For anyone thinking about a gorgeous European trip, you have to be thinking about the south of France. It far outweighs the likes of Italy and Spain when you think of everything it has to offer. From lavender fields and wine to beautiful beaches and cobbled streets, the south of France is the perfect destination to escape to. The tricky part is choosing where to start first.
With the French Riviera, you'll enjoy some beautiful views of the coastline from the beach before it fades to night and begins to sparkle. In Provence, you'll find a vibrant history with plenty of museums and galleries to show for it, with the bonus of some amazing outdoor excursions. Occitanie brings an urban edge with its built-up towns and cities, each with a liveliness you can't find elsewhere.
You can't go wrong with any options in our top 16 South of France holiday destinations. Just don't blame us if you end up booking multiple trips to the south of France.
French Riviera and Cote d'Azur
When someone mentions the south of France, the French Riviera and Cote d'Azur immediately spring to mind. These iconic destinations epitomise the charm and allure of southern France, and they are an absolute must-visit for anyone exploring the region. They boast an array of renowned cities and towns; each one is a gem waiting for you to discover.
This picturesque coastline is graced by the likes of Nice, Monaco, and Cannes, just to name a few. With their world-class beauty and captivating ambience, these locales have become synonymous with the very essence of the French Riviera. The allure of pristine beaches and azure waters is simply irresistible, making it imperative that you seize the opportunity to experience this extraordinary part of the world.
Nice is a gorgeous destination, giving you the perfect balance of sun and shopping. Sat right on the coast, the pebbly beaches kiss the Promenade des Anglais, which hides the elegant city centre. On the promenade, you'll find countless restaurants and bars for you to settle down in and watch the Mediterranean Sea flow.
When you go behind the promenade, you'll find little fishing villages holding designer stores and hidden streets with cute cafes. On top of this, you'll find bookstores, some lovely galleries and museums, and lots of open green spaces. A unique part of Nice is their Molinard shop just off the Promenade des Anglais. You can browse all their scents in perfume, soap, and lotion. If you're looking for something more personal, they run perfume-making workshops.
A great thing about Nice is its location along the Cote d'Azur. You can take some nice day trips without going too far. Saint Paul de Vence is my top recommendation. Saint Paul de Vence is an old medieval town filled with historical architecture and winding cobblestone streets. Head there for a chilled and beautiful day, and you won't regret it.
People never discuss Antibes enough, but its unparalleled beauty makes it a great holiday destination on the French Riviera. Antibes used to be a Greek colony, and in many ways, it clings to its roots. It's calm and charming, like a different world.
All of Antibes' wonderful qualities made it a hub for writers of the twentieth century. It attracted the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Graham Greene. Even the artist Picasso was drawn to its beauty. While you're there, see if you can spot any of their old haunts and look for the same beauty they found.
A great spot to appreciate the beauty in Antibes is the Cap d'Antibes. It's far superior to Antibes's beaches as some don't allow swimming, and you want to avoid ending up at the wrong one. In Cap d'Antibes, there are several different hikes that you can take to the beaches, making you appreciate the time even more. You might even find a secluded spot to bask in the quiet.
When you think of catching a tan, your first thought jumps straight to Saint Tropez. Whether you're talking about a fake tan or a real one, it is the place to get that sunkissed look. It's why Saint Tropez is crawling with celebrities even though it used to be a fishing village. Well, that and the architecture and scenery.
In Saint Tropez, you'll spend half your time gawking at the gorgeous houses and boats and the other half visiting the beautiful beaches. Its beaches, Tahiti Plage and Pampelonne, are known as some of the best sandy beaches worldwide, so they're perfect for relaxing. If you're lucky and have extra spending money, you can visit the private beach bars and live in true luxury.
Saint Tropez itself is rather compact, making finding accommodation a bit challenging. By staying in one of the surrounding villages, you'll have the chance to immerse yourself in the local way of life and fully embrace French culture. You won't want to miss an opportunity for a deeper experience of what the south of France has to offer.
