The South of France gathers images of stylish seaside holidays, complete with private beach clubs, upscale boutique shopping, and fancy gourmet dining. France is a stunning nation. The more time someone spends exploring, the more they realise that there is still more to discover and that they could spend a lifetime there! France's vibrant, glitzy, and breathtakingly gorgeous south offers one of the most memorable vacation experiences in all of Europe, and visiting this stunning region is a delight for the senses. From the countryside to the coast, the South of France has everything an adventurous traveller might desire. Here are the top locations in the South of France to visit to learn more.
Best Places to Visit in South of France
The area is a haven for a trip of a lifetime. However, there is something unique about the south! There are several stunning locations in southern France that you have to make sure are on your itinerary. Here are the top tourist destinations in South France.
French Riviera Seaside Resorts
The French Riviera has a dreamlike character because of its warm weather, the hypnotic deep-blue sea, and the lush palm palms. It makes sense that British nobles started coming here for vacations in the 19th century. Early in the 20th century, artists adopted a similar strategy to depict the breathtaking environment on canvas. As a result, the Cte d'Azur is dotted with art galleries housing the creations of painters like Renoir, Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso as well as others who were inspired by the region's natural beauty.
The beaches closest to Antibes are among the greatest on the French Riviera, notably those outside of the Old Town and tucked away along the Golfe Juan on the Juan-les-Pins and Cap d'Antibes headland. There are around a dozen public beaches in this area, all of which have first-rate amenities like showers, dining options, and snack bars. The most picturesque beach, Plage de la Garoupe, has a lovely white sand shoreline, however during the summer, private beach clubs occupy a large portion of it.
The town of Nice, one of the highlights of the Cte d'Azur, deserves special attention for its evocative old quarter and amazing art collections, including the Matisse Museum, Fine Arts Museum, and much more. Nice is the classic French Riviera vacation town with its picturesque beachfront location, warm climate, and lovely Mediterranean environment. The Promenade des Anglais, a palm-lined oceanfront promenade, is the focal point of Nice, while the Vieille Ville (Old Town) is a charming maze of mediaeval alleyways and twisting cobblestone lanes.
Grasse and Frjus are just a couple of the lovely day-trip destinations in the warm Provence region that surround Nice. The charming hilltop towns of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Ze, as well as the alluring beach communities of Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villefranche-sur-Mer, are all within a 30-minute drive.
With its lively open-air markets, humming outdoor cafs, and cool fountains that grace the public squares, Aix-en-Provence immerses tourists in the way of life of southern France. Like in other Provence towns, the atmosphere is laid-back and leisurely. Locals have mastered the art of living well, enjoying leisurely meals and strolls down elegant avenues lined with trees.
The Quartier Mazarin area, which was established in the 17th century, the gorgeous tree-lined Cours Mirabeau, and Vieil Aix (the Old Town), all rank highly among Aix-en-top Provence's tourist destinations. Visits to the Atelier de Czanne, Paul Czanne's studio where many well-known paintings were created, are enjoyable for those who admire Post-Impressionist art. Aix-en-Provence is where Czanne was born and spent his formative years. Visitors can take a self-guided walking trip along the Czanne Trail to discover the locations connected to the artist.
Avignon & Arles
The greatest cities to visit to learn about Provence's cultural legacy are Avignon and Arles. The magnificent Palais des Papes in Avignon, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is a testament to the magnificence of Christendom in the 14th century. Avignon also features notable mediaeval churches, a world-class museum of fine arts (the Muse du Petit Palais), and exciting annual festivals.
Arles is a distinctive town in the centre of Provence known for its historic festivals and ancient Roman structures. The impressively well-preserved Roman Amphitheater, which was constructed in the first century to hold 21,000 spectators, as well as several other Roman-era archaeological sites, astound visitors. It's enjoyable to explore Arles and look for Van Gogh-inspired buildings and structures. Due to its outside terrace on the Place du Forum, which is depicted in one of the artist's well-known works, the Caf du Forum exudes a distinctive Provenal ambiance. The scene immortalised in the Starry Nights painting is also located on the Van Gogh Trail.
