The South of France, stretching from the Spanish border to the Italian border, alongside the Mediterranean Sea is a gorgeous part of Europe to visit for a summer holiday. From the glitzy towns of Cannes, St Tropez, Nice and the mini-country of Monaco making up the area known as the French Riviera, to the historical and cultural gems of Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon, the South of France is a truly beautiful corner of the world.
This list compiles some of the best places to visit in the South of France. Covering the well-known destinations of the Côte d’Azur (aka the French Riviera) offering high end shopping, excellent dining and lavish beach clubs, to the charming and historical towns of Provence. As well as the popular towns of Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier and Nimes, this guide also includes quieter spots away from the beaten track such as Eze, Gordes and Sommieres Here you’ll find medieval towns offering views as far as the eye can see, as well as Roman ruins, vibrant open-air markets and the rustic charm of locals picking up baguettes on their morning cycle through the village.
You’ll also find a selection of beautiful natural wonders to visit in this stunning part of France. From the shimmering blues of the Gorges du Verdon, to the gorgeous fields of lavender at Valensole, there’s bound to be plenty of places in this guide to tempt you on a trip to the South of France.
So this blog post covers all of the best places to visit in the South of France. To help me compile this list, I reached out to some well known travel bloggers. Each submitted their favourite place in the South of France, so read on to find out more and get planning a trip!
Cities in the South of France
Submitted by Chrysoula from travelpassionate.com
The southern French city of Nice is considered one of the most sought-after destinations in Europe. Chic travellers flock here from around the globe to soak up the sun, dine on fine French cuisine and explore the opulent architecture and the pristine promenade.
Located at the heart of the French Riviera, Nice is a vibrant city that boasts excellent year-round weather, an array of interesting art galleries and museums, excellent cafe culture, and, of course, beaches that are just begging to be explored.
Known for its ochre-coloured buildings, welcoming parks, and lively markets, visitors can meander between the stalls taking in the sights and smells of fresh produce, Nice is a destination that suits all types of travellers.
During summer, Nice is a bustling beach destination with scorching temperatures and yachts galore, while in winter, travellers descend on the town in favour of French food and mild climate as opposed to the cooler days in their hometowns of Northern Europe and North America.
Whether you visit in early spring to enjoy the colourful carnival, seek out the beach in summer, take a trip to the museums in autumn or escape to the south coast for winter, you’re sure to enjoy your experience of this wonderful French city.
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: Hotel Oasis (around £69 per night)
- Mid-range: Hotel 64 Nice (around £106 per night)
- Luxury: Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée (around £252 per night)
Submitted by Lisa from fjordsandbeaches.com
When you think of St Tropez, you are likely to think about the glitz and glamour and superyachts that frequent this little town. You’d think this place was a hotspot to see and be seen, but in reality, St Tropez is more of a getaway for the rich and famous (and you – if you manage to make your way there!) This town surprised me in so many ways, and I loved discovering how quaint and quiet it was. In my mind, it was the perfect escape in the South of France!
Getting to St Tropez isn’t easy (unless you have a yacht), and from Cannes or Nice you’ll have to expect to travel by at least one train and a boat. Therefore, I recommend renting a car to get there as it can be tricky to get there by public transport.
Now, St Tropez is expensive, so if you are travelling on a budget, you might want to plan ahead. But once you get used to the prices, there are some great options in terms of both dining and shopping on the waterfront. in particular, at the famous L’Opera, where there are live entertainers putting on shows throughout the evening.
Personally, I recommend you splurge a little on the hotel (we stayed at the beautiful Villa Belrose, with views of the Riviera), so you can experience the luxuries of St Tropez without having to spend continuously. Check rates for the Villa Belrose here!
Make sure to check out Lisa’s review of the hotel and her time in St Tropez!
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: Hotel La Garbine (around £299 per night)
- Mid-range: La Bastide de Saint Tropez (around £564 per night)
- Luxury: Villa Belrose (around £712 per night)
Submitted by Nick from thedanishnomads.com
The French Riviera is a legendary holiday destination for the rich and the famous, and no place is more glamorous than the Principality of Monaco. Most people refer to it as Monte Carlo, although that is actually just the name given to a small area in the city.
Monaco is not just a city, though, it also happens to be the world’s second-smallest country. That’s great news for people in a hurry because it means you can tick off everything there is to see and do by spending just one day in Monaco.
Some of the highlights include driving around on the public streets that transform into a Formula 1 track once a year, placing a bet in the famous casino, or walking around the many superyachts in the harbour.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be filthy rich to enjoy Monaco. It’s actually a surprisingly accessible and enjoyable city for regular tourists and there are plenty of interesting ways to spend a day there. There is a special vibe in the summer months, and the sun always seems to shine. Of course, you’ll have a particularly good time if you like to watch (and listen to) fast and expensive cars, but there’s a good selection of affordable restaurants as well, and a fair share of museums, churches, and beautiful gardens.
It’s easy getting to Monaco, as it’s just 45 minutes driving from Nice Airport, or about the same time by train from Nice city centre.
