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 greats ideas for stuff to do below – and don’t forget to check out our travel guide for the whole of France before you set off too!
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
When to Visit
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 as there’s more scope to enjoy the kind of holiday you really want. 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 or by the ocean, head over between May and October. The days are much longer then too.
Peak season in France is summer (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!
- Use our flight search tool to find the best route for you
- Airport Transfers are available from Taxi du Minervois +33 (0) 670 374 885
- Eurostar is a fantastic option if you want to avoid the hassle of European airports – This blog tells you everything you need to know about travelling to the South of France by Eurostar.
- Public Transport – The world’s fastest train can be found in France, and runs between all of the South of France’s major cities.
- By Foot or Bike – France is well known for its bike-friendly culture, and you’ll find a wealth of good cycling routes through the South. Walking or cycling are both great ways to experience the less touristy parts of the region, and make 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 (and you don’t fancy biking or hiking everywhere), hiring a car can be a fantastic way to see another side of the country. We recommend using Avis or Hertz for a reliable and hassle-free experience to take you straight to your destination from the airport. If you’re after something more luxurious, Avis also provide a prestige car hire service.
Don’t want to drive on your holiday? No problem! There’s the Platinum Limousine Service for a more customised and personal service.
And as well as offering some of the world’s choicest picks when it comes to things to do, stuff to eat and (naturally) wines to drink, there are a whole host of hidden gems in the South of France that’ll bring a little je ne sais quoi to your jollies. They might need a bit more searching out, but they’re well worth it!
Places to Go
1. The saltmarshes of Camargue are a world away from what you’d expect rural France to be like. Forget about quaint villages and affable locals – this is wild wetland where you’ll find flamingos and horses running free.
2. North of St Tropez, head away from the beautiful beaches (and beautiful people) and explore the interior of the Var, where you’ll find a host of hilltop villages just waiting to be discovered – as well as the stunning Grotte de Sainte Marie Madeleine.
3. If you’re looking for some challenging hiking, try the Gorges du Verdon – they’re definitely not for beginners though, so make sure you’re confident and kitted up accordingly. Nearby, you can also explore the hilltop village of Moustiers Ste Marie and fragrant fields of lavender for a bit of romance (and seasonal hayfever).
4. If you’re looking for rockier scenery, head east to Ceillac. As well as some scenery that rivals the highest Alpine peaks, you can indulge in other high-octane activities like paragliding and mountaineering.
Things to See and Do
1. This one isn’t necessarily hidden, and in fact it’s such a staple of Southern France it’s even seen as a bit of a stereotype. Still, if you get the chance, try your hand at Pétanque, which is similar to boules and makes a great way to spend an afternoon.
2. 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.
3. How about a palace built by a postman? This is one sight that’s not soon forgotten! By collecting stones during his rounds, Postman Chevel spent 33 years building his Palace Idéal in Hauterives, the beautiful and eccentric work of a single, dedicated man.
Things to Eat
1. Bouillabaisse is the obvious one here – there’s a reason it’s the most popular dish on the Côte d’Azur!
2. If you can, try some Carmague Lamb. Thanks to the way the animals are brought up grazing on the grasses of the salt marshes, it has a distinct and delicious flavour.
3. If you spot it, try a slice of pissaladière. A half-Mediterranean, half-French take on pizza, it’s a thick doughy base covered in heaps of sautéed onions with anchovies and olives.
And Other Stuff that’s Worth Knowing
1. France might be famed for its fashion, but make sure you stock the basics. It’s all well and good splashing out on something designer, but even everyday items like basic shirts and t-shirts are disproportionately expensive.
2. Make sure you pick your month of travel carefully – the South of France can actually get quite rainy in April and May, especially inland.
3. And speaking of inland, here’s a good rule of thumb – the further from the coast you go, the better your French needs to be!
4. And last but not least, it’s illegal to name a pig “Napoleon” in France. You probably won’t need this information, but it’s handy at dinner parties.
While the South of France is perhaps best known for its delectable produce, fine wines and ancient sights, it also makes a perfect place for your family holiday – you’ll be surprised by the wealth of stuff there is to keep the kids busy all year round! Have a look over our blog detailing our top things to do with kids in the South of France if you want to find some great inspiration for adventure!
We’ve even got suggestions on the best family friendly villas, or perhaps you fancy somewhere a little more quirky to stay ? Whatever your style, the South of France is a top destination to get the most out of your family holiday.
