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Tales From Provence: Best Time to Visit, What to See, Where to Go

Provence – home to vibrant lavender fields, enchanting light, and a true sense of serenity. No wonder artists have obsessed over this area for centuries.

I can understand how van Gogh and Picasso must have felt. Having enjoyed many years of travel to this famous slice of France, I’ve become infatuated with Provençal culture, cuisine and the region’s gorgeous coast.

From the best time to visit Provence to the simple pleasures of rosé and ratatouille, I’m going to share my tips for exploring this fabulous area.

A yellow Mercedes AMG GTR carving up a French country road

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

So, when is the best time to visit Provence?

Many people argue that the best time to visit Provence is in summer. After all, this is when the weather in the south of France is hot and sunny, and the iconic lavender and sunflower fields are in full bloom.

While this is accurate, I find the best time to visit is actually in the spring. The temperature during May is particularly pleasant, and you have more space to enjoy the region without the summertime crowds. Naturally, this is why we plan our luxury driving tours of Provence to take place towards the end of May.

Perfectly kept crop rows in southern France

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Seven reasons why I really love Provence

Despite many visits to Provence over the past 17 years, I’m always excited to return, not least because it happens to be home to many of the best things to do in the south of France. Here is a selection of reasons why Provence has a special place in my heart.

Unique landscapes for every taste

Provence is such a diverse area in terms of landscape – there is something for every taste. You have a confluence of three quite unique environments including the mountains of the French Maritime Alps, the vineyards and flowing countryside in the heart of Provence, and the gorgeous beaches on the Côte d’Azur.

The region feels a little like California, where you can enjoy time spent at the beach, or on the ski slopes, followed by an evening of fine-dining in a renowned vineyard. It’s this variety that makes Provence one of the most captivating areas of France.

A red Lamborghini Huracan Spyder on a high country road in France

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Provence has superb driving roads

French roads tend to be very well maintained and this is definitely the case in Provence. Smooth surfaces and stunning scenery make for a beautiful driving experience, especially in a fleet of exotic cars.

Many rallies are held in the area, including the Rallye Monte-Carlo, which covers a total competitive distance of more than 320 km (200 miles) in the Hautes-Alpes. We experience these roads on our European Supercar Tour, where we take in marvellous alpine views before arriving in Monaco for the Grand Prix.

The area is also known for its distinctive balcony roads, where lanes have been cut into sheer cliff faces. These hair-raising roads are a film director’s dream, often featuring in movies where a dramatic car chase is involved – for example, the Route de Gentelly above Gréolières was used to great effect in 007’s GoldenEye (1995).

I get to visit my favourite parfumeries

When people ask me where to go in Provence, I always mention the traditional parfumeries of the area – I have never smelled so good!

My favourite perfume comes from Fragonard, which is a renowned historic parfumerie in the hills of Grasse. The fourth-generation family business makes stunning scents using beautiful local flowers and herbs. I have had people stop and ask me, “Is that Coco Chanel you’re wearing?” and it warms my heart to explain it is in fact a much more boutique (and surprisingly affordable) perfume.

You can actually visit the facility and learn about the fragrances before making your own perfume, which is quite an amazing experience. With such a distinctive selection, I will always pick up a bottle or two when I pass through Provence.

Black sesame dumplings neatly arranged on a white plate

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Provençal cuisine is incredible – and unique

Whether enjoying Michelin-starred fine-dining or a quirky family restaurant, it’s always a pleasure to dine in Provence, because the cuisine showcases a beautiful balance of elegance and simplicity.

Compared to Normandy’s rich creamy sauces or the red wine-heavy dishes typical of Burgundy, the cuisine in Provence is traditionally lighter and packed with Mediterranean flavours. Fresh and seasonal ingredients feature heavily, with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, olives, seafood, and wild herbs all key to Provençal cuisine. Many of the region’s dishes are world-famous including ratatouille, tapenade, niçoise salad, and bouillabaisse.

Provençal cuisine is typically less flashy, but there is no shortage of fine-dining options either – the number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the region is incredible.

It’s difficult to pick a favourite, but I adore the terrace restaurant at the famous hotel, Le Cheval Blanc. In addition to their three-Michelin-star restaurant, they also have a one-star bistro, La Terrasse. With sweeping views of the Bay of Saint Tropez, it’s the ideal place to enjoy a leisurely lunch and a chilled bottle of rosé.

The magic of Provence’s lavender fields

Provence’s lavender fields are perhaps one of the most popular reasons to visit the region, especially if you love a good Instagram snap. When in full bloom, you’ll have a perfect backdrop of vibrant purple, which nicely contrasts against the rustic vineyards and the old stone villages dotted in the background. It’s so iconic to Provence, you won’t find this imagery anywhere else.

The best time to see the lavender fields in Provence is in the peak of the summer towards the middle of July, although any time from the last week of June to the beginning of August will reward you with a feast for the senses.

A red Chevrolet Corvette C8 in front of a historic French villa

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

A region bursting with beautiful architecture

In addition to the glorious natural scenery, there’s an abundance of heritage and architecture to explore. The region is home to many quaint towns and villages, with Saint Paul de Vence and Cassis being two of the best villages to visit in Provence. Each claims to be the prettiest place in the region (spoiler alert: both are absolutely divine).

Heading west to the town of Orange, you will find the original Arc de Triomphe, while nearby is the Palais des Papes – residence to nine popes during the 14th century and today a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For me, one of the best places to visit in Provence is the Sénanque Abbey, which is a highly photogenic Cistercian abbey surrounded by lavender fields near the village of Gordes. Yes, the region really is a treasure trove for the culture enthusiast.

The home of rosé

Finally, no exploration of Provence would be complete without discussing wine. While Bordeaux is synonymous with reds and Burgundy celebrated for its whites, Provence is the world-renowned region for rosé.

The region is known for its light, dry and crisp rosé, typically made from blends of Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre grapes. Yet, as one of France’s oldest and best wine growing regions, Provence also produces exceptional full-bodied reds and whites too.

Supercars crossing a bridge over a river in the south of France

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Want to discover what makes Provence so special? Join us for the luxurious tour of a lifetime

You can enjoy the very best of my favourite French region with our luxury driving tour of Provence. Over seven days, you will guide a fleet of latest-release supercars through stunning landscapes, stay in five-star accommodation, and indulge in the finest Provençal cuisine – choosing to complete or commence your journey in Monaco, in time for the legendary Grand Prix.

If you want to learn more about this experience or any of our European adventures, speak with our friendly travel concierge team today.

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