Provence is idyllic and one of the most picture-perfect places in the world. Indeed it has 15 of France’s most beautiful villages and a place where you can get 300 days of sunshine a year. The region of Provence is also famously known for its strong mistral winds, but this is also the wind that clears the sky to a beautiful clear blue sky. Provence is a particularly special place as my partner lived all his youth here and where we called home for 8 years. For this reason, we are proposing this 7-Day Itinerary to idyllic Provence where we share many local insider tips for this region with you.
Provence covers a large area in South-Eastern France. This itinerary for South of France is a 7 days itinerary, we are going to show you how to make the most of this beautiful and charming area. This Provence Itinerary is perfect for those who want to see the best of Provence or even the best of France; medieval towns, lavender fields & sunflower fields, gorgeous Calanques, local delicacies, vineyards, summer concerts and much more.
Where is Aix-en-Provence?
Aix-en-Provence is a city in the South of France and covers a large part of departments including: Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes and Vaucluse.
Who is this 7-day itinerary best for?
It is ideal for solo, couple and family travel. We will also give ideas on how to adapt and change options to make them more suitable for your interests. We have selected areas to make sure you make the most of your time here. This is an Ultimate Provence Guide to give you all the necessary information you need to organise your epic Provence road trip.
Best Time to Visit Provence
The South-East of France is usually very sunny with a big blue sky all year long, but winters can get pretty cold in Provence. Winter is a beautiful time to visit Provence especially when the cute christmas stalls and markets set up but we suggest best time to visit Provence is between April to October. The summer months of July and August can get very hot and dry but it is also a nice time to visit as summer concerts and many festivals take place. If you want to see the lavender fields then June and July are ideal as they start harvesting the fields near the end of July. We did find some hidden fields that still had lavender at the end of July which we will share with you in the article.
For this article, we visited in July/August.
How to get to Provence
Fly to Marseille, the nearest Airport
Marseille is the second main airport in France and it is easy to find a flight to Marseille. From there you can hire a car or do a bus transfer. There are a few options, we liked the one with Flixbus.
The drive from Marseille takes around 1 hour 15 minutes to our starting destination Avignon.
Travelling by Car
If you live in Europe or the UK, consider driving to Provence. This is a superb option to drive around and stop where you want. (Alternatively, rent a car from Marseille Airport).
If you are coming from the UK, the drive is long but rewarding. Avignon is 980km from Calais, but then you are in Provence for 7 days in your own car and you have the independence to go where you like as public transport can be limiting and time-consuming.
Best Way to Travel in Provence
Ideally, for this Provence Road trip, it will be best to take your own car there or hire a car as places will be more accessible and you will have more freedom to adjust the places you want to see. There is intercity transport but having a car will be much more practical.
There is also a possibility to book organised day tours where you’ll be transported around. You can find a lot of details at Office du Tourisme in all cities (Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, Avignon, etc…) We will also recommend some amazing tours to do in Provence.
France Provence Itinerary, Day 1 Avignon
You can base yourself for a couple of days in Avignon as this is a charming, medieval town with lots to see and experience. It has been the papal city in the 14th century and has rich history and architecture.
Avignon is also situated in the middle of the Rhône Valley and can be considered the capital of the Rhône Valley wines. It is also the place where the biggest French theatre festival takes place every year in July.
TIP – Parking is tricky to find in Avignon and restricted in the Old Town. This is a useful website to find parking space https://www.car-parking.eu/france/avignon.
If you arrive in the morning take this chance to get familiar with the cute cobbled streets in the Old Town.
Things to see in Avignon
- Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes)
- Pont Saint-Bénézet (le pont d’Avignon)
- Do a walking tour (by yourself or guided)
One of the best organised private tours of Avignon to book is this private 2-hour tour that explores the impressive Palace of the Popes, the famous bridge at Pont St. Bénezet, the impressive city walls and bustling squares with their outdoor terraces. Organised tours are great if you have never visited a place before as they usually tell you the history and interesting hidden stories of a place.
