Provence epitomises all that is irresistible about France. From the lavender-scented Luberon down to the sun-drenched coast, it can’t fail to capture the imagination. Its hilltop villages, medieval towns and fishing harbours have inspired generations of artists too —Van Gogh, Cézanne, Hemingway, to name a few. But with 963 towns and 18 districts to choose from, deciding where to visit can be overwhelming. To provide some inspiration, we’ve picked some of the prettiest towns and villages in Provence.
7 of the Prettiest Towns and Villages in Provence
This romantic, Rhone-side town is one of the oldest in France. You can find evidence for this at the well-preserved Roman amphitheatre, as well as the ruins of the Thermes de Constantin and the Cryptoportiques.
Visit on a Saturday when the weekly market spills into the streets and the town is at its liveliest and loveliest.
Unlike most of pastel-painted Provence, Roussillon is red. Known as ‘the red town’, its buildings radiate the varying shades of ochre that were once quarried from here. The tiny town is best known for its magnificent red cliffs and ochre deposit, which is one of the largest in the world. You can even learn all about how ochre is treated and used at the Conservatoire des Ocres et des Pigments Appliques.
When you’ve had your fill of exploring the history behind the pigment, take to the winding streets and tangle of alleyways to explore antique shops, cafes and tiny galleries.
Cassis is the best jumping off point for the spectacular Parc National des Calanques, the region’s famous rocky inlets. Once upon a time, the town was a working fishing village but today it’s a chic harbour town — and about as close to the Riviera you can get this side of St Tropez. Bookmarked by lush vineyards and pine-scented hills on one side and the sparkling Mediterranean on the other, the views in every direction are spectacular.
This is where Winston Churchill came to paint and Virginia came to write, so expect to be inspired.
The prettiest perched village in the Luberon, Simiane-la-Rotonde is unquestionably irresistible. Its zigzagging streets are packed full of intricate details, like heavy carved doors, scrolling street lamps and wisteria-covered honeyed brickwork.
It’s a steep – though mercifully short – climb to the town, but it’s worth the hike. The views of surrounding lavender fields and olive trees are sublime.
Lourmarin is hardly a well-kept secret, but it’s worth a visit for the aesthetics alone. Positioned at the bottom of a narrow valley, it’s widely regarded as one of the prettiest villages in France. Visit the Renaissance castle, lose yourself in the maze of narrow streets and join the locals at an outdoor concert in the summertime.
Albert Camus, winner of the Nobel Literature Prize, famously lived and wrote here.
If you prefer to travel far from the crowds, head to Quaint and quiet Pernes-les-Fontaines. Also known as ‘The Fountain Town’ after its 40 ancient fountains, there’s also a seventeenth-century covered market, an ancient moat and half a dozen chapels.
For authentic Provencal cuisine, try Au Fil de Temps.
Valensole is a charming town all year round, but undeniably prettiest in June and July when the lavender blooms. The medieval town is nestled into the heart of the Plateau de Valensole, an 800-kilometre lavender field. For those seeking to find the perfect Provencal landscape, this is it.
Come summer, there’s also a handful of lavender festivals to attend, like the Fête de la Lavande in Valensole and the Corso de la Lavande. Expect to return armed with unusual lavender-scented delights — lavender honey included.