Fantastic Family Activities
1. Activity: Visit the Aquarium
Why go: A fantastic way to both entertain and educate kids of all ages! It’s a chance to get up close and personal with all the denizens of the deep, from sharks to stingrays and much, much more!
Address: Avenue Saint Martin, 98 000 MONACO t: +377 93 15 36 00
2. Activity: Fruit picking at Domaine Natura
Why go: It’s a great excuse to get younger kids out in the open air and teach them 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!
Address: Impasse des Charrettes, 30330 Saint-Laurent-la-Vernède t: +33 04 66 72 89 01
3. Activity: Hit the zoo with Parc Zoologique
Why go: What kid doesn’t love visiting the zoo? This one has a relaxed, park-like feel, and with over 90 species of animals there’s plenty to see. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy time by the lake in the sunshine.
Address: 50 Avenue Agropolis, 34090 Montpellier t: +33 04 67 54 45 23
4. Activity: Play for hours at La Forêt d’Acrobates
Why go: A fantastic, fun way to encourage physical activity 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!
Address: Base Départemental de Bessilles, Route de Montagnac, 34530 Montagnac t: +33 06 07 13 43 80
5. Activity: Visit Europe’s largest dinosaur museum, Meze Dinosaur Museum
Why go: Found in the middle of a paleontological site, the exhibits and museum on site are great – but nothing compared to the life-size dino replicas that inhabit the park!
Address: Route départemental 613, MEZE 34140 t:+33 4 67 43 02 80
6. Activity: Get biking though the South of France with Bike Hire Direct
Why go: Is there any better way to explore the South of France’s beautiful surroundings? Bike Hire Direct (unsurprisingly) offers bike hire across Charente, Charente Maritime, Deux Sevres, Dordogne, Gironde, Haute Vienne, Vendee and Vienne, and also provide helmets, locks, tool kits, delivery and collection free of charge!
Address: Doesn’t matter – they deliver bikes straight to your villa! t: +33 (0)5 67 07 11 01
Best Three Walking Tracks
Fancy yourself as a bit of an amateur hiker? These trails are just the ticket if you feel like stretching your legs in the great outdoors of the South of France. While you’ll need the right footwear and they’re definitely a good workout, they’re not the sort of daunting challenges more professional walkers look for – but they’re still a great way to see some fantastic sights. Just don’t forget the picnic!
1. Going Underground
Where: Cave of Rouffignac, Dordogne
Details: This impressive trail leads through a series of caves with 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 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 the both peninsulas.
Full information through: www.beyond.fr
3. Climbing Via Ferrata Balma Negra
Where: Roubion, 70 km north of Nice
Details: Climb to great heights on fixed rung systems that wind their way up rock faces in the mountains of Provence. Via Ferrata gives you the experience of rock climbing without the risk, as the route is only 300m long but still reaches an altitude of 1450m. It’s the perfect activity for adventurous families as no previous experience is required!
Book through: www.activeazur.com
Nothing could be better than taking in the sights of the South of France with a few friends, and if you’re thinking of hiring out one of our villas for you and a few close buddies to enjoy, don’t fret if you’re worried about the small talk drying up around the dinner table. We’ve researched loads of activities that’ll give you plenty to talk about for weeks to come – from wine tours to golf courses and the most impressive historical sights.
If luxury experiences are more your thing. We have you covered with 10 luxurious experiences for your trip to the South of France.
Leaving the kids at home and heading off with some friends? No problem! We’ve compiled a list of the best group activities for visitors to the South of France not saddled with little ones.
One of the reasons France as a whole (and the South of France in particular) enjoys such popularity is its wealth of history. Couple that with some absolutely beautiful natural landscapes and you’ve got yourself a country with some seriously impressive sights to see. Not sure where to begin? Whether you’re looking for the best beaches in the South of France or historic monuments, we’ve done a bit of exploring on your behalf so you can get straight to the places that make you go ‘oooh’ and whip the camera out.
1. Historic Arles and the Van Gogh Exhibition in Arles
Arles is full of incredible Roman history (including an amphitheatre and a forum), some impressive 17th Century mansions and more museums than you can shake a stick at. Arles also has a connection to Van Gogh – it was where he had that unfortunate incident with his ear…
Address: 13200 Arles, France
2. Le Palais des Papes in Avignon
Claiming the title of the biggest Gothic palace in Europe is the Pope’s Palace in central Avignon. This spectacular 14th Century site is a must see if you’re a history buff, and kids will be fascinated by the sheer size of the place.