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: Hotel Ambassador Monaco (around £133 per night)
- Mid-range: Hotel Novotel Monte Carlo (around £219 per night)
- Luxury: Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo (around £635 per night)
Submitted by Elisa from travelfrancebucketlist.com
If you are looking for sunny places to visit in the South of France, by the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is a must. Marseille is the capital of the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and the second most populated city in France, after Paris. Direct TGV trains connect Paris to Marseille in less than 3 hours so some people choose Marseille as a sunny weekend getaway from the French capital.
Marseille is not the typical city of Provence, and that’s part of its charm. Being a port city Marseille welcomes people from everywhere which makes it exotic and with a strong identity.
There are many interesting things to see and do in the city, that’s why I recommend spending at least two days in Marseille, or three days if you want to visit the nearby calanques of Marseille-Cassis. Two days in Marseille is time enough to visit Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, overlooking the city and the Mediterranean Sea from the top of a hill, the Old Harbour and also the historical neighbourhood of Le Panier located not far from the port. Apart from these top sights, there’s the new museum dedicated to the Mediterranean cultures, Le MuCEM, with interesting permanent and temporary exhibitions.
While in Marseille try to taste the local cuisine with mains like the bouillabaisse and seafood dishes, perhaps with a glass of pastis as an aperitif.
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: ibis Styles Marseille Vieux Port (around £57 per night)
- Mid-range: Sofitel Marseille Vieux-Port (around £207 per night)
- Luxury: Le Petit Nice Passedet (around £1,353 per night)
Submitted by Pauline from beelovedcity.com
Although Toulouse is one of the biggest cities in France, it’s quite an underrated destination. The city centre is small and compact, making it very easy to discover on foot. There is plenty to do in Toulouse, so why not plan a break to this city for a couple of days.
Start your visit at the Capitole. From there, you can head to St George’s if you want to do some shopping or La Daurade for a picnic. Once you reach La Daurade, you can enjoy the beautiful views over the River Garonne from the banks or go across the Pont Neuf to La Prairie des Filtres. You can also explore Saint Cyprien, one of Toulouse’s historic neighbourhoods.
In the evening, if you fancy a drink, Esquirol will be the place for you! You will find plenty of bars and restaurants serving traditional french food. Another great option is going to St Pierre.
Finally, for food, make sure to head to Rue du Taur at some point. The entire street is full of amazing restaurants. Cassoulet, crepes… you will find them all! After that, walk all the way down the street and you will discover the stunning St Sernin church.
As previously mentioned, you can walk everywhere but if you want to save a bit of time, you can also jump on the metro. No matter what, there is no need for a car. Most streets are pedestrian anyway. Another great option is to get a bike (“VeloToulouse”) and roam around town.
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: Aparthotel Adagio Access Toulouse St Cyprien (around £35 per night)
- Mid-range: Boutique Hôtel des Beaux Arts (around £77 per night)
- Luxury: Pullman Toulouse Centre Ramblas (around £91 per night)
Submitted by Paul from thetwothatdo.com
Toulon, the capital of the Var Department, is often overlooked in favour of its more glamorous French Riviera neighbours.
However, boasting a coastal location overlooked by the towering Mount Furon, a fascinating old town district, many cultural highlights and some of the country’s best markets, Toulon is more than deserving of your attention.
Situated just 60 km east of Marseille, Toulon is easily accessed via the A50. Alternatively the A8 toll road runs across the region as does the Marseille – Ventimiglia rail line offering frequent services to Gare du Toulon.
Toulon genuinely offers something for everyone. Mount Furon, accessed by cable car to the north, offers fabulous panoramic views of the Bay of Toulon. There are also idyllic walking trails and picnic spots. For the more active, this is also a popular mountain biking destination.
The Bay itself can be explored by one of the many boat tours to neighbouring Porquerolles Island. Or why not enjoy a lazy day at one of Toulon’s many beach resort suburbs.
A walking tour of the delightful Old Town district taking in highlights such as the Opera House or cultural district of Rue des Artes are also not to be missed.
Or why not enjoy the wonderful natural tastes of France offered by the Cours Lafayette Market, followed by an afternoon watching the hugely successful Toulon Rugby at Stade Muyol? And as the stadium is just metres from the port region, its mouth-watering seafood restaurants make an ideal post game celebration.
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: Little Palace (around £51 per night)
- Mid-range: OKKO Hotels Toulon Centre (around £89 per night)
- Luxury: Grand Hôtel Dauphiné, Boutique Hôtel & Suites (around £99 per night)
Submitted by Inessa and Natalie from throughatravellens.com
What do we know about Cannes except for its iconic annual film festival? Andnthe fact that this town on the French Riviera favors luxury, designer clothes, expensive cars, and pricey hotels? Probably, not much more.
And yet, Cannes has plenty to offer. In fact, it is a great day trip from any other major city like Nice or Marseilles. Many also prefer to add it to their itinerary as a perfect location to diversify travels around Provence.
