Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
Provence is like a work of art. Located in the southeastern part of France, it’s been made famous in literature and movies and is a favored vacation spot for travelers. This part of France has everything, from medieval towns to amazing food and wine and some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever enjoy.
What is Provence known for? Provence has beautiful beaches, sleepy villages, and perfect weather for river cruises, tours, or road trips. Just in case you need more convincing, then here are nine reasons to visit Provence the next time you’re in France.
What is Provence Known For
1. Lavender fields
Every list of what Provence is famous for contains lavender fields of Provence. Summer is the lavender season in Provence, and this is the time of year to visit the fields of ‘Blue Gold.’ However, as the lavender blooms at different times because of the differences in altitude, terrain, and weather, you must plan a trip here very carefully. You should read about where the best Lavender fields are in Provence, and also the perfect time to visit each of these places.
Aix-en-Provence and Avignon are two of the best places to base yourself to visit the lavender fields of Provence. The Lavender blooming season is relatively short, so we recommend booking your accommodation here at least three months in advance.
The most flexible way to view the lavender is to rent a car and drive independently. And to plan your Lavender route, we’ve compiled a perfect route and itinerary for you here.
We recognize that not everyone wants to drive when they are on vacation – and so, if you prefer to visit the blue gold of Provence with someone else driving, then these small group tours with English-speaking guides are a perfect way to explore.
2. Hilltop villages
Provence also boasts some of the most beautiful hilltop villages in all of France. Known also as ‘perched’ villages, many of these villages in Provence date back hundreds of years and were originally created to defend the local area by restricting access to valley routes or the surrounding countryside. They were built high up on rocky crags around the local castle and defended by fortified walls.
Today, you can still see and wander through these sun-drenched, peaceful little villages with their steep, cobbled streets, stone-built houses, and welcoming squares. The hilltop villages of the Luberon are the most famous, and they are easy to explore from Avignon. Other beautiful villages to visit in Provence are Les Baux-de-Provence, Bormes-les-Mimosas, and Ansouis.
3. Colorful Markets
Every list of what Provence is famous for contains the colorful markets of Provence and you’ll find Provençal markets in almost every town, city, and village. Most of the markets are set up on the weekend, but many cities and villages will have produce stalls set up more often than that.
In the Provençal markets, you can find everything from luscious pastries to warm, fragrant bread and fresh fruit and vegetables. And shopping at these markets means you’ll be able to taste the best produce that Provence has to offer.
Aix-en-Provence is famous for its local markets. If you can only visit one market, however, then make it the Arles’ Saturday market, which is widely considered to be one of the best.
Most good lists of what is Provence known for include this popular drink. Loved by the public since the 1930s, pastis is an alcoholic drink that’s flavored with anise and licorice. Despite its popularity now, the drink wasn’t always so accepted.
Pastis contains absinthe, which was prohibited in France in 1915 because of its side effects and addictive qualities. However, bar owners continued to produce the drink throughout the ban, and once the ban was lifted, the popularity of this drink really took off!
Today, pastis is one of the most famous French drinks, and you can find it in almost any small bar in the area. Make sure you choose one with a view to making your experience even more special.
Touring the wine regions in France is a bucket list activity for many travelers, and it’s also one of the best reasons to visit Provence. This part of France isn’t as well known as some of the other wine regions in the country, but that just means you can visit excellent local wineries without the crowds!
Provence has a warm climate and is close to the ocean, so it can grow a wide range of full-bodied grapes. And of course, you’ll get to enjoy them in the stunning scenery that this part of France is famous for. Some not to be missed wine varieties include the local rosés, Cabernet Sauvignon, Clairette, and Syrah.
- If your Provence holidays include Avignon, take a scenic drive through the rolling vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape. See the ruins of the Pope’s summer residence, followed by wine tastings from these world-famous wineries.
- If you are staying in Aix-en-Provence, then try this guided wine tour, which always has the best ratings. You’ll combine not just the spectacular views, meeting the winemakers and tasting their wines too!
6. Pétanque (game)
Pétanque is one of the traditional games of Provence and comes from the town of La Ciotat near Marseille. It’s a variation of the games of boules known as ‘jeu Provençal’ and dates back to 1910.
The game was created by a café owner named Ernest Pitiot. His friend, Jules Lenoir was a former jeu Provençal player but could no longer play because of rheumatism. Pitiot created a new game with variations that allowed his friend to keep playing despite his limitations.
Today, pétanque is played on just about any appropriate stretch of land throughout Provence. It’s a very social game, and a glass or two of pastis is highly recommended while you play.
7. Delicious Food
The Provençal cuisine offers a striking contrast between the hearty mountain dishes (dauphinois, ravioles, gratins) and the light and perfumed dishes of the Mediterranean cuisine, many of them based on fish. Then, each city or area has its local specialties like the bouillabaisse in Marseille, the berlinguettes in Avignon, or the brissauda in Nice.
On the sweet side, try the honey, calissons (candies made from almonds and melon), chocolate mendiants, and quince paste.
Guided food tours are a great introduction to the local produce and specialties. Discover the gastronomical wonders of a city or an area, and visit a selection of gourmet eateries to sample traditional dishes, delicacies, and beverages.
8. Variety of Natural Landscapes
Provence is also known for its beautiful landscapes. In addition to the already mentioned lavender fields, the coast is lovely, and there are beautiful river valleys, gorges, and mountainous areas with picturesque old villages. You will definitely be taking lots of pictures of all the scenic views!
The list of not-to-be-missed natural sights in Provence is long and includes the Mont Ventoux (nicknamed ‘the Giant of Provence’), the pink salt lakes of the Camargue, the impressive Gorges du Verdon, the Massif de l’Esterel, the unusual desert scenery and red rock formations of the Colorado Provencal in Roussillon, and the famous Calanques of Marseille-Cassis.
If you don’t have a car, you can easily see, learn about and explore these places with a guided tour.
9. Great History and Culture
Of all the things that Provence is famous for, its history is a standout, with the region boasting some of the best-preserved ruins in Europe. Many of the historical monuments in the area date back to the times of the Romans and range from the Roman colony of Nîmes to the Pont du Gard aqueduct and the city of Arles.
As the Roman Empire began to decline in the 5th century AD, the Christians constructed some fantastic architecture like the wonderful Cistercian abbeys of Thoronet, Sénanque, and Silvacane (12th century), impressive castles and fortresses. In the 14th century, the Popes of Avignon brought intellectuals and artists to the city, and they built the magnificent Palais des Papes, the largest civil Gothic construction.
Provence is famous for light, colors, and beautiful scenery. Because of this, the region is associated with many gifted artists. Van Gogh, for instance, painted 350 pieces of artwork trying to capture Provence’s sun. And Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse, and Chagall lived in Provence and were inspired by the light and color of the region to create some of their most famous masterpieces.
And there you have it, the list of what is Provence famous for, so you can find some extra reasons to visit Provence!