It was the Roman consul, Sixtius Calvinus, who founded the city in 122 B.C. and gave it the name Aquae Sextiae due to its hot springs. For centuries the city was over-shadowed by the nearby cities, Marseille and Arles, until the good King René in the 12th century chose Aix as his residential city. When Provence came under the French throne in...
Rognes is a very old village, dating back to the Stone Age. Unfortunately the village was almost destroyed in 1909 by a violent earthquake and subsequently almost abandoned. The new village was built at the foot of the old one. The old stone quarries were used for the reconstruction and some houses were partly built of the very famous red ochre...
As usual in the bigger towns of Bouches-du-Rhône, the old quarter lies in the heart of the relatively newer town. The quarter has narrow winding streets, beautiful, well restored houses and old fountains, small, shady squares with restaurants, cafés and small shops. St-Rémy-de-Provence is rich in historical testimonies. The town is built on top...
Marseille is the oldest city in France. It was founded by Greek merchants from the Middle East in the year 600 B.C. under the name of Massilia. The Greeks made a big success, constructing this city. It became an important commercial centre and the Greeks’ harbour was quite exceptional. They were also the first in Western Europe to build a well...
Roquevaire is a typical Provencal village with narrow winding streets, old stone houses and shady squares. The village also has a protected chapel, Chapelle Mérovingienne, from the 6th century, one of the oldest in Provence, the St. Vincent church from the 17th and 18th century with its beautiful paintings, a Merovingian altar and a big organ...
The medieval quarter is built at the top of a little hill and is dominated by the rough looking castle, Château de l’Emperi, a former residence of the archbishops of Arles. Built between the 10th and the 16th century, the castle is today in perfect condition. It is home for France’s biggest military museum. Salon-de-Provence is one of the oldest...
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An incredibly exciting town full of atmosphere and situated in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône. The old quarter lies in the heart of Arles and has numerous Roman remains. The greatest sight is Les Arènes, a Roman amphitheatre from the 1st century A.D. There is also a Roman theatre from the 1st century B.C., Théâtre Antique, which is often used as a centre for the town’s many cultural arrangements, and Roman baths from the 4th century and a cathedral from the 12th century with its cloister-garth.
Aubagne lies in the hinterland from the coast, east of Marseille. The town is famous for being the birth place of the Provencal author Marcel Pagnol. The Pagnol-society has dedicated a 3 hours walk into the hilly landscapes around the town to Pagnol so you can visit the universe, described in his books and the places where the films were made.
The medieval city, Avignon, is the main city of the department of Vaucluse. The inner part of town is still encircled by its 5 km long fortification walls with its 39 towers and 7 gates. Avignon has a great many attractions. The greatest sight is without any doubt the majestic Palace of the Popes: www.palais-des-papes.com; www.mairie-avignon.fr/en/musees/palaisen.php, which overlooks the Rhône river. Because of unrest and anarchy the Popes preferred Avignon to Rome for almost one hundred years (1309-77). Another of Avignon’s famous sights is Pont St-Benezet, immortalized in the children’s’ song Sur le Pont d’Avignon.
Cagnes-sur-Mer, situated between Nice and Antibes, first of all offers a magnificent, fortified old quarter, Haut-de-Cagnes, perched high up on top of a small rock. The town is intersected by steep, winding streets and stairways and a multitude of small, idyllic squares. At the top of the town you will find the ancient Grimaldi castle from the 14th century.
The most fashionable town on the French Riviera with its long elegant promenade La Croisette and the luxurious Hotel Carlton. Lying across from Cannes is Iles de Lérins, two charming flower filled little islands, Ste-Marguerite and St-Honoret. Ste-Marguerite, the island closest to the mainland is almost covered in pine forest. It is particularly renowned because of ”the man with the iron mask” who was imprisoned here and whose identity is still unknown. At St-Honoret there is a beautiful old monastery, dating from the 11th century. In earlier times, St-Honoret was a religious centre for southern Europe and the monastery owned most of the land along the Mediterranean including Cannes. The island is still inhabited by monks. A museum and a church can be visited by the public.