Luckily, the town is easy to get to. By car, it is one-hour drive from dozens of others destinations in the French Riviera via tolls or free roads. It also takes about one to two hours to get to Cannes by train, and the tickets cost around €16.
The town is lovely regardless of the season. It is warmer and sunnier during summer, but exploring it in winter has its benefits. Smaller crowds and milder climate are among them.
Many guide books will certainly list visiting Promenade de la Croisette among the main things to do in Cannes. In all fairness, the Promenade is truly impressive, with its luxurious hotels facing the clear blue waters of the bay, and with the legendary Palais des Festivals et des Congres where the film festival is held.
But those who are curious to see the true life of the town will take a few steps back from the Promenade and head towards the smaller streets to see the locals play petanque, a traditional game that always gathers cheering crowds.
Another way to get a sense of what this lovely French town is about is by heading to the market on 6 Rue du Marché Forville for a chat with the vendors, and for a taste of calissons from Provence, candied fruits from Aptes, or cantaloupes from Cavaillon.
The list of other things to do in Cannes includes finding all the stunning murals, exploring La Croix-des-Gardes, admiring the Bellini Chapel, or even venturing to the nearby islands. These are Îles de Lérins, Île Sainte-Marguerite, and the smallest, the St. Honorat Island.
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: Chanteclair (around £51 per night)
- Mid-range: Hotel Festival Cannes (around £142 per night)
- Luxury: InterContinental Carlton Cannes (around £426 per night)
Submitted by Megan from meganstarr.com
There are many fantastic places to visit in the south of France but often, the south is overshadowed by places in the north such as the Champagne region or Paris (and more!). However, Montpellier really offers a unique place in the south that is worthy of a trek to if you’re spending more than just a few days in France.
Montpellier is located in the Occitanie region of the country and is just a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean Sea. The city is home to a few universities and the youthful and fun vibe can be felt throughout. It is the seventh largest city in France in terms of population but it is the fasting growing city in the country in recent years. Built on two hills, Montpellier has charming streets and a fantastic climate, attracting people from all over to enjoy its culture, history, and food.
The most prolific place to visit in Montpellier is Place de la Comédie, the main square in the city. You will find it teeming with life, restaurants, and a casual, yet French feel. Another famous place to visit is Porte du Peyrou, a gate located in the heart of the city inside of the garden of the same name. If you’re a history buff, be sure to stop by the University of Montpellier, one of the oldest universities in the world founded in 1160. It even educated Nostradamus!
There are many reasons to stop by Montpellier if you’re visiting places in the South of France… so be sure to add it to your itinerary!
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: Hôtel d’Aragon (around £77 per night)
- Mid-range: Hôtel Oceania Le Métropole Montpellier (around £105 per night)
- Luxury: Domaine de Verchant (around £339 per night)
Submitted by Nadine from lelongweekend.com
Aix-en-Provence is an elegant and refined city, one that feels a million miles away from its grittier neighbour, Marseille.
It’s a city for culture buffs, people who love nothing more than taking their time to soak in the atmosphere, appreciating the history and the charm of its vibrant streets.
It’s naturally an excellent place to practice the French art of flâneur as you saunter through the old town too. Famed for its sweet treats, it also offers the perfect excuse to indulge – in artisan chocolates, delicate calissons, and fresh juicy fruit from the market.
Many of the key things to do in Aix-en-Provence centre around the arts. Whether that’s following in the footsteps of famed artist Cezanne, admiring the works on display in Musée Granet or the Hôtel de Caumont, or simply marvelling at the range of intricate fountains you’ll find peppered throughout the city.
Getting to Aix-en-Provence is as simple as flying into Marseille airport and taking the bus for the last hour of your journey. Alternatively, you can get the high-speed train directly from Paris (although do note that the TGV station is a little way out of the city). Hiring a car for at least part of your stay is desirable, as there is so much to discover within a short drive of the city also – from the seaside at Cassis, to the villages of the Luberon.
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: Hôtel le Concorde (around £79 per night)
- Mid-range: Boutique Hôtel Cézanne (around £105 per night)
- Luxury: La Villa Gallici – Relais & Châteaux (around £422 per night)
Submitted by Tom from travelpast50.com
Arles is a lovely city for many reasons. Perhaps the best is that Vincent Van Gogh lived there for a year near the end of his career and painted some of his most famous works in Arles. There’s a self-guided walking tour through Arles which will take you to all the significant scenes of Van Gogh’s life and paintings. Placards all along the way put a large reproduction of Vincent’s work right in front of the scene he was painting.
There are also impressive Roman ruins in Arles. They’re well preserved and even, in the case of the amphitheatre and theatre, still in use to provide entertainment to the people of Arles today. The amphitheatre is used for, among other things, bullfights. And the theatre is good for both plays and concerts.
Arles has such elaborate arenas of entertainment because it was an important Roman city of Southern France – the area now called Provence – because it was the Roman province of Gaul. It was originally settled by retired soldiers of the Roman legions and became an even more important settlement when Arles sided with Julius Caesar in the 1st Century B.C. civil war against Pompeii. In fact, Arles, because of its historical importance and Roman ruins, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
While you’re strolling around Arles, be sure to check out the Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence Antiques, where an extensive collection of artifacts retrieved from the Roman sites are displayed.
