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30+ Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France!

The South of France is a wonderful area of Europe characterised by its sandy stretches, glittering Mediterranean coastline, and countless colourful villages. Inhabited since antiquity, you can’t go wrong by exploring at least several French destinations on any venture through the area. Here are 30+ sun-soaked places in the south of France you simply must visit…

Looking for the most beautiful places to visit in the South of France? Here's your ultimate French guide to the best of hidden gems, unusual towns, and stunning cities to add to your bucket list.

#1 Montpellier

Often referred to as the ‘Paris of the South,’ Montpellier is filled with Haussmannian architecture and plenty of historical museums and art exhibitions. As one of the largest cities in France, it’s also home to oodles of coffee shops, bars, and cafés.

Other highlights of the city include the impressive Gothic cathedral, Montpellier’s very own Arc de Triomphe in the form of Porte du Peyrou, and the breathtakingly beautiful Château de Flagergues in the outskirts of the city. For a greater look at this Southern French city, check out my free and self-guided Montpellier walking tour.

Montpellier travel tip: The best time to visit Montpellier is in the late spring or early autumn. This way, you get the best weather for exploring (not too hot and not too much rain) and the crowds will be significantly less than in the high season (i.e. during the summer).

Planning a solo adventure in the south of france: tips, tricks, practical advice, and where to visit for a historical trip in Southern France, Europe!

#2 Arles

The Roman ruins of Arles are often said to be some of the best archaeological sites in the South of France, if not all of the country. Complete with a two-tiered amphitheatre which was first founded in 90 AD, the city has inspired countless writers and painters over the years, including world-famous painter, Van Gogh.

Arles’ position alongside the River Rhone also means that it’s easy to access the Camargue from here, a region of France which is synonymous with grassy open plains, pink flamingoes, and wild horses. Other day trips from the Southern French city include St-Rémy, Pont-du-Gard, Uzès and Les Baux.

Arles travel tip: Be sure to truly check out all of the Roman history on offer, even if you’re not typically a traveller who enjoys historical sites. The size and preservation of the amphitheatre in particular is truly breathtaking and not to be missed.

arles france

#3 Béziers

Home to the UNESCO world heritage site of Les Ecluses de Fonserannes, a series of nine stepped locks which link the Canal du Midi to other French waterways, Beziers is one of the oldest cities in France. In fact, it’s only a couple of decades younger than the Provençal city of Marseille.

Today, highlights of Beziers include wandering around the city’s many cobbled lanes, seeing the city’s fortified old town, and exploring a side of France which many tourists never get to experience. Otherwise, be sure to make the journey to the nearby locks and search for the best view in Béziers.

Béziers travel tip: Don’t miss out on the locks of Béziers (known as Les 9 Écluses de Fonseranes) in French. They are of such engineering importance that they’re now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s truly impressive to follow a boat going down the series of locks and gates.

Here’s a quick guide on where to find the best view in Beziers, a beautiful city in the Languedoc, Occitanie, France

#4 Albi

Birthplace of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi is the kind of city you see on a vintage postcard. And the kind of place that you might believe no longer exists. Yet Albi does exist, and it couldn’t be easier to visit, making it the perfect place for a weekend escape.

Located in Occitanie, this city was founded thousands of years ago and is now home to a population hovering around seventy thousand inhabitants. Highlights of Albi include the Gothic 13th-century Albi Cathedral and the formal French gardens of Musée de la Berbie.

Albi travel tip: The stunning city of Albi should definitely not be missed on any trip to Southern France and the one must-see attraction that should be visited above all others is Albi Cathedral. The ecclesiastical building is constructed from brick and is also fortified, making it a particularly interesting French cathedral.

Albi Cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d'Albi)

#5 Narbonne

Once a Roman port city, silt and sand have built up to such an extent over the years that the pretty town of Narbonne now lies some 15 kilometres or so from the sea. Today, instead of a sandy beach, you’ll find plenty of cobbled lanes, museums, and the birthplace of iconic French singer Charles Trenet (who is best-known for singing the hit song ‘la mer’) should you opt to visit this pretty southern French town.