Cassis is a charming fishing port, situated between two large protected nature reserves: Cap Canaille, Europe’s biggest cliff (going directly into the sea) with its 416 metres and les Calanques, the protected rocky coast from Cassis to Marseille. There are twelve narrow deep inlets with crystal clear water. At the bottom of these inlets there are nice little beaches. From the harbour there are tour boats several times a day. Les Calanques is an absolute must. It is strongly recommended to take the Route des Crètes, which winds up and down, ending in la Ciotat. One fantastic view after the other – just fabulous.
Cavaillon is France’s biggest vegetable garden, primarily well known for its good melons. The local market competes with the market in Apt for holding the position of the biggest market in Vaucluse. The old quarter in Cavaillon has winding streets, small squares full of flowers, well-restored houses, one of Europe’s most beautiful synagogues from the 18th century, a Jewish museum, a cathedral from the 12th century with its monastery and a Roman triumph arch from the 1st century A.D.
Has almost grown together with the neighbouring town St-Raphaël. In Fréjus one can find a characteristic French promenade with nice, little cafés and a multitude of restaurants, bars and discos, seething with life every night. The marina is the normal meeting point in the evenings, and here there is a really good atmosphere. In Fréjus there are quite a few Roman monuments, among other things a small arena which is still used for concerts and bullfights. One can also find a big amusement park with a Marineland.
Golfe Juan, situated between Cannes and Antibes, offers one of the very best beaches on the French Riviera, an impressive marina, restaurants, cafés and boutiques. It was also here Napoleon landed in 1815, when escaping from Elba. In Golfe Juan there is a 5 hectares public park, Exflora Park, showing different Mediterranean gardens exactly as they were in Roman Times and in the sumptuous 19th century.
Situated between Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Var. The breathtaking canyon, Gorges du Verdon, is one of Europe’s greatest nature wonders - an outstanding nature experience that one must experience. At the Verdon river, which is cutting 700 metres down into the cliff, one can go hiking, climbing, canoeing and rafting.
The French centre for perfumes, producing perfume extracts and essences. Grasse is beautifully situated at 333 metres altitude, in the hinterland of Cannes. The old city is very exciting with a labyrinth of streets and narrow passages. Here, there is a multitude of small, interesting boutiques.
Istres is beautifully situated on the big lake, Etang de Berre, between Marseille and la Camarque. The old quarter, in the middle of the town, has a charm typical of Provence with narrow, winding streets, old stone houses and shady squares. One can also find several pleasant parks and flowery boulevards. From the tower of the church, Notre Dame de Beauvoir, there are magnificent panoramic views of the town and its surroundings.
La Camarque lies just south of Arles, in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and still; you have the impression of being in another world. La Camarque differs completely from all the other regions in Provence. It is one of Europe’s biggest wetlands, covering a surface of 140.000 hectares, and one of the biggest bird sanctuaries in France. La Camargue is an exciting “world” with real cowboys, half-wild horses, black bulls, flamingos and big salt and rice fields.
La Ciotat lies beautifully in a bay, by an isthmus. Like Cassis la Ciotat also has some calanques, but they are far from being of the same interest as in Cassis. The old town with its many monuments testify to its rich historic past. It was here the Lumière brothers with their invention of the cinematograph in 1899 laid the ground for today’s film cameras. In La Ciotat one can also find the world’s very first cinema from 1895.
Le Cannet is perched high up above Cannes, and enjoys, for this reason, a fantastic panorama of the bay of Cannes and the island group, Îles de Lérins. Le Cannet is especially well known for its artists’ quarter which is dominated by art craft workshops and galleries. It is an extremely nice and picturesque old town with skilfully restored houses, narrow, steep streets with numerous small, homely restaurants and cafés.
