Five beautiful villages in Provence

Chapel on hill behind Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
 

Provence is famous among other things for its exceptionally lovely villages, and in most parts of the region you can find an unspoiled village with a medieval historic centre to explore nearby, but as with all things, some are more lovely than others!

We have explored innumerable villages both in all parts of Provence and across the other regions of France, and believe that there are several among them that are 'the best of the best'.

If your tour of Provence includes the five villages below you really will have seen the best the region has to offer, although they are quite dispersed so you will certainly see lots of other villages and a great deal of lovely countryside as you explore: which can only be a good thing...

Five exceptional Proven├žal villages

The villages below are not in any particular order. Although we agreed on which should be included on this list, given that these villages are quite different from each other we did not try to choose our overall favourite. They are also not "undiscovered" villages, they are all very popular with visitors to Provence.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a lovely village divided in two by a gorge and with a lively centre, interesting monuments and several restaurants.

The village has been built below dramatic cliffs - you can walk up to see the ancient chapel - and is close to the Gorges-du-Verdon and Lake of Sainte-Croix so there is lots to see nearby.

See the Moustiers-Sainte-Marie travel guide for information.

Eze

Eze would be a lovely village anywhere in Provence, with its narrow cobbled streets climbing the hill passed ancient stone houses, but is exceptional because it also has a remarkable tropical garden in the grounds of a ruined castle above the village as well as spectacular views along the coast of the French riviera.

You are close to many of the highlights of the Riviera so you will also be able to visit Nice, Monaco, Menton and Villefranche-sur-Mer while you are here.

See the Eze travel guide for information.

Les Baux-de-Provence

 

The village of Les Baux-de-Provence is included here for several reasons including the charm and monuments of the historic village, the ruined castle above the village, the extraordinary views across the surrounding Alpilles countryside (from within the castle grounds in particular), and the sound and light show in the Carrieres de Lumieres on the edge of the village.

Popular towns you can visit while you are in this region of Provence include Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.

See the Les Baux-de-Provence travel guide for information.

Roussillon

You will love Roussillon for its charming architecture, with many of the houses in pink, orange and red tints that bring a lovely colour to the village. It is also a special village to visit because of the ochre mines on the edge of Roussillon, where a 40 minute walk leads you through a curious landscape of colourful rock formations surrounded by forest.

In the Luberon region around Roussillon you can visit numerous beautiful villages such as Lourmarin, Menerbes and Lacoste.

See the Roussillon travel guide for information.

Saint-Paul-de-Vence

The smallest village listed here, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is little more than one long narrow cobbled street leading to the cemetery where Jean Cocteau is buried, plus a few side streets, but every house in the village has ben meticulously restored to and there are numerous high quality art galleries at ground level in many of the buildings.

There are lots of other places and villages to visit in the region, such as the Fondation Maeght art gallery and the village at Vence, and the French riviera is not far to the south...

See the Saint-Paul-de-Vence travel guide for information.

More Provence villages you really should visit!

There will always be other villages in Provence that could be included here, and I can think of three in particular that visitors might think should be on this list...

1) Gordes

It is tempting to include Gordes, principally because the view of the village across the valley is one of the most beautiful views in Provence, but while the village itself is certainly lovely I am not sure I would rate it as exceptional. I suspect a lot of visitors might disagree with me.

See the Gordes travel guide for information

2) Gourdon

In an exceptional location high on a rocky hillside and an unforgettable view, I have not included Gourdon simply because the village is very small and so over-run with visitors, but you should visit anyway.

See the Gourdon travel guide for information

3) Bormes-les-Mimosas

This is probably too large to be considered a village, which is why I didn't include it, but the historic centre of Bormes-les-Mimosas is compact and very beautiful, in part because of the thousands of plants and flowers along the streets.

See the Bormes-les-Mimosas travel guide for information


You might notice that not all of the villages we have listed are classified among the "most beautiful villages of France". That is not because they are not beautiful enough: a village might be slightly too large to qualify, or not have the required number of historic monuments, or perhaps might quite simply not want to attract even more tourists...