With its balmy summer days, picturesque beaches and rustic countryside, it’s no surprise the South of France is one of the world’s most popular destinations (it’s certainly one of our favourites!) We’ve put together our top tips, some handy blogs and great ideas for things to do in a South of France travel guide – and don’t forget to check out our France travel guide too before you set off.
When is the best time to visit the South of France?
While there’s never really a bad time to visit the South of France, it’s a good idea to plan when you go with the weather in mind. Spring can actually be a bit unpredictable (especially with rain – those April showers even extend to the Cote d’Azur!), so if you’re after a tan-topping stay with more time in the pool, plan your trip between May and October. The days are much longer then too.
Peak season in France is July and August, so be aware that if you go then, you’ll be one of a huge number of tourists – but that also means it’s prime time for festivals and fairs!
What regions should you visit in the South of France?
Bordeaux & Aquitaine – Great for: Vineyards, Foie Gras, Duck, Wine Tasting – Read our Aquitaine Travel Guide
Dordogne – Great for: Wine, Foie Gras, Truffles and Market Towns – Read our Dordogne Travel Guide
Midi-Pyrénées – Great for: Skiing, Wine and Festivals – Read our Midi-Pyrénées Travel Guide
French Riviera – Great for: Mediterranean-style beaches, Nice, St. Tropez, Cannes, Yachting and Festivals – Read our Côte d’Azur Travel Guide
Provence-Alpes – Great for: Mountains to the Mediterranean, Bouillabaisse, Provence and Avignon – Read our Provence Travel Guide
How do you get around the South of France?
- Public Transport – One of the world’s fastest trains can be found in France and runs between all of the South of France’s major cities.
- By bike – France is well known for its bike-friendly culture, and you’ll find many good cycling routes here. It’s also a great way to experience the less touristy parts of the region and makes a great alternative to driving everywhere. Most cities have bike-sharing schemes for a reasonable price – Monaco’s even include electric bikes to combat the big hills!
- Hiring a car – If public transport isn’t your thing, hiring a car can be a fantastic way to see another side of the region. We recommend using Avis or Hertz for a reliable and hassle-free experience, taking you straight from the airport to your destination.
What are the best things to see and do in the South of France?
1. Want to check out an artist’s self-confessed masterpiece? Towards the end of his life, Henri Matisse helped design the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, which is now considered one of the most important religious buildings constructed in the 20th century.
2. How about a palace built by a postman? This is one sight that’s not soon forgotten! Postman Chevel spent 33 years building his Palace Idéal in Hauterives, using stones he’d collected during his rounds. The result is a beautiful and highly eccentric piece of work.
3. Arles is full of incredible Roman history, including an amphitheatre and forum plus some impressive 17th-century mansions. However, Arles is largely known as the place where Van Gough lost his ear, with the Van Gogh Exhibition erected in his honour.
4. Le Palais des Papes in Avignon proudly holds the title of the biggest Gothic palace in Europe. This spectacular 14th-century site is a must-see if you’re a history buff, but you can’t help but be fascinated simply by the sheer size of the place.
5. With origins dating to Julius Ceasar’s defeat of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in Egypt, this historic Amphitheatre of Nimes is well worth a visit. Once serving as a destination for enjoying epic shows, it’s now one of the most well-preserved spaces from our ancient past.
6. The striking Gorges du Verdon acts as France’s very own Grand Canyon. Make a day of it by enjoying a walk around the spectacular scenery, or hire a canoe and take to the water to fully appreciate the canyon from a whole new angle.
7. If you’re looking to challenge yourself, try hiking the Gorges du Verdon – they’re definitely not for beginners, so make sure you’re confident and kitted up accordingly. Nearby, you can also explore the hilltop village of Moustiers Ste Marie and its fragrant fields of lavender.
If luxury experiences are more your thing, we have you covered with our 10 luxurious experiences in the South of France.
What are the best things to eat in the South of France?
1. Bouillabaisse is the obvious one here – a traditional fish stew dish that originated in Marseilles, there’s a reason it’s the most popular dish on the Côte d’Azur!