Arles’ best surprise is the Musée Réattu, displaying dozens of Picasso drawings donated by the artist in the 1970s. And don’t miss the stunning Christian iconography of the Romanesque church of St Trophime.
Recommended places to stay:
- Budget: ibis budget Arles Palais des Congrès (around £53 per night)
- Mid-range: Hôtel de l’Amphithéâtre (around £84 per night)
- Luxury: L’Hôtel Particulier (around £359 per night)
Towns in the South of France
Submitted by Christine from journeytofrance.com
Nimes is located in Southern France and visiting this former Roman empire outpost is more like having your very own ancient Roman holiday. The structures that date back to over a thousand years ago showcase the town’s long history and rich heritage. There’s plenty of things to do in Nimes that a few days won’t be enough.
Apart from the well-preserved Roman structures, Nimes is home to impressive art museums, majestic churches, and lovely town squares. Popular attractions include the Nimes Arena which looks similar to the Pula Arena in Croatia and the Colosseum in Rome. This popular arena is home to biggest concerts and events in Nimes although it is also open to the public for tours unless there’s an event. At €10, you can enjoy a self-guided tour with audio in this beautiful arena.
The old town of Nimes is also home to few Roman structures and temples which include the Maison Carrée, Temple of Diana, Pont du Gard, and Porte d’Auguste and beautiful squares such as Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle and Quai de la Fontaine. And most of these attractions in Nimes are free to visit so you don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy the city.
Nimes is easily accessible from Montpelier which is only 30 minutes away by train and Marseille which is only 1.5 hours away by train. If you are in any of these cities, Nimes is a good day trip.
Submitted by David and Faye from delveintoeurope.com
Avignon is one of the best places to visit in the south of France. Not only is it one of the finest cities in Provence, but it is a brilliant base for exploring the region on day trips, both by public transport and by car.
Avignon’s heyday was in the 14th century when it was the seat of the Papacy, and six Popes led the Catholic church from there. Their vast Palace, the Palais des Papes, is the focal point of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is one of the most imposing Gothic buildings in Europe.
It can be visited on a joint ticket with the famous Pont d’Avignon – also known as the Pont St Bénézet – for a very reasonable €14.50. Only four arches of this medieval bridge over the river Rhône now remain, the rest having collapsed due to the river’s forceful currents.
The rest of the city is fascinating and full of contrasts. It has several beautiful squares, most notably the grand Place de l’Horloge and the more intimate Place Crillon near the river. One of the most beautiful streets in Avignon is the Rue des Teinturiers, a peaceful lane running alongside the river Sorgue, in the heart of the city’s old dyeing quarter.
Submitted by Hanna from solarpoweredblonde.com
Menton is one of the most colourful and unique towns along the French coast. The French Riviera has a lot of stunning towns to choose from. However Menton, with its orange buildings and right on the waterfront is one of the most impressive. The best way to get here is to drive.
Menton can be reached as a day trip from Nice, or even closer, from Monaco. There are public transport options from Nice. You will need a few hours to wander around Menton, and even better to spend a few hours on the beach there too.
Menton is set on a hill, so the best place to start is a set of scenic stairs leading up to the main church. There is parking just in front of the town by the water, or the best option is the underground parking, where you do not have to specify the amount of time you wish to stay for.
Some of the best views of Menton are from the water, and specifically a small spit leading from the marina to the sea. Have your camera ready for these little streets full of pastel and orange coloured buildings. Stop by Sini for a great lunch!
Submitted by Nick and Ashley from illnesstoultra.com
Lourdes is a beautiful town nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The town draws huge crowds every year in the form of a Catholic pilgrimage who travel to visit Grotto of Massabielle, where a woman was said to have seen the Virgin Mary in 1858. Pilgrims drink from the spring inside the Grotto and an attached hospital even uses the holy water as part of their healing procedures.
If you are not Catholic and do not want to attend a service, as a sign of respect I would advise not going on Sunday or Wednesday morning when mass is held. Aside from these hours you are free to observe the beauty of the church and the surrounding buildings without encroaching on others’ special time and place.
Aside from the religious links, the other main attraction of the town is the medieval castle perched on the top of the hill. For just €7.50 you can tour around the castle and obtain some wonderful views of the town and the Pyrenees in the background.
As with many French towns and cities, you will not be stuck for food. There are plenty of restaurants offering their plat du jour (plate of the day) which will fill you up for most of the day. As long as you eat meat, you often can’t go wrong.
Submitted by Stephanie from Poppin’ Smoke
If you’re planning to visit the Montpellier area, include a day trip to Palavas-les-Flottes in your itinerary. While not well-known internationally, it’s a very popular beach resort in the Occitanie region of France. This laid-back town, only 12 km from the centre of Montpellier is a wonderful getaway to enjoy sand and surf along the beautiful Mediterranean coast.
