20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

Written by Lisa Alexander
Updated Aug 24, 2023
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Just mentioning the "South of France" conjures up images of stylish seaside holidays, complete with private beach clubs, upscale boutique shopping, and fancy gourmet dining. This description fits the French Riviera (especially Cannes, Monaco, and Saint-Tropez), but it's just one aspect of the South of France.

A street in Saint-Paul de Vence
A street in Saint-Paul de Vence | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

After the French Riviera, the second most-visited area in the South of France is sunny rural Provence. A patchwork of small farms, fields of lavender and sunflowers, and colorful open-air markets characterize the Provençal countryside. There are also fascinating medieval hilltop towns, Roman ruins, and historic cities such as Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and Avignon.

Would you like to discover the South of France's less touristy side? Then head to Marseille for a glimpse of a real working city with a cosmopolitan vibe. Toulon is another authentic seaport with tourist appeal.

In Southwest France, the Basque seaside resort of Biarritz boasts an elegant Second Empire hotel, beautiful sandy beaches, and spectacular coastal scenery. Biarritz also has a superb aquarium and many fine-dining restaurants, as well as trendy bistros.

Slightly off the beaten path, the Languedoc-Roussillon region includes outstanding attractions like the UNESCO-listed fortified city of Carcassonne and the lively university town of Montpellier.

The most undiscovered area in the South of France is the rural Gascony region. This unspoiled countryside is known for its quiet villages and hearty cuisine. Toulouse is the biggest city in Gascony yet has the feel of a small town, thanks to its relaxed and convivial ambiance.

Plan your French sightseeing itinerary with our list of the best places to visit in the South of France.

1. French Riviera Seaside Resorts

Beach in Cannes
Beach in Cannes

The sunny weather, mesmerizing deep-blue sea, and leafy palm trees give the French Riviera a dreamy quality. Also known as the "Côte d'Azur," the French Riviera delivers fabulous beach holidays with a hefty dose of culture.

During the early 20th century, artists flocked to the Côte d'Azur to capture the sublime scenery on canvas. As a result, many local museums display the works of Renoir, Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, and other painters who were captivated by the coastal landscapes.

Nice is prized for its gorgeous waterfront promenade and art museums, while Cannes is known for private beach clubs and the annual film festival.

Antibes on the French Riviera
Antibes on the French Riviera

Other top resort destinations include Monaco and Saint-Tropez. The French Riviera also has smaller lesser-known towns that are full of charm, such as Fréjus, Antibes, Villefrance-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Èze, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and Menton.

Of all the French Riviera resorts, the coastline near Antibes has the best beaches, especially along the Golfe Juan on the Juan-les-Pins and Cap d'Antibes headland. In this area, there are about a dozen public beaches. The Plage de la Garoupe is the prettiest beach, with a fine white-sand shoreline, but much of it is occupied by private beach clubs during the summertime.

2. Nice: Art Museums and Beaches

Place Massena in Nice
Place Massena in Nice

One of the highlights of the Côte d'Azur, the town of Nice deserves special mention because of its charming historic city center and amazing art collections: the Matisse Museum, Chagall Museum, Fine Arts Museum, and Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

With its scenic beachside location, balmy weather, and pleasant Mediterranean landscape, Nice has it all. The centerpiece of Nice is the Promenade des Anglais, a palm-fringed seafront promenade, while the Vieille Ville (Old Town) is a delightful warren of medieval alleyways and winding cobblestone streets.

Beach along the Promenade des Anglais
Beach along the Promenade des Anglais | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

Surrounding Nice, the sunny Provençal countryside brims with day-trip possibilities, such as Grasse and Fréjus. Within a 30-minute drive are the atmospheric hilltop towns of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Èze, as well as the fetching seaside villages of Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Other highlights include the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula and the sea-facing Villa Kérylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, designed to resemble an ancient Greek nobleman's mansion of the 2nd century BC. Both villas are open to the public for visits.

3. Aix-en-Provence

The Fontaine de la Rotonde in Aix-en-Provence
The Fontaine de la Rotonde in Aix-en-Provence

To experience the quintessential lifestyle of southern France, visit Aix-en-Provence. This elegant city epitomizes the Provençal region's character with its open-air markets, bustling outdoor cafés, and refreshing fountains that adorn the public squares.

As in most towns of Provence, the ambiance is slow-paced and relaxing. Aix-en-Provence residents have perfected the art de vivre, with leisurely meals and strolls along graceful tree-lined streets.

