Places to visit in the South of France
(Listed in Alphabetical order)
Aigues-Mortes: This is seemingly untouched since it was built by Louis IX in the 13th Century. The walled town is a perfect example of a medieval village. Even its ramparts are completely intact. From the walls there are fabulous views down into the village itself and for miles across the flat marshy landscape all around. The Constance Tower – once a prominent look out post and the Governor’s house are also worth seeing.
Aix-en-Provence: It is described as the “ Town of water, town of art... it was built and has developed around this dual identity. It was a Celtic-Ligurian capital from the 3rd century BC was pushed aside for the founding of Aix in 122 BC. The Cours Mirabeau is the centre of the town and the heart of Aix. It is a beautiful tree-lined avenue, with one side lined with wonderful terrace cafés and bookshops.
Alpilles: The Alpilles are a dramatic chain of mountains that rise up out of the Rhône and the Durance. There are some well worn walking trails that run through the region with red and white markers denoting the Grande Randonnee (GR) trails throughout France. The route along Crêtes or mountain ridge above the village of Saint-Rémy is particularly worthwhile taking. Alternatively you can discover the region on horseback.
Antibes: This lively town which lies at the opposite end of the Baie des Anges (Nice) is one of the most sought after spots on the coast. It has a picturesque walled old town and in the centre of the old town close to the market is Chateau Grimaldi that houses the Picasso museum that overlooks the sea. There are some lovely sandy beaches, including the Plage de la Salis that is open to the public. In neighbouring Juan les Pins for example many of the stretches of beach are only for the use of hotels and restaurants (although you can walk along the sun in front of them).(see also Cap d’Antibes below)
Arles: Arles was first a Celtic dwelling-place, then a Greek colony, before Julius Caesar settled the veterans of his Roman legions here in 46 BC. Arles is has varied landscapes. It is the gateway to the Camargue, one of the nicest natural sites in Europe with an exceptionally rich animal life. The Alpilles (see above), dominated by the town of Les Baux-de-Provence, stretch 25 kilometers to the Northeast. These limestone hills are surrounded by sunny pleasant Provençal villages spread out among vineyards and olive orchard. On the border between Provence and Languedoc, your stay in Arles will bring you close to Beaucaire and Tarascon, Les Saintes-Maries de la Mer, Nîmes and the Pont-du-Gard, Avignon and the Papal Palace, Aix-en-Provence and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, Marseille.
Avignon: is a city of full of history and city of theatre, Located at the confluence of the Rhône and Durance rivers, Avignon is well known for its ramparts, its famous Pont Saint-Bénezet and the Palais des Papes. (Popes palace) It is a fortified city that is marked by papal history. The walls of the city have seven doors that are superbly preserved and you can then discover the city of the Popes. The Palais des Papes built in the 14th century overlooks a lively square. Nearby are the museums the Petit Palais and Palais du Roure and not too far away is the famous Pont Saint-Bénezet.
Baie des Anges: This vast bay stretches from the Cap d’Antibes westwards as far as Cap Ferrat in the east with Antibes at one end and Nice at the other. If you fly to Nice you will normally approach the airport via the Baie des Anges and from the Antibes direction pass over the semi circular development of apartments at Villeneuve Loubet. Another good vantage point to view the baie is the château in Nice.
Biot: is located 5 kms inland; it is built on a headland that is typical of this type of hill top village (Mougins, St Paul de Vence, Cagnes old town etc) and overlooks the sea. It is one of the art centres of the south of France. Apart from its beautiful location, a major reason to visit Biot is for the potteries and glassworks (Verreries) and the Léger Museum. The artist Fernand Léger made the village his home and both it and its people had a profound effect on his work. Unlike some of the neighbouring hill top villages, Biot has not been spoilt by too many art shops, estate agents and expensive restaurants. It still retains much of its cobbled streets.
Biot — South of France Picture GalleryClick Here
Cannes: It is described by some as one of the classiest resorts on the Cote d’Azur, although very expensive and having one of the longest shopping streets in Europe, you can still find a reasonably priced hotel and meals locally. It is has a picturesque old town overlooking the town and is famous for its annual film festival held in May each year. It has wonderful sandy beaches that are accessible from the main promenade “La Croisette”. There is also a working fishing port contrasted by private moorings from some the most expensive yachts in the world.
