South of France Destination Guide

The South of France does not fail to enchant, with its rich natural beauty, rolling hills of lavender, rows of deep-scented pine, and hilltops dotted with ancient towns and dazzling beaches.

Destination Guide

When it comes to where to go in the South of France, whether the charming villages of Provence or the dazzling coastline of the Côte d'Azur, it is one of the most beautiful and evocative regions in the country. Sweeping views, wonderful local food, artisanal markets, and a seductive Mediterranean climate are all a flight away. All of these make it idyllic for a family summer holiday, a mini-break, or a chance to reconnect with nature.

For a buzzy atmosphere and busy days, base yourself in the likes of Nice or Cannes and take day trips to the surrounding areas to soak up the culture and discover the best beaches. Alternatively, for a slower-paced holiday, spend your days in the pretty villages of Eze, Gordes or Cassis.

Wherever you start, there’s an array of luxury hotels to stay at, from boutique properties surrounded by olive groves to architect-designed creations overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Start planning your escape to the South of France with these top tips from our travel experts.

 

Where to Go in the South of France

It’s hard to choose the best places in the South of France, everywhere is so lovely, but we’ve managed to pick out a few that we think you’ll love for different occasions.

How To Explore the South of France

Part of the attraction of visiting Provence Alpes-Côte d'Azur is the ease of reaching the region Europe, providing multiple ways of travelling this destination.

Self-drive

Driving is one of the most convenient ways to travel to the South of France, particularly for those with families, dogs, or cars they love. Whether you want to pack the car to the rafters and whizz off or take it slowly with the roof down, the drive from Calais to the South of France is a beautiful one that can take you through France’s wine countries and down to the coastline. If country-hopping from the UK, Le Shuttle goes from Folkestone to Calais in less than half an hour, while the ferry departs from Dover and takes approximately an hour and a half. From Calais it's about 8 hours to the South of France non-stop.

Train

Reminiscent of the Golden Age of Travel, there’s something romantic (and eco-friendly) about taking the train to the Provence Alpes-Côte d'Azur. And, with links between the Eurostar and the TGV, you could be in the likes of Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille within hours from multiple European destinations. For the Mediterranean coast, the TGV travels at a slower speed to Toulon, Cannes and Nice.

Private Jet, Helicopter or Yacht

If planning to arrive via private transportation, Nice Côte d'Azur Airport is the main hub, providing swift access to the entire area, including helicopter transfers between Nice, Cannes, and St Tropez – the ultimate way to travel. While Cannes-Mandelieu Airport has a private jet terminal, and for St Tropez, the closest is Toulon/Hyeres. Private yachts or boat charters offer another glamorous arrival option, allowing you to stop at secluded bays and take in the pretty coastal towns along the French Riviera.

Foodie Hot Spots in the South of France

The South of France is home to the oldest wine-producing region in France and is the largest producer of fruit, vegetables, and herbs in the country. Together with the abundance of seafood, it is little wonder that the cuisine here is so fresh and bursting with flavour. Whether it’s a three-Michelin-star restaurant or rustic cafe, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur food is one of the best reasons to visit the South of France.

Highlight Experiences in the South of France

You would need several months to see all the best places in the South of France and whatever your preference is for a holiday, you’re sure to find it here. From the cosmopolitan towns on the coast to the mediaeval hilltop villages inland, each part offers something interesting and unique.

Historic Sites

Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur has a wealth of history, and you’ll find plenty of evidence of the Romans, from the arena at Nîmes, where you can see re-enactments of gladiatorial games during May, to the amphitheatre and Triumphal Arch in Orange.

The coastal resort of Fréjus has some famous Roman ruins and has the added benefit of being just a couple of kilometres from some lovely beaches.

Avignon, with the famous remains of a mediaeval bridge, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and equally famous for its Palace des Papes – built in the 14th Century when the Papacy temporarily moved its base here from Rome.

Another well-known Provencal image is the 11th-century Cistercian Abbaye de Sénanque. Surrounded by rows and rows of lavender fields, its Romanesque architecture stands out prominently and is a truly peaceful place to visit.

Art

Artists have been drawn to the South of France for centuries and have left a beautiful legacy in their works all over Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur. The idyllic village of Vence is home to the Matisse Chapel (the artist’s self-proclaimed greatest work), which is strikingly flooded with colour from his exquisite stained-glass windows. The village itself is worth spending time in, with its relaxed vibe and streets and squares full of shops, art galleries and terrace cafés.

In Aix-en-Provence is the Musée Granet with pieces by Picasso, Léger, Matisse, Monet, Klee, Van Gogh and, of course, Cézanne. Then in Nice, there are 10 museums including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Matisse Museum, and the Marc Chagall Museum, among others.

Just outside Antibes is the Chateau Grimaldi, on the ramparts above the port. It was once inhabited by Picasso, and it now houses one of the world’s finest collections of his art. Further east, along the coast towards Monaco, is the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at Sain-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a beautiful Italian Palazzo with a garden featuring nine differently themed sections. Perched on a hill, overlooking the Mediterranean, it houses part of the family’s incredible art collection, and the gardens are truly beautiful too.

Nature and Outdoor Adventures

For a taste of what the Riviera used to be like, it’s worth taking the ferry from Hyères to Porquerolles in the Ile d’Hyères, where you can rent bikes and explore this little island and its unspoilt beaches.

While Lerins Islands, a 15-minute boat ride from Cannes’ centre, will offer up a chance to explore the monastery on Saint-Honorat Island, where monks live (and make a liqueur called Lerina), or hike around the eucalyptus and pine forests on Sainte-Marguerite Island.

For those who want a little more adventure, one of the best places in the South of France is Gorges du Verdon – a limestone canyon 25km long, up to 700 metres deep, forming the border between the Alpes de Haute Provence and the Var. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe, with its turquoise glacial waters, and is extremely popular with climbers and kayakers – although an expert guide is recommended for the latter due to the strong currents in the narrower parts.

In the quieter parts, there are places where you can hire electric boats or pedalos. It is also possible to drive round the edge to appreciate its stunning beauty. A full loop is just over 100km and can take a whole day. Avid followers of the Tour de France will have heard of Mont Ventoux, northeast of Carpentras. The steep climb to the summit is often included in the route, but you can also take the easy option by driving up to admire the spectacular views.

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FAQs About the South of France

  • Which is the best part of the South of France?

    Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur is one of the best places in the South of France, with something for every type of guest. If you’re looking for a week-long family holiday, we’d suggest Provence. For a chic mini break with amazing food, head to Cannes. Art lovers will adore discovering Nice and its surrounding villages, while St Tropez is all about beach life and hedonism, making it fun to travel to with a group of friends. Talk to our travel experts who will be able to tailor your trip to your requirements.

  • Why is the South of France famous?

    The South of France is famous for its natural beauty, Mediterranean coastline, winemaking, celebrity tourists, amazing climate, Provencal cuisine and artistic heritage, there’s not a lot it doesn’t have.

  • What are the southern cities of France?

    The main southern cities in France are Cannes, Nice, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Toulouse, Montpellier, Perpignan, Nimes, Avignon and Arles.

Lavender fields in the South of France
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