After spending 14 days in Provence, France, we came to the conclusion that Provence (for the most part) is picture-perfect. It’s devilishly hot in the summer, but somehow the villages in Provence are almost lush. Red, violet and bright green flowers, plants and trees seem to be living it up in Provence.
If you’re a Provence village and don’t have gigantic flowerpots and a and sand-coloured town hall covered in climbing plants – you’re not doing it right.
But let’s get started: Here is a list of four of the most beautiful villages in Provence.
The always popular town of Cassis
Cassis is probably one of the most visited cities in Provence and has a well-earned reputation for being one of the most lively, picturesque and beautiful villages in Provence. Colourful fishermen’s houses stand shoulder to should in the town’s narrow streets and the Cassis harbour, Port de Cassis, is buzzing with life.
A stone’s throw away from harbour you find a really nice, pebbled beach. We went for a dip after eating tuna tartare at one of the many restaurants at Port de Cassis.
The water is crystal clear, but if you bring kids, you should be aware that the water gets deep very quickly.
A few facts about Cassis: Cassis was founded some two and a half thousand years ago by the Ligures and is nestled in between two famous nature sights called Massif des Calanques and Cap Canaille.
Parking in Cassis: There are several nice parking lots in Cassis. We parked at Parking de la Viguerie which has room for 299 cars and is very close to the harbour in Cassis. Find more info on parking at this (French) site: Where to park in Cassis.
Castellane in the Verdon National Park
Can a French village be too perfect? I thought not, but after visiting Castellane I’m tempted to say yes. The picture-perfect squares, the cobbled streets, the worn (in the shabby chic way) shutters in dusted colours, the thriving, lustrous flowers in the numerous flower pots….how DO they keep all those flowers alive? And then of course – the surroundings. Castellane is the gateway to exploring Gorges du Verdon (also known as Europe’s Grand Canyon) by foot, water or air and is surrounded by outstanding natural beauty.
We tried to book a room for a couple of nights when we found out how beautiful Castellane is, but the hotel-lady on the phone only had contempt for our request. “Nooooo, it is all booked!”. So, a word of advice, book your hotel well in advance if you want to spend some time in Castellane. And trust me – you want to put this Provence village on your list of places to see in Provence!
Aix-en-Provence – one of the best towns in Provence
This town seems like it has been spraypainted with French charm, and it is buzzing with life! Our expectations weren’t high – sometimes things can get overhyped – but we just loved Aix-en-Provence. Yes, there are a thousand shops, but really cool shops (filled with unique dresses, blouses and skirts). I’m not a big shopper, but that city really tested my conviction that buying and owning a lot of stuff doesn’t make you happy.
There is, of course, also a great food market in Aix-de-Provence where you can get anything from sunflowers to cheese and fresh fish.
Aix-en-Provence is by no means a small town, and you can easily spend a whole day strolling around, enjoying the town squares and drinking the mandatory glass of chilled rosé. This beautiful town should definitely be in your Provence itinerary.
Even the kids were smitten by Aix-en-Provence. Mostly because it has some pretty cool clothing stores for kids as well as friendly pigeons (they love to feed pigeons. I’ve tried to tell them that pigeons are the airborne rats, but they don’t seem to care).
Where to eat in Aix-en-Provence? We tried a place called Le Bidule, and it was pretty good. Even great if you bring kids. The menus are disguised as comic books, and the restaurant is located at a big square – with pigeons and no cars.
We also had really great sushi at a place called Kiwa Sushi.
Les Baux-de-Provence – not all it’s cracked up to be
Les Baux-de-Provence is perched on a 245 m high rocky plateau in the Alpilles and has been voted one of the most beautiful villages in France. The village has a spectacular view over Arles and the Camargue, and there are plenty of narrow streets and beautiful squares to get lost in.
However, it just didn’t live up to our expectations. On paper, it all looks great, but the village just didn’t seem alive. Sure, there are a ton of shops selling everything from lavender soap to nougat, but it all seems like it was set up solely for the purpose of the tourists who flock to the village. It didn’t seem like any “real” people lived there, and so it lacked heart and soul.