You can also find a few other tours, or you can also try this self-guided walking tour: Avignon Introduction Walking Tour
Where to eat in Avignon
After your walking tour, enjoy a lovely lunch in one of the outdoor terraces or recommended places to eat. Here are a few top suggestions for places to eat in Avignon:
- La Cuisine du Dimanche: French Cuisine
- Sou’Pape: French Cuisine
- La Placette (very small place, but we really loved it)
During our trip we had a wonderful meal at a small cafe called La Placette, 39 rue de la Carreterie, it is a small place but has some lovely fresh options and was quite reasonable. They had classic and Italian style baguettes with organic bread and delicious warm dishes of the day. We were too late for their tiramisu but their Pistacio creme was lovely and refreshing.
After Lunch activity in Avignon
After lunch, if you feel like a little adventure then a great way to get up close to the famous Pont d’Avignon is to hire a canoe or kayak and do a trip along the River Rhone. This is only if you are visiting Avignon during July/August. The descent is pretty easy with no strong rapids or currents and may take up to 2 hours depending on the current. The price is 20 € per person for the daytime descent or 27 € for the nighttime one (a guide is present for the nighttime one). They have several other options including a standup paddle option or hiring a kayak for an hour for 12 €. You can also park your car for free if you don’t feel like walking to the other side of the bridge.
PHOTO TIP: From this side of the river there are beautiful and unique views of the Palais des Papes which you don’t often see photographed. The golden hour is also one of the best times in the day to photograph due to the natural lighting.
Best way to enjoy an evening in Avignon
In the summer evenings enjoy walking around the Place du Palais Square where you can enjoy an evening aperitif whilst listening to the live music with the beautiful lit views of the Cathedral and Palais de Papes.
If you are also visiting during July/August then this is a great time to visit some theatre shows as there is a huge festival in Avignon in July. The main festival (the “In”) and the fringe (the “Off”); where you can catch more street performances and more reasonable shows.
Day 2 Avignon
Palais des Papes
Enjoy a nice French continental breakfast in one of the terraced restaurants; As we were based just on the outside of the city walls, we stopped at Le Milano to have a French breakfast with Café, tartines, croissants and orange juice. But there are many choices from cafés serving food to restaurants.
Head to the Palais de Papes a UNESCO World Heritage Site; this is one of the largest gothic buildings in the world and was home to the papacy for 68 years. This is a must-visit place as you step back into history. They have a wonderful and innovative guided tour using 3D technology and audio on a Histopad (audio guide). You get to imagine and see how the vast and grand rooms and halls may have looked like in the past and what changes were made to this impressive building over time. There is also a fun treasure hunt that both adults and kids will love.
You can also visit the garden although we found this a bit too hot in August; the staircase leading to the rooftop views was lovely. There is also a little cafe area in the garden if you want a little refreshment.
What else to do in Avignon
After you can stop by ‘Les Halles’ to grab some local delicacies; they have many different options including fruits, olives, cheese, charcuterie and mouth-watering desserts and then head to Ile de la Barthelasse; across the river where canoe rental is located, to enjoy a little picnic.
What to see around Avignon
Extra Options from Avignon: there are many more places to visit if you would like to stay a little longer in Avignon and do some day trips from here. Check out these wonderful tours from Avignon.
If you are travelling back from Avignon to Aix-en-Provence, make a stop in Chateaurenard to take a look at the Castle of Chateaurenard and then at Eglise Notre Dame de Beauregard for a stunning viewpoint of the Valley.
Day 3 Pont du Gard Aqueduct to Valensole
Pont du Gard Aqueduct is a 30-minute drive from Avignon; it is a World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved Roman constructions. This limestone bridge is 274 metres long and about 50 metres high. It has a really unique 3-layer arch structure and is an eye-opening structure to see in person.
If you want to learn more about the history and how the aqueduct system worked then we would definitely recommend booking a guided tour here. If the weather is warm then bring a picnic along and take a dip in the water. Check the amazing tours you can do from here, below:
Visit Lavender fields in Provence
In the late afternoon if you are visiting the region of Provence in June/July then most likely you will not want to miss seeing the lavender and sunflower fields. The best place to see lavender fields is in Valensole. There are also a few production places where you can see how lavender oil is made and small boutiques where you can buy lavender products.
