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Summer in France is the seasonal manifestation of the phrase “joie de vivre.”

And while the luxury lifestyle of the south coast epitomizes a certain ideal of what summer in France is—with its superyachts, beaches freckled with parasols, and the foam of a freshly cracked bottle of Dom Perignon—it’s only a single facet of this country’s summery delights.

Elsewhere, you’ll find rolling vineyards and stately chateaux, breezes laden with the scent of herbs, opera performed in palatial gardens beneath star-filled skies, and macarons of every hue waiting to have their crisp shells cracked open. Here is a list of the ways to make the most of summer in France.

Try Bouillabaisse in Marseille

Bowl of Bouillabaisse


Wander around the Vieux Port in Marseille and you’ll see countless restaurants claiming to offer the best bouillabaisse in town. So while you’re here, enjoy a bowl of this iconic fish stew.

Bouillabaisse originated among the fishermen of Marseille. While their nets would contain many valuable fish, the bony rockfish had no takers among the market stallholders. So the fishermen would keep some pieces aside for themselves and their families, cooking them up in a soup flavored with herbs from the region.

Bowl of Bouillabaisse


Bouillabaisse today has to contain at least four of a list of fish to be considered genuine. Among these are scorpionfish, conger eel, lobster, John Dory, and spider crab, as well as the rockfish.

Spices and vegetables such as saffron, garlic, onion, potato, tomatoes, and fennel are added to the brew. A decent restaurant will serve the fish on a separate plate from the broth and will offer a garlicky aioli or rouille, and crispy croutons.

Follow Cezanne’s Footsteps in Aix-en-Provence

Exterior of Atelier de Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence

Atelier de Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence

Many artists have been inspired by the almost shimmering light and intense colors of Aix-en-Provence, the most famous being Paul Cezanne, who was born here and died here.

Cezanne painted dozens of pictures of his beloved Aix, from every angle; he was captivated by Mont Sainte-Victoire, the limestone mass that forms a backdrop to the city, and painted 43 oils and 44 watercolors featuring the mountain. There are ten of his works in the city’s Musée Granet.

You can visit Cezanne’s atelier, a beautiful, light-filled studio just outside the city center, preserved as it was when he last painted there, in 1906.

View from Terrain des Peintres, Aix-en-Provence

View from Terrain des Peintres, Aix-en-Provence

A short walk from here is the Terrain des Peintres, a pretty setting with panels depicting some of the work the artist created here, and views of Mont Sainte-Victoire. Don’t be surprised to see plenty of Cezanne followers here, working quietly at their own easels.

Read: Best Places to Visit in the South of France

Learn About Wine at La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

Summer in France - La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

Since its opening in 2016, the spectacular La Cité du Vin has changed the face of Bordeaux. This futuristic building, shaped like a curvy gold decanter, is far more than a museum. It’s a cultural journey around the world and through history, inspired by wine.

There are 18 themed sections that take you on a multisensory meander across five continents, with sections on wine cultivation, the wine trade, famous faces involved in wine, and 21st-century wine trends. There’s art, music, and humor, which are all wine-related.

End your visit in the magnificent Belvédère bar, with panoramic views across the city and an impressive chandelier made from thousands of recycled wine bottles. Needless to say, there’s a fine selection of wines to try here by the glass.

Read: The Ultimate Bordeaux Wine Region Guide

Learn About Perfume in Eze

Exterior of Fragonard Perfumery, Eze

Fragonard Perfumery, Eze

You’ll notice that the south of France is brilliant with blooming flowers, whether it’s the golden mimosa in springtime or the swathes of purple lavender and fragrant jasmine and roses in summer.

No surprise, then, that this is an important region for France’s perfume industry. In the medieval village of Eze, which clings to a clifftop between Nice and Monaco, you’ll find the Fragonard perfumery, one of the most famous in France. A local institution since 1968, this fascinating place lets you into the secrets of perfume production.

Making of perfume at the Fragonard Perfumery, Eze

Fragonard Perfumery, Eze

You’ll see how the essential oils from the flowers are extracted, in some cases, using techniques dating back to the eighth century. You’ll learn about how the different notes, whether floral, woody, or fruity, are layered to create a fragrance.

There’s a soap workshop here, producing pretty rose and cute duck-shaped soaps, as well as a cosmetics manufacturing area, making moisturizers, gels, and delicious smelling body lotions.

Finally, you’ll be able to visit the factory store, where experts will help you to find the perfect fragrance for your taste and personality.

People Watch on the French Riviera

Beautiful beach along Boulevard de la Croisette

Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes

In between tangy mouthfuls of salade niçoise, jumping in the warm waves of the Mediterranean Sea, and soaking up the sunset from mountain-top cafe terraces, you’ll want to take time to people-watch when visiting the French Riviera. Cannes is one of the best places for this essential activity, like at the gently curving Boulevard de la Croisette, the main artery for its beach life.

A listed cultural heritage site in France, La Croisette is hemmed in between broad-chested luxury hotels on one side and some of the best beaches in Cannes on the other. As you wander beneath the fluttering palms, the steely balls of nearby petanque games catching the light, you’ll see all facets of life intersecting along its nearly mile-and-a-half length.

Popular walkway of Promenade des Anglais

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

The equivalent in nearby Nice is the handsome Promenade des Anglais. A longer proposition, be sure to choose your starting point wisely, or hire a bike and cycle its entire four-and-a-half mile length. After you’ve had your fill of people-watching, head to Nice’s vibrant Old Town or the botanical gardens at Phoenix Park.

