Fantastic places to Visit in the South of France.
When most people think of the South of France they think of the buzzing resorts on the Riviera, an exotic playground for the rich and famous where the glamourous can mingle among the sea of expensive yachts before partying the night away in luxurious settings. But the South of France has so much more to offer than that. From the high-end Hollywood style glitz to the tranquil chilled out beaches or to picture perfect medieval towns nestled in the hills hiding secret fine dining experiences, the South of France really does have it all.
Here are my top 3 picks for the best places to visit in the South of France that offer the full range!
- Saint Tropez
Saint Tropez was once a little fishing village but it’s cute, cobbled streets and azure blue waters soon enticed those who enjoy the finer pursuits in life to settle here in the summer months to soak up the sun and surroundings. If you are a foodie, then you will be spoiled for choice in this now decadent coastal town. Place des Lices is laced with market stalls full of delicious cheeses, juicy fresh local fruits and souk style bowls of nuts. Enjoy brioches stuffed with rich cream at the local cafes and watch the world go by across the pretty square.
When looking for a bit of activity why not rent a small boat and bob along the glittering coastline to see what you can discover. Alternatively head to the Portalet Tower to step into the military history of the area and see this fascinating 15th century medieval fortification used primarily for observation and defence. From here you can stroll along some of the most remote and private beaches the stunning headland has to offer.
Saint Tropez offers a wealth of beach clubs from the laid back and private sheltered cove of L’Escalet to the electric Avant Garde atmosphere of Nikki Beach and Le Club 55 where you can rub shoulders with the stars within the super chic setting.
When the sun begins to set, why not try BanH-Hoï, a super refined restaurant dedicated to perfecting the cuisine of Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese food. Sample the mouth-watering selections on the elegant terrace, a wonderfully intimate setting oozing charm and style.
After dinner you could seek out the legendary nightclub Les Caves Du Roy to see the illuminated palm trees, submerge into the electric glow of the dance floor and sample a cocktail or two underneath the glitterball.
Provence is an entire region rather than a town which shares its borders with their Italian neighbours and stretches down to the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. It is well known for encapsulating a plethora of diverse and distinctive landscapes including the French Riviera, the gorgeous rolling lavender fields and endless olive groves.
If you enjoy a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, then a must-do is to visit one of the wineries for a tour of how the wine is made and of course you will be invited to savour a few samples afterwards!
Head off in a rental car to travel around this vast area to really appreciate all that is has in store. The hills are teaming with chocolate box villages, and you can allow yourself to get lost in your own discoveries of the charm that permeates the region. Head to Domaine de Manville as your base for your break, a peaceful and romantic spa retreat. Take a dip in the inviting pool before tasting the delights at L’Aupiho, an Asian restaurant revered by the locals.
This hotel is a great base to investigate the walled historical city of Avignon. A bustling and culture rich town set on the Rhone River that once was the home of the Popes Seat. The centre has been named a UNESCO world heritage site and in more recent years has been called the European Cultural Capital. The magnificent Palais des Papes stands majestically in the heart of the city and is the largest Gothic palace in the world. Encompassing a massive 25 areas, including chapels, frescos and the Pope’s private apartments, this attraction is not one to be missed.
A short walk from the palace will lead you to L’Agape, an effortlessly cool eatery open Tuesday-Saturday. Sample dishes such as Simmental beef tenderloin, Italian colonnata bacon, porto and duck liver sauce or Poached pear, ginger and pear jam, buckwheat biscuit, aniseed pear foam and chocolate sauce. This restaurant screams decadence! Reasonably priced and freshly prepared on the premises you can transport yourself away on a culinary dream!
A superb way to keep active in the area is to make your way to the Gorges du Verdon, a jaw dropping river valley that many refer to as the Grand Canyon of Europe. Carved by the Verdon River it can get the heart racing with the chance to experience white water rapid trips along with more sedate canoeing if that is your preference. With turquoise waters and steep cliffs flanking either side the Gorges du Verdon allows a golden opportunity to connect with the wonderous nature of the region.
- Porquerolles Island
You could be forgiven for being completely unaware of this gem of an island that you can escape to within just fifteen minutes of leaving mainland France. Head on a ferry journey from the lovely little town of Hyeres to arrive on the largest of three paradise islands with white sand coastlines spattered throughout with picturesque vineyards.
Hire a bike from Le Cycle Porquerollais or bring your own and explore the wonder of the car free island that measures just 4 miles in length and 2 miles in width. In this pocket of space however there are an incredible 37 miles of trails to traverse. Get lost and let go here, this island is all about peace and tranquillity. It is a haven to soak up the glow of the Mediterranean beaches, to eat in the local restaurants such as Pélagos that produces delicious, fresh and colourful dishes that pack in flavour. Grab a spot outside where you can sip on a local rosé and watch the world go by.
