The South of France conjures up images of style, wealth and sophistication, so what’s not to love about it. Impressive towns along the French Riviera like St Tropez and Cannes bring back memories of a bygone era. A time when beautiful actresses and film producers enjoyed leisurely lunches along the seafront. And a time when arriving by boat was the only way to travel!
The South of France is now accessible for all budgets to enjoy. While decadent hotels attract the wealthy, camping holidays to Southern France are also very popular. Explore Marseille, France’s oldest city, discover popular seaside towns like Nice and Cassis or wander around fairytale hillside villages like Gassin and Eze.
Head inland to the beautiful natural areas of the Calanques easily reached from the main towns in Southern France. And, of course, take time to visit the Provence lavender fields, some of the prettiest flower fields in Europe.
So whether you want to visit France for its history, beaches, art, food or landscape, this list of the best places to visit in the South of France will help you decide which destination is right for an epic French holiday.
How to Reach the South of France
Flights to the South of France with Easyjet are quick and cost-effective. Pick up a car on arrival from Europcar. There are 10 international airports in the South of France accessible from over 240 international countries.
Thank you to my fellow travel bloggers who have helped me compile this post to show you the best places in the South of France to visit on your next European holiday.
This article may contain affiliate links – Please read the full disclaimer here.
South of France Map
Best Beach Towns in the South of France
Discover the best beaches in the South of France, fabulous hotels, and first-class restaurants along the French Riviera, France’s most beautiful seaside destination. And for the budget traveller, there are plenty of South of France campsites by the beach.
Nice is the hub of the Cote d’Azur or “Blue Coast” and is the best place to stay on the French Riviera. A vibrant city, with an international airport, offering the traveller a base from where to visit the other sensational places in the South of France.
On my trip to Nice, I found plenty of things to do in and around the town. We loved passing the time by walking along the 7km Promenade D’Anglais. Stops for lunch on the beach and refreshing Aperol spritz’ made the walk perfect. Many of the South France beaches are exclusive and you will need to pay to use them.
We headed to the top of Castle Hill and were rewarded with amazing views of the marina and the coastline. And we couldn’t miss strolling around the Old Town in Nice. Narrow streets lined with charming restaurants and artisan shops led to the 17th-century Nice Cathedral with its splendid Baroque architecture.
Other things to do in Nice include visiting one of the daily markets in Cours Selaya, visiting St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral (not a sight you would expect to see in France) and wandering around Port de Nice Marina to see the mega-yachts!
The picturesque town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is a charming place to visit in the South of France. Located close to Nice and Cannes its vibe is one of an upmarket French fishing village. It has a scattering of lively harbour restaurants which we headed to for delicious freshly caught fish. Sitting beside the water and enjoying the beautiful views of colourful fishing boats bobbing on the blue waters of the Med was just perfect.
Ochre coloured buildings with pastel shutters are a stunning backdrop and we found ourselves wandering down tiny alleys and climbing lots of steps (it is a hilly town) to discover the historic landmarks in town.
As Villefranche is a deep-water port, boats of all sizes can stop off here, and passengers can explore the delights of Villefranche and the French Riviera. Beach lovers wanting to relax will find this small sandy south of France beach a real delight and perfect for families.
From the harbour in Villefranche, we could see the Cap Ferrat peninsula, voted one of the best places to live in the South of France. It has some of the most beautiful French Riviera villas, like the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a magnificent mansion I would recommend visiting. Cap Ferrat also has Plage de la Paloma which is considered one of the best beaches in South France and the French Riviera.
Jump on the train from Nice and you can be in Villefranche in just 15 minutes
Want to Stay in Villefranche-Sur-Mer? Check out accommodation availability and rates
St Tropez France
Saint Tropez has long been synonymous with the rich and famous since the likes of Picasso and Bridgette Bardot graced its shores. Today it is a holiday hotspot on the French Riviera and can be reached from Cannes by road in 90 minutes. Spend your days “people watching” from cute cafes or enjoy the weather in Saint Tropez on one of the many beautiful beaches.
