Provences-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, on the top of the world


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The fortified town of Mont-Dauphin is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. (photo © Di Duca.M).
© Di Duca.M - The fortified town of Mont-Dauphin is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. (photo © Di Duca.M).

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 3 May 2023

Whether your tastes soar to atmospheric hilltop villages or sophisticated seaside resorts are more your style, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has it all.

Tucked into the south-east corner of France, the vibrant Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is framed by the aquamarine waters of the Mediterranean in the south, the Italian border in the east, the Alps in the north and the Rhône River in the west. The variety of landscapes is almost endless. Mediterranean beaches contrast with snow-capped mountains. The fields of lavender and shady olive groves of Luberon Coeur de Provence provide a counterpoint to Camargue’s wetlands, which teem with birdlife. Whether your tastes soar to atmospheric hilltop villages or sophisticated seaside resorts are more your speed, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has it all. Enjoy unrivalled recreation, sublime food and wine plus world-class cultural attractions in a Mediterranean climate that is at its finest throughout September and October.

Rugby World Cup games

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur will be home to 10 games of the 2023 Rugby World Cup from 8 September to 28 October next year. Six matches including two quarter finals are being held at the Marseille-Provence Stadium, the country’s second largest, and four at the Nice-Côte d’Azur Stadium. Thanks to each host city’s international airports and extensive regional public transport networks the stadiums are within easy reach of travellers everywhere. The region is also playing host to three national teams. Toulon will be the team base for South Africa, Nice the base for Scotland and Avignon for Uruguay. The 2023 Rugby World Cup will take place on the 200th anniversary of the invention of the game and the winning team will be awarded The William Webb Ellis Trophy. Webb Ellis is acclaimed as the inventor of modern rugby in 1823 while he was a pupil at The Rugby School in England before going on to spend most of his life as a pastor in Menton. Rugby fans might like to visit his grave at Menton’s Vieux Chateau cemetery, with its panoramic views over the Mediterranean.

Cyclists on the high mountain pass in the Southern French Alpes (photo © Fabrègue.R). Cyclists on the high mountain pass in the Southern French Alpes (photo © Fabrègue.R).

Regional Diversity

No region in France has as much diversity as Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. There are, of course, the luxe Mediterranean playgrounds of Nice, Antibes and Juan-les-Pins, with their palace hotels and Belle Epoque villas, exotic gardens, yacht filled harbours and gorgeous beaches. There are, as well, the rugged cypress-dotted landscapes of Provence with some of the most beautiful villages in France such as Gordes, Bonnieux, and Les Baux-de-Provence as well as the vibrant towns of Aix-en-Provence and Arles. From the edgy multicultural city of Marseille with its cutting-edge contemporary architecture and its Saintesnearby aquamarine fjords of Calanques National Park to the alpine peaks and valleys of Mercantour National Park and the turquoise waters of the Verdun Gorge, Provence Alpes Cotes d’Azur has something for everyone.

Abundant recreation

Every water-based adventure imaginable is on offer. Of course, there is ample opportunity for cruising, with state-of-the-art terminals close to the centre of the action in Marseille, Nice, Antibes and Toulon. For active water lovers, there’s swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean as well as sailing. Marseille will host sailing trials during the 2024 Olympic Games. Scuba diving, water skiing, paddle boarding, kite surfing and wind foiling, and snorkelling destinations are plentiful – in the hinterland including the take a look at 150 amphorae, the remains of an ancient Greek port on the Olbia snorkelling trail in the Bay of Toulon. Inland, meanwhile, there are countless options for white water rafting, kayaking and canyoning. Have a penchant for pedalling? Bike-friendly villages and towns abound, to explore on two wheels, as well as dozens of climbs for the serious road cyclist, such as the challenging Mont Ventoux, Col du Galibier, Col de l’Izoard, Col de la Madone and Col de la Bonette. The region also sports France’s largest mountain bikedomain while the ViaRhôna offers cycle touring trails linking the Camargue to the Southern Alps and the Italian border. Golfers will discover 74 courses both close to the Mediterranean and on high-altitude fairways while Mouratoglou, outside Antibes, is one of the finest tennis academies in Europe. The region sports the largest number of nature reserves in France which means there are exceptional walks and hikes along the coast and in the hinterland including the take a look at 222km pilgrim’s trail where you can walk in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene. The trail starts from Les Saintesnearby Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue region and ending at La Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. The National Museum of Sport at the Nice Cote d’Azur Stadium is worth a visit; a game of petanque, which, incidentally, was invented at join the locals in La Ciotat, the seaside town not far from Marseille.

