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From the stunning medieval buildings of Avignon to the less well known delights of the smaller towns of inland Provence, the lovely old towns of Provence should be on your holiday list whether you are interested in great historical sights or simply like to stroll and soak up the atmosphere.  If you choose to stay in Avignon, Aix, or Marseille, consider our city stays plus excursions holiday vacations.

Click >>Avignon City Stay, click >>Aix City Stay, or click >>Marseille City Stay.

Or alternatively, we can include visits or stays in any of the cities of the region as part of a Tailor Made holiday, click >>Tailor Made Holiday.  

Avignon Palais des Papes Bordered to the north and west by the river Rhone, the medieval city of Avignon is the chief city of the Vaucluse and gateway to Provence. Massive ramparts punctuated by seven gates surround the immaculately preserved medieval centre with the magnificent buildings of the Palais des Papes at its heart. The city became the residence of the popes in the 14th century when Pope Clement V moved the papal headquarters here and the area around the Papal Palace with its beautiful cobbled square is a must for serious sightseeing.
Avignon Place de L'Horloge The busy Place de L'Horloge with its many cafes is the site of the Hotel de Ville and famous clock tower. To the west of the Place de L'Horloge are Avignon's most desirable residences with expensive shops, restaurants and art galleries.
Avignon Pont St. Benezet bridge The famous Pont St. Benezet protrudes into the River Rhone below the Papal Palace.  Various river floods over the centuries have reduced the bridge to a third of its original size.  From the top of the bridge there are superb views back to the medieval walls of the old city.
Aix en ProvenceAix en Provence
The old streets of Aix with their honey-coloured stone buildings warmed by the sun are full of life. In this lively and cosmopolitan university city there are cafes and restaurants on every corner, designer label shops, art galleries and quiet restful squares to relax over a glass of wine. The wide boulevard of the Cours Mirabeau lined by brasseries under massive plane trees epitomises the atmosphere of southern France. Aix en Provence
Aix derives its name from Aquae Sextiae, a Roman settlement based around its hot springs which are still used for cures in the Thermes on the site of the Roman baths to the north-west of the old town. The town is set in a natural bowl on a plain dominated by the surrounding mountain ranges and the famous Mont St. Victoire the subject of so many of Cézanne's famous works. aix
Arles St Trophime Church Arles was a Greek site expanded by the Romans who built shipyards, baths, a racetrack and an arena. With the exception of the Musée de l'Arles Antique and the Alyscamps (Roman burial ground), the main sites are within easy walking distance of the central place de la République. Don't miss the Place du Forum with its lively cafes and bars. In the Place you can still see the pillars of an ancient archway now embedded in the corner of the Nord-Pinus hotel. Also make time for the Espace Van Gogh. Van Gogh painted the garden, which has been recreated on the basis of his painting.  There is good shopping In the nearby pedestrian streets.
Musée de l'Arles Antique The light and airy modern museum, the Musée de l'Arles Antique located on the outskirts of town is a superb introduction to the history of the area and particularly of Roman Provence and the exhibits include some fabulous mosaics.
Nimes first Roman inhabitants introduced the city's coat of arms, a crocodile chained to a palm tree and you can see this logo all around the city.  Wide boulevards and bustling squares make up central Nimes with many interesting shops, cafes and restaurants. Nimes

Follow the walking trail from the Tourist Office for an insight into old Nimes. The Maison Carrée is the best preserved temple of the Roman world and today its situation is enhanced by the modern art complex, the Carré d'Art located on the opposite side of the square.  

