My youngest daughter and I spent one week in Provence France without a car in the spring of 2023. This scenic area had been on my bucket list for years but I did not want to see it via driving myself!
When planning our mother/daughter trip to the south of France, I knew there was no way I would be comfortable doing all the driving for the week.
But I also knew I had a list of over ten quaint villages I wanted to see in the area.
In fact, once I was actually there and learned about even more quaint towns – I realized this is a place I clearly need to plan another trip to so that I can see more!
Thus – my planning for our week here was challenging to say the least.
And I learned a lot that hopefully this post will be paying it forward with ;).
In a rush?
Provence France Travel Guide
- The Little Details
- Best Places to Stay in Provence Without a Car
- Best Towns to Visit in Provence France
- What to Wear in Provence France
- Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
The Little Details
Where is Provence, France?
Provence is a province in southeast France. It is filled with charming storybook hamlets, villages, and towns.
The largest city in the area is Marseille – and on my original itinerary, I had planned on spending the last three nights in that city with my daughter.
However about a week before we left on our flight from San Diego to Nice, it came to my attention that maybe I DON’T want to spend any time in Marseille due to the crime rate and general uncleanliness of the city.
I quickly scrambled to do some more research to find a nicer town to stay in for the two of us but still be close to the Marseille Airport for our flight back to the US.
That town was Aix en Provence ;).
How to Get Around Without a Car
Traveling between the larger cities around Provence (Nice, Marseille, Aix en Provence, and Avignon) is easy with the French train system – you can learn more here.
This was our mode of transportation from Nice to Avignon which was a 3.5 hour train ride that I had booked in advance for us in first class of which the cost difference between 1st and 2nd class seats was reasonable.
Click on the link above to book your train tickets in advance.
When we weren’t walking or using the trains, we were able to arrange taxis or private cars with our hotels.
Uber is also an option in Provence but our hotel concierge was very helpful with the taxis so we never needed to use that app.
Another option to travel between towns would be to rent a car for individual days that you would want to be exploring the countryside. Google Maps works great in foreign countries in your own language and is easy enough to navigate.
Because many of the roads on the Provence countryside are quite narrow and parking in the small villages could be a hassle – we opted for the private tour options that our hotels helped us coordinate.
When to Visit Provence, France
While Provence France is most known for its lavender fields (and the French Riviera towns), I opted to avoid the crowds and go for the week of Mother’s Day (US’s that is!).
The first week of May still had some crowds but the weather was perfect and the markets were in full swing.
Plus – even though we didn’t get to see any lavender fields – there were orange and red poppies blooming EVERYWHERE! So that was a pleasant surprise ;).
Now that I am an empty nester and all three of my children have graduated college even – I hope I very rarely have the need to travel end of June through August… reasons for travel vary greatly so I likely will not be able to control that all the time however my hope is that shoulder seasons of Sept/Oct and March-May will be when I visit the rest of the places on my bucket list ;).
All that to say – yes you will see lavender fields in mid July but you will be there with the masses and in the heat (take that as you will ;0)!.
The photo below is of the pre-bloom lavender fields at the Notre Dame de Sénanque Abby on our way out of Gordes.
How Many Days You Need in Provence, France
Not including the day we flew home, we spent 7 days in the Provence region of France.
I will list our entire itinerary below – but our total trip was 12 days (with 3 international travel days) and the first two days were spent in Nice, France (you can read that travel guide here!).
If you rent a car, you probably could move at a much faster pace but as I mentioned earlier – I had a list of soo many quaint French countryside villages I wanted to see and seriously only saw about half of them on this trip.
But yes – with between 5-7 days in Provence, you will definitely get a really good feel for the region (and probably be like me and want to do a return trip!).
Money Details in France
Currency in France is the Euro. We were able to pay for everything with Apple Pay and our credit cards.
Except for a few stands at the local markets – many of those wanted only cash (which we had very little of!). We took it as a sign that we were not meant to buy the items we were eyeing ;).
