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An artists’ sanctuary, Provence lures in visitors with its sun-kissed landscapes and enviable climate. The ultimate romantic destination, it’s the perfect place to get lost in nature, in a slower pace of life, and experience the joie de vivre the South of France is renowned for.
Read on to find the most romantic things to do in Provence, for your next fling in France!
Visit the Calanques National Park
The Calanques National Park near Marseille is an area of immense natural beauty. Spanning the coast between Les Goudes (otherwise known as the end of the world) and Cassis, the park is the first in Europe to envelop land, sea, and urban areas. Within the park, you’ll find incredible hikes, stunning beaches, fragrant natural flora, and underwater treasures too.
Set out for the day, pack your hiking shoes and a picnic, and start your trek from either Port Miou (at the eastern end), Calanque de Callelongue (at the western end), or the Luminy University (middle). These three trails will take you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in France.
Stroll among the fragrant lavender fields
Without a doubt, the lavender fields of Provence are among the most beautiful attractions in the area, and cannot be missed if you’re visiting in summer. From late June the landscape is laced with purple rows of these fine flowers, and their unmistakable aroma fills the air.
The Valensole plateau is where you’ll find the most concentrated number of lavender fields, interspersed by sunflowers and sage. But you’ll also find lovely fields in the Luberon, and the Sault plateau is where to go in August, as the lavender blooms later in the higher altitude. Of course, the lavender fields also make the ideal backdrop for a romantic picnic for two, or for a keepsake portrait session.
PS: Check out this overview on Provence from Explore the Riviera.
Stroll through the markets of Aix-en-Provence
Aix-en-Provence is known as market city, and once you visit, you’ll know why it earned this reputation. In the warmer months, market stalls spread up Cours Mirabeau and fan out into the city, every day of the week.
Each area has its own unique theme, starting with antiques around La Rotonde, easing into fashion and crafts as you walk down the tree-lined boulevard, and spreading into fresh food as you continue along to Place des Prêcheurs. You’ll also find a flower market in front of the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and a daily food market at Place Richelme – perfect for grabbing goodies for a picnic to enjoy in one of Aix-en-Provence’s leafy parks.
Watch the sunset from a rooftop bar in Marseille
If you’re looking for the most romantic things to do in Marseille, head to the Vieux Port. It’s here you’ll feel a different kind of vibe than you’ll experience in the more refined cities of Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, but it’s one worth exploring if you want to experience the lively spirit of France’s second city.
After spending the day discovering the neighborhoods, museums, and markets that surround the inner city, head to a rooftop terrace to watch the sun sink over the Mediterranean. The Rowing Club is located at the end of the old harbour, opposite the MuCEM and offers a casual setting, often with live music and tapas to accompany your apéro.
Hire a boat and cruise up the Verdon Gorge
The Verdon Gorge is one of the most impressive natural attractions in Provence. The 50km long canyon can be explored from above – by car, bike or foot – or below, by boat. Take the latter option if you’re looking for the most relaxed journey. You can hire kayaks, pedal boats, or motorized boats from the jetty on the northern tip of the Lac de Sainte-Croix. Take one out for the afternoon, cruise up the canal, then come back to the lake and find a quiet corner to ‘drop anchor’ and go for a dip.
Swim & sunbathe on a hidden beach
Provence is home to an incredible coastline, with some of France’s finest beaches. And despite its popularity, it’s still possible to find romantic coves and secluded spots to relax and while away the hours swimming and sunbathing. Some of these hidden beaches can be found on the Cote Bleue – the Cote d’Azur’s lesser-known sibling. Hike along the coast, in either direction, from Niolon to find the beaches only the locals frequent. Plage de la Pointe de Figuerolles is a favourite, as is the stunning Calanque de l’Everine.
Drive through the villages of the Luberon
There are few more iconic, and romantic, things to do in Provence than driving through the hilltop villages of the Luberon. From the famous cobbled alleyways of Gordes, to the sunshine hues of Roussillon, to the understated elegance of Menerbes – they all have their own unique appeal.
