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The best places to visit in the south of France are a varied collection of sun-kissed Provençal towns, ancient ports, and iconic wine destinations, often featuring masterpiece-stocked galleries and engaging museums.

With its geographic range reaching from the elemental Atlantic coast to the tranquil turquoise shallows of the Mediterranean, the south of France offers a little something for everyone.

Enhance your je ne sais quoi—as well as your vacation—by exploring some of the best places in the south of France, whether your interest is in architecture, food, wine, art, or simply beautiful beaches.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, one of the best places to visit in South of France

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

One of the best places to visit in the south of France is the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. It’s where the reality of having arrived in the Côte d’Azur sinks in like the warm rays of Mediterranean sunshine.

Strolling this famous coastal boulevard, you’ll soak up blissful views out over the beach and the cobalt-blue Bay of Angels beyond. Inland, Bugatti and Maserati sports cars cut sleek profiles against the regal Belle Epoque architecture of buildings like the pink-domed Hotel Negresco.

Some of the best things to do in Nice include wandering off the promenade’s spacious sidewalk and finding a spot on the pebbly beach, or renting a bicycle to sightsee its entire four-mile length. Pick up a robust French espresso, a flaky croissant, or ice cream at the many refreshments kiosks en route.

Read: Best Beaches in the South of France

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux

Exterior of Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux

One of the largest art galleries in France outside of Paris, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux is this western city’s fine arts museum. Centrally located, it’s one of the best places to visit in the south of France for art lovers.

Within this stately edifice, you’ll encounter an impressive collection of pan-European art that spans nearly 500 years leading up to the 20th century.

Expect major works by artists including Tiziano, Van Dyck, and Matisse. You’ll also find the homegrown talent well represented with collections from Marquet, Redon, and Lhote.

Saint-Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence, one of the best places to visit in South of France

Saint-Paul de Vence

Saint-Paul de Vence is one of the best places to visit in the South of France if you want to experience the essence of Provençal life. Located roughly midway between Cannes and Nice, its medieval ramble of alleyways caps a picturesque hilltop.

Boutique vineyards flourish in terraces cut into the hillside. The cypress-shaded streets of this French walled city are filled with the scent of honeysuckle and bougainvillea in the warmer months.

View of Saint-Paul de Vence Cemetery

Saint-Paul de Vence Cemetery

A favored haunt for the Impressionists—as well as a frequent muse—Saint-Paul de Vence’s artistic heritage is robustly asserted by its numerous art galleries.

It’s also where artistic luminary Marc Chagall is buried. Make a stop at his pebble-covered grave in the town’s cemetery while on a walking tour that takes in its ramparts and 16th-century architecture.

Le Suquet, Cannes

Aerial view of Le Suquet, Cannes

Le Suquet, Cannes

Le Suquet is the name of the tiny fishing village that would one day become Cannes, the playground of the rich and famous.

As you’d expected, this antique cobblestoned quarter has smartened up since the days of nets drying in the sun and tan fishermen contemplating the sea. The iron street lanterns recall its past, while installed among its bright pastel streets are lively bistros, glossy postcard racks, and upscale clothing boutiques.

Beautiful shoreline of Cannes with view of Le Suquet

Le Suquet, Cannes

Once you’ve polished off your moules frites at Rue Sainte-Antoine, climb higher into Le Suquet. You’ll travel further into the past, reaching the remains of the Roman camp that preceded the fishing village.

You’ll also find stunning panoramas over the coastline, as well as a monastery that’s now home to the eclectic Musée de la Castre, housing a wide-ranging collection of antiquities from the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Read: Stunning French Beach Towns to Visit

Dune du Pilat, Arcachon

Scenic landscape of Dune du Pilat, Arcachon

Dune du Pilat, Arcachon

Less a single sand dune and more like a range of dunes, the Dune du Pilat is Europe’s tallest. This immense golden sandbank is found just under an hour’s drive from Bordeaux, on the edge of Arcachon Bay, rising to over 500 feet.

A stroll along the Dune du Pilat’s mile-and-a-half length offers far-reaching views over the Cap Ferret isthmus and the bay. It’s one of the best places in the South of France to discover its Atlantic coastline. For even better views, find a paragliding center and take to the air. Or decamp to Bird Island for incredible fresh oysters.