Brief History: Its history goes back a long way. In the middle ages it was a fortified village built around a castle. This area is known as Le Suquet. At the highest point is a watchtower that was built in 1088 by the monks of St Honorat. The population was mainly involved with agriculture and fishing till the 1830s. Then an English Lord, Lord Brougham and his daughter stayed there because of a cholera epidemic had closed the Italian border.They stayed, built a villa and spread the word about Cannes. Soon the wealthy from Britain and Russia were regular visitors. Towards the end of the 19th century,because of the mild winter climate over 3,000 families were staying there. The port was filling up with yachts and the railway opened. In 1879 the first tennis court in France was built there. A golf course soon followed and earlier in 1860 the first sailing club was established. This was the same year as the first casino. In 2007 there are four. 1912 saw another landmark — the Carlton Hotel opening and others followed shortly afterwards. The Majestic in 1926, The Martinez in 1929. See also Cannes Film Festival at cotedazurrental.com CLICK HERE
Cavaillon: The town of Cavaillon is normally associated with Charentais melons that are a major crop. It lays claim to one of the few remaining triumphal arches of Roman France. The arch is still in remarkable condition and with some exquisite carvings it was moved during the 19th century from its original location and is now on the edge of the square where the weekly fruit and vegetable market is held.
Camargue: The flat marshy land of the Camargue is renowned for its bird life, particularly the pink flamingos. The main centre is the village of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, from where boat trips leave several times a day during summer. You can also consider taking a four wheel drive safari.
Cap d’Antibes: It was renowned as the party capital of the Riviera in the 1920’s. The Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc was one of the first to open for the summer season. The area was soon popular with rich Americans, including Scott and Zelda Fitgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Rudolph Valentino. Later on other famous names made their homes in the area – Graham Greene and Pablo Picasso. Today the Cap still retains its elegance and you can take some interesting walks along the coast. There is 24.5km of coastline and has five harbours. One of these is Port Vauban situated overlooked by Antibes vielle ville. This is one of the largest in Europe and you can see boats that range from small pleasure boats to yachts that are big enough to have their own helicopters on one of the decks! Overlooking the Port from the Baie des Anges side is Fort Carré.
Cassis: This is a charming resort that has a picturesque harbour. Sir Winston Churchill used to paint there when he was taking holidays in the area.You can also take boat trips from there.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape: This is one of the best known names in the wine world. Châteauneuf was where the Avignon Popes had their summer residence. There are dozens of wine producers in the village who are all keen to explain how they make their wines and then how their wine is better than their competitor’s! There are plenty of opportunities to taste without having to buy.
Eze: There is Eze sur Mer and perched up on the hill behind it is Eze village. Some say that it is one of the most perfect spots on the Cote d’Azur with spectacular views over the Mediterranean coast with the Alps as a backdrop.
Fréjus: Julius Caesar founded this town. It was once important port and was larger under the Romans than it is today. Sections of the old city walls are still visible, as are parts of an aqueduct; a theatre, amphitheatre, and various other buildings that are all now intermingled with the remains of the medieval city that took over where the Romans left off.
Gordes: This village is perched on a hilltop above the Luberon National Park (see Luberon National Park below). This is one of the most beautiful villages in the whole of France. The views of Gordes from the approach road are breathtaking. In the village itself, there are steep cobbled streets that meander up and down around a château built in the 11th century. This is the focal point of the village. You can relax for a while in one of the many shaded cafés in the Place du Marché.
Grasse: Although it has expanded in modern times, it has managed to hold on to its village atmosphere. It is very famous as being the centre of the French perfume industry and many of the perfumeries are open to visitors. Before it was famous for perfume it was very well known for its tanneries. Today there are over 30 perfumeries. There Grasse is surrounded by acres of scented flowers. There is a daily flower market in the Place aux Aires. Grasse hosts an annual international rose exhibition each May and there is the La Jasminade flower fête each August. The old medieval village is a comfortable mixture of narrow cobbled streets climbing up and down and elegant merchant homes. A great deal of money is being spent on the town by local government.
The town’s Romanesque Cathédrale Notre-Dame-du-Puy was built in the 12th century to replace a 200 year old fortress. Part of the original tower still remains. The south side of the cathedral houses many works of art including several by Fragonard and Rubens. Fragonard was the son of a Grassois perfumed glove maker. His painting can be seen in the Villa-Musée Fragonard.
Hyères: This is the oldest resort on the coast that has been popular since the late 19th century when many wealthy British people came to the town to spend the winter. As a result the town has many elegant villas that are surrounded by delightful gardens. The beaches are located on the eastern side of the peninsula south of the town and three beautiful islands are accessible from the port.
