Provence: tourism & sightseeing
Visit Provence, France
With many of the most beautiful places to visit in France, Provence has scenery and highlights to satisfy the most discerning visitor. With the dramatic mountains of the Alps, unspoiled medieval villages clustered among the olive groves and many other highlights there is an enormous choice of things to enjoy - or you can just relax on the famous French Riviera beaches!
There is truly something for everyone to discover in Provence - whether it is your first visit, or you are one of the many visitors who return every year...and many do - Provence is one of the most visited regions of France.
If beaches are your main interest we have a separate travel guide for the resorts along the popular French riviera, the Mediterranean coast in Provence: see Riviera beaches and resorts for details.
Provence also has more sunshine than any other region of mainland France, and is usually warm or hot from March to October, so it is a popular destination for most of the year and has less of a 'closed' season than most parts of France.
A brief guide for each department in Provence is shown below to help you decide which area you are interested in visiting. You can then see the more detailed travel guide for your chosen department for lots more highlights and travel ideas.
Note: the region is correctly called Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur and includes six French 'departments': Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhone, Hautes-Alpes, Var and Vaucluse.
In the coastal region of the Alpes Maritimes you can visit such famous resorts as Cannes, Nice and Antibes. As well as these, our favourite towns on the coast here include Menton and Villefranche-sur-Mer, and the principality of Monaco is also very interesting to visit.
As well as the resorts you will also discover small villages and towns close to the coast that have beautiful medieval centres and views across the sea. Our personal favourites include Eze and Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
As you continue further from the coast of the Alpes-Maritimes you will discover some of the most beautiful scenery in Provence (and France). Among the many picturesque towns and villages to visit, a particular highlight is Gourdon, a classified most beautiful village to the north of Grasse, France's perfume capital and a very traditional Provencal market town.
Further to the north-east as you venture into the mountains you reach Mercantour National Park, well known for its beautiful Alpine scenery and popular with those who enjoy exploring the 'great outdoors'. We suggest that you travel along the Roya Valley to visit Sospel, then continue slightly further north to reach Saorge and Tende, both attractive hill villages in attractive locations.
Var, to the south of Provence, includes some beautiful coastline and famous riviera resorts such as Saint-Tropez. Also along the coast, some of the most beautiful scenery can be found in the Port Cros National Park and the Iles of Hyeres which are just off the Var coast.
In the quieter interior of the Var to the north you can discover many interesting destinations such as the countryside and villages around Aups and the villages of the Cotes de Rhone wine region.
We must give a particular mention to the towns of Entrecasteaux, Flayosc, Les-Arcs, Salernes and Tourtour. These towns in the northern Var each have their own particular charm and the region is slightly off the usual tourist trail.
Another region that we enjoyed exploring is further to the north-east and is called the Pays de Fayence. As well as Seillans, classified as one of the 'most beautiful villages of France' there are several other pretty villages in close proximity such as Callian, Tourrettes, Mons and Fayence, and together they make for a very pleasant day out.
The Vaucluse department in north-west Provence is one of our favourite departments in France, with a perfect combination of scenery and traditional villages - but note that there is no coastline in this part of Provence!
To the north of the Vaucluse you can see Mont Ventoux, Provence's most famous mountain, and the dramatic crags of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Also in the north-east you can enjoy the spectacular lavender fields of the Drome-Provence region in the region around Vaison-la-Romaine.
Towards the south of the department you enter the Luberon region, with some of the most lovely villages to be found in France, with a scenic backdrop of cliffs and rocks, olive trees and ancient farms.
Several of these villages are classified among the 'most beautiful villages of France', including Fontaine de Vaucluse, Gordes, Roussillon, Menerbes and Lourmarin - see our Luberon guide for more details of this region.
To the west of Vaucluse there is more to enjoy, with the very impressive Pope's Palace and famous bridge in the traditional Provençal town of Avignon, and the Roman Theatre and ruins at Orange, a short distance to the north being among the finest roman remains to be found in France.
See the Vaucluse travel guide for highlights and visitor information
The Bouches-du-Rhone department is to the south-west of Provence and has a wide diversity of landscapes from the protected marshy landscapes of the Camargue region, usually explored from the pleasant resort of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, to the dramatic coast east of Marseille which includes the white cliffs of the Calanques at Marseille near Cassis and the Route des Cretes which follows the coast along the top of the highest sea cliffs in France
Important towns in Bouches du Rhone include Arles, the historic city that preserves important Roman monuments and was also home to Van Gogh, the city of Marseille, and several other smaller market towns, each with a distinctive Provencal feel, such as Aix-en-Provence.
There are several lovely villages to discover, with Les Baux-de-Provence one of the best known and most attractive in the department.
You will discover many other interesting towns and villages as you travel around Bouches-du-Rhone, and we particularly enjoyed exploring the north-west and east of the department, including detours to Fontvieille and Saint-Remy-de-Provence to the west and Martigues and Salon-de-Provence in central Bouches-du-Rhone.
See Bouches-du-Rhone travel guide for highlights and visitor information
The most visited destination in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence are the Gorges du Verdon, a dramatic gorge usually explored from Castellane and near the southern border of the department, and the nearby Lac de Sainte-Croix.
Further west in the department you will enjoy visiting the villages of the Luberon that fall within this department. The main towns in this region include Manosque and Oppedette, and there are also lots of small traditional villages to explore such as valensole and Simiane-la-Rotonde.
The northern region of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence falls within the Mercantour National Park, most visited of course for its scenery and natural beauty. Towns of interest here in the north include Sisteron and Barcelonnette, and we also enjoyed exploring Colmars-les-Alpes and Seyne-les-Alpes.
See Alpes-de-Haute-Provence travel guide for highlights and visitor information
The northen department of Provence is the Hautes-Alpes department, and is an area of great natural beauty with the Ecrins National park and the Natural Regional Park of Queyras together occupying a large area of the department.
Between the two parks is the fortified mountain town of Briancon, since ancient times an important town on the trade routes through the region.
As well as being a popular summer destination the Hautes-Alpes is also a renowned ski area with the extensive Serre Chevalier ski region and many other ski resorts and villages.
To the north-west of the department the village of La Grave is listed among the 'most beautiful villages in France', while further south the leisure opportunities and scenery around Lake Serre-Ponçon are a popular summer destination.
See Hautes-Alpes travel guide for highlights and visitor information
Six unmissable highlights of a visit to Provence
Baux-de-Provence is an exceptional village in a lovely setting
The Luberon region has several of the most beautiful and Provençal villages in close proximity.
We suggest you visit Avignon because of the unique 'Palace of the Popes'
Stunning coastline south-east of Marseille where sheer white cliffs meet turquoise seas
See Calanques at Marseille
A river surges from the bottom of a cliff to follow a verdant green valley to the village below...
The Camargue wilderness is unique in France - see the famous white horses in a natural environment
Map of Provence and places nearby
French version: Provence (Francais)