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What to See in Provence

Discover the top Provence 'must see' sights & attractions

About the Sights in Provence Region

There are a wealth of places to visit in Provence, from top class art museums to the remains of ancient chapels and of course the famous vineyards. Many of the highlights are in Avignon, but to see the best that Provence has to offer, a car is recommended.

Thanks to the varied history of Provence, you will find reminders of the pre-historic times, Romans and of course the English throughout the region, from cave painting to castles and ruins to churches. Much of this history is documented in a number of museums

But it is not just man-made artefacts that are worth seeking out. Provence is blessed with fabulous scenery, from the rows of vineyards, to the coast of the French Riviera, the mountains of Mont Ventoux and the fields of lavender. A number of Natural Parks have been created, which provide not only protection to the land but informative guides and trails to follow, a popular place for walking and biking.

Provence is home to a vibrant arts scene as evidenced by the number of excellent art galleries and museums found throughout. Historical art collections as well as contemporary can be seen across the region, and not forgetting of course those artists who were resident in the area such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse and Renoir.

Of course, one of the popular things for visitors to do whilst on holiday in Provence is to visit the many vineyards and chateaux. The collection includes some of the most famous and most expensive wines in the world.

Castles & ruins

Surprisingly, there aren't too many chateaus in Provence (when compared to the Loire for example). Of the ones that do exist and are open to the public, the impressive castles of Suze la Rousse, Grignan & Loumarin are certainly worth your time. The best chateau for our money is however, Chateau Les Baux - a mainly ruined castle that has been brought back to life to provide an authentic medieval experience for all the family.

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Caves & rocks

Provence and the surrounding areas are home to some of the most famous cave paintings in France and indeed in Europe. A trip to the region would not be complete without experiencing some of the pre-historic remnants of the area, such as the Caverne du Pont d'Arc in the Ardeche or perhaps the Grottes de Villecroze.

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Churches & cathedrals

With it's rich history, Provence is blessed with some of the most ancient religious buildings in France. The Christians certainly knew how to create grand structures to proclaim their might and to cower any rivals. Some of the most impressive Catholic buildings include those in Avignon - the seat of the Popes in the 14th century, the Basillica in St Maximin la Sainte Baume, and the cathedral in Aix en Provence. Other notable buildings include the Russian Orthodox church in Nice, and the wonderful Cistercian abbeys in Thoronet & Senanque.

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Houses & gardens

A number of superb country mansions owned in the past by the wealthy nobility have come to be open to the public, either due to the generous nature of the families involved, or because the houses have been bequeathed to the local council. Pretty much all of them contain authentic period furniture and furnishings, so you are able to step back in time and wonder at how the other half used to live.  Many also have glorious gardens of different styles. Other inddependant gardens open to the public include Le Jardin de l'Alchimiste Domaine du Rayol in Le Rayol-Canadel.

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Museums & galleries

Provence is indelibly linked to art and artists with a host of world famous artists having spent time in the region. From Cezanne to Picasso, Matisse to Renoir, art has played a huge part in the shaping of Provence today. So it is of no surprise to find that there are exceptional art galleries throughout Provence, showcasing landscapes & sculptures, modern and contemporary art.

Some have an entry fee, others (notably in Nice) are free. Depending on your tastes, you may want to visit the workshops or homes of Cezanne, Renoir or Van Gogh, or try one of the biggest collections of contemporary art at the Foundation Maeght or the abstract work of Foundation Vasarely.

The cultural heritage of Provence is displayed in museums throughout the region, but mainly within the larger centres such as Aix, Avignon & Nice. Collections of archaeological discoveries, specific historical time periods and agricultural & craftsmanship of Provence.

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Nature reserves & parks

Much of the countryside in Provence is protected from development by being designated 'Reserves Naturelles' - both at a regional and a national level. The most famous natural park is that at Verdon, which boasts an enormous canyon that opens out on to a blue-green lake. It's a meca for outdoor & sports enthusiasts. The Carmargue is another well known natural park, famous for it's wetlands, bulls & white horses. The mountains of St Victoire and Ventoux also lie within protected areas.

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Roman ruins

Provence contains some of the most impressive Roman ruins that the Mediterranean has to offer. During their stay from the second century BC, they built aqueducts, temples, theatres and bridges. You must not miss the incredible Pont Du Gard near Nimes, or the Trophee d'Auguste in la Turbie. Arles, Nimes & Orange are stuffed full of Roman artifacts, as in the port town of Frejus. Perhaps the most atmospheric ruins are those of Glanum (near St Remy), which also boasts two almost perfect monuments - the Mausoleum of the Julii & the Triumphal Arch of Glanum.

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Shops & boutiques

Along with the usual high-street brands, designer labels and independent retailers, Provence is probably better known for it's daily farmers markets, antiques fairs and brocantes. IF you have money to spend then there is no doubt that Provence will help you spend it - whether it be on food, local specialities, fabric, hand made goods, crafts or wine...

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Tours & touring

Cycling, hiking or evening touring Provence by car, there is no better way to discover and enjoy this area than to move around it and experience the wide variety of landscapes, cultures and history that is on offer.

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Vineyards & estates

The area has produced wine for millennia (experts say for 2,300 years), thanks to the arrival of the Phoenicians and their vines. The appellation covers the region from the west of Marseilles to St Raphael in the east, through the area known as The Var. Whilst Cotes de Provence wines are mostly famous for their rose wines, rich, full-bodied reds are also produced, along with light and fresh white wines.

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Location: Provence Region

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