Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

General Info

Regional Map
Conseil Régional
Tourism: Comité Régional de Tourisme
Capital: Marseille
Departments: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Hautes-Alpes, Var, Vaucluse
Arrondissements-18, Cantons-237, Communes-963
Population: 4,855,484 (2008)

France Provence Region Departments Map


France Provence Aix-en-Provence La Rotonde
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) has everything one might want in terms of clear bright sunshine and natural beauty. The Côte d'Azur, or French Riviera, stretches from Cannes to Menton on the Italian border and has been frequented by visitors ranging from Queen Victoria to modern Hollywood stars. Here one finds expensive resorts and it is considered a playground for the rich and famous.

The Lubéron is a Massif or group of mountains comprised of three ranges, the Little Luberon, the Big Luberon, and the Oriental Luberon, all lying in close proximity in the geographic center of Provence. In the Calavon valley the Calavon river runs through exceptional towns as well as beautiful and functional agricultural land. Notable villages here are Apt, Bonnieux, Gordes, Lacoste, Ménerbes, Oppède, and Roussillon. These Hilltop villages lie just east of Avignon and are easily accessible by car. From many points Mount Ventoux can easily be seen to the north rising in the distance. Lubéron market days

Marseille is France's oldest city and was settled by the Greeks around 546 BC, taken over by the Romans around 49 BC, and became French in 1481 after being under the rule of the Counts of Provence from the 9th-13th centuries. It has absorbed a large number of immigrants over the years and has had a reputation for being an untidy and sprawling city, but has in recent years begun to clean up its act. Aix-en-Provence is one of the stars of the region and is nicknamed the City of a Thousand Fountains having three on its wide plane tree-lined thoroughfare, Cours Mirabeau.

The Camargue is western Europe's largest river delta and is actually an island. It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes. Here is a sparsely populated delta of the Rhône River which is known for its desolate beauty, many species of birds, wild white horses, and black bulls that graze along the rice fields which are protected by gardians (cowboys). PACA has a seemingly endless number of interesting villages, towns, and cities, as well as attractive beaches and historic sights.

Provence Departmental Information

Luberon Market Days

~ Markets are usually in the morning & until lunchtime ~

Goult (afternoon)
La Tour d'Aigues
St Saturnin les Apt
Lourmarin (evening farmer's market)
St Martin de Castillon
Cheval Blanc
Isle sur la Sorgue
France market France market

Farmers' Markets

Tuesday morning
Apt, year-round
Wednesday morning
Pertuis, year round
La Tour d'Aigues, July-August
Pertuis, year round
Cadenet, May-November
Pierrerue, year round
Lauris, May-December
Coustellet, April-December
St.-Martin-de-la-Brasque, April-December

~ At the Farmers' Markets or Marchés paysans, food items are seasonal ~

Notable Towns and Sights in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region