It's hard to say what first comes to mind when you think of Monaco: movie stars, the casinos, or the Grand Prix. All are great reasons to visit Monaco if you're thinking about the south of France. Technically not in France, Monaco is a principality, sat just next to Nice. It has the same gorgeous coastline and designer shops as Nice. The only major difference is the hills.
You won't need to hit the gym in Monaco, as the walk from the beach to the casino will be more than enough cardio. The positive is that you always have such a stunning view of the stunning coastline below. For this reason, you'll find plenty of restaurants and bars at the top of these hills. If you get the time, stop at one for a sunset - you won't regret it.
If you are fortunate, you may spot the royal family of Monaco or even a celebrity while you're here. You'll also come across numerous luxurious sports cars and yachts. Monaco is well-known for its upscale marina, often visited by affluent individuals. But don't fret if you're not in the same financial bracket; you're more than welcome to capture as many photos as you want to share with your friends and family back home.
Known for its annual film festival, Cannes is a popular destination amongst many, even if you don't like films. A gala or VIP party is going on almost every month, encouraging the wealthy and fashionable to flock to Cannes.
Aside from the glitz and glamour, one of the best parts of Cannes is the Old Town. It is full of little boutiques, narrow streets, and restaurants that are sure to keep you busy. From the Old Town, you can see the natural beauty of the Mediterranean Sea against the long sandy beaches. Much like Saint Tropez, there are plenty of private beach clubs to visit, allowing you to enjoy the local views and drinks.
If you're considering Cannes, take full advantage of its proximity to Nice and Monaco. You can easily hop on a short train ride to both places, allowing you to turn one vacation into three and save significantly. Cannes offers an ideal setting to strike a perfect balance between relaxation and adventure.
Now, you may think you've heard about all the places to see in the French Riviera, but you haven't quite yet. Toulon is the secret spot to visit without all the tourists. However, don't worry, this lesser-known seaside city still has lots to offer. It has some lovely locals, unique boutiques, and more restaurants than you can visit in one trip.
If you want to see all those in one, head to a local market. There are several to choose from, and if you're feeling adventurous, you could even try to visit them all. Cours Lafayette is a great one as it's been running since the 18th century, and you'll be able to sample lots of local fresh produce and get your souvenirs there.
Another place to visit is Mont Faron. You can catch the cable car up to panoramic views of the impressive coastline. It's the perfect place to breathe fresh air and take even more photos of this stunning scenery. When you've seen the shimmering water from the mountain, you have to get up close and personal. Make sure to block some time out for the beach and port, as it's an experience you shouldn't miss.
Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur
When you're not thinking of the luxury that the French Riviera has, you should be thinking about the simple beauty of Provence. If you are looking for fresh air and countryside alongside a city, Provence is the place for you in the south of France. Much of Provence used to be an old fishing village.
Provence is known worldwide for its lavender, and the reality of it is far better than you could imagine. Whether wandering through the fields or buying soap from a local market, that soothing scent is everywhere in Provence. From Aix en Provence to Marseille, Provence will surely leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.
Aix en Provence
As a former capital and old university town, Aix boasts plenty of fun things to do. You can explore the history through monuments and museums, shop to your heart's content, and venture out to the rolling hills. In between this, you can visit at least one of their outdoor cafes and enjoy the slow-paced lifestyle that they are known for.
When the night rolls around, you are in for a treat. Aix en Provence has a great night scene, with many places open late. You can sit out for spritzes, indulge in some luxurious French wine, or hit a karaoke bar and sing until you have no voice. It may not be Paris, but Aix can help you unwind and truly enjoy your time away.
One of the most impressive things about Aix is rather unexpected. Aix en Provence is the birthplace of famous painter Paul Cezanne, so it has a vibrant art scene. This city is full of famous paintings, independent art galleries, beautiful streets and a fascinating history. So, if you're an art lover, Aix is the perfect place to explore and embrace the culture.
Aix en Provence isn't the only place with a famous painter. Arles is the home of Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most famous painters in the world. Across Arles, you can see many places that inspired some of his most famous works. You can find all the spots on the Van Gogh route website if you're worried about missing any.