I have been told from multiple sources to only get money out of a local bank ATM (or your own bank ATM if you find one!) while traveling internationally. Every other money exchange source will have a hefty upcharge – especially ones at the airports!
Best Places to Stay in Provence Without a Car
And here is where googling best places to stay in Provence without a car did me wrong… In all my research, every blog post I read said stay in Avignon if I don’t want to rent a car and are planning on using the train system to get around.
So we did.
And while Avignon is lovely enough in it’s own right. It was not what I was looking for when traveling to this area of France i.e. blue shutters and quaint streets with markets.
I will link my hotel accomodations in Avignon below in case you are looking for accomodations in Avignon.
But many hotels outside the Avignon area will help you get transportation from the train station to their property so staying in Avignon is truly not necessary without a car!!
(Avignon streets are quaint but again not my favorite city to suggest to stay in!)
And if I could do it all over again – I would 1000% stay in Saint Remy de Provence!!!
Without a car, you will have to take a train to Avignon and then a taxi from the train station to stay in this adorably charming town but it would be worth it!
Plus if you really want to see Avignon (there are a few things worth seeing as a quick stop in Avignon) – you could easily store your luggage at the train station for a few hours and then afterwards take a taxi to your Saint Remy de Provence hotel…
Another option is to stay in Aix en Provence.
We stayed in Aix for the last 3 nights of our trip instead of Marseille as planned and were able to do plenty of day trips from there as well. I enjoyed the atmosphere in Aix much more than Avignon and the train will take you right to this city.
As soon as we saw the exterior of this hotel during our day trip to Saint Remy de Provence, I knew this was where we should have been staying ;0.
It’s okay though – like I said above, I do have a return trip here on the bucket list and can stay here then ;).
Photo on the right courtesy of Le Saint Remy Instagram
This is a much smaller property that we stumbled upon while shopping in the Diptyque boutique but equally as adorable. We met the owner of this bed and breakfast and she seemed so lovely and the perfect hostess ;).
100% in my top five favorite places I have ever stayed at in Europe (and that is saying a lot – did you see the hotel I stayed at in Rovaniemi Finland??) Between the pleasant staff, quiet neighborhood, roomy suite, and relaxing public spaces – I can’t even pinpoint what was the best here ;).
We spent the last three nights of our vacation at this stunning property and it truly was the perfect end to a fun week in Provence.
As mentioned above, I don’t know if I would recommend seeing or even staying in Avignon while spending one week in Provence France.
However this cooking school hotel is quite lovely and would be where I would tell you to stay if visiting Avignon ;).
Best Towns to Visit in Provence France
As I have continually mentioned above – we definitely did not see everything there is to see in Provence during our one week here. The villages/towns/cities listed below are what we did actually see.
Other towns worth mentioning that I hope to see on a return visit are Üzes, Moustiers Sante Marie, Saint Paul de Vence, Éze, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer – just to name a few ;0!!
L’Isle Sur la Sorgue
We booked a private Luberon Valley tour through our hotel in Avignon (La Mirande) and the first five villages listed here are where he brought us with Lourmarin being our last village before heading back to Avignon.
You can find more information on available South of France tours here.
Keep in mind that these five villages as well as the above mentioned places that are still on my bucket list, are quite small. Each one can be seen with an hour or less unless you take the time to have a meal or do a hike at any of them.
But there is a little bit of driving between all of them…
Thus having our own driver was huge for us as there is no freaking way I was going to be able to navigate those skinny roads and find all of the towns our driver knew exactly how to get to all in one day!
Our first stop in the morning was L’Isle Sur la Sorgue with its meandering waterways and fun antique market stalls on many of the main streets.
We were hoping to buy some cute linen aprons at one stall but that’s when we realized that cash is necessary at these markets…
Gordes was the second stop on our Luberon Valley tour. If you don’t have a tour guide driving you, be sure to find the “Towne View Point Gordes” on Google Maps as you are driving into town (address is 13 Rte de Cavaillon).
Gordes is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France and should definitely be on your Provence must see list. The town has a fresh produce market every Tuesday morning (we were not there for that).