Other reasons to visit Narbonne include the fantastic Roman ruins to be explored in the city, as well as Les Halles, which is easily one of the best covered markets in France. If you still want to experience some sea, sun, and sand, then simply take a day trip from Narbonne via bus to Narbonne-Sur-Plage.

Narbonne travel tip: The best way to explore this highly underrated destination in the South of West is on foot. Set aside at least a couple of hours during your stay in the city to simply stroll around and allow your feet to take you where they may…

Where o Find the Best View of Narbonne: Donjon Gilles Aycelin, Narbonne, Languedoc, France

#6 Biarritz

For some sun-soaked sea adventures, then you simply must head to Biarritz, a seaside town on France’s Basque coastline. Located in the Pyrenées-Atlantiques, Biarritz is best-known for its historic lighthouse and great surf.

In fact, it’s often referred to as the ‘Capital of Surf’ for all of France. The town’s beaches are sandy and cloud coverage is minimal throughout the spring, summer, and autumn, making it an ideal destination for sun-seekers.

Biarritz travel tip: Though Biarritz town itself is fairly small and can easily be explored over the course of a few hours, you’ll want to dedicate at least a long weekend to exploring all that the surrounds of Biarritz has to offer.

#7 Marseille

One of the oldest cities in France can be found in the form of Marseille, a city founded as early as 600 BC in antiquity. First known to the Ancient Greeks as Μασσαλία (Massalía), today Marseille is the second-largest city in France after Paris and is well-known for its seafood scene.

The historic fishing town still functions as a working port and highlights of the South of France destination include Notre Dame de la Garde basilica, as well as the city’s ultra-modern Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. While in town, be sure to sample the Navette de Marseille, a local delicacy.

Marseille travel tip: Hands down, the most attractive district of Marseille is the Le Panier district. Characterised by its steep steps, pastel-hued homes, and family-run eateries, you could easily get lost for a good couple of hours discovering all that Le Panier has to offer.

#8 Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department and close to the Western entryway to the Gorges du Verdon, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which is often referred to as simply ‘Moustiers,’ is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in the South of France.

Highlights of this vibrant town include the Romanesque and Gothic 12th-century Church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, as well as the tiny chapel of Chapel Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir. It’s also worth noting that Moustiers is particularly famous for its glazed faïence pottery, which has been produced in the Provence settlement for centuries.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie travel tip: If you’re looking for a particularly unique souvenir to purchase during your time in the South of France, then I highly recommend picking up a piece of two of the faïence pottery. The beautiful ceramics also make for great present/ birthday gifts.


#9 Avignon

Made famous in the South of France by the children’s nursery rhyme ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’, this city in the South of France is characterised by its imposing Gothic ‘Palais des Papes,’ as well as the remains of the 12th-century bridge, Pont Saint-Benezet, which inspired the famous French nursery rhyme ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’. Avignon is also home to a surprising number of beautiful hidden gems.

The city’s iconic bridge is named for a 12-year-old shepherd boy who lived during the middle ages. One day, Benezet allegedly heard a divine voice instructing him to venture to Avignon so that he could build a bridge.

The story goes that this is exactly what he did and so (most of) the bridge still stands to this day! For more South of France inspiration, check out this guide on how to spend 5 perfect days in Provence.

Avignon travel tip: The name ‘Avignon’ comes from the original Latin name of ‘Avenio’ which refers to the strong winds that the city experiences. This is even the case in the summer and so be sure to wrap up warm in plenty of layers when visiting this Southerly French city.

Cafe Tulipe in Avignon, South of France,

#10 Toulon

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Southern France is that of Toulon, which is to be found somewhere along the coastline between La Ciotat and Hyères and is home to a population of around 167,000 residents.

A vibrant city situated alongside the coast, some of the best things to do in Toulon include hiking up the nearby Mont Faron, relaxing on sandy beaches, and learning about maritime history in the grand Musée National de la Marine.

