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Villefranche-sur-Mer, between Nice and Monaco, on the Côte d'Azur.

- © Marina Datsenko / Shutterstock
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

A journey through lavender fields, ski slopes and crystal-clear sea

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in short

In this magnificent region of southern France, the weather rarely leaves you much choice, with the sun shining almost all year round. As for the rest, you'd have to be a picky eater not to find what you're looking for in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. With wide open spaces where nature reigns, such as the Ecrins and Mercantour national parks and the Gorges du Verdon, the north of the region is popular in winter for its ski resorts, such as Serre-Chevalier, but also in summer for its many hikes and outdoor sporting activities.

And if backpacks, water bottles and walking are not synonymous with holidays for you, the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region unveils its coastline and its great names that are synonymous with summer... Nice "La Bella", Cannes the "Pearl of the Côte d'Azur" or Antibes "La Phocéenne" are all names that evoke convertible trips, scarf in the wind, on the winding roads of the sunny coast.

Serre Chevalier ski resort.

- © Rrrainbow / Shutterstock

As a summer holiday destination, the PACA region offers 690 kilometres of coastline for swimming. There's nothing like taking a dip in the warm turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. In some of the coves, you can fish for whelks, mussels, clams, razor clams and oysters. And let's not forget the ponds, gorges and rivers where you can enjoy a swim: the Toulourenc gorges, theBonde pond in the Lubéron, the Vannades lake in Manosque and the Muie river in Salernes, to name but a few.

In this setting ofeternal summer, film scenes follow the colours of painters like Cézanne and Van Gogh, who discovered a new palette in the light of the Côte d'Azur, and they come back to us as we approach the city of Marseille. As soon as the Canebière comes into view, Pagnol's lilting dialogues spring to mind, along with the smell of bouillabaisse and pastis...

La calanque de Port Pin dans le Parc national des Calanques.

- © Gaspar Janos / Shutterstock

Provence conjures up colourful fields and the scent of lavender, calissons and olives, garrigue and picturesque villages. Between games of pétanque and football, Provence evokes a whole part of the culture of the South of France. Lavender is one of the olfactory signatures of the region, flowering in early summer. In Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, flowering begins at the end of June in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, then continues in the Vaucluse and Lubéron in July.

Palais des Papes, Notre-Dame de la Garde, Arles arenas, Pont du Gard... these monuments, well-known symbols of the region, represent just some of the historic buildings. They stand as chronological landmarks, highlighting the various influences that have left their mark on the region.

Lavender fields on the Plateau de Valensole.

- © Francois Roux / Shutterstock

The towns and cities of the Côte d'Azur have always been synonymous with social life, holidays and leisure. You can choose between the glitz of the casinos, the restaurants serving traditional dishes from the region and the wine cellars where you can sample local wines. Between the sea and the mountains, the region offers entertainment to suit all tastes. Whether you choose the sophisticated towns of Nice and Saint-Tropez, the multicultural city of Marseille or the holiday resorts of the Alps, you're sure to have a great time.

From the wilderness of the Camargue, where horses and bulls roam freely, to theexcitement of the Avignon Festival, the sunshine of the Cannes Film Festival and the sunset over the Lérins Islands, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur is a land full of light and the scent of lavender, olive trees and garrigue. This region is just like its name, so dense that you have to contract it into four letters: PACA.

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The must-sees

All the must-sees

How to get there?

By car, you'll probably have to take the Autoroute du Soleil to get to Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, but watch out for traffic jams in high season! The region also has excellent rail links, with around ten TGV stations. There are also several airports, the most important of which are Nice and Marseille.

Where to stay?

A luxury hotel on the Côte d'Azur, a guest house in the heart of the lavender fields of Provence, a youth hostel in a trendy district of Marseille or a cosy chalet at the top of the Alps... The choice of accommodation in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is as varied as the region's landscapes.

Practical information

Visits :

This region, rich in history and culture, bears witness to its highly artistic past. There are dozens of major towns to visit, hundreds of villages to discover and thousands of landscapes to admire. Several towns in the region offer City Passes, which allow you to combine visits at a lower cost.

Best time of year:

If you're looking for sunshine, you've come to the right place: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is the sunniest region in France! Rain is very rare, making the region attractive all year round. To make the most of the beaches and visits on the Côte d'Azur and in Provence, it' s best to visit in spring and autumn, so as not to suffer too much from the summer heat. The Alps welcome you in winter to ski down the slopes and try your hand at winter sports, but also in summer for a cool break away from the crowds. The Gorges du Verdon and other watering holes will also help you cope with the high-season temperatures.

Safety :

It's true that we sometimes hear a lot about the Provence-Alpes Côte d'Azur region, particularly Marseille. However, the region is very safe, and the atmosphere in the city of Marseille is far removed from what the media have long portrayed. In the city, in Marseille or elsewhere, stay in the centre and in the tourist areas, mind your own business, and you should be fine. On the other hand, beware of scams: what looks authentic is not always the most ethical. It's not uncommon to come across dishonest producers (in name only) on the markets who, come summer, have no hesitation in selling tourists products that claim to be artisanal, local or from Provence, but whose provenance is anything but regional.

What can you eat?

A symphony of colours, smells and flavours, Provençal cuisine alone is worth the trip. A variety of vegetables, olives and oil, condiments, herbs and anchovies are the predominant notes in this cuisine. These include ratatouille, tapenade, rouille, aïoli, soupe au pistou and salade niçoise, to name but a few. Meat and charcuterie specialities (Provençal-style lamb or rabbit chops, stuffings), not forgetting fish dishes (bouillabaisse, bourride), have become the culinary milestones on the road to appreciating the art of living in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. When it comes to desserts, the region is equally well endowed, with honey and jam from the mountains, calissons from Aix, berlingots from Carpentras, candied fruit from Apt, and 'câlins' and cakes from Saint-Tropez. As for pastis and appellation wines (Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes-de-Provence, Rasteau, Bandol), these should be drunk in moderation...

What to take home

You can buy Provençal tablecloths and fabrics to bring the colours of Provence into your home. Marseille soap and lavender sachets will also remind you of the smell of the south. For the epicureans, don't forget to bring back black and white nougat, calissons d'Aix, tapenade, Provencal herbs and olive oil. And if you're a wine lover, don't hesitate to bring back bottles of Provençal wine.

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

During the summer holidays, it's impossible to escape the crowds of tourists, but to enjoy the pleasures of bathing in the Grande Bleue more serenely, it's advisable to choose the early morning and late afternoon to spread out your towel. The beaches are less crowded then, and the sun is less harsh on the skin.

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