Allocate at least a day, to allow yourself time to indulge in the French art of flaneur, and get lost in these ancient worlds that have been preserved and restored remarkably well. Pack a picnic to enjoy overlooking the valley, or pop into lunch at Bistrot le 5 (Menerbes), or L’Orangerie (at La Bastide in Gordes) to enjoy a romantic setting with unbeatable views.
Sip fine wines at a French Chateau
Besides food, the South of France is famous for its wine. And one wine in particular. Provence rose has a well-earned reputation around the world, and there are fewer better places to sample it than straight from the producers. The countryside in Provence is peppered with chateaux, so you won’t be hard-pressed to find one to pop into. But if you want to plan ahead, aim for Château La Coste north of Aix-en-Provence which delivers an entire art and wine experience, or head along to Chateau Gassier near Mont Sainte Victoire where you can buy a pre-made picnic and sip their signature rose among the vines.
Shop for antiques in L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue
The antiques capital of France, L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the best place to go to pick up a unique keepsake or memento to remember your trip to the south of France. Browse the stalls for little treasures, before proceeding alongside the canals to the heart of the old town. It’s here you’ll find plenty more ways to part with your money in boutiques selling everything from handmade ceramics to authentic Marseille soaps.
The main market day (Sunday) transforms the town into a hive of activity, and after you’ve shopped up a storm, you can dine waterside on one of the bistro terraces. If you’re visiting in early August, don’t miss the annual floating market when locals dress up in traditional outfits and sell their wares directly from their boats.
Get carried away by art at Carrières de Lumières
Situated in an abandoned stone quarry, the Carrières de Lumières today hosts one of the most remarkable immersive art experiences in Europe. Each year, a single theme is brought to life through images and sound to create an encompassing experience for the senses. Former exhibitions have included Picasso, Van Gogh, and Dali among others.
Located in the medieval village of Les Baux de Provence, the experience can go hand in hand with a walk through one of France’s (official) most beautiful villages. Don’t forget to also visit the Chateau des Baux de Provence to immerse yourself in another side of the region’s history.
Cycle around the island of Porquerolles
The island of Porquerolles is situated just off the coast of the coast of Provence, near Hyeres. A doable day trip, but a more enjoyable short break destination, the car-free island is an unspoiled gem in the Mediterranean. Take your bike (or hire one there) and spend your days beach hopping, visiting the island’s vineyards, or hiking through eucalyptus forests and olive groves.
Pink lakes and pink birds in the Camargue
There’s no mistaking pink as a colour of romance, so if you’re looking to up the ante, why not plan a trip to the Camargue! Home to pink lakes and thousands of pink birds, it’s sure to leave an impression. Start with a trip to the Salin d’Aigues-Mortes, the salt lakes that turn pink from the algae present in the water, Dunaliella Salina. Nearby, swarms of greater flamingos gather at the marshlands of the Camargue. To see their natural beauty up close, head to Parc Ornithologique where you can walk around the lakes on a wooden pathway. The birds are wild, but you’ll find hundreds of them grazing in the muddy marshes if you visit in the warmer months.
Stay somewhere lovely: Romantic Places to Stay in Provence
The Luberon is the best place to stay if you’re looking to experience the romantic nature of Provence. And luckily it’s brimming with decadent hotels and B&B’s where you can indulge and relax.
La Bastide de Gordes is famously lavish, and offers visitors the ultimate in luxury. If that’s not quite fitting your budget, Le Clos du Buis in Bonnieux offers a more intimate stay in authentic surroundings.
Alternatively, just south of the Luberon, with easy access to Aix-en-Provence you can live out your French fantasy by staying in the exquisite Chateau de Fonscolombe. With grand gardens, and its own onsite vineyard, you’ll never want to go back to ‘real life’
About the author: Nadine Maffre is the creator of Le Long Weekend. A New Zealand-native, she now calls Provence home and she loves to help others discover the best of the region through her Provence travel guides, and her free Provence Travel Planning group.
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