Provence

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Provence - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Abbaye de Montmajour

    This magnificent Romanesque abbey looming over the marshlands north of Arles stands in partial ruin. Founded in the 10th century by a handful of Benedictine...

    This magnificent Romanesque abbey looming over the marshlands north of Arles stands in partial ruin. Founded in the 10th century by a handful of Benedictine monks, the abbey grew according to an ambitious plan of church, crypt, and cloister and, under the management of worldly lay monks in the 17th century, became more sumptuous. When the Catholic church ejected those monks, they sacked the place, and what remained was eventually sold off as scrap. A 19th-century medieval revival spurred a partial restoration, but portions are still in ruins; what remains is a spare and beautiful piece of Romanesque architecture. The cloister rivals that of St-Trophime in Arles for its balance, elegance, and air of mystical peace. Van Gogh, drawn to isolation, came often to the abbey to reflect, but the strong mistral winds kept him from painting here. The interior, renovated by architect Rudy Ricciotti, is used for world-class contemporary art exhibitions.

    Rte. de Fontvieille, Arles, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 13200, France
    04–90–54–64–17

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6, Closed Mon. Oct.–Mar.
  • 2. Abbaye de Sénanque

    If you've fantasized about Provence's famed lavender fields, head to the wild valley some 4 km (2½ miles) north of Gordes (via D177), where this...

    If you've fantasized about Provence's famed lavender fields, head to the wild valley some 4 km (2½ miles) north of Gordes (via D177), where this photogenic, 12th-century, Romanesque abbey seemingly floats above a fragrant sea of purple blooms from late June through August. Begun in 1150 and completed at the dawn of the 13th century, the church and adjoining cloister are without decoration but still touch the soul with their chaste beauty. Along with the abbeys of Le Thornet and Silvacane, this is one of a trio of "Three Sisters" built by the Cistercian Order in this area. Next door, the enormous vaulted dormitory contains an exhibition on Abbaye de Sénanque's construction, and the refectory shelters a display on the history of Cistercian abbeys. The few remaining monks here now preside over a cultural center presenting concerts and exhibitions. The bookshop has a huge collection of books about Provence (lots in English).

    Gordes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84220, France
    04–90–72–05–72

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8.50
  • 3. Arènes

    The best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world is a miniature of the Colosseum in Rome (note the small carvings of Romulus and Remus, the wrestling...

    The best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world is a miniature of the Colosseum in Rome (note the small carvings of Romulus and Remus, the wrestling gladiators, on the exterior, and the intricate bulls' heads etched into the stone over the entrance on the north side). More than 435 feet long and 330 feet wide, it had a seating capacity of 24,000 in its day. Bloody gladiator battles, criminals being thrown to animals, and theatrical wild-boar chases drew crowds to its bleachers. Nowadays it hosts bullfights, which transform the arena (and all of Nîmes) into a sangria-flushed homage to Spain, and summer concerts. Self-guided audio tours are available.

    Bd. des Arènes, Nîmes, Occitania, 30189, France
    04–66–21–82–56

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10
  • 4. Arènes

    Rivaled only by the even better-preserved version in Nîmes, the arena dominating old Arles was built in the 1st century AD to seat 21,000 people,...

    Rivaled only by the even better-preserved version in Nîmes, the arena dominating old Arles was built in the 1st century AD to seat 21,000 people, with large tunnels through which wild beasts were forced to run into the center. Before being plundered in the Middle Ages, the structure had three stories of 60 arcades each; the four medieval towers are testimony to a transformation from classical sports arena to feudal fortification. Complete restoration of the arena began in 1825. Today it's primarily a venue for the traditional spectacle of the corridas, which take place annually during the féria pascale, or Easter festival. The less bloodthirsty local variant course carmarguaise (in which the bull is not killed) also takes place here. Festival season starts with the Fête des Gardians on May 1, when the Queen of Arles is crowned, and culminates in early July with the award of the Cocarde d'Or (Golden Rosette) to the most successful raseteur. It's best to book event tickets in advance.

    24 bis, Rond Point des Arènes, Arles, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 13200, France
    04–90–18–41–20-for arena info

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €9, includes admission to Théâtre Antique
  • 5. Artemisia Museum

    At this unique museum in the 13th-century Couvent des Cordeliers, you'll learn how the aromatic plants and medicinal herbs of the Montagne de Lure, part...

