15 Famous Things to Do in the South of France

couple in colorful field of Lavender Valensole Plateau, Provence, Southern France

Idyllic, glitzy, full of charm, and blessed with glorious weather, the South of France is one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations.

Countless visitors descend on this famous part of the country every year, eager to experience its breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, rustic rural villages, historical monuments, and luxury resorts.

But what are the best things to do in the South of France? What are its most unmissable attractions and scintillating sights? Here are 15 famous options for your itinerary.

1. Carcassonne

Few locations in southern France are as striking or iconic as Carcassonne. This fortified medieval city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 2,500 years of history behind it.

Visiting Carcassonne is as close as you can get to stepping back into the Middle Ages. It looks like something from a fairytale. Countless towers joined by giant ramparts dominate a hill above the river Aude. Inside is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and stone buildings constructed eons ago. It’s a magical place and an absolute must for history buffs.

2. Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez is one of the French Riviera’s most famous destinations. Once a quaint seaside town, it hit the travel scene after being featured in a 1956 Roger Vadim movie called And God Created Woman, starring Brigitte Bardot. These days, Saint-Tropez is a glamorous place frequented by celebs and renowned for its yachts and beach clubs.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to appreciate it, though! Saint-Tropez’s beach, Old Port, 17th-century citadel, beach bars, and charming old town make it great for everything from babymoons to family getaways.

3. Nice

Nestled on the southeastern coast not far from the Italian border, Nice is a popular vacation destination on the Cote d’Azur. Like most places in the South of France, the scenery is stunning. Clear azure waters lap Nice’s sandy shoreline, and mountains stand tall in the distance behind it.

This is a sprawling modern city, but its old town packs plenty of charm. Expect terracotta roofs and narrow winding streets, with markets, squares, and colorful centuries-old buildings. The food is fantastic, the sun cloaks everything in a warm golden light, and there’s lots to do.

4. Palais des Papes

The magnificent yet austere Palais des Papes is a 14th-century palace and fortress in Avignon that nine different popes once called home. Its cultural significance isn’t the only reason to visit, though!

The sheer scale of the Palais des Papes makes it worth seeing. With 15,000 square meters of floor space, it’s the biggest Gothic palace on the planet —  not to mention one of the most important. Along with the rest of Avignon’s historic center, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

5. Gordes

Welcome to one of southern France’s most aesthetically pleasing places. Gordes is located on a hilltop 1,115 feet (340 meters) above sea level in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region. In the foothills of the Vaucluse Mountains, its distinctive limestone buildings enjoy panoramic views and have an enchanting maze of cobblestone streets between them.

The village was founded in the 11th century around its impressive chateau, which is one of the main attractions and is now a museum. Otherwise, you can spend many happy hours simply strolling around this historic village, breathing in the fresh Provencal air, and soaking in the local atmosphere.

6. Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

If you do explore Gordes on your trip to the South of France, be sure to drive about 3 miles (5 km) north to this incredible 12th-century Cistercian abbey, too. It’s one of the area’s most famous attractions — and for good reason.

It’s not very often you can visit a 900-year-old abbey that’s still inhabited by monks and surrounded by picture-perfect lavender fields throughout summer! Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque is spectacularly photogenic and worth seeing if you’re in the area.

7. Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is a small city located just north of Marseille. It’s a university town with a sunny disposition, youthful buzz, and bougie vibe. Tourists flock here, but it doesn’t feel overrun with them.

In fact —  to me, at least — Aix-en-Provence feels quintessentially French. The Baroque architecture, bustling town squares, and elegant cobblestone streets lined with shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars ooze a distinctive charm found everywhere in the South of France.

8. Menton

Located next to the Italian border on the south coast, Menton is another French Riviera destination with oodles of Mediterranean appeal. The architecture is almost as impressive as the weather, the sea begs to be swum in, the mountainous landscape makes its scenery even more remarkable, and the pastel-colored old town is a joy to explore.

If you time your trip right, you might also experience the Fete du Citron. The colorful “Lemon Festival” is an annual celebration of spring’s arrival and the production of citrus fruits, of which Menton is famous.

