Provence itinerary 5 days – how to plan your dream South of France vacation

Provence itinerary 5 days – how to plan your dream South of France vacation

Provence describes that area of southern France roughly stretching from the border with Italy to the west as far as Montpellier in the east, taking in French Riviera beaches and destinations as evocative as Aix and Avignon. Boasting dramatic scenery, incredible gastronomy, and an incredible history, Provence is a jewel in Europe’s crown, as our carefully curated Provence itinerary will soon testify.

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Photo: Bernard Hermant

Photo: Bernard Hermant

Being LGBT+ in Provence

Revolutionary France repealed laws condoning same-sex activity back in 1791, and the age of consent has been level with heterosexual couples since 1982. In 2013 France became the thirteenth country in the world to pass gay marriage legislation, while transgender people have been able to legally self-identify since 2017. All in all, this makes holidays in France some of the most gay-friendly in the world, with the rainbow flag flying proudly from many a bar, club, and city hall.

Photo: Flore Perrault

Photo: Flore Perrault

Photo: Anthony Delanoix

Photo: Anthony Delanoix

Best time of year to visit Provence

Its Mediterranean climate makes Provence a year-round destination, with each season providing its own reasons to visit. Spring sees the countryside bedecked with wildflowers, while summer welcomes long sun-soaked days perfect for France beach holidays. The temperatures linger into autumn when the crowds lessen with the restart of schools, while winter offers the chance of skiing in the French Alps.

Tips for holidays in Provence

Our 5 days in Provence assumes the use of a car. If you’re new to driving in France – or on the right-hand side of the road – then don’t panic. Driving in France is a dream – the roads quiet, well signposted, and drivers patient. Autoroutes (highways) are the fastest way from A to B, but to avoid their tolls and take in more of the countryside consider sticking to the side roads instead, where there are plenty of attractive places to stop off for lunch or a picnic. Let the adventures begin!

Photo: La Coccinelle

Photo: La Coccinelle

Day 1 - Marseille

Marseille is slowly shaking off its hugely outdated image problem, but for now, it remains a haven for those willing to give the region’s largest city a chance. In turns ancient, hyper-contemporary, conservative, liberal, multicultural and authentically Provencal, Marseille has a swagger all of its own. The best way to get to grips with the city? Dump your car and stroll through the maze of narrow streets at its heart to the Vieux Port, where yachts line up alongside fabulous restaurants, excellent museums, and just a touch of je ne sais quoi. Check out our dedicated Marseille Travel Guide for all the details on the what, where, why, how, and who.

Day 2 - Aix-en-Provence

Less than an hour north by road, Aix-en-Provence has long been a place for those seeking out traditional South of France holidays and was a favourite of pre-war jetsetters including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Despite its enduring popularity, Aix has lost none of its charm, with art lovers particularly well catered for. Paul Cezanne made his home here, and his studio is now a museum, while a Cezanne Trail traces a route around the scenes captured in some of his most famous works. Many of these can now be found alongside Picassos and Matisses in the Musee Granet. Those eager to put paint to paper themselves might like to summit the 1000 m high Mont St Victoire, for its unparalleled views.

Photo: Davide Berardi

Photo: Davide Berardi

Photo: John Canelis

Photo: John Canelis

Day 3 - Avignon

A restful night’s sleep and an hour away, Avignon is the Provence of medieval knights and banished princesses. Your arrival will likely take you through the neat rows of vines that result in the celebrated reds of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – literally ‘the Pope’s New Castle’. A wine tasting is a must. Popes ruled Christendom from Avignon for several decades in the 1300s, and the town remained part of the Papal States until 1791 – the same year homosexuality was removed from the penal code. They left a lasting legacy, in the form of one enormous palace and splendid Romanesque cathedral. The nearby Roman-build Pont du Gard Aqueduct and lavender fields of Abbaye de Senanque are also worth a stop if you find yourself exhausted by all the history.

Photo: Leonard Cotte

Photo: Leonard Cotte

Day 4 - Montpellier

Montpellier might not instantly come to mind when you think of a French Riviera vacation, but this destination less than 1.5 hours from Avignon is the perfect blend of nonchalant French city and attractive tourist spot. Renowned for its style across France, there’s a captivating Old Town full of winding cobblestone streets dotted with compelling independent boutiques, chic neoclassical mansions in the district of Antigone from where the people-watching is second to none, and a very decent clutch of Mediterranean beaches just a short drive away.

Day 5 - Béziers

With a Provence itinerary 5 days long your first day is soon your last, but there’s plenty of time for one final stop on your South of France vacation. If you’ve not heard of Béziers you’re not alone, however, that’s not for a wont of beautiful sights. Possibly France’s oldest town, tracing its roots back to the sixth century BCE, Béziers has a plethora of rather attractive old buildings that make wandering its streets a pleasure. For a spot of exercise after a few days in your car, walk or rent a bike and head along the bucolic towpaths of the Canal du Midi. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, time your visit with August’s annual bullfighting competition. It might not always be pretty, but it certainly offers an insight into local life.

Photo: Joel Assuied

Photo: Joel Assuied

Photo: Freddie Marriage

Photo: Freddie Marriage

Too soon to go home?

Your trip to France doesn’t have to end quite yet. You can easily extend your French Riviera vacation itinerary without it feeling like things are getting stale. Start further east than Marseille and you could first stop off in Nice, Cannes, Antibes, St Tropez, or even Monaco, while in the opposite direction you could spend a few days amid the extraordinary fjord-like landscapes of the Calanques.

And if that starts to make everything a little bit too complicated to sort out yourself, the Mr Hudson Trip Design service is on hand to match you with your perfect Provence holidays! Just let us know your budget and interests and we’ll do the rest!

Photo: Valentin B. Kremer

Photo: Valentin B. Kremer

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