Choices, choices, choices!
There is so much to see in the different areas of Provence and so people are always asking me where they should visit?
Provence is a popular area of France with tourists and captures the hearts of many who visit it. This is partly because of the mild yearly climate and hot summers but mainly because who could resist the sandy beaches and glamour of Nice, the picturesque villages of Gordes and Moustiers Sainte-Marie, or the splendor of the Gorge du Verdon? Provence has such variety that there is therefore something for everyone.
The 6 Departments of Provence
Provence consists of 6 different areas that are called ‘departments’. These departments spread from the alpine mountains to the glistening Mediterranean Sea, with Italy on its Eastern border and the Rhone river to the West. Here we start with a snapshot of what you will find in each department.
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence: This is the northern part of Provence and a mountainous department. Here you will find the dramatic Gorge du Verdon and the famous Valensole Plateau. Which is arguably the best place to see lavender fields in Provence.
Alpes-Maritimes: Next is a little piece of French glamour with the French Riviera in the Alpes Maritimes. It is an ideal place to base yourself. It boasts an impressive climate with around 300 days of sun a year! Nice and Cannes are both situated here.
Hautes-Alpes: In the South of the French Alps is Hautes-Alpes. It is among the highest regions in Europe and a great location for a more active holiday because there are plenty of walking, cycling, climbing, and skiing holidays on offer.
Bouches-du-Rhône: Home to the lively cities of Marseille and Aix-en-Provence but also picturesque villages by the coast such as Cassis. A great location for a city break.
Vaucluse: A department famous largely for the Luberon, which straddles the departments of the Vaucluse and the Alpes de Haute Provence. Picturesque villages of Gourdes and the rustic red and orange landscape of Roussillon. If you are looking for lavender fields too then this department is another one that will suit you, with Sault drawing in lavender fans from far and wide.
Var: Finally, the area where traditional Provence meets French Riviera. Beautiful hilltop villages such as Tourtour sit alongside the luxury of St Tropez in this department.
Over the coming weeks we will be looking at each of the different areas of Provence. So fill in your email for our newsletter and updates of when a new post has been posted.
Areas of Provence: What you will find in the Var
To begin is the one that never fails to capture our hearts. The Var department of Provence. For us, the Var has everything. The traditional Provençal lifestyle in the hilltop villages of Tourtour and Bauduen, dramatic scenery of the Gorge du Verdon and the natural beauty of Le Lac de Sainte Croix. The coastal glamour and luxury of St Tropez and city living in the lively city of Toulon.
Traditional Provencal Villages
The Var has an abundance of picturesque hilltop villages. Villages you will see plastered across the Instagram accounts of most Francophiles because of their beauty. When we are in Provence we always visit;
Tourtour: Often described as one of the most beautiful villages in France. We love that its location surrounded by meadows and pine forests means it is not as busy with tourists during the summer.
It is a small village but still has several restaurants, cafés, and shops. Huge olive trees fill the streets and the views are spectacular with the village perching 635 metres above sea level! The bell towers, arches, and narrow streets lined with traditional Provençal stone houses make this a special village to visit. Furthermore we find that it holds some lovely music events in the summer.
Bauduen: Sometimes it is hard to look at the pretty lake side village of Bauduen because you are too busy gazing at the crystal blue waters of Le Lac de Sainte Croix. However, this medieval village is quite a sight. It lies on the banks of the lake and it is a vision of red roof tops, washed stone houses, narrow streets, water foundations and pretty shutters. The beach itself is busy and not the prettiest but if you continue along to the end of the village, a dirt track leads you to a number of secluded and mostly undiscovered coves.
Luxury beach locations
St Tropez is our recommendation if you are looking for luxury and elegance. Each summer it fills up with famous faces and their yachts. Beautiful beaches, galleries, and shops to wander around before heading out for the fine cuisine on offer. St Tropez’s elegance comes from still managing to retain its Provencal feel and it is quite charming.
St Maxime is our recommendation for a family beach holiday. Stunning beaches (6km of beaches in fact), sheltered from the wind by the mountains and a lively and pretty town to explore. You can also get some fantastic boat trips.
The Var is an area of Provence where you can choose from over 300 vineyards to visit! That will keep you quite busy! There are companies that can arrange tours and wine routes for you to follow or alternatively you can go independently. We love the knowledge that we gain from being talked through the wines on offer by its passionate producer. It makes them all the more special.
Rosé forms the majority of wine production in the Var. In fact, the Var is the biggest global producer of rosé and is also home to our personal favourite, Mirabeau Wines with its dry pale rose from the pretty village of Cotignac.
See our post on Mirabeau: The French Rosé Dream for more on this fantastic producer.
There are three wines that the area is famous for and each has the AOC quality label. They are Côtes de Provence, Coteaux Varois and Vins de Bandol. Although they are famous for their rosé, they do produce excellent red and white wines too.
We never leave Provence without a trip to the market. Olives, oil and olive wood, honey, truffles, and soaps are all popular with tourists to take home with them and also we cannot resist the traditional French linens.
So, it is important you know where you can find a market and when. You need to remember that most markets are just open in the morning. Some towns will also have night markets during the summer months and you will find jewellery, clothes, and crafts on sale.
Aups: Wednesday & Saturday
Bormes-les-Mimosas: Wednesday & Saturday
Cogolin: Wednesday and Saturday
Draguignan: Wednesday and Saturday
Fayence: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
Frejus: Wednesday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday
Hyeres: Wednesday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
La Croix-Valmer: Sunday
La Garde: Tuesday & Saturday & Friday
Le Lavandou: Thursday
Le Beausset: Friday and Sunday
Le Luc: Friday
Les Arcs: Thursday
Le Muy: Thursday and Sunday
Le Pradet: Friday
Ramatuelle: Thursday and Sunday
Saint Cyr sur Mer: Sunday
Saint-Raphael: Monday and Tuesday
Unusual things to do
We are always looking for more unusual things to do on holiday and the Var is an area of Provence does not fail to deliver in this department. For example, Cave visits in Villecroze or swimming under a waterfall in Sillians.
The Villecroze troglodytic caves (Les Grottes de Villecroze) are hidden in the cliffs of this attractive village. The caves are split over 5 levels and there are numerous rooms to see. In addition, there is a pretty garden with a waterfall which is the ideal picnic spot with its play area for the children.
Cascade de Sillians is an exotic and tropical looking waterfall. Moreover it is a shady spot that you can swim, walk, and picnic at too. To learn more about the waterfall at Sillians. Click here.
To conclude, we hope you enjoyed this post and learning a bit more about what makes the Var a great place to visit. If you are unable to get to one of the areas of Provence this year you can still bring a little piece of France and its lifestyle to your everyday. We finish this post with some of our favourite things to bring home and links to where you can find them online too. Enjoy!
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Now impress your friends with a bottle of beautiful, Provencal, dry, pale pink Rosé
Our Choice of Wine (all found from Majestic Wine-Who have a great mix and match 6 bottles deal!)
We love this olive wood bowl on Etsy. The olive wood isn’t from France however the bowl is so beautiful that we don’t mind! Everyone is getting one for Christmas this year! Olive wood bowl
Dried Edible Lavender from Buy Whole Foods
Lavender Oil from Neal’s Yard Remedies. We love the ethos of this brand.
Also a lovely selection of linens and fabrics can be found at A Farm House in France on Etsy
We hope that you enjoyed this post.