I love pairing Provence with Paris for a perfectly balanced “best of” urban and rural family vacation in France. At least four days should be allocated to Provence so that there is enough time to explore this region’s wonderful highlights. If you want to dig into more remote nooks and crannies, and/or add in a day or two at the beach on the Côte d’Azur, plan on spending seven days in the countryside.
Here’s a look at five of my favorite activities in Provence with kids:
The village of Roussillon in the Luberon is known for the red/orange ochre clay around the village that used to be mined for its rich pigment. The former quarry is now home to a fantastic walking path, the Sentier des Ochres, through a stunning Dr. Seuss-like landscape. Although the walk not difficult, some of the drops are steep. This is recommended for school age and up kids.
A visit to Roussillon can be easily paired with a visit to nearby Gordes for lunch and photos. The views of (and from) this village perched on the side of a hill while driving into town are incredible.
Sénanque Abbey is also easily accessible from Gordes and Roussillon. The monks who live here grow lavender and when it’s blooming (June to early August), the monastery is of the most stunning places on the planet. Visitors can visit the abbey, the cloister, and peruse their array of wonderful handcrafted lavender products in the gift shop.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Avignon was home to several popes in the 1300’s; their castle, the Palais des Papes, is in excellent condition and interesting to tour.
The city is also famous for the beautiful Pont d’Avignon, a medieval bridge over the Rhone River. This is a good day trip with older kids who can digest the history and are happy with a bit of walking as the city is good sized.
No visit to Provence is complete without a market visit. Isle sur La Sorgue is the most famous market in the region and home to the biggest flea market in France outside of Paris. If you are not an antique buff this excursion may be overkill.
We enjoyed the market at Lourmarin, a pretty village in a dramatic setting near the Luberon Massif. These rural markets have everything imaginable from clothes, to soaps, to spices, to kid-pleasing candy in every size, shape, and color.
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For a day of all-age loitering in one of the most picturesque villages in Provence, look no further than Saint Rémy de Provence. Home to Vincent van Gogh (where he painted The Starry Night) and the birthplace of Nostradamus, the streets are wonderful for wandering and there are a number of excellent restaurants. The Roman Ruins of Glanum are short distance from town; we didn’t get a chance to see them, but I hear this is a worthwhile stop.
Nearby Les Baux-de-Provence is good to pair with Saint Rémy de Provence. Dramatically situated in the heart of the Alpilles mountains, the rocky scenery is stunning and very unique with spectacular vistas and a ruined castle to explore.
I wouldn’t stay ON the beach in the South of France in late July and August in France for all the tea in China. It’s very crowded. I would, however, plan a day trip to the beach from Provence, provided you ask a local for the best traffic avoidance strategy.
Sainte-Maxime is a lovely village about an hour and a half to two hours from many central Provence locations. There are beaches there or you can take the ferry to Saint Tropez (although the beaches of Saint Tropez require a bus or taxi ride from the center of town).
We were there last fall and stayed in a lovely kid-friendly villa in Menerbes (owned by the luxury travel company Brown and Hudson) through our friends at Haven in Paris, who specialize in wonderful Paris apartment rentals and villas throughout popular destinations in Europe. We love villa stays for multi-generational travel and trips involving a few families. For independent families, a few of our France family hotel favorites are featured on our Provence landing page.
We like having at least one engaged activity like a cooking class or walking tour when exploring a region in Europe. Our family vacation consulting team offers one-on-one trip planning services including itinerary development, accommodation booking, activity recommendation, and logistics advice. Go to My Trip Planner for more information and to request assistance.
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Editor’s Note: Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy except where noted
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