If you are looking for a piece of the action in Saint Tropez, then head to Pampelonne Beach or Nikki Beach for beach clubs offering DJ’s, champagne and hefty prices. For a more sedate day out, visit one of the beautiful vineyards on the hillsides above Saint Tropez. Two of the best wineries in the Saint Tropez peninsula are Domaine Bertaud Belieu and Domaine la Tourraque.
Other things to do in Saint Tropez include exploring the nooks and crannies of the old town, walking up to the Citadelle de Saint Tropez for great views over the area, checking out the 16th-century Chapel Saint-Anne where Mick Jagger wed Bianca and hiking around Cap Camaret to see France’s second-highest lighthouse and the varied wildlife living in the area.
Saint Tropez accommodation prices can be high. Check out La Bastide Du Port for a great stay with parking at a moderate price level or stay at one of the many campsites near St Tropez
Cannes is one of the most popular destinations along the fashionable Côte d’Azur and arguably the French Riviera’s most famous city.
Think glitz, glamour, mega yachts and of course the annual Festival de Cannes (Film Festival), and it gives you a pretty good idea of what this seaside town is all about.
Add to the mix, luxury hotels (after all, the rich and famous need somewhere to rest their heads), first-class gastronomy and an abundance of designer label stores and you can see why this French beach town is a magnet for those wanting to escape reality even for just one day.
Away from the main promenade, head to the old town, Le Suquet, to discover the authentic side of Cannes. Winding streets, French architecture, traditional restaurants and views over the Bay of Cannes, make it a lovely area to explore.
A beautiful trip to take from Cannes is to Sainte-Marguerite island. A 20-minute sea crossing takes you to an idyllic area where you can swim, relax, eat and visit the Fort Royal Museum, a former prison that held “the man in the iron mask” for 11 years!
Stay on Sainte-Marguerite for the day and return to Cannes in the late afternoon. Watch the town come alive as the “beautiful people” stroll along Cannes beaches and delightful harbour setting.
Fancy staying in one of the most quirky hotels in Cannes? Check out Hotel Verlaine for a stay close to the beach
Contributed by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
The historical village of Cassis is one of those places in the South of France that has it all. The quaint village feeling, the hilltop chateau, countryside lined with vineyards, beaches, a tremendous bi-weekly market, and a bustling port. It epitomizes everything good about Provence, and that’s why it has become a firm favourite in our family.
Being only a 45 min drive from home, it’s a place we return to time and time again. Sometimes to show visitors around, other times to hike, hit the beach, and to enjoy the picturesque surroundings.
Market day (Wednesday and Friday) is always a good time to visit. Browse the stalls, pick up some fresh produce, then head to the bakery for a baguette, and you’ll have yourself a deliciously simple picnic! Afterwards, take a wander along the waterfront, stopping at Maison Casalini for ice cream, or walk through the cobbled back streets to see what treasures you can find.
Medieval remnants remain scattered throughout the village. You can pop into the town hall to catch a glimpse of a kitchen from the middle-ages beneath the glass floor.
Beach lovers will adore the pebbled shores of Cassis, and you can easily hike into the Calanques National Park for more secluded coves. Don’t worry if hiking isn’t for you or you’re short on time; boat excursions leave from the port and are a fantastic way to get acquainted with the area by the sea.
At the end of the day, settle into one of the seaside tavernas or head along to Chez Poulette, where you’ll find something to please even the fussiest of eaters!
Want to Find Out About Eastern France? Please Read
South of France Best Hillside Villages To Visit
Medieval perched villages steeped in history offer the visitor a glimpse into France’s past. Wander the narrow streets and immerse yourself in a world away from the beach.
One of the most beautiful hilltop villages to visit in the South of France is Eze. As you wander along its cobbled lanes, with hidden doorways and flowers tumbling across blue shuttered buildings, this medieval village is reminiscent of something from the pages of a fairy-tale.
I loved the artisan shops and charming cafes scattered around Eze. Tiny courtyards offered a place to sit before I headed higher up to the Jardin D’Eze.
