Updated December 6, 2023
Cradled in southern France, Provence is a fascinating destination with picturesque landscapes, exquisite cuisine, and a serene small-town atmosphere.
While well-known cities like Aix-en-Provence, Saint Tropez, Cannes, and Avignon have their charm, it's in the smaller towns where the true essence of Provence shines. Join us on a journey through the best towns in Provence, where hidden gems and celebrated havens embody the region's soul.
Whether you're a seasoned traveler or new to France, these towns will inspire you with their unique charms. Stroll along cobblestone streets, savor local wines in cafes in ancient squares, and discover the stories behind centuries-old architecture.
From the iconic hilltop village of Gordes to the vibrant hues of Roussillon's ochre cliffs, each town has its own tale to tell and charming character to captivate you.
As you approach Gordes, the first thing that catches your eye is its commanding position atop the hill.
The village seamlessly blends with the surrounding landscape, creating a picturesque sight. Its limestone houses and buildings, built tightly together, create a harmonious ensemble that has earned Gordes the distinction of being one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Explore the magnificent 10th-century
château, home to the Pol Mara Museum, and don't miss the iconic Saint Firmin Palace cellars with ruins that date from the Middle Ages.
Relax at charming cafés or dine with stunning views at La Bastide de Gordes' L'Orangerie restaurant.
Beyond its cultural and architectural treasures, Gordes offers breathtaking natural beauty. The surrounding countryside is characterized by rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves, creating a picturesque backdrop. Stroll along the winding paths that lead to stunning viewpoints, offering panoramic vistas of the Luberon Valley.
Gordes is a true Provencal gem that combines history, culture, and natural splendor. Its hilltop setting, ancient architecture, and vibrant atmosphere make it a must-visit destination in the region.
Whether you're exploring the charming streets, immersing yourself in the local arts scene, or simply enjoying the breathtaking views, Gordes is a place that will capture your heart and leave you with unforgettable memories.
In the heart of Provence's Luberon region, just 15 minutes from Gordes, Roussillon is a village that captivates with its vibrant colors and dramatic landscapes.
One of the most beautiful villages in France, Roussillon is renowned for its striking ochre cliffs, picturesque streets, and rich artistic heritage.
The village's unique charm lies in its vibrant hues. The ochre cliffs surrounding Roussillon showcase a mesmerizing red, orange, and yellow palette, creating a surreal and captivating backdrop. The rich deposits of ochre pigment have been mined and used for centuries, leaving their mark on the village's architecture and character.
Be enchanted by Roussillon's narrow streets lined with charming houses painted in warm earth tones that harmonize with the surrounding landscape. The village's central square, Place de la Mairie, is a hub of activity with its quaint cafés and shops, offering a perfect spot to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
Art lovers will find Roussillon particularly inspiring. The village has been a haven for artists for many years, drawing inspiration from its unique colors and natural beauty. Numerous galleries and studios showcase the works of local artists, providing an opportunity to appreciate and acquire pieces that reflect the region's essence.
Beyond its artistic allure, Roussillon offers breathtaking natural landscapes. The Sentier des Ocres, a marked trail that winds through the ochre quarries and cliffs, immerses you in the stunning scenery. Enjoy spectacular views of vineyards, lavender fields, and quaint villages as you walk along the path.
Rousillon is a feast for the eyes and offers a taste of Provençal gastronomy. The village is home to several excellent restaurants and cafés where you can indulge in regional specialties, including traditional dishes made with local ingredients such as olive oil, truffles, and fresh produce.
Visiting Roussillon immerses you in a world of vibrant colors, artistic expression, and natural beauty. Whether you're exploring the ochre cliffs, admiring the artworks, or savoring the flavors of Provence, Roussillon promises an unforgettable experience that will leave a lasting impression on your senses.
Perched high on a hill in the Luberon region of Provence, Saignon is a picturesque village that exudes charm and tranquility.
With its medieval architecture, panoramic views, and rich cultural heritage, Saignon invites visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in the beauty of the French countryside.
When you get near Saignon, you'll see its iconic silhouette, with the remains of an old castle sitting on a rocky hill.