Iles de Lérins: The beaches on the two Lérins islands Sainte Marguerite and Saint Honorat are the least crowded on the French Riviera because a lot of people are deterred by the 15 minute boat trip from Cannes. Both the islands are covered with eucalyptus and pine trees and offer lovely unspoilt beaches to explore. It is easy to walk around the islands.
Les Baux De Provence: Les Baux looks like a large rock from the east side. Go around to the other side and you will discover that the village has been literally carved out of it. Originally there was just a castle that played an important role in the turbulent history of medieval Provence. The rest of the village was added several centuries later. Why not spend a night there so that you can wander during the evening and avoiding the day trippers.
Nestling just below Les Baux and with spectacular views of the castle is the L’Oustau de Baumaniere. The views of the castle are even better when it is illuminated at night. It is a quite spot off the tourist track, but it is a central base for exploring the Alpilles region. The gardens are planted with roses and scented plants and there are plenty of places to sit, eat and drink in the open air.
Luberon National Park: This was made popular for British tourists in Peter Mayle’s book “A year in Provence”, it is well worth a visit. It has spectacular scenery and dramatic hill villages. An ideal way to get around is on bike. They can be rented locally in towns such as Apt.
Marseille: Is part of the region of Provence, Marseilles was founded in 600 b.c. by the Greek sailors of Phocaea. It city is the oldest in France and second largest city in France and the largest commercial port, Marseilles. When France was a colonial power it was the gateway to the Mediterranean, Today Marseilles remains a capital of southern Europe, cosmopolitan and exuberant, with its picturesque old port, its Bouillabaisse and its folklore.
The old port has lots of charm and plenty of good restaurants. The speciality is bouillabaisse made from a selection of local fish and seafood. There are restaurants all along the three quaysides that enclose the harbour. The most popular with locals is Le Mets de Provence.
Menton: Is the warmest resort on the French Mediterranean coast. It is therefore also a good place to visit out of season. It is less pretentious than a lot of other resorts. It seems to have been almost overlooked by tourists. The local government has spent a great deal of money on it over the past few years and it is very attractive. The old town buildings clinging to the hillside, that dips steeply into the sea. It is a border town and although feels very French, it also has a very Italian flavour to it as well.
Monaco: Located on the Mediterranean Sea, tucked into the Maritimes Alps, it is only minutes from Nice International Airport ( bus, train and helicopter connections) and the French and Italian Rivieras. It has a population of 32,020 and is 2 sq km in size. The currency is the euro as in the neighbouring countries. Most of the people who dwell here come from somewhere else, drawn by the sun, glamourous lifestyle and – most importantly – tax-free income and more police per head of population than in any other European country.
Monaco's history is pretty much the history of the Grimaldi family who have ruled the principality for over 700 years. — A 1918 treaty with France states that, should the Grimaldis die out, Monaco will become an autonomous state of France. In -2002 Laws were passed in the same year to ensure that the Grimaldi family would remain in power even if Prince Albert did not have an heir to the throne. There are a number of annual events held including the Formula 1 Grand Prix in May (and every other year the Historic Grand Prix) and International Open Tennis Championships in April, Monte Carlo car Rally in January and the Monte Carlo Television Festival in February. The famous casino can be found in Casino Square at Monte Carlo.
Montpellier: is in the heart of the Laguedoc region. It is 7km from the sea and has the benefit of its own airport. The centre of the town is the Place de la Comédie which is surrounded by buildings including the opera house. There is an old town that is mostly pedestrianised has picturesque squares and courtyards. There are plenty of shops along the Grande Rue Jean Moulin. There is always something on there – music, dance and art festivals,
How did the South of France look in the 1920s and 1960s? Click Here for photos
Nice: Putting the mild climate and diverse landscapes aside, Nice is more than just a seaside resort. It is one of the most stylish cities in France. Apart from the beach that extends for miles, there are plenty of shops, a Russian cathedral, an old quarter with a lively market and a couple of worthwhile museums. One of these is dedicated to Chagall and the other to Matissse. They both worked and lived in the region. The city of Nice extends inland with its pedestrian area featuring luxury boutiques, Massena gardens with their fountains and the picturesque old town. Nice stretches the length of the Baie des Anges, lighting up the whole of the Riviera with its majesty. When you fly into Nice airport the views are superb by day or night.
