Provence is a region in southeastern France that extends from the snow-capped mountains of the Alps and the splendors of lavender fields to the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea and towns full of Roman and medieval history.
Full of blossoming lavender fields and ripe olive groves that highlight medieval hilltop villages set a perfect scene for visitors from abroad and French locals. The long winding roads lead to some of the most astonishing cultural and historic venues, including traditional French bistros, mouthwatering vistas, and unique architecture representing southern France’s soul.
Additionally, each Provençal town has a market and flea market each week; when booking a stay, look at when they occur. Here are the 10 best towns in Provence to visit.
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10 Best Small Towns in Provence, France
A wonderfully perched village in Luberon, Bonnieux is full of sensory romance. What takes your breath away here is the marvelous vistas over the often wind-swept valleys of Luberon below, the fertile plains of Cavaillon, and beyond to the visible Mont Ventoux on a clear day. The best view here can be reached by climbing 86 steps up to the 12th-century church on top of the hill.
If you descend towards the main plaza level of the village, you’ll find yourself surrounded by colorful houses, tasteful stores, and outside cafés. Although there is no historical museum, there is a Musée de la Boulangerie – bread baker’s museum – the only one in Provence that celebrates sourdough bread making.
If you want a breath of fresh air, head outside to the award-winning private contemporary garden Jardin de la Louve or Enclos des Bories for an authentic drystone village surrounded by a gorgeous cedar forest. Also, make sure to visit Pont Julien, which references Julius Cesar. It’s one of the best-preserved Roman bridges in the region.
If you stop by in mid-September, enjoy the heritage celebration weekend and several art galleries in the area.
If you want a gorgeous sunset view dinner in the Luberon mountains, I recommend going to La Terrazza de Bonnieux for pizza. Note they do take large parties. Just make sure you call for a reservation at least a month in advance. For fine dining, try La Bastide, a Michelin-starred restaurant.
At sunset, the village of Roussillon almost glows, its vibrant red and orange buildings lighting up the surrounding landscape. Its color palette is unique compared to most Provençal towns’ sandy beiges and creamy whites due to the significant amount of ochre clay deposits in the vicinity. While Provence is known chiefly for its fertile winemaking landscape, the area of Roussillon is a pleasant change with stark red cliffs and canyons, great for hikers.
After, grab a seat at one of the tiny sidewalk cafes to admire the exciting architecture and take a stop for a visit to some of the local art galleries full of abstract canvas paintings and intricate sculptures. If you go on Thursday, the Roussillon market happens from 8 am to 12:30 pm. Stroll around and peruse the offerings from the vendors. You can buy art, tablecloths, hats, clothing, food, jewelry, etc. Roussillon claims the number one spot for many tourists in the list of best small towns in Provence, France.
Lacoste’s old stone houses made from limestone are just the beginnings of this storybook village. As you drive higher up the hill, history progressively unfolds to reveal the medieval architecture, including the town’s 11th-century chateau, infamous for it being home to some notorious characters. Interestingly, the castle here provided refuge for the “father of eroticism,” Marquis de Sade.
It was eventually bought by designer M. Pierre Cardin, who turned it into a museum and venue for music after an extensive renovation. In addition, several interesting sculptures adorn the grounds.
Once you head down the mountain, there is a cute little café selling Parisian brunch food in the main village.
Known to people as one of the most pretty and appealing villages in France, Gordes is a charming mix of a quaint hillside village and a posh resort town. The area is common among celebrities as a getaway from the bustling cosmopolitan cities to a quiet summer retreat because of the town’s luxury hotel and several high-end restaurants.
The picturesque setting is dominated by a fortress mixing Roman-style foundations and Renaissance decorum. It now houses local Provençal artists’ work. Take an adventure and walk around the small and narrow alleyways through Gordes. Some of the best views of the countryside and villas can be glimpsed from narrow streets perched on the hilltop.
Also, along the drive up the mountain, there is a little detour stop where families enjoy taking pictures during the day. But it is an even more spectacular night because of the luminescent Gordes landscape in the background.
Make sure to have lunch at some of the restaurants in the town center, followed by ice cream. For large groups, La Bastides de Pierres offers pizza and Italian food. For French-Asian food with a terrace view, try Le TiGrr. Gordes has two Michelin-highlighted restaurants, Les Bories, and Le Mas.
Make sure to detour midway between Gordes and Lacoste to visit the Abbaye de Sénanque, surrounded by deep-colored lavender fields. The abbey was founded in 1148, and its robust Romanesque architecture radiates peace, tranquility, and history. Monks still live there and produce local honey and liqueurs.
Located serenely on the banks of the Sorgue River, this bustling hotspot town is a shopper’s paradise, yet not for what you would think. Instead, visitors are met with fabulous antique stores and weekend markets. Unlike some villages with a few dozen vendors, this Sunday market has more than 300 stalls at the famous Sunday market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
Be sure to arrive early as it opens at 8 am; otherwise, parking will be a nightmare. Enjoy a pleasant morning coffee at the creperies, between shopping at the market and before taking an early lunch, then enjoy a nice glass of wine beneath one of the many cafés’ shaded terraces.
Don’t miss the floating market if you are in town the first weekend in August, when locals sell their wines, antiques, and wares from traditional Provençal “nego-chin” fishing boats to bring back a lost way of life.
Visit the old town center and the Collegiale Notre Dames des Anges. The outside of the church is adorned with gargoyles, and the inside is spectacular. It dates to 1212 and has Gothic vaulted ceilings, but it was renovated in the Baroque style in the 1600s. The many frescos and statues are worth perusing.
For lunch, buy food from the many vendors on market day. Otherwise, try the crepes at one of the many creperies in the town. After, buy some treats at a chocolatier or configure. We liked the Péchés Gourmands store near the church.
