If you thought a trip to Provence was all about hilltop villages and lavender fields then I’m about to show you Provence is all this and more. We got so much out of our week in the Luberon (and beyond) and I hope that with this list of must-visit places in Provence you will too.
So, from the prettiest perched villages to jaw-dropping gorges, here are all the best things to do in Provence that you can pack into just 1 week.
Best places to visit in Provence
Arguably the most famous perched village in Provence, Gordes is certainly one of my must-sees in the South of France. No trip to Provence is complete without a wander around Gordes tiny, steep cobblestone streets, marvelling at the stone buildings that cling to the foothills.
For the best views of Gordes head to one of the viewpoints along Rte de Cavaillon – they are clearly signposted as you drive towards Gordes and parking is available nearby. From here you get a great vantage point of the picture-perfect old village cascading down the sides of a hill, plus fantastic views of the plains of the Luberon.
Gordes is home to some uber chic hotels, like Airelles Gordes, La Bastide; the dreamiest place for couples to stay in Provence.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience with enviable views then book a table at La Bastide’s restaurant, Clover Gordes by Jean Francois Piege. (This is where Emily in Paris dined on her jaunt to Provence!)
While Gordes is absolutely gorgeous, it is just one of many beautiful hilltop villages in this region of Provence. If you have time, then Bonnieux, Menerbes and Apt are also worth visiting and may be far less crowded!
Just down the road from Gordes you’ll find the picturesque Abbey of Sénanque with its famed lavender field. If you’re in Provence during lavender season then you won’t want to miss the chance to wander around these gardens.
For the first half of our week in Provence we based ourselves in Lourmarin, which is ranked as one of the most beautiful villages in Provence. We loved that Lourmarin looks like a quintessential Provencal village – think: honeysuckle-laced buildings, blue shutters, pavement cafes – but has a handful of boutique hotels and chic cafes that give it a modern bougie twist.
Lourmarin is small and charming but has just enough going on to make it a great place to stay in Provence. For more on what to do in Lourmarin, plus the beautiful country house turned boutique hotel we stayed in, check out my guide to Lourmarin.
My absolute favourite experience we had in Provence was visiting the Verdon Gorge and pedalling across its aquamarine waters.
The Verdon Gorge (or Gorges du Verdon) is the deepest canyon in France & one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Europe. The easiest way to visit is by driving; we drove from Lourmarin and it took about 90 minutes. You can also book full day tours from Nice to the Gorges of Verdon and lavender fields.
Some top tips for visiting Verdon Gorge are:
- Head to Pont Du Galetas for the best view of the green waters Verdon Gorge was named after. There are small car parks either side of the bridge.
- There are a number of places to hire pedalos and kayaks close to the Pont Du Galetas. We parked in the Plage du Galetas car park (free) and hired a pedalo for 1 hour (20 Euros).
- For the shortest distance to pedal/paddle into the gorge, head to Kanojano on Google maps. You can also hire electric boats from ‘ALIZE ELECTRONIC LOCATION’ near Bauduen if you want to spend a full day on Lac de Sainte-Croix.
- It took us 1hr to pedal as far as waterfall Saint Maurin and then come back again. (With a toddler!) I’d recommend hiring the pedalo for longer if you have kids and don’t want to rush the experience.
- I read that the water looks greener in the mornings when the light falls into the canyon. We arrived around 11am which is when these pictures were taken. And yes, the water really is that green if you’re lucky to get a clear, sunny day like we did.
We combined our visit to Verdon Gorge with a stop at the lavender fields in Valensole and quick look around the unique village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. We packed a picnic and ate it on the shores of the lake.
This whole experience was one of the highlights of our trip to Provence & I’d highly recommend you add this excursion to your Provence itinerary.
You can’t miss the spectacular ochre-coloured village of Roussillon on a tour of Provence. I mean quite literally; you’ll spy the Mars-like cliffs and dusty orange houses long before you arrive there.
