With so many things to do in Provence, it's understandable why this French region is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country. Travellers from all around the world come to Provence every year to see why so many celebrities decided to make this area their home.
With magical lavender fields, lush vineyards and spectacular food, Provence made it to our wishlist as well. Only that we decided to visit it by taking a French river cruise. This way we could admire the beautiful historic towns located along the Rhone's banks, see an array of locations in the space of a week and indulge in a romantic holiday like no other.
Before we dive in, we wanted to let you know that we experienced all these great things in Provence with Avalon Waterways. As part of their Active & Discovery river cruises, there are included and optional daily activities you can participate in.
Here are some of our favourite things to do in Provence for your next holiday.
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Buy a beautiful bouquet of lavender
I think everyone associates Provence with lavenders. We imagine those gorgeous purple fields during sunset, the beautiful smell of the flowers and the serene moments of relaxation as we bask in the summer sun. Preserve these memories by getting your own bouquet of dried lavender. Most vendors will wrap it up in brown paper so you can use it as a prop for photography during your holiday in Provence.
Besides, it will be easy to transport back home, being one of the most authentic souvenirs from France you can get. We divided our little bouquet to different vases around our home and we found it doesn't just look good, but it also smells great all around our house.
Visit Europe deepest lock at Bollene
Bollene is the deepest lock in Europe and it also marks the entrance to Provence region. The lock is 23 meters (about 76 ft) in height. As we were on a river cruise with Avalon Waterways, it was a unique experience to pass through the Bollene lock. Our cruise staff told us a lot of very interesting things about how locks were created and how they operate. You can also take a day trip to Bollene to learn more about the technicalities of how a lock works.
Learn how to create your own Van Gogh masterpiece
How would you like to be a painter for a day? Join a painter workshop and learn how to create your own Van Gogh masterpieces. The instructor will talk you through various techniques and teach you how to apply them to create your very own Van Gogh replica.
The ultimate aim of this class is to have fun and relax painting something you truly love, and who knows, it might turn out, you are a natural-born painter.
Take a guided sightseeing tour of Avignon
Avignon is a superb city and the capital of Provence. The entrance to the old town is marked by a long, well-preserved wall. Visit the Palais des Papes and learn how from 1309 to 1377, Avignon was the seat of the Catholic popes.
Avignon features an array of cute, narrow streets, with cobblestone, where you can walk around, shop for souvenirs or otherwise photographs. We recommend going on a tour first thing in the morning to enjoy a more relaxed pace with fewer tourists around.
Remember, shops open from around 10 am so you will have plenty of time to discover the city before morning life starts.
Enjoy a bike ride through the Gard region
Gard is known for its Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct on the Gardon River. There are several wineries in the Gard which is why it's a great area to add to the wish list. Enjoy a bike ride in nature and stop along the way to sample wines from different producers.
And don't worry too much about the return journey. All bikes are fitted with an electric engine which will help you pedal back to the city after the delicious wine tasting.
Join a guided walk through the Camargue National Park
Join a guided walk through the Camargue National Park for a chance to see beautiful white horses and stunning flamingos. Walk on the sandy beaches and dip your feet in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Camargue National Park is a huge river delta where the river Rhone joins the Mediterranean Sea. These