9. Cannes

While this glitzy French Riviera city is synonymous with the Cannes Film Festival nowadays, that’s far from its only allure. Its charming old town, beautiful architecture, luxurious vibe, and sunny beaches make Cannes another worthwhile place to visit in southern France.

That’s particularly true if you have a taste for the finer things in life! With plenty of five-star hotels, world-class restaurants, and designer stores, this glamorous destination caters well to the ultra-wealthy.

10. Pont du Gard

France is renowned for its immense natural beauty. But its history is equally rich and diverse. If you want a taste of its Roman past, look no further than the mighty Pont du Gard, located just west of Avignon.

This immense, quintessential Roman aqueduct dates to the first century AD. However, it’s so well-preserved it could have been made recently. Pont du Gard stands almost 164 feet (50 meters) tall and is on three levels, the longest of which spans 902 feet (275 meters). It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

11. Nîmes

2,000 years ago, Nîmes was a prominent Roman town located on the famed Via Domitia. Looking at a map of Italy, Spain, and southern France, this ancient road weaved its way northeast from the Spanish border and through Nîmes before crossing the Alps at Col de Montgenèvre.

The Romans actually built the Pont du Gard as part of an aqueduct that transported water over 30 miles (50 km) to the city. Other remnants of Nîmes’ Roman past include an amphitheater, the Maison Carrée, and the temple of Diana — all top attractions in a stunning and less touristy part of southern France.

12. Arles

Talking of ancient ruins, Arles is another tourist favorite in the South of France, renowned for its Roman heritage. It has a huge and evocative amphitheater, a theatre, a necropolis, and the Constantine baths, among others. This collection of Roman ruins helped Arles’s city center earn UNESCO World Heritage status in 1981.

Arles is also known for its connection to two infamous artists, Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso. Both spent time in the city, which is prominently featured in several of their works.

13. The Camargue

The Camargue is a huge wetland area located just south of Arles. It deserves a spot on your South of France itinerary if you love the outdoors. There are beaches, hiking trails, and cycling routes, and the fauna and flora here are beautiful and diverse.

In terms of wildlife, you’ll see the region’s emblematic pink flamingos, black bulls, and white horses. At certain times of year, you might also witness hundreds of thousands of migrating birds.

14. Gorges du Verdon (Verdon Gorge)

Natural landmarks in southern France don’t get much more breathtaking than the 15.5-mile-long, 2,300-foot-deep Verdon Gorge. Its sheer cliffs and turquoise waters make it supremely photogenic, not to mention an ideal place to cool off on a hot summer day.

This entire region is another haven for outdoor and extreme sports enthusiasts. You can hike, rock climb, kayak, raft, and paraglide until your heart’s content. For the classic photo of Verdon Gorge you may have seen online, head to the Pont de Galetas (Galetas Bridge).

15. Plateau de Valensole Lavender Fields

When most people picture the South of France, they either imagine the sun-drenched coast of the French Riviera or fields of lavender swaying in the breeze. Desperate to see the latter in real life? One of the best places for it is near the Verdon Gorge on the Plateau de Valensole.

Visit between mid-June and mid-July, and you’ll see an ocean of this sweet-smelling flower stretching in neat rows to the horizon. It’s an epic, postcard-worthy sight that belongs in a Vincent van Gogh painting.

Enjoy the Best Things To Do in the South of France

There’s a good reason why the South of France is one of Europe’s most popular vacation destinations. It doesn’t disappoint! Whether strolling through lavender fields, getting lost in a hilltop village’s maze of cobbled streets, exploring medieval fortresses, swimming in clear blue waters, or sipping cocktails at a beach bar, this is France at its finest.

There are so many things to see and do that it’s impossible to tick everything off in one trip. Hopefully, this list of ideas will help you plan an itinerary full of the sights and activities you’re most excited about.

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Danny Newman is a writer and content creator from the UK. He founded What’s Danny Doing, a travel and lifestyle site for people who want more freedom, adventure, self-discovery, and purpose in life. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s articles have been featured on the Associated Press Newswire, MSN, and hundreds of news sites across the US.

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