Top tourist attractions in Aix-en-Provence are Vieil Aix (the Old Town); the Cours Mirabeau, a tree-lined avenue with many sidewalk cafés and restaurants; and the Quartier Mazarin neighborhood, which was developed in the 17th century.

If you appreciate Post-Impressionist art, visit the Atelier de Cézanne, the studio where Paul Cézanne created many famous paintings. Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence and spent his childhood here. The Cézanne Trail gives you a chance to explore the landmarks associated with the artist on a self-guided walking tour.

4. Historic Monuments in Avignon & Arles

Palais des Papes in Avignon
Palais des Papes in Avignon

Discover the cultural heritage of Provence in Avignon and Arles. The UNESCO-listed Palais des Papes in Avignon stands as an awe-inspiring testimony to the grandeur of Christendom during the 14th century.

Avignon also has an outstanding museum of fine arts (the Musée du Petit Palais), noteworthy medieval churches, and lively festivals throughout the year.

In the heart of Provence, Arles boasts a must-see Roman Amphitheater that was built in the 1st century to accommodate 21,000 spectators, as well as several other Roman-era archaeological sites.

In Arles, it's fun to wander the town to find the landmarks painted by Vincent van Gogh such as the Café du Forum (now called the Café van Gogh) on the Place du Forum. To see more sights painted by Vincent van Gogh, try the Van Gogh Route self-guided walking tour.

5. Saint-Tropez: A Charming Village with Beautiful Beaches

Vieux Port in Saint-Tropez
Vieux Port in Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez was just a humble fishing village until 1956 when the film And God Created Woman (starring Brigitte Bardot) made it famous. Scenes from the movie were shot on location throughout the town, including at the Plages de Pampelonne where private beach clubs continue to draw a fashionable clientele.

Today, this alluring beach resort still has the charm of a bygone era with its picturesque old fishing harbor (Vieux Port) and quaint historic town center (La Ponche). At the Musée d'Histoire Maritime, learn about local fishermen who began traveling beyond the Mediterranean Sea in the 16th century.

Besides its old-world charm and pristine sandy beaches, Saint-Tropez offers interesting cultural attractions. An outstanding collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art is on display at the Musée de l'Annonciade, housed in a chapel that dates to 1510.

To soak up the ambiance of Saint-Tropez, spend time at the Place des Lices. This tree-shaded square features outdoor cafés where you can take in the everyday scenes of men playing pétanque (the Provençal version of bocce ball) and women shopping at the open-air produce market (on Tuesday and Saturday mornings).

If you are outdoorsy, take a hike on the Sentier du Littoral, a trail with superb views of the coastline. The trail begins in La Ponche and continues along a seaside path until Tahiti Plage (beach). Keep in mind that this trail has some rocky areas. Tip: Wear good hiking shoes.

6. The Upscale Seaside Resort of Biarritz

View of Grande Plage in Biarritz
View of Grande Plage in Biarritz

Stunning coastal scenery and elegant architecture distinguish Biarritz from other seaside resorts in the South of France. The town was once a holiday destination for aristocrats and royalty, and for that reason is known as the "Queen of Resorts and the Resort of Kings."

Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) adored this seaside location in the Basque region because of its dramatic natural beauty. Thanks to the empress and other aristocratic visitors in the 19th century, the little fishing village became a sophisticated and genteel beach town. The regal air of the past is evident in opulent oceanfront mansions and streets named after royalty.

The magnificent palace built for Empress Eugénie now houses the five-star Hôtel du Palais overlooking the Grande Plage, one of the top tourist attractions of Biarritz. The hotel offers sumptuous accommodations and exquisite fine dining.

Even if you don't stay at the Hôtel du Palais, you can splurge on a meal at the La Table d'Aurélien Largeau. This Michelin-starred restaurant serves contemporary Basque cuisine in a lavish Second Empire salon with ocean views.

7. The Walled Medieval Town of Carcassonne

The walled town of Carcassone
The walled town of Carcassone

Carcassonne gives you the impression of stepping into the scene of a fairy tale. Perfectly preserved, this fortified medieval town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The turreted towers lend a Disneyland-like quality.

By exploring the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets of Carcassonne, you can imagine what life was like during the Middle Ages. Check out the Grand Puits de la Cité, a listed Monument Historique. Townspeople once withdrew drinking water from this 14th-century well.

