Thursday, 11 April 2013

Provence tourist attractions

    Tourist attractions in Provence - monuments, natural heritage


Aix-en Provence (13) : the old town is a gem, with its narrow streets and honey-coloured stone. The main  street is the Cours Mirabeau, a wide tree-lined avenue with shops, pavement cafés and restaurant. Do not miss the Cathedral of  St. Sauveur  and the Cézanne Museum, among other sights. In the morning, wander through the narrow streets of the old town, with its small shops, boutiques, restaurants, and daily markets, then, when it gets warmer, relax and enjoy a drink on a shady terrace under the plane trees on or near the Cours Mirabeau or in one of the city squares. Aix is a great base from which to discover other local sights, including Mont Saint Victoire, the Luberon, les Alpilles, Arles and les Baux de Provence - to mention just a few.

Arles (13): this small town in the Rhone Delta has classical remains,  as well as the very famous "Saint Trophime church, and a number of museums. The Vincent Van Gogh Foundation has a small gallery with works in homage to Van Gogh by modern artists including Francis Bacon and David Hockney

Avignon (84) The old city is clustered within impressive mediaeval walls. The most important monuments are the Palace of the Popes and the Calvet Museum. There is also the famous "Pont d'Avignon", the remnants of a medieval bridge across the Rhône. Across the river, the ruins of the castle of Villeneuve d'Avignon are worth a visit. The centre of Avignon is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Les Baux de Provence (13)  The remains of what was once a town of 4000 inhabitants, built on the Alpille hills at the edge of the Rhone plain. A lot of the buildings have been renovated since the 1970s.

Briançon; (05) capital of the Hautes Alpes department;  at an altitude of 1350 metres (over 4000 ft) this is the second highest town in Europe, after Davos. The high town is encircled by ramparts built by Vauban. Nearby is Les Ecrins national park

The Camargue (13) A major wetland and nature reserve in the Rhone Delta; it is famous for its white horses, water birds including pink flamingoes, and for bulls that are bred there

Cassis (13) This small port is popular with yachtsman; the coastline east of Cassis is famous for the "Calanques", a series of rocky inlets where limestone cliffs come down to the water's edge. The area is popular with ramblers.

Cuges-les-Pins (13): the OK Corral - a western theme park with rides and activities, plus cowboys and indians. Not very Provençal, but something to keep the kids happy.

Fontaine de Vaucluse (84): the dramatic source of the river Sourgue, which emerges as a full river at the foot of a cliff. It is the fifth largest spring in the world.

Gordes (83) Reputedly one of the prettiest villages in France, Gordes is a large Provençal village standing on a rocky outcrop above the Calavon valley. The renaissance castle is worth a visit.

Marseille (13) Marseille is the oldest city in France. A large port city, it boasts a number of monuments, including the Abbaye Saint Victor and the Fort Saint Jean, both near the old port.  A must at Marseilles is a boat trip to the Chateau d'If, a historic castle / prison built on a small island in the bay.

Mont Ventoux (84): the last outcrop of the pre-Alps, rising to 1909 metres, to the east of the Rhone Valley northeast of Carpentras. A road leads to the summit. For much of the year, the snow-capped summit is visible from Avignon.

Orange (84) Famous for its Roman remains, notably the amphitheatre (used for the annual festival) and the triumphal arch.

Pont du Gard (30) Just outside modern-day Provence, 11 miles west of Avignon, this dramatic Roman aqueduct is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Saint-Rémy de Provence (13) Roman remains.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (13) is a small village on the coast in the Camargue, with a fortified church: it is famous as a pilgrimage spot for Gypsies or Roms, who come here from all over Europe each year in May, for the festival of Saint Sara.

Tarascon (13) City on the banks of the Rhone, with a remarkable mediaeval fortress.

2. Attractions in the ALPES MARITIMES / RIVIERA area

Antibes (06):  One of the most famous seaside towns of the Riviera, with 17th century ramparts and a mediaeval castle. There are a number of sights of special interest, including notably the Picasso museum (in the castle) and the Archeological Museum, which has vestiges from Antibes classical past. There are also some beautiful gardent to visit, notably the Exflora gardens and the Eilenroc gardens.

Cannes (06): a Riviera city famous for its festivals and business conventions, and particularly for its annual Film Festival

Chemins de Fer de Provence; the only public-service private railway in France, the CFF is a narow-gauge line running 151 km. from Nice (06) to Digne (04); from sea livel at Nice, the line rises to over 1000 metres before dropping back to under 600 metres. The journey, by diesel railcar, goes through spectacular scenery. A steam service is operated on part of the route during summer weekends.

Grasse: (06) twenty kilometres inland,  Grasse is famous as the centre of the French  perfume industry; tons of flowers are harvested annually for this industry, including jasmine and lavender.

Juan-les-Pins (06): very popular and attractive Riviera resort, fashionable with the jet set, film stars and tourists in general.

Menton, (06)  an old coastal town almost on the Italian border, is famous for its warm climate and its gardens.

Nice (06) The capital of the riviera, Nice was made ppular almost 200 years ago by the English, and the seafront is known as the Promenade des Anglais. The town has plenty to offer including a Matisse museum, a Chagall museum, the famous flower market, the old town, and the gardens of the castle.

Saint Jean Cap-Ferrat.(06) One of the most exclusive places to live, this is a small peninsula just east of Nice. The peninsula has some fine sandy beaches and a coastal walk. The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is a beautiful Italianate villa set among sepctacular gardens overlooking the sea.

Saint Paul de Vence (06) : small mediaeval walled town in the hills just inland from Nice. Popular with artists and musicians, it is home to the Maeght Foundation,  a  remarkable private museum and collection of modern art.

Saint Tropez (83) : very chic resort, popular with film stars and TV personalities.


The Parc National du Mercantour (website) is a high alpine park, culminating at the Cime du Gélas - 3143 metres - on the Italian border. Popular with hikers and mountaineers.

The Parc national des Ecrins is partly in Provence, is another high alpine national park.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Villa Ephrussi - St Jean Cap Ferrat

Haute Provence
Upper Provence

Provence roofs
Provençal roofs