After wandering the streets of Roussillon, we had lunch at a truly fantastic restaurant, Restaurant David, with remarkable views of the red cliffs the area is famous for.
There are a couple of trails past an entrance fee booth for hiking if you are looking to stretch your legs and get a little exercise. Learn more here…
Our stop in this village was just for the viewpoint at Bonnieux- eglise haute, the Roman Catholic church at the top of the hill.
There seemed to be plenty of people walking up the hill as the parking for this view is in the village a fair descent below the church but luckily our driver dropped us off at the top ;).
The poppies were in full bloom on the hill which made the views even that much more stunning.
The last town we stopped in with our Provence tour driver was Lourmarin.
Lourmarin has been officially named One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France and once you arrive and wander the streets, you will see why ;).
Saint Remy de Provence
Our second full day in Provence was spent with a day trip from Avignon to Saint Remy de Provence.
Again, we asked our hotel in Avignon to arrange taxi transport to and from this adorable French town.
We had arranged an 8am Flytographer photo shoot in this beautiful town so were able to arrive early to enjoy the streets without the crowds ;).
And before I keep talking about Saint Remy – if you haven’t used Flytographer yet – you can save $25 on your first shoot with code Pashaishome.
Read this post for all the reasons I love this company!
Then after our photo shoot, we loved walking around the town. As I mentioned above – this is the town I would highly suggest staying at instead of Avignon so of course I was just taking it all in!
Located about a mile outside of the Saint Remy de Provence town centre and a very easy walk is the asylum that Vincent Van Gogh was treated at in 1889-1890. Walking around these grounds, you can’t help taking a million photos at every turn ;).
There is a large poppy field behind the monastery building that my daughter and I had a lot of fun photographing ;).
Aix en Provence
As mentioned earlier, the last three nights of our South of France adventure were spent in Aix en Provence so that we could easily fly home out of the Marseille Airport.
Aix en Provence is a university city that is the birthplace of the artist Cezanne and can be a great place to base yourself for your Provence, France trip ;).
On our last day of the trip, we took a day trip from Aix en Provence to the coastal town of Cassis.
This was another one of those times that we arranged a taxi to and from our hotel so that we did not have to worry about transportation concerns for the day.
Cassis is a colorful seaside town that is perfect for a day that entails a leisurely lunch on the water, a boat ride into the calanques, and some shopping.
The boat rides are booked the same day 30 minutes before – but from what all the signs for the boat company say – there are always boats available for the day ;). You can read more about them here.
While I have clearly stated in this blog post that I would have prefered to not stay in Avignon, since it was our first stop after Nice, it did offer a few sights to see.
This includes the Palace of Popes, L’Pont Avignon, and the Rue des Teinturiers Water Wheels.
If you plan on staying in a different town but would like to spend some time wandering this medieval city, you really only need a few hours to see the main sights.
What to Wear in Provence France
For our early May 2023 visit, the temperatures were in the low 70’s but some days had strong winds that made it feel cooler than that so a cute sundress with a light sweater worked perfect for the majority of our days ;).
Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
Our South of France vacation started in Nice and ended with our flight home out of Marseilles for which we arranged a taxi from our hotel in Aix en Provence.
Here is our full 12 day/10 night itinerary for the entire trip:
- Fly San Diego to Nice, France on British Airways via London
- Arrive in Nice, France at 6pm
- Nice, France
- Nice, France
- Train to Avignon, France (3.5 hours)
- Tour Provence, France via a private tour
- Day trip from Avignon to Saint Remy de Provence
- Explore Avignon
- Train to Aix en Provence (25 minutes)
- Aix en Provence
- Day trip from Aix en Provence to Cassis
- Fly Marseilles to San Diego on British Airways via London
I hope you found this post helpful in planning your adventures for one week in Provence France.
Provence is world renowned for its picturesque landscapes and quaint hillside villages.
I imagine even my return visit to this region will still need to be at least ten days long.
And even then – I very likely will not feel like I have seen it all!
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