Prior to 1956, when Brigitte Bardot's role in the movie And God Created Woman made Saint-Tropez famous, it was only a small fishing village. Scenes from the film were filmed on location all across the city, including at the posh private beach clubs of the Plage de Pampelonne. With its charming mediaeval town centre (La Ponche) and port (Vieux Port), opulent Mediterranean backdrop, and immaculate sandy beaches, this enticing beach resort still entices tourists today. Visitors can hike the Sentier du Littoral, a trail along the coast with beautiful views of the landscape.
Saint-Tropez has a lot of tourism and cultural attractions in addition to its old-world charm and natural beauty. The Muse de l'Annonciade, located in a chapel built in 1510, houses a magnificent collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artwork.
Stunning coastline views and opulent architecture set Biarritz apart from other French Riviera seaside towns. The town is known as the "Queen of Resorts and the Resort of Kings" since it was formerly a popular vacation spot for nobles and kings. Because of its stunning natural surroundings, Empress Eugnie (wife of Napoleon III) loved this seashore town in the Basque Country. The tiny fishing hamlet transformed into a chic and elegant seaside town in the 19th century, thanks to the empress and other aristocratic guests. Rich seaside estates and streets with royal names reflect the former regal atmosphere.
The five-star Htel du Palais is located in the majestic palace erected for Empress Eugnie and overlooks the Grande Plage, Biarritz's major beach. The luxurious lodgings come with artistically furnished apartments, and the superb dining is served in opulent Second Empire salons. Visitors can savour a lunch at one of the hotel's fine dining establishments.
Travelers who visit Carcassonne have the sensation that they have entered a scene from a fairy tale. Massive ramparts enclose this remarkably well-preserved walled mediaeval town. In truth, Viollet-Le-Duc renovated some of the old walls and turreted towers in the 19th century, giving the area a Disneyland-like appearance. Visitors can get a sense of what life was like in a typical mediaeval village by wandering Carcassonne's winding lanes and cobblestone streets. One of the wells from which residents of the town obtained drinking water was Le Grand Puit.
Due to its cultural importance, Carcassonne is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the leading tourist destination in the Languedoc-Roussillon area. The Canal du Midi, which was built in the 12th century to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, is another neighbouring UNESCO property.
Small medieval hilltop towns perfectly capture Provence's rustic appeal. Many of these ancient villages still have fortifications surrounding them, which adds to the enchantment of feeling as though you are contained in a tiny mediaeval realm. Visitors enjoy exploring the mediaeval churches, modest shops, and squares with fountains by meandering down the city's winding cobblestone streets and pedestrian lanes. The breathtaking vistas of the surrounding landscape are yet another appealing feature of the Provenal hilltop settlements.
Particularly in the secluded Luberon region, which is classified as a UNESCO-listed Natural Regional Park, tourists can plan their own driving route to explore the charming small communities of Provence.
State of Monaco
The royal dynasty of this glittering city-state on the French Riviera hails from a distinguished lineage that stretches back to the 13th century. Monaco, which is perched on a promontory above the ocean, is home to the magnificent Palais du Prince, a historic castle. The annual Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, the Opening Gala at the Opera House, and the high-profile yacht displays all draw upscale visitors to Monaco, which is only a 30-minute train journey from Nice. The Palais du Prince, the Muse Oceanographique, and the Jardin Exotique are some of Monaco's biggest tourist destinations.
Despite being a contemporary urban centre, Montpellier's L'cusson (Old Town) has managed to preserve its ancient charm. With its tangle of meandering mediaeval alleyways, gorgeous squares, stunning cathedrals, and majestic htel particuliers, this assemblage of ancient districts has the feel of an outdoor museum (aristocratic mansions).
The city's mediaeval ramparts were replaced by broad, tree-lined boulevards encircling L'cusson in the 19th century, planned by Baron Haussmann (who also created Paris' Grands Boulevards). The modern tram system in Montpellier, with new carriages decorated by Christian Lacroix, embodies the best of the twenty-first century. Montpellier is characterised by a trendy and energetic atmosphere brought on by the presence of university students. Tourists and locals alike enjoy the hopping sidewalk cafs and elegant gourmet eateries.
Lourdes & Pyrnes Nature Sites
The Lourdes cathedral, which is situated next to the turbulent Ousse River, is surrounded by the lushly forested, undulating slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains. In a Grotto where Saint Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary, pure springwater flows. It is thought that the water from this stream has therapeutic qualities.