Palavas has nearly 7 km of beaches and around 300 days of sun per year. During your visit, stroll the pedestrian streets bustling with unique shops, watch the boats in the harbour, and indulge in delicious seafood. You can also catch incredible 360 views of the sea and surrounding area from the top of the Phare de la Méditerranée, (Lighthouse of the Mediterranean). Formerly a water tower, it’s now a tourist attraction and one of the distinctive landmarks in Palavas.
While you can drive or even take the bus from Montpellier to Palavas, it’s most fun to go by bicycle! You can ride along the Lez River the entire way and not have to contend with traffic. Taking this scenic route also allows you to stop and admire the pink flamingos that live in the ponds near the coast.
Palavas-les-Flottes is the perfect complement to a few days of touring Montpellier’s historic centre!
Submitted by Veronika from travelgeekery.com
When in the South of France, another interesting place to visit is the perfume capital – Grasse. It’s right here where the art of perfume making was perfected in the 18th century.
Fragonard, named after the famous painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, is the oldest perfume factory in Grasse and it also features a Museum of Perfumes (Musée International de la Parfumerie). It’s fascinating to learn about the history of perfumery and what all goes into making a beautiful perfume, from the perfect mixture of scents to the design of the flacon. The ticket to visit the museum costs €4.
Grasse also served as the setting for the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, in which the main character is in search of the ultimate perfume. Only a few scenes were actually shot in Grasse – and any store owner will be quick to point out if a scene was shot near their shop.
However, it’s not only about perfumes in Grasse. The picturesque town has always attracted artists, so you can count on a fair share of galleries featuring both modern and historical art. The Old Town itself is a maze of narrow alleys, which brings the perfect medieval feel that this part of France is known for.
Grasse is located close to Nice, so it’s an ideal destination for a day trip out of Nice. It only takes about 40 minutes by car or a little over an hour by train.
Submitted by Lucile from lucilehr.com
Antibes is truly a gem in the South of France with its gorgeous 16-century walled old town that hasn’t changed much in centuries. Wander through the cobblestone streets, enjoy the coloured buildings, and don’t miss the Marché Provencal to buy fresh local produce from the Provence region.
Picasso himself lived there in the Chateau Grimaldi, which has since been turned into a museum displaying its work. The city is buzzing with creativity and there are many art galleries there.
Antibes is also an important harbor in the Mediterranean: Port Vauban is one of the biggest in Europe and can hold very big yachts. This attracts wealthy individuals from all over the world and supports the local economy. Even with a normal budget, you’ll love shopping in Antibes: from local fashion to art or crafts, there is something for everyone.
When in Antibes, don’t forget to actively relax: go for a small walk, enjoy yoga at one of the many yoga studios in town and chill on the beach or do water sports. Plage de la Gravette is your choice if you enjoy swimming or just having a picnic, while Plage de Ponteil is the best spot for renting a kayak and enjoying the water!
Juan les Pins
Submitted by Jessica from jessicapascoe.com
Juan Les Pins is a town in the commune of Antibes, a popular holiday destination for international jet-setters.
It is also home to an annual jazz festival ‘Jazz à Juan’, every July which boasts carnival festivities similar to its sister city of New Orleans, Louisiana. If you seek out the Boulevard Edouard Baudoin you’ll find ceramic tiles containing handprints of more than 50 noted musicians who have played Jazz a Juan, including Ray Charles, George Benson and Stevie Wonder.
Similarly to its busier, more well known neighbours of Antibes, Cannes and St Tropez, visitors looking for long lazy lunches filled with good wine and good food will love Juan Les Pins. The beaches in Juan Les Pins are beautiful; you can either head to a public beach or pay for a lounger at one of the various beach bar establishments depending on your budget. You can access a great public beach at Port Gallice, which is home to the Cap Kayak paddle centre – easily the cheapest watersport option in the area.
Alternatively if you’d like to make a day of it with a long lazy lunch then head to Plage de la Garoup and Keller Plage – on a clear day you can see all the way to the Alps. There’s also a fantastic cliffside walk from here where you can take in the Cote d’Azure views. Other beachclubs and restaurants worth visiting are Belle Rives Hotel and Le Provencal.
The 1920s style Belle Rives Hotel is a classic South of France hotel where F Scott Fitzgerald based himself to write (come at night and see if you can find the ‘Gatsby light). Le Provencal, right next door, offers delicious food and the same views as Belle Rives with less frightening prices!
Juan Les Pins is easily accessible via Nice International Airport and a short 40 minute taxi or train ride.
Submitted by Izzy and Phil from thegapdecaders.com
Beziers is a delightful town in the deep southern Occitanie region of France.
This off the beaten track French destination is chock full of interesting things to see, stunning buildings and a picture perfect cathedral.
The town is home to the famous Les 9 Ecluses de Fonseranes (the much more boring ‘Fonseranes nine locks’ in English) on the iconic Canal du Midi. This runs through the centre of Beziers and meets the River Orb as it rushes from the Herault high ground to the Mediterranean Sea.
