If you’re looking for a quiet escape in the south of France, one of the villages listed below is sure to fit the bill. Nestled amongst stunning mountain scenery or perched along the Mediterranean coastline, these villages offer a relaxed and picturesque setting that’s perfect for winding down. So pack your bags and get ready to explore some of the best villages the south of France has to offer!
Here Are The Best Villages in the South of France
Eze is on everyone’s French Riviera itinerary and for good reason! It is much more easily accessible than some of these other villages on the list and has some of the most incredible medieval streets that you can find.
However, because Eze Village is so famous, it can be hard to feel the quiet, local feeling that a lot of the other villages have. I definitely still recommend visiting, but early in the morning and not on a weekend! Also, if you want a place to stay in Eze you can go to this blog post.
Also, make sure you also visit one of the lesser-known villages on this list so you can get the feel of a less-touristy Provencal village!
2. Saint-Paul de Vence
Saint-Paul de Vence is one of the most picturesque villages in the South of France. Even before you enter the fortified walls, you’ll know when you see it perched on a hill as you approach, that it is a special place.
No cars are allowed through the entrance, so be prepared to walk, sometimes uphill or up steps, and wear comfortable shoes. This is a small village and you can easily walk every street in a day.
Make sure you go to the ends of the streets to the walls where you’ll have some gorgeous views.
Meandering through the cobbled stone streets, admire the charming historic buildings that are homes, boutiques, and art galleries. This quaint French village definitely has an artsy vibe. After all, Marc Chagall lived here for 20 years.
From the cemetery where Chagall is buried, you’ll have an incredible view of the surrounding rolling hills and you can even see the Mediterranean Sea on a clear day.
Art lovers should stop for lunch at La Colombe D’Or restaurant where the works of iconic artists like Picasso, Calder, and Matisse are displayed.
The fare is classic Provencal offering many of the classic French dishes. You will not be disappointed by the art or the food!
Written by Denise from Chef Denise
Menton, France is home to one of the most famous Instagram viewpoints in France (Here’s how to get to it!) and the annual Lemon Festival known as the “Fete du Citron.”
This quaint town is an unforgettable day trip from Nice, with a glittering coastline lined with colorful Italian-style buildings and palm trees.
One of my favorites on the list, I really couldn’t believe that a village this beautiful wasn’t in Tuscany, but just an hour and a half from Nice.
This town has a lot to offer, including incredible viewpoints, small local restaurants, and quite a few nearby hikes!
The hilltop village of Peillon will literally take your breath away. This village has stunning views from any angle and is included on basically every list of gorgeous villages in Provence.
However, what a lot of people don’t find are all the different viewpoints there are! The landscape surrounding the hillside town of Peillon is much greener and forested than the nearby Cote d’Azur, so it makes for a perfect nature getaway.
Aix-en-Provence is a charming university town in the south of France. Founded in 123 BC, it began as a Roman settlement and quickly became one of the most important academic hubs in the region.
Nowadays, Aix is known for being the birthplace of famous painter Paul Cézanne, as well as for being the “City of a Thousand Fountains.”
There are lots of things to do in Aix and the surrounding area. In town, you can stroll down the Cours Mirabeau, follow the Paul Cézanne art trail, or appreciate some art at the Musée Granet.
Aix-en-Provence also has a ton of world-class restaurants, including Les Deux Garçons, a cafe that’s been a popular spot for artists since 1792.
Aix is centrally located to many cool natural features in the Provence region. You can take a day trip to Montagne Sainte-Victoire or Calanques National Park, where you’ll find ample hiking trails.
There are also the Gorges du Verdon, which are stunning cliffs set amongst a river canyon. Whatever your interests, Aix-en-Provence is the perfect base for all of your adventures.
Aix is easily reachable by bus or train to all major cities in France. It’s only 20 minutes away from the nearest airport in Marseille, making it a great town to visit for the weekend from anywhere in Europe.
Written by Niki from Niki in New Zealand
A beautiful pastel-painted Mediterranean town between Marseille and Toulon, Cassis was once a fishing village, but now has a gorgeous picture-perfect harbor and small beach. It’s a perfect stop on a road trip of Provence.
Cassis is most famous for the Calanques – huge gashes into the cliffs which create incredible deep coves and beaches, perfect for exploring by kayak or boat.
You can hike the Calanques but by far the best way to see them is by sea – in fact, some of the beaches are inaccessible by land.
