6 Places to Visit in Provence

French writer, Yvan Audouard, once quipped, “In Provence, the sun rises twice a day–once in the morning and once after nap time.” Indeed, the pace in Provence is a bit slower than Paris. That’s one of the reasons why this French region is one of the places I love escaping to most.

Provence France2_Leah Walker

Its diverse landscape is yet another reason I adore Provence. From the rugged Alps to the dreamy Côte d’Azur to the rolling vine-covered hills in Var, Provence is one perfect post card after another. The area has inspired artists like Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Van Gough, and the reason why is perfectly clear: the light. I can’t remember visiting a place that comes close to duplicating the South of France’s brilliant light. Regardless of the season, the Provençal light washes over the earth, adding indescribable life and dimension to everything it illuminates.

Provence France3_Leah Walker

The birthplace of Nostradamus, rosé wine, and bouillabaisse, Provence is a vast region that’s densely packed with history, culture, culinary offerings, and alarmingly beautiful vistas. From Avignon to Nice and many points in between, I’ve compiled my favorite six places to visit in Provence.

Saint-Mary Magdalene Basilica

Sainte-Mary Magdalene3

In the Var commune of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is Saint-Mary Magdalene Basilica, which is home to the third most important Christian tomb behind the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and St. Peter’s in Vatican City. Here, the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene was discovered and where her skull can be seen.

Sainte-Mary Magdalene4

Charles of Sicily, the Count of Provence at the time, founded this Provençal Gothic building in 1295. It was never actually completed according to plan, thus it looks unfinished, especially on the facade. A longtime destination for pilgrims, including Louis IX, Francis I, Charles IX, Catherine de’ Medici, Henry IV, and Louis XIV, the basilica {and nearby Saint-Marie-Madeleine grotto, where Mary Magdalene remained in prayer and solitude for the remaining 33 years of her life} has played a major role in Christianity.

Sainte-Mary Magdalene2

Renowned for its music, the basilica’s organ has over 1,000 pipes. During the French Revolution, revolutionaries intended to break down the organ and use the metal for weapons. However, when they entered the church, La Marseillaise {now the French national anthem} was being played. Thus, the organ was spared and remains intact today.

Commanderie de Peyrassol

Commanderie de Peyrassol3

Located in the Var hills, near the village of Flassans-sur-Isole, is Commanderie de Peyrassol. Founded in the 13th century by the Order of the Knights Templar, this legendary vineyard not only is an outstanding place for wine lovers, but also those interested in history and contemporary art.

Commanderie de Peyrassol1

A rabbit sculpture in front of the owners’ chateau is a tribute to the animal that was seen in the vines, which in turn, inspired the addition of art throughout the domaine. Now, there are over 60 sculptures on property, including a large knight that sits among the vines and olive trees, which serves as an ode to the Templars that once lived on this land.

Commanderie de Peyrassol2

Whether for a wine tasting and tour, lunch at table d’hôte, or staying the night in one of their luxuriously rustic rooms, time spent at Commanderie de Peyrassol is a pleasure. No matter how long you stay, make sure to taste the range of their red, white, and rosé wines and pay a visit to the historical room that was once used by the Knights of Templar, which now is used to age white wine.



Arles is known as “the little Rome of Gaul” due to its impressive collection of well-preserved Roman ruins. Les Arènes seats 20,000 and is still used for events such as La Feria d’Arles, Abrivados and Camargue races, which center around the city’s bull fighting heritage. The Théâtre Antique, Baths of Constantine, and Cryptopotico of the Forum helped Arles become a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Beyond the ancient Roman ruins, Arles is a charming Spanish-influenced city that stretches across both sides of the Rhône River. It’s a place that’s charmed many acclaimed artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso. In fact, Arles is featured in many of these artists’ works.


In search of light, Van Gogh arrived in Arles in 1888, and subsequently created more than 300 pieces of art during an 18-month span. Have a glass of wine at the café that inspired The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum or visit the perfectly preserved courtyard in the Garden of the Hospital in Arles. Although Arles doesn’t own any of his works, there is the Van Gogh Foundation, which is a collection of over 200 art pieces by 20th century artists inspired by the master. If Picasso is more your taste, visit the Réattu Museum to see its collection of 57 drawings and two paintings by the Spanish artist.