The canal is ideal for a gentle cycle, along a tow path that is unbelievably French, lined with gorgeous sycamore trees. Or enjoy a day trip on a pleasure boat to see the gently undulating landscapes beyond the town.
In the town itself, you’ll find the imposing Romanesque Cathedral St-Nazaire, with its incredible view over the surrounding countryside. Make sure to wander the tangle of medieval narrow streets and squares, and visit the Église de la Madeleine, a church of such simple beauty it will take your breath away.
Stop for a typical Occitanie lunch in one of the squares – cassoulet and bourride (a white fish stew) are both traditional and popular dishes in the region. Perhaps finish with a creme catalana, a nod to the not-so-distant Spanish neighbours to the south and a perfect way to end a delicious lunch.
Submitted by May from eatcookexplore.com
Sommieres is a very old town that dates back to Roman times, but was the site of many sieges in the Middle Ages. The town’s medieval centre and the fortified gate are still intact and its what gives this town its distinct charm. The Roman Bridge across the River Vidourle has been there for 2000 years. It has been rebuilt many times but it is still standing and used daily.
Located between Montpelier and Nimes, it’s a great day out if you are staying nearby.
Every Saturday, this sleepy town transforms into the biggest open-air market. Along the river, you will find food stalls selling local cheese, charcuterie, fruit and veg. Buy some of the local food and have a picnic by the river or at one of the cafes along the river.
Way in the back, near the church, is the biggest brocante (flea market) in this area. It will take you hours to browse through the stalls in this football field sized space. If you are in search of old French linens, antique silver cutlery, sets of Christofle crystal glasses and beautiful Limoge porcelain, you will find a lot of that here.
This market is truly an antique hunters treasure trove. Be armed with a little French, at least numbers, and be prepared to bargain. At the end of the day, this is where bargains can be had.
The old town squares are set up as arcades around a courtyard. The town has been plagued by floods and the arcades are a way to preserve the town. In summer, all the squares are dotted with al fresco dining tables. It’s a great place to stop for a bite after all the shopping.
If you feel energetic after lunch, you can hike up the hill to see the old castle although it is only partly open in mid summer.
Submitted by Kate from ourescapeclause.com
Tucked into a quiet corner of France’s southern coast, the charming port town of Cassis is easily among the best places to go in southern France.
Once you arrive, head immediately to the harbour for absolutely beautiful views. The harbour is overlooked by a medieval castle perched on a hill above the tow. Make sure to enjoy a wonderful meal from one of the many restaurants lining the water.
Cassis is known for being a great launch pad for visiting the beautiful Calanques de Cassis, which can be reached either by boat or car. Plenty of boat tours are sold in the harbour, and they make for a magical way to spend a day on the water.
Don’t feel like hiking to the calanques or booking a tour? Beautiful Port de Miou is easily accessible and just outside of town, making it a great calanque to check out for those short on time.
While you’re visiting Cassis, be sure to also relax on the beach, visit nearby Cap Canaille (the highest sea cliff in France!), and sample some of the town’s incredible seafood.
Cassis is located less than an hour from both Marseille and Aix-en-Provence and makes a great day trip from either, but to enjoy the best of the beautiful harbour without the crowds, consider spending at least one night in Cassis as part of your trip to France!
Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet
Submitted by Andrew from GPDestinations.com
Located in the town of Le Castellet, approximately 50km to the east of Marseille, Circuit Paul Ricard is one of the most well-known motor racing circuits in France. Built in 1970 with funds from pastis magnate Paul Ricard, the circuit hosted the French Formula 1 Grand Prix thirteen times between 1971 and 1990. It returned to the Formula 1 calendar as the home of the French Grand Prix in 2018.
Although the French Grand Prix was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s expected to return in summer 2021, and is normally held in late June. Circuit Paul Ricard also hosts other major motorsport events throughout the year, including a 24-hour motorcycle race and truck racing. The best way to get to the rather isolated circuit is by car, though buses and “park & ride” services are available for the French Grand Prix and other major events.
You can also get behind the wheel yourself at the circuit, which is home to the Winfield Racing School, one of the oldest in France. Driving (and passenger) experiences are available in everything from hot hatches to supercars and even Formula 1 cars!
Adventure junkies should also consider visiting the “X-Trem Park” located at Circuit Paul Ricard, which offers a zipline and bungee jumping, as well as go-kart and quad bike hire. Guided tours of the circuit are also available, and you can grab lunch at the “Grand Prix Burger” restaurant overlooking the track.
Submitted by Ann from theroad-islife.com
Located in the Languedoc region of southern France is the incredibly well preserved medieval village of Carcassonne. It dates back to the 12th century and is said to be one of the best preserved medieval towns in all of Europe. The town is surrounded by fortifications and perched on a hilltop, it truly is an impressive sight. Carcasonne became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 90s and ever since then has become a very popular tourist destination.
One of the highlights of visiting Carcassonne is simply strolling through the maze of narrow streets in the town centre and admiring the beautiful old architecture. Make sure to take a look inside the incredible 12th century castle, Chateau Comtal, tickets cost €9.50 per person. The castle and its ramparts were restored to their current condition by a famous French architect named Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. He was also responsible for restoring many other well known French landmarks.