At the summit, the 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and the Mediterranean Sea were sensational. Shaded seating areas amongst the cacti’s offer a reprise from the soaring temperatures on the Cote D’Azur.
If you fancy a glass of local French wine after the garden visit, I would recommend a visit to the 5-star Chateau Eza ; the balcony view from here is breathtaking.
Back in the main town of Eze, you will find the tourist office, a few restaurants, and the Fragonard perfume shop. I had fun choosing a perfume for myself as a souvenir of my day in Eze.
Eze is a fantastic day trip from Nice and can be reached by train in under one hour or by car in 25 minutes.
Contributed by Renee from Dream Plan Experience
Escape to the beautiful village of Gassin, close to the famous beach destination of Saint Tropez and discover a picturesque French village perched high up on a rock, only a few kilometres from the sea. It offers the most incredible coastline views of the Gulf de St. Tropez in one direction and mountain views in the other. You can see why it’s known as Les Plus Beaux Villages de France or one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
Lose yourself in the winding pedestrian-only streets admiring the ancient houses brimming with pretty flowers. Rue Androuno, holds the record for being the smallest street in the world, measuring at only 29 centimetres at its narrowest point.
Gassin became a fortified village at the end of the 15th century. Its significant landmarks include chapels from the 11th and 16th centuries, an 18th-century church bell, and a 16th century Town Hall. It also has the area’s oldest art galleries and a beautiful botanical garden featuring plants native to Provence.
Follow along the terrace wall, the Promenade Dei Barri, where you will find the village’s restaurants.
A stay at La Maison de Village Gassin is a must. This highly stylized loft apartment features a terrace with awe-inspiring views, perfect for sunset watching.
Contributed by Larch – The Silver Nomad
A leisurely hours drive to the northwest of Nice is the beautiful Pays de Fayence region in the Var. It is a much quieter location than the coast, where you get a taste of the authentic Provence.
I have been visiting the Var for the last twenty years. While I love the whole region my favourite place is the town of Fayence.
Fayence is one of the several hundred “perched” towns and villages in Provence. These hilltop towns cascade down the hillside with steep winding roads taking you up from bottom to top.
For me, a visit to Fayence is the perfect day out to combine shopping, sightseeing and eating great food. I prefer driving to the car park at the top of the town as this is the hub of Fayence.
Market Time in Fayence
On a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday the best place to be is the Church Square for the markets. I love selecting fresh fruit and vegetables, sampling the olives, tapenade and local cheeses, browsing the clothes and chatting with the stallholders.
Every time I am in Fayence, I walk up the steps past the creamy coloured houses to the Clock Tower. The views from here over the surrounding countryside are stunning. The frieze painted on tiles on top of the wall depicting help work out what is in front of me. Each season the view is different.
One of my favourite cafes is L’Entracte, perfect to while away my time and watch the world go by me. Next door is a Cave de Fayence. It has a vast array of local wines, oils and vinegar, to go with the food from the market.
Contributed by Emma from Emma Jane Explores
The lovely hillside town of Grasse in the south of France is the home of French perfume and is a fabulous destination to visit. Located only a short way inland from the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and the French Riviera, Grasse is easily accessible by public transport from Nice or Cannes.
I visited Grasse without knowing too much about the town or its history. It was a delight to find all the quaint perfection of an old European town without the heaving crowds of tourists I experienced along the coastline. The pastel-coloured buildings and coloured window shutters feel positively provincial, and the many cobblestone streets and market squares offer up plenty of cute little French cafes to grab a coffee and pastry.
The Perfume Capital of the World
The first thing I recommend doing in Grasse is to immerse yourself in the fragrance capital of the world. There are many French perfumeries here, fragrance factories that visitors can tour, and I loved the opportunities to make a fragrance of my own under the instruction of one of the town’s esteemed Nez (fragrance makers).
Grasse is also the perfect place for perfume shopping. I found the perfect gifts for loved ones back home after shopping at the flagship stores of France’s three major perfume companies: Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard.
