Are you thinking about spending one week in Provence? In my opinion, seven days is the perfect amount of time to be introduced to this region in the South of France.
Of course you can’t see everything in Provence in just one week, but after spending almost two months in the region I’ve developed a one-week Provence itinerary that will allow you to see a little bit of everything that the region has to offer, from perfume workshops to turquoise beaches to medieval palaces and more. I would describe this itinerary as full, but not rushed. There’s enough to do to keep you busy each day, but you’ll always have time to pause to enjoy the view (with an optional glass of local rosé wine!).
My recommended itinerary for one week in Provence is a multi-city itinerary, also known as an open-jaw, itinerary. This means that you’ll start in one city and end in another. Both Nice (your starting point) and Marseille (your ending point) have busy international airports, so you should be able to find flights that accommodate this route. However, high speed trains connect the two cities in about two and a half hours, so it’s easy to double back to your starting point if necessary.
As with almost all my travel guides, no car is required for this itinerary. You can follow my one-week Provence itinerary by using the efficient intercity bus and train network, and by exploring each of the towns and cities on foot. All of the hotels that I recommend are within walking distance of the main attractions, and can be reached easily either by walking or using the tram or metro when you arrive in each destination. I spent two months in France without getting in a car even once, so trust me on this one!
Day 1 – Get to Know Nice
With France’s second-busiest airport, Nice is the main arrival point for most travelers flying into the south of France. You’ll want to start your Provence itinerary here, in this coastal city with its own unique culture and history.
In the morning, start by visiting one of the cafes that line Cours Saleya for a quick coffee and pastry before browsing the market stalls that are set up each morning (except Mondays). Before it gets too hot, follow the waterfront towards the hill (Colline de Chateau) and walk up to the panoramic viewpoint, where you’ll get the best views of the city and the beach.
Spend the rest of the morning strolling through the Old Town (Vieux Nice), stopping at the cathedral, the Chapelle de la Misericorde and Palais Lascaris. Make sure to stop at one of the street food vendors selling socca, a chickpea flatbread that is a specialty of the region.
There are a few different options for your afternoon in Nice. If you’re a sun worshipper, you could rent a beach chair or just lay your towel down on the sandy beach to catch some rays. If you want to swim, the east end of the beach (Plage Castel) is relatively calm and has showers where you can rinse off afterwards.
If you don’t want to spend the afternoon at the beach, you could stroll along the waterfront Promenade des Anglais to the famous Hotel Negresco. If contemporary art is more your thing, Nice’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is just a few blocks away from the Old Town, and there are also museums dedicated to both Chagall and Matisse on the outskirts of the historic center.
Try to get to bed at a relatively decent hour tonight, though, as you’ll need an early start tomorrow in order to visit not just another city, but another country entirely!
🏨 Stay Here:
The two hotels I’m recommending have a central location, within easy walking distance of the Old Town, the tram network and the bus stop to Monaco.
- Hotel Rossetti – An intimate, affordable hotel in a historic building. Rooms are spacious and modernized, and service is spot-on.
- Palais Saleya Boutique Hotel – For a more luxurious stay, this boutique hotel in Nice’s Old Town has suites and apartments with modern, well-equipped rooms.
🍽️ Eat Here:
- Rue Bonaparte – This is a street, not a restaurant. However, it’s off the tourist radar enough that it mainly attracts locals and in-the-know French tourists. Check out Clay for healthy brunch fare, and Magnolia Cafe for inspired tapas.
- Lou Pilha Leva – Nice has its own distinct history and culinary traditions. This busy restaurant in Vieux Nice celebrates Niçoise cuisine with socca, pissaladiere (anchovy flatbread) and pan bagnat (basically, salade niçoise on a sandwich).
Day 2 – A Can’t-Miss Day Trip to Monaco and Eze
On Day Two of your one-week Provence itinerary you’re going to get some of the best views of Provence… and then promptly leave France entirely!
Your first stop today is going to be Èze, a hilltop medieval town that is about thirty minutes outside Nice by bus. At press time both Bus #82 and Bus #112 go from Nice to Èze Village. Do not take a bus or train that goes to Nice-sur-Mer, as that will leave you at the lower beach when you want to be waaaay up the hill in the village. I recommend catching a 9:00 am bus, which should have you in the village by 9:30.
Two hours will give you enough time to explore the medieval village in Èze (shown in the photo at the top of this article) and ascend to the highest viewing point in the Exotic Garden. If you finish your visit early, there are two perfume factories near the bus stop where you can shop for locally-produced French perfumes.
Read more about exploring Èze here.
After spending two hours in Èze you should be able to catch either Bus #602 or Bus #112 further down the coast to Monte Carlo, Monaco. Bus routes and schedules vary with the season, so ask about onward schedules at the Tourist Information office in Èze when you first arrive.
Although you’re leaving France and entering an independent principality, you won’t need to stop for any customs or immigration when you cross the border into Monaco!