Lavender essential oil is a great souvenir to bring back home and makes for a nice gift. You will also find lovely sunflower fields next to the lavender which makes for some beautiful photos. It does get crowded but there are a few fields so you should be able to take some decent photos.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS – Morning and Golden hour times are great for photos; they are also the less crowded times to visit the fields.
Day 3 Alternative to Lavender fields
If you are not visiting in June/July to see the lavender fields and you are a wine lover then head to Châteauneuf-du-Pape; a small medieval town. It is only a 30-minute drive from Avignon and is one of the most well known red wine regions. There are many amazing wine tasting tours and distilleries to visit. Click here for the best options.
Day 3 Alternative, Family Option
If you have younger children and you are looking for an alternative to wineries then you can visit Wave Island Waterpark which is always a hit with kids and adults. It is around 20 minutes away from Avignon in Monteux and opens between June to September. There are many fun zones including artificial wave and surfing sites, slides, paddling pools and a rooftop lounge area to just chill.
Day 4 Aix en Provence
We stayed in Aix en Provence for the rest of our stay which is an hour’s drive from Avignon and is known as the ‘City of 1000 fountains’, although officially there are about 250 fountains there. Aix-en-Provence is also a city of art, culture, music and food, and has a university with 35,000 students, of which 30% are international students.
See where to say in Aix-en-Provence
Where is Aix-en-Provence?
Aix-en-Provence is the 4th biggest city in Provence, with about 150k inhabitants. It is very well located slightly inland, next to the mountain Sainte-Victoire. From Aix-en-Provence, you can easily access other locations such as:
- a 25-minute drive from Marseille,
- a 30-minute drive from the closest beaches,
- a 40-minute drive from Luberon,
- a 40-minute drive from Parc Régional Naturel de la Sainte-Baume,
- a 50-minute drive to the Lavanda fields in Valensole
- And so much more to access ports and cities on Côte d’Azur, such as Cassis, Sanary-sur-mer, Bandol.
Aix-en-Provence is a must-visit city in your Provence itinerary.
Walking in the centre of Aix-en-Provence
If you are coming by car; park at Rotonde Parking, 2 Rue Lapierre. The first 30 minutes are free, 1-hour parking is 2.60 € and for 2 hours 4.90 €. After 6.30 pm the parking fee reduces.
Aix en Provence tourist office is also located close to this parking. We definitely recommend booking this lovely history and gastronomy tour that you can book here to give you the perfect introduction to this vibrant and charming town.
Aix en Provence can feel a bit like a maze as there are so many small streets intertwining into each other. We have created a walking map of Aix en Provence highlighting all the must-see places to visit.
If you would make your own way around Aix en Provence then we have created a short walk for you.
Start your walk at the iconic La Fontaine de la Rotonde; one of the most well-known fountains in Aix en Provence built in 1860 and walk along Cours Mirabeau; one of the big main streets aligned with cafes and shops. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday there are market days where you can find clothes, jewellery, art and handicrafts. Along the Cours Mirabeau, you will come across another interesting fountain called Fontaine Mossue; a natural warm water fountain covered by moss.
Aix-en-Provence main square and city centre
Place d’Albertas is a hidden square with a fountain and baroque-style architecture, Place de l’hôtel-de-Ville (Townhall) and there is a colourful and fragrant flower market every day. Also, there is a food market at Place Richelme every day too with fresh fruits, vegetables, and aperitif delicacies. Stop at Maison Weibel for tea and a choice of delicious cakes.
Next visit the Cathedral Saint Saveur built in romanesque and gothic architecture. There are many other churches within Aix’s historic centre one being our favourite, the church Saint-Jean-de-Malte, as we got married there :).
Just next to the church Saint-Jean-de-Malte, you can visit Musee Granet, which is a museum for art and culture lovers. Here you can see the artwork of Paul Cezanne; who became a well-known impressionist artist in Provence and beautiful sculptures.
Fountain of 4 Dolphins (quatre dauphins) is another interesting fountain to see. There are over 250 fountains scattered in the town centre some of which are private.
