The Provençal way of life is one that’s deeply enticing for anyone who just needs to get away from it all. This is a place where the Mediterranean weather turns fields of corn and lavender into picture-perfect backdrops, where you can sip on local wine and enjoy the landscapes before heading out and tackling them head-on with a range of great activities for families, groups of friends and adventurous foodies. Better yet, our range of villas in Provence and chateaux and holiday homes in the Côte d’Azur make the perfect base to explore this enchanting region!
Why visit Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur?
There’s a good reason why the Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur region is popular among fashionistas and film stars. Firstly, there are the impossibly blue seas that give the Côte d’Azur its name. Then, there are the glamorous towns that overlook them. Yet the size and diversity of this region make it a destination for all kinds of travellers – and not just yacht owners.
The mountains in the north promise action-filled holidays, while the inland towns and cities like Arles, Marseilles and Avignon overflow with culture and history. Perhaps the best news for anyone considering a holiday to Provence-Alps is that that any experience here is sure to include mouth-watering cuisine and exquisite wine.
When is the best time to visit Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur?
The Mediterranean coastline becomes undeniably busy in summer as sun-seekers flock to the sandy shores. Temperatures can easily reach 40 degrees Celsius in the middle of the day, so suncream is a must as well as drinking plenty of water. Unless you are a hardened cinéphile, fine with long queues and love manic crowds, Cannes in May should probably be avoided – that’s when the famous film festival takes over the town.
Our top time for heading to the beaches is in June and September, as this is when the weather is still warm and dry but without the large crowds of high summer. Inland, the climate becomes milder and the attractions become quieter, with the region’s iconic lavender fields also coming into bloom during summer too.
A similarly magical sight occurs in winter too, as the mountains are covered in snow from November to March. Places like Briançon in particular take on a truly enchanting character.
Getting around Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- By plane: The main airports in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region are Nice Airport, Toulon-Hyères airport, Marseille Airport and Avignon Airport.
- By train: The TGV system – an abbreviation that literally stands for ‘really fast trains’ – is the best way to get into the region from elsewhere in France. For travel within Provence-Alps, check the SNCF website for regular journeys between towns. And if you travel from the UK, Eurostar is a fantastic option to avoid the airport hassle. Read our blog about Eurostar travel in France to find out more.
- By bike: Cycling can be one of the most invigorating ways of exploring the dramatic countryside. See Provence collates all the bike rental companies in the region, making it easy to find cheap rates. Bike sharing has also taken off in towns such as Avignon, Marseilles and Nice.
- By car: Looking for unrestricted access to Provence-Alps? Hiring a car will allow you to travel at your own pace and take diversions into whichever town takes your fancy. Comparison sites like Easy Car pit rental firms against each other to help you find the best deals.
- On foot: For a slow-paced journey between the sights of Provence-Alps, hit one of the Sentiers de Grande Randonnée. These historic walking routes link many of the towns – just be sure to pack suitable shoes!
Hidden Gems in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Hop on a boat to the Iles d’Hyères, which has the same hot sun and sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean, but with far fewer people. Spend a day exploring Porquerolles or Port-Cros – both picturesque escapes from the madness of the mainland.
- Provence-Alps’ artistic links with the likes of Rénoir, Cézanne and Picasso is much publicised. But less often appreciated are its traditional Provençal handicrafts, which can be truly appreciated at the Musée de la Faïence and Aix-en-Provence’s Tapestry Museum.
- Follow the trails through the Alpha Wolf Park for a possible sighting of these majestic wild animals. They live in packs in the hills, so come ready with the long lens on your camera for the best chance of a great photo.
- In the ‘30s, a quarry undergoing excavation for a castle was abandoned due to rising costs. Today, that excavated site is now the audiovisual Carrières de Lumières gallery, where art is projected onto the tunnel walls. The result is a truly unique art-viewing experience.
- Saint-Paul-de-Vence is one of the oldest and most charming medieval towns in the region, but it’s real appeal lies in the modern art galleries you’ll find there. Foundation Maeght is a particular highlight.
Things to do in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Looking to amp up the luxury factor? Liven Up give you the chance to drive a Lamborghini or a Ferrari around some of the Côte d’Azur’s most stunning cities. Posting a snap of you behind the wheel is a must!
- As a playground of the rich and famous, it hardly comes as a great surprise that there’s some world-famous golf courses in and around the French Riviera. Many clubs will also have spa, bar and restaurant facilities so everyone can enjoy a fun day out.
- Golf du Luberon (unsurprisingly found in Luberon) is one of the region’s most picturesque courses. The landscapes alone will have old hands and beginners alike heading out to try for a hole in one.
- Maison Galimard offers tours around its factory as well as a perfume museum. Entrance is free, but naturally there’s a little shop where you can pick up a bottle of your choice. We’d suggest splashing out on one of the group workshops where you can have a go at concocting your own perfume.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the world’s most glamorous regions! Read our full list on the best things to do in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.
Best foods to try in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Bouillabaisse is probably king when it comes to archetypal dishes of Provence, and it’s particularly popular on the French Riviera due to its proximity to the sea. This rich fish stew comes with garlic mayonnaise, but the best versions are ordered in advance, serving the broth and fish meat separately.
- Originating in Nice, Pissaladière illustrates the Mediterranean influences on the local cuisine. It’s a bit like pizza but with onions instead of cheese, often topped off with anchovies and olives.
- Definitely one for the more adventurous eater, pieds paquets stew sheep’s feet and tripe together with white wine and tomatoes. If you can get your head around what you’re actually eating, it’s actually a delicious (and very filling) meal.
- With its strong aniseed flavour, pastis is a bit of an acquired taste. However, you’ll feel totally cosmopolitan sipping on one outside a cafe before heading to dinner.
- A marzipan-like paste often flavoured with fruit and covered in almond icing, Calissons d’Aix make great souvenirs. They’re also extremely moreish, and best enjoyed with coffee.
Things to do with kids in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Great art, delicious food, the sun and the sea – you probably don’t need any more reasons to spend a summer in Provence, but it does have one more string to its bow: the region is packed full of activities for children to get involved with. Regardless of where you’re staying in Provence-Alps, there’s sure to be something exciting and family-friendly happening nearby.
Choose a big family villa as your headquarters for a week or two of memory-making and your children won’t want to leave. Here are our top picks for a family-friendly day out:
- The famous Côte d’Azur (mostly known by Brits as the French Riviera) offers a great choice of fantastic beaches for a bit of sun and sand. Kids can appreciate the coast in a whole new way with Dune Marseilles, introducing them to snorkelling and the spellbinding creatures you’ll find living off the Calanques National Park coast.
- With its beautiful wetlands and salt marshes, the Carmargue National Park is the place to go for getting back to nature. You’ll also find the Domaine Méjanes estate, which offers tours and trips around the marshes. Take your pick from a horse or train to loop around the property’s 600 hectares.
- Les Bois des Lutins is an adventure park with a difference! It boasts bridges, zip lines and slides through the treetops, but there’s also a range of gentler activities if you’re bringing younger children along and adults are encouraged to dive right in to the activities too.
- Watery adventures can also be enjoyed on the rivers that run through the Alps. Base Sport & Nature offer a great range of activities that tackle the white water, as well as canyoning and hiking expeditions that make the most of the rugged landscape.
Looking for more ideas? Read our blog on the best family activities in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.