From its perfectly purple lavender fields down to its glistening Mediterranean shores, Provence tends to be a top travel destination in Europe no matter which way you slice it. For couples, the romanticism of Provence can be just what the honeymoon ordered.
The landscape ranges from snow-capped mountains in the Alps to delta plains. Sprinkled into the mix are fortified towns, hilltop villages, and culturally rich cities. With plenty of sunshine, food, and wine flowing from Provence’s veins, the southeastern region of France leaves plenty for newlyweds to explore. Its beauty alone inspired a number of artists from Cezanne to Van Gogh to capture its essence on canvas. Paint your own picture of Provence by following along with this ultimate guide to the irresistible French region.
Where Is Provence?
Located in the southeastern region of France, Provence is easily one of the country’s most famous regions. Provence goes from the Dauphine River in the north down to the Mediterranean Sea in the south. It stretches from the Rhône to the west over to the Alps in the east.
When To Go
While you can’t go wrong with a visit to Provence any time of the year, some points on the calendar lend couples more options of things to see and do. Winter can be the most limiting in Provence with many hotels, restaurants, museums and shops closing up from November until Easter. The region can also be quite chilly during the winter months, making it hard to get out and enjoy the scenery.
Provence tends to shine during the spring and fall seasons. Weather conditions are at their most ideal and the crowds aren’t everywhere you look. However, summer does have its perks in Provence, namely of the purple variety. The lavender fields for which in the region is known hit their peak color in July. In addition to all that purple, couples can expect loads of festivals and fairs during the summer months. At the same time, travelers must battle more crowds and the heat when summer falls on Provence.
How To Get There
For your honeymoon, you might want to head for a destination that doesn’t require loads of effort to reach. Provence offers just that for couples arriving by air. The region lends a number of large and small airports to fly into including Aéroport de Marseille Provence, the fifth busiest airport in France. Just 12 miles from Marseille city center, the airport features direct flights from all around Europe and even the U.S. It is also possible to fly into the Nice Airport, lending direct flights from New York, and the Aéroport de Nîmes-Alés-Camarghe-Cévennes, outfitted with budget airline flights from Ryanair.
While you can fly directly to Provence, the train ride down from Paris is also relatively easy to figure out. Marseille St-Charles station connects with Paris, Strasbourg, and Bordeaux. Even Avignon sits at a major rail crossroads. A train ride from Paris takes just 2 hours and 40 minutes.
For couples looking to take the guesswork out of their honeymoon transportation, Provence provides cities with rich public transportation networks. Staying in main cities like Nice, Marseille and Avignon make it possible to just get around on public transport. High-speed trains, known as TGVs, link most of Provence’s major cities as well. Regional trains provide service between more rural villages in the region.
However, one of the best ways to explore Provence comes by renting a car. Having your own set of wheels provides the best means to see the countryside and vineyards for which Provence is known. The region is also relatively compact so you don’t have to have long driving days in order to hop from village to village.
Where To Go
Cities + Villages
You could very well spend years in Provence, exploring its many cities and villages. For starters, you won’t want to pass up Avignon, just over 60 miles from Marseille. The medieval city boasts cobblestone streets and bustling cafes to laze the day away. Located in the heart of Provence, Avignon is encased in 800-year-old stone ramparts. Perhaps its real shining glory, however, is the Palais des Papes, the world’s largest Gothic palace. The palace hails from the 14th century.
Moving on from Avignon, you can next explore Nimes. Roughly 30 miles from Avignon, the Roman city predictably provides a great deal of Roman remains. Travelers can see one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world while stopping in Nimes. A further 14 miles outside of town is another Roman relic, the Pont du Gard. The UNESCO World Heritage site is an aqueduct, proudly standing as the highest in the Roman world.
Another center of Provence is easily Aix-en-Provence. The lively university town warrants a stop for its fine art, architecture, and urban design. Founded in 122 B.C., Aix-en-Provence provides a vibrant café scene and trendy shops. The city is also known for its esteemed Festival d’Aix, otherwise the International Opera Festival.
