Provence is often associated with fields of lavender, charming storybook villages and delicious wine—and for good reason. This region of southern France has everything you need for a restful weekend away, whether it’s an addition to a longer European itinerary or a quick jaunt from Paris. The area’s scenic countryside and colorful towns boast opulent hotels, as well as high-end restaurants, notable museums and, of course, vineyard after vineyard.
Because Provence is a rather vast region, it’s best to rent a car and plan out each day to include a few villages or attractions. Some of the most scenic towns, like Gordes and Roussillon, are within minutes of each other, making it easy to hit several places without long drives in between. If you prefer not to get behind the wheel, base yourself in Aix-en-Provence and embark on day trips with a private guide or tour group. Those traveling to and from Paris can hop on a SNCF or Ouigo train from the Aix or Avignon TGV stations (it’s about three hours by train). If your time is limited, don’t worry about trying to see everything. All of Provence is beautiful, so wherever you end up will be well worth the trip.
Here’s everything you need to know about planning a weekend away in Provence.
Where To Stay
Gordes is known as one of Provence’s most beautiful towns, and the hillside village delivers with impressive views, both as you drive up and from the streets themselves. La Bastide, a five-star hotel, takes full advantage of the scenery thanks to its position high on a cliffside. It’s composed of 40 rooms and suites, which showcase a refined historic style, with several bars and restaurants. Guests can unwind at the Airelles Spa, where outdoor treatment areas allow you to get a massage while breathing in the countryside air. Nearby, Gordes is filled with bistros and bakeries, including a Ladurée boutique.
Villa Gallici, a Relais & Châteaux property, combines the indulgent luxury of a country hotel with the convenience of a city. Located in Aix-en-Provence, the hotel is situated near the Atelier de Cezanne, with the opportunity to stroll into the center of town. The ornate and colorful rooms and suites are filled with antique furnishings, and there are two villas with private pools and jacuzzis. Guests can enjoy dining at a restaurant led by chef Christophe Gavot, as well as amenities including a spa, wellness center and a swimming pool, which is perfect for the summer heat.
If you’re heading to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, you’ll find contemporary luxury at Le Saint-Rémy, a five-star hotel set in a 19th century townhouse. The décor is described as “gypsy jet-set,” with chic furnishings and a peaceful vibe. There’s a swimming pool, outdoor terrace, spa and fitness center, and the location, in the heart of the town, is ideal for those who don’t want to constantly hop in the car. Guests looking for something more private can book the Magnolia Villa, which sleeps up to 10 people.
Les-Baux-de-Provence is a notably scenic and quaint town, set high up on a hillside. It’s there travelers will discover Baumanière Hôtel & Spa, which is comprised of five historic buildings, including an 18th-century manor and a Provençal farmhouse. The rooms have an upscale countryside feel, and the hotel also features a spa, three swimming pools and a tennis court. The property’s restaurant, L’Oustau de Baumanière, helmed by Glenn Viel, holds three Michelin stars and showcases ingredients from the local Alpilles area.
What To Do
Aix’s charming small art museum houses an impressive collection, including works by Cezanne, who lived and worked in the area. The museum is divided between historical and modern works, and also boasts a gallery of marble sculptures by artists from Provence. A ticket offers access to both Musée Granet and its newer extension, Site Granet XXe, which houses the collection of Jean Planque in a former church. Aix is also home to Atelier de Cézanne, where visitors can explore the artist’s former studio.
The influence of Van Gogh spreads across Provence, but his presence is most felt in Arles and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, two places he spent time painting. The latter, a charming village worth a visit on its own, is where Van Gogh lived for a year, voluntarily housed in an asylum. Today, Saint-Paul de Mausole features a museum that recreates Van Gogh’s room and showcases where he created some of his most famous works. Visitors can also stroll through the gardens, which are filled with lavender, poppies and iris, depending on the time of year. Nearby, Musée Estrine showcases works by artists who have been inspired by Van Gogh.
The castle of Les Baux, which overlooks the village of Baux-de-Provence, may be partially in ruins, but it still merits a trip. Many of the former buildings remain, including the Chapel of Saint Blaise, and the exhibition details the fortification’s vast history. The castle offers combined tickets with the Carrières de Lumiéres, a former quarry that features art projections, and those visiting the Yves Brayer museum can use their castle ticket for a discount.