Where to eat in Aix en Provence?
There are many renowned restaurants to try in Aix en Provence as well as lesser-known which are equally as good. A few places which we have tried and liked are; La Tomate Verte, Tita, Delices de Capoue and le Bidule.
If you are looking for a unique setting right in the centre of Aix en Provence then I would suggest Hotel du Pigonnet for a dinner aperitif at the outdoor bar. They also have a dining area on their terrace which we have yet to try. What we really enjoyed about our evening here was the hospitality of the staff and the beautiful, tranquil gardens. We also had one of the best chocolate desserts here the ‘Royal Pigonnet’, a must-try for those fine chocolate lovers.
Below are a few other tours that you could do in Aix en Provence.
Also consider a picnic in Parc de la Torse or in Parc du Val de l’Arc.
Day 5 Hike up Sainte-Victoire and outdoor concert in the vineyards
Mountain Sainte-Victoire is a spectacular mountain that even Impressionist Paul Cezanne painted over 60 times! It is known as the ‘Grand Site of France’ and a hiker’s paradise. You of course don’t need to be a hiker to enjoy these gorgeous views as there are many different trails to suit everyone’s walking abilities. Just make sure you check it is safe to climb using this website as in the summer there are risks of fire. Also, make sure you have strong sturdy shoes to climb.
You can choose to walk just around the base and visit some charming and beautiful villages of Provence such as Puyloubier, or le Tholonet, or climb to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views. There are 2 main trails to climb up; either the Northern Slope which is a bit more gentle and green or the Southern slope which is a bit more challenging.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP – For beautiful sunset photos head to the Southern slope; when the sunlight reflects onto the limestone mountain it is absolutely stunning.
How to get to the Sainte Victoire Mountain?
You can come by car and park your car near the start of the trails, you could also take the city bus either L140 or L110 depending on which trail you want to take. Just make sure you check the bus times as they come every hour.
TIP – Make sure you download the google maps offline as the hiking trails are mapped out just incase you miss the trail directions. And take a lot of water with you.
For the evening you could head to the Village of Tholonet where you can find some beautiful views of Mont Saint Victoire and dine in one of the local terraced restaurants. Our choice was for le Relais Cezanne.
Hidden Local Tip around Aix en Provence
If you are travelling in the summer months then a unique way to enjoy the sunset evenings would be to book an outdoor concert amongst the vineyards. During the summer months, there are many outdoor concerts where the idea is a beautiful setting in one of the winery chateaux where you can enjoy some local food truck specialities, taste the local wine that the chateaux produces and listen to live music. It is truly an unforgettable experience only known to the locals. You can pick up an ‘agenda culturel’ at the local tourist office to find out the times and dates for these concerts and shows. Thank us later 🙂
Day trips from Aix-en-Provence
I you wanted to stay longer in Aix-en-Provence and extend your 7-day itinerary to the South of France into more days, you can do a few very nice day trips from Aix-en-Provence, including hikes day and picnics.
- Around Saint-Victoire mountain: by car, drive from Aix-en-Provence to Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon (beautiful road, with several starts for beautiful hikes on Sainte-Victoire mountain), Plateau-du-Cengle with beautiful views on Arc Valley, visit Puyloubier a very authentic Provence village (stop for a drink and a wander around at Institution des Invalides de la Légion Etrangère), Pourrières, and come back to Aix-en-Provence through the Vauvenargues road around Saint-Victoire. On the way back stop at Bimont dam.
On this day trip you can plan a short hike, and a picnic. There are many places where you can stop along the way
- Visit Vallée de l’Arc (Arc Valley) with vineyards and old Provence villages. This is a superb way to visit Provence. Drive through or visit: Beaurecueil, Chateauneuf-le-Rouge, Rousset, Puyloubier, Trests, Peynier, Belcodène, Saint-Savournin, Gréasque and Fuveau. There are many places to visit around those villages and many opportunities for hikes and picnics.
Day 6 Cassis
No travel itinerary to Provence would be complete without visiting the beautiful, hidden gem, at the end of a beautiful valley, by the sea, Cassis.