Found in the heart of one of the world’s largest ochre deposits, Roussillon is a beautiful place to come for a stroll through the colourful streets or a more challenging hike around the old ochre quarry, known as the Ochre Trail.
I would recommend arriving early though as this is a very popular place in Provence and we found parking here quite difficult.
Saint-Paul de Mausole
I was completely moved by my visit to the beautiful Saint-Paul de Mausole, a monastery and mental asylum in Saint-Remy de Provence where Van Gogh spent a year receiving treatment and painted over 150 artworks.
After suffering a mental breakdown in which he famously cut off his ear in 1889, Van Gogh admitted himself to Saint-Paul de Mausole. In-between bouts of illness he was inspired by his surroundings to paint some of his most famous works.
Parts of the Saint-Paul de Mausole monastery are open to the public to learn more about Van Gogh’s life in Provence. Highlights include a the Romanesque cloister, reconstruction of Van Gogh’s bedroom & beautiful lavender-filled gardens, known as the Van Gogh Field. Tickets costs just 7 euro and you can pay upon entry.
You can also follow a free Van Gogh trail through Saint-Rémy de Provence to or from Saint-Paul de Mausole. (I picked up a map from the tourist office but it’s easy to follow without one.) Panels of Van Gogh’s paintings have been paired with the stunning scenery that inspired them, along with quotes from the artist himself.
I really enjoyed my visit to St Remy and recommend a stop at Saint-Paul de Mausole. It gives a whole new perspective on some of the world’s most famous works of art and the man who created them.
Carrières de Lumiéres
The perfect accompaniment to a visit to Saint Paul de Mausole is Carrières des Lumiéres, which is found just 13 minutes down the road.
Carrières des Lumiéres is an old limestone quarry near the historic town of Les Baux-de-Provence that has been transformed into a digital arts venue. The current exhibition is on the Dutch Masters and it’s absolutely incredible to be submerged in moving paintings set to compelling music.
We especially enjoyed seeing the works of Van Gogh brought to life after visiting the place he painted some of them the same morning.
We bought our tickets on the door but you can also book online here.
A classical Provençal city with elegant 17th and 18th century architecture, Aix-En-Provence has broad avenues, tempting cafés and wonderful markets.
It was the home and inspiration of Paul Cezanne (his studio is now a museum) and is the perfect base to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Luberon if you’re relying on public transport.
(An airport shuttle bus connects Marseille Airport to Aix and takes about 30 minutes.)
We only had time for a whistle-stop wander of Aix on our last day in Provence but it struck me as a convenient place to stay in Provence due to its proximity to must-visit perched villages and whole host of dining options.
After wandering around the weekly markets sampling lots of lovely local goods, I had just enough time to grab a cookie (or 2) from Maison Z&W and highly recommend this pit stop!
Pont Du Gard
Before anyone corrects me, I want to point out that the Pont Du Gard is not actually in Provence but is found just across the border in the neighbouring region of Languedoc-Roussillon. It is however an easy drive from Avignon (where we spent the second half of our week in Provence) and is considered one of the must-sees in the South of France.
So what’s so special about this bridge? The Pont Du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD. It is both the tallest Roman aqueduct bridge and one of the best preserved in the world, and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1985.
The really incredible thing is that you can still cross it today. You can book a 1 hour guided tour to take you across the Pont du Gard, or anyone visiting the area can walk across an 18th century bridge built right next to it with no tour necessary.
We were blown away with the scenery around the Pont Du Gard. There is parkland either side of the riverbank where people come to picnic and paddle. School groups passed us on kayaks and there’s even a little bistro with wonderful views of the bridge called Les Petites Terrasses.
We recommend spending half a day at Pont Du Gard just to explore the area and enjoy the scenery. (Note it is a fair walk from the bridge to the car park so might want to avoid the midday heat.) If you’re visiting during July and August the bridge is illuminated at night with a light and sound show too.
I hope you enjoyed these incredible places from our trip to Provence. If you’d like to see what else we did that week please visit my Instagram highlights.
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