Pack a picnic, hire a kayak, then head for Calanque d’En-Vau which is blessed with turquoise waters, a small beach, and fantastic snorkeling.
You don’t need any special skills other than being able to swim and move your arms – the 60 to 90 minutes of paddling each way are so worth it!
Back in town, you can lounge on the small beach close to the port or wander the pretty streets lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants, where vibrant flowers cascade from every balcony.
Head out of town for a vineyard tour to taste some of the region’s distinct herby and full-bodied white wine or famous Grenache rosé, or head up to the imposing and rocky headland of Cap Canaille for panoramic sea views.
Written by the Gap Decaders
Villefranche-sur-Mer is known for its beautiful beaches and its Mediterranean climate.
It’s incredibly colorful, like its neighboring cities Menton and Nice, but for some reason, a lot of tourists have never heard of it and tend to skip it on their South of France itineraries.
The beaches in Nice are rocky, but in just 10-15 minutes you can hop over to Villefranche-sur-Mer for one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the Cote d’Azur.
When you think about the south of France, you probably think about its famous lavender fields. But did you know that the region also has a rich Roman history?
One of the best places to delve into France’s Roman history is in Arles, known as ‘the little Rome of Gaul’.
Arles’ many Roman monuments have been honored as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The most impressive is the Arènes d’Arles.
Arles’ version of the coliseum stands proudly in the center of the old city, although today it is used for community events rather than gladiatorial contests.
Additional Roman monuments include the Theater, the Baths, and the Alyscamps, a Roman Necropolis.
If you are the kind of person that wants to see everything, be sure to purchase one of the Arles monuments passes to save money over individual ticket prices.
The Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence Antiques is a museum focused on antiquities. It features stunning large-scale mosaics and a Roman barge that was restored after its painstaking excavation from the Rhône River.
Arles also has had a significant impact on the arts, as many well-known painters were inspired by the quality of the light here.
The most famous of these is Vincent van Gogh, who created some of his most widely known paintings during his time in Arles.
You can visit many of the sites and look at the same views that inspired van Gogh’s masterpieces.
Written by Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones
Avignon is the gem of Provence. With its medieval walls, charming streets, and incredible history, this is a must-see destination in Southern France.
Spending one day in Avignon is enough time to take in the scenery and see all of the main sites. However, the city’s central location in the region makes it an excellent spot to settle down for a few days and take day trips to nearby towns.
Take in the history of the city by visiting the Pont d’Avignon (or the Pont Saint-Bénézet). Originally built out of wood, this bridge dates back to the 12th century.
Even though the bridge was later fortified with stone to withstand the forces of the river, half of it collapsed over time and was never rebuilt. You can walk across what’s left of the bridge for a nice view of the Rhône river.
Probably the most popular thing to do in Avignon is to visit the Palais des Papes. Once the papal capital during the 14th century, this palace is one of the largest Gothic medieval buildings in Europe.
While the outside of the palace is impressive, I suggest taking a tour of the interior. You will be given a “histopad” that guides you through the inside and shows you what the palace rooms once looked like. This new technology makes it an even better experience.
The rest of your time can be spent wandering around the quaint streets, tasting fresh foods at Les Halles d’Avignon (an indoor food market), and enjoying a cafe in one of the many tree-covered plazas.
Written by Jenoa from One Year Around the World
Rocamadour is an ancient village in the south of France that is known for its historical buildings and religious significance.
The village is located on a cliff overlooking the Alzou River (a left tributary to the Dordogne River), and it is a popular tourist destination.
Rocamadour is home to the Notre Dame de Rocamadour, a 12th-century Romanesque church that is a pilgrimage site for Christians.
The village also has a castle, which was built in the 11th century, and several museums. Rocamadour is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a small town in the south of France that is known for its beautiful ceramics.
The town is situated in the heart of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, and it is a popular tourist destination because of its stunning scenery and quaint cobblestone streets.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is home to a number of ceramic shops and studios.
Around 25km from the more famous city of Avignon, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a charming village in France with links to some famous people, including Vincent Van Gogh!
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence was the birthplace of the 16th-century prophet Nostradamus and in more recent times has provided an idyllic holiday location for celebrities who want to avoid the crowds while exploring Provence.
Princess Caroline of Monaco lived in the town for years, although Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh is probably the most famous one-time resident.
