A gorgeous destination that combines ancient ruins and vineyards that date back centuries with winding cliff-top roads and sun-kissed sandy beaches, Provence is an amazing place to take a vacation.
Whether you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life back home, or you want to break away from your old routine and pack as much in as possible, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do in Provence!
The popular tourist destination lies comfortably in southeastern France, with Italy to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Its privileged position means most of Provence enjoys hot, balmy summers and mild winters with oodles of sunshine.
The blissful Mediterranean climate is responsible for Provence’s stunning and diverse landscapes. From thick olive groves and vibrant lavender fields to perfumed pine forests and rolling vineyards, every inch of the region seems to be more beautiful than the last.
With such a fantastic choice of things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a collection of the best things to do in Provence. Include these activities and attractions in your Provence bucket list, and you’re sure to have a wonderful time exploring one of the most alluring cities in Europe!
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15 Amazing Things to Do In Provence
1. Admire breathtaking sea views at the Calanques
One of the best places to go hiking in Provence is the Calanques. A spectacular national park, the Calanques combines magnificent inland hiking trails with incredible coastal vistas.
There’s an increased risk of fire during the summer, so some parts of the park are closed off. But if you visit in late winter or early spring, the whole place is pretty much guaranteed to be open, and you’ll have the perfect weather for exploring.
You’ll find a huge number of trails to choose from. We really enjoyed the GR-51. It passes by some astounding viewing points, such as Cap Canaille and Corniche des Crêtes. From here, you get remarkable views of the rocky limestone coastline that dramatically plunges into the glistening turquoise sea.
Hiking isn’t the only way to appreciate the Calanques. If you’re not up for the trek, you can also visit the area by catching a boat from Marseille. One of the benefits of taking a boat ride is that you’ll have the chance to swim and snorkel in the cool, refreshing waters.
2. Get a history lesson at Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence Antiques
If you’re into history, one of the top things to do in Provence is to dive into the city’s Roman heritage. Over two centuries ago, Provence was part of the Roman Empire. Today, you can still see evidence of the fascinating monuments, structures, and buildings they left behind.
Arles’ museum is one of the best places in the region to gain a better understanding of the Roman influence on Provence and see for yourself the legacy they left behind. Set on the location where Provence’s Roman circus once stood, the museum is bursting with sculptures, mosaics, and sarcophagi that are thousands of years old.
The model of the Barbegal aqueduct and mill is particularly interesting. Here you can see how the water from an aqueduct once flowed down to a series of water wheels that used to power a flour mill.
Arles Rhône 3 is also worth a look. This exhibit features a genuine Roman barge that was discovered while excavating the Rhône River in 2011. The display also features some of the cargo that was on board.
3. See throngs of sheep at Fête de Transhumance
Checking out the Fête de Transhumance has got to be one of the most unique things to do in Provence. This festival is so bizarre and unusual that you’ll never see anything else like it in the world! It’s even more surprising if you happen upon it without knowing what it is.
For one day each year at the end of May, more than 3,000 sheep, goats, and donkeys travel through the center of the Old Town, accompanied by their shepherds and sheepdogs.
The festival first began centuries ago, when drought meant that there was no longer enough grass and water to keep the sheep healthy. When this happened, shepherds would take them to higher mountain pastures with more grass and water. Back then, the route would take 10 days to complete in the summer heat.
Today, moving the animals isn’t really necessary and is more done for tradition. The event comes to a close with a sheepdog training demonstration in Petite Crau. The dates of Fête de Transhumance change every year. So keep your eyes out for posters or ask at the local tourist information office for times and dates.
4. Explore the Pope’s Palace
One of the most popular attractions in Provence is the Pope’s Palace. The incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the top 10 most-visited monuments in France, with 650,000 people visiting it each year.
The palace was built in the 14th century and is famous around the world for being the residence of seven popes and two popes of the Papal Schism. Because of this, many people consider it to be the seat of western Christianity.
Despite its immense size that makes it one of the largest medieval fortresses and biggest gothic palaces in Europe, the Pope’s Palace took less than 20 years to build. The palace is staggering to see from the outside, but step through its grand entrance, and you’ll be even more amazed.
Inside the Pope’s Palace, there are more than 25 rooms open to the public. From ceremonial halls, the courtroom, and the consistory to the chapels, the Pope’s private apartments, and dining rooms, there’s absolutely tons to see here.