Château La Coste

Chateau la Coste1

About 45 minutes north of Aix-en-Provence is Château la Coste. The Irish-owned domaine is home to an incredible collection of art and architecture, as well as excellent wine. A self-guided art trail snakes through the vines and features large pieces from artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Liam Gillick, Andy Goldsworthy, and Tom Shannon.

Chateau la Coste2

The Pavillon de Musique is by Frank Gehry, who also designed Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Concerts are held here during the summer. There is an art center by Japanese designer, Tadao Ando, who also designed the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Have a wine tasting in the 19th-century farmhouse, dine in the modern Tadao Ando restaurant, and stay in the new hotel that’s to be opened later in 2016.


Saint Raphael1

On the French coast between St.Tropez and Nice is Saint-Raphaël. This beautiful place dates to the Roman times and was where American forces landed to help liberate France during WWII. It’s also where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic book, The Great Gatsby.

Saint Raphael3

This Côte d’Azur city offers much of the charm and activities of its better-known neighbors without the throng of people. Sand beaches, coves, and turquoise water have drawn visitors to Saint-Raphaël and its 22-mile coastline since the Victorian era.

Saint Raphael2

Walk the streets of the old town and visit the Romanesque church dating to the 2nd century. Climb the stairs of the bell tower at the Archeological Museum, which was once San Rafeu church, to get an incredible view of Saint-Raphaël. Dating to the 12th century, the museum is free and full of pieces found in the sea, as well as under the church.

Château de Saint Martin

Chateau De Saint Martin3

Dating to 1740, Château de Saint Martin was built by the father of Marie Anne de Villeneuve Bargemon as she wed Jean-Louis Leclerc de Juigné, Lord of Lassigny. This noble family’s lineage goes hand in glove with French history and Château de Saint Martin. Today, the estate remains in the family, where Countess de Gasquet and her daughter, Adeline de Barry, continue the legacy and wine-making tradition alive.

Chateau De Saint Martin1

Romans made wine in this spot since the 2nd century B.C., and there is even an excavation on property where Roman ruins were found. The Gallo-Roman farm is around 100,000 square feet in size and is thought to be inhabited from the 2nd century B.C to the 7th century A.C. It’s near a river that borders the estate that Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus signed and created the second Triumvirate, which divided the Roman Empire.

Chateau De Saint Martin4

Although Provence is primarily rosé country, Chateau de Saint-Martin also makes reds, whites, sparkling, vin cuit, and eau-de-vie. The winery is one of very few honored with the distinction of cru classé in Provence. Visit the domaine for a tasting, walk through the lush gardens, or stay the night in the family’s chateau, where you can pray in the small chapel or sleep in Ms. De Barry’s great-great-great grandfather’s bedroom in the chateau. The furniture and fabric are original. The bed is original, too, but has been extended to satisfy modern-day sleeping.

Le Thoronet Abbey

Thoronet Abbey1

Tucked away in the oak forest of the Var lowlands, just off a windy country road, between the towns of Draguignan and Brignoles, is Thoronet Abbey. Built by the Cîteaux Order in 1146, this is one of the abbeys founded by the Cistercians known as the “three Provençal sisters” {Silvacane and Sénanque are the others}. As one of the first buildings in France to be classified as an historical monument, Thoronet Abbey is beautiful in its starkness and use of the Provençal light.

Thoronet Abbey3

The abbey’s church is regularly noted as one of the top places in the world for acoustics. Its thick, stone walls create a long echo and haunting sound that send instant chills up the spine. Whether it’s a lone visitor testing the church’s acoustics or during July’s Rencontres Internationales de Musique Médiévale {International Gathering of Medieval Music}, the pleasurable sound is one that won’t be forgotten.

6 places to visit in Provence by Leah Walker

I was a guest of Vins de Provence and Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Tourisme. In no way was I swayed by the free-flowing rosé, the magical Provençal light, or the pleasurable pace of Provence. As always, opinions are mine.

Sign up to receive news and updates!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • theStyleJungle
    May 14, 2016

    It’s strange, but despite visiting a lot of places on Earth, I somehow have never yet reached France! So posts like that are especially valuable for me. You’ve managed to show everything so good, that I now feel like I’ve been there as well!