    At this unique museum in the 13th-century Couvent des Cordeliers, you'll learn how the aromatic plants and medicinal herbs of the Montagne de Lure, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, have traditionally been grown, gathered, and used in remedies, perfumes, and cosmetics. Explanatory panels, botanical illustrations, plant specimens, and fragrance galleries are used to create a multisensory educational experience in themed exhibits such as Lavender, Pickers & Peddlers, The Druggists, Distillation, Plants & Elixirs, and Plants & Beauty. In addition, activity booklets and special displays help children navigate and understand the exhibits. For total immersion, sign up for one of the two-hour perfume workshops, which are offered for both adults (€45) and kids (€25).

    Couvent des Cordeliers, Forcalquier, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 04300, France
    04–92–72–50–68

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6, Closed Tues., Sat., and Sun.
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  • 6. At Home with Patricia Wells Cooking Classes

    Although Vaison has centuries-old attractions, the most popular for Americans may well be the classes offered by Patricia Wells, the food critic who made a...

    Although Vaison has centuries-old attractions, the most popular for Americans may well be the classes offered by Patricia Wells, the food critic who made a name for herself writing posh columns and The Food Lover's Guide to France. She now introduces people to the splendors of French cooking—in her lovely farmhouse and above her own Chanteduc vineyards outside Vaison. Weeklong culinary seminars are deluxe ($6,000 a student) and exclusive (maximum of 12 students), and the January truffle workshop usually sells out, so book early (online only).

    Vaison-la-Romaine, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84110, France
  • 7. Atelier Cézanne

    Just north of the vieille ville (Old Town) loop you'll find Cézanne's studio. After the death of his mother forced the sale of the painter's...

    Just north of the vieille ville (Old Town) loop you'll find Cézanne's studio. After the death of his mother forced the sale of the painter's beloved country retreat, Jas de Bouffan, he had this atelier built and some of his finest works, including Les Grandes Baigneuses (The Large Bathers), were created in the upstairs workspace. But what is most striking is the collection of simple objects that once featured prominently in his portraits and still lifes—redingote, bowler hat, ginger jar—all displayed as if awaiting his return. The atelier is behind an obscure garden gate on the left as you climb Avenue Paul-Cézanne.

    9 av. Paul-Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 13100, France
    04–42–21–06–53

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €7, Closed Jan., Sun. and Mon. in Feb., and Sun. in Dec.
  • 8. Carrières des Lumières

    This vast old limestone quarry has 66-foot-high stone walls that make a dramatic setting for a multimedia show in which thousands of images are projected...

    This vast old limestone quarry has 66-foot-high stone walls that make a dramatic setting for a multimedia show in which thousands of images are projected onto the walls. Exhibitions change yearly, but recent showings have showcased the life and work of van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, and Cézanne.

    Rtes. des Carrières, Les Baux-de-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 13520, France
    04–90–49–20–02

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €14
  • 9. Caumont Centre d'Art

    Part of the Culturespaces network of museums and monuments, this arts center is a jewel in the organization's impressively laden crown and is one of...

    Part of the Culturespaces network of museums and monuments, this arts center is a jewel in the organization's impressively laden crown and is one of Aix's top cultural attractions. Given that the center is housed in the glorious Hôtel de Caumont, one of the city's most spectacular 18th-century mansions, it's no wonder that its period rooms are a joy to behold. It hosts two world-class art exhibitions per year in beautifully conceived spaces (the inaugural show was devoted to Venetian master Canaletto), and there are daily screenings of the film Cézanne in the Aix Region and a series of jazz and classical performances. The elegant gardens have been painstakingly restored to their original 18th-century layout, and you can enjoy a drink, light lunch, or dessert in the garden restaurant. The indoor Café Caumont is easily Aix's most elegant.

    3 rue Joseph Cabassol, Aix-en-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 13100, France
    04–42–20–70–01

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €7
  • 10. Château de Lourmarin

    The "new" wing (begun in 1526 and completed in 1540) of this château—which was restored to near perfection in the 1920s—is the prettiest, with a...

    The "new" wing (begun in 1526 and completed in 1540) of this château—which was restored to near perfection in the 1920s—is the prettiest, with a broad art collection, rare old furniture, and ornate stone fireplaces, including two with exotic vases canopes (ancient Aztec figure vases). The château also offers lots of fun activities for kids, and it hosts a series of highly regarded open-air concerts in summer and several contemporary art exhibitions throughout the year.