The village's narrow winding streets lead you through a maze of stone houses adorned with colorful shutters and flower-filled balconies. Take a stroll and discover hidden courtyards, charming squares, and quaint artisanal shops, where you can find local crafts and products.
One of the highlights of Saignon is its breathtaking views. From the vantage point near the castle ruins, you can gaze out over the Luberon Valley, with its rolling hills, vineyards, and lavender fields. The panoramic vista stretches as far as the eye can see, offering a sense of serenity and a connection to the natural beauty of Provence.
Saignon is a place steeped in history. The village has a rich history dating back to Roman times, with well-preserved medieval architecture serving as a reminder of its past. Wander through the ancient streets and imagine life in the village centuries ago.
Nature enthusiasts will find Saignon to be a haven of tranquility. Surrounding the village, you'll discover hiking trails that meander through the countryside, offering opportunities to explore the scenic landscapes and encounter local flora and fauna.
Saint Paul de Vence
Step into a fairytale as you meander through the enchanting village of St. Paul de Vence.
Perched high on a hilltop on the French Riviera between Nice and Cannes, this picturesque destination offers a glimpse into a bygone era.
Its meandering alleyways, centuries-old stone cottages, and dramatic views over the countryside to the Mediterranean Sea create a magical atmosphere that transports you back in time.
As a quintessential "village perché," St. Paul de Vence embodies the charm of the French countryside. Its history is evident in the stone cottages, while narrow streets lead you to lavoirs (ancient clothes-washing areas), chapels, and churches steeped in history.
Despite its proximity to glamorous coastal cities, St. Paul de Vence remains a world apart, offering a unique and captivating experience of Provence.
Consider staying overnight to witness the village's transformation after the day trippers have departed. As the sun sets, St. Paul de Vence reveals its authentic charm, allowing you to wander through cobbled streets, capture stunning photos, and savor the local cuisine in peace.
Whether you spend a few hours or several days in St. Paul de Vence, the experience will be unforgettable. Lose yourself in its charming streets, immerse yourself in its history, and let the artistic energy ignite your creativity.
As dusk settles, you'll feel the true essence of St. Paul de Vence—a place where time stands still and the beauty of Provence comes alive.
Nestled in the stunning natural landscape of the Verdon Regional Natural Park, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a picturesque village that exudes charm and beauty.
Known for its unique setting, rich history, and exquisite craftsmanship, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie offers a delightful escape in the heart of Provence.
Perched on the side of a cliff (expect to climb a lot of stairs!), the village is framed by towering limestone cliffs and overlooks the sparkling waters of the Lac de Sainte-Croix.
Its enchanting location alone is enough to captivate visitors, but Moustiers-Sainte-Marie has much more to offer. The village is renowned for its traditional ceramics, which have been crafted here for centuries.
Take a stroll through the narrow streets lined with artisan shops and admire the intricate pottery displayed in their windows.
Adding to the village's allure is the dramatic presence of a golden star suspended between two cliffs high above. Legend has it that a knight from Moustiers was held captive by the Saracens and vowed to hang a star above the village if he was ever released. True to his promise, he returned and hung the star, making it a symbol of the village ever since.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie also boasts a rich historical heritage. Explore the Romanesque-style Notre Dame de Beauvoir church, perched on a hilltop above the village. Admire its intricate architectural details and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
As you wander through the village, you'll encounter charming squares, ancient fountains, and centuries-old buildings that transport you back in time.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a beautiful town exuding charm and beauty, steeped in history and surrounded by breathtaking landscapes.
One of the town's most notable draws is its rich artistic heritage, specifically its association with the legendary painter Vincent Van Gogh.
During his voluntary year-long stay in the Saint-Paul de Mausole psychiatric hospital, he experienced one of his most productive artistic periods.
From "The Starry Night" to his stunning depictions of the surrounding landscapes, he created over 150 paintings during that year. To follow in Van Gogh's footsteps, explore the Van Gogh walk, a self-guided walking tour from the town center to Saint-Paul de Mausole.
Beyond its artistic allure, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence boasts a rich history evident in its well-preserved architecture. The old town is a delight to explore, with its narrow, winding streets, ancient fountains, and picturesque squares.