Toulon travel tip: Despite not being near the top of travellers lists when it comes to visiting the South of France, Toulon still merits a second look thanks to the fact that it boasts one of France’s most attractive harbours.

#11 Cassis

The word ‘cassis’ in French is not only the name for ‘blackcurrant’ in the language, but also the name for a pretty port town that lies right beside the seaside. A must-see on any trip to Provence, highlights of Cassis include candy-coloured houses, a Carolingian hotel, and easy access to the now designated heritage site, Calanques de Cassis.

If you want a taste of the ‘real’ France then simply pick up an ice cream in a local flavour (lavender is a must-try!) and wander around the town. Just don’t forget your camera, almost every corner is picture perfect! For more town highlights, here are the very best things to do in Cassis.

Cassis travel tip: Pack your hiking shoes/ boots if you’re headed to Cassis. The town lies on the fringes of the Calanques de Marseille, an incredible national park that is home to secret coves, hiking trails, and some of the most unique scenery in all of France.

Guide to the Best Things to do in Cassis, A Stunning Provençal Town, Provence, France

#12 Nîmes

Yet another former Roman town which is a delightful visit in Southern France is that of Nîmes. Characterised by its sun-soaked façades and well-preserved Roman amphitheatre which is still in use to this day, you can’t go wrong by dedicating a long weekend to exploring the city.

Other highlights of Nimes include taking a day trip to the nearby Pont du Gard, an iconic Roman aqueduct that was constructed in the 1st century CE and is formed of three tiers, and seeing the Maison Carrée, a Roman temple in the heart of the city.

Nîmes top tip: Nîmes is so rich in history that it’s often nicknamed the ‘most Roman city outside Italy’. To discover more about the history of this ancient French settlement, be sure to book a guided walking tour like this one.

#13 Carcassonne

Fortified walls and a whole host of impressive structures come together to form a hilltop town that’s iconic the world over. Carcassonne was first founded as a fortified settlement in Gallo-Roman times and then further additions to the town’s defences were added during the Middle Ages.

Although the medieval fortress lay in pretty bad shape by the 19th-century (money constraints, the lack of a needy for defences etc. all contributed to the crumbling of the walls), the fortifications were heavily restored by architect Viollet-le-Duc (remember him from Mont Saint Michel?).

Today, Carcassonne is probably one of the most visited spots in the Occitanie region. Although there are certainly less touristic spots to visit when it comes to the South of France, Carcassonne remains worth a visit, if only to say you’ve visited this Southern French city!

Carcassonne top tip:

Carcassonne Carte Postale before 1940

#14 Gorges du Verdon

If you’re looking for a natural phenomenon to visit in the South of France region, then you should head to the Gorges du Verdon, which is a river canyon in Southeastern France. Home to cliffs and white river rapids, the area is popular among water sports enthusiasts, with many companies offer water-based activities in the area.

gorges du verdon france

#15 Aix-en-Provence

Warm stone, a hundred cobbled lanes, and plenty of fountains are the trademark of Aix-en-Provence, a fairly substantial city which lies to the base of Montagne Sainte Victoire. Once home to artist and impressionist Paul Cézanne, today you can follow in the footsteps of this famous Frenchman and even take your picture with a life-sized statue of Cezanne in front of the tourist office!

If you’re also looking for a little nightlife when it comes to your next destination, then I highly recommend considering Aix as it’s full of cafés, bars, bistros, and clubs thanks to its abundance of students! What’s more is that Aix is home to plenty of secret spots. For a longer stint in Provence, Aix-en-Provence also makes a great base. After all, here are the 10 best day trips from Aix-en-Provence.

Aix-en-Provence: beautiful towns in provence

#16 Cannes

For a little glitz and glamour, you need to look no further than Cannes, a stunning resort town along the glittering French Riviera. Even if you’re ‘not really a beach person,’ then you may well have heard of this Southern French destination thanks to its annual film festival, ‘Festival de Cannes.’ And so, if you’re a movie buff, then you simply must head to this French destination!

