Family holidays are what memories are made of. But sometimes they can be hard work, so picking a destination which offers something for everyone is essential. Provence is France’s poster region for joie de vivre, and it is the perfect travel destination for a family holiday abroad. The climate, landscape, beaches, hilltop villages, food, and drink mean there’s something to suit all tastes.
Here’s a flavor of what makes a family holiday in Provence a clear winner.
If you are looking for holiday villas in France with private pools, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Provence. Whatever your budget, Provence has an abundance of pretty villas with pools, making downtime back at the villa a treat for Mum, Dad, and the kids.
Your own villa gives you the freedom and seclusion to really relax. With your own pool, you have a constant way to cool off, and the children have a constant source of fun and amusement. Inventing pool games is a great way to bond as a family.
A pool lit up at night is also irresistible, so be sure to treat yourself to a late night swim.
The obvious choice is to fly in and hire a car. The region is served by a number of airports, so the drive time to your destination is unlikely to be longer than a couple of hours. Most people will fly into either Marseilles or Toulon-Hyeres, although there are smaller airports at both Avignon and Nimes.
Alternatively, Eurostar runs services to Avignon and Marseilles. Going by train can be a great way to travel with children, and there are no weight restrictions on baggage.
History & Heritage
Provence has a long and interesting history. There are some incredible Roman ruins, particularly around Orange and Vaison-La-Romaine. The Ancient Roman Theatre and the Triumphal Arch in Orange are both on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In the 14th century, the Papacy moved to Avignon, which became the capital of Christianity. The Palace of the Popes, which dates from 1335, is a wonderful place to visit, and the whole area around the city is full of medieval churches, frescoes, and castles.
Art & Culture
The quality of light in Provence has long been a magnet for artists. Chief among these was Van Gogh, who spent time in St-Remy-de-Provence. It was here that he painted the world famous Starry Night. The town now has a Van Gogh walking route which is well worth a visit.
Paul Cezanne was born in Aix-en-Provence and devoted much of his life to painting the local mountain, Montagne Sainte-Victoire. The city offers a Cezanne Pass, allowing you to visit the artist’s studio, along with several museums which house his work.
Both Marseilles and Avignon have a range of world class galleries and museums. Most small towns offer smaller museums, often of a specialist or quirky nature.
Many Provençal villages were perched on hilltops for good defence, with both crops and vineyards planted alongside or in the plains. Typically, they have cool narrow streets and a charming central square. Complete with fountain, pétanque players, and a café where you can sit and watch the world go by, these charming squares are a slice of French life at its best.
Try to visit villages on market day, where you can marvel at the quality of the produce and pick up something for a picnic.
The landscape offers many opportunities for biking, hiking, riding, swimming and canoeing. Mount Ventoux, near Vaison-la-Romaine, and Montagne Sainte-Victoire have helped to litter the region with gorges, canyons, and lakes, creating an amazing outdoor playground. So, if lazing by the pool on your holiday overseas is not your thing, there are ample opportunities to burn off some energy.
While the beaches of the Cote d’Azur are big on glitz and glamour, the beaches to the east and west of Marseilles offer more family-friendly fun.
A favorite spot is Cassis, nestled at the bottom of Cap Canaille. Along with the lovely sandy beach, you can stroll around this picturesque fishing port lined with cafes and restaurants. Or try taking a boat to one of the hidden bays of the Calanques.
Food & Drink
The fruit and vegetables are often the stars on the Provençal plate. There are both strong peasant and Italian influences in Provençal cooking. Dishes to try include the hearty fish stew Bouillabaisse, Aioli with crudités, and the classic slow cooked braised beef dish Boeuf En Daube.
Pastis is a classic aperitif invented in Marseilles. Big hearty wines from the Rhone valley and quality rose wine are also plentiful.
Regardless of your age, tastes, or adventure level, Provence is a perfect destination for you next holiday abroad.