Manosque is a busy industrial town which houses the national French nuclear research centre, Cadarache. For this reason lots of scientists and their families have settled in the town, giving it a dynamic and modern touch. Luckily, it has not destroyed the town’s medieval character. Two gates from the 12th century lead into the very interesting old town (pedestrian area). The old town has narrow, covered streets, small pleasant squares, and old stone houses as well as a beautiful old church with its usual Provencal wrought iron campanile. It is in this town the important Provencal author Jean Giono lived all his life while writing his books about the laborious life in Haute Provence. In Centre Jean Giono his life story is told.
Marseille is France’s third largest and oldest city and today the country’s most important port. Despite what many people think, Marseille is a most fascinating town. The old port, Vieux port, is an exciting sight with lots of life and numerous restaurants. Here you can eat Marseille’s world famous fish soup, la Bouillabaisse, which is served with all its fish and variety of prawns.
The Principality of Monaco (pop.: 31,842) is a sovereign state lying out to the Mediterranean and surrounded by the French Alpes Maritimes department. Its geographical extent of 2 km² makes Monaco the world’s smallest country. Monaco is nicknamed The Mediterranean Manhattan as it is packed with sky scrapers and sumptuous villas. It is a constitutional monarchy and Prince Albert’s family, the Grimaldies, have reigned in Monaco since 1297. Monaco consists of three towns: The old town, Monaco-Ville, with the Royal Palace on top of a cliff, Monte-Carlo with its very famous Casino and the residential area la Condamine, with its big marina.
The Lubéron Mountains consist of two massifs, Grand et Petit Lubéron, separated by a narrow canyon Combe de Lourmarin. The whole area was laid out as National Park in 1977. It covers 120.000 hectares and stretches from Cavaillon in the west to Manosque in the east and from Gordes in the north to Pertuis in the south. It is a fantastic region with unspoiled nature, perfect for hiking or bicycle tours.
The main city in the department of Alpes Maritimes, France’s fifth biggest city and the most important city on the Riviera. Famous for its beautiful location by the Baie des Anges, surrounded by mountains, Nice first of all offers a very interesting old city, the magnificent promenade, Promenade des Anglais, the museum of modern art and Chagall and Matisse museums.
The town first of all offers an enormous basilica which is reputed to hold the relics of Mary Magdalene. According to the legend, Mary and her followers were wrecked and brought safely ashore at the coast off La Camargue. Built between 1296 and 1532, this big basilica is considered one of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture in Provence. A little south of the town one can find the grotto, where Mary Magdalene is meant to have spent 30 years of her life until she died in St-Maximin. It takes a good walk through a thick forest to reach the grotto. The old town and the medieval Jewish quarter offer leisurely strolling, discovering the old houses with facades from the 13th century and the ancient fortifications from the 14th century.
The artists’ town, St-Paul-de-Vence, is one of the prettiest and most picturesque villages in the region. Here one can find Auberge Colombe d’Or, one of southern France’s most famous restaurants.
This town has almost grown together with the neighbouring town, Fréjus. Since the middle of the 19th century St-Raphaël has been a popular holiday resort with nice, sandy beaches, marina and good shopping facilities. It was at this place Napoleon landed on his way back from Egypt in 1799, and so did the French- American troupes in 1944. One of the greatest sights in the town is a Templar’s church, dating back to the 12th century.
This town is one of the biggest pearls in Bouches-du-Rhône. St-Rémy-de-Provence is very well known because of its very rich cultural and historic past. Here, one can find the remains from the Gallo-Roman city Comptoir de Glanum, founded in the 3rd century B.C. and later ruled by the Romans under Julius Cesar. There are still excavations going on. Les Antiques, at the outskirts of the town, has two unique Roman monuments, an arch from the 1st century B.C., and a very well-preserved mausoleum.
Originally St-Tropez was a small, humble, fishing village, until Brigitte Bardot, Françoise Sagan and other celebrities discovered the town in the 1950’s and pulled in the whole jet set. In high season (August), around 80,000 tourists arrive at this extraordinary holiday resort. Despite this “big circus” in the summer, the town is definitely worth a visit.
A most charming medieval village, situated between Cannes and Nice, only 14 km from the coast. It is renowned for its culture of violets. Tourrettes-sur-Loup is very much worth a visit.