Make sure you visit Clement IV’s papal apartments. Here you can see exquisite gothic frescoes painted by Italian painter Matteo Giovanetti!
5. Take a stroll through Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
For some of the best sights in Provence, enjoy a leisurely walk around Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Widely agreed to be one of the most beautiful villages in the whole of France, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie looks like something out of a fairytale instead of a real-life neighborhood.
From the old village walls, the magnificent church, and the charming chapels to the flowing aqueducts, pastel-colored tiles, and limestone architecture, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is beyond photogenic. One of the best parts is that practically the whole village is pedestrianized, so you can wander all over to find the best photo locations!
The village is nestled at the foot of the hills with an awe-inspiring mountain backdrop. If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb the 250 steep steps to reach the chapel of Notre Dame de Beauvoir.
If you’re not up for the hike, there are plenty of things you can do in the village. Grab a coffee from one of the quaint cafes and people watch, dig into the local cuisine at a family-run restaurant, or pick up some tin-glazed earthenware for a souvenir.
6. Feast on bouillabaisse
The region boasts a lot of delicious food, and one of the must-do things in Provence is to dig into a great big bowl of bouillabaisse. The typical dish of Marseille, bouillabaisse is a rich fish soup with a tomato base. There’s no real recipe for it, but there are a few requirements it must meet to be authentic.
A good bouillabaisse contains a savory tomato broth, a minimum of four different types of fish (with rockfish always being present), a spicy saffron garnish, and plenty of croutons. Onions, garlic, and a mixture of herbs are usually added to give it a more robust flavor, as well as fresh seafood for extra texture.
Bouillabaisse is so popular that you can find it in practically every restaurant in Provence. But for a truly spectacular experience, make a reservation at Chez Fonfon. This gourmet seafood restaurant has been serving its amazing bouillabaisse for more than 50 years!
7. See unparalleled beauty at Senanque Abbey
If you’re visiting Provence between June and August, you’ve got to take a trip to Senanque Abbey. At this time of year, the pale gray walls of the Romanesque building sit in front of a bright, vibrant lavender field.
During summer, the flowers are at their most spectacular, with the richest colors and most wonderful smell. Making the trip to see the flowers in bloom is definitely one of the best things to do in Provence!
While you’re in the area, it’s worth checking out the abbey, too. Following the Romanesque style, the building is simple and austere, but it looks so beautiful against the lavender field foreground and green mountain backdrop.
The abbey was founded in 1148 and is still a functioning place of worship today. Because of this, the abbey is only open during certain hours. If you do get the chance to visit, remember to stay quiet. The monks retire to a special enclosure during visits and carry on praying.
8. Go on a wine tour
Provence is home to some of the best wines in the world, so a wine tour is an absolute must! While the exact itinerary differs according to which tour company you choose, most tours include a beautiful drive past vineyards, visits to wineries, an overview of the winemaking process, and a chance to sample some of the best wines the winery produces.
If you haven’t got much time to spare, this half-day tour of Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire is a great choice. You get to visit two different wineries and sample eight different types of wine.
For something a bit longer, choose a full-day tour around Luberon. You’ll get to visit three wineries and enjoy some free time in the stunning village of Lourmarin for lunch. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about local wine while also exploring other parts of France.
9. Gorge on seafood at the Sea Urchin Festival
If you’re visiting Provence in February and you’re a fan of seafood, you’re in luck! At this time of year, sea urchins are at their best to eat, and to celebrate the event, Provence throws a huge festival that spans across the region.
Throughout the month, you’ll see sea urchins on sale almost everywhere you turn. Grab some from a local street vendor and enjoy the freshest urchins money can buy while perched on a park bench under the sun.
For the best experience, head to Carry-le-Rouet on any Sunday in February. On these days, stalls are set up along the port selling thousands of sea urchins, as well as many other marine delicacies. There’s nothing like taking a stroll along the marina while enjoying freshly-caught seafood.
Sometimes you can even see divers bringing the sea urchins to the surface and chefs sitting on the rocks, ready to clean and deconstruct them!
10. Go white water rafting along the Gorges du Verdon
One of the coolest things to do in Provence if you’re in search of high-speed thrills is to go white water rafting. And the Gorges du Verdon is an incredible place to do this.
The gorge runs for over 15 miles through the Verdon Regional Park and is one of the most beautiful expanses of water we’ve ever seen. At points, the limestone cliffs rise almost half a mile into the sky, making you feel as small as an ant.
