12 Days in the South of France: Where should I go?
The south of France has it all to offer: historical cities and quaint villages, pristine beaches and azure waters, the colorful meadowlands of Provence, world-class wine and food, and museums filled with masterpieces of French art.
The options available for holidaymakers in the south of France seem almost endless. Whatever type of traveler you are, you’re sure to find plenty to make you fall in love with the region.
Today, we’re sharing some of our favorite places in the south of France that travelers who have a bit of time on their hands may want to visit. Of course, there are many destinations in France where you could comfortably spend two weeks or more without moving. But if you’re coming to the south of France on a 12-day or 2-week trip and want to explore this marvelous region, you’ll want to add some of our selections to your travel itinerary!
The destinations have been arranged from the west to the east of the country, should you wish to plot a travel route.
If Toulouse is one of the places you’re set to visit on your French sojourn, do have a browse of our full range of Toulouse Walking Food Tours.
A luxury destination long associated with movie stars and artists, Biarritz remains one of the trendiest spots on France’s Basque Coast. Biarritz is perfect for travelers looking to enjoy sun-soaked afternoons relaxing on the beach and spending their evenings in bustling restaurants sipping on cocktails. Biarritz, though, offers much more diversity than its glamorous reputation suggests.
Take a walk to the Rocher de la Vierge or the Biarritz Lighthouse to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Sample local specialties and fresh produce at Les Halles marketplace. Meanwhile, families visiting the city can take the kids to the Musee de la Mer, an excellent aquarium housed in an art deco building dating back to the 1930s.
Known as La Ville Rose for its distinctive pink terracotta architecture, Toulouse is a gorgeous city with a world-class food scene. Visit Hôtel Assezat if you want to discover the city’s trademark pink bricks in a grand fashion.
Toulouse is excellent for parks and green spaces. Visit the serene Jardin de Compans Caffarelli or the Jardin des Plantes when you feel like being surrounded by nature. Or pack a picnic lunch and sit along the Garonne river in the Prairie des Filtres.
If traveling with kids, you’ll definitely want to take them to the Cité de l’espace, a scientific discovery center focused on spaceflight (one of the city’s specialist industries). The center features fascinating models of space shuttles and various exhibits about space travel and the nature of our galaxy.
Toulouse is also home to no less than three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Connecting Toulouse to the Mediterranean, the Canal du Midi (pictured above) is a 250-kilometer waterway that’s widely considered to be one of the 17th century’s greatest feats of engineering. Take a walk along the canal for some peace and serenity.
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin, located in central Toulouse, was built between 1080 and 1120 and is one of Europe’s best-preserved examples of medieval, Romanesque architecture. Regarded as an important stop on the route of Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route, it should be on the itinerary of any travelers interested in history or architecture.
Toulouse’s third UNESCO World Heritage site is the 12th-century Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques, a former hospital that now houses governmental offices. The Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques was also honored by UNESCO for its historical ties to the Camino de Santiago; it makes an excellent subject for some holiday pictures.
Sports fans should get themselves to a Stade Toulousain rugby match if their schedule permits. Rugby is an obsession for many Toulouse citizens, and it’s a central activity in the city’s identity. Check out our very own guide to rugby in Toulouse to learn more.
But, of course, our absolute favorite Toulouse quality is its foodie culture! Join us for one of our delicious Toulouse walking tours and sample some of the most unique and mouth-watering foods the city offers. From local wines to decadent desserts, classic French cheeses to freshly baked bread, Toulouse is a paradise for anyone who puts good food at the heart of a successful holiday!
Our next stop along your journey around the south of France is the enchanting hilltop fortress of Carcassonne. This fairytale castle was established in the 4th century and stands today as one of France’s most striking settlements.
Although the citadel is small, with a population of just 46,000 people, it attracts huge numbers of tourists every year. Once you set your eyes on the town’s medieval walls, you’ll understand why.
Like Brittany’s Mont St-Michel, the place seems to have been preserved perfectly in time. Wine lovers will also be pleased to learn that Carcassonne is in the center of a major AOC wine region.
At just over an hour from Toulouse by train, Carcassonne is a great option for a day trip in conjunction with a stay in Toulouse, even if you’re not traveling by car.
Nîmes and the Pont du Gard
An absolute must-visit city for history lovers traveling in France. Nîmes is home to some of the best-preserved Roman sites in France and all of Europe.
In the city center, you can visit the Maison Carrée, the Magne Tower, the Temple of Diana, and the Nîmes Roman Arena, one of the most extraordinary extant Roman amphitheaters and one still used for concerts to this day.
If you’re looking to learn all about the history of the Romans in France, head to the Musée de la Romanité. Besides these Roman sites, Nîmes possesses a charming old town, a great food scene, splendid public gardens, and plenty of options for those who like to shop.
The Pont du Gard (pictured at the top of this blog) is undoubtedly one of France’s most photographed historical sites. This epic Roman aqueduct is located 50 minutes from Nîmes by bus or 30 minutes by car. Described by UNESCO as being both a “technical and artistic masterpiece,” the Pont du Gard is almost 50 m tall.
This wonder of ancient engineering is surrounded by beautiful countryside perfect for a walk and a picnic. The area is also served by several quality bistros, and one main restaurant offers an outdoor terrace with wonderful views.
Inhabited since 800 BCE, conquered by Julius Caesar in the mid-1st century BC, and immortalized by artists such as Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh in the 19th century, Arles has a rich cultural history and offers a wealth of beautiful sites to explore.
Visit the Arènes d’Arles and stand right where 20,000 spectators would have watched gladiatorial games during the days of imperial Rome, or go to the Roman Théâtre Antique to see where ancient theater productions would have been performed.
Walk charming, historic seats in search of the scenery that inspired some of Van Gogh’s most famous canvasses, such as Starry Night Over the Rhône.
Culture vultures who prefer time spent exploring ancient ruins to time spent on the beach should be sure to include the marvelous city of Avignon on their southern France itinerary.
The historic center of Avignon has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 for its extraordinary medieval architecture and significance in the history of Western Christianity.
From 1309 to 1377, the Popes lived in Avignon, at the Palais des Papes, rather than in Rome. Today this palace/fortress attracts around 650,000 visitors every year. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you explore Avignon’s magical historical sites.
The ruins of the Pont Saint-Bénézet (also known as the Pont d’Avignon) sit picturesquely on the Rhône river, inspiring visitors today just as they have done for nearly a thousand years.
Our final stop, The port town of Antibes is the second largest town on the French Riviera and makes for an ideal day trip from Nice. Established by the ancient Greeks, this picturesque town offers a choice blend of fascinating cultural sites, sandy beaches (48 in total!), and delicious eateries.
Those interested in history should visit the Antibes Archaeology Museum and the Naval Museum of Napoleon to learn about the town’s past. Meanwhile, art lovers can visit the Picasso Museum, which houses one of the most extensive collections of the artist’s works located anywhere.
Antibes features many festivals throughout the year, including a major Jazz festival and the Antibes Yacht Show, so it’s worth checking listings before your arrival.
This ends our list of just a few of the amazing destinations that await you in the south of France. Needless to say, there are few areas in all of Europe that offer such an array of treasures, and you’re sure to find plenty to do no matter what kind of vacation you prefer!
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