I was spoilt for choice when it came to dining options in the South of France. Grasse offered me one of the loveliest upmarket dining experiences I’ve ever had at the Hotel La Bastide Saint Antoine, which is a 1 Michelin Star restaurant serving up delicious seasonal produce from chef Jacques Chibois.
I loved visiting Grasse and would thoroughly recommend a visit for anyone who loves perfume, history or lovely old towns slightly off the beaten path.
St Paul de Vence
Contributed by Denise from Chef Denise
I instantly fell in love with the fortified Medieval village, Saint Paul de Vence. Every nook and cranny provided photo-worthy moments: window boxes, fountains, doors, and even the carefully laid cobblestone streets! I also found numerous spots on the windy roads to capture the walled city nestled in the hills of Southern France.
We spent the morning strolling through the narrow streets, ducking into the quaint boutiques, the main church, and numerous art galleries. For 20 years, the artist Marc Chagall lived in this charming town.
We found one of the best art collections while enjoying lunch at the famous Provencal restaurant, La Colombe d’Or. Unique art pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and Calder are inconspicuously scattered all around. Although I’m an art enthusiast, I am a chef first. So, even if you are not an art lover, I recommend eating here to enjoy the delicious gourmet French food in a lovely setting.
After lunch, we were hungry for more art and visited the nearby Foundation Maeght Museum just a couple of miles outside the fortification. With a large sculpture by Miro standing at the entrance, Chagall mosaics, and a Giacometti sculpture garden, we spent just as much time admiring the works outside of the museum as we did inside.
Our last stop was outside the village walls to visit the Chapelle du Rosaire, designed and constructed by Matisse as a gift for the nun, Monique Bourgeois, who had nursed him through his cancer.
Saint Paul de Vence makes a perfect day trip from so many cities in the south of France, or if you want to spend the night, the Hotel Colombe D’Or also offers 13 rooms for rent.
Contributed by Leyla from Offbeat France
As I drove among the best Luberon villages, in an area of Southern France so well known for its Provencal lavender fields, I spent far too much time gazing upwards at the tiny hilltop villages that have cemented this region’s reputation. It’s impossible to choose favourites, as each village has something to offer the traveller that is unique and different from the others.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the beauty of Roussillon. Its bright, vivid ochres can nearly blind you when the sun hits them; whether you’re inside the village or far away looking up, you will be stunned by its brilliance. The buildings are clothed in ochre, each tint different, unique, yet bound to the others by a common thread. In fact, in Roussillon, if you wanted to paint your walls green or blue, you couldn’t. The harmony of the village is guaranteed by ochre, although you can be creative with shutters.
Walking the Ochre Trail
In the centre, across the tiny bridge, is what most people come here for – to walk along the village’s Ochre Trail, part of a network of ochre that cuts through the Luberon’s former ochre quarries. At one point, Roussillon had 16 ochre quarries and plants, but most production ceased with the advent of artificial colours in the 20th century.
You can still walk along the trail, kicking up a bright yellow powder as you go, marvelling at the ochre cliffs and formations that look more lunar than Provençal. And if you finish with the trail in Roussillon and still want more ochre, head over to Rustrel, with yet more amazing formations.
Want to Stay in Roussillon? Check here for availability and rates for La Maison des Ocres
South of France Best Cities to Visit
The lively and flamboyant cities of the South of France entice the visitor with heritage, gastronomy and culture. If you want to explore the areas by bike then cycling holidays in Provence are very popular as are walking holidays that include routes taking you through beautiful countryside scattered with perfect fields of Provencal lavender.
Contributed by Elisa from Travel France Bucketlist
Avignon is one of the most beautiful cities in Southern France and a great place to explore for history lovers. It has direct train connections with the French capital, and it is also a great base to explore the Luberon region and other incredible sites in Provence.
Avignon is best known as being the city of the Popes. In medieval times, seven Catholic Popes ruled the Christian world from Avignon, and they built a magnificent palace where they established their court. Today, the Palais des Papes Avignon is the leading site to visit and the reason why I wanted to see this city. Listed as UNESCO World Heritage, the Palace of the Popes is famous for being the most extensive urban building built in Gothic style.