The sparkling turquoise of the water, dazzling white of the cliffs, and deep green of the mountains are almost too beautiful to be true. There are different routes available for different ages and levels, giving you lots of choices. For a more private experience, you can even choose a small raft with just two to four people.
If you’re not in the mood for white water rafting, there are plenty of other things you can do in the local area. From swimming and climbing to hiking and cycling, you can be as brave or as safe as you want to here!
11. Stop by a local bar to sip pastis
When you need a break from all the Provence sightseeing, stop by a bar and order yourself a glass of pastis. One of the most iconic drinks of Provence, pastis was invented in Marseille in 1932, after absinthe had been banned.
When it’s undiluted, it’s amber in color. But as your server combines it with water in your glass, it transforms into a milky white-yellow liquid. Pastis has a distinct aniseed flavor and makes a great aperitif or refreshing drink in the afternoon.
As well as drinking pastis on its own, you’ll also find it used to make delicious cocktails. You can have it mixed with almond syrup for a Mauresque, with grenadine for a Tomate, or with mint syrup for a Perroquet.
Pastis is so popular you’ll find it on sale in practically every bar throughout Provence. But you rarely spot it outside France. So if you develop a liking for it, grab yourself a bottle from a store to take home with you!
12. Check out a new type of art gallery at Carrières de Lumières
Not your usual art gallery, Carrières de Lumières is the place to go for the chance to appreciate artwork in a way unlike any other you’ve ever experienced.
Set in the cathedral-like galleries that were once home to a limestone quarry, Carrières de Lumières doesn’t display paintings on walls and sculptures in glass display cases. Instead, it uses around 100 ultra-HD projectors to shine images of famous pieces of art onto the quarry walls!
To complete the experience, music and ambient sounds are piped into the area, helping you gain a better understanding of and appreciation for the pieces.
The encounter is incredibly immersive. So much so that even the floors are covered in projected artwork. Some pieces are stationary, while others are in constant motion. If you think you’re not a fan of art, Carrières de Lumières will totally change your mind.
The theme changes every year, so you can go back again and again. Previous shows have included pieces by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Cézanne.
13. Step back in time at the Medieval Festival
If you’re planning to travel at the beginning of July, one of the coolest things to do in Provence is to wander around the Medieval Market. Each year on the first Sunday of July, Mornas transforms from a sleepy village into a lively Medieval town!
For this special day, the village is decorated in true Medieval style, while countless tents are set up selling authentic food and drinks from the time. You’ll see people all over the place dressed in fun costumes – from valiant knights to gentle maids – getting totally swept up in the atmosphere.
There’s a lot of stuff going on to help you get into the spirit, too. You’ll be entertained with theatrical sketches, reenactments, and all kinds of activities that were popular during Medieval times. You’ll also find a wonderful medieval market where you can pick up all kinds of artisan goodies for friends and family back home.
14. Ride the téléphérique du Mont Faron for killer views
For a family-friendly activity that everyone will enjoy, snap up some tickets for the Mont Faron cable car. This cable car is the only one in Provence, and it sends you soaring to almost 2,000 feet in the sky!
After your journey to the top of Mont Faron, you’ll be treated to some of the most incredible views you’ve seen during your time in Provence. The panoramas stretch all the way down to the port of Toulon, and the dazzling azure sea looks remarkable from up here.
The view isn’t the only reason to ride the cable car to the top of Mount Faron. Up here, you’ll also find a handful of restaurants, a cute chapel, and a small zoo.
If you’re feeling lazy, you can ride the cable car back down to the bottom. But if you’re up for it, we recommend following one of the hiking routes back down.
15. Treat your taste buds to ratatouille
Ratatouille isn’t just the name of a famous movie chef-mouse. It’s also the iconic veggie-packed dish that comes from Provence. With its myriad of bright colors, diverse textures, and interesting flavors, ratatouille is the perfect dish to change the minds of picky eaters who think they hate vegetables!
The Provence staple is a vegetable casserole made up of peppers, eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. It’s so good that it’s often dished up on its own with some freshly-baked bread. But you’ll also regularly see it on menus listed as a side dish.
La Rossettisserie is where we had the best ratatouille in Provence. The simple menu is made up of different types of roasted meat, each of which is served alongside potatoes or a perfectly seasoned and wonderfully cooked portion of ratatouille.
It looks a bit rustic and intimidating from the outside. But the staff are so friendly, and the food is superb!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Provence. What’s your favorite thing to do in Provence?
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