With half a day in Monaco, you might want to choose between exploring the area around the Casino (Monte Carlo) or going up “The Rock” to Monaco City (Monacoville). The area around the casino is much more expensive, but it’s the best place to be to see the supercars and, of course, to try your luck in the casino. The upper part of the principality is more similar to Vieux Nice, and it’s where you’ll find the Prince’s Palace, Saint Nicholas Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum.
The easiest way to return to your hotel in Nice is by train, with the last departure usually leaving the station around 9:00 pm (but check the schedule online as it changes seasonally).
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Day 3 – Say “Au Revoir” to Nice & Travel to Avignon
Enjoy a leisurely morning in Nice before traveling to Avignon around noon (pick up a sandwich, a pastry and a drink from a bakery so you can enjoy lunch on the train, like the locals do).
The trip should take about four and a half hours, and will likely require a change of trains. Your destination is Avignon Centre, the main train station in the heart of Avignon. You might need to change trains in Marseille, or you might find a route that takes you directly to Avignon TGV (the high-speed rail station outside Avignon), where slower regional trains depart every thirty minutes from the Avignon Centre station.
Drop off your bags at your accommodation and begin exploring Avignon before the sun goes down. This is the perfect time to walk through the historic center to Le Pont d’Avignon, which looks even prettier at sunset (see the photo below). You can also take the free ferry from the bridge over to L’Ile de la Barthelasse and walk through the park to the bridge that will return you to the mainland.
🏨 Stay Here:
If you’re in Avignon for a short visit, I recommend staying somewhere within the historic city walls, towards the south end of the city. This puts you within easy walking distance of both the bus and train stations, so you won’t need to take any taxis during your stay.
- Hotel Bouquier – My top recommendation for an affordable hotel in Avignon is in the perfect location for exploring the city on foot. I love the charming, eclectic decor and the delicious breakfasts.
- Les Jardins de Baracane – This four-star hotel has a crystalline outdoor pool in the courtyard of a 17th-century townhouse. Room here are spacious, sunny and decorated in a beautiful Provençal style.
🍽️ Eat Here:
- Restaurant L’Épicerie Avignon – I had one of my Top 5 meals in France at this restaurant in the plaza in front of the Saint-Pierre Basilica. I highly recommend the vegetarian plate, but I’m sure that their other dishes are amazing too.
- Le Goût de Jour – Word on the street is that it won’t be long before this restaurant earns its first Michelin star, so visit now while you can still experience haute cuisine at reasonable prices. Every day they have a lunch menu, a dinner menu, and a vegetarian menu. Reservations (including deposit) are essential – you can book on their website.
Day 4 – Explore Avignon
I’ve got a complete guide to the best things to do in Avignon, so have a look at the list to see what piques your interest. The good thing is that all of Avignon’s attractions are very close to one another, and within easy walking distance of the hotels I recommended, but the bad news is that just with one day you won’t be able to fit everything in.
It makes sense to start your day at the Palace of Popes, whether you choose to buy a ticket and go inside or just check it out from the outside. If you’re here early in the day, you can probably pop into the free Musee du Petit Palais, at the back of the courtyard in front of the Pope’s Palace, to see Botticelli’s Virgin and Child (and hundreds of other Renaissance paintings).
Personally, I would then wander through the historic center towards Les Halles d’Avignon, the city’s greenery-covered indoor food market, and pick up some items for a picnic lunch. Walk with your purchases towards Rue des Teinturiers, where you can sit on a shady bench beside the ancient canals and waterwheels to enjoy your meal.
If you’re a contemporary art fan now is a great time to continue on to Collection Lambert, an expansive museum housed in an opulent hotel particulier, whereas history lovers will want to visit some more of the city’s free regional museums (a full list is in the linked article above).
End your day with dinner at one of the recommended restaurants (see above) and a stroll around the city center with a cup of ice cream.
Day 5 – Spend the Day in Nearby Arles
Avignon is only seventeen minutes by train from Arles, making it an ideal day trip from Avignon. From the train station it’s a ten-minute walk to the ancient Roman arena and the historical city center.
Skip the breakfast at Le Cafe Van Gogh (yes, it inspired his famous painting, but no, the food won’t inspire your palate… especially at those prices) and consider nearby Lapostrope or Cafe Factory Republique instead.
Once you’ve had your coffee and a pastry (or two) you can explore the historic center of Arles, including the St. Trophieme church and cloister, the Theatre Antique and the Cryptoportiques. Read more about these Arles attractions (and how to save money visiting them with an Arles City Pass) in my guide to the best things to do in Arles.
For a light lunch, I recommend Creperie Chez Mam Goz, just a block from the Roman arena.
If you’ve never been to a Roman arena before, head to Arles’ arena after lunch. Take your time circling, climbing and exploring this monumental arena, which dates back almost two thousand years and once held almost 20,000 spectators.
