Monday, December 23, 2013

Most beautiful Villages of France - Part 1 Provence

By this post I would like to share with you the beauty of some villages in France. Most of foreigners visit only Paris and the French Riviera but one of the treasure of France is its small beautiful and charming villages.

They are all over the country so it's difficult to make a selection. Hence I decided to focus on region of France, let's start first with the "Provence"as this is most probably one of the place in France where the villages have a special charm.

Note: All pictures in this post are unfortunately not mine and taken from the web. If you have a copyright issue with it, please let me know. I have tried to linked it to the original source though.

First of all, let's see on a map, where we are? Provence is located in south-east France, the main city being Marseille (Circled on this Map).

If we are zooming, we arrive here:

Provence became popular thanks to the impressionist painters such as Paul Cézanne or Vincent Van Gogh, who particularly loved the light and the beauty of landscapes and villages of this area.

One of the part of Provence I prefer is called the "Lubéron" located just few kilometers from Avignon. But let's talk first of Avignon, which is the previous residence of the Pope before Rome. The Pope palace is worthwhile to visit, and the old city itself very beautiful. Avignon can be a good starting point for your journey in Lubéron. Here a view on the Avignon's Pope Palace:

Now take your car and go direction the "Lubéron". This part of France has one of the biggest number of the so-called "plus beaux villages de France" (most beautiful villages of France). You can find more information on these villages all over France here:

One of my favourite place is the village of Roussillon. The particularity of this village is the Ochre colour used for the architecture of the town. The light of Provence on these red walls with the Mount Ventoux (well known by Tour de France fans) in background gives you a feeling of Western.

Not bad isn't it?

Very close from Roussillon you will find the village of Gordes. Here is the feeling totally different even if only 10km away from Roussillon. This time is the architecture  based on white rocks made from limestone. The charm of this village is as well its location on a cliff surrounded by a pine forest, just gorgeous. The village was created during the roman time, and is now one of the main touristic highlight of the area.

Traditional housing and streets of this village:

From Gordes you are very close to one of the postcard of Provence in the world. Actually this place is most know abroad than for the french themselves. This is the Sénanque Abbey...This Abbey is located in a kind of Canyon where the monk are cultivating lavender. 

To take these pictures, you have to come before harvesting, which is usually end of June:

There are other very beautiful villages in the area, here is just the main highlights you can do in one day. But to view more, take your time, rent a car and will be amazed by the global beauty of the area.

Ok now let's go a bit south west of Avignon, in the Camargue area. You can go through Saint Remy de Provence, which became popular thanks to the painting of Van Gogh, who stayed in the psychiatric hospital of the village during one year and where he painted his famous wheat fields or Olive trees fields paintings. The village is famous for his link to the royal family of Monaco, who still have property in Saint Remy and Les Baux de Provence.  But don't stop too long in Saint Remy, it's not the best to see in the area. Drive 10km more south and you arrive in "Les Baux de Provence". Les Baux de Provence is located on a cliff (like Gordes), with castle at the top and a 180° view on the "Alpilles" mountains. This village is french but the Grimaldi royal family of Monaco has still the title of "Marquis des Baux". There is 400 unhabitants leaving there, and 1,5 million tourists visiting these old streets every year...The ratio is quite impressive! But if you have the chance to go there, you will understand the special atmosphere of the area.

Here some pictures:

Les Baux de Provence
Les Baux de Provence

Castle of Les Baux on top of a cliff

Being in Camargues continue your way to Arles. Arles is a roman city made famous by the stay of Vincent Van Gogh who met at that time other painters like Gauguin. It's during his time in Arles that he painted his "Sunflower series" as well as his self-portrait after having cut his ear...

But beside the Van Gogh influence, Arles is mainly recognized for his roman architecture like the arena. No need to go in Coliseum in Rome, here you have a very nice one:

The Arles arena remains one of the main place for bull-fighting in France. Bull fighting is not only famous in Spain but as well in some areas of France, for example Arles. You may want to try the experience... but here it's just question of taste.

From Arles, you can drive a bit west to the "Sainte Marie de la Mer" mainly known for being the pilgrimage place in Europe for Gipsies every end of May. Go there only if you have time, I don't find the place so nice actually... ;-)

Ok, now let's go direction east to Marseille. Marseille itself is the second biggest city in France after Paris, very interesting city because this is the door to Africa, so a huge melting pot in this city which has already its strong identity. The post being focus on "villages", I will not develop too much on Marseille. But in some parts of the city you can find this village feeling. Personally I love the atmosphere of this fisherman villages into what is called "Les calanques", which are the cliff going into the blue Mediterranean sea. For example the villages of Sormiou and Morgiou are accessible by car and gives you this feeling of loneliness in front of the sea...

Morgiou fisherman village in Marseille:

This place is particularly recommended if you want to hike or develop your skills in Rock Climbing. I personally recommend to make at least a day in "Les calanques", just gorgeous, and I don't know any equivalent place in Europe.

Calanque d'En-Vaux

From here, let's go direction east up to a small village, known worldwide and called Saint Tropez ("Saint Trop" if you're trendy...). I think even indigenes in Borneo know this village..., but what is the reason behind this celebrity? Simply because in the 1950s movie directors from "La nouvelle vague" such as Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut decided to spend some times in this small village of Provence. Then it started to be the "place to be" for the celebrities especially Brigitte Bardot who bought her villa called "La Madrague". The village itself is a beautiful and traditional village of Provence, but nothing spectacular neither. The bay of Saint Tropez is beautiful but I'm still wondering why people are ready to spend hours in traffic jam to go in a village which has finally nothing really special. One good thing in Saint Tropez is a cake called "La Tropézienne", if  you are there you definitely have to try it.


Cake "La Tropézienne"

Huge Yachts in the harbour of Saint Tropez:

If you want to avoid the crowd don't go or leave quickly Saint Tropez and go around 100 km north to a landscape made of canyon called "Les gorges du Verdon". This canyon is quite big and you can enjoy many activities there such as canoeing, canyoning, hiking...

Canyon in "Gorges du Verdon"

The River "Verdon" 
On your road into these beautiful landscapes, you arrive in the last village I want to point out. The name of this village is "Moustiers Sainte-Marie". Moustiers Sainte Marie is located at the top end of the road giving a feeling of end of trip to this place. The town is also famous in France for the ceramic, which has a traditional style from Provence.

Moustiers Sainte-Marie

Traditional ceramic from Moustiers  
The road to Moustiers Sainte-Marie being a cul-de-sac (dead end), it's perfect time to end up this post! This is a brief summary on what you could see in a one week period, but there is much more to discover if you have more time, for example Aix en Provence, L'isle sur Sorgues...

... to be continued

NB: Special thanks to "Le Prince Noir B&B" for the corrections and to allow us to use their pictures.  Here is their website:


  1. Dear, some details about les Baux de Provence:
    - No, no this village is not the property of the Grimaldi royal family of Monaco! It's 100% a french village.
    - the second pic illustarting les Baux is in fact Gordes!
    Here you can find more pics to illustrate your article:

    if you want experiment this village without tourists, only one way: have a stay here:


    1. Bonjour,

      Merci pour votre commentaire, je vais mettre à jour le post en utilisant vos photos et en le liant à votre site.