Have you ever wondered about the real-life equivalent of where your favorite fairy tales happened? The soaring mountains, the high castles, the endless fields of flowers, the alluring forests, the narrow European streets, the mesmerizing port cities, the clear blue waters against the sky, and so many familiar settings we’ve all come to know from our favorite movies.
Provence is the place where fairy tales become real life. It is a small geographical region in the Southeast of France that borders Italy and faces the Mediterranean sea. While it is a relatively small region, it is so diverse that there are a lot of things that a traveler can experience.
In this article, we’ll literally live out your fairy tale fantasies by diving deep into the 15 things that you can do in Provence.
Hike and swim at the Gorges du Verdon
Have you ever wondered where the captivating canyons against bright turquoise water exist on this Earth?
It’s actually in Provence, in the Gorges du Verdon scenery that runs through 25 kilometers of the Verdon National Park. It is known as one of Europe’s best sceneries to offer.
These are tall limestone canyons against clear bright waters under a warm sun. You can swim through the waters and enjoy the heat against your skin. You can also rent a boat if you choose to enjoy the scenery without getting yourself wet.
These waters can be reached by hiking through the canyons.
Watch boats in the Old Port of Marseille
The Old Port of Marseille has been one of Europe’s trading hubs since ancient times. At present, the port is now a tourist destination with stylish boutique hotels and cafés.
There are lots of things that you can do in the Old Port of Marseille alone. You can watch the boats and the people while you enjoy the setting sun against the port. You can shop for fresh fish early in the morning in the Quai des Belges Fish Market. You can climb up the Saint Marie lighthouse. You can ride the eco-friendly ferry and cruise along the waters.
Those are just a few of the long list of activities that you can do in the Old Port of Marseille.
Wander around the walls of the Pope Palace in Avignon
This palace served as the home to Avignon popes for over six decades in the 14th century. At present, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Palais des Papes features a construction that is owed from the French popes who lived here—multileveled fortresses, high towers, ornately decorated walls, decorative windows, long passages and so much more.
It’s a bit eerie to be touring around these walls, however, there is a certain magic to it. The excitement and mystery of being in a place where popes used to live will certainly call to the adventurer within you.
Sunbathe along the French Riviera
The French Riviera is the Mediterranean coast of France features pristine beaches and clear turquoise waters. Since it is an established holiday destination, the tourism industry within this coast is quite strong, with large beach resorts and hotels.
You can choose to swim in the waters, sunbathe along the coast, attend an outdoor festival, party in the streets, and even witness the world-famous Cannes Film Festival that is held within French Riviera. Sadly, the normal person cannot buy tickets into this flamboyant affair. But you can still join in with the hustle and bustle that this film festival stirs within the area!
There is also a magical hidden medieval village that is quite unheard of by tourists. It has the same feel as movies like Jack the Giant Slayer and Robin Hood.
Learn about the Romans in the Roman Ruins of Cimiez
Cimiez is located in Nice and it houses the ruins of the Roman town Cemenelum. This ancient Roman city is similar in size to Pompeii and has a large majestic bath, an amphitheater, a market square, and a temple.
It’s certainly a good opportunity that you shouldn’t pass on. While the majority of the city ruins are buried, the excavations have unearthed the bathhouse.
Tickets are extremely cheap at €10 for adults.
Aside from the ruins, you can also visit the Cimiez Monastery where the remains of famous French artists lie.
Relax in the lavender fields of Senanque Abbey in Gordes
If there is one central attraction of Provence that has probably made it into most travelers’ bucket list—it’s this one. These are vast lavender fields that when in full bloom, look absolutely stunning. It is truly a beauty to marvel at.
This is also probably the best time to snap those aesthetic, Instagram-worthy travel pictures that you’ve always dreamt to have.
The lavender fields are beside the Senanque Abbey, looking grey and majestic as it serves as a time capsule from the 11th century.
Plan your trip around the bloom of the flowers to fully get an experience; they bloom in June to August.
Kayak through the Pont du Gard aqueduct
The Pont du Gard aqueduct bridge was built by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago and at present, it is one of the best-preserved ruins from ancient times.
This is a massive aqueduct that lies 160 feet above the waters of the Gardon River. It spans up to three storeys tall.
You can kayak or wade through the rivers and be able to enjoy these magnificent remains of the past.
Marvel at The Ochre Cliffs of Roussillon
These are unusual cliffs that are normally ochre in color. However, depending on the color of the sun (especially during sunset), the cliffs can reflect differently from its natural ochre.
These cliffs are truly magnificent with earth pillars and sand hillocks. The color of the sand is not the only thing unusual about these cliffs but the shape, too. The shape of the terrain is organic, resembling something you would see on Mars rather than on Earth.