As early as the 12th century, residents worshipped at the Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse, an impressive Gothic monument that is now a basilica. For a peek at a medieval fortress, head to the Château Comtal, where the Viscounts of Carcassonne resided in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Another nearby UNESCO-designated site in the Languedoc-Roussillon region is the Canal du Midi. This 360-kilometer canal was created in the 17th century to link the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

8. Hilltop Villages of Provence (Villages Perchés)

Walking through Saint-Paul de Vence
Walking through Saint-Paul de Vence | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

Hilltop villages (villages perchés in French) encapsulate the old-world charm of Provence. Many of these ancient towns are still enclosed by ramparts, which adds to the magical feeling of being enclosed in a little medieval world.

You will enjoy wandering narrow cobblestone streets and pedestrian lanes to discover small boutiques, fountain-adorned squares, and historic churches. Provençal hilltop villages also will delight you with splendid views of the rural landscape.

If you are traveling by car, you can create a driving itinerary to discover the quaint country villages of Provence, especially in the remote Luberon region, which is designated as a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve.

Saint-Paul de Vence
Saint-Paul de Vence

For those based in Nice, several interesting hilltop villages are easy day-trip destinations. These are beautiful little towns, although this area is no longer rural and instead is part of the suburban sprawl around Nice.

It's hard to resist the allure of Saint-Paul de Vence, about a 30-minute drive from Nice. This well-preserved walled town stands high on a precipice overlooking the landscape. The town's quaint cobblestone streets, enticing boutiques, and fabulous views make up for the fact that the village is overrun with visitors even in the off-season.

Beginning in the 1920s, many famous artists were drawn to the beauty of Saint-Paul de Vence, and their work is on display at the Fondation Maeght, two kilometers outside the village.

Along the French Riviera coastline, Èze is a captivating hilltop village (only 12 kilometers from Nice) perched 400 meters above the sea. This picture-perfect village affords sweeping vistas of the Mediterranean and the Cap-Ferrat coastline. Luxurious accommodations are found at the Château de la Chèvre d'Or hotel, a Relais & Châteaux property with a two Michelin-starred restaurant.

A 45-minute drive from Nice in the foothills of the Maritime Alps is the town famous for its perfume factories. Grasse also has a wonderful Vieille Ville (Old Town), full of narrow pedestrian streets, small squares, and historic buildings. To soak up the ambiance and sunshine, stop for a leisurely al fresco lunch on the Old Town's main square (Place aux Aires).

One of the Plus Beaux Villages de France, Gourdon (40 kilometers from Nice) boasts many artisan craft boutiques and an impressive château with gardens designed by André Le Nôtre. From Nice, you can go on a full-day Provence countryside small-group day trip to visit hilltop towns Grasse, Gourdon, and Saint-Paul de Vence as well as the seaside resort of Cannes.

Medieval hilltop villages are scattered throughout the Haut-Vaucluse area of Provence. Two more of France's Plus Beaux Villages are Séguret (10 kilometers from Vaison-la-Romaine) overlooking the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range and Venasque, which affords views of Mont Ventoux.


Presiding above rocky gorges in the Haut-Vaucluse, Monieux has a museum dedicated to truffles, the Musée de la Truffe du Ventoux, and hosts a Medieval Festival in September.

Crillon-le-Brave offers the charm of a quiet hilltop hamlet along with a five-star Relais & Châteaux resort property, the Hôtel Crillon Le Brave.

The Luberon natural regional park in the Haut Vaucluse has many medieval hilltop towns on the Plus Beaux Villages list: Gordes, dramatically perched on a steep promontory; Ménerbes, made famous by Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence novel; Lourmarin, which has a majestic château that hosts cultural events and festivals; Roussillon, built alongside an ochre cliff and surrounded by woodlands; and Lacoste, a tiny village full of art galleries and outdoor cafés.

Also in the Luberon natural park, Bonnieux stands out because of its traditional Provençal market and its fantastic museum devoted to the history of bread, the Musée de la Boulangerie. The town also has an interesting Romanesque church.

Apt is known for its large Provençal market (held on Saturday mornings) and museum of archaeology, while Cadenet has a luxurious boutique hotel, the Auberge La Fenière, with a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Goût de Bonheur.

9. The Glamorous Seaside City-State of Monaco

View of Monaco on a beautiful summer day
View of Monaco on a beautiful summer day

Perched on a promontory above the sea, Monaco boasts an impressive ancient castle and splendid coastal views. This dazzling city-state on the French Riviera is home to a royal family with a heritage that dates back to the 13th century.

Just a 30-minute train ride from Nice, Monaco draws fashionable crowds to its high-profile yacht shows, the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco car race, and the Opening Gala at the Opera House.