The Pyrenees Mountains' natural attractions are best explored from Lourdes. Visitors are in awe of the stunning beauty of the UNESCO-listed Cirque de Gavarnie's sheer granite walls and gushing waterfalls. The tallest mountains in Europe are Pics du Marbor au Taillon, which reach 3,000 metres. Europe's tallest waterfall is the Grande Cascade, which has a 422-meter drop.
Visitors (of any fitness level) can enjoy the panorama of snow-covered mountains, alpine chalets, and grazing goats at the Cirque de Gavarnie while listening to the calming sounds of a meandering stream and the chirping of little birds from an easy walking trail.
Tourists should spend a day or two exploring Marseilles to get a true sense of a Mediterranean harbour. The city's vibrant port emphasises both its purpose and its storied multicultural past. The Old Town (Le Panier) of Marseille, with its antique structures, artisan shops, and genuine restaurants, is full of personality.
As a fishing boat launch site, the Vieux Port of Marseilles has been in use since the sixth century BC. Every morning, a fish market is conducted near the harbour, and the waterfront restaurants are the ideal places to go to try Marseilles' signature dish, bouillabaisse (seafood stew). The bouillabaisse at the posh Restaurant Miramar (12 Quai du Port) is renowned.
Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites
Among numerous other tourist attractions, Arles in Provence and Nice on the French Riviera also boast remarkable ancient Roman ruins. The Arles Roman Amphitheater was built to accommodate a sizable crowd for gladiator battles and theatrical performances. The ancient ruins of Cemenelum, which still contain remnants of the Roman baths and amphitheatre, may be found near Nice's Cimiez neighbourhood.
The most impressive Roman ruins in the south of France can be found in Nmes, which is in the Languedoc area. The Arnes de Nmes is an exquisitely crafted Roman amphitheatre that stands out for its extraordinary level of preservation. The Maison Carre, a fully restored antique Roman temple, guards a square in the heart of the city. Visitors are in awe of the colonnaded facade's enormous and harmonious proportions, while the interior displays awe-inspiring magnificence.
Orange, a significant city in classical antiquity, is home to the Thtre Antique, which is designated by UNESCO (Roman theatre dating to the 1st-century). Today, in addition to other cultural events, the renowned Chorgies d'Orange music festival is held in this remarkably well-preserved old theatre.
Due to its outstanding architecture and cultural significance, the old episcopal city of Albi has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mediaeval town is ruled by an immense church with a fortress-like appearance. The gigantic Cathdrale Sainte-Ccile, which dates back to the 13th century, is the largest brick-built cathedral in the entire globe. Over 18,000 square metres of murals cover the beautiful, roomy vaulted interior, which also has 200 detailed statues and an ornately adorned Gothic choir. The Last Judgment fresco, a masterwork of Renaissance art, is not to be missed.
The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, which is housed in the UNESCO-listed 13th-century Palais de la Berbie, is devoted to the creations of the well-known artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born in Albi. The museum features paintings and drawings by Lautrec in addition to his recognisable posters. Albi is a worthwhile day excursion from Toulouse (an hour's drive away), or it can be included on a schedule with other destinations like Carcassonne (about a two-hour drive).
Despite having many attractions, Toulon is less popular with tourists than other beach towns on France's Mediterranean coast. This distinctive port town boasts a waterfront that is attractively palm-fringed and lined with stores and eateries with outdoor terraces. The historic harbour of Toulon with the Porte de l'Arsenal, an 18th-century military structure that houses the Muse National de la Marine (seafaring museum), and the breathtaking coastline views from Mont Faron (accessed by the Tlphrique du Faron cable car) among Toulon's highlights.
Since the 18th century, a typical Provenal market has been held at the Cours Lafayette. Today, this market is open from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm every day (except Mondays) and features exhibitors selling Provenal clothing, fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, and speciality food items. Travelers can take a boat to the le de Porquerolles from the Port of Toulon. This lovely island, which is only a one-hour ferry journey away, has stunning natural beauty, sand beaches, and quiet coves. It's the ideal location for a tranquil break. The le de Porquerolles provides options for diving, hiking, and mountain biking in addition to sunbathing.