all of the above.
Insider tip: Wednesday Market day from 9am – 1pm, is a must. Get there early or park your car on the outskirts and walk in. *There’s also a smaller market on Saturdays, with food only.
2. Recreate history in the ancient Roman city of Glanum
One kilometre south of Saint Remy de Provence, France, lies the Roman city of Glanum, one of the oldest and largest archaeological sites in Europe. This well-preserved sanctuary offers an interesting perspective of the site as a whole as it once was thousands of years ago.
Glanum is an educational experience for any age. An excavated Roman city within the French countryside. Transport yourself back in time, walk the streets, visit the thermal baths, sit in the Forum and ponder for a moment what life would have been like all those years ago.
Insider Tip: Admission is free for all children under 18 and youth under 26 years and EU residents.
Address: Site archéologique de Glanum
Avenue Vincent Van Gogh
Ph. : 33 / (0)4 90 92 23 79
3. Uncover the inspiration Vincent van Gogh discovered at Saint Paul de Mausole
Saint Paul de Mausole is situated 1km south of the French town of Saint Remy de Provence, and right next to the archaeological site of the ancient Roman city of Glanum. It is here, in this original building that the famous Dutch impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, spent one year of his later life. Created in 1995 The Valetudo Association of Saint Paul de Mausole, continues to advocate its mission of the struggle against mental illness and possible prevention. Over 100 patients still reside at Saint Paul de Mausole and are generously provided with art therapy workshops, music, and painting.
Insider Tip: If time and weather permits, walk from Saint Remy-de-Provence to Saint Paul, taking in the peaceful surroundings of the cypress and olive fields. There is also an informative audio guide available at Saint Paul de Mausole.
Address: 2 Voie Communale des Carrières, 13210 Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France
Phone: +33 4 90 92 77 00
4. Stroll the cobblestoned streets of Les Baux-de-Provence
One of the most beautiful villages of France is the medieval town of Les Baux-de- Provence.
The path of the narrow-stoned pedestrian only streets of the town, comfortably guide you uphill where eventually the welcoming site of the historic fortress of the Chateau des Baux-de- Provence awaits. The ancient ruins of the castle are Les Baux’s main attraction. The views from the top of the Chateau of Baux-de-Provence are magnificent and the panorama of the Alpilles and the Baux valley are a sight to be seen.
Insider Tip: Try to arrive early in the morning to avoid crowds and the heat, especially in Summer.
5. Admire the amazing art exhibition of Carriers de Lumieres
A five-minute walk from the village of Les Baux-de- Provence is the monumental Carrières de Lumières. This extraordinary multimedia art centre is displayed in an old stone quarry.
This unique and innovative concept, project images onto the immense walls, pillars and floor of the quarry through musical accompaniment.
Insider Tip: Make sure to buy a joint entry ticket for both the Château des Baux de Provence and the Carrières de Lumières, if you plan to visit both attractions. Also, bring a jacket as the temperature in the quarry is quite low.
Address: Route de Maillane 13520 Les Baux de Provence
Tel. : +33 4 90 49 20 02
6. Appreciate the soothing canals and waterwheels of L’Isle sur la Sorgue
The giant water wheels of L’Isle sur la Sorgue once aided the town with assisting the mills that manufactured products throughout the silk and paper industries. Fifteen of these wheels still remain and are in working order today. These giant moss-covered wheels are located within the beautiful waterways of this historic French country town.
L’Isle sur la Sorgue, is home to nearly 300 antique and second-hand stores and dealers and is commonly referred to as the Venice of Provence.
Insider Tip: On the first Sunday of August, don’t miss the beautiful floating market on the river. For a small cost you can leave your car in the parking lot before entering the town and stroll the streets and waterways by foot.
7. Step back in time millions of years ago at Thouzon Cave, Le Thor (Grottes de Thouzon)
Once used as a limestone quarry, this 60-million-year-old cave is well-known for its multitude of “fistulous” stalactites which give character and charm to Thouzon. These stalactites can reach up to two metres with a three millimetre diameter.
Grottes de Thouzon is a natural beauty. An educational geological experience created millions of years ago, and one which I would highly recommend if you are in Southern France.
Insider Tip: A great activity to do on a warm afternoon, as the temperature in the caves only reach around 13 degrees Celsius.
Address: 2083 Route d’Orange, 84250 Le Thor, France
Phone: +33 4 90 33 93 65
8. Learn about traditional French soap making at Marius Fabre Savonnerie Salon de Provence
For 118 years and four generations, Marius Fabre has preserved and maintained the Marseille soap tradition. The factory in Salon-de-Provence (not far from Marseille), with original cauldrons and family secrets passed from generations, produces quality olive oil soaps and cosmetics.
Guided tours are available the factory and museum and direct sales can be made at the shop.
Insider Tip: Over time, only the outer appearance of the soap will change. It will lose colour and its original shape, but not its quality! It will be even gentler on your skin. Keep the soap away from sources of heat and damp.
You can let it dry in your wardrobes and cabinets, it will get rid of the moths and leave a delicate scent on your linen.
Address: 148 Avenue Paul Bourret, 13300 Salon-de-Provence, France
Phone: +33 4 90 53 24 77
9. Discover your scent at Fragonard Parfumerie,Grasse
From 1926, Fragonard have been producing exotic scents and fine perfumes from their factory in Grasse, Southern France, and traditional techniques and methods are still used in the factory laboratories today.
Factory tours are also available at Fragonard where you will learn about the unique process and history of this special place.
Insider Tip: Free group tours are available all year round. Smells are quite strong so allergy sufferers will need to take caution.
Address: 20 Boulevard Fragonard 06130 Grasse FRANCE
Tel: 0033 (0)4 93 36 44 65
10. Cherish the panoramic views at Nice
The amazing views of the Mediterranean from the Promenade des Anglais (English Promenade), are without doubt Nice’s star attraction. The vibrant atmosphere of the city, brings this neighbourhood of the French Riviera alive. Party vibes, great lounging beach weather, and delicious local food. Whether you are in Nice for a week or just a day, the “Beverely Hills” of France is sure to impress.
Insider Tip: Castle Hill lookout is a must for those amazing panoramic views. For those who find it difficult to walk, there is a small elevator available.