Address: 84000 Avignon, France
3. Amphitheatre of Nimes, Maison Carree, Tour Magne
With origins dating to Julius Ceasar’s defeat of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in Egypt, this historic and huge amphitheater is well worth a visit. Though frankly, we’d suggest keeping your recitations of Shakespeare and/or risqué limericks firmly to yourself.
Address: Boulevard des Arenes, 300 Nimes, France
4. Gorges du Verdon, Provence
This striking aqua gorge is said to be France’s own Grand Canyon. Make a day of it and take a (careful) walk around the spectacular scenery or hire a canoe to appreciate the canyon from a whole new angle.
Address: Verdon Natural Regional Park, Domaine de Valx, 04360 Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, France
5. Pont Du Gard
This dramatic aquaduct dates back to around 50AD and was built across the Gardon River to move water from Uzes to Nimes. This incredible piece of architecture is a must-see, and the road bridge beside it allows you to get up close and personal.
Address: 400 Route du Pont du Gard, 30210 Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France
Best Three Golf Courses
Whether you’re basing your entire holiday around golf or just looking to nip out for a quiet couple of rounds, the South of France is home to some top courses – and we can putt you in the picture (geddit?) over which ones are the best.
1. Avenue du Golf, La Grande Motte (golf club)
Details: 42 holes, large driving range with 50 mats, 200m2 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, of 517 meters long, 15 practice stations (6 indoors), practice bunker, putting and pitching greens
Address: 66260 Saint Laurent de Cerdans t: +33 4 68 39 51 42
Best Three Cycling Tracks
If you’re after a holiday dedicated to seeing as much as possible, there’s no better way than on a bicycle. Check out our top villas for cycling holidays of you’re itching to get pedalling.
1. The Nice Cycle Tour
How long: 3 hours
Details: Best way to discover Nice, from the stunning beaches and eye-catching parks to the grand streets and majestic plazas. This Tripadvisor acclaimed tour has a low difficulty and can comes in morning and afternoon varieties, so you can fit it around your schedule.
Price: €30 per person including bike, helmet and drinks bottle
Book through: www.nicecycletours.com
2. Cycling the Col de la Madone, classic road climb
Where: The route starts in Menton near the Italian border.
Details: The Col de la Madone is a classic South of France climb often used by professionals to test their fitness in the run up to the Tour de France. The route starts in Menton on the Italian border and with an average gradient of 7 per cent, you climb quickly away from the Mediterranean. You’re treated to increasingly spectacular views throughout the 15 km ride and gain nearly 1000m in altitude, so it can be a bit of a challenge. Still, the grind to the top is helped by the regular signs telling you the gradient and your current altitude. Then simply enjoy the downhill run back to Menton, where the Mediterranean will be inviting you in for a well earned dip.
Book through: Active Azur
Where: Léon to Bayonne
Details: La Vélodyssée is a 1200km cycle route along the Atlantic Coast. You can choose to join it wherever you wish so you can choose a route that works for your stamina. This easy 60km section leads you through the serene pine forests of Landes and to the surfing beaches of Seignosse and Hossegor. Be sure to stop off at the lively port of Capbreton to people watch and window shop for yachts.
If you’re looking for a mouth-watering feast that can please even the most demanding of foodies, Southern France’s numerous Michelin Star restaurants are definitely the way to go. Speckled throughout the region, we’ve found the top five restaurants with Michelin Stars that are worth a visit.
We’ve also got you covered for the top vineyards in Bordeaux so you can enjoy a tipple worthy of your vittles!
Vegetarian food more your thing? No problems! We’ve picked out some of the best vegetarian dining experiences to be had in the South of France.
Best Family Friendly Restaurants
1. Restaurant: L’ardoise, Bastia
This little restaurant is known for their excellent food, service, and staff, as well as their surprisingly reasonable bills. The child-friendly atmosphere is a big draw here too – while waiting for their next course, the nippers can head to the kid’s corner where they can draw, read and generally keep themselves out of trouble.