Van Gogh spent about a year at the monastery turned asylum of Saint-Paul de Mausole, and it was during this period of treatment that he painted many of his most famous works.
“The Starry Night”, for example, depicts the night sky over Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The monastery is now a museum where visitors can learn more about Van Gogh’s time there and see some of the beautiful surroundings that helped inspire his work.
Aside from the monastery, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence features beautiful boulevards, fountains, and old buildings, including one of the oldest archaeological sites in Europe on the city outskirts.
This is where the ancient Roman city of Glanum was located, with a triumphal arch and a mausoleum both dating from around 1BC still standing today.
It’s possible to visit Saint-Rémy-de-Provence via an hourly bus from Avignon. It’s the perfect village for a day trip or a lazy overnight stay so that everything can be enjoyed at a slower pace.
Written by Kristy from Tassie Devil Abroad
15. Les Baux-de-Provence
The South of France is inseparably linked to images of shady squares on hot summer days, cold rosé wine in cute bistros, and of course the unforgettable sweet scent of Lavender and Olive trees.
One place to dive into this quintessence of the Provence region is at Baux-de-Provence.
This beautiful and rural village is one of a kind. Located on a 200 m high plateau in the Alpilles mountains, it was once a fortress that controlled nothing less than the vast majority of the region.
Today, only ruins are left from its mighty past, but the city survived and became one of the most popular villages to visit in the South of France.
At Baux-de-Provence, you find everything you expect from the South of France.
But the city also has a striving Art Scene, and breathtaking views thanks to its elevated location and is also a wonderful place to stock up on high-quality olive oil, soap, and obviously: wine.
Les Baux-de-Provence is a very popular destination. Especially during the summer months and weekends.
Thanks to the high-speed train connection between Paris and Provence, many Parisians visit the region as a weekend trip from Paris.
Hence, it can become very crowded at times and hotels are limited and expensive. Alternatively, you can stay in the neighboring town Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where you find more hotel options at better rates.
Written by Lena from Salut from Paris
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a charming little village in Southern France. It’s situated in the French Pyrenees, at the Roncesvalles Pass near the border with Spain.
For many centuries Saint-Jean has played an important role as a gateway for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The town is known as the starting point of one of the most popular walking routes in Spain, the Camino Frances. St. Jean as a part of the Camino de Santiago route is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
The original town in Saint-Jean-le-Vieux was destroyed by the army of Richard the Lionheart in 1177. The town was rebuilt in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port a couple of years afterward.
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a perfect place to come for a couple of days to enjoy the tranquillity and the beauty of the village and its surroundings.
Despite the small size, there are plenty of things to do in St.Jean. The best way to explore the village is on foot. Stroll along the narrow cobbled streets and stop for coffee with a freshly-baked croissant at one of the cozy cafes.
Climb up to the Citadel to get the best views of the valley and the town. Visit Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont, a Gothic church built in the 14th century.
If you’re an avid hiker you can do a day hike over the Roncesvalles Pass from Saint-Jean to Roncesvalles following the Camino de Santiago route.
The easiest way of getting to St.Jean-Pied-de-Port is by bus from Biarritz. The journey takes 1h20min.
Alya of Stingy Nomads
Saint-Tropez is known as a celebrity hot spot, while also maintaining the charm of a seaside village in France. It is notoriously difficult to get to, but definitely a highlight on the Côte d’Azur.
One of the best places to visit in France, Saint Tropez is a small seaside town located in the French Riviera. Once a refuge of artists who came here seeking inspiration, this French village is now one of the favorite haunts of wealthy vacationers.
Its old-world charm fused with sandy beaches and glamorous nightlife are the main draws. And the designer boutiques and luxury outlets – are a blessing for those seeking retail therapy.
Lined with lavish yachts and traditional fishing boats, the iconic Vieux Port is the first site that will catch your fancy. Walk along the promenade, or sit in a lively cafe admiring the pastel-colored buildings stacked opposite a deep blue ocean.
La Ponche, the historic district, is located a few meters from the harbor. Your time here is best spent wandering through the maze of cobble-stoned streets and marveling at the beautiful old houses.
Visit Place aux Herbes – the marketplace for fresh produce, and Halle aux Poissons – the fish market, the first thing in the morning to catch a glimpse of the locals going about their daily life.
You can easily reach Saint Tropez from Nice in 1.5 hours by car or train. However, I’d recommend taking a ferry/boat, it takes an hour longer but rewards you with the gorgeous views of the coastline.