Cannes France

#17 La Ciotat

Little and located by the sea, the charm of La Ciotat lies in its authentic French ambiance and well-preserved old town. Though there is little by way of attractions when it comes to this Provençal town (several seafood restaurants and a man-made beach), La Ciotat’s main claim to fame is that it is believed to be the birthplace of Petanque, a ball game similar to that of Boules.

La Ciotat: Most beautiful towns in Provence, France

#18 Antibes

Best seen just before or just after peak season so as to enjoy the city sans the crowds but with the best possible weather, Antibes is situated between the famous resort towns of Cannes and Nice. Home to a particularly impressive Museum dedicated to Picasso, 16th-century star-shaped fort, Fort Carré, is a must-see while in the city.

Antibes France

#19 Massif des Calanques 

Stretching a 20 km length of coastline between Cassis and Marseille, the Massif des Calanques is a unique National Park in the world in that this terrain is formed of rugged limestone which has been worn away by the sea, time, and salty breeze.

Small inlets and impressively high peaks make this park a must-walk for lovers of hiking. Should you choose to plan a visit, make sure to avoid the summer months as the park is often closed due to the risk of a forest fire! Want to go and see the National Park for yourself? Here are tips for hiking the Calanques de Cassis.

Adventure in Provence, Southern France: hiking the calanques de Cassis in a National Park:

#20 Sète

A fishing city which still functions as a working port to this day, Sete is located between the historic cities of Beziers and Montpellier. Easy to visit as a day trip from Beziers, the area is well known for its sea-inspired dishes, notably ‘moules’ (mussels)!

#21 Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Of all the beautiful towns and villages in the South of France, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is probably the most picturesque of them all. Characterised by its meandering walkways, floral displays, and cobbled lanes, wandering through this Southern French town feels akin to stepping back into a vintage postcard!

Other highlights of St Paul de Vence include the Fondation Maeght art museum and the breathtakingly beautiful 14th-century collegiate church. Easy to reach as a day trip from Nice, this quaint settlement is a must-see when in the Alpes-Maritimes area of France.

Saint Paul de Vence skyline as seen from a vantage point

#22 Saint Tropez

For a seaside resort with a luxurious feel and countless hours of sunlight throughout the year, you need to look no further than Saint Tropez. Situated along the world-famous French Riviera, some of the best things to do in this South of France city include visiting the Citadel, sampling the local cuisine, and embarking on coastal walks to explore the local region.

#23 Nice

Nice is nice, or so they say… Bad puns aside, Nice is a stunning city along the glittering French Riviera. Best-known for its long boulevard along the sea named ‘Promenade des Anglais‘, the city became a place for the rich and wealthy when celebrities started flocking to the beach resort town during the 19th-century.

Ever since that time, Nice has featured in countless paintings, movies, and is well worth a visit if you’re looking for a European getaway from it all. After all, look beyond must-sees like the old town and you’ll soon discover that Nice has plenty of hidden gems as well as an excellent foodie scene (be sure to try the best socca in Nice while in the Southern French city).

Pretty cobbled lane in the old town area of Nice, France

#24 Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

If you’ve ever thought about hiking the famous Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain, then you’ll know that the traditional starting point for the Spanish portion of the pilgrimage is actually Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in Southern France. Incredibly busy and close to the border with Spain, the town is characterised by its pretty river vista views and many albergues, which host pilgrims throughout the year.

#25 Èze

The hilltop medieval crown jewel of the French Riviera, the town of Èze dates back centuries and wandering around its cobbled lanes and stepped pedestrian streets truly feels akin to stepping back in time.

Similar in appearance to the nearby Saint-Paul-de-Vence, wander around Èze and you can expect to find a botanical garden, little hidden chapel, main parish church, and too many boutiques to count on two hands.

A charming cobbled street in Èze France at sunset

#26 Lourmarin

Time and time again, Lourmarin is listed as not only one of the best places to visit in the South of France, but also as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Situated East of Avignon and in the Luberon, the medieval village is picture perfectly stunning, and is surrounded by almond and olive trees!