Part of Camargue Natural Regional Park, Arles has existed since the Roman Empire, making it one of the best historic cities. Full of Roman heritage and ancient ruins, Arles is great for history buffs, with the most popular tourist attraction being the amphitheatre. Named a Unesco World Heritage site in 1981, Arles Amphitheater is an excellent example of Roman architecture living in the modern world.
Many places in Arles are just waiting for you to visit, so you must make time to sightsee. To visit all these, enjoy a walking tour along the cobbled streets so you can cover everything with an expert. You can even find combination tours for the Roman ruins, and Van Gogh highlights if you're short on time.
Saint Remy de Provence
Known by many as the heart of Provence, the quaint village of Saint-Remy-de-Provence is a must-see when venturing into the land of lavender. Get lost down the winding streets and discover hidden cafes and intriguing shops. On your way, you might find an ode to Vincent Van Gogh.
St. Remy, like Arles, has a deep connection to Van Gogh after he spent a year there in a mental hospital. While in St. Remy, you can explore his past. Visit the Monastery Saint Paul de Mausole, where he stayed and see where he painted A Starry Night. For true art lovers, you can go to Musee Estrine Presence Van Gogh and learn more about it.
One of the best parts about St. Remy is its proximity to rural Provence. From St Remy, you have your pick of quaint villages and parks. A particular favourite is Alpille Natural Regional Park. Here, you can truly see the natural beauty of Provence in all its glory and enjoy lovely scenic hiking trails. If you're not much of a walker, head over to Baux de Provence, where you'll find a charming village with a beautiful castle.
Verdon Natural Regional Park
Hidden in the Alpes de Haute Provence is a must-visit for travellers looking for charming villages, scenic views, and hiking trails. Within it, you will find Verdon Natural Regional Park, known for its beautiful waters. It's a gorgeous park that you cannot miss if you're in Provence. Whether you choose to visit the Gorges du Verdon or Lake Croix, you're in for a treat.
Gorges du Verdon is often referred to as the French Grand Canyon due to the 700m drop down to the turquoise lake. If you're seeking adventure, this destination is tailor-made for you. From heart-pounding white water rafting and exhilarating hikes to the serene beauty of horseback riding and refreshing swims, you can explore and make the most of your visit.
Lake Croix is a dazzling lake that offers adventure and a relaxing stroll. One day during the summer holidays, you could be canoeing along the lake. The next day you can go and visit a couple of the villages along the shores of the lake and see how the locals live. Try to cover both if possible because they each contribute unique elements to your holiday.
As France's oldest and second-largest city, Marseille is a must-visit in the south of France. Marseille is a great choice if you’re looking for a cosmopolitan city with some salt in the air. It has famous tourist attractions such as Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde and Palais Longchamp.
However, the main attraction is the port. While there may be plenty of ports to visit in the south of France, Vieux Port really should make the list. It's a true Mediterranean port with a top-quality seafood scene to match. They hold a local fish market at the port if you want to sample the local goods. You might even catch a glimpse of a fisherman pulling in his catch of the day.
Marseille is often called the gateway to Provence due to its excellent transport links and strong connections to other places within the region. It is your place if you want a good base camp to explore further afield. You can spend your nights in splendour, wandering the streets at night and sleeping in luxury hotels, so your days can consist of hikes, swims, and adventures.
Avignon has some of the richest history across Southern France. This Provencal town was once the home of the Pope and the Catholic centre of the world. Now, Vatican City may have taken that title, but it didn't steal all the gorgeous historical remains. Across Avignon, you can see remnants of the religious architecture, particularly Palais Des Papes.
Palais Des Papes is the largest Gothic palace in Europe, so you want to dedicate a day to it. Make sure to head up to the top of the hilltop village and catch a peek at the Rhone River- it won't disappoint. If you want some less historical activities, Avignon has a couple of activities that scream France.
Just an hour and a half drive away is Baronnies Provencales Regional Natural Park. It is full of lavender fields, perfect for a photo and a hike. There are even some sweet villages nearby that you can venture to. Another great option is to visit what was once the Pope's summer house. Known as the Chateauneuf-des-Papes, you can find lots of esteemed wine here, and where wine grows, there are usually olive groves nearby, too.
