South of France: Provence & French Riviera Itinerary
The south of France is easily one of the most impressive travel destinations in Europe. Here you’ll find beautiful mountainscapes, stunning coastal views and plenty of small towns and villages that beckon you to say hello.
If you’re visiting the region, you’ll discover towns that take you back in time, that thrill with outdoor adventures and that offer cultural experiences that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I loved it a lot, hence I’ve already been there three times!
In a perfect world, you can spend months exploring every stunning spot in the south of France. However, most likely won’t have time to visit each and every town in the region, here’s a list of some of the more popular small towns and villages in the south of France to add to your itinerary.
South of France: Provence & French Riviera Itinerary
Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur
Planning Your Provence & French Riviera Trip
1. Rent a Car in France
While renting a car isn’t an absolute must in the French Riviera, I highly recommend it for Provence. While some places can be seen by train or bus (eg. of some tours here), you’ll miss out on many small towns worth your time if you don’t have a vehicle.
I’m saying this as during my first visit to the south of France I didn’t rent a car and while I was able to enjoy myself (I took this exact tour!), I preferred my second and third trip when I had a car with me and could explore things on my own pace and freely. I also stumbled by some incredible spots that I wouldn’t be able to see on a group tour.
You can find the best deal on car rental on Discover Car Hire. Personal tip: their car insurance is much cheaper than booking it at the counter, so you might want to book it beforehand. Beautiful MoroccoPlay Video
IMPORTANT: if you pre-book a car from outside of Europe your rental will be significantly cheaper as extra taxes won’t be added based on your computer’s IP. However, this only works if you have a non-EU driver’s license.
2. Base Yourself Somewhere in Provence and Cote d’Azur Instead of Changing Hotels
It might be tempting to stay in different towns throughout your trip, but it’s not the best idea. Pick one hotel in Provence and one in the French Riviera and explore other spots during the day. Why?
Especially in Provence, big chains of hotels don’t exist and what you can find are family owned guesthouses. That said, most of the hotels have limited check-in and check-out time, and some even have a curfew. If you wanted to check into a different spot every night, you’ll miss out on incredible sunsets and sunrises, so it’s simply not worth it.
- For Provence, the most central town is Aix-en-Provence (book awesome hotel I’ve stayed at here).
- For the French Riviera, you might want to stay in Nice (check out my favorite hotel) or Antibes.
3. Decide Where Will You Fly To
There are two convenient airports in the area: Marseille and Nice. You could fly into Marseille and fly out of Nice, or fly in and out of Nice if that’s cheaper. Check Skyscanner and find the best possible option.
4. Take Time Into Consideration
Even if you carefully plan your route, you might want to spend more time in some spots, or simply stop on the side of the road and enjoy the view. Don’t go to France to just tick some cute villages of your list, but really enjoy each place and the atmosphere of Provence and French Riviera.
Marseille to Nice Itinerary – 8 Days
Day 1: Fly into Marseille.
SLEEP IN: Aix-en-Provence
Pick up your rental car and drive to Aix-en-Provence. Enjoy the dinner in some of the outdoor restaurants.
Day 2: Aix-en-Provence – Massif des Calanques – Cassis
Spend the morning exploring Aix-en-Provence. In the afternoon drive to Massif des Calanques for some hiking and stop in Cassis afterward for a snack.
Day 3: Pont du Gard – Avignon – Rustrel
Drive to see Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD to carry water over 50 kilometers. Then continue to Avignon and walk through the Medieval battlements to reach the historic center dominated by the fortified Papal Palace. Finish the day with a light hike on Colorado Provencal near Rustrel.
Day 4: Arles – Le Baux de Provence – Carrières de Lumières – Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole
Spend the morning in Arles following the footsteps of Van Gogh and check out the amphitheater. If you’re visiting on a Saturday there will be a big market there. To continue your Van Gogh and art journey that day, visit Carrieres de Lumieres, a spectacular art exhibition, stop for lunch at Le Baux de Provence nearby, and step foot at the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole.
Day 5: Luberon Valley: Senanque – Gordes – Menerbes – Lourmarin (optional: Oppede)
Drive to Senanque Abbey, regardless whether it’s a lavender season or not, it’s beautiful all year long. Then stop by Gordes for lunch and admire the views. Continue onto Menerbes and Oppede, the latter is a partially abandoned village best known for its Medieval château once occupied by Nazis. Spend the golden hour and sunset at Lourmarin, before heading back to Aix.
Day 6: Valensole – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – Verdon Gorge
If you’re visiting Provence during Lavender season you need to check out Valensole area. Valensole is home to many gorgeous lavender farms that are a must-see when in full bloom.
After you’re lavender-out stop by Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of the most beautiful villages in France, with a waterfall running through the center of town. Finish by kayaking on Verdon Gorge.
Day 7: Grasse – St Paul de Vence – Antibes
SLEEP IN: Nice
That day you’ll leave Provence and start exploring Cote d’Azur. Then visit the epicenter of perfume making – Grasse, and tour their perfumeries.
Continue onto a hilltop village of St-Paul-de-Vence, where contemporary painters perpetuate art as a living tradition. Finish the day with a dinner in either Antibes or Nice.
Day 8: Villefranche-sur-Mer – Eze – Monaco
Take the train or drive to nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer and explore it, then see the pink Villa Rothschild nearby. Spend the afternoon or evening in Monaco. Don’t forget to check out my favorite village Eze on the way.
Day 9: Nice
Enjoy your morning and fly out.