Last Updated on 17th September 2018 by Sophie Nadeau
Provence is a land of sea and mountains. It’s a land of wine and food, culture and history. In the summer months, the fields are filled with lavender and sunflowers. Come autumn, vineyards and olive trees are harvested. It’s a top tourist destination and arguably one of the most beautiful regions of France (as if you already needed more reasons to visit Provence)…
Occupied since time immemorial, evidence of primitive tools dating back over a million years have been found in the area. The changing sea nature in the region means that cave drawings dating back over 20,000 years were discovered, quite by chance, by a diver in the mid 1980s. The Romans called Provence ‘Provincia Romana‘- hence its’ present name. Provence has a pretty rich and diverse history!
If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll probably have seen that I spent a week visiting a friend on her Erasmus year in Provence a couple of months ago. Having never visited the region as an adult (the last time I visited, I was probably around 12 years old), the experience was understandably different from the previous ones…
And if you aren’t sold yet, here are 10 reasons to visit Provence:
1. All of the beautiful architecture!
I don’t think I have to tell you all how beautiful French architecture is! One of the top reasons to visit Provence has got to be the architecture. Narrow cobblestoned roads are lined with brasseries, cafés and boutiques. You’d be hard pressed not to find a street where you can’t pick up a croissant and espresso in a café for a reasonable price and watch the world go by for a few hours with a good book.
Unlike Paris, which was largely demolished under the rule of Napoleon and the supervision of Haussmann, the villages and towns of Provence have developed over time. The architecture is rich in architectural quirks and subtle oddities. Plus, the warm tones of many of the region’s buildings make photos look bright, even on cloudier days. Here’s a guide to the most adorable towns in Provence!
Provence is largely a wine growing region, and has been so for some time- with conservative estimates placing wine production in Provence as having taken place for at least 2,500 years! Filled with vineyards, Provence is largely known for its’ Rosé varieties- which make up over half of the region’s wine production. You can easily pick up a sizeable glass of wine for only a few euro in most cafés and bars.
There’s nothing quite like being by the sea. Well, almost. What’s better than being by the sea? Well, being by the Mediterranean sea, of course! From hiking along the breathtakingly beautiful Calanques de Cassis to lazing around on sandy beaches, there’s no better place to be beside the seaside.
The crystal blue water, perfect bathing temperatures and sandy beaches make for some of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen! Some of the best beaches in Provence France include the Grande Plage of La Ciotat and the Grande Mer beach of Cassis.
When you visit Provence for the first time, it’s not hard to see why so many people have fallen in love with the region. SOOO many people have been inspired to write books, make films and even fall in love in Provence.
Artist such as Van Gogh, Matisse and Braque painted here, inspired by the light, nature, people and architecture of the place. The painter Paul Cézanne was even born here! Fancy some more Provençal inspiration prior to your trip? Here’s a quick guide to the best books about Provence…
5. Mountains (and dreamy mountain panorama views)
Not only does Provence have a quirky coastline, but it’s also home to some impressive mountains. This makes it the perfect region for hiking, view spotting and snapping a quick holiday shot or two… Pictured below: Mont Saint Victoire as seen from the roof of my friend’s kitchen in Provence- a pretty dreamy view to accompany a picnic dinner of local produce and wine!
6. Local Produce
Of all the reasons to visit Provence, this is probably my favourite! I mean, who doesn’t like good food? Olives, goats cheese, lemons, sunflowers- the list is endless! And with multiple various markets in towns/ cities/ villages across the region every week, there’s no excuse not to eat fresh.
The scent of lavender filling the air and the chance to sample produce from across the region, coupled with the fact that this all takes place in open-air markets is pretty heavenly if you ask me! Some of the best foods to try in Provence include the Navette de Marseille and one of the many lavender products on offer.
Do you enjoy wine? Have you ever wondered how it’s made? Well, in Provence there’s a chance to visit vineyard upon vineyard and all the wineries. ‘Taste tests’ are largely available at many of the regional vineyards and it’s incredibly interesting to see the grapes still in situ on the vine.
Some vineyards and wineries even allow you to wander around and see the vines for yourself. I took this shot while following a self-guided vineyard tour in the foothills of Mont Saint-Victoire- about 45 minutes away via bus from the city centre of Aix-en-Provence. Want to see the vineyard for yourself? Here’s how to visit Les Vignerons du Mont Saint-Victoire.
8. Sun and great weather
Provençal weather is known for being good. There is far less rainfall in the region than in many other parts of France, largely due to its’ mountainous and coastal geography. The climate is, for the most part, typMediterraneanrranean. This means that while visiting, you won’t just pick up a tan, but may even get the opportunity to make a photographic sunstar or two…
9. Friendly people
I think that there’s a pretty unfounded misconception that ‘French people are rude‘. Although this is clearly just my personal opinion, I found the majority of people I met were incredibly helpful and polite. This was especially the case when I made an effort to speak a little French with them!
10. History and Culture
No post about Provence would be complete without at least a nod to the region’s rich history and culture. From the coastal town of Cassis to the port city of Marseille, there’s centuries worth of history to uncover. Aix-en-Provence (one of many towns and cities in the area) alone is home to just under 10 museums.
Every town in the region has an old town to explore and many even have a port to discover as well. From coast to sea, you can see why the area has been settled for well over three millennia. And if that’s not already enough, then it’s worth noting that the original Arc d Triomphe can be found in Orange, Provence!