Rue d’Antibes, Cannes

Street view of Rue d’Antibes, Cannes

Rue d’Antibes, Cannes

For the upmarket shopaholic, Cannes’ Rue d’Antibes is one of the best places to visit in the South of France. Named for the ritzy yachting town to the east of Cannes, the length of Rue d’Antibes features everything from major European clothing brands to petite parfumeries and neat window displays of bright macarons and sugar-dusted pastries.

Exploring here, it’s easy to believe the claim that the town has more luxury boutiques for its size than anywhere else in France.

Among the palms and germanium-bright planters on rue d’Antibes, linger in shops including Prada, G-Star RAW, and Tara Jarmon. To find it, walk a couple of blocks north from the Croisette, to which it runs parallel.

Vieux Port, Marseille

Boats lined up on Vieux Port, Marseille

Vieux Port, Marseille

The Vieux Port is Marseilles’ storied heart and a vibrant central area of the city. The streets and waterfront are lined with buzzy restaurants and bars—perfect for a glass of cooling, aniseed pastis and baguette with tapenade.

The mandolin buskers are occasionally drowned out by a noisy wedding cavalcade, the newlyweds standing proud out of the sunroof of the shiniest vehicle.

Amid the carnival stand austere churches and the St. Nicholas star-fortress guarding the port entrance. More modern additions to the incredible culture found here include the MuCEM museum and the reflective Fosters + Partners’ pavilion, close to where the fishermen still offload their freshly caught hauls for sale.

Longchamp Palace, Marseille

Exterior of Longchamp Palace, Marseille

Longchamp Palace, Marseille

Not a former royal residence as one might expect from the name, Longchamp Palace (or Palais de Longchamp) was built in the late 1900s to mark the completion of the Marseille Canal.

The centerpiece of its official Notable Garden of France is the so-called “Water Castle” fountain, created to celebrate the supply of fresh water diverted from the Durance River into the city. Today, it’s primarily a green lung of the city, its grounds contrasting lushly with the scrubby hills over which Marseilles rambles.

Within its grand palace, you’ll find the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille in one wing, and the city’s Natural History Museum in the other.

Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM), Marseille

Exterior of the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM), Marseille

Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, Marseille

You can’t miss Marseilles’ Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, its name handily contracted to “MuCEM”. Its strikingly modern latticework structure (intended to mimic a fishing net) makes for a gorgeous juxtaposition with the classical sandstone stylings of neighboring 17th-century Fort St. Jean.

Built to celebrate the city’s year as EU Capital of Culture in 2013, this French museum explores the history of the Mediterranean through an ever-changing and broad calendar of exhibitions.

After learning about magic in the Mediterranean, find a table at the in-house Le Môle Passedat. You’ll enjoy rooftop views of the Cathedral as well as the culinary wizardry of chef Gérald Passedat.


Cours Mirabeau, Aix en Provence, one of the best places to visit in South of France

Cours Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provence

Arty Aix-en-Provence is a 15th-century former regional capital. It’s easily one of the best places to visit in the South of France for a day trip stop or longer.

Leafy streets cluttered with open-air market stalls, beautiful views from Le Terrain des Peintres park, and ochre-tinted alleys lined with baroque mansions make Aix a wonderful town to explore on foot.

Rosé wine in France


The region is famous for its rosé, but nowhere does rosé wine taste more light, fruity, and delicious than when relaxing at a cafe on Aix’s Cours Mirabeau.

Aix is famously the former home of artist Paul Cézanne. You can visit his former address and art studio, still laid out in the manner in which he would have had it when alive.

Saint-Rémy de Provence

Exterior of Saint Paul de Mausole, Saint-Rémy de Provence

Saint-Paul de Mausole, Saint-Rémy de Provence

Saint-Rémy de Provence is another source of artistic inspiration located amid the fragrant, sun-baked hills of Provence. One of the country’s oldest towns, it has various claims to fame. One of which is that its most famous son is the soothsayer, Nostradamus.

But most people who come to Saint-Rémy de Provence come for Vincent Van Gogh. It was here that the Dutch artist produced the famous Starry Night painting when he was receiving treatment at the local Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum.

