Introducing Provence & the Côte d'Azur
Scenic landscapes, azure seas, world-class modern art, wondrous food and incredible historical heritage – everything Provence and the Côte d'Azur do, they excel at.
And then there is the Mediterranean, omnipresent, deep blue and turquoise in turns, vehicle of multiculturalism, and endless source of inspiration and fun. Even if you don't visit the coast (a mistake!), you'll feel its presence, and not just thanks to the abundant seafood everywhere, but because it defines the region's climate.
Spring and summer visitors can look forward to afternoons by the beach, snorkelling excursions and swimming in between sights, whereas autumn and winter travellers will have the chance to feast on seafood and marvel at moody seascapes. But whatever the season, you'll be able to go on boat trips, discover unspoilt islands and explore the shores along wonderful coastal paths.
The region's natural bounty didn't escape early settlers: the Romans built on Greek settlements and their phenomenal legacy has helped shape the landscape. Many of Provence–Côte d'Azur's towns and cities were first settled during antiquity; Provençal vineyards are millennia-old and the region is peppered with superb Roman monuments, from entire towns (Vaison-la-Romaine, Glanum) to the largest Roman structure still in existence (Pont du Gard) and the best preserved Roman theatre in the world (Orange's Théâtre Antique).
Impressionist and 20th-century artists were also drawn by the region's incredible light, which Matisse described as 'soft and tender, despite its brilliance'. Dozens of artists either drew inspiration from or settled in the region, the result being a phenomenal artistic legacy: Van Gogh painted some 200 oil canvases whilst in Arles and St-Rémy de Provence; Matisse and Picasso both built chapels on the Côte d'Azur and left dozens of works to the cities of Nice and Antibes respectively; and art collectors Aimé and Marguerite Maeght amassed so many masterpieces from their friends that they opened the now world-famous Fondation Maeght in St-Paul de Vence.
With their fields of lavender, olive groves, rolling hills, thick cork-oak and pine forests, vineyards, mountains and dazzling blue sea, Provence and the Côte d'Azur are an embarrassment of scenic riches. The region is blessed with almost year-round sunshine and a divine light, making travelling to Provence a delight whatever the season.
The diversity of landscapes is truly astonishing for such a small pocket of the world: you can go from beach to snow-covered peaks in just an hour. There are many unusual gems to seek out: fossils trapped for eternity in rock formations; Europe's deepest canyon; hills of vibrant yellow and red ochres; rare wildlife; and crystalline Mediterranean coves.
Best places to stay in Provence & the Côte d'Azur
Ten of the world's most mind-blowing landscapes
Gazing at a remarkable view for the first time is one of travel’s greatest thrills - and these 10 landscapes are among the most mind-blowing we’ve ever seen. Straight from our brand-new hardback Lonely Planet's Beautiful World, these landscapes are almost too extraordinary to be real...
Provence & the Côte d'Azur destination guides
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Delicacies of Provence & the Cote d'Azur
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French Riviera Small Group Day Trip from Nice
From Monte Carlo to Cannes you'll see all the fabulous towns of the French Riviera on this small-group day trip from Nice. You’ll delight in the scenic drive along the famous Mediterranean coastal road, as the sparkling blue sea shines, dotted with white yachts.
Monaco and Eze Small Group Day Trip from Nice
Spend a day on the beautiful French Riviera with a small-group day trip from Nice to Monaco and Eze. See the changing of the guard at the palace in Monte Carlo, do a lap of Monaco's famous Formula One Grand Prix and take a perfumery tour in Eze. With your minivan transport taken care of, you can sit back and relax on the scenic drive.
A perfect weekend in Marseille, Europe's culture capital for 2013
Prepare to be seduced by the vibrant port city of Marseille. This charming city in France's Provence region has undergone an extensive facelift for its reign as European Capital of Culture 2013, and now boasts world-class museums, galleries and performing arts...