Over the last few years the French region of Provence has seen tourism figures grow at an alarming rate. I first visited around 3 years ago and went back there at the back end of last year and the change in just a small space of time was remarkable. There are now Provence vacation rentals in almost every nook and cranny of the region, the small, quaint towns are hives of activity and there are definitely more cars on the road than I can remember.
It seems that word has got out about the beauty of Provence and the fact that it is one of those places that actually lives up to expectation. You will see sleepy villages that look straight off a film set, you will see fresh and bold purple lavender growing naturally in the fields and you will see stunning views of the Mediterranean coast as you meander along the mazy, coastal roads. If you feel like jumping on the Provence bandwagon, which you should, incidentally, then here are some tips on the towns and villages within the region which I’d recommend that you visit.
Avignon is one of the most historical and most widely known cities of Provence thanks to its occupation by the Vatican for some 70 years after Ancient Rome got a little bit too hot for the Pope to handle. These days tourists can see the very best of historic France in Avignon and history buffs will delight in visiting the Pope’s Palace, the biggest gothic palace in Europe. The city is well served by TGV from local airports in Nimes and Marseille so getting there is no problem and the most iconic structure which tourists love to se is the Pont d’Avignon, a bridge that was destroyed in parts and now looms perilously over the River Rhone.
Those small village that you see in TV shows and movies, you know the ones, mazy streets, cute cafes and craft shops? Well that is exactly what you will find in Gordes, the perfect place to do absolutely nothing and watch the World pass you by as you soak up the Mediterranean sunshine. Widely regarded as one of the regions most beautiful cities, which is really saying something when you consider its competition, Gordes is a must visit village on your trip to Provence.
Les Beaux de Provence
This little village is set in up in the Alpilles mountains which provides a really dramatic backdrop that juxtaposes with the sheer beauty of the village itself. The village is located just south of Avignon and it is the site where archaeologists found human remains dating back some 6000 years. The most popular attraction here is the castle, much of which still remains in tact thanks to some restoration work over the years and tourists can see the catapults and siege engines which were used to protect the village throughout history.
L’isle Sur La Sorgue
This beautiful little fishing village in the center of the River Sorgue is widely perceived to be one of the prettiest in southern France. Aside from the beauty what attracts tourists and locals alike to L’isle Sur La Sorgue are its regular antique markets with over 300 antique dealers selling their wares. This village also has several water wheels throughout, many of which are still in operation which, for tourists, gives a great photo opportunity.
Just west of Avignon and due north of Nimes is the village of Uzes, widely considered to have the best preserved renaissance structures in all of France. The winding streets and pedestrian only zones throughout the village make it the perfect place for tourists to wander through the heart of Uzes and enjoy the slow pace of life here. The Saturday market is quite an attraction and sees many locals from surrounding villages setting up stalls to sell arts and crafts.
Much of the beauty of Seillans is in the incredible viewing opportunities that it offers tourists of the surrounding areas. The center of Seillans can only be reached on foot such is the severity of the steep hill and from atop the hill you can see all the way to neighboring Cannes. Olive groves and vineyards occupy the surrounding area of Seillans and whilst the village is very much French, the design and architecture give the feeling of an ancient Italian or Greek location.
I’m looking forward to going back to Provence again very soon, just writing about it makes me think of how much I fell in love with the region both times I visited and can’t wait to see what more changes in the next 3 years. Have you been to Provence before? If so what were your favorite parts and villages? Let us know what you think in the comments below.