Yet the following three towns make the A-list of any planned visit to Provence – there’s simply no excuse not to visit Avignon, Arles, and Aix-en-Provence, when you’re in the region.
This monumental city is a joy to discover, starting from its fortress-like city walls. Avignon’s importance derives from its role as the medieval Rome.
The Palais des Papes is a must on any visit to Avignon and there are both guided and self-guided tours through the Provençal Vatican.
Tickets also include entrance to the 12th century bridge, which spans just over half of the RhôneRiver (damage was a direct result of sieges and flooding) and provides stunning views of the town.
There is an excellent Festival d’Avignon, founded in 1946 and held each year in July.
Arles is a pleasant town, just at the edge of the interesting Camargue National Park. The city center has enviable Roman ruins, including the best-known, les Arènes. Although this Roman amphitheatre is missing a level, it is still in excellent condition and used for performances during the summer.
In addition to the amphitheatre, be sure to also visit the Roman theatre and the Roman baths.
His was influenced tremendously by the bright colours and strong sunlight in southern France and much of his most beloved paintings were done during this productive period in Arles.
It was to Arles that VanGogh enticed the artist Paul Gauguin, with the hope of creating a type of artistic fraternity in Provence.
Unfortunately, tensions ran high between VanGogh and Gauguin, most notably in the fight between them that led to VanGogh famously slicing off part of his ear on December 23, 1888, resulting in his subsequent committal to an asylum in nearby St Rémy de Provence.
Yet the café immortalized in one of VanGogh’s most recognizable paintings, Café Terrace at Night, is still active today as the Café VanGogh and attracts numerous visitors. Enjoy a coffee in this lovely spot.
There are no must-see museums or sites in this pleasant city, although you can’t help but be enthralled as you wander its lovely streets and relax on one of its perfect little squares. Be sure to note the numerous, picturesque fountains. There are about 40 of them in the old town and the carvings are often whimsical.
Numerous French and foreign students call Aix home. The university was founded in 1409 and the tradition is still going strong; the university also has a popular programme for foreigners studying French. Aix is also the home to a lively weekly market.
Enjoy your visit to these lovely towns on your next trip to Provence.
For some of my other tips about travel in this gorgeous reason, see my earlier posts on visiting Les Beaux de Provence, hiking in the Gorges du Verdon or exploring the coastal city of Nice, and its markets and seafood restaurants, or neighboring, hilltop Èze.