Cassis fits perfectly into your 7-day Provence road trip as you will visit a small port town that has so much to offer. Think beautiful pastel-coloured houses along with the port, turquoise coloured water, cute cobbled streets, watching the locals play Petanque at ‘boule de Cassis’, amazing and dramatic cliff views, Cassis castle perched high on a hill and bustling markets.
We would recommend starting early and taking a boat trip to see the Calanques.
So what exactly are Calanques?
They are a naturally formed Coastal landscape that is unique to the Mediterranean Coast; where you can find coves with turquoise clear water and rugged rock formations. You can hike to these Calanques or visit them by boat. We opted for a boat trip because it was summer and it is a beautiful way to explore the different Calanques.
You can book several tours here; we opted for the 3-Calanques tour as we wanted to see quite a lot in the day. The 3-Calanques tour gave us a perfect taster to the Calanques. You cannot pre-book, you just show up at the kiosk and buy a ticket, so technically there is always availability. Our guide gave us some useful information about the Calanques of Cassis. We visited Port Miou, Port Pin and En Vau; the price per adult is 17 €, for children aged between 5-11 10 €. If you have more time then you can also take the 9-Calanques tour.
If you want to try out a more adventurous way to see the Calanques then try out the Calanques National Park Sea Kayaking Tour. It is a 6-hour tour and not suitable for children age under 6 years old.
Cassis Tourist Train
After your boat trip, we suggest taking a little touristic train especially if you are travelling as a family this is a fun and easy way to see the main spots of Cassis. It is a 40-minute touristic train journey that starts from Esplanade Charles de Gaulle. You can purchase your tickets from Cassis Tourist Office. Ticket prices are 8 € for adults and 4 € for children aged 4 to 12 years old.
TRAVEL TIP – If you are deciding to visit Cassis on a market day (which is Wednesday and Friday) then you may need to adjust the timing of your train visit as there may be some delays in the morning because of closed streets. Market days really liven up the village feeling and you have a great choice of delicious local foods to try and buy.
Lunch in the village, in the little streets
For lunch, you can stop at the many restaurants on the port which have fresh fish options that are delivered daily by the fishermen on their traditional “pointu” (spiking) fishing boats. Or an option that we really liked was to find a restaurant a little more in the quiet back streets. We had a lovely lunch at Le Romarin, 5 rue Severin Icard. They provide some reasonable and tasty options for the whole family at 14.50 € for a main and dessert.
In the afternoon you can either head to the town beach which is right in the centre of Cassis; Plage la Grande Mer or Plage de Bastouan or for a more hidden beach try the beautiful creeks of Plage de l’Arene or Plage du Corton found at the East of the Port. If you are still pumping with energy and ready to discover more about the history and culture of Cassis then we would suggest booking a guided tour of Cassis which you can book at the Tourist Office. The guides are really knowledgeable and will tell you some interesting stories about Cassis’s history.
If you have a car available then you cannot miss the best coastal views along the Route des Cretes. Sunset is the perfect time to take this road and stop at the numerous viewpoints to enjoy the spectacular views. You can take this route all the way to La Ciotat and from there back to Aix en Provence.
One day simply is not enough to cover all the beauty that Cassis has to offer so make sure to come back again and discover the wines of Cassis; see you on the wine trail 🙂
Day 7 Luberon
The perfect way to end your 7-day road trip through Provence is to visit some of the villages in Luberon. Luberon is the heart of Provence; where stunning and quaint villages feel as though they have stopped in time. Here you will find some of the most beautiful villages in Provence including Gordes, Roussillon, Les Baux de Provence, Goult, Lourmarin and Menerbes. If you have read Peter Mayle’s book; ‘A Year in Provence’ you will already have a good picture in your mind of what to expect.
You could take a ride in your car but we would suggest relaxing on your last day and enjoy a guided tour to take you around. Some of the best tours we have seen for exploring the Luberon are here.
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For this blog article, we collaborated with the French local Tourist Board Avignon, Tourist Board of Cassis, Canoe Vauclause and La Pigonnet. Transparency and honest reviews are very important to us so we make sure that all opinions are our own.
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