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Thanks to its rich history and variety of landscapes, France offers no end of fantastic options for memorable weekend breaks. From historic towns to the wild coastline or snow-capped mountains, whatever kind of trip you fancy you can find it in France.
Actually, there’s so much to see and do in France that one article was not enough to list all the cool French weekends that we have in mind! That’s why we decided to split it by zones – north, south, east, west and central France.
Are you looking for short breaks to France? Do you want to explore more than Paris, the capital? To get you started here are five of our favorite French weekend breaks in Southern France. Five tried-and-tested south of France weekend breaks with some good addresses and our best tips to get the most out of your time during your 2 – 3 days in south of France
Best of Southern France
In this article on French weekend breaks in southern France, we consider the three French regions of Occitanie, Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur and Corsica Island. Click here to read more about the regions of France.
If you are interested in cool southern France cities, Marseille is the place to go. Despite its bad reputation, Marseille is one of the most appealing and most “exotic“ cities in France. We are talking about Marseille the cosmopolitan, the rebellious, the unique, but – first and foremost – , Marseille the Mediterranean.
As soon as you step into Marseilles soil, let yourself be transported by its culture, it’s singing accent and its well-assorted identity to enjoy the city’s joie de vivre – and perhaps a pastis among friends at the Old Port.
How to spend a weekend in Marseille?
- Explore the Old Port and the neighborhood of Le Panier, Marseille’s beating heart.
- Visit Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde Basilica and pay your respects to La Bonne Mère, permanently watching over Marsillians.
- Visit the Mucem (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée), always proposing a rich cultural program.
- Hike (or sail) the world-famous Calanques of Marseille – Cassis, wonderful Mediterranean fjords with their creeks and turquoise waters.
Côte d’Azur’s Hilltop Villages
Where to go in southern France for a different weekend? Only a few kilometers from the famous French Riviera, in a world so close and at the same time so far from cities like Nice, Cannes or Monaco, the Côte d’Azur holds one of its best-kept secrets: the perched villages of the hinterland.
This is a world of hills, small winding roads, beautiful hikes, old stones, stunning panoramas, silence, and definitely one of the most spectacular south of France destinations.
Why perched villages? Simply to protect themselves, because the region – a land of passage between the Italian and Iberian peninsulas – has always been convoked and threatened.
If Saint Paul or Vence are already popular, there are still many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Little villages where life is slow and peaceful and the days of rain are rare.
The time of a long weekend, enjoy a coffee under a sunny terrace, wander through winding medieval streets, visit the villages’ rich heritage, admire the numerous viewpoints over the mountains and the sea, and enjoy life’s simple things in an exceptional natural setting.
Perched Villages of Côte d’Azur, where to go?
Take your car for a journey of winding roads, perched villages and awesome panoramas. There are two must-itineraries, in the backcountry of Cannes and Nice, separated by the Var River.
- Nice’s hinterland, on Var’s Left Bank: visit the villages of Falicon, Levens, Aspremont, Bellet
- Cannes’ hinterland, on Var’s Right Bank: visit the villages of Broc, Carros, Gattières, Vence
If you don’t have your own car, we recommend setting your base camp in Nice which is better connected than Cannes. From Nice, you can join a day tour to explore the pretty villages of the Côte d’Azur and taste some local produce.
Avignon and the Luberon
If you are wondering what to do in south of France, you should consider seriously Avignon. Avignon is a must-stop of any trip to Provence and makes another interesting weekend in south of France. The former city of Popes and cardinals, once the center of intrigues and passions, is one of the most fascinating south of France destinations, with an interesting past and a rich heritage. In the summer, Avignon gets totally metamorphosed into an open-air theater thanks to its reputed Festival d’Avignon.
Explore this beautiful city in the south of France but also the small towns around in the massif of Luberon, rich in history and stories. End your journey at the famous Pont d’Avignon (Avignon Bridge), perhaps by singing the famous song.
What to do in Avignon and Luberon during the weekend?
- Visit the Popes Palace, built on the top of the Rocher des Doms. Finished in 1352, it is since then the most important gothic palace in the world!
- Enjoy a provencal brunch under the sun on the Grands Dignitaries terrace, perhaps with a glass or two of Côtes-du-Rhône wine.
- Admire the views from Rocher des Doms, the highest point of the city. Visit its magnificent gardens and Notre-Dame-des-Doms cathedral (12th century).
- Visit the remains of the famous Pont d’Avignon (Avignon Bridge) origin of the world-famous song. This is the oldest construction on the Rhône river (12th century), between Lyon and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Explore the beautiful town of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, also the home of popes, cardinals and religious men and with an exceptional heritage of fortified palaces, and religious buildings.
Avignon is the starting point of interesting half-day or full-day guided tours of all kinds. These small-town tours or wine tasting tours are perfect to discover the surrounding villages of the Luberon or the lavender fields, especially if you don’t have your own car.
If you are looking for authentic French breaks in the south of France, the Aveyron offers many interesting options.
Located in the heart of Occitanie, the Aveyron is full of history and exceptional sites. With an altitude ranging from 144 to 1463 meters, the Aveyron goes from the desert plateau of Larzac to green valleys crossed by rivers full of fish.
On the way, visitors will cross vineyards, large hilly areas like the Lévézou, and volcanic plateaux succeeding steep gorges. There are also fairytale villages, traditional markets selling local produce and sometimes even herds of sheep or cows crossing the roads.
Rough and sweet at the same time, a paradise for food and nature lovers, l’Aveyron is a land of character where life tends to slow down just like in the old times.
There’s so much to see and so limited time (one weekend, remember. .). So where to start?
- Set your base camp in the hilltop village of Rodez, with its unmissable gothic cathedral and beautiful hôtels particuliers.
- Marvel at Sales-la-Source, the “village-waterfall”! It is a rare and mesmerizing vision: the Créneau River infiltrates the heart of the Causse Comtal and springs back in Sales, in the heart of the streets.
- Get lost in Conques. With the labels most beautiful villages of France and World Heritage, this stunning medieval village unaffected by the passing of time is a true wonder.
- Visit the local markets and taste the region’s food and wine: the famous aligot, farçous (small meat and Swiss chard patty), tripoux (sheeps tripe), Roquefort cheese (my favorite!) and of course, a little glass or marcillac red or rosé wine.
Ajaccio, Corsica Island
Our list of south of France weekend breaks also includes destinations in Corsica Island like Ajaccio. Ajaccio, Napoleon‘s hometown, is an old city developed around the harbor, with high buildings, old streets with colorful houses, the pedestrian and lively rue Fesch, and its colorful market and sunny terraces.
Once you have got a taste of what Ajaccio has to offer, there’s always something cool to do nearby: Porticcio beaches, the Three Valleys, and the mountains are just around the corner, proposing beautiful walks and hikes for nature lovers.
What to do in Ajaccio during the weekend?
- People-watching from Napoleon’s statue, in Foch Square
- Visit the Fesch Palace, today Museum of Fine Arts
- Visit the local market to fill your bags with fromage et saucisson
- Go to the beach! There are beaches in Ajaccio, near the citadel, but the most beautiful ones are on the Route des Sanguinaires (we recommend Capo di Feno beach).
- Enjoy a hike in the Gravona Valley for some nature and to have a great point of view on Ajaccio bay.
Have you visited any of these southern France destinations? What is your favorite destination for a French weekend in south of France?
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