Nimes Maison Carree
The Roman arena is a dramatic 1st century amphitheater in the centre of town which still acts as a venue for bullfights and other entertainments. Nimes Arena
Orange Roman Theatre Orange is famous for its prestigious Roman buildings including the triumphal Arch with its intricate frieze, and the Roman theatre listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is the only Roman Theatre which has retained its stage wall almost intact and is a superb site standing to a height of 36m. Near the top you can see the blocks that held the poles of an awning which hung over the stage and the front rows. Those at the back were protected from the sun by the hill of St. Eutrope into which the seats are built. The enormous stage could accommodate vast numbers of performers and today the theatre hosts two important summer music festivals.
Orange Triumphal Roman Arch The centre of Orange is a bustling town of lively streets and interesting shops.  Also in the centre of the town the Roman triumphal arch built between A.D. 10 and 25,  is one of the most beautiful and interesting surviving examples from the reign of Augustus. It is decorated with low reliefs commemorating the establishment of the Pax Romana.

The largest city in France after Paris, Marseille is a busy but fascinating place to visit - a real city on the sea.  Surrounded by mountains it has hidden corners such as the Vallon d'Auf which remain the essence of small fishing villages.  The Vieux Port crammed with yachts and surrounded by quayside cafes, sees a wonderful fish market every morning on the Quai des Belges.  The port is also the departure point for boat trips to the infamous Chateau d'If prison.

Marseille Vieux Port

Eating out in Marseille has to begin with the famous bouillabaisse and there are many excellent restaurants offering this famous dish and other superb seafood menus.  Enjoy lunch at a restaurant on the Corniche overlooking the wide bay towards the city for a true taste of life in Provence.

Marseille inner city clanque
Nyons Olive Mill Renowned for its olives and olive oil, Nyons is a charming town in northern Provence. For a fascinating introduction to the process of the production of olive oil, visit the Vieux Moulins, an old artisanal complex of two 18th and 19th century oil presses, an 18th century soap works and traditional Provencal kitchen. There is an interesting shop next door to the Moulin, which sells both olive oil (which you can taste before you buy), and other olive oil based products. You can also taste and buy olive oil, olives and other olive based products at the Cooperative Agricole du Nyonsais.
Nyons Nyons has an interesting old Vielle Ville with a maze of streets and covered passageways leading up to the ruined castle. The Place de la Libération in the centre of town has many brasseries and cafés  and in the Vielle Ville the Bar du Pont at the end of the Rue des Déportées, has a terrace overlooking the Roman bridge and the river.
St Remy de ProvenceSt Remy de Provence
St. Rémy lies south of Avignon on the western side of the limestone massif of Les Alpilles, a 24km chain of mountains which runs between the rivers Rhone and Durance.  It is a pretty market town with a lovely old centre. To discover the old town, take any of the streets leading off the boulevard which encircles the old town centre and wander the alleyways and leafy squares. St Remy de Provence
St. Remy was the birthplace of the astrologer Nostradamus and has associations with Van Gogh who was cared for at the Clinique St. Paul on the outskirts of town. The imposing monuments of Les Antiques about 1km outside the town on the road to Les Baux are further reminders of the historic past of the town. The Mausoleum and commemorative Arch are vestiges of the Roman city of Glanum, which once stood here and the excavations of which are just across the road. The Mausoleum is one of the best preserved funeral monuments of the Roman world.  On the opposite side of the road to Les Antiques is the Clinique St. Paul. While convalescing here Van Gogh painted several of his most famous works including Cypress Trees , The Sower, self portraits and Starry Night. Glanum
Vaison la RomaineVaison la Romaine
Vaison la Romaine Situated at the northern end of the Dentelles mountain range in the Cotes du Rhone growing area, Vaison is a town of two parts. In the atmospheric medieval Haute Ville perched high on the hill above the modern town below, the narrow cobbled streets lead you past perched houses fortified by a double wall and dominated by the ruined 12th century castle.  Linking the two parts of the town is the beautiful Roman bridge across the River Ouvèze.
Vaison Roman site The newer town was built around its Roman predecessor and with its superb Roman excavations of La Villasse and Puymin,  Vaison today is one of France's largest archaeological sites.  The centre of the modern town is a pleasant area of bustling shops, pavement cafés and squares and the Thursday morning market which threads its way throughout the town, is one of the best in the area.
Real Provence

Updated: February 18, 2010