Provence, France, is home to centuries-old, hilltop villages, gently rolling vineyards, and miles of glittering coastline—not to mention many of the most beautiful towns in the South of France. It’s no wonder, then, that the region inspired artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, or that it’s one of the most sought-after places among travelers who visit the country. Thinking of planning a trip to this fairy-tale part of France? Here are five of the prettiest places to visit in Provence.
This city in Provence, France, is known for the Pont d’Avignon, a medieval bridge that’s also the subject of a popular French nursery rhyme and song. But as staffer Emily learned on her Barcelona, Southern France & the Italian Riviera tour, Avignon is also one of the best cities in Provence for travelers who want to experience a little joie de vivre. “Avignon captures so much of what there is to love about traveling to France,” she said. “Outdoor dining along cobblestone streets? Yes! Pop-up market vendors lining the main pedestrian thoroughfare? Oh, yeah. A wide-open square where you can enjoy a sweet treat at night while the Papal Palace is aglow? Of course!”
Avignon travel tip: The city’s Palais des Papes, or Papal Palace, is one of the most beautiful places in Provence, France. According to staffer Jules, it also affords several jaw-dropping photo ops. “Toward the top of the palace, you can look down at the town center and enjoy a pretty view of the square,” she said. Another view awaits in the palace’s garden, where visitors can snap pics of the Rhône River.
We’re not sure which delivers more of a wow factor: this tiny, medieval village or the dramatic, rocky landscape that surrounds it. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is often described as one of the prettiest towns in Provence, France. That’s thanks to its photogenic landmarks (don’t miss Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel), its maze of pedestrian-friendly streets, and its setting within both the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon and the Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark. Home to just 700 residents, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie boasts some 20 restaurants, including acclaimed Chef Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred La Bastide de Moustiers. That makes it one of the best places to visit in Provence for travelers who want a taste of Provençal cuisine served with a side of dreamy scenery.
Travel tip: A core component of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie’s economy is its tradition of faïence, or fine, tin-glazed earthenware. The delicately patterned ceramics make for perfect souvenirs. Find them in locally owned shops all around town.
Travelers approaching Gordes will see why this hilltop village is nicknamed the Parthenon of Provence, and why it consistently ranks among the prettiest towns in France. From the village itself, visitors can soak in views of Luberon Regional Natural Park, which is a massif, or mountainous area, dotted with historic villages and rich with agriculture. Gordes’ beauty has long attracted artists—Marc Chagall, Jean Deyrolle, and André Lhote set up an artists’ colony in the village after World War II—and many artists and photographers call the village home today.
Gordes travel tip: Nearby Sénanque Abbey is one of the best places to go in Provence if you want to capture the region’s iconic scenery on film. The 12th-century abbey is flanked by lavender fields, where rows of plants burst to life with fragrant, purple blooms every summer.
Provence beauty was a common theme of French painter Paul Cézanne’s work. One of his favorite subjects: his birthplace, Aix-en-Provence. Its inspiring beauty makes Cézanne’s hometown one of our favorite places to go in Provence. Visitors who want to check out the prettiest places in town can wander along the Cours Mirabeau (think of this tree-lined boulevard as Aix’s answer to the Champs-Élysées), sit quietly in the sanctuary of the Cathédral Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence, or stroll through the gardens of the stately, 17th-century Pavillon de Vendôme.
Aix-en-Provence travel tip: To see Aix through Cezanne’s eyes, grab a baguette, a wedge of brie, and a patch of grass at Le Terrain des Peintres (translation: field of painters). The tranquil, terraced gardens offer views of towering Mont Sainte-Victoire, of which Cézanne painted more than 80 renditions.
Sailboats bobbing on sparkling water. Narrow, harborfront buildings painted in pale pastels. Golden beaches stretching out where rocky hillsides meet the sea. These are just a few of the features that make coastal Cassis one of the prettiest cities in Provence, France. Another eye-popping feature, which adventurous travelers won’t want to miss, is the Routes des Crêtes. The popular driving route winds its way along the clifftops between the Gulf of Cassis and the Gulf of La Ciotat, offering sweeping, coastal views along the way.
Cassis travel tip: If you want to toast your visit to Cassis with a locally inspired cocktail, be sure to order a Kir. It’s made with dry, white wine and crème de cassis—a sweet, red liqueur made from blackcurrants. Feeling extra festive? Make it a Kir Royale by swapping white wine for Champagne.