Walking around the town’s fortified walls is another huge highlight of visiting Carcassonne. The ramparts are accessed from the castle and they are also included in your entry ticket. The views from the ramparts alone make it worth the price of the ticket. Stunning panoramic views can be seen of the town and surrounding countryside.
Carcassonne has an airport so it’s easy to reach from most major cities in Europe. If you’re already in France with a car, Carcassonne makes the perfect addition to any south of France road trip itinerary. It’s only 1 hour away from Toulouse or just under 2 hours away from Montpellier.
Submitted by Alya from stingynomads.com
Southern France is an incredible area with many fantastic places to visit. Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a charming small town on the border with Spain is one of them.
St.Jean is a picturesque town on the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains surrounded by emerald meadows and green forests. The town has a long history that dates back to the 12th century. It was founded by the King of Navarre in 1177 after the original town at Saint-Jean-le-Vieux was destroyed by the troops of Richard the Lionheart.
For the last seven centuries, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port has been an important stop on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Nowadays the most popular route, the Camino Frances starts there. In 1998 the town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as a part of the Camino de Santiago route network.
Pilgrimage is not the only reason to visit St.Jean; the town with its narrow cobbled streets, a beautiful castle, and idyllic scenery is a perfect spot for a weekend getaway. Spending a day wandering along the narrow streets, exploring the Citadelle, visiting the old Gothic church of Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont, enjoying delicious lunch with a glass of local wine is a great way to spend a day.
The easiest way of getting to St.Jean is by train from Bayonne. The train journey takes 1h20min. and costs 10 Euro.
Submitted by Angela from whereangiewanders.com
The medieval hilltop village of Eze in the South of France is a wonderful place to visit with its cobbled streets, artisan shops and charming cafes and restaurants.
Visitors to Eze will discover secret doorways, narrow passages and pretty bougainvillea tumbling down ancient stone buildings. Each turning offers a glance into a centuries-old fairy-tale village that is a delight to explore.
It is a steep walk up from the bottom to the top of Eze and so flat shoes are recommended to be worn on the cobbled stones. At the top you will be rewarded with magnificent 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
A botanical garden, Jardin D’Eze is also located at the summit and open to visitors for a small fee. Its winding pathways meander through cactis and succulents that grow in these climates and concealed seating areas offer a reprise from the intense sunshine.
Once you have descended this magical village then have a look around the rest of Eze. There are a few restaurants and bars, a tourist office and the Fragonard perfume factory and shop.
Eze is the perfect day trip from Nice and takes around 25 minutes by car or just under one hour by train. Both methods will take you along the stunning coastline of the French Riviera before your arrival in Eze.
St Paul de Vence
Submitted by Victoria from bridgesandballoons.com
St Paul de Vence is a picturesque, walled medieval village perched on top of a hill, looking out to the Mediterranean sea.
Aside from being perfectly charming, it’s most famous for the great artists who flocked there in the past, including the likes of Picasso, Matisse and Chagall. Even today, it’s a place where artists congregate, and the cobbled streets are lined with dozens of galleries.
It’s also home to the well renowned art museum, Fondation Maeght. It’s the perfect place to spend some time browsing the galleries, enjoying the views and tracing the footsteps of history’s greats. St Paul de Vence is the ideal place to include on a France road trip, stopping at other French Riviera beach and hill towns along the way.
Other things to do include visiting the cemetery where Chagall is buried, enjoying the artwork in the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs and going to the Musee Renoir where the artist used to live. A visit to the Fondation Maeght is a must and includes a beautiful walk through pine forests from the village. And although outside of the town, it’s also worth going to Chateau Grimaldi.
La Colombe D’Or is the village’s most famous and high-end restaurant, but other options include La Tilleul and LA Brouette.
One of the best places to stay is Hotel La Grande Bastide which has amazing views of the village.
Submitted by Supriya and Bharat from funtravelog.com
Gordes is one of the primary and most beautiful villages of Provence in southeastern France.
Located in the Luberon region, it is only 50kms from the town of Avignon and 90kms from Marseille. The best way to reach the village is by driving, though one can also get there through a combination of trains and buses.
There are many villages in Provence, but what sets Gordes apart is the fact that it is dramatically perched on the southern edge of the high Plateau de Vaucluse. Inside the village, there is a 12th-century castle, church, town square, small restaurants, and roads that lead to valleys and forests. One can enter the castle Mondays through Saturdays for a fee of EUR 7. Other attractions include the Abbey of Senanque, about 4km away, which is open for guided tours and famous for its stunning lavender fields.
The nearby Bories village, where one can see rural dry stone huts is another interesting stop. The village market is held every Tuesday morning in the summers and is an ideal place to find local products like cheese, herbs, soaps, etc. A highly recommended stop is the town viewpoint to see the village from a panoramic perspective. The location, spectacular views, and countryside charm make Gordes a must-visit village in the south of France.
