For those of you who dream about superb sandy beaches, lovely countryside and astonishing cuisine, all in the same place, the South of France is probably the perfect vacation destination. This charming region is sunny most of the time and combined with its unique history, culture and laid back atmosphere, it’s definitely a dream vacation spot. What’s more, there are plenty of glamorous places with stunning sights and superb resorts for any kind of traveler.
The French Riviera has won its reputation as one of the world’s most glamorous destinations since the 1950s, when plenty of Hollywood A-listers have started promoting this superb area, but there’s obviously a lot more to be discovered in the South of France besides the famous resort towns.
Idyllic islands, wonderful medieval towns and amazing restaurants and sophisticated cafes are just a little bit of what you’ll find there.
If you’re convinced to go there or simply curious about what the region has to offer, take a look at our selection of 12 breathtaking places to visit in the south of France:
Marseille might be that large and busy city to avoid in a vacation because it isn’t necessarily relaxing, but the popular attractions and culture of this city are precisely the things you should go there at least once in your lifetime.
With superb places such as the Old Port, the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, the Calanques National Park or Boulevard Longchamp, Marseille is worthy of a visit.
Though not part of France, Monaco is just a must see while in the South of France. Located only 10 minutes away by car from the Italian border town Ventimiglia, the little principality of Monaco is an energizing place to be in.
From lounging by the sea in Cap d’Ail to a full day of pampering at the famous Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, Monaco will surely make your time there a positive experience. And not to mention the night life in Monaco, which is another side worth experiencing while there.
There are several medieval towns stretched along the Riviera, but nothing as charming as Saint-Paul-de-Vence, which is more than a thousand years old, surrounded by stone walls and filled by a relaxing village vibe.
With its inns and cafes and art collections – the town hosts one of the largest collections of 20th century art in Europe – plus wonderful restaurants and superb hotels with terraces overlooking the sea, Saint-Paul-de-Vence should be on your bucket list.
Birthplace of painter Paul Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence is another region with very laid-back vibe which could fit perfectly as a vacation destination in the South of France. It’s a university city which offers plenty of things to do and interesting places to see, from the Hotel de Caumont Art Centre to the Vieil Aix or the Site Memorial du Camp des Milles.
Located on the coast, somewhere between the renowned Nice and Cannes, Antibes is a place loaded with history. First a Greek colony in the 5th century BC and a haute destination in the Middle Ages, the little town has plenty to show to visitors, from both a cultural and historic point of view.
As for activities, you could grab something from the town’s famous boulangeries and have a nice brunch on the tip of the Cap d’Antibes peninsula. There’s also the option of a light hike along the coast to visit some of the best coves in the area, such as the La Garoupe beach, which used to be the favorite of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.
7. Porquerolles Island
The island of Porquerolles, the largest of the three sister islands forming an archipelago located only an hour away from Saint-Tropez, is a Caribbean-like paradise, with white coastlines, superb beaches and vineyards which produce a rose wine as wonderful as the most iconic wines from Provence.
Besides that, the Porquerolles Island houses a small lovely village along the port sprawling with local restaurants and offers a car-free environment – yes the island is entirely car-free – which is best explored by bike, plus amazing beaches such as Plage Notre Dame and charming hotels to rest and relax. It’s not a place that stays up late, but it’s impressive in many other ways, especially for those who look for a quiet place for their vacation.
Famous for the eponymous film festival, Cannes is a little town worth visiting any time of year. The Boulevard de la Croisette with its lovely boutique stores, the places full of history and the wonderful walking areas, and an exciting night life scene make from Cannes an excellent vacation destination.
Nice is one of the most impressive of French cities, grand and spacious, with large squares and long esplanades. One of the first coastal destinations to draw tourists in with its 19th century palaces and hotels on the Promenade des Anglais, the lovely alleys in the old town part, full of boutiques and flower markets and stunning views, Nice is definitely a must see city while in France.
Nice’s beaches might be full of pebbles and not the soft white sand most dream of, but they’re still worthy of sun bathing and relaxation. With most tourists a little farther away on the promenade, Nice’s shores are free of the usual crowds.
Extending from the Mediterranean coast all the way towards the lovely rolling hills full of vineyards and the famous lavender fields, Provence is a magical region of France. There are plenty of accommodations, cozy and stylish, perfect for a couple of days of visiting around.
For the more active travelers out there, the adjoining Gorges du Verdon valley features enough hiking trails to make them happy. The area hasn’t been called the “Grand Canyon of Europe” for nothing.
Located above the right bank of the Aude and surrounded by walls since the 4th century, the Cité de Carcassonne has been through a lot during its long history. After a romantic overhaul made by architect Viollet le Duc in the 1800s, with Canal du Midi crossing it and the many historic sites spread around, the city of Carcassonne is a superb place to visit in the South of France.
The legendary Saint-Tropez, a former fishermen village, with its port full of yachts in the summer days, the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town teeming with visitors, and cafes and patisseries perfect for petit-dejeuner and lazy holiday mornings, is one of the most visited towns of France and one you shouldn’t miss either.
Saint-Tropez boasts with stylish and exquisite beach clubs, lavish parties which draw celebrities from all over the world, but also has more low-key places like the secluded cove of L’Escalet Beach, where you could spend some wonderful time away from the tourist rush. Coastal hikes and boat tours are also among the preferred activities of many visiting Saint-Tropez.
Center of western Christendom back in the old days, Avignon is a superb city on the banks of the Rhône river, which offers fascinating vestiges from centuries ago. The city hosts the old and stunning Palace of the Popes, which boasts invaluable Gothic frescoes on the walls of the old papal apartments.
The ruins of Pont Saint-Bénézet sticking out across the river, with their gatehouse and the medieval chapel of Saint Nicholas are also a place rich in history that’s worth a visit. You could also take a cruise on the Rhône or wander around the art filled streets and old walls of the town or enjoy the giant scene that Avignon becomes every summer during the Theater Festival.