Opera House, Monaco
Opera House, Monaco | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

Even if you only visit for a day or afternoon, you can see many of the highlights of Monaco including the Palais Princier (Prince's Palace), the Musée Océanographique, and the ritzy Place du Casino in the Monte-Carlo district. These top attractions are all within easy walking distance.

10. Montpellier

Old Town of Montpellier
Old Town of Montpellier

Despite being a modern urban city, Montpellier has retained its historic character in L'Écusson (the Old Town) with its jumble of winding medieval streets, elegant squares, beautiful churches, and stately hôtel particuliers (aristocratic mansions).

Encircling L'Écusson, spacious tree-lined boulevards were created by Baron Haussmann (who designed the Grands Boulevards of Paris) in the 19th century, replacing the city's medieval ramparts. The best of the 21st century is seen in Montpellier's sleek tram system with new cars featuring decorations by Christian Lacroix.

An air of trendiness and youthful energy reigns throughout Montpellier, thanks to the university-student population. Buzzing sidewalk cafés and chic gourmet restaurants delight locals and tourists alike.

11. Lourdes & Pyrénées Nature Sites

Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes
Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes

Densely forested, rolling hills provide an inspiring backdrop for the Lourdes cathedral alongside the rushing Ousse River. Pure spring waters flow into a Grotto where Saint Bernadette received visions of the Virgin Mary. Water from this source is believed to have healing properties.

Millions of pilgrims visit Lourdes annually, making it the biggest pilgrimage destination in France and one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. Pilgrims visit the Grotto of the Apparitions, worship at the Basilique Notre-Dame du Rosaire (Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary), and participate in candlelit Marian processions.

One of the top attractions of the French Pyrenees, Lourdes draws many pilgrims who hope for cures to an illness by bathing in the sacred waters. So far, the Catholic church has validated 70 official miracles.

Lourdes is an ideal starting point to explore the Pyrenees Mountains. The UNESCO-listed Cirque de Gavarnie awes you with its spectacular scenery of sheer granite walls and rushing waterfalls. The highest summit (the peak of Mont Perdu) soars to over 3,300 meters; the Grande Cascade with a 422-meter drop is Europe's tallest waterfall.

An easy walking path at the Cirque de Gavarnie allows you to soak up the scenery of snow-dusted mountains, alpine chalets, and goats grazing on the grass. You'll also enjoy listening to the refreshing sounds of a meandering stream and the chirping of little birds.

12. Marseilles, the Calanques & Cassis

Fishing Boats in the Port de Cassis
Fishing Boats in the Port de Cassis

To experience an authentic Mediterranean seaport, spend a day or two exploring Marseilles. A bustling harbor explains the city's raison d'être, as well as its rich multicultural heritage.

The Old Town (Le Panier) of Marseille brims with historic buildings, artisan boutiques, and authentic restaurants, while the Vieux Port dating back to the 6th century BC is still in use today as a launching point for fishing boats.

A fish market is held every morning at the harbor, and the restaurants around the waterfront are the best places to visit to sample the gastronomic specialty of Marseilles, bouillabaisse (seafood stew). The upscale Restaurant Miramar (12 Quai du Port) is famous for its bouillabaisse.

From the Vieux Port in Marseille, you can hop on a ferry to reach two favorite tourist destinations: the 16th-century Château d'If (fortress) on the île d'If, and the Calanques, a national park featuring white limestone coves filled with seawater. You can also take cruises and private boat excursions to explore the Calanques (coves).

It is even possible to take an Electric Bike Tour to the Calanques from Marseille. This full-day tour traverses the wild terrain of the Calanques with a stop at a beach for swimming and concludes with a visit to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, one of the top tourist attractions in Marseille.

Less than 30 kilometers from Marseilles is Cassis. The pastel-painted houses, picturesque port, and bright Mediterranean sunlight of this Provençal fishing village appealed to Post-Impressionist painters such as Paul Signac, Henri Matisse, and Raoul Dufy, who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century to paint scenes of the harbor and coastline.

Today, Cassis is a recreational getaway for residents of Marseille as well as travelers who appreciate the charm of a small seaside town. If you would like to visit Cassis and the Calanques as a day trip from Marseille, an organized sightseeing tour is the perfect option.