Since you've heard all about the two most popular provinces in the south of France, it's time to tell you about one of France's best-kept secrets, Occitanie. No, not the skincare brand but a historical region in southern France that is brimming with culture.
You will find some strong and thriving cities and towns in this beautiful part of the world. Each has a combination of old and new. With museums and galleries there to tell you about the past and the populated streets to show you the present, you can't miss out on seeing Occitanie.
Despite being a thriving university town, Montpellier has a lot of gorgeous architecture and history. You'll find cobblestone streets lined with magnificent homes, sweet boutiques, and more than enough cafes here. You can wander along the streets and discover some of the top-secret spots in France without realising.
Montpellier has a lot of mystery because not many people think to visit it. It's not on the coast like Nice and smaller than Marseille. Yet, there's something about Montpellier. It's the kind of place that when you discover it, you want to move there.
In Montpellier, you can shop and explore for hours, followed by leisurely meals and drinks. It's the perfect place to reset your mind. If you want more from your trip, you can always consider a day trip to Nimes. Like Cannes, Montpellier is a great place to stay to explore the region.
Carcassonne is a sweet town that has existed since the Middle Ages. It is nestled amongst gorgeous nature parks, each with a thriving wildlife. This medieval town will transport you back in time as you explore the narrow cobblestone streets and live a day in their shoes. Visit Grand Puits de la Cite and Cathedrale Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse. These buildings are incredible examples of their handiwork.
For an authentic medieval experience, spend a day in the fortress known as Chateau Comtal. Here, you'll learn all about the town's history and how it came to be today. You can imagine what it was like to be the Viscounts of Carcassonne, living in the 12th and 13th centuries. If you want to learn more while you're there, book a guided tour and absorb all their knowledge.
When this tour finishes, I'd recommend heading for a wine tour. In France, wine is like water, so you have to give it a chance, and a tour is a great place to do that. Whether hopping amongst different wine bars or trying multiple wines within one place, you're sure to get a good education in French wines.
If you're looking for some of the best Roman architecture and monuments, Nimes should be on your radar. Hidden in Occitanie, Nimes is full of culture and history. While you're there, you can see the Arenes de Nimes and the Temple of Diana. You can experience Roman history without having to push through the crowds of Italy.
Head to Pont du Gard, just north of Nimes, for more Roman culture. Pont du Gard is one of the world's best-preserved Roman aqueducts left standing. You can explore their visitor centre, canoe along the water or swim under the arches. It is well worth the day trip to admire the handiwork of the Romans.
Now, when you have learnt all you can about the Romans, you should make your way over to the centre. On the winding streets of this bustling town, you'll find some sweet boutiques, gorgeous restaurants, and little artisan stores. Maybe even a gallery or two. In Nimes, there are plenty of places to explore, no matter the mood you may be in.
If you're looking for somewhere that fits the French aesthetic completely, Toulouse is the place for you. You may know Toulouse by another name, La Ville Rose, meaning the pink city. You'll notice pink bricks throughout the city, adding to its look. To embrace the French, sit out in one of the famous outdoor cafes with a coffee. Or if the weather is nice, head down to the river and watch the water flow by.
In between relaxing, visit the local tourist and cultural attractions. It would be a shame to miss the Old Town, the museums (especially the aerodynamic one) and the main square. You'll find enough things to do while exploring this popular university town.
Another unique part of Toulouse is its link to the Atlantic Ocean. You might be confused, considering it is miles away from shore, but I'm talking about the Canal du Midi. This waterway stretches from Toulouse down to the French Riviera. If you're feeling adventurous, follow it for a few days and see what you find along the way.
The essence of southern France
The south of France is full of some incredible holiday destinations. Whether you are looking for the end of this year or the spring and summer of next year, there will surely be a beautiful place to visit in south France. You'll have an abundance of options with three fantastic coastal areas to choose from.
Each region has plenty to offer depending on the type of holiday you're looking for. The south of France welcomes the beachgoers, the adventurers, the history buffs, and the city breakers. The cities and towns within the French Riviera, Provence, and Occitanie are just waiting for you to visit. For easy booking, look at Kayak or Google Flights and get over to the South of France.