It is a magnificent city, the epitome of Riviera charm, a gentle way of life and luxury that has an exceptionally mild and sunny climate, blue sea and azure skies. Nice is a thriving tourist city, sought after all year round by lovers of the French Riviera. The Promenade des Anglais is a world-famous attraction, which is the pride of the city of Nice. Nice offers everything you could wish for in a holiday destination — history, spectacular scenery, architecture and a buzzing nightlife, not forgetting plenty of sun and sea.
Located half way along the Promenade des Anglais is famous Negresco hotel. It has become a landmark in its own right. Henri Negresco was a director of the casino and he built the hotel with the sole intention of attracting its wealthiest clients who would appreciate the palatial surroundings that are still a major feature. Guests have the use of a private beach.
Well worth a visit is the Old Town that dates back to medieval times or La colline du chateau dating back to the eleventh century. The old town contains within its narrow alleyways, the expanses of its squares and the Cours Saleya over 250 restaurants, 200 boutiques and galleries. Other excellent places for sightseeing include the Basilique Notre-Dame — the largest church in Nice, built in 1864. Other sightseeing hotspots include La Cathedrale Saint-Reparate, built in the seventeenth century, and the 16th century L'Ancien Hotel de Ville, formerly Nice's town hall. Climb (or take the lift) up to the castle and enjoy panoramic views over the Baie des Anges and visit the two cemeteries lying side by side the Christian and neighbouring Jewish cemetery.
Nimes: There may be 19 amphitheatres in the Roman world that are larger than the Arena at Nimes. It is the best preserved. It was originally used for gladiators or animal combat. Later it became a military fortress and then in medieval times houses were added that turned it into a small town. The modern removable covering allows the amphitheatre to be used all year round for performances. Nimes was once a Roman staging post between Spain and Italy.Although full of it’s heritage it is also a real living city. The famous Pont du Gard a tripple decker Roman aqueduct built to bring drinking water to Nimes is well worth seeing. It was built just before the birth of Christ. There are some pleasant walks along the river and you can also walk across the aqueduct as well. Rental France
Orange: was the former seat of the counts of Orange Today the town is best known for its spectacular Roman theatre that is the best preserved in Europe. Much of the back wall of the stage is still intact. In a series of pillars and niches containing the statues of imperial benefactors, a statue of the Emperor Augustus nearly 4 metres high has been reconstructed from fragments found around the theatre and replaced in its domed niche in the centre of the wall. the Arc de Triomphe, whose intricate frieze and relief celebrates imperial victories against the Gauls. It was built around 20 BC outside the town walls to recall the victories of the Roman Second Legion.
Port Grimaud: was designed in 1966 by the French architect Francois Spoerry. It was the dream of an architect and sailor as well, having his own boat just in front of the house. It is the most significant construction of its style in the whole Mediterranean. All units in Port Grimaud, except smaller apartments, have their own mooring Port Grimaud is an excellent marina across the bay of Saint-Tropez, protected from Wind form the East and the ”Mistral” from the West.
Roussillon: The unique feature of this hilltop village are the ochre colours of the landscape. The shades of earth range from deep red to pale yellow and are visible in the hillsides and rock outcrops resulting in a wonderful contrast against the greens of the foliage. A well defined walking trail that takes approximately half an hour leads you past the most dramatic colour combinations.
St Tropez: This was once the home of painters and artists who valued the fact that it was the most inaccessible village on the coast. St Tropez suddenly saw a tourism boom that brought it to life after Brigitte Bardot came there in the 1950’s to film “And God created Woman” Many other famous people have lived there including Eddie Barclay and Dirk Bogarde It is quite difficult to get into the village in the height of the season, with long queues, but despite that once you are in there it still has that unhurried Provencal atmosphere. The best beaches will be found a few kilometres out of the town to the southeast.
Villefranche-sur-Mer: Located on the east side of Nice, just five kilometres away, this picturesque village has not lost any of it’s character over the last 30 years.It is one of the most spectacular sections of the Riviera.It is built on wooded slopes around a picturesque fishing harbour and small port . There are restaurants facing the port. The old town that climbs up the hill with the church in the centre has narrow lanes and tall brightly coloured houses, some of which have "tunnels" between them.There is a good stretch of sandy and shingle beach beach and every Sunday there is a flea market offering a good selection of bric a brac. There is even a special dog toilet. Cruise liners often stay overnight in the the deeper waters and their passengers are ferried into the town for sight seeing.
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Riviera realty French Property News article from September 2006 by Karen Tait CLICK HERE
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Biot — Cannes — Monaco Côte d'Azur, South of France CLICK HERE
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