13. Ancient Roman Monuments & Archaeological Sites

Arènes de Nîmes
Arènes de Nîmes

Both Arles in Provence and Nice on the French Riviera have fascinating ancient Roman ruins, among their other tourist attractions. The Arènes d'Arles was once used for gladiator fights and today hosts cultural performances. In the Cimiez quarter of Nice are the ancient ruins of Cemenelum, revealing vestiges of the Roman baths and amphitheater.

Nîmes in the Languedoc region has some of the most impressive ancient Roman monuments in the south of France. The Arènes de Nîmes, a perfectly designed Roman amphitheater, and the Maison Carrée (Roman temple) are remarkable for their exceptional state of preservation.

An important town during classical antiquity, Orange boasts a UNESCO-listed Théâtre Antique (Roman theater dating to the 1st century). This incredibly well-preserved ancient theater today hosts the renowned Chorégies d'Orange music festival, as well as other cultural events.

In the Haut-Vaucluse area of Provence, Orange is a 30-minute drive away from Vaison-la-Romaine, which is considered one of the Plus Beaux Détours de France (France's official list of places worthy of a detour).

Vaison-la-Romaine has remarkable archaeological sites dating to the 1st century. The old Roman theater of Vaison-la-Romaine is used as an open-air venue for Vaison Danses, an international dance festival that takes place every year in July.

Also in the Haut-Vaucluse area, Pernes-les-Fontaines was founded during the Gallo-Roman era. This relaxing town was named for its many fountains that provide abundant drinking water, a legacy of the Roman heritage.

14. UNESCO-Listed Albi

View of Albi and the Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile
View of Albi and the Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile

The historic episcopal city of Albi is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its exceptional architecture and cultural value. An imposing fortress-like cathedral presides over the medieval town.

Founded in the 13th century, the enormous Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile is the world's largest cathedral built from brick. The breathtaking vaulted interior features over 18,000 square meters of frescoes and an ornately decorated Gothic choir with 200 intricate statues. Not to be missed is the Last Judgment fresco, a masterpiece of Renaissance painting.

Housed in the UNESCO-listed 13th-century Palais de la Berbie, the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum is devoted to the work of the famous artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born in Albi. The museum displays Lautrec's distinctive posters, as well as paintings and drawings.

Albi is a worthwhile day trip from Toulouse (a one-hour drive) or combined with an itinerary of other attractions such as Carcassonne (about a two-hour drive).

15. Toulon & Île de Porquerolles


Toulon is less touristy than other seaside cities along France's Mediterranean coast yet offers plenty of attractions. This characteristic port town has an attractive palm-fringed waterfront, which is full of shops, and restaurants with outdoor terraces.

Highlights of Toulon are the atmospheric Le Mourillon quarter, an old fishing village; the historic harbor including the Porte de l'Arsenal, an 18th-century military building that houses the Musée National de la Marine (seafaring museum); and the astounding coastal views from Mont Faron (accessible by the Téléphérique du Faron cable car).

A traditional Provençal market has been held in Toulon since the 18th century. Today, this market takes place every day (except Mondays) at the Cours Lafayette from 7:30 am until 12:30 pm; vendors sell fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, specialty food products, and Provençal fabrics.

From the Port of Toulon, you can sail away to the dreamy Île de Porquerolles just an hour's ferry ride away. The island features unspoiled natural scenery, sandy beaches, and secluded coves. It's the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway. Besides sunbathing, the Île de Porquerolles offers opportunities for snorkeling, hiking, and mountain biking.

16. The Gascony Region

Lavardens Castle in Gascony
Lavardens Castle in Gascony

If you really want to get away from all the tourists, go to Le Gers (the Gascony region). This pastoral region in Southwest France is exceptionally charming, yet almost completely undiscovered by travelers.

Unspoiled forests and farmlands blanket the undulating countryside in a colorful patchwork while hilltops are dotted with imposing castles, walled medieval towns, and quiet country villages.

Toulouse is the largest city in the region, but it has a slow-paced, small-town feel. With its sultry climate and sidewalk cafés found at every turn, Toulouse immerses you in a relaxing ambiance typical of southern France.

There are plenty of things to see in Toulouse, including a UNESCO-listed Romanesque basilica and stately civic buildings constructed from the red bricks that earned the city its name, La Ville Rose.

17. Bordeaux

Place de la Bourse
Place de la Bourse

UNESCO has designated the entire historic city center of Bordeaux as a World Heritage Site because of its cultural value and architectural treasures from the Age of Enlightenment. The city boasts nearly 350 buildings that are listed as Monuments Historiques.