You can choose to go on a group hike along these cliffs, where you will get to explore it up close and get to learn about its unique flora life. There is also a conservatory where you can learn about the ocher heritage of these cliffs.
Hop on a boating tour in Calanques
The Calanques coastline is one of the most popular landmarks in Provence. It borders the port cities of Marseille and Cassis and is well-known for its white limestone formations against turquoise waters.
These limestone cliffs look like they’ve been taken off a Disney animated movie. It stretches over 2 miles and is considered to be a national park.
There are lots of things to do within these cliff channels, such as hopping on a boat for a tour around the area, kayaking, swimming, or getting to know the specific ecosystem that is within these cliffs.
There are also lots of restaurants to dine in nearby, in case you go hungry. We suggest the restaurant’s Le Lunch and Le Chateau for delicious meals.
Hunt down the replicas of Van Gogh’s paintings in Provence
Famed classical painter Vincent Van Gogh actually spent a few months in Provence, particularly in Arles and Saint-Remy de Provence. During his stay, he painted over 350 works. He moved to Southern France in his search for the “yellow sun” that he so admired from Japanese paintings.
Unfortunately, there are no more remaining paintings of Vincent Van Gogh in Provence. All paintings are now kept safe and on display by famous museums all over the world. What remains in Provence are replicas of his paintings, mainly showcasing the beautiful landscape and scenery that Provence has to offer.
He actually painted his arguably most famous work, The Starry Night, in Arles.
Most of his paintings were crafted during his stay in the Saint Remy psychiatric hospital.
Go sightseeing in Aix-en-Provence
Aix-en-Provence is one of the must-visit cities in Provence. It is well known for being the “City of Fountains” due to a large number of fountains within the city. Literally, every corner and every street has these fountains. They used to provide drinking water to the ancient Romans who used to inhabit the city.
Aix-en-Provence is also well known for its streets that resemble the European, boutique-style buildings in Belle’s small town in Beauty and the Beast. There are also markets and shopping districts to visit.
This city offers the best blend between rural and urban, and if you are looking to experience the Southern France lifestyle, staying in this city is your best bet.
Explore around the Les Jardins de Fontaine
These are majestic gardens that are of lush and full greenery as well as Roman ruins, botanical gardens, ponds, and sculptures. It is vast, expanding for up to 15 hectares in total.
There are different types of accommodation that you can book during your stay in these gardens. There are hotels, BnBs, campsites, vacation rentals among others. The nightly rates can range from 99€ to up to 150€.
The peak season for these gardens is in August when the Féérie des Eaux water show illuminates the fountains and bodies of water within the gardens. More than 30,000 visitors come to witness this spectacular display.
Taste liquor at the Manguin Distillery in Île de la Barthelasse
The orchard for pears and peaches within this island that used to be connected to mainland Avignon via a bridge started in the 1940s. These fruits are now “imprisoned” on bottles and hanged on branches, as the most visually interesting step within the process of fermenting the pear brandies that the distillery is known for.
At present, they offer tours that dive deep into the distillation process of their famous “jailed” pears in a bottle, and you’ll find yourself walking away with a glass or two in your hands.
Aside from the Manguin Distillery, Île de la Barthelasse is also a great place for biking along the vast trail and open spaces.
Go back in time in the Roman Theater of Orange
Considered to be one of the finest and best-preserved remnants of the Roman Empire, the Roman Theater of Orange is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers a brief glimpse of how theaters came to the hub of art in ancient times.
This theater used to be the venue for shows, the hub for everything music, art, and the opera that the Romans so revered in their era. The walls, the stage, the terraces—all aspects of the theater are well-preserved.
It has a total capacity of 10,000 spectators. Projects were done to restore and preserve this theater against elements and weathering in the 21st century.
There are lots of tours that offer this aa a stop, but you can also choose to hire your own guide when you arrive.
Go produce shopping in Provence
Lastly, something that you should definitely do while visiting Provence is to shop the local markets for the freshest and best quality products that you will ever have in your entire life!
Arles and Aix-en-Provence markets are on the top of this list, but all markets within Provence have the good quality products that you’re looking for.
Take your goods to your rented apartment where you’re allowed to cook and experience the godliness of the local produce grown in Provence. You can also take your goods to a cooking class where you get to learn how to cook up some local Provence dishes.
Those were the 15 must-do activities that you should definitely check off your list while visiting Provence. What are you waiting for? Experience your own fairy tale now.
To help you plan out your visit to Provence, we listed places to visit and other amazing activities to do in Provence. We also listed some of the best Provence travel and tour packages, as well as excellent flight deals and accommodation.
Tripadvisor has a list of the best Provence vacation packages. You may check out Airbnbs listings in Provence for cheap but high-quality accommodation.
Searching for the best Provence hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable Provence hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.
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