Apart from the palace, the car-free historic centre of Avignon is beautiful to explore. I loved strolling around the narrow, medieval streets, browsing the little shops selling the French soaps of Marseille and other souvenirs, and enjoying evening drinks in any of the little squares.
Another must in the city is the Pont d’Avignon, a medieval bridge and the object of a famous French song for kids with the same name. It is also worth visiting the city during the international Avignon Theatre Festival, held every July.
For your stay, I recommend Hotel Central, one of the best hotels in Avignon, which is centrally located not far from the train station and has a beautiful inner courtyard where guests can take breakfast in the morning and some drinks in the afternoon.
Contributed by Lannie from Lannies Food and Travel
Van Gogh is one of my favourite artists, and I make it a point to visit museums with his works, as well as locations significant to his life. There is no better place in France to walk through his footsteps than in the city of Arles, where he lived and painted from February 1888 to May 1889. Sadly, he also famously lost his ear there.
One of the best things to do in Arles is to take the Van Gogh self-guided walking tour which is incredible and takes you to the places behind the paintings. You can visit the actual location of Cafe Terrace at Night (yellow cafe). It’s called the Cafe Van Gogh now and is on the northeast corner of the Place du Forum. Unfortunately, the Yellow House, where he painted with Paul Gauguin, was destroyed during World War II, but a plaque exists there to commemorate the location.
Arles Historical Centre
Outside of Van Gogh and its connection to art, Arles also has a vibrant ancient Roman history. The Arles Amphitheatre is a prominent landmark in town and is a must-visit! Built-in 90 AD, it held up to 20,000 Roman fans for chariot races and bloody gladiator fights. It also housed an entire town with over 200 houses inside and operated as a bullfighting arena that is still in operation today and has attracted the likes of Picasso and Hemingway!
There is also the Roman Theater and the Alyscamps (Roman necropolis). Both were built between the 1st – 4th centuries AD. Gaugin and Van Gogh made beautiful autumn paintings set in and around Alyscamps. Dante even referred to the Alyscamps in the Inferno. It’s incredible to walk through these sites in the footsteps of talented people before you.
For the Van Gogh fans like me, you can continue in his footsteps following his departure from Arles, when he checked in to the asylum at Monastery of Saint-Paul de Mausole in nearby Saint Remy de Provence. He stayed there from May 1889 to May 1890.
Along the way in Les Baux-de-Provence, is Carrières de Lumières – a digital art exhibition housed in an old stone quarry. Artworks are projected onto the large stone walls, and when I visited, I experienced Matisse, which left me breathless.
Contributed by Haley from Haley Blackall
Once the seat of aristocracy in Provence, Aix-en-Provence enjoys charming streets lined with opulent Provencal palaces and manicured trees, making it one of the most beautiful places in the South of France. Named also as the ‘City of a Thousand Fountains’, the quaint town boasts intricately carved stone fountains on every corner. The town has deep Roman roots, established by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus in 122BC.
The pride and joy of Aix-an-Provence is the famous 19th-century post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne. You can see where the painter lived and worked by visiting Atelier Cezanne for an authentic look into the home’s condition and layout. Also frequented by the famous painter is the Le Terrain des Peintres park, which inspired some of Cezanne’s work. Grab a picnic basket and head there for a day of people watching and musing.
Explore the Farmers Markets
Aix-en-Provence is also well-known for its many excellent farmers’ markets. The best local French produce including olive oil, cheese, bread, wine, flowers, linens and antique finds can be found on the lively streets of this delightful town. Everywhere you turn, there is a farmer’s market. Grab yourself a local delicacy of calissons, a diamond-shaped sweet made from almonds and candied melons, covered in icing.
Spend your nights at Maison Alberta, located in the heart of Aix-en-Provence. This self-catered apartment comes with one spacious bedroom and bathroom, kitchenette and free Wi-Fi. Step outside your door, and you have Aix-en-Provence at your fingertips.
If you fancy a dip in the Mediterranean, you can head to Marseille to spend the day at any of the city’s beautiful beaches. The trip will take you 30 minutes by car.
