France

Highlights

Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival

Jazz à Juan is an awesome event and one of the best music festivals in France. The open-air stage – backed by palm trees and the moonlit Mediterranean – has welcomed some of history’s all-time finest jazz musicians, from Dizzy Gillespie to BB King. The star-studded 2009 programme hosted Joss Stone, Jamie Callum, Jeff Beck and MC Solaar.
 


The Camargue

This 1000 sq km triangle of shallow lakes, salt marshes and reed beds supports an exotic array of indigenous wildlife, including the white Camargue horse and pink flamingos. Try riding, kayaking or mountain biking through the vast National Park.

Provence’s coastal path

A maquis-scented coastal path runs almost continuously from the Camargue to the Italian border. Known locally as the sentier des douaniers (or custom officers’ trail), it passes deserted beaches, fishing villages, dive sites and picnic spots, as well as some of Europe’s most over-the-top villas. Best of all, it’s completely free.

Driving the Monaco Formula One circuit

Trace the Grand Prix circuit on YouTube or grab a map from the tourist office. By car, scooter or on foot the route takes in statues of F1’s greats and legions of million-Euro cars. Can you beat Felipe Massa’s 75-second fastest lap?
 


Gorges du Verdon & Lac de Ste-Croix

Little will prepare you for the vertiginous embrace of the Gorges du Verdon. Europe’s largest canyon, it’s now a haven for hikers, rock-climbers and bungee-jumpers, who dive 180 m off the Pont d’Artuby, one of the highest falls in the world. The Verdon seeps into Lac de Ste-Croix, a serene emerald green lake, perfect for kayaking, trekking around and birdwatching.
 
Dining in Marseille

Home to the world-famous bouillabaisse fish stew, Marseille’s ethnic mix lets you eat your way around the world any evening: try Japanese, Moroccan, Italian, Vietnamese or Portuguese.
 
St-Tropez’s Musée l’Annonciade

A perfect palette of Provence’s modern art scene. The changing nature of European painting from realistic representation to colour-filled excess is caught on canvas by the likes of Matisse, Marquet and Signac. Their paintings of lavender fields, fishing villages and passing sailboats document dreamy scenes from across the region.

Nice’s Musée Masséna

This neoclassical seaside mansion is the perfect setting for a local history lesson. The Musée Masséna highlights the artists, heiresses and celebrities that made the Riviera great, by way of paintings, period jewellery and photos from the belle époque. Barring Paris, Nice has more museums than any of other city in France. Most of them, like this one, are completely free.



Provence’s trains

Clean, efficient and comprehensive, Provence’s rail system is world-class. Three lines in particular – the Train des Pignes, the Roya Valley and the Cannes-Italy coastal train – are achingly beautiful. And that’s before you’ve even stepped off the train.

Ski slopes

Daily ski buses hit Auron, Isola 2000 and Valberg each winter morning. The price? From Nice, just €1 each way. Resorts boast hundreds of kilometres of runs, with an emphasis on beginners and snowboarders. Book a moderate ski-in ski-out hotel for a night, or bus it back to the coast for dinner.



The Promenade des Anglais

Take a seafront stroll next to Nice’s 4-km-long public beach. The plage is bursting with bathers, volleyball players, bodybuilders and yoga gurus, while the esplanade hums with bikers and rollerbladers. All too much? Hit one of the beach clubs for a sunset cocktail instead.
 
Rosé

Once dismissed as a rough locals-only drink, Provence’s famed tipple is back in vogue. Removing the tannin-rich skins during the winemaking process leaves a soft blush-coloured wine, a perfect accompaniment to the area’s cuisine. Visitors are welcome at most of the beautiful vineyards that line the way.
 
Provence’s coastal islands

A sprinkling of verdant islands bobs off the Provence shoreline. One is home to a monastery and boasts some of the best snorkelling on the coast, while another hosts a colony of nudists, seabirds and rare exotic fauna. All are laced with waymarked nature trails and offer tranquil respite, away from the crowds on the coast.
 


Cassis & the Calanques

Cassis, a pastel-blue fishing village little changed from the 1950s, sits among the Calanques, a series of spectacular limestone cliffs and clear turquoise bays. Try seaside dining, rock-climbing, cliff-diving and touring the local vineyards on foot. Provence at its most picturesque.

Arles market

The capital of the Camargue hosts the region’s finest food market every Wednesday and Saturday morning. Stalls selling bull salami, French cheese and the famed local olive oil flank the colourful Old Town. Then step through the city walls to discover Arles’s Roman amphitheatre and a volley of amazing restaurants.



Château des Baux

Balanced on a rocky tip above a medieval village, Château des Baux was a fortified medieval hill town, commanding the countryside and vineyards all the way down to the sea. Expect jaw-dropping panoramas, cliff-edge walks and a collection of larger-than-life siege weaponry.
 


Palais des Papes

For half a century Avignon was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Its legacy is a massive Gothic edifice, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, which dominates the medieval walled city. Floor-to-ceiling frescoes, preserved under 500 years of paint and now on display, give an inkling of the pampered papal lifestyle.
 
The coast between Hyères & St-Tropez

Some of the best beaches in France lie along this stretch of coast. Several are little-visited coves or nudist spots, others are family-friendly stretches packed with activities or sandy patches where you can catch le jet-set at play. Tiny Le Lavandou boasts 12 beaches alone.
 
Cézanne’s Aix-en-Provence

Step into a Cézanne painting and see where the father of modern art lived and worked. Visit the Jas de Bouffan, where he decorated the walls of the family mansion with a dozen masterpieces, or his final atelier. Then carry on to Mont Ste-Victoire, the landscape that inspired countless Cézanne creations.
 


Lavender

The purple lavender-cloaked hills are one of Provence’s most enduring symbols. Enthusiasts can hit the Musée de la Lavande, a shrine to the fragrant purple blossom. Or drive deep into the Lubéron to Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a 12th-century Cistercian abbey where visitors can buy the monks’ home-made lavender oil, soap and honey.

This except is taken straight from our Provence & Côte d'Azur Colour Travel Guide written by Tristan Rutherford & Kathryn Tomasetti.

 
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
Products in this Region

Dordogne & Lot

The Dordogne takes people by surprise. Green and calm and quiet, at first glance it seems like just...

Camino de Santiago Focus Guide

The Camino de Santiago has experienced a striking revival. Cutting across Spain from the Pyrenees...

Provence & Côte d'Azur

Glamour, glitz and a sunny Mediterranean temperament, Provence and the Côte d'Azur is blessed with...
PDF Downloads

  No PDFs currently available

Digital Products

Available NOW!
Read more...