You’ll find the most delightful villages in all of France in Provence, and summer is such a perfect time to visit the area because people are out and about, making the most of the beautiful, sunny weather. Sunflowers and lavender bloom, turning the countryside into a postcard-worthy vision. It’s also a great season for taking a property tour, and homebuyers can search for everything from petite stone houses to grand castles in the area.
While some of the better-known cities in the South of France get the lion’s share of attention, these eight villages and towns are under the radar and definitely worth making part of your tour when you explore provence.
If you want to explore Provence, then Aix-en-Provence is one of the prettiest parts of Provence. You’ll find townhouses from the 15th<, 16th and 17th centuries here, plus churches and town squares with plenty of shade. There’s a lot to do in Aix-en-Provence in terms of dining and shopping, too, and you’ll want to take a walk down Cours Mirabeau, an active street with cafes and fountains.
You can also pay a visit to Paul Cézanne’s art studio, where you’ll see his work tools, still life setup and furniture. Plus, the property has a panoramic view of the Sainte-Victoire Mountain.
Vincent van Gogh loved painting in Arles because of its stunning light, and during his time here he was incredibly productive. Other artists gathered here, too, including Picasso, and you can see some of his drawings at the Musée Réattu. Arles has colorful homes, traditional squares and a Saturday market with food, clothing and other vendors.
Roman ruins can be found around town, including the Roman amphitheatre, which is listed as a UNESCO site. At Camargue National Park, you may be lucky enough to see horses and flamingos.
Don’t forget the coast when you explore provence. The seaside town of Bandol is located in a bay, which keeps you sheltered enough to spend a day at the beach even with a breeze. The focal point of Bandol is the port, which hosts everything from small fishing boats to impressive yachts.
While Bandol has cafes and restaurants you’ll want to check out, its true appeal is the beach, not to mention water activities like boating and scuba diving. The loveliest beach is Plage de Renecros, with water that’s safe enough for even little ones to splash around in. For a boat trip, head to Ile de Bendor, a small island just a few minutes from the coast with an artist’s village, museums and restaurants. Since it’s car-free, you can stroll wherever you like.
4. Les Baux-de-Provence
Les Baux-de-Provence, located south of Avignon on a rocky part of the Alpilles mountain range, has gorgeous scenery and land that’s perfect for biking or hiking. A lot of the village is taken up by castle ruins, and there are often siege engine demonstrations held there (machines made to break fortifications and castle doors). You’re also bound to see vineyards in the area, and there are opportunities to taste local wines.
Located north of Porquerolles is the coastal town of Bormes-les-Mimosas, a village with two distinct parts. The first is the historic, medieval centre set on a hill with a castle, church and squares. The second includes the beaches and harbor that are technically part of Le Lavandou.
True to its name, Bormes-les-Mimosas is also known for its mimosa flowers, and well as exotic plants and trees. In addition to beaches for swimming, Bormes-les-Mimosas also boasts Fort de Brégancon, a retreat for the President of the French Republic, and Chapelle Notre-Dame de Constance, which has views of the Mediterranean. The cafes and restaurants near the harbour also have fantastic views of the sea.
Cassis is picking up in popularity and it isn’t the unknown treasure it once was, but it’s still not as overrun as other nearby port cities. Set on the sea with white cliffs and narrow inlets surrounding it, Cassis has a true fishing village atmosphere. It’s heralded for its winemaking, too, and recognizable by the pastel buildings along the harbour. Bouillabaisse is the town’s specialty, and you shouldn’t visit Cassis without giving it a try.
As one of Provence’s most popular villages, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence can be found south of Avignon and a bit north of the Alpilles. It’s famed for being where Nostradamus was born and also where van Gogh lived for part of his life. During his time in the monastery’s asylum, he painted The Starry Night, possibly his most famous work.
The city centre has a lot of history, and you can visit Glanum, a Celtic-Roman city with ruins and a triumphal arch that goes back to the 1st century B.C. Despite how much history Saint-Rémy-de-Provence has, its boutiques and restaurants are notably modern.
You’ll find Uzès west of Avignon and north of Nimes, a town known for its architecture and preserved Renaissance houses and towers. Narrow streets wind through the town, which has a strong medieval atmosphere, and the city centre has a 17th century chapel and a popular farmers’ market on Saturday. One of Uzès’ most famous sites is the aqueduct that supplied water to Nimes during Roman times.
Uzès is a central jumping-off point to explore the rest of the area, and it’s popular amongst expats, though it remains authentically French.
Explore Provence it is a treat for the senses, from delectable cuisine and fragrant flowers to visually stunning landscapes, olive groves and vineyards. It’s close to more popular areas of the South of France while offering small-town charm. To escape the throngs of tourists, consider investing in a full-time or holiday property in Provence in a lesser-known village.
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