French Holidays in the Southern region of France are a dream for families. Southern France, sometimes called le Midi, incorporates Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrenees, Languedoc-Rouissillon, Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur, Corsica and parts of the Rhone-Alps. Given that the area covers such a large amount of terrain, it is no surprise that the region holds numerous surprises in store and is packed with fascinating tourist attractions to visit.
The South of France, awash in rich sunshine and paint box colors entices with a Mediterranean climate as well as a wealth of diverse attractions to enjoy. A stay at one of the South of France villas will put these must-sees right at your doorstep.
The coast of Marseille is a sparkling blue gem. Watch the fishermen go about their workday, stroll along the La Canebière and enjoy the elegant buildings, or simply grab a sidewalk table at any one of the myriad restaurants near the water and enjoy a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse and a glass of rosé.
Collecting santons ensures you can fondly recall your South of France vacation every Christmas as you put up your decorations. Visit one of the area’s family-owned santon shops and take home a combination of figurines to create your Nativity scene. You will find not only traditional players such as the infant Jesus, his parents, and the Wise Men, but also village-inspired participants such as the fish woman or the baguette man.
Hundreds of thousands of people attend the bullfights in and around Arles every year. The village is the world capital of bullfighting and the sport’s main home in France. Some styles of fighting are less violent than others, but all involve a deep-seated local tradition and plenty of pomp and ceremony.
You’re never far from an open-air market in the South of France. A market will feature vendors selling fresh produce, rotisserie chickens, olives scooped from huge barrels, various nuts, local cheeses, just-baked breads, and colorful flowers. One of the largest markets in France is right in Carpentras; it is both exciting and extensive. The market at Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is famous for its vast array of antiques. Saint-Remy’s market brings local goods to the picturesque village square.
5. Palais des Papes
When the popes temporarily left the Vatican in the 14th century, they set up shop at a palace in Avignon. You can tour the Palais des Papes for a bit of history, and enjoy the view of the famous Pont d’Avignon, a 12th century bridge which was partly destroyed several hundred years ago and never fixed, so it only stretches halfway across the water.
Style and sunshine make a happy marriage in St.-Tropez, where elite yachts glitter along the water while charming boutiques and tiny stone churches dot the winding streets of the village proper.
The largest city on the Cote d’Azur is Nice, which is also one of Europe’s oldest human settlements. The flashy French Riviera lifestyle is in full swing, here. Drench yourself in sunshine on the see-and-be-seen beaches, lined with ornate architecture and swaying palm trees.
8. Wine Tasting
France is perhaps the country best known for its wine, and wine aficionados are sure to enjoy their time in the south of France. Exploring the many wineries of the area is a special treat. In fact the largest vineyard in the world is the region’s Languedoc-Roussillon. Tour the meandering wine caves and enjoy free samples before purchasing a bottle or more to enjoy back at home.
9. Pont du Gard
This iconic, tri-level aqueduct was built by 1st century Romans and still carries water each day to the residents of the town of Nimes. Its 2,000+ years of endurance make it a must-see for stone masons and the general public alike.
10. Rennes le Chateau
Mystery and intrigue surround the medieval village of Rennes le Chateau, perched high on a hill in the Languedoc region. Conspiracy theories connected with a local priest whirl about the chateau and its history, drawing tens of thousands of curious visitors per year.
11. Font de Gaume
Dating back to 14,000BC, Font de Gaume is a cave-painting site located close to Les Eyzies, in Dordogne. Known about for many years by locals, these prehistoric paintings were not properly identified until 1901. Denis Peyrony, a school teacher, went to the caves to take a look around, and realized that the wall-paintings were something special.
With more than 230 images throughout the cave system, and more being discovered as the caves as cleaned, Font de Gaume opens a window to what life was like for man in the time of the mammoth.
Located at the top of a steep slope, the caves were not used as homes, but had a spiritual significance which some people still sense today. Tours of the site can be booked on the internet, and this is advisable, as it get can very busy.
12. Castle of Carcassone
Considered to be one of the best castles in Europe, the Castle of Carcassone and its surrounding walled city was almost demolished in the 19th Century. Fortunately it was saved from destruction and rebuilt by a French architect called Viollet-de-Duc. Carcassone was an important trading zone throughout history and was used as a Cathar stronghold in the middle ages. A free to enter attraction, visitors can stroll through the bustling streets, where a medieval atmosphere has been recreated with street hawkers, crafts-people and more.
13. Canal du Midi
For those holiday-makers who enjoy a more active side to their vacation, why not consider taking to two-wheels. Practice your pedal power, with a cycle along the well-marked footpaths of the Canal du Midi. Stretching from Toulouse to Agde, there is more than 250km of canal-side to explore – ideal for those who like French holidays at their own pace!
14. Villefranche Beach
If being energetic doesn’t appeal, you can see another side to France at the pretty sea-side village of Villefranche. Voted as one of the best beaches in Europe and located close to Nice, the town and bay have been used as settings in many Hollywood movies. Go sailing, explore the coastline or enjoy fresh fish in one of the harbor restaurants. Villefranche is popular with kids and adults alike, but be warned -it can get very busy in summer.
If your kids are still full of energy, take them to Accrobranche in Motagnac. The exciting woodland based attraction is full of safe and thrilling activities – from rappelling to tree climbing. Suitable for children aged seven and upwards, the entry fee includes several hours of play, and trained supervisors are on hand to keep an eye on your youngsters. Better still, parents can join in the fun too – if they like!
With a plethora of markets, historic sites, and sunny spots to soak up, enjoying your South of France holidays is easy. It will be leaving this stunning area of natural beauty and style that may prove difficult, but a return trip in your future cannot be far away.