Lourmarin France

#27 Aigues-Mortes

With a red sea that gets its appearance from the region’s rich salt deposits, Aigues-Mortes was founded by Louis IX in the 13th-century for the purpose of expanding France’s trade routes. Today, the walled city is breathtaking to look at and is filled with tiny coffee houses, narrow cobbled streets (many of which are pedestrian-only) and lots of shopping opportunities.

Aigues-Mortes, South of France

#28 Martigues

Situated to the North West of Marseille, Martigues has a population of around 50,000 and was founded in the 13th-century by Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence, on the site of what was once likely a Roman settlement. Today, visit the town and you can expect to find the ‘Provençal Venice’ on account of the town’s picturesque port and many winding canals.

#29 Menton 

The last major town before the Franco-Italian border along the French Riviera, Menton is a picture-perfect town that’s characterised by a glittering harbour and pastel-hued old town.

Highlights of the town include a centuries-old Cathedral, meandering pedestrian-only old town, and a cemetery that’s perched on the ruins of the old town castle, high above the Mediterranean sea below.

Menton harbour on a clear and sunny day in Spring

#30 Villeneuve-lès-Avignon

Just across the water from the world-famous Avignon and its semi-washed-away bridge, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon can even be spied from the Palais des Papes. Around a forty minute walk from Provence (and even less by bus or car), highlights of this medieval town include a church with beautiful cloisters, and the 14th-century fortress, Fort Saint André.

#31 Les Baux de Provence

Often alleged to be one of the most beautiful villages in France, Les Baux de Provence is a historic Southern settlement with just a couple of dozen residents in the historic old town.

Home to several churches (including an ecclesiastical building that’s quite literally been hewn out of the cliff face), some of the more ‘hidden gems’ of this South of France village include a free-to-visit museum that’s dedicated to Nativity figures and an art museum that’s located in a former quarry.

Les Baux-de-Provence , Provence, France

#32 Valensole lavender fields

Of all the beautiful places to visit in the South of France, the lavender fields are an absolute must, particularly those in Provence where swathes of purple stretch as far as the eye can see onto the horizon.

The Valensole lavender fields of Provence are widely regarded to be some of the prettiest lavender fields in France and are best seen between mid June and mid July, just before the harvest.

Your Guide to the Best of Lavender Fields in Provence

#33 Grasse

Grasse is a centuries old town along the azure blue French Riviera which is well worth a visit on any trip to France. Situated in the rolling hills to the North of Cannes, the picturesque town is famed for its perfume production.

Another major highlight of Grasse is its stunning cathedral, which even features some Rubens paintings. If you can’t make it all the way to Grasse to learn the secrets of fragrance making, then you might instead consider a perfume workshop in Paris.

Grasse France

#34 Colorado Provençal 

One of the more unique places to see in the South of France Colorado Provençal. As its name would suggest, the Colorado Provençal resembles Colorado in the USA. Indeed, when I recently posted a photo of this magical French destination on social media, many people commented that it resembled the deserts of Colorado perfectly!

The Colorado Provençal is a former open-air ochre quarry close to the village of Rustrel in Provence. Since 1993, the site has been open to tourists and can only be seen on foot (no horses or bicycles are allowed within the quarry site). Today the geological site is a true marvel to see and is fun for all age groups to visit.

How to visit the Colorado Provençal in Provence, France

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susan kabuku

Tuesday 3rd of September 2019

such a beautiful read. im planning to visit France in the near future, this article is very informative. Thank you


Monday 16th of July 2018

I live near Carcassonne, and while the fortified city is filled with visitors in summer, it's lower-key the rest of the year, and the rest of the city doesn't feel very touristy at all. It's an excellent base for visiting other sights, from vineyards and quaint villages to Mediterranean beaches. The summer crowds are worth bearing, though, because in July there's a huge music/theater/dance festival, and in August there are great medieval jousting shows--like rodeos but with the riders in chain mail.

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