Cyclists on the Col de l’Echelle (photo © Fabrègue.R).Cyclists on the Col de l’Echelle (photo © Fabrègue.R)

Love of landscapes

Cezanne and Van Gogh were drawn to the landscapes and colours of Provence, while Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Renoir and Bonnard were fascinated by the incandescent light on the blues of the Mediterranean. You can still visit Cezanne’s atelier in Aix-en-Provence while the Fondation Vincent van Gogh in Arles features contemporary art inspired by the master. The Museum of Modern Art, the Marc Chagall National Museum and Musée Matisse, all in Nice, as well as the Renoir Museum in Cagnes-sur-Mer and Matisse’s Chapel of the Rosary in Vence offer a fine selection of these modern masters’ works. And be sure to find time to see the fabulous contemporary street art in Marseille, Nice and Toulon. If the art of perfume is more your preference, visit the village of Grasse, described as the world’s perfume capital. Grasse is where perfume artisans transform the essence of the region’s flowers (jasmine, lavender, mimosa, orange blossom and others) into some of the finest scents in the world. This perfumery knowledge is now part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Heritage sites must-sees include the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, the Roman towns of Arles and Orange, the palaces of Nice and the Citadel of Mont-Dauphin and Briançon – all UNESCO World Heritage sites. For something vastly more ancient, there’s an archaeological treasure of 500 ancient charcoal drawings inside the Cosquer Cave, deep underwater in the Calanques of Marseille. A brand-new replica of the original cave, located in a Marseille museum which opened in June 2022, offers close-up views of the depictions of Mediterranean seals and penguins etched between 19,000 and 33,000 years ago.

Wine and dine

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is also blessed with a rich food and wine culture. Markets are brimming with sun-kissed fruit, just-picked vegetables, fresh garden flowers, just-caught fish, mountain cheeses, cold-pressed olive oils and more. Enjoy these delicacies at Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine, alfresco seaside restaurants and simple country bistros. Must-try dishes include seafood bouillabaisse from Marseille (which is also the region’s street food capital), salade niçoise (fresh tuna, tomatoes, olives, haricots verts, eggs and potatoes), ratatouille (a symphony of local vegetables) and Aix-en-Provence’s calisson biscuits made with ground almonds, melon and candied orange peel with royal icing. There is also a delicious array of Provençal wines to enjoy, the most famous of which are the pale blush rosé wines that go perfectly with the region’s seafood and vegetable dishes. Sample also the hearty Mourvèdre-based red wines from Bandol and the elegant Marsanne-based white wines from Cassis.

No region in France has as much diversity as Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Pictured is the scenic Fichier province (photo © J Sayegh). : No region in France has as much diversity as Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Pictured is the scenic Fichier province (photo © J Sayegh).

Atmospheric accommodation

From rustic Provençal bastides to palace hotels, international chains to country pensions, there’s something for every budget in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. New five-star properties include the luxury Maybourne Riviera with panoramic Mediterranean views at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and Château de la Messardière, an ochre-turreted castle in Saint Tropez as well as two new stylish properties in Provence, the Relais Notre Dame in Quinson and Le Moulin de Lourmarin. __ Further Information__ Comité Régional du Tourisme Côte d’Azur France

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