2. Pistou soup is made with a French take on pesto, mixed in with white beans, tomatoes and green beans. It’s traditionally enjoyed in the summer, making use of only the finest fresh ingredients.
3. If you spot it, try a slice of pissaladière. This half-Mediterranean, half-French pizza has a thick, doughy base that’s covered in heaps of sautéed onions, anchovies and olives.
Read about the top five wine and food tours in Bordeaux here, or check out our blog on the Best wine experiences in the South of France.
South of France for families
While the South of France is perhaps best known for its fresh produce, fine wines and ancient sights, it also makes a perfect place for your family holiday – you’ll be surprised by the wealth of things to do with kids all year round!
1. A fantastic way to both entertain and educate kids of all ages, the Monaco Aquarium offers a chance to get up close and personal with all the creatures of the deep, from sharks to stingrays and so much more.
2. Fruit picking at Domaine Natura is a great excuse to get younger kids out in the open air and teach them about where our food comes from in a fun way – not to mention being able to munch on the freshest fruit while you’re at it!
3. What kid doesn’t love to a trip to visit some animals? Parc Zoologique has a relaxed, park-like feel, and with over 90 species of animals, there’s plenty to see. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy some time by the lake in the sunshine.
4. A fantastic, fun way to let off some steam as a family, La Forêt d’Acrobates is full of assault courses, zip wires and climbing walls. It’s a great way to challenge yourselves and the kids while getting fit at the same time.
5. Fancy a blast from the past? Visit Europe’s largest dinosaur museum, Meze Dinosaur Museum. Found in the middle of a paleontological site, the exhibits and museum onsite are great, but nothing compares to the life-size dino replicas that inhabit the park!
Still looking for more ideas? Check out our top things to do with kids in the South of France to get inspired.
Best walks in South of France
These South of France trails are just the ticket if you feel like stretching your legs in the great outdoors. Accessible by amateurs of all ages, they’re ideal for seeing some fantastic sights. Just pack proper footwear – and don’t forget the picnic!
1. Going Underground
Where: Cave of Rouffignac, Dordogne
Details: This impressive trail leads through a series of caves, detailing a fascinating history that spans from the Neanderthals to the French Resistance. It’s a fun 5-7 hour trail, and best suited to families with older kids.
Book through: www.walkingdordogne.com
2. Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat Hike
Where: Nice-Côte d’Azur
Details: Smelling the fresh sea air and seeing the stunning sea views make this 3-4 hour walking trail a delight for all the senses. Depending on how you’re feeling, you can choose to walk either one or both of the peninsulas.
Full information through: www.beyond.fr
3. Via Ferrata Balma Negra
Where: Roubion, 70 km north of Nice
Details: Climb to great heights on fixed rung systems in the mountains of Provence. Via Ferrata gives you the experience of rock climbing without the risk, with the route itself only covering 300m but still reaching an altitude of 1450m. It’s the perfect activity for adventurous families with no previous experience required.
Book through: www.activeazur.com
Best golf courses in South of France
Whether you’re planning an entire golf holiday or just looking to nip out for a quiet couple of rounds, the South of France is home to some top courses. Here are our favourites to try out.
1. Avenue du Golf, La Grande Motte (golf club)
Details: 42 holes, large driving range with 50 mats, putting green, golf school, 67 acres of parkland and 20 acres of lakes.
Address: 34280 La Grande Motte t: +33 4 67 56 05 00
2. Avenue de Belvedere (golf club)
Details: Putting green, no pets allowed.
Address: 40510 Seignosse t: 03 35 58 41 68 30
3. Domaine de Falgos (golf club)
Details: Par 70, 517 m long, 15 practice stations (with 6 indoors), practice bunker, putting and pitching greens.
Address: 66260 Saint Laurent de Cerdans t: +33 4 68 39 51 42
For full information about the best golf courses in the South of France, head to Where2Golf website to find the best spots in Aquitaine, Cote d’Azur and Corsica and South of France.
So there you have it – our South of France travel guide. If you’re now ready to book your very own stay in this beautiful region, check out our range of villas in South of France. Still need a little assistance? Our concierge team are more than happy to help you at every stage of the holiday planning process.
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