Why should you go?
With its fields of lavender, rich pine forests and enviable position along the Mediterranean Sea, the region of Provence in southeast France makes a great place to visit simply for its outdoor beauty. Add in centuries of history and art plus the lifestyles of the rich and famous and it’s easy to understand why this is one of France’s most popular regions.
How Long Should You Go For?
Provence is a large region with plenty to see and do. One week should allow you to comfortably cover the highlights if you have your own car. Provence is a place for soaking up atmosphere, rather than racing from sight to sight.
Start/end destination and Distance
Start in Marseilles, finish Nice. (Both cities have international airports.) Distance: 640 km.
Provence has a temperate climate and is enjoyable to visit all year around. However, between October and May the air will be cool if not cold. Avoid visiting during the Cannes Film Festival and during August if you can, since the crowds push prices up and clog up the roads along the coast. If you are visiting Provence specifically to see the lavender fields, then you’ll need to visit during the last two weeks of June or first two weeks of July. It’s wise to book accommodation in advance.
Itinerary Route and destinations
Day 1: Marseilles – Cassis - Saintes Maries de la Mer
After a morning in Marseilles, visiting the Old Port, Bas Fort Nicholas and the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, take the D559 to Cassis. Enjoy the peaceful contrast of Cassis and the Calanques before driving to The Camargue Area. Follow the D559 north from Cassis to join the A50 towards Marseilles, then the A52 towards Aix-en-Provence and finally the A54 towards Arles. Take exit 4 towards “Saintes Maries de la Mer/Salin de Giraud” and then either take a detour to Salin de Giraud to see the salt mountains or else drive straight to Saintes Maries de la Mer.
Day 2: Saintes Maries de la Mer – Arles
Explore the wild Area of the Camargue before driving to Arles for the afternoon. From Saintes Maries de la Mer, take the D570 directly to Arles, where you can visit Les Arènes (The Roman Amphitheater), the Roman ruins of the Théâtre Antique, and Van Gogh’s Café.
Day 3: Arles – Avignon – Aix-en-Provence
Take the D570N from Arles and continue onto the N570 until you reach the city of Avignon. In the center of town, don’t miss the Palais des Papes (a former papal palace) before strolling along the riverbank to see the Pont d’Avignon. At the end of the day, follow signs to the A7 heading south-east from Avignon, and then merge onto the A8 towards Aix-en-Provence.
Day 4: Day in Aix-en-Provence
Today is a “drive-free” today, so relax and soak up the Provençal atmosphere in Aix-en-Provence. Walk along Cours Mirabeau, follow the Cézanne Trail and visit a Provençal Market on Place Richelme.
Day 5: Aix-en-Provence - St-Tropez – Nice
From Aix-en-Provence, travel east on the A8 towards Toulon. Turn off onto the A57 towards Les Arcs, and then follow the D558 towards St Tropez. Follow the signs to St Tropez to reach the N98 and then on into the center of town.
In St Tropez, stroll along the Old Port and visit the Citadelle de St Tropez. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the Place des Lices. Then drive on to Nice.To reach Nice, follow the D98 as it becomes the N98 heading north from St Tropez. Through a series of roundabouts, follow the signs to the A8 and Nice. The A8 then travels east to bring you to Nice.
Day 6: Nice – St-Paul-de-Vence – Nice
Enjoy the coastal city of Nice by visiting the Old Town, strolling along the Promenade des Anglais and walking up the Parc du Château.
Take a day trip to St-Paul-de-Vence, a picturesque hilltop town. To reach St-Paul-de-Vence, take the N99 heading west out of the city onto the A8. Take exit 48-Cagnes toward Cagnes-sur-Mer onto the D336, veer left onto the D436 and then follow the signs to St-Paul-de-Vence.
Day 7: Nice – Monte Carlo - Nice
On the final day, pay a visit to the Matisse Museum in Nice before driving east to the glitzy city of Monte Carlo in Monaco. Take the D2204 out of Nice, heading north-east to reach the eastbound A8 towards Monaco. Turn onto the A805, the D6007 and then the N207 to enter Monaco. Waltz around Monte Carlo with the world’s rich and famous and try your luck at the Casino of Monte Carlo. Return to Nice at the end of the day to finish your tour.
By Abigail King www.abigailking.co.uk