Built up along the Garonne River in Southwest France, Bordeaux is a cosmopolitan port town with a heritage that stretches back to antiquity. The city flourished during the 18th century, which explains the coherence of Neoclassical buildings dating to that era.

Among Bordeaux's top tourist attractions are the UNESCO-listed 12th-century Cathédrale Saint-André and the 18th-century Grand-Théâtre, which hosts ballet, opera, and music performances.

18. Le Var

Village of Cotignac in the Var Region
Village of Cotignac in the Var Region

Le Var region is a hidden gem of Southern France, nestled between Provence and the French Riviera. Lush woodlands, rolling hills, and farmlands define the landscape of this rural area. The countryside is dotted with historic towns, ancient abbeys, and beautiful villages.

You may visit La Chartreuse de La Verne, a serene Carthusian monastery (and listed Monument Historique) that is open to the public. You will appreciate the peaceful setting, as well as the monastery's 12th-century Romanesque church and the ceramics (for sale at the monastery's boutique) that are handcrafted by the resident nuns. The boutique is closed on Sundays.

The Abbaye du Thoronet is another 12th-century abbey (classified as a Historic Monument) hidden deep within a forest of oak and olive trees. The Thoronet Abbey is one of three important Cistercian monuments in the South of France (the others include the Silvacane Abbey and the Abbey of Sénanque in Provence). You may visit the abbey year-round.

The Var region is full of traditional country villages and towns featuring fountain-adorned squares and inviting outdoor cafés. Lorgues is typical with its many fountains, an impressive historic church, an atmospheric medieval quarter, and a weekly open-air market that draws many visitors.

Near Lorgues are two tourist attractions that appeal to luxury seekers and gourmands: the Château de Berne (in the town of Flayosc), a five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel set amid vine-cloaked fields and olive groves; and the famous Chez Bruno fine-dining restaurant (in Le Plan Campagne Mariette near the Château de Berne) that specializes in dishes made with truffles.

Sheltered by steep limestone cliffs, Cotignac (23 kilometers from Lorgues) is classified as a Village de Caractère du Var (Village of Character of the Var) as well as one of the Plus Beaux Villages thanks to its lovely ambiance, picturesque streets, and pleasant tree-lined central square.

If you love the great outdoors, be sure to see the Gorges du Verdon in the region's northeastern corner. Part of the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon, this 700-meter-deep river canyon offers opportunities for swimming, water sports, and hiking.

19. The Camargue

Wild Horses in the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue
Wild Horses in the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue

About a 20-minute drive from Arles, the Camargue is a unique landscape of wetlands, marshlands, beaches, and sand dunes. The Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue is home to wild white horses, Camargue bulls (used in bullfighting), and over 300 species of birds including pink flamingos.

Within the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer delights tourists with its sandy beaches and a wide selection of cafés, restaurants, and shops.

Just outside the Camargue Natural Regional Park are several noteworthy historic towns. Dating back to the 13th century, Aigues-Mortes has its medieval fortifications completely intact. These ancient walls conceal an atmospheric warren of narrow streets, steeped in the ambiance of the Middle Ages.

Salt marshes surround the town of Aigues-Mortes and less than two kilometers away is the Salin d'Aigues-Mortes, where the prized Fleur de Sel de Camargue sea salt is harvested by artisans in the centuries-old manner. At the Salin d'Aigues-Mortes site, you can take a guided or self-guided walking tour of the salt marshes. During July and August, watch workers harvest the Fleur de Sel salt.

The area around the Camargue Natural Regional Park boasts seaside vacation destinations: Le Grau-du-Roi (seven kilometers from Aigues-Mortes), an old fishing village that has been transformed into a modern resort; and Port Camargue (12 kilometers from Aigues-Mortes), which has sandy beaches.

20. Plage de l'Espiguette

Plage de l'Espiguette
Plage de l'Espiguette

The Plage de l'Espiguette ranks as one of the best beaches in France because of its pristine environment and calm deep-blue seas. This dreamy stretch of white-sand shoreline is a favorite summertime destination in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (a 45-minute drive from Montpellier).

At this wild unspoiled beach, outdoor activities are the main draw. Things to do include swimming, nature walks, horseback riding, kitesurfing, and fishing.

Map of Places to Visit in the South of France

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Other Highlights of France: Many travelers begin a vacation in France by visiting the capital city of Paris. The TGV high-speed train takes just over 2.5 hours from Paris to Avignon, a good starting point to explore Provence. For more trip-planning inspiration, read about the best places to visit in France. Other top tourist destinations include Normandy and the Loire Valley.