Street view of Saint-Rémy de Provence

Saint-Rémy de Provence

Its cobbled streets are, naturally, home to numerous art galleries, but also a thriving food scene with a clutch of Michelin-starred restaurants. If you have time, hop on a gourmet walking tour and be sure to taste the region’s famous lavender-flavored honey, among other local treats.

Beyond the honeyed-stone centre-ville, you can also find a ruined Roman city or visit Van Gogh’s old paint-flecked room in the asylum.


Arles, one of the best places to visit in South of France


Arles is a gem of a city found in the southern Camargue region. Situated on the Rhône River and close to the Mediterranean Sea, Arles’s strategic importance ensured its long and colorful history.

This is made explicit by its visible Roman heritage, much of it UNESCO-protected, including a dramatic amphitheater modeled after the Colosseum.

Historic site of Arles Amphitheatre

Arles Amphitheatre

Once you’ve discovered its numerous Roman treasures—including subterranean galleries and a necropolis at nearby Alyscamps—switch gears and discover Vincent Van Gogh’s huge legacy here.

Arriving in 1888, he stayed for just over a year, but this time in Arles is considered his most prolific period. Out of it emerged oeuvre-defining works such as Cafe Terrace at Night, The Yellow House, and Sunflowers.

Basilica Saint-Michel, Bordeaux

Exterior of Basilica Saint-Michel, Bordeaux

Basilica Saint-Michel, Bordeaux

An ornate Gothic spire marks out the Basilica Saint-Michel for boats passing by Bordeaux on the Garonne River. Located in the antique Saint-Michel quarter, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of France’s famous historical landmarks, a medieval Gothic church with a free-standing bell tower. At over 270 feet high, it’s one of the tallest in France.

Pilgrims following the Santiago de Compostela arrive within its walls, the soaring stained glass casting colorful pools across the pews and flagstone floor. Its soaring arches and intricate interior took two centuries to complete.

Old Town, Nice

Street view of Old Town, Nice

Old Town, Nice

One of the famous historical sites in France, the Old Town of Nice is this thriving coastal city’s medieval wellspring. Also referred to as Vieux Nice, this former fishing village is found close to the waterfront.

Entering through its narrow lanes, the feel is distinct from the rest of Nice, a warren of pastel-colored buildings that retains its village feel.

Stroll the atmospheric streets, window-shop at boutiques, or browse vibrant open-air markets such as the famous Cours Saleya, one of the best places to shop in France.

Major sights to tick off here include the Lascaris Palace and Nice Cathedral. You’ll also find the stately opera house here. Refuel at one of the many brasseries, with shaded outdoor seating.

Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes

Beach along Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes

Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes

With its annual star-studded film festival, Cannes has established itself as one of the best places to visit in the South of France for sun-drenched glitz and glamor. The Boulevard de la Croisette is its 19th-century beachside boardwalk, its cultural importance officially recognized by the French government.

Spreading pines and towering palms shade this prestigious promenade. Once you’ve imagined catching your favorite movie star’s eye strolling the other way, decide what to do.

Choose a dip in the turquoise shallows of the Mediterranean, gleaming yachts dotted offshore, or sit on a bench with an ice cream watching the boules players, the sea breeze soft on your neck.


Quaint town of Saint-Émilion


The small French town of Saint-Émilion is encircled by a sea of vines. About 45 minutes from Bordeaux city, this world-famous wine destination is recognized as a cultural landscape on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

It’s located on Bordeaux’s famous Right Bank, near well-known winemakers such as Château Cantenac and Château La Dominique.

But this exquisite, time-weathered town is more than just a bucket list wine destination. Its history stretches back millennia, and its ancient monuments and Romanesque churches make for a wonderful day’s exploring.

Come in the afternoon and relax with a glass of classy Saint-Emilion wine, close to where it was grown.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, one of the best places to visit in South of France

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

Experience the best places to visit in the South of France on a cruise to this wonderful country. From beach cities steeped in glamor to ancient hill towns offering mesmerizing panoramas, France is a destination of evergreen allure. Browse our France cruises and book your next incredible vacation.

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