    24 av. Laurent Vibert, Lourmarin, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84160, France
    04–90–68–15–23

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €7.50
  • 11. Château du Barroux

    With grand vaulted rooms and a chapel dating from the 12th century, this enormous château is picturesque Le Barroux's main draw. Some of its halls...

    With grand vaulted rooms and a chapel dating from the 12th century, this enormous château is picturesque Le Barroux's main draw. Some of its halls serve as venues for contemporary art exhibits, and the chapel's breathtaking frescoes—undergoing restoration but still accessible to the public—painted between the 16th and 19th centuries are a must-see. Ever full of surprises, the castle also harbors a whiskey distillery that produces a golden nectar from the local einkorn grain, which you'll learn all about on a comprehensive tour that ends with a tasting. Or you can relax in the charming gourmet tearoom, perfect for a refreshing break and an excellent coffee with your homemade pastry or ice cream and panoramic views.

    Le Barroux, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84008, France
    06–59–13–13–21

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8.50; distillery and castle €17.50, Closed Jan. 1–15
  • 12. Collection Lambert

    Housed in two elegant 17th-century mansions, this impressive assembly of contemporary artworks came out of the private collection of Paris art dealer Yvon Lambert, who...

    Housed in two elegant 17th-century mansions, this impressive assembly of contemporary artworks came out of the private collection of Paris art dealer Yvon Lambert, who founded the museum in 2000 in honor of Avignon's designation as European Capital of Culture. The museum is known both for the breadth of its collection—more than 1,200 pieces dating from the 1960s to the present—and the scope of its three to four major exhibitions per year, as well as its cultural events, lectures, and arts eduction programs, done independently or in conjunction with other arts institutions worldwide. The foundation closes three months out of the year between exhibitions, so be sure to check before going. The impressive bookshop carries dozens of original, limited-edition works by artists represented in the collection, including prints by Cy Twombly, Sol LeWitt, and Jenny Holzer, and the breezy courtyard café offers gourmet snacks, beverages, and light lunches under the shade of sleepy plane trees.

    5 rue Violette, Avignon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84000, France
    04–90–16–56–20

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10, Closed Mon. Sept.–June
  • 13. Domaine de Méjanes Paul Ricard

    Near the northern shore of the Etang de Vaccarès, 4 km (2½ miles) north of Albaron on the D37, this unique cultural center, funded by...

    Near the northern shore of the Etang de Vaccarès, 4 km (2½ miles) north of Albaron on the D37, this unique cultural center, funded by the Ricard family of pastis fame and set on one of the larger estates in the Camargue, is a place to meet gardiens (French cowboys) and learn about the toro, or bull—virtually a totemic creature in these parts. You’ll also gain a better understanding of the regional spectacle known as the course camarguaise, in which raseteurs (runners) try to pluck off a red cockade and two white tassels mounted on the bull’s horns. There is no mise à mort (as in Spanish-style corridas, or bullfights), so the bulls live to enter the arena again and again—some even become such celebrities that they make the covers of French magazines. Other activities include touring an on-site museum, where exhibits detail the remarkable history of Paul Ricard and the estate; hopping aboard a petit train for a 20-minute tour of the marshlands; or mounting a horse or pony for a beachside trot. At Chez Hélène et Néné restaurant, you can feast on Camargue seafood while gazing at the beach and the ocean. If you want to stay the night, the estate has several charming accommodation options—from guest rooms to cottages to colorful wooden, Roma-style caravans.

    D37, on edge of Etage de Vacarrès, France
    04–90–97–10–10
  • 14. Espace Van Gogh

    The hospital to which the tortured van Gogh repaired after cutting off his earlobe is a strikingly resonant site. Its courtyard has been impeccably restored...

    The hospital to which the tortured van Gogh repaired after cutting off his earlobe is a strikingly resonant site. Its courtyard has been impeccably restored and landscaped to match one of van Gogh's paintings. The cloistered grounds have become something of a shrine for visitors, and there is a photo plaque comparing the renovation to some of the master's paintings, including Le Jardin de la Maison de Santé. The exhibition hall is open for temporary shows; the garden is always on view.

    Pl. Dr. Félix Rey, Arles, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 13200, France
    04–90–18–41–20

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 15. Fondation Vasarely

    After three decades of neglect, the Centre Pompidou's splendid 2019 retrospective of the father of "op-art" placed Victor Vasarely in his rightful place among the...