On a hilltop in the Luberon mountains, constituted at the foothills of the French Alps, lies a town known for its artist and writer, Ménerbes. This is one of the best small towns in Provence. It is known as the home of Picasso’s model and a high-profile European businessman settling in the otherwise forgotten village. Until the middle of the 20th century, it was put back on the map by Peter Mayle’s astounding writings because Ménerbes was the setting of numerous of his works.
Dominated by the Protestant-built citadel, a reminder from Ménerbe’s earlier time, it is an important remembrance of the Protestant stronghold during the French Wars of religion. Although this quaint village has fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, those who visit are engrossed by the charm of the village’s sand-colored buildings that seem to disappear into the lavender and leafy landscape.
Be sure to visit the small local shops and get immersed in the beautiful vistas, allowing visitors to view miles of the Provencal region.
Robion is a tale of two villages with two very different faces. The modern Robion is what you see as your drive along the D2 road, including bakeries, butchers, mini-market, restaurants, and cafés. You may think Robion holds no unique gems beyond its shopping.
To find these gems, go to Old Robion, where you head towards the mountain. Fortified in the Middle Ages, old Robion has a castle, ramparts, old village houses, cobbled paths, a village center with towering plane trees, a church, a water well, and a bar. Around the church, you will often see a bunch of locals holding heavy metal balls in their hands. You understand there is a game of petanque taking place.
The Musée de la Lavande (Lavender Museum) is an activity for all ages. Here, you have a self-guided audio tour to explain the process of making lavender scents and oils with the machinery of different times in history. After, stop at the gift shop to purchase some scented lavender products made with local Provençal lavender. The plant is highly versatile and can be made into many lavender products, often sold at high prices. Lastly, on your way out, head to the ice cream cart to try the lavender ice cream, which are both fantastic.
Lastly, make sure to check out the Veloroute du Calavon cycle path, which follows the old railroad, crossing through the idyllic Luberon landscape and beyond. The path runs from Saint Martin de Castillon to Les Beaumettes. Also, it’s family-friendly, veering away from most roads except for two towns. Stop and get a petit dejéuner and café in Coustellet for a lovely morning coffee and croissant.
Located on the Rhône River, it is a veritable metropolis compared to many of the tiny villages in the area, known as Avignon. Avignon is the place to visit for its impressive history. In the 14th century, seven different popes resided in this town here after the schism in Church with Rome.
Thus today, the marvelous and magnificent Palais des Papes dominates the skyline, the heart center of Avignon. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest Gothic palace in Europe. This is an extraordinary wonder of Avignon as you can tour up to twenty rooms in the castle, including the Pope’s private chamber.
After touring the palace, wander through the narrow streets and stop at clothing boutiques and cute mom-&-pop cafés. Make sure to check out the Pont Saint Bénézet (Avignon Bridge), where four arches still survive today and are the location the French song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” was danced and performed under.
One of the most famous wine appellations, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, lies in the cascading countryside in the southern Rhône valley. This land includes thirteen varieties of grapes, eight red and five white, along with various soils that combine to create a palette of complex red and elegant white wines. The vineyards are instantly recognizable due to the large, blonde-colored pebbles and rows of old vines. The medieval village itself is lovely full of cute cafés and gorgeous vistas overlooked by the ruins of Pope’s summer residence.
Make sure to take a guided winery or vineyard tour. Most vineyards have stayed in families for generations, and today, 320 exist, covering about 3,200 hectares, producing more than 14 million bottles annually. We took an all-day tour visiting three vineyards: Domaine de Beaurenard, Domaine de Pegau, and Domaine de La Janasse.
Make sure to stop at Le Verge des Pape up by the castle ruins for a late lunch stop. This restaurant has spectacular views of the village, the river, and Avignon. Operated by the Estevenin brothers, they offer innovative, colorful, fresh, gourmet cuisine where some of the most delicious Provençal cuisine can be found – highly recommend.
Located East of Marseilles in the French Riviera is the once quaint hidden village of Cassis. Now a popular yet pleasant Provençal port city with its breathtaking seaside setting, surrounded by sprawling white cliffs and a series of tucked-in narrow inlets knowns as Calanques. This gem is within the flourishing French Riviera, so it is no surprise that the fishing village provides fresh fish from the Mediterranean Sea to high-end and family-owned restaurants with some of the best seafood.
Although a bustling center for visitors, Cassis has maintained its bucolic vibe, with pastel-colored buildings lining the harbor. Be sure to try some of the Riviera’s wines and sample the local specialty, a traditional Provençal fish soup – bouillabaisse. You can find this phenomenal delight at Chez Gilbert. The restaurant also has a magnificent terrace directly overlooking the harbor of Cassis with a panoramic view of the open sea.
The Prettiest Small Towns in Provence, France, Make for an Idyllic Vacation
These hidden gems of Provence, France, provide a lovely vacation full of sensory highs, offering travelers its breathtaking vistas, delicious cuisine, and village tranquility. Make sure to check out one or many of the small towns in Provence, France. So plan and budget for your trip to Provence, France.
This article was produced by Dividend Power’s family.
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Prakash Kolli is the founder of the Dividend Power site. He is a self-taught investor, analyst, and writer on dividend growth stocks and financial independence. His writings can be found on Seeking Alpha, InvestorPlace, Business Insider, Nasdaq, TalkMarkets, ValueWalk, The Money Show, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and leading financial sites. In addition, he is part of the Portfolio Insight and Sure Dividend teams. He was recently in the top 1.0% and 100 (73 out of over 13,450) financial bloggers, as tracked by TipRanks (an independent analyst tracking site) for his articles on Seeking Alpha.