After a day of surveying the beauty of the island get an early night and get comfortable in a room at Hotel Villa Sainte Anne which is ideally located in the square. Rooms here are clean and bright with a hint of Provence elegance. Outside the pink washed walls and the lavender window shutters remind the guests that they are in a place of peaceful French culture. Set just 5 minutes from the beach and providing a superb buffet breakfast what more could you want from this island retreat in the South of France.
When you say ‘Cannes’ – the word ‘film’ invariably rolls off the tongue straight away. Cannes has been linked to the world of cinema since the 1940’s. A gorgeous decadent resort on the delightful French Riviera. A beacon for the stars, you can don your stylish outfits and party with the rich and famous at the Bâoli Beach Cannes where they advertise a visit as a unique experience where you can celebrate and sparkle into the small hours.
Cannes has a softer side to it that is often overshadowed by the jet setting image, this 400-year-old town is steeped in charm. Colourful side streets, winding passages and restaurants galore entice you to relax and explore at your leisure.
A great day trip from Cannes is to take a short ferry journey to the Lérins Islands where you can sample the local wine created by the monks from the region and laze about on the white sandy shorelines to truly embrace the calm and peace that exudes. On Île Sainte-Marguerite, the grandest of the three islands, you can even delve into the cell of the Man in the Iron Mask!
As the sun begins to set why not try a lovely meal at L’Antidote where you can dine on fine cuisine such as freshly caught lobster and champagne. After you have finished your dessert, why not amble along the coastline to the Hotel Martinez, set right on the beachfront with every inch of it designed for maximum elegance and opulence.
A fashionable and artistic haven lies within Antibes, hidden between Cannes and Nice on the azure blue coastline. Starting its history as a Greek colony, by 1850 it became known as the place to allow your creativity to flex and flourish.
Sleepier and with less night life than its sister towns but offering no less style, you can appreciate the old town’s star-shaped Fort Carré and castle which encompasses the Picasso Museum. Not only is it a place to admire incredible artworks, it also inspired writers, musicians and photographers as well. F. Scott Fitzgerald was renowned for unwinding on the beach coves while writing ‘Tender is the Night’ and this fascinating writer also took up residence in one of the hotels for a time, you too can stay at the spectacular art deco palace of Hôtel Belles Rives.
On the rooftop of Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc you can spend your evenings sipping the very best of champagne while listening to the waves lap against the shore.
Another artistic beacon is the Medieval town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. This charming commune is perched high on a hillside with dreamy views of the valleys beyond. Surrounded by lush green nature with the backdrop of the Provence sky it is simply a true romantic getaway.
This sweet little village was a popular lure for Matisse and Picasso, you can still see artworks dotted around the village hotels when the poor artists would barter their paintings for board and lodging.
The heart of any French village is the square, here you can order a coffee and watch the world go by at Café de la Place or taste some of their home cooked vegetarian recipes.
This region is an art lovers dream and here, in this sleepy little village you can actually see one of the largest art groupings in Europe. Not one to be missed.
Another elite sanctuary along the Riviera is Nice, the capital of the Alpes Maritimes. Founded by the Greeks and then conquered by the Romans it was used as a trading port. Now it attracts those seeking the glamorous lifestyle that this area has in abundance. The harbour is bursting with decadent yachts throughout the year and the glorious beaches entice those who want to spend their days lazily reading a book under the French sun or perhaps taking part in the numerous water activities on offer.
For restaurants you will be spoiled for choice at the selection, the square is full of pretty places to enjoy the local cuisine. A few streets back from the line of eateries and you will find hidden gems such as Papayou which is a family run small business combining French and Asian influences to tantalise the taste buds in a whole new way!
For something a little bit different head to La Réserve nestled at the port entrance where you can delight at the luxury gastronomy overlooking the harbour. Listen to the lapping waves as you tuck into culinary masterpieces such as their langoustine selection.
Monaco is a sovereign city state bordered by France but located on the French Riviera. Here you can spend your day dedicated to self-care by indulging in the facilities at the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo that promotes wellness, fitness and health. Book yourself in for a Caviar instant lifting treatment or perhaps a whole-body cryotherapy treatment. Continue your luxury pampering with a hairdressing appointment at Rossano Ferretti that is often frequented by Royalty.
There is a wealth of cocktail bars to savour such as at the intimate Bar Américain located within the Hôtel de Paris where you can relax in the elegant art deco surroundings. For something more primal make your way to buzzing VIP Jimmy’z that boasts a floating summer bar on the lagoon.