Aix-en-Provence (Bouches du Rhône) was founded by the Romans and is nicknamed the "city of a thousand fountains" having three on its wide plane tree-lined thoroughfare, Cours Mirabeau (photo). It is a center of art and learning and has numerous noteworthy museums including Le Musée Granet (painting, sculpture,and archeology), Le Musée de Tapisseries (tapestry) housed in the Archbishop's Palace, and Le Pavillon de Vendôme is a 17th-century mansion housing permanent and touring art exhibitions. The Musée Paul Arbaud (faïence and pottery) and l'atelier Cézanne, on the northern outskirts of Aix, constructed around the studio of the painter Paul Cézanne. Aix also has an annual opera festival, "Festival International d'Art Lyrique". Mairie, Festivals, and Aix en France Provence Aix
Ansouis (Vaucluse) is a small perched village that faces the southern slopes of the Lubéron and is one of France's Plus Beaux Villages. The well restored 10th-century château which has been in the Sabrans family for over 8 centuries dominates the village above and has a Romanesque parish, Saint Martin, attached to its walls. At the foot of the village is the Musée Extraordinaire created by deep sea diver Georges Mazoyer. It hosts varied collections of Provençal Rococo style wooden furniture, deep-sea items, and geological artifacts from the Lubéron. Large ceramic sculptures of marine life embellish the museum's entrance. Also in Ansouis is a semicircular clock tower (photo) that is integrated into the 16th-century buildings and is crowned with a forged iron bell tower . Château Turcan vineyard and Wine Museum France Provence Ansouis
Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes) was founded by the Greeks and is a lively town and a centre for Mediteranean yachting. Sites here include the formerly fortified Fort Carré which was designed by Vauban (17th-century) and the Musée Picasso. This museum is housed in the Chäteau Grimaldi which was owned previously by the ruling family of Monaco. See Cap d'Antibes below. France Provence Antibes
Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône) is surrounded by the beautiful Rhône river at the tip of the Camargue plain. It seems to combine the best qualities of all towns in the Provence region and was home to artist Vincent Van Gogh (19th-c). Notable here is the 26,000 capacity Les Arènes (photo) Roman amphitheatre built in the late 1st-2nd century which still hosts Provençal-style bullfights (Courses Camarguaises where the bull is not killed) and the Théâtre Antique which hosts open-air film, dance, and music festivals in the summer. Also the Thermes de Constantine (photo) (thermal Roman baths) may be toured. The Church of Saint Trophimus (photo) and its portal which represents the Last Judgement are considered one of the finest example sof Romanesque architecture and sculpture. There are several museums including the Musée de l'Arles et de la Provence antiques, the Musée Réattu (Picasso sketches and Zadkine sculpture), and the Museon Arlaten which was built by poet Frédéric Mistral in 1904 and houses a collection of native Provence room settings and costume. Tourisme    Easter Feria bullfights France Provence Arles arena
Aubagne (Bouches-du-Rhône)is located 28 miles (17km) east of Marseille and is surronded by the Garlaban mountains. The writer Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974) drew his inspiration from these hills and there are numerous nature hikes (open only certain hours) available to explore the area. France Provence Aubagne
Avignon (Vaucluse) is the city to which the Popes retreated when fleeing the corruption of 14th-century Rome. It is the departmental capital and is on the left bank of the Grand Rhône river and near the border of the Languedoc region. It is best known for its walled city with masssive ramparts built between 1359 and 1370. Here, the magnificent and huge 14th-century Palais des Papes or Palace of the Popes (photo) dominates the town. Other sites include the 12th-century partially remaining bridge Pont Saint-Bénézet or Le Pont d'Avignon (photo 1,  photo 2) and the Musée du Petit Palais, originally the bishop and archbishop's palace, has Romanesque and Gothic sculpture and painting from the 13th-16th century Italian schools. Worth visiting is the Musée Lapidaire with Egyptian, Roman, and Etruscan statues, mosaics, and carvings and the Musée Calvet features exhibits with wrought-iron and Roman works and an overview of 500 years of French art. Contemporary art collections include the Musée Angladon and the Collection Lambert. Rocher des Doms is a park with spectacular views of the Rhône river, Pont Saint-Bénézet, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, and the Alpilles. Beautiful churches include the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame-des-doms (photo) and the 14th-century Eglise Saint-Didier. The world-famous Festival d'Avignon is France's largest festival for three weeks every July and includes ballet, drama, and classical music concerts. France Provence Avignon

France Provence Avignon Palais des Papes
Bandol (Var) is a port and holiday resort that lies between Marseille and Toulon. It is made up of three beaches: Plage de Casino (500m/550yd long, fine sand), Plage de Rènecros (500m/550yd long, fine sand) and Plage Dorée (also 500m/550yd, coarse sand and pebbles). The promenades, Allées Alfred- Vivien and Allées Jean-Moulin, are charmingly planted with palms, pines and flowers. France Provence Bandol
Biot (Alpes-Maritimes) is a typical hill village located near Antibes and is known for the ceramics of artist Fernand Léger and as well as bubble-flecked glassware and glass-blowing tradition. The Musée Fernand Léger is located at the lower part of the village. France Provence Biot Fernand Léger ceramics
Bonnieux (Vaucluse) is perched on a plateau and is one of many historic hill villages in the region and dates back to Roman times. It rests on top of the Luberon hills overlooking the rest of the beautiful Calavon valley with extraordinary views of the neighboring hill villages of Lacoste to the left, and Gordes and Roussillon to the right. The famous Mount Ventoux may also be seen in the background. The village is next to a Cedar forest that began with trees imported from North Africa during the Napoleonic era. There is a 12th-century Romanesque church, église haute (above), at the top with its high, pointed steeple and the newer 19th-century church église neuve a little further down the village (photo). Passing through the arched tunnels beneath the houses and up the 86 steps, visitors will be shaded by mature pine trees and the magnificent centuries-old cedars and will discover a spectacular view of the fields below with cherry orchards. Also notable here is the Musée de la Boulangerie, a bread museum in Bonnieux housed in a 17th-century house. It exhibits the history of bread from Roman through Medieval times and the French Revolution. Tourisme and Comité des Fêtes France Provence Bonnieux