The town is also home to the archaeological site of Glanum, where you can discover the remnants of a Roman city and marvel at its well-preserved structures, including a remarkable triumphal arch.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence hosts a vibrant weekly market that offers an array of Provençal delights if you're seeking a taste of local culture. Stroll through the market and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere as you peruse stalls filled with fresh produce, local cheeses, fragrant lavender products, and handmade crafts. It's the perfect opportunity to savor the flavors and scents of Provence while mingling with locals.
Surrounded by rolling hills, olive groves, and vineyards, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence also offers breathtaking natural beauty. Take a leisurely walk or bike ride through the stunning countryside, or relax at one of the charming cafes and soak in the peaceful ambiance.
Les Baux de Provence
Step into the hilltop village of Les Baux de Provence and prepare to be transported back in time. The narrow cobblestone streets, charming squares, and centuries-old stone houses create a nostalgic and captivating ambiance.
Explore the nooks and crannies of the village, discover hidden chapels, and marvel at the well-preserved medieval architecture.
One of the must-visit attractions in Les Baux-de-Provence is the Carrières de Lumières, an extraordinary multimedia art show in a former quarry. Step into the depths of the quarry and be mesmerized as famous paintings are projected onto the towering walls, accompanied by a carefully curated soundtrack. It's a truly immersive experience that brings art to life in a breathtaking way.
Beyond its historical and artistic allure, stunning natural beauty surrounds Les Baux-de-Provence. The village is perched on a natural plateau, offering panoramic views of the picturesque landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see. Take a leisurely walk through the olive groves, hike the nearby trails, or bask in the tranquility of the Provençal countryside.
Les Baux-de-Provence is where history, art, and natural splendor come together to create an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in its rich past, explore its charming streets, and be inspired by its breathtaking surroundings. Visiting Les Baux-de-Provence is a journey through time and a true highlight of any trip to Provence.
How to choose the best towns in Provence for your next visit
When planning your journey through the best towns in Provence, consider key factors to optimize your itinerary:
Accessibility and Transportation: Many towns and villages don't have train stations, so you'll want to consider renting a car or having a driver/guide if you'd like to visit the more remote towns.
Distance and Travel Time: Plan your route carefully. Some towns that seem close can take longer to travel between than expected due to narrow roads and traffic. If you want to visit at a time with fewer people, get out early in the morning. Stay overnight in the towns you most want to see without the crowds.
Busy times: Research the popular times for the different towns and off-season and shoulder season. While the weather may not be ideal outside of high season, towns will be less crowded at certain times of the year.
Personal Preferences and Interests: Make sure to choose towns and villages that align with your interests, whether you prefer exploring historical landmarks, admiring art, or experiencing the beauty of nature.
Your itinerary will depend on your travel style, interests, and preferred experiences. Each enchanting town in Provence offers its own charm, and no two are alike.
The bottom line
Provence is a treasure trove of picturesque towns that blend history, art, and natural beauty. From the enchanting hilltop village of St Paul de Vence to the medieval charm of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, and from the artistic haven of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to the captivating Les Baux-de-Provence, each town has its own unique story to tell.
Whether you're drawn to winding cobblestone streets, centuries-old stone cottages, or panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, Provence's towns always inspire and captivate. These hidden gems provide a respite from the bustling cities and allow you to immerse yourself in the timeless charm of the French countryside.
As you explore Provence, you'll discover the footprints of great artists like Van Gogh, who found inspiration in the region's landscapes and villages.
But Provence is more than just a haven for art enthusiasts. It's a place where history comes alive, where ancient walls, fortresses, and monuments stand as testaments to a vibrant past. You can wander through medieval villages, stumble upon ornate fountains, and bask in the architectural accomplishments that dot the landscape.
Beyond the historical and artistic allure, Provence beckons with its natural wonders. The region's landscapes are a feast for the eyes, from the rolling wheat fields and olive groves to the limestone cliffs and expansive valleys. It's a place where you can embrace the tranquility of lavender fields, hike through scenic mountains, or lose yourself in the beauty of nature.
So, whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, or a nature lover, Provence has something to offer. Its towns provide a perfect blend of culture, beauty, and charm, inviting you to enter a world where the past merges with the present. Set out on a journey to discover the best towns in Provence and let their stories, sights, and experiences ignite your imagination and leave an indelible mark on your soul.
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