A local's guide to the south of France

When we talk about France, particular places spring to mind: Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées... But France offers so much more with many charming and enchanting places to explore all around the country. The south of France is no exception...
Calanques in France. Photo: Shutterstock
Calanques in France. Photo: Shutterstock

Where and when should we plan our holiday and why?

The south of France is one of the most beautiful and romantic regions in the country. Start your trip on the south coast by visiting the wonderful Calanques of Cassis, then lying on the golden sands of St Tropez and Antibes. Insight Guides' local expert for the south of France, Emilie, can plan your holiday from start to finish: submit a trip request now 

History buffs will fall in love with cities such as Roussillon, Isle-sur-Sorgue, Gordes, Fontaine de Vaucluse, which have kept their centuries-old charm and picturesque appearance.

Contrary to popular belief, the best period to visit southern France is not always in the summer. Spring is the best and most colourful season in the south: the weather is warm, the flowers are blooming and it's the period where the region comes to life. Moreover, by that time of year, the mistral wind, the "enemy" of southerners is long gone, which means you can take a walk without having to fix your hair every minute!

Where would you recommend we stay in the south of France?

One of the most charming hotels in the region is the Hotel Villa Cosy in St Tropez and it's perfect if you're looking for a private and chic place to stay, just a few minutes away from the centre of the city. 

Have you ever stayed in a hilltop village? If not, La Bastide de Gordes is located high-up in the village of Gordes, listed as one of the most beautiful towns in France and overlooks the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon

La Maison d'Uzès, also located in Provence, more precisely in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, has been touted as one of the world's most beautiful hotels with its elegant and country-style rooms. Discover the quintessential lavender fields of Provence, with Insight Guides' From Paris to Provence: Perfection Personified trip

Where is a great place for dinner?

For foodies, I would recommend Jan, a perfect restaurant in Nice, where you can taste several French delicacies. Jan Hendrik used to be a chef on a private yacht, then a photographer/reporter for a magazine and then decided to open his own restaurant where he serves delicious, contemporary cuisine to the delight of those visiting the south coast.

For those travelling closer to Provence than the French Riviera, don't miss La Pergula in Arles (a city that looks much as it did in Roman times); here you'll find a cozy, private restaurant where you can meet locals and treat your tastebuds. 

Assortment of tapenade and toast. Photo: Shutterstock

Assortment of tapenade and toast. Photo: Shutterstock

Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we’re in this region?

The south's speciality dishes such as tapenade - an olive-lover's delight - the famous ratatouille, and also socca, which is a tart of warm and peppery chickpeas are all unmissable.

Where will we find the south of France's most romantic spot?

I'd highly recommend Les Calanques between Marseille and Cassis: here you'll find wonderful views and a gorgeous waterfall. Alternatively, the hilltop village of Gordes is both breathtaking and beautiful. For us, there's nothing more bewitching and romantic than Roussillon during sunset, we often refer to the town as the French Colorado. Discover Les Calanques with a tailor-made trip to South France

Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips?

Overall, the best reason to visit the south of France is the wealth of cities, towns and villages all a few minutes away from each other, all wonderful, each with their own special charm. Get off the beaten track, go exploring and wander around the pretty countryside and cobbled backstreets, where you'll find plenty of pretty views and charm. 

As we suggested before, spring in our favourite season, however, if you're visiting for the region's best beaches, plan your trip during the summer. The first two weeks of June and the last week of August are best, to ensure you avoid the crowds.

What souvenir should we bring home from our trip?

You all know that melancholic feeling you have during the last days when the trip is coming to an end? That's the time to go shopping to buy souvenirs for yourself as a reminder of your stay. The best choice would be hand-made artisanal or local products that define this region: perfumes from Grasse, dried lavender, aromatic Provencal soap or a bottle of delicious local wine. À votre santé!

Roussillon village sunset view. Photo: Shutterstock

Roussillon village sunset view. Photo: Shutterstock

Design your unique holiday to see the highlights of southern France with Emilie

Insight Guides can help you with planning, organising and booking your trip to France. Simply, get in touch and share your budget, interests and travel style. Our local experts will create an itinerary exclusive to you and your requirements, which you can amend until it's just right for you. Alternatively, browse and modify ready-made holidays to create your dream trip today. 

This article was originally published on August 19, 2016.

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