France Provence Bonnieux
Briançon (Hautes-Alpes) is the highest town in Europe at 4,325 feet (1310m) and has been a stage start or finish (22 times each) for the Tour de France bicycle race. The historically important town is a gateway into Italy and lies at the foot of the descent from the Mont Genèvre Pass giving access to Turin. The center is a strongly fortified town and was built by Louis XIV's military architect and engineer Vauban to defend the region from Austrians in the 1700's. The Eglise de Notre Dame with its distinctive two towers, was also built by Vauban around 1718. Nearby is the Parc National des Ecrins. Briançon online France Provence Briancon
Cagnes-sur-Mer (Alpes-Maritimes) has three different areas the oldest being the Haut-de-Cagnes with its ancient Renaissance buildings, steep streets, and the 14th-century Château Grimaldi. Cagnes-Ville has modern shops and hotels and Cros-de-Cagnes is a seaside fishing resort and yacht harbor founded by Italian fishermen in the 19th-century. The town is famous as it was the retreat and final home of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir who moved there in an attempt to improve his arthritis. Places of interest include Renoir's estate, Les Collettes, surrounded by olive trees. It is also known for its horse racing venue, the Hippodrome de la Côte d'Azur, and a 6-1/2 mile (4 km) pebble beach. France Provence Cagnes
Camargue is a sparsely populated delta of the Rhône River which is known for its desolate beauty, white horses and black bulls that graze along the rice fields. The gardians (cowboys) keep a watchful eye on the free-roaming bulls which are raised for bullfighting. Most of the area is protected being part of the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue set up in 1970 for preservation purposes. The extensive marshes and mix of freshwater and saltwater habitats make this a wildlife-lovers paradise. Two important centers here are the walled town of Aigues-Mort (Languedoc region/Gard department) and the seaside resort of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer France Provence Camargues
Cannes (Alpes-Maritimes) Remarkable buildings include the 16-17th century Provençal Gothic Notre-Dame de l'Esp´rance (Hope), the castle and tower of Castre, dominating the city on Suquet Hill, which now houses the Mus&ee de la Castre, and and the vault of Holy-Anne. The town hall is another noteworthy building. The famous Film Festival which was started in 1946 is held in the Palais des Festivals and is an international marketplace for filmakers and distributors. Near Cannes are the Iles de Lérins called Saint-Honorat (photo) with an 11th-century tower and Sainte-Marguerite (photo) where the "Man in the Iron Mask" (Alexandre Dumas) was imprisoned in the 17th-century. France Provence Cannes
Cap d'Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes) is the southern peninsula of Antibes and is a bastion of wealth and a symbol of luxury. The highest point here is the Phare de la Garoupe lighthouse and also the Roman Catholic Chapelle de la Garoupe which has a collection of votive offerings left by sailors and their families. Also nearby is the Jardin Thuret from 1856 which propogates tropical plants. France Provence Cap d'Antibes
Carpentras (Vaucluse) is a small agricultural town that stands on the banks of the Auzon river. Every Friday the town has one of the very best markets in the entire region of Provence. It originally was a fortified city, but the walls and ramparts have been replaced with circular boulevards. Sites here include a synagogue from 1367 which is the oldest one in France and the Église (formerly Cathédrale) Siffrein built in the Méridional Gothic style (1405-1519. Museums include the Musée Sobirats which has regional art and history, the Musée Comtadin has local artifacts and folklore, and the Musée Duplessis which contains the personal art collection of Monseigneur d'Inguimbert. Ville-Carpentras France Provence Carpentras
Cassis (Bouches-du-Rhône) is a small fishing port 12 miles (20km) southeast of Marseilles. It is framed by cliffs and has retained its original charm once being the domain of painters such as Derain, Dufy, Matisse, Signac, and Vlaminck (photo). There is a nice central square and plenty of Pétanque games (a form of Boules) being played at various times (photo). After the Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830), new industries developed here including the drying of cod, manufacture of olive oil and clothing, coral work, wine-making, and the exploitation of local stone such as cement and limestone. The narrow inlets or calanques along this coastline have jagged and steep limestone cliffs which are partly submerged under the Mediterranean (photo). Wildlife here is abundant as is the plantlife. France Provence Cassis
