Provence–Côte d'Azur is a wonderful place to travel with children. It offers swimming and snorkelling galore, cycling through lavender fields, kayaking in the Camargue, visiting Roman ruins, walking along the Calanques and wildlife-watching in the Parc National du Mercantour, to name a few.
- Nice, Monaco & Menton
Riviera glamour isn't just for grown-ups: skate or scooter along Nice's promenade des Anglais; hop on a boat for a scenic cruise or a dolphin excursion; and in Monaco, watch the changing of the guard, ogle the yachts and slurp milkshakes at Stars 'n' Bars.
- St-Tropez to Toulon
Buckets and spades, beachcombing, swimming, snorkelling – it's all about the beach here.
- Arles & the Camargue
Quiet roads, bountiful nature, long beaches and activities galore make the Camargue one of the easiest places to visit en famille. Add evocative Roman ruins in Arles and you have the perfect holiday.
- Haute-Provence & the Southern Alps
White-water activities in the Verdon, snow fun in the mountains, dinosaurs in Digne and indoor adventures at Vesubia in St-Martin-Vésubie – nature is Haute-Provence's drawcard.
Provence & Côte d'Azur for Kids
Provence is a super destination for children, with enough activities to fill a lifetime of holidays – from beach-time to biking, swimming to wildlife-spotting, horse-riding to hiking, there's really not much chance of getting bored.
- Sentier de Littoral, Cap d'Antibes Clamber among rocks, in caves and on cliffs.
- Véloroute du Calavon, Luberon Valley Cycle through this lovely Provençal valley.
- Château des Baux, Les-Baux-de-Provence Relive medieval battles at this hilltop castle.
- Colorado Adventures, near Apt Tackle the adventure course near these old ochre mines.
- Alpha, St-Martin-Vésubie See semi-wild wolves in the mountains.
- Gorges du Verdon Look out for vultures in the skies.
- Village des Tortues, Collobrières Spot native French tortoises.
- Camargue Go horse-riding and flamingo-watching.
- Domaine du Rayol, Corniche des Maures Snorkel with colourful fish in the Med.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
What to Pack
Don't panic if you forget something: you will find everything you need in French shops and supermarkets.
Babies & Toddlers
- A carry sling: pushchairs are a pain on cobbled lanes.
- A portable changing mat (changing facilities are rare)
- A screw-on seat for toddlers (restaurants don't always have high chairs)
- Inflatable armbands for the sea or pool
- Baby sunscreen and mosquito repellent
Six to 12 Years
- Entertainment for car journeys – tablets, DVD players, activity books, sketchpads (remember to pack chargers and extra plug adapters)
- Swimming gear, goggles, snorkel and flip-flops for the beach
- Binoculars for spotting wildlife
- Camera and batteries
Most hotels have quadruple or family rooms with extra beds for the kids. Chambres d'hôte are a great family option; many offer dinner on the premises, which takes care of babysitting arrangements: just bring a baby monitor to wine and dine in peace.
Renting your own gîte (self-catering cottage) is the best idea if you don't mind staying in one place; it feels more like home, and you can cook your own meals.
Camping is popular too. Book ahead, as tent pitches and mobile homes get snapped up fast. Most larger French campsites tend to be busy, holiday-park-style affairs, with shops, playgrounds, activities and so on.
When to Go
- For swimming and sunshine, the best times are from May to September; for skiing in the mountains, the season runs from December to March.
- Be careful of the heat – especially in midsummer, when the sun is fierce. It's very easy to get sunburned, even on overcast days; cover up and slap on the suncream.
- Be especially wary on cool days in the mountains – the air often feels deceptively cool, but the sun can be extremely strong, making sunburn a certainty without protection.
- Public toilets are rare in smaller towns and villages, but automated loos are common in cities. Most visitor attractions and some service stations have dedicated loos with baby-changing facilities.
- Breastfeeding is generally not a problem. Nappies, baby formula, baby food and other supplies are widely available in shops and supermarkets.
- Note that children under four get free train travel, and discounted tickets are available for older kids.
Food & Drink
Eating out en famille is commonplace, but the French will expect children to behave properly at the table – so don't let the kids run wild. Most restaurants don't open for dinner before 7.30pm, so brasseries (which serve food continuously) are often a more useful option for families.
There is usually a menu enfant (children's menu) – pizza, pasta and steak hâché-frites (bun-less hamburger and fries) are staples. Don't be shy about ordering a starter or half-portion as a child's meal; most restaurants will happily oblige.
Drinks can be pricey in restaurants (€5 for a soda is not unusual); save money by ordering une carafe d'eau (a jug of tap water) or un sirop (syrup; €2 at most), diluted with water. If you want a straw, ask for une paille.
Museums & Activities
Many museums and monuments are free for kids, but rules vary – sometimes 'kids' refers to children aged under 18, sometimes to children aged under six or 12. Family tickets, covering two adults and two children, are often available.
Note that for many outdoor activities (rafting, canoeing, horse riding etc), there is often an age minimum, generally six or seven years. Check in advance to avoid disappointed faces on the day.