    • Leah Walker
      September 10, 2016

      It took me 32 years to get to France. Once you do arrive, she’s likely to make you fall in love.

  • Orlinda
    May 17, 2016

    Looks beautiful this place! Definitely I will add this place in my destination list. Thanks for sharing.

    • Leah Walker
      September 10, 2016

      Provence is incredible. It’s my favorite part of France outside of Paris.

  • Bryanna
    September 10, 2016

    Wow looks and sounds like an amazing place to visit! I loved all the architecture and history but one of my favorite things was the idea of the sun rising twice – the second time after your nap. Sounds good to me!

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      Ah, yes. It’s the influence of Spain and Italy…siesta!

  • Toni Broome
    September 10, 2016

    So many gorgeous places. And so much good wine, who could resist. The world heritage site of Arles would have to top my list though.

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      Yes! Arles is super. I was there during one of their festivals and there was such a great vibe. I’d like to return to explore when things are a bit more calm, however.

  • Christina
    September 10, 2016

    The pace in Provence sounds absolutely perfect and the scenery looks just amazing. I would love to take six months off and live there, paint, read and just do nothing! I didn’t realise the Order of the Knights Templar had a foothold in Provence either.

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      Take me with you should you decide to take the plunge into Provence!

  • Chrysoula
    September 10, 2016

    What a wonderful place with so many things to do. I would love to visit Provence. I love the light in the photos. It;s so warm.

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      Any time of year Provence is great. And the light…I can’t describe how perfect it is.

  • danik the explorer
    September 10, 2016

    Fantastic . Love this post and the photos and I love the Provence region. Some of the photos brought back some memories. Love the snapchats as well Leah…keep it up 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      Ohhhh…thank you. Glad to know you’re enjoying my snaps. 🙂

  • Marlene Marques
    September 10, 2016

    Beautiful pictures, Leah! It seems like a wonderful place to visit. I think I would love the Commanderie de Peyrassol. Congrats for the post.

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      Commanderie de Peyrassol is a very special place. They have a restaurant and a few rooms. It seems like a great place to stay for a few nights, in addition to the domaine visit.

  • Alina Popescu
    September 11, 2016

    I’ve only driven through small parts of France and haven’t yet gotten the chance to properly visit it. I like slow-paced places, especially as part of longer trips, so I’d love to explore Provence. Your photos are lovely and the recommendations for what to visit are quite appealing.

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      A slow pace is what Provence is all about. It takes me a few days to adjust coming from Paris. It’s just such a lovely part of the world.

  • Travelwith2ofus
    September 11, 2016

    Provence is incredible and it is really a mystery how I have never heard of it. It’s on my list now for sure. So many beautiful places to see and wine to be had. Particularly interested in Saint-Mary Magdalene Basilica, Arles, Saint-Raphaël and Commanderie de Peyrassol.

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      Provence is probably the second most visited region behind Paris. There’s such a rich history, along with the great weather and wine.

  • Sia
    September 11, 2016

    Would love to visit all these places especially Saint Raphael and the vineyard. I would love to explore the countryside rather than Paris lets say or any other very popular destination like Saint Tropez. The small towns are always an unexpected surprise.

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      I only had an afternoon in Saint Raphael, but want to return. It has the beauty of the French Riviera without the massive crowds.

  • Megan Jerrard
    September 12, 2016

    So much history, art and culture here!! Commanderie de Peyrassol looks stunning! How many days would you recommend to comfortable have enough time to see everything?

    • Leah Walker
      September 18, 2016

      Provence is a vast area. To see everything….how about a lifetime? OK, maybe a month to hop around the region would be a start.

  • @Lutravelsabroad
    June 1, 2017

    Your photos and descriptions of Provence are a feast for the senses. I have visited Paris and still need to make my way South. So hoping Provence would be disability-friendly. My blog has been mostly about traveling in Spain especially after being diagnosed with a chronic illness. Grateful my hubby introduced me to your website.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers

Have the world delivered to your inbox
Well, maybe not the whole world, but some of it. Either way, subscribe to my newsletter for news from Paris and wherever else the road takes me.