Cirque de Gavarnie
Submitted by Kat from wandering-bird.com
If you’re looking for somewhere incredible to visit in the South of France, make sure you include the Cirque de Gavarnie. This amazing destination is a natural bowl in the French Pyrenees, complete with waterfall, hiking, horse riding and breathtaking views.
We visited as part of our France road trip to the Pyrenees, but you can easily include it on a trip to Toulouse – it’s about a two hour drive.
When there, be sure to do the hike up to the hotel (there’s only one route so you can’t get lost!) We highly recommend an ice cream on the way- the route can be a little steep in places and you’ll need the energy! Take a picnic and enjoy the views, it’s a perfect place to enjoy by the river.
Entry is free, although parking is usually paid. You can also hire a horse if you wish. Get there as early as you can – in high season it can get very very crowded and you’ll find it impossible to take photos without people in.
If you’re travelling France in a motorhome or campervan, there are several places to stay overnight- we stayed in a nearby aire for 2. If you’re driving, there are several B&Bs or hotels nearby, or drive to Pau or one of several small towns nearby. This area is ski resort heaven – but in the summer it does mean not everything is open, so be aware!
Valensole Lavender Fields
Submitted by Jacquie from flashpackingfamily.com
Provence is famous for its lavender fields and if you are visiting this region between mid-June to mid-July (this will vary from year to year), you are bound to spot some on your travels. During these summer months, the countryside is swathed in a sea of purple and in some places you’ll see fields of sunflowers too. The mix of the two colours is just beautiful.
The main lavender growing regions are in the Luberon and Verdon areas of Provence just to the north of Aix-en-Provence and the best place to visit the lavender fields is near to the town of Valensole. If you drive along the Route de Manosque, there are places where you can pull off the road to park and take some photos but you do need to make sure that you’re not obstructing traffic.
Just be aware that some lavender farms have started putting up fences because the lavender fields have become so popular in recent years. If you prefer, you can contact Lavandes Angelvin for a free guided group tour.
The lavender fields are very close to the Gorges du Verdon which is also stunningly beautiful with sheer cliffs descending into turquoise waters and well worth visiting if you’re into adventurous outdoor activities and watersports.
Lac du St Croix
Submitted by Keri from bonvoyagewithkids.com
One of the best places to visit for families in the South of France is the Lac de St. Croix. Sitting at the base of the Gorges du Verdon, this man-made lake has become a glorious spot in the South of France, and a excellent family day out.
A nearly perfect, crystal blue clear lake, it offers a variety of family entertainment. Paddle boats with slides are one of the most popular activities, but the beach area makes it also perfect for playing, sunning, and picnicking. Our family grabbed a croque monsieur from one of the onsite cafes, and enjoyed our lunch on the family paddle boat. The water is calm and clear, so kids can easily jump from the boat and swim in the lake. You can also rent life jackets and canoes from onsite stalls. It was memorable not just for its joyful simplicity, but also because of the magnificent turquoise water and landscape surrounding us.
Parking is available on site. The lake is free to enter, but you do pay for your rentals. There are toilets of sorts onsite, as well as two cafes. About a 2 hours drive from Aix-en-Provence, it is an easy day trip by car. There is a village nearby, and some hotels not far if you choose to stay a few days and enjoy the area for hiking, biking and other outdoor adventures. But even for a day trip, it is fantastic way to live like the French while enjoying all that Provence has to offer families on vacation.
Gorges du Verdon
Submitted by Lauren from theplanetedit.com
As far as jaw-dropping scenery goes, few sights in France can compare to that of the spectacular Gorges du Verdon – the star of the sprawling Verdon Natural Regional Park. Commonly referred to as the “The Grand Canyon of Europe,” this 25km gorge cuts through the heart of Provence in the south of France, all the way to the mighty Alps.
The main, most popular gorge begins in Rougon, at the confluence of the Verdon and Jabron Rivers. Rougon is easily accessed from the nearby towns of Moustiers Ste-Marie to the west, or Castellane to the east, a couple of hours drive away from tourist hotspots Nice and Cannes.
Here in the Gorges du Verdon, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to water sports, as you can choose from rafting, paddleboarding, kayaking, and much more. Lac de St-Croix is at the heart of the park, but you can also visit Lac Castillon, which is a better option for those who prefer to avoid the crowds.
For fans of the great outdoors, there are also plenty of climbing and hiking opportunities in the national park. The Blanc-Martel trail is by far the most popular hike, which takes you deep into the Verdon Gorge and along the blue waters of the river. It’s challenging, but most definitely worth it for the dramatic scenery.
Best Places to Visit in the South of France
So there you have my guide to the very best places to visit in the South of France. This guide covered the better known cities and towns, as well as tiny tucked away villages and magnifcient natural wonders.
From the year-round good weather, to the excellent food, fascinating history and charming harbours, there’s something for everyone in the South of France. The real struggle is deciding where to go!
So I do hope this guide is useful and helps you work out where to visit in the South of France. If you have any other questions, please do feel free to drop me a line and I will get back to you.
Disclaimer: This guide has no involvement from the local tourism board or a hotel.
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