However, if you’ve visited a Roman arena before (maybe in Rome, or even in nearby Nimes), you might want to spend your afternoon exploring LUMA Arles, a new contemporary art complex just a few blocks outside the historic center. The focal point here is the tower designed by Frank Gehry (free to visit at press time), as well as the collection of contemporary art exhibits spread across various buildings on the site.
You can stay in Arles for dinner (I recommend dining at La Caravelle, and then walking back to the train station along the riverfront that inspired Van Gogh) or head back to Avignon in the early evening.
Day 6 – Enjoy a Day Trip to Saint-Remy-de-Provence
Another day, another day trip! Avignon really is the perfect location for day tripping around Provence (I actually have a guide to ten of the best day trips from Avignon – of course Arles and Saint-Remy-de-Provence are included!). You won’t want to miss a day trip to Saint-Remy-de-Provence, a quaint Provencal town with more history than can fit inside its fortified walls.
On Wednesday mornings, the town hosts their weekly market in the historic center. It’s similar to the market you saw in Nice on Cours Saleya, but with a bit more small-town charm. If you can time your visit for a Wednesday that’s great, but don’t worry if you miss the market – there’s lots more to see here!
The bus journey from Avignon to Saint-Remy-de-Provence takes about one hour. You’ll arrive in the historic city center, where narrow cobblestone streets are lined with art galleries, independent shops, cafes and creperies. The historic center also houses a number of museums, with the most famous being the Musée Estrine. Located inside a former private mansion, this museum features a Vincent Van Gogh interpretive center and various temporary exhibits.
After enjoying the city center (including lunch on the terrace of one of the many restaurants you’ll find in Saint-Remy), it’s an easy two-kilometer walk south of the city center (past the Tourist Information Office) to two of the town’s most important attractions: Glanum, a well-preserved Ancient Roman town, and the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole, where Vincent Van Gogh spent a year in the psychiatric hospital watching the seasons pass him by (and painting them).
Once you’ve explored the attractions south of the center, you can either catch a bus back to Avignon from the Glanum bus stop (they’re infrequent, so check the schedule at Tourist Information on your way there) or walk back to town and catch a return bus from there.
Day 7 – See the Highlights of Marseille
Your week in Provence will end in Marseille, France’s second-largest city and a cosmopolitan hub for European, Asian and North African cultures. I have a complete guide to visiting Marseille in one or two days, so click through to see my complete recommendations for the city.
As I mention in that post, with one day in Marseille you’ll want to focus your sightseeing on the area around the Old Port (Vieux Port), which is shown above. Drop off your bags at one of the hotels I mention below, and then set out on foot to explore the waterfront!
The attractions in this area include the new Cosquer Méditerranée, a museum built around a 30-minute underwater ride that takes you through a full-sized reproduction of the Cosquer Cave and its paleolithic cave art. As well, the Marseille Cathedral, with its striped stone facade, is just minutes away.
Your last stop should be the historic Le Panier district (which was recently featured in Netflix’s Transatlantic series – definitely worth watching before you visit!). It’s a bit of an uphill walk, but you’ll be rewarded with some of Marseille’s best street art, independent shops and innovative restaurants. Don’t leave without buying some locally-made Marseille soap at Bazaar Caesar Soap or at 72% Pétanque (olive oil and lavender are the most popular scents, and both make perfect souvenirs!).
🏨 Stay Here:
With only one full day in Marseille, you’ll want to stay in a central hotel that has easy transportation connections to the train station (where you can catch the bus to the airport or a train to and from the rest of France) and that is within easy walking distance of all of the city’s must-see attractions. These two highly-rated hotels will be perfect:
- La Residence de Vieux Port – A popular waterfront hotel located right on the Old Port. The rooms here are as cool as the street art in nearby Le Panier, and it’s worth splurging on a room with a balcony that overlooks the harbour.
- NH Collection Marseille – I stayed in Le Panier, but I get that not everybody wants to hike uphill to their hotel every evening! NH hotels are always great, and this bright and breezy property has an ideal location just behind Le Panier. You can walk uphill to explore the district or circumvent it entirely on a ten-minute flat walk to the Vieux Port. You’ve also got easy tram and metro access here.
🍽️ Eat Here:
- Matza – There are a lot of great restaurants on Cours Julien and Place de Notre Dame de Mont, but the meal I ate here was definitely a standout. They have a rotating menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, made with elevated flavors and techniques but served in a casual environment.
- Café l’Écomotive – A vegetarian and vegan cafe beside Marseille-Saint-Charles train station. They have great lunch specials that change with the seasons. (If you eat on the sidewalk terrace, note that the stairs across from you were featured in the classic music video for Bingo Player’s “Cry (Just a Little)” – watching it will make you want to dramatically quit your job and move to the South of France!).
Do you have questions about traveling in the South of France? Leave your questions about Provence (and beyond!) below and I’ll answer them ASAP.
In the meantime, check out my France archives for all my posts about the region (and a few spots further north too).
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