There’s a lot to do outdoors in Provence, from kayaking to countryside hikes to cycling. But the best place to experience the region’s wildlife is in Camargue Regional Natural Park, located west of Arles. The protected area is home to herds of wild horses, bulls and flamingos, as well as more than 300 species of birds. Combine a drive through the Camargue with a half-day visit to Arles, known for its well-preserved Roman Amphitheatre. Scenic, sandy beaches can be found in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a seaside resort town at the edge of the Camargue.
During the summer months, Provence blooms purple with seemingly endless fields of lavender. The best time to see it in full force is in July; however, the Lavender Museum, located in the Luberon valley, celebrates the plants year-round. The small museum showcases the relationship between the region and lavender, as well as how it is harvested and prepared, while the shop is a great place to purchase souvenirs. Nearby, learn about olive oil at the Musée de l’Huile d’Olive, where you can taste the local wares.
Where To Eat
Located in the Hotel de Tourrel, Restaurant de Tourrel is well-regarded for the modern Mediterranean cuisine created by Michelin-starred chef Matthias Schütz. The restaurant grows its own produce in a garden in nearby Eygalières, and uses meat and fish from local farms and fishermen. The wine list, which features more than 900 different options, also focuses on the region, with many choices from the South of France. Book a table in advance, especially if you’re not staying at the hotel.
Avant-garde is the name of the game at Pierre Reboul, which currently holds one Michelin star. The seasonal dishes are playful, fun and sometimes unusual as Reboul presents his unique take on molecular gastronomy. The tasting menu is a worthwhile splurge, especially for diners who appreciate a visual punch. Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
Sure, you could eat at the touristy Van Gogh café in Arles—or you could book a table at Le Gibolin, a charming bistro with a Bib Gourmand. Led by chef Arnaud Jourdan, the restaurant is market-led and relatively casual. The dishes are rustic rather than overwrought, and somehow feel both traditional and modern. The wine list, which focuses on biodynamic offerings, makes for a perfect pairing.
Viewers of Emily In Paris may recognize this spot, located in La Bastide de Gordes, as the Provence restaurant where Emily and Gabriel share a memorable lunch. In reality, the restaurant is run by chef Jean-Francois Piège, who focuses on vegetable-driven dishes that highlight his love of the grill. The terrace overlooks the Luberon valley, so be sure to ask for a table outside.
Good bakeries are plentiful in the South of France, but many locals consider Aix’s Farinoman Fou to be one of the best. Stop by for one of the famous fougasse aux olives, which are beloved by chef Hélène Darroze.
Because Provence is home to hundreds of farms, the town markets are often the top places to buy produce, meat, bread and cooked dishes. Highlights include the Sunday market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which takes over the entire center of town, and Aix’s tri-weekly market, open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. There are also nice markets in Arles, Uzes, Nimes, Roussillon, Avignon, Gordes and Vaison la Romaine. Arrive early if you want to avoid the crowds and score the best fruit.
Where To Drink
The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape may be small and quaint, but its outpouring of impressive wine packs a punch. Visitors can explore one of the many vineyards, or head into the village center to indulge in tastings at the wineries’ cellars, like Clos Des Papes. If you’re not sure what to pick, the local bars and cafes serve glasses and bottles of local wares. Near the castle ruins, look for Le Jardin de Paval, which offers views of the Rhone and the surrounding valley.
There are numerous wine bars in Aix, but those looking for a cocktail should grab a table at Céleste. The chic spot serves both classic and original cocktails, with a focus on creations unique to the bar. It opens at 6 p.m. daily, and the keeps booze flowing until the early hours of the morning.
The region of Provence encompasses several wine AOCs, which means there are endless vineyards to tour when visiting. Where you go depends on what sort of wine you want to taste, although there are some wineries that deserve a trip regardless of your tasting preference. Domaine de la Citadelle, located in Ménerbes, earns rave reviews for its impressive grounds and tasting room, as well as its scenic setting in the Luberon valley.
If coffee is more your vibe, Paris’ dynamic coffee scene is rapidly spreading south. Mana, found in the heart of Aix’s shopping district, is the best coffee shop in the area, especially if you are particular about your lattes or prefer oat milk. The laid-back spot also serves breakfast and lunch.