Aix-en-Provence is a stunning city in the heart of Provence, a region of France characterised by its endless lavender fields, beautiful stretches of coastline, and quaint little French towns and villages. Excellent public transport links in Aix paired with its central location, mean that the city is a great starting point for many a Provençal adventure. Here’s a quick guide to the very best day trips from Aix-en-Provence!
#1 Montagne Sainte-Victoire & Vineyards
If you’re looking for an easy day trip from Aix-en-Provence, then I can’t recommend the Sainte-Victoire mountain enough! Easy to reach from Aix’s city centre via bus (or car if you’re renting one), head to either the North or South side of the mountain for two incredibly different experiences.
From the bus stops dotted around the foothills of Mont Sainte Victoire, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore, as well as various vineyards in which to sample wine. While among the vines, be sure to sample some rosé, a local speciality!
For an extra special day excursion from Provence, you might consider booking this 3.5-Hour Wine Tasting in Cezanne Country. Comprising of scenic views of Montagne Saint-Victoire, you’ll also have the opportunity to visit two local wineries.
Read more: Visiting a vineyard in Provence.
#2 Luberon Villages
Picture perfect Provence is easily found should you opt to visit the villages of the Luberon. Nestled in the very heart of Provence, some of the best villages in the Luberon include Gordes, Roussillon, Lacoste, and Menerbes. The villages of this area are defined by their hilltop positions and countless cobbled lanes.
Many of the pretty French settlements are surrounded by olive groves, cypress trees, and lush vineyards, making the Luberon the perfect area to explore by car. Even if you don’t have access to a car, then there are several day excrusions you can book yourself onto. For example, while this tour lasts for six hours and shows some of the Medieval Villages, this tour lasts a full day!
#3 La Ciotat
A small fishing port with little by way of attractions, the charm of La Ciotat lies in its relative quiet nature and picturesque old town. Best visited just before or just after peak season when everything is still open but you’ll have the place completely to yourself, La Ciotat is even rumoured to be where the French game of ‘Pétanque’ (a ball game similar to Boules) first started.
Read more: La Ciotat, where Pétanque began!
#4 Provençal Lavender Fields
Best seen in the early summer (head to Provence in the late summer and you may miss the lavender fields depending on harvest time), some of the best places to spot the lavender fields in Provence include the Sénaque Abbey at Gordes, the fields surrounding the picturesque Luberon villages, and in the foothills of Mont Ventoux.
If you want to learn more about lavender in the region, then you should visit the Lavender Museum in Coustellet. Elsewhere in the region, most Provençal markets sell lavender-infused products, including ice creams and soaps. If you’re a fan of all things floral related, then it’s worth noting that there are also plenty of sunflower fields in Provence! Finally, even if you don’t have a car, then tours like this one provide the perfect opportunity to still enjoy the purple floral fields!
#5 City of Cassis
Inhabited since Roman times, and perhaps even prior, Cassis is easily identified by its candy-coloured houses and weekly local fish market. Indeed, with the exception of tourism, much of the town’s trade still relies on the fishing industry.
Nearby, the Cap Canaille is the highest sea cliff in Europe and makes for some impressive photographs. Elsewhere in the pretty French town of Cassis, there’s an old town populated by cobbled lanes to explore, and oodles of traditionally Provençal architecture.
When I visited Cassis as a day trip from Aix, I didn’t have access to a car. Instead, we took several buses which not only limited our time to explore, but also added a lot of stress to our journey. If you’re looking for an easier way to spend the day, then this half-day tour of Cassis includes photo stops, as well as a chance to explore the Mediterranean fishing town.
#6 Avignon & Les Baux de Provence
Once a papal city and a major seat of power within Catholicism, today Avignon is best-known in France for the French nursery rhyme ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’. The song dates back to the 15h-century and takes place around the Pont Saint Bénezet, a medieval bridge of which only four arches survive to this day.
Other highlights of Avignon include the grand Papal Palace which dominates the surrounding landscape and the Roman ruins dotted around town. If you’re a fan of all things museum and art related, it’s worth noting that the rest of Avignon is filled with incredible art museums. Though you can visit Avignon by public transport or car, this full day tour includes a visit to the Luberon, Avignon, and Roussillon, and even takes care of your transfers!
#7 Calanques de Cassis
Now a designated National Park, the Calanques de Cassis is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in France. Unique in the world, the Calanques are small limestone inlets forming secret coves and beaches; a feature which has been created by centuries worth of wear by the salty sea breeze and ever changing tides.
While in Provence, one of the very best things to do is to hike through the Calanques in search of secret beaches. If you’re visiting in the summer months, then just be sure to check out whether the park is open or not- it’s often closed due to the risk of forest fire.
Read more: How to hike the Calanques de Cassis.
#8 Verdon Gorge
One of France’s natural wonders, the Verdon Gorge is situated in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and is a river canyon with a sparkling waterway and steep cliff sides. Best seen during the warmer months of the year, the gorge is close to the French Riviera and is popular among locals and tourists alike.
And if you enjoy adventure activities, then the gorge offers plenty of scenic hiking trails as well as opportunities to go canoeing and kayaking. When I visited Provence several years ago, I didn’t make it to the gorge as I didn’t have access to a car. However, this full day tour will take you to Verdon Canyon and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
Of all the best day trips from Aix-en-Provence included within this list, Marseille is one of the easiest to reach, being just a bus ride away from the city. And as France’s second largest city, Marseille (sometimes referred to in English as ‘Marseilles’) is filled with plenty of things to do, and even more to see.
Some of the very best things to do in Marseille include walking around the still working fishing port, and climbing to the highest point of the city, the picturesque basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde.
Read more: How to spend seven perfect days in Provence.
#10 Camargue & Arles
The pretty city of Arles is steeped in history and filled with ancient architecture. In fact, one of the main highlights of the city is the impressive Roman amphitheatre, a twenty thousand spectator arena that was constructed in around 90 AD.
Nearby, the Camargue region is situated somewhere between the Mediterranean sea and the Rhone Delta. This area of outstanding natural beauty is best-known for its pink flamingoes and stunning scenery, making it one of the best day trips from Aix-en-Provence.
If you’re looking to visit the Camargue and Arles as an excursion with little effort, then perhaps you might consider booking a tour. For example, this six-hour half-day tour of the Camargue will take you on a countryside journey in search of wild horses and beautiful pink flamingoes. Alternatively, this full day tour, includes Baux de Provence, Arles & Pont du Gard.