Cavaillon (Vaucluse) is famous for its sweet melons available in May. In the heart of the city is Saint Jacques's Hill with magnificent views of the city as well as the Apt plains, the Luberon, and the Alpilles. The town also has a 12th-century Cathedral with a cloister, an 18th-century Synagogue, and a 1st-century Roman arch. Tourisme France Provence Cavaillon
Chartreuse de la Verne (Var) is a monastery built on a high rocky plateau and was founded in 1170 following the precepts of Saint Bruno. It has suffered the ravages of fire on several occasions and sits in a lonely forest landscape in the middle of the Massif des Maures and is accessible only by foot. It was classified as a historic monument in 1959 and has been home since 1982 to the nuns of the Congregation of Bethlehem. Map France Provence Chartreuse de la Verne
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Vaucluse) is a medieval village built around the ruins of a castle, the Chateau Neuf, established by the popes of Avignon. Only the tower and wall fragments remain, but the site which overlooks the town, provides unmatched views of Avignon and Mount Ventoux. Some of the finest wines of the Côtes du Rhône are produced here and there are many wine festivals including the Fête de la Véraison in August when the grapes start to ripen and the Ban des Vendages in September at the beginning of the grape harvest. France Provence Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Digne-les-Bains (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) is where Provence meets the foothills of Alps and is located on the shallow Bléone River 60 miles (100km) northeast of Aix-en-Provence. This thermal springs is visited annually by nearly 11,000 people seeking relief from their rheumatism and respiratory ailments. The area is also popular for its lavendar production and has a five-day festival called the Corso de la Lavande during the harvest every August. Tourisme France Provence Digne-les-Bains
Èze (Alpes-Maritimes) is the quintessential perched village as it sits on a pinnacle 1400 feet (427 m) high overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is a town full of shops, galleries, craft workshops, restaurants, and hotels along narrow streets leading up to the château at the peak of the village which itself is surrounded by the tropical plants of the Jardin Exotique. Sights here include the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix from 1306, L'Eglise Notre-Dame-de l'Assomption (photo) from the 1700's, and the the Fragonard Perfumerie. Ville Èze France Provence Èze
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse (Vaucluse) is an ancient town located close to the source for the river Sorgue and is probably the most powerful springs in France gushing at 20,000 gallons per second. Sights here include the riverfront Moulin à Papier papermill which is powered by the river and produces handmade paper products in the 16th-century style. There is also the Musée Pétrarque on the left bank of the river that features his own work. The Musée d'Histoire which tells the story of the resistance movement during World War II. France Provence Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
Gordes (Vaucluse) is one of the most attractive perched villages and overlooks the rivers Sorgue and Calavon. The town (photo) which is one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France sits on a plateau and is crowned by a sturdy 11-16th century chateau. Nearby is the walled Village des Bories which has 1-2 story beehive-shaped huts constructed with limestone wedges and without mortar during the Bronze Age (photo). Also near Gordes is the exceptional Abbaye de Sénanque, a Cistercian monastery built in Romanesque style. France Provence Gordes
Gorges du Loup (Alpes-Maritimes) were formed by the Loup river near Grasse and lead to the Mediterranean Sea. All along are spectacular cascades and views of many perched villages here including the fortified village of Tourrettes-sur-loup and Gourdon, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, with its 12th-century château and ancient houses. France Provence Gourdon
Gorges du Verdon (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) form the largest canyon in Europe and run for 15 miles (25km) through a limestone plateau between Avignon and Nice at a maximum depth of 2,297 feet (700m). They begin at the town of Castellane to the east toward Cannes and the dark green waters of the Verdun flow eastward into the artificial Lac de Sainte-Croix. Worth visiting are the towns of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages, Castellane, and Aiguines. The best views are from the tall Pont de Chaulière (photo) over the Artuby river, the 590 foot (180m) Point Sublime, Belvédère de l'Escalès along the route de Crêtes (north rim), and La Corniche Sublime (south rim). The area offers exceptional rock-climbing and hiking opportunities. France Provence Verdun Gorges