A Provence itinerary should also feature stops in its famous small villages. Uzés might be the most revered, located 24 miles from Avignon. The village dramatically sits on a limestone plateau and fills with medieval streets and atmospheric squares. Uzés provides the chance to pop in many different artists’ workshops and studios and maybe pick up a handcrafted souvenir or two.
Van Gogh fans will also want to check out Arles. Located on the banks of the Rhône River, Arles was glorified in many of the famed artist’s works. Throughout its ancient streets, you will find museums aplenty and plazas to people watch the day away. St-Rémy should also be on your Van Gogh tour of Provence. The dreamy town is where the artist painted some of his best works. It boasts an old town with narrow lanes to explore along with the ruins of the ancient city of Glanum.
What To Do
Tour The Lavender Route
Lavender and Provence go hand in hand. Your best bet for appreciating the lavender fields of Provence is to arrive during the lavender season from mid-June to mid-July. You can follow the Route de la Lavande, otherwise the Lavender Route. The stretch of Provence heads from Abbaye de Sénanque near Gordes across Drôme and the Vaucluse. The area fills with wild purple stretches, connecting over 2,000 lavender producers in the region. You can find itineraries that zigzag through the fields, providing chances to hike, walk or visit lavender workshops first hand.
Sip The Area’s Revered Vineyards
After frolicking through many perfumed lavender fields, a nice beverage is in order. Provence is one of the best areas for wine in France, boasting an ideal climate for grape growing. In fact, it was the first area in the country to be planted with grapes by the Greeks in 600 B.C. Spanning several very different winemaking regions, Provence mostly produces rich fruity reds and dry fresh rosés. Some of the top vineyards to visit include Domaine de Fontavin, Château de Beaucastel, and Château de Simone. Most vineyard visits are free but we challenge you to resist the urge to purchase a bottle after a few sips.
Explore Provence’s Natural Wonders
When most hear about Provence, visions of Van Gogh paintings and medieval stone villages tend to dance through their heads. However, Provence is also rich in natural wonders to explore. Beginning with Mont Ventoux, travelers can drive to the top of the highest peak in Provence.
Measuring in at 6,273 feet, the peak is famous for its participation in the Tour de France. In addition to Mont Ventoux, travelers can also explore the largest canyon in Europe while in Provence. Gorges du Verdon is not just the largest canyon in Europe but the second largest in the world. Provence is also home to Mercantour National Park, one of Europe’s largest national parks. Couples can explore the massive park’s gorges, waterfalls, and wild orchid meadows.
What To Eat
Good food and Provence tend to go hand in hand. Every meal is not just a means to cure hunger but rather a culinary event. The southeastern region of France is all about fresh, local ingredients. Meals are planned around the seasons and the more local, the better. While the area boasts its share of Michelin-starred chefs, dining out isn’t stuffy and overdone. Rather, feasting on a long table at someone’s farm is very much a possibility in Provence. Many restaurants even grow their own ingredients, taking fresh to a whole new level. Provence places an emphasis on fresh herbs, sun-ripened vegetables and of course, seafood. It is also known as the birthplace of bouillabaisse and ratatouille.
Where To Stay
A honeymoon in Provence, calls for stays at historic estates and stone studded farmhouses that provide both quaint and cute conditions but also luxury. Maison d’Ulysse fits such description in the small village of Baron, in between the towns of Avignon and Nimes. Just 30 minutes from the Nimes airport and 60 minutes from the Montpellier airport, Maison d’Ulysse ideally positions for couples seeking to arrive in Provence and get to their accommodations with ease.
Once the home of French literary master Ulysse Dumas, the historic estate boasts foundations in the 17th century as a fortified farmhouse. While modern updates have been made over the years, the small luxury hotel still has that original ambiance. The property features 9 rooms outfitted with air conditioning, wireless Internet and en suite baths. Each room, however, is unique with some decked out with romantic fireplaces and others offering private terraces. Other amenities on site include a Turkish bath, massage services and wild gardens to roam. In addition, couples can enjoy breakfast each morning which includes jams made from the on-site orchard along with the spacious pool on those balmy Provence summer days.
Have you been to Provence? Share your favorite experience in the French region with us in the comments below.