Rather have people watch you? Hire a Ferrari or Lamborghini and take to the sizzling asphalt of the dynamic Middle Corniche roadway. Watch the riviera speed past your window on this winding-hill road as you embody the high-end glamor of this classic summertime destination.

Read: Best Beaches in the South of France

Dive into the Mediterranean

Summer in France - Pampelonne Beach, St Tropez

Pampelonne Beach, St Tropez

While several significant bodies of water have helped sculpt the cliffs and dunes of France’s coast, it’s the mild waters of the south that attract the majority of those seeking sea and sun in the summer months.

French Riviera beaches on offer are many and varied, and with a little research, it’s easy to find a beach that seems almost undiscovered. However, there are some beach destinations whose names have become clad in an everlasting bronze tan of allure.

St. Tropez is preeminent among these. One of the most luxurious cities in the world, with its lemon-yellow bell tower and busy harbor, it’s emblematic of summer in France for the fashionable.

Its famous three-mile-long Pampelonne Beach is a roomy swathe of soft sand, its deeper waters just offshore resembling a superyacht buying guide in high summer.

Aerial view of coast in Nice


Prefer somewhere a little less high beam? Follow the coastal path around the headland (and past Brigitte Bardot’s home) to find the translucent waves lapping at Plage des Salins.

While it’s hard to go wrong when finding a beach on the Cote D’Azur, Cannes’ La Bocca and the Plage des Marinières—one of the best beaches in Nice—are perennially popular.

After all the salt, swimming, and yacht-ogling, you’ll need some sustenance in the style that you’ve become accustomed to. Enjoy a wine tasting at Nice’s historic Château de Crémat followed by a decadent repast at Le Grand Balcon restaurant afterward. Or duck into the 17th-century vaults of Cave Bianchi for an atmospheric wine tasting with a local producer.

Read: What is France Known For?

Stay Cool With Pastis in Marseille’s Vieux Port

Boats parked in Vieux Port

Vieux Port, Marseille

France’s second city blends shimmering Provençal coastline with bags of culture and an irresistible Mediterranean insouciance. Its buzzing heart is the Vieux Port, surrounded by bars and restaurants at which to refresh yourself with a cloudy glass of pastis, the aniseed-flavored local specialty and an icon of summer in France.

Glass of pastis on a table


Pair it with a plate of traditional snacks such as panisse, soft wedges of chickpea with a papery, salty batter. For a loftier perspective, try Chez Gigi—the rooftop terrace bar/restaurant of the Marseille Rowing Club—which has panoramic views over the Vieux Port that pair perfectly with its squid and aioli starter.

Once you’re refreshed, strike out into the city. You don’t have to go far—much of the attractions and things to do in Marseille congregate around the Vieux Port, such as the St. Nicholas Fortress guarding the harbor mouth or the futurist Ricciotti-designed MuCEM museum.

Quaint store in Le Panier with limestone alley

Le Panier, Marseille

Just behind the Vieux Port is Le Panier, the oldest part of the city and now one of the trendiest. Wander its network of honeyed stone alleys, popping into quirky boutiques, finding to-die-for Japanese at Tako-San on Rue de Petit Puits, or taste-testing the various pastis brands on offer at hip Barjac on Place de Lenche.

Couple walking along Cours Mirabeau, Provence

Cours Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provence

With 35 miles of coastline, a visit to Marseille insists that you consider the wealth of possibilities nearby. Hire a pastis-stocked boat from Barque Hugo or rent a kayak and explore the stunning coves and inlets of Calanques National Park, cruising shallows as green and inviting as freshly sliced lime.

Or take a culinary day trip to the specialty food shops and farmers’ markets of Aix-en-Provence, tasting macarons, lavender honey, French espresso, and, of course, the iconic rosé wine.

Tour Timeless Inland Provence

If you can tear yourself away from the south coast, you’ll discover that inland Provence is a miraculous terracotta and stone hinterland dotted with timeless villages and atmospheric ruins.

Cobblestone street of Saint-Remy


It’s little surprise that it’s acted as a muse for innumerable artists over the years. The village of Saint-Remy served as inspiration for Vincent Van Gogh when he was there receiving treatment at the local Saint-Paul de Mausole (you can visit his paint-splattered room there). He managed to produce no fewer than 150 paintings while staying there, including Starry Night.

And while it’s still retained a village feel, Saint-Remy is hardly a backwater, with Michelin-starred restaurants, lively markets, and a ruined Roman city to explore just nearby.

Just south of Saint-Rémy is Les Baux-de Provence, one of the best small towns in France. Often described as an open-air museum, this remarkable place is part ruin, part quintessential Provençal village sited on a rise that delivers panoramas of the rugged Alpilles mountains.

Picturesque landscape of Les Baux-de Provence

Les Baux-de-Provence

Formerly a stronghold in the Middle Ages, the locals keep the history alive with a program of historical events throughout the summer. Keep your fingers crossed you arrive during a catapult demonstration, and be sure to ask for a glass of the highly-rated local organic wine.

A drive east past vineyards, silvery olive tree orchards, and stretches of attractively disheveled nature scented with thyme will bring you to Lourmarin. Provence does it again, you’ll think, admiring this well-appointed town with its French castle, quaffable wine, and constellation of small squares with water gurgling from fountains.

Read: What to Eat in Provence

Summer in France - Vieux Port, Marseille

Vieux Port, Marseille

Experience all of these unforgettable adventures and more on a cruise to France. From glamor-soaked beach life and ancient cities to incredible natural vistas, France is a magnificent place to visit during summer.

Browse our cruise itineraries online and book an incredible vacation to France.

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Free Vacation Planning Services