    After three decades of neglect, the Centre Pompidou's splendid 2019 retrospective of the father of "op-art" placed Victor Vasarely in his rightful place among the great artists of the later 20th century. Whether a fan of the genre or not, a visit to this exhilarating museum, a short drive or bus ride (lines 2 and 20) from Aix center, will delight art fans of all ages. The building itself is an architectural wonder, composed of 16 hexagonal galleries each housing six of the artist's monumental tapestries, mosaics, paintings, or sculptures. Upstairs, a detailed timeline of Vasarely's life and work reveals the versatility and genius of an artist both of and ahead of his time.

    1 av. Marcel Pagnol, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 13090, France
    04–42–20–01–09

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €15
  • 16. Fondation Villa Datris

    Housed in a stately Belle Époque mansion set on the river, this vibrant contemporary sculpture center is one of the most respected establishments of its...

    Housed in a stately Belle Époque mansion set on the river, this vibrant contemporary sculpture center is one of the most respected establishments of its kind in Provence. Its talented, far-sighted curators scour the European arts scene for ingenious themed shows that mix established names with up-and-coming sculptors. While the shows change only once a year, they are always revelatory, with artwork cleverly installed in every room of the house, including the old shower stalls, the pretty garden, and even from trees hanging over the canal.

    7 av. des Quartres Otages, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
    04–90–95–23–70

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 17. Jardins de Salagon and Priory

    On a site occupied since the Gallo-Roman period, this picturesque 11th- to 12th-century priory—a rich archaeological site classed as a Historic Monument by the French...

    On a site occupied since the Gallo-Roman period, this picturesque 11th- to 12th-century priory—a rich archaeological site classed as a Historic Monument by the French Ministry of Culture—presides over 10 acres of themed gardens. The restored priory, with well-preserved Gothic and Romanesque flourishes, now houses an ethnological museum, a testament to the various cultures and peoples in this part of Provence. The garden functions as both a visual delight and a preserve for 2,500 species of plants and flowers native to the region, from ancient times to the present, organized into five themes—like "simple gardens and village plants," which includes field and cultivated plants that were both consumed and used medicinally. There's also a medieval garden, a fragrant garden with benches under the roses and honeysuckle for maximum sensory effect, and a modern "exotic" garden that crosses five continents.

    Prieuré de Salagon, Mane, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 04300, France
    04–92–75–70–50

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8, Closed Tues.
  • 18. La Filaventure Brun de Vian-Tiran

    Through eight generations on the same premises, the Brun de Vian-Tiran family has created France's most beautiful and luxurious woolens from fibers sourced throughout the...

    Through eight generations on the same premises, the Brun de Vian-Tiran family has created France's most beautiful and luxurious woolens from fibers sourced throughout the world, including baby camel, cashmere, merino wool, alpaca, and baby llama. Housed in one of the company's old warehouses, this state-of-the-art museum takes you through the manufacturing process, from fiber to fabric, with interactive exhibits that are fascinating for kids as well as adults. The on-site boutique carries the entire range of luxury bedding and blankets, scarves, slippers, and other items, all of which are usually found only at high-end department stores in Paris.

    2 cours Victor Hugo, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84800, France
    04–90–38–73–31

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €7.50
  • 19. La Forêt des Cèdres

    Created in part to fortify France's supply of cedar and cyprus wood, this magnificent forest, covering hundreds of acres, also provides a cool, quiet place...

    Created in part to fortify France's supply of cedar and cyprus wood, this magnificent forest, covering hundreds of acres, also provides a cool, quiet place for hiking and picnicking. Information on the forest is available at all of the local tourist offices, and the route to it is well marked from the village of Lacoste. The winding drive provides astounding views of the hilltop villages that dot the countryside.

    Lacoste, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84480, France
    04–90–75–80–06
  • 20. Le Jardin Botanique de la Citadelle

    The flowering of a 25-year project, this lovely botanical garden is planted on rediscovered 18th-century terraces at the highest point of La Citadelle vineyards, with...

    The flowering of a 25-year project, this lovely botanical garden is planted on rediscovered 18th-century terraces at the highest point of La Citadelle vineyards, with magnificent views of Ménerbes and the Vaucluse and Ventoux mountains. Stroll its scenic paths to see hundreds of medicinal and aromatic plant species used in traditional medicines for millennia. Afterward, enjoy a tasting at the domaine and entrance to the Musée du Tire-Bouchon, the world's first museum dedicated to the corkscrew.

    601 rte. de Cavaillon, Ménerbes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84560, France
    04–90–72–41–58

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5, Closed Sun. Oct.–late Apr.

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