Address: 4, place de l’Hôtel de Ville, Bastia
Book: +33 04 95 35 17 11
2. Restaurant: Playfood , Montpellier
Playfood is great for vegetarians – especially those with kids thanks to the old-school toys that’ll keep little ones entertained while you enjoy the wonderful cuisine. It’ll certainly be one of the more unusual gastronomic experiences you’ve ever had, as all of the food is served in verrines, small dainty glasses that take presentation to the next level.
Address: 16, Bd Louis Blanc, Montpellier, France
Book: +33 04 34 22 61 52
3. Restaurant: Auberge de Bardigues, Bardigues
This restaurant is ideal for those who are fed up of seeing chicken nuggets on every single kid’s menu. Here, the nippers are offered smaller versions of the dishes on the regular menu, with some changes and extras accounting for the taste of little ones. It’s the perfect way to make them feel all grown up!
Address: 82340 Bardigues, France
Book: +33 5 63 39 05 58
4. Restaurant: Le Potager du Nebbio, Corsica
This restaurant is a little off the beaten track, but offers you something few restaurants can – eating under the trees outside! While parents enjoy meals prepared with organic produce from the farm, the kids can play in the playground nearby, staying in sight at all times. Perfect.
Address: Chemin de San Griolo Plaine D’oletta, 20232 Oletta, Corsica, France
Book: +33 04 95 60 64 16
5. Restaurant: La Chaumiere, Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via
Kids are always on the receiving end of special treatment in this restaurant. The kids menu is innovative and tasty, and if they behave they’ll even get offered lollipops after dinner! Keep it under your big white hat, but we’re told if the chef is in a good mood they might even get a tour in the kitchen…
Address: 96 Avenue Emmanuel Brousse, 66120 Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via
Book: +33 04 68 30 04 40
The South of France has many delectable wines but each region has its own specific bestseller. If you want to make sure you’re getting the very best vintages to take home with you, check out our guide below and make sure you’re grabbing the right bottle.
Getting to Grips with the Wines of Southern France
Want to know your Mourvèdre from your Muscat? The wines of Southern France might be some of the most esteemed in the world, but they needn’t be a mystery. Our friends over at Wine Folly know more about wine than we do about holiday villas, and that’s saying something. You can acquaint yourself with some of the wine regions of South-West France with the handy map below, and you can find a lot more info on this great blog on their site. Heading to the South East? You might want to keep an eye open for these hidden wine gems!
The Right Wine for the Job
If you’re looking to cook up a storm in your villa’s handy kitchen, make sure you pick up the right wine that’s going to make your gastronomic efforts sing like the choir at Notre Dame (even if you’ve only whipped up a quick cheese sandwich). Wine Folly has a great blog on pairing the right wine style with foods, but they’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce their hand crib sheet below.
Wine Activities We Recommend
1. Chateau Feely, Saussignac
If you’re well seasoned when it comes to your Syrah, you might be looking for the next level when it comes to your wine adventures. Chateau Feely in Saussignac offers you the chance to make your own wine for €150.00 per person (for a minimum two people, so make sure you bring a friend!) You’ll also get an introduction to winemaking and tasting, but the real deal is blending your own vintage to take home with you!
2. Chateau d’Agassac, near Bordeaux
Just because you’ve got the kids with you doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a wine-based day trip! Chateau d’Agassac offers a fun quest for the kids while the adults enjoy a little tasting session. You can even indulge in one tasting session that pairs wine with chocolate – so that’s two favourites in one.
3. Fête des Vins et Montgolfiades in Duras
A wine festival that really hits the heights, the Fête des Vins et Montgolfiades celebrates wine along with the flight of hot air balloons! Make sure you’ve got a head for heights, and don’t worry about toppling out of your basket when tipsy – you’ll only taste the wine after you’ve landed!
4. The B-Winemaker Tour, Bordeaux
Offered by Bernard Magrez Luxury Wine Experience this unique wine experience will take you through the basic concepts of creating your own wine. Live a unique oenology experience while visiting a Grand Cru Classé Chateau, Château Pape Clément of Graves. Duration of the tasting is 2.5 hours and you can book at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Private Full Day Wine Tour in Provence, departure from Avignon
What better way of experiencing wine tourism in the Southern France than the luxury full day, 9 hours tour offered by Winerist? Highlights of the day: your very own professional wine expert will guide your through three wineries in two appellations and you will enjoy a scenic drive to the top of the hill range, Dentelles de Montmirail. This tour is perfect for a group of 8 and transportation in provided in a private, air-conditioned vehicle. Book at email@example.com.