Best places to stay in Provence
Wandering the upmarket pedestrianised centre of Aix’ Old Town is an utterly charming experience. The town is a combination of cobblestone boulevards and beguiling public squares and it makes a fine base from which to explore the astonishing countryside around.
The Old Town has the best selection of cafes and bars and makes an ideal place to base oneself during a holiday in this beautiful town. It is the heart of the city and most can lose hours admiring the 17th-century mansions and browsing independent fashion boutiques. The Cours Mirabeau in particular is home to the most fashionable collection of coffee shops and eateries the town has to offer.
The largely residential Mazarin district is the oldest part of the city and another great option for a night’s stay. Its winding lanes hide many treasures including quaint bookshops and the trendy art galleries of Hôtel de Gallifet and Hôtel Caumont. For those looking to base themselves in the countryside and closer to the lavender fields, Plateau de Valensole is stunning in the summer and the nearby Luberon Valley is home to some of the most beautiful villages in France, including the astonishing Gordes.
Hotels in Aix-en-Provence
The beautiful whitewashed seaside town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is the charming capital of the Camargue, a region of outstanding natural beauty known colloquially as the “Wild West of France''. The region was a favourite subject of Van Gogh who lived for a time in nearby Arles and is Western Europe's largest river delta. Home to over 400 species of birds including the greater flamingo. In addition to the semi-wild Camargue horse, an ancient breed that still roams unhindered in herds across the marshlands.
The town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is an important pilgrimage site for the Roma people and during the festival months of May and October, the streets often have a carnival feel with guitarists, dancers and mounted cowboys. In terms of accommodation, guests can choose to stay in the town itself with an array of charming whitewashed cottage hotels. Or they can opt for a hotel, farmstead or ecolodge on the banks of the stunning Etang des Launes, or a little further a-field in the expansive wetlands that stretch out from the town in all directions. In terms of public transport, local buses run routes to neighbouring towns such as Arles or Aigues-Mortes, both of which are on the train line. While walking or bicycles are fine for navigating the town and nearby countryside.
Hotels in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
If you're looking for a city in Provence that has it all, Avignon is the place to stay. Surrounded by 800-year-old stone ramparts, this is a city where you'll find all kinds of historical buildings, art galleries, shops and restaurants lining its ancient cobbled streets and leafy squares. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Avignon is an excellent base for visiting the Provence villages, although Avignon has so many interesting things to see and do, that you may never set foot outside the city during your stay.
From the Pont d'Avignon, made famous in the nursery rhyme, to its museums, art galleries and city walks, it's a great destination for art and culture lovers, especially as it's home to the Opéra Théâtre, which has a full programme of operas, plays, chamber music and ballet throughout the year.
When you need a break from all the art and culture, you'll find that there's fantastic shopping on the pedestrianised streets, plus the city is filled with all kinds of restaurants, cafés and bars, particularly around the Place de l'Horloge, which is packed with alfresco terraces. There's also a superb selection of holiday accommodation to choose from, ranging from small guesthouses through to luxury hotels.
Hotels in Avignon
The fifth largest city in France, Nice is known all over the world for its grace, its sophistication and its style, and so is perfect if you're looking for an upmarket holiday in elegant surroundings.
It combines an outstanding climate and a classic splendour which draws holidaymakers to the terraces along the Promenade des Anglais, lined with luxury hotels on one side and smart private beaches on the other, to enjoy an aperitif or two while people watching.
However, there's more to Nice than just an elegant seafront. Behind the seaside facade, you'll find Baroque influenced houses in ochre-coloured hues housing upmarket boutiques and shops, plus a thriving arts and culture scene. In fact, only Paris has more museums, making it an ideal holiday destination if art and culture are an integral part of your holiday desires. Packed full of classy restaurants and sophisticated bars, you can expect some of the best French gastronomy, but make sure you taste some of the local specialities while you're here too.
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Probably most widely known for its international film festival, Cannes grew from a modest fishing village to being placed very firmly on the celebrity map. The festival not only attracts a myriad of film stars but an international audience too. While you may not be lucky enough to be included in the celebrations, you'll still find lots to see and do in this chic city, and it's the ideal destination for couples looking for a sophisticated and glamorous holiday.
During your stay, make the climb up Mont Chevaleur to the old town of Suquet, which is well worth the effort for the wonderful views down onto Cannes and across the Mediterranean. The Old Port is also high on the list of places to visit; here you'll find all kinds of pleasure craft and fishing boats moored up along the Quai St. Pierre. One of the most famous promenades in the world, La Croisette stretches out for over 3 km along the seaside.
Lined with some of the most exclusive hotels, shops and boutiques, it's the venue for the Cannes Film Festival, together with a wonderful programme of classical music concerts, dance and theatre which takes place throughout the year. It's also an ideal holiday destination if you love sophisticated nightlife and the thrill of gambling, as it has no less than four casinos.
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This upmarket resort has held a magnetic appeal for international tourists since the 1950s when the celebrities of the day came to stay. Popular with artists such as Picasso and the glamorous sex kitten Bridget Bardot, St. Tropez embraced the movie stars and jet-set together with chic Parisians looking for a bolt hole away from the capital.
This is the ultimate holiday destination if you're looking for a glamorous and sophisticated beach holiday. With at least 40 beaches, it's easy to see the attraction and wherever you go you'll be greeted with the trappings of luxury, from huge yachts in the marina to sophisticated restaurants and ultra luxurious hotels.
However, while St. Tropez really is a playboy's paradise, it still retains some of the old world charms of the traditional French Riviera with a typical Provencal market being held at the Place des Lices every Tuesday and Saturday.
Hotels in St. Tropez