Provence boasts some of the most picturesque villages in France, if not all of Europe. From cozy stone houses with terracotta rooftops to astounding castle ruins atop rocky outcrops, the South of France has a spellbinding terrain. Often outshone by the famous cities in the area, these lesser-known villages make unforgettable holiday destinations for every visitor. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil village among fields of lavender for a relaxing holiday, or a seaside village with beautiful beaches and amazing seafood restaurants, you’ll find it in Provence!
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite villages in the area that all have something special to offer. Without further ado, here are our top 10 villages to visit in Provence.
To begin with a quintessential Provence town, try Roussillon, a community which epitomizes provincial life. The town is located east of Avignon on a hilltop that provides beautiful views of the surrounding National Park du Luberon. The town only has about 1,300 residents, but it’s very popular among tourists for the ochre deposits or sentier des ocres that surround the village.
Though the ochre is no longer mined, it’s possible to visit a former mine and walk through the colorful landscape. It’s easy to see why the area is referred to as the ‘French Colorado!’ The town itself pays homage to the surrounding ochre, as the houses are in hues ranging from yellow to red. The best time of day to visit this picturesque village is right before sunset, as you’ll get to see the houses’ brilliant colors glow in the last sunlight of the day.
West of Avignon and north of Nîmes, the town of Uzès boasts a different but just as spectacular type of architecture. The town is filled with beautifully preserved Renaissance towers and houses coupled with narrow, winding streets that give Uzès a distinctly medieval feel. The village has a population of about 8,000 and a rich history that dates back to the Roman Empire. It’s famous for the Roman aqueduct that supplied water to the city of Nîmes. The most famous part of this aqueduct is the Pont du Gard, which is only a 14-kilometer (9-mile) drive from the town of Uzès. In the town itself, visitors can enjoy the medieval center, the Duché Palace, and the well-known Saturday farmers’ market.
Uzès also provides a charming base to explore the rest of the region. For example, if you choose to stay in this cozy studio apartment in Uzès, you can enjoy the small-town vibe of the village and still be in close proximity to many of the region’s great attractions such as the Pont du Gard, the Papal Palace of Avignon, and the Roman Ruins of Nîmes. Have a look at other vacation rental apartments in Provence if you’re considering a stay in another Provencal town or city.
Vaison-la-Romaine is another town with amazing Roman vestiges. Located north of Avignon, the town contains some of the most important Roman heritage sites in the country: The Villasse archeological site, featuring the ruins of Roman homes and baths, and Puymin hill, where you can see remains of Roman public buildings.
Also worth seeing is the ancient Roman bridge across the river Ouvèze. Vaison-la-Romaine also features sun-filled squares and beautiful fountains. The small town only has about 7,000 inhabitants, but boasts many restaurants and cafes where you can taste exquisite Southern French cuisine. Alternatively, you can also try cooking a local dish with ingredients from the market at home in your own apartment. Check out Provence’s food culture & Southern French cuisine for inspiration!
Known as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Gordes is absolutely enchanting. The town is located east of Avignon and just west of Roussillon, and like the latter, it was built atop a hill. The village’s 2,000 residents live in stone houses with terracotta roofs. Gordes also boasts an impressive castle that’s open to visitors. The beauty of Gordes at the top of the cliff and its panoramic views of the surrounding landscape were not lost on the many famous artists who frequented the village, including Marc Chagall and Jean Deyrolle. The surrounding countryside is also worth exploring; besides expansive fields of poppies and lavender, you’ll find attractions like the strange village of dry-stone huts called Les Bories, an ancient oil mill, and the picturesque Sénanque Abbey.
5. Les Baux-de-Provence
The village of Les Baux-de-Provence features even more spectacular scenery. It’s located south of Avignon on a rocky outcrop in the middle of the Alpilles mountain range. There’s a spectacular view of the valley from the village, but the view of the village from the valley is also a sight to see. Castle ruins make up much of the village, and with a population of just 400, the village is more ruins than people. However, the village and its castle are very popular among visitors who come to see demonstrations of enormous siege engines like a trebuchet. The surrounding area is great for hiking and biking.
Seillans is the easternmost village on this list, and is west of Cannes on a beautiful hillside overlooking a valley. The picturesque medieval center of this town is so steep that it’s only accessible on foot, but it’s worth the climb. The narrow winding streets give way to several beautiful sun-filled squares where you can enjoy the temperate Mediterranean climate. The village has about 2,500 residents and boasts a castle, a chapel, and several gorgeous tall houses. The landscape surrounding Seillans is filled with olive groves and vineyards, to which full days can be devoted to exploring.
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a town that was built atop and named for the river Sorgue. Though it was originally a fishing town, it’s now famous for its waterside cafes, restaurants, antiques shops, and markets.
The town is located between Avignon and Gordes, and attracts visitors who come for the antiques markets every Sunday. Other visitors come for the views of the Sorgue and the working water wheels and nego-chin boats found along the river. A nego-chin is a flat-bottomed fishing boat, and rentals are available for a gentle boat ride on the water. With its 18,000 inhabitants, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is larger than most of the villages on this list, but still retains a wonderful provincial feel. Enjoy a delicious Provencal dish in one of the restaurants by the river and feel miles away from city life.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is one of the most famous villages in the region, and is south of Avignon and just north of the Alpilles mountain range. The village of 10,000 is best known for being the birthplace of Nostradamus and the home of Vincent van Gogh for a time. While he stayed in the asylum of the village’s monastery, van Gogh painted one of his most famous paintings, The Starry Night. Besides the monastery, the town features a beautiful historic city center and the ancient Roman site of Glanum where you can marvel at the oldest Triumphal Arch in France. To read more about the town, check out how to visit Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in just 48 hours!
Porquerolles is different from the other villages on this list as it’s located on an island! The island can be found just off the Mediterranean coast between Marseille and Cannes. The natural environment has been beautifully preserved, and as a result you’ll find plenty of secluded beaches with white sand and strikingly blue water, as well as a maritime pine forest!
The island is home to about 200 people, and the small village features a quaint port full of seafood restaurants and cafes. This is a place to relax on the beach, hike along the coast, and enjoy the best that Mediterranean life has to offer. For more amazing beaches in the area, check out our top 10 beaches in the South of France.
The last town on our list is a gorgeous coastal village on the mainland north of Porquerolles. Bormes-les-Mimosas has a population of just 7,000, but it has plenty to offer. The village is usually considered to be two parts: the historical medieval center and the harbor and beaches that are actually part of the town of Le Lavandou. Between the two parts, Bormes-les-Mimosas has everything you can expect from a village in Provence.
The historical center is on a hill and contains a castle, a church, beautiful squares, and many flowers. In fact, the town’s name was extended to add ‘Mimosas’ to refer to the beautiful flowers that grow in Bormes. The village even won a gold medal for its density of flowers! The most famous attraction is the Fort de Brégançon, the official retreat for the President of the French Republic. Another notable building in the village is Chapelle Notre-Dame de Constance, from which you can enjoy an amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea. Many of the restaurants and cafes along the harbor port of Bormes are close to the water, and there are some fantastic bathing beaches in the area. Lastly, the town has a beautiful arboretum called the Arboretum de Gratteloup, which contains exotic and local trees and plants.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our top 10 villages to visit in Provence! Where will you visit first?