It might be hard to imagine that the world’s number one visited country has places that are still off the beaten track, but it does—places that the locals love. Then there are the places that have been revitalised, the too-cool-for-school destinations that need to be rethought.
Here’s the hit list for Provence 2022—the top two places that should be tacked onto an existing itinerary or worthy enough of planning a trip in its entirety.
What’s more, France’s current travel restrictions are at their lightest since the pandemic began.
Arles and its new Luma Foundation
Arles is Provence’s 2022 capital of culture and one of the main reasons is LUMA—in addition to its Roman amphitheatre, medieval alleys and achingly hip world-renowned photography exhibitions between July and September during Les Rencontres de la Photographie.
Luma is a new arts quarter packed with multimedia exhibitions and art installations. The cherry is Frank Gehry’s impressively high tower, made of 11,000 metal panels designed to evoke Vincent van Gogh’s starry night (the painter completed his legendary sunflower series in Arles in the 1880s). The new zero-waste restaurant Le Réfectoire is also worth a bite.
An extended trip requires a visit to the Carrières des Lumières an immersive arts experience built out of an old quarry. Wander through the immense limestone walls, admiring the work of artists such as Cézanne and Kandinsky which are projected around you, in time to music.
Marseille is a good place to start a trip to Provence, before heading onwards to some of the more glittery destinations on the Côte d’Azur, such as St Tropez or Cannes.
It’s more undervalued than nearby Barcelona, much more inexpensive and it takes itself way less seriously, making a visit more of a surprise.
The Marseillais have an expression, “va te jeter aux Goudes” (get lost to Goudes) because just 40 minutes along the coast road from Marseille’s Vieux Port, it can feel like going back in time.
Barely commercial, the small harbour is rammed with old-fashioned fishermen’s cottages and a smitten of bars, restaurants and cafes overflowing with locals and tourists alike who both venture into the small bay to take a dip when it gets too hot.
This is the final point along the rocky coast, dotted with wartime bunkers once inhabited by the Nazis and French, before visitors hit the Calanques, one of France’s sublime national parks comprised of sea inlets carved over thousands of years into the limestone cliffs.
And to the east lies Cassis, a key departure point for tourist boats to visit the Calanques. This sleepy fishing village was settled by Romans and the local quarries and fishing industries have since given way to tourism and wine—the sleepy town is surrounded by five-star vineyards delivering divine white wine (unlike other nearby vineyards which excel at rosé creations).
The beach is gentle, so perfect for families, there are restaurants to suit every budget overlooking the picturesque harbor and if driving, the cliffs overlooking the village are a must-visit.