8 Reasons to Visit Provence

8 Reasons to Visit Provence

Visit Provence for a holiday that merges small town tranquility, amazing cuisine and breathtaking vistas.

Visit Provence

Snow-capped mountains, a splendid gorge and lavender fields are just part of the landscape in Provence. It’s also known for Mediterranean beaches, scenic hill hanging towns and perfect Provence vacation rentals.

The sun filled landscapes that inspired the Post-Impressionists are just a portion of what there is to see when you visit Provence.

8 Reasons to Visit Provence, France

1) Fragrant Lavender Fields of Provence

One of the most iconic images in European travel today is the bloom of purple lavender in Provence. From June to August it an experience to have in Luberon, Plateau of Valensole and in Sault which is the “capital village” of lavender. The village of Ferrassieres offers a panoramic view of the rolling hills of lavender here.

Provence lavender. Photo by Salva Barbera.

This “blue gold” is used to make local soaps and cosmetics and it is even used in Provencal cuisine. Think lavender honey (my favorite) and lavender sorbet.

Tip: Visit the spectacular Abbey de Senanque where the monks grow lavender. There’s also a lavender museum in Luberon.

2) Cultural Heritage of Provence

Another good reason to visit Provence is the amazing cultural and architectural heritage left by several civilizations. There was a strong Roman presence here. Then came the Middle Ages and the Papal court and the Renaissance. The region is known for its spiritual life too and impressive churches dot the landscape.  Some highlights include:

The Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) in Avignon

Pope Clement V moved the Papacy here in the 14th century making Avignon the most important city of Europe for nearly a century.

Pope’s Palace in Avignon.

Nimes

Discover this Roman city on the border between Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon where you can see the wonderfully preserved Les Arenes, the first-century Roman arena.

Photo by Cosmojojo.

Abbaye de Senanque

This monastery in Luberon (mentioned above) is another sight to see when you visit Provence. Surrounded by breathtaking lavender fields, this 11th-century monastery is said to radiate peace and calm.

Abbaye de Montmajour in Arles

This fortified Benedictine monastery was built between the 10th and 18th centuries.

3) The Villages of Provence

Set on lush hillsides or perched on the tops of hill, the villages of this region seem like they’ve popped out of a story book. Homes often wind around a castle or church. Walk through the narrow paths, cobbled lanes and sit in shady squares as you admire the architecture, defensive walls, arcaded passageways and the unique atmosphere.

One of the most beautiful villages in all is Gordes.  Also take time to explore Ansouis, Roussillon and Menerbes in Luberon, Seguret in North Vaucluse and Venasque in the Mont-Ventoux. The village of Lourmarin, also well worth a visit, is at the base of Luberon.

4) The Nature of Provence

In a region known for its beauty, the nature of Provence will surely impress you. One of the most scenic drives in France is the drive up to the Verdon Gorge.

The Verdon Gorge. Photo by Yann Coeruru.

The Parc National de Mercantour is in the east, near the Italian border. This park is considered one of France’s great wildlife habitats thanks to its flora and fauna.

Some of the most popular hiking trails include the GR 9 which passes through the summits of Sainte-Victoire, Luberon and Sainte-Baume reaching an altitude of about 1,100 meters. The GR 49, also known as the Martel Way, takes you to the Verdon Gorge.

5) Art Inspiration in Provence

Provence is featured in paintings by the most impactful artists in history including Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso.  Cezanne was a native of Provence and he captured the beauty of his region in Montagne Sainte-Victoire.

Van Gogh’s Bridge of Langlois Arles.

In St. Remy de Provence, where Van Gogh spent much time, you will recognize the scenes from his famous works. You can also visit the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles.

6) Markets of Provence

The markets are another reason to visit Provence. Going to the market is a local tradition that has held for centuries. You can join in with the villagers and browse the colorful stalls of fresh veggies, regional cheese, cured meats or choose from an array of freshly baked breads.

Why not buy some local crafts and colorful printed fabrics too?  You can also take home great local products such as the legendary Savon de Marseille soap which is considered one of the best soaps in the world.

7) Food of Provence

Some say that Provence is one big vegetable garden.  The region is known for truffles, strawberries, cherries, melon and spices like saffron.

The region has incredible olives including the fleshy black olives de nyons, the small nicoise olive and the green picholine olive known for its nutty flavor.

Visit Provence

Arles Market Olives. Photo by Ryan O’Connell.

If you love to taste and savor local foods, Provence delivers with charming markets filled with regional products.  The gastronomy scene is excellent too. Try famous Provencal specialties such as:

  • Soupe au Pistou– A thick vegetable soup flavored with basil and herbs.
  • Bouillabaisse Marseillaise – A famous Mediterranean fish soup.
  • Daube Provencal– A beef stew made with red wine, herbs, pepper, garlic and olive oil.
  • Ratatouille– A local vegetable stew.
  • Pissaladiere – An onion and anchovy tart.

8) Wines of Provence

If you love wine, visit Provence to sip and enjoy some famous varieties. Provence is known for the appellation controlee wines of Chateauneuf du Pape, near Avignon.

Another designated area is the Rhone Valley or Cotes du Rhône.  Definitely try the dark red called Bandol. It is produced in one of the oldest wine-growing areas of France.

For more about travel to France, check out the posts on my Travel Europe – France page.

This sums up my list of 8 reasons to visit Provence.  Have you ever been to Provence?  I’d love to hear about the reasons you went. Feel free to comment in the comment boxes below.

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I'm a travel writer and journalist from New York. Join me on my travels as I explore Greece, Europe and beyond.

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