Grasse (Alpes-Maritimes) has been the center for the perfume and leather-tanning industries since the 1700's and is called the Capitale Mondiale des Parfums. The perfume business has prevailed with more than forty perfumeries only some of which are open to the public. Nearby fields have the highly-prized flowers lavender, jasmine, centifolia roses, mimosa, orange blossom, and violets. Worthwhile sights include the Musée International de Parfumerie with a garden and the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame-de-Puy in the Old Town. Since 1946 there has been the annual Fête du Jasmin or La Jasminade, at the beginning of August Ville de Grasse France Provence Grasse
Hyères (Var) is located East of Toulon and was one of the first winter health resorts on the Riviera at the end of the 18th-century. The Vielle Ville (old town) surrounds the Castle of Saint Bernard on a hill and has a daily and very colorful market. It is also a major centre for aquatic sports. France Provence Hyeres
Îles de Hyères (Var) are known locally as the Îles d'Or (gold) because of the color of the nearby cliffs. The largest island is Porquerolles at 4.5 miles (7km) long and its main town, also called Porquerolles, was orginally a retirement location for Napoleon's troops. Parc National de Port-Cros was created in 1963 to protect one part of the Côte d'Azur from over-development and is France's smallest reserve. This is a marine reserve, but has a rich variety of insects and butterflys as well. The third island is the Île du Levant which is reached by boat from Port-Cros. Its main feature is that it has the oldest naturist resort called Héliopolis The three islands of the Îles d'Hyères (namely Porquerolles, Port-Cros and the Île du Levant) are located just offshore. France Provence Iles d'Hyeres
Lacoste (Vaucluse) is a small medieval town with some 400 permanent residents. It overlooks the village of Bonnieux and the Grand Luberon Mountains to the east, and is flanked by Mont Ventoux to the north. Lacoste is best known for its most notorious resident, Donatien Alphonse Francois comte de Sade, the Marquis de Sade, who in the 18th-century lived in the castle overlooking the village. The Marquis considered Lacoste a destination for thespians and in the 1990's, the ruins of the castle, along with an attached quarry, were bought by fashion designer Pierre Cardin and since 1994, musical and theatrical works have been performed there. The School of the Arts, founded in 1970 by American art professor and painter, Bernard Pfriem, was taken over in 2002 by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). SCAD offers art courses, in English which vary each term, but may include painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, film, photography, historic preservation, art history, architecture, English, sequential art, graphic design, industrial design, media and performing arts, or fashion. (photo) France Provence Lacoste
La Garde-Freinet (Var) is a medieval French mountain village located in the Massif des Maures, an hour north of St. Tropez and accessible by picturesque winding roads, through forests of cork, oak, and chestnut. Established in the 11th-century, the village has preserved its character with its field stone houses, old fashioned street names, and a village square nicely framed with restaurants and local art galleries. From atop old Fort Freinet one can see the plains of Saint Clement and the Argens valley, and all the way to the Alps. France Provence
Les Baux (Bouches-du-Rhône) is a deserted citadel that overlooks vineyards and olive groves in the Val d'Enfer Infernal Valley) amidst rugged limestone hills. During the Middle Ages it was owned by feudal lords and was later ordered destroyed by Louis XIII. In 1821 bauxite, an aluminum ore, was discovered and mined here. The Château des Baux attracts many tourists and has a medieval festival in late September as well as catapult and other demonstrations. The Cathédrale d'Images now occupy the cave-like quarries and are absolutely worth a visit for their beauty and as an escape from the summer heat. France Provence Les Baux
Les Calanques (Bouches-du-Rhône) are actually remains of ancient river mouths or inlets formed mostly during the Tertiary between Marseille and Cassis and are popular amongst tourists and local residents. There are several vantage points such as the Corniche des Crêtes and Cap Canaille allowing spectacular panoramas. A great number of hikers frequent the area and have numerous pre-marked trails available. Most of the calanques are also closed to the public during the summer (typically July through September) due to the risks of forest fire that often happen during the dry season and March to May are the best times to visit. Boat tours are available starting either from Marseille, Cassis, or La Ciotat and can provide for some spectacular sightseeing. (photo) France Provence Les Calanques
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