Written by Vidyut Rautela from Triplyzer
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a commune in the Lot department in southwestern France. It is located on a cliff above the river Lot in the regional natural park of the Causses du Quercy. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie has been officially classified as one of the “most beautiful villages of France.”
The village is built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river Lot. It is a typical example of a medieval fortified town, with a castle, ramparts, and a network of cobbled streets.
The castle (or château) was built in the 13th century and was the seat of the lord of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. The town was an important stop on the pilgrimage route “Way of Saint James.”
The village is home to a number of art galleries and museums, as well as a 13th-century church. There are also several restaurants and cafes.
Valensole is a picturesque village located in the Provence region of southern France. The village is situated on a plateau at an altitude of 600 meters (2,000 feet) and is surrounded by lavender fields.
Visiting the lavender fields in Provence is a true delight and as the capital of the lavender region, Valensole is definitely one of the best places to see them. The best time to visit the lavender fields is from mid-June to mid-July when the lavender is in full bloom.
One of the most beautiful lavender fields in Valensole is Lavandes Angelevin, which is famous for its heart-shaped tree. As the sun sets right behind the field, it’s a must to catch a sunset there while you’re in Valensole!
In addition to its lavender fields, Valensole is also home to a number of historic buildings and monuments. It’s worth spending at least a couple of hours in the village, strolling around the cobblestoned streets and visiting the cute cafes and bakeries.
The closest airport is located in Marseille, which is a 1.5-hour drive from Valensole. Otherwise, you can fly to Nice as well, which is 2.5 hours away from Valensole.
If you’re looking for a charming village to visit in the Provence region, Valensole is definitely one of the best!
Written by Krisztina Harsanyi from She Wanders Abroad
Grasse is known as the “World’s Perfume Capital” and its 60+ year running Grasse Jasmine Festival, which is usually in the first week of August.
If you are looking for cute villages to visit in the South West, then Cordes-sur-Ciel will be the perfect destination.
Located about a 1-hour drive from Toulouse, Cordes-Sur-Ciel is a hilltop village, part of the ‘plus beaux villages de France’ association.
As the name suggests, it’s perched so high that it looks like it’s in the sky.
You can easily get there by car or train. You will need to leave your vehicle outside the village and can then make your way up to the center.
It is a bit of a steep climb to get to the top so if you are not up for the walk, consider taking the mini train instead.
Once you reach the center, you will discover the church Saint-Michel, beautiful medieval houses, the marketplace (les halles) as well as several museums and restaurants.
The Maison du Grand Veneur and the Maison du Grand Écuyer are particularly remarkable and great examples of Medieval architecture with vaults and arches.
If you are traveling with kids, head to the museum of chocolate and sugar arts. It’s a lot of fun and you will get to try different kinds of chocolate.
Make sure to go to the visitor center and ask what they have on for the day. They provide fantastic guided tours and can recommend activities that are adapted to your tastes.
Finally, walk up to the viewpoint on the other side so you get to enjoy the best views of Cordes-sur-Ciel. You can also go to the church in Les Cabannes (next village) and take photos from there. It’s a lesser-known spot but it boasts breathtaking views.
Written By Pauline from France Pocket Guide
Martigues is a small town located in the south of France known as the “Venice of Provence.”
It is known for its canals and bridges, which make it a popular destination for tourists. The town is also home to a number of museums and art galleries, as well as a number of restaurants and cafes.
Castellane is a beautiful town in the Southeast of France in the Gorges du Verdon. The village has beautiful medieval streets with shops you can browse through and cozy terraces to sit down at.
The town’s history dates back to Roman times. The small town was started on a rock next to the village. Bit by bit it went down to its present location. This was a more practical place to farm and trade.
The town used to be fortified, only a bit of the wall and one tower are still there.
The Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Roc is what’s left on the rock. You can see the chapel perched on top of the rock from afar. Hiking up the mountain is the top thing to do in Castellane. It’s a 25-minute hike which is rewarded with beautiful views and the small chapel.
There are lots of things to do in the Gorges du Verdon, making Castellane a perfect base for an active vacation. Hiking, swimming, and kayaking are all a possibility close to Castellane.
Spring would be the perfect season for a visit, since then the weather is the best. The temperature is already warm, but not yet as hot as the Summer can be.
Written by Cosette from KarsTravels.