Provence is a historical province in France. It is one of many tourist destinations in the country with its brilliant sunshine and gorgeous skyline, its fragrant fields of lavender and snow-capped mountains, and the perfect combination of luscious food and appetizing wines. Here are some of the things you should do while exploring the region.
One of the most fascinating views you must see in Provence is the Gorges du Verdon. Considered Europe’s greatest canyon, it is also known as the Grand Canyon du Verdon and, although smaller, is as majestic as its counterpart in America. The spectacular scenery of this limestone canyon is a must see while enjoying climbing, rafting, cycling and other activities that the whole family will surely enjoy. Another nature’s wonder can be found along the coast of Provence: the Calanques. These are valleys that were flooded due to glacial meltdowns over time and formed inlets or river mouths. One of the most widely known of such natural beauty is the Massif des Calanques. It includes various calanques worth visiting such as Calanque de Sugiton, Calanque de Morgiou, Calanque de Sormiou and many more. Some of these calanques can be explored through tourist boats.
For more sight-seeing, why not go to Camargue? It is said to be Europe’s largest river delta and is home to more than 400 species of birds including the Greater Flamingo. It is also famous for the Camargue horse, an ancient breed of horse that is indigenous to this area of France. Camargue marshes and wetlands remain their natural habitat. Camargue is divided into two separate sections: the Etang du Vaccares on the East side and the western Camargue that includes the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and other more commercial tourist destinations. Etang du Vaccares is the larger part, and the less touristy, with its protected saltwater lagoon, the largest in Camargue. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, which literally means “Saint Marys of the Sea”, is the capital of Camargue. It is also popular to pilgrims due to the relics of the three saints Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome.
The Roman and Romanesque Monuments of Arles in Bouches-du-Rhone are a UNESCO World Heritage Site everyone should visit. Exploring this collection of ruins of Roman amphitheaters is an experience only Provence can provide. It features the Arles Amphitheatre, a two-tiered Roman amphitheater that is said to be the most prominent tourist attraction in Arles; the Cryptoporticus of Arles, a covered corridor or passageway which was built by Greeks; the Thermes of Constantine; Ramparts of the Roman castrum; the Alyscamps, a large and famous Roman necropolis or burial ground; the Church of St. Trophime, an important Romanesque architecture with some of the finest Romanesque sculptures; and the Roman exedra, an open semicircular room. All these structures are of great architectural and historical significance. Another reason to include this city in your itinerary is the Espace Van Gogh, the courtyard of Arles Hospital turned into a shrine for the artist. The famous painter of The Starry Night created two paintings of the Hospital Arles where he was hospitalized after cutting off his earlobe. He lived in the Yellow House in Arles during those mentally-challenged moments of his life.
The city of Marseille is another must-visit. Being the second largest city in France and its largest commercial port, Marseilles is the most important trade center in this region and is one of the most visited cities in the country. Being European Capital of Culture, one of its major cultural attractions is the Opera de Marseille or Opera Municipal, a well-preserved opera house reputed for its critical audience. There are also numerous museums to visit such as the Natural History Museum in the Palais Longchamp, the Grobet-Labadie museum that houses a remarkable collection of European artworks and musical instruments, a ceramics museum in Chateau Pastre called the Musée de la Faïence de Marseille, and the Musee Cantini that contains some Picasso pieces. MuCEM or Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée is a newly inaugurated museum that focuses on European and Mediterranean culture and history. The Old Port or Vieux-Port in the center of the city is the main harbor of Marseille and one of the places to observe the city’s life. There are various architectural gems in this area too. La Vieille Charite was originally designed by the Puget brothers as an alms house. Today, the building houses an archeological museum, an African and Asian art gallery, bookshops and a café. For shopping, take a stroll around the Centre Bourse and the adjacent St. Ferreol district.
Lex Baux is another village you might want to stop in. It is known as one of the most picturesque villages in the whole of France. Set atop the rocky Alpilles Mountains, with its notable castles and ruins, it’s no wonder that tourists prefer to drop by the village. A medieval castle most commonly referred to as King Rene’s Castle can also be found in Tarascon.