Want to Find More Out About Northern France? Please Read
Best National Parks in the South of France
The South of France offers a chance to get close to nature in areas of absolute natural beauty. Swim, kayak, hike and then relax in the National Park.
Contributed by Ophelie from Limitless Secrets
The Calanques are a natural wonder located in the south of France near the cities of Marseille and Cassis. I went there for the first time around 15 years ago, and I was so impressed by the landscapes that I knew I would have to visit again. My second visit was in summer 2020, and it was even better than in my memories! The crystal blue waters and jaw-dropping cliffs create a unique environment that left me – and will leave you – speechless.
On average 1 million visitors come here each year: as one of the most beautiful places in France, it’s a must-visit! The Calanques National Park comprises 15 Calanques that we could describe as steep limestone coastal cliffs coming inland. You will find them between Marseille and Cassis, stretching over 24 km.
The Calanques National Park is the perfect place for adventures and outdoor activities: you can hike, enjoy the beach, swim in the Mediterranean Sea, or do some kayaking.
The most impressive of the Calanques is the Calanque d’En-Vau which I visited recently which has one of the most unique of all the southern France beaches.
Hiking to Nirvana
The hike there was a bit hard, especially under the hot sun but when I discovered a beach and turquoise waters in the middle of high cliffs – it certainly made the hike worth the effort! There were also some magnificent scenic views on the way there. If you want to hike to Calanque d’En Vau you can also see two other calanques on the way: Calanque de Port-Miou and Calanque de Port-Pin.
I can recommend staying in the Sofitel in Marseille, as it’s the nearest big city in the area. This 5-star hotel has an ideal location in the Vieux Port and offers excellent views. If you are on a budget then there are lots of campsites in the South of France to choose from
Verdon Natural Regional Park
Contributed by Lauren from The Planet Edit
Gorges du Verdon is by far one of the most beautiful places in the south of France. Located within the spectacular Verdon Natural Regional Park, this 25km gorge cuts through the heart of Provence and is known for the mesmerising turquoise colour of its river. It’s often called “The Grand Canyon of Europe,” and it’s easy to see why – the scenery is simply otherworldly.
My dad and I are huge fans of France, and we often go camping across the country. We knew Gorges du Verdon would be the perfect place for hiking and canoeing, so we decided to go camping in the South of France one summer to enjoy the lakes and trails of the area.
We pitched our tent at Camping de l’Aigle, situated near Lac de Sainte-Croix, a beautiful and well-known lake in the national park. This gorgeous South of France campsite was in a great location, meaning we could get around the area easily and visit all the main attractions.
A Huge Choice of Watersports
When it came to water sports we were spoilt for choice, like rafting, paddleboarding, kayaking, and so much more that was on offer. We spent afternoons canoeing along the water and trying our hand at paddleboarding on Lac de Sainte-Croix. We also visited Lac Castillon one afternoon – a less popular but equally beautiful lake – which we had all to ourselves!
The Gorges du Verdon is home to a famous hiking trail called the Blanc-Martel Trail, a 16km walk following the Verdon river through an impressive limestone canyon. We tackled this hike one afternoon, and while hot and challenging, it was simply spectacular.
All in all, Gorges du Verdon is an ideal location for those who love being outdoors and want to experience the beautiful scenery of the south of France. I could not recommend it enough.
No trip to the South of France would be complete without a day trip to Monaco. Although it is not part of France, the principality of Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world and fits like a glove into the coastline adjoining France.
Wander around the cobbled lanes and watch the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace before stepping inside Monaco Cathedral. See the resting place of the Royal Grimaldi family and Grace Kelly – once a Hollywood star before becoming a well-loved princess before relaxing in Jardin Exotique – a botanical garden with sweeping views of the Mediterranean.
Don’t head back to Nice before trying your luck at the Monte Carlo casino. You may not see James Bond but there will be no lack of Aston Martin’s, Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s parked outside and who knows, you may win enough to sail home in one of Monaco’s mega-yachts!
A day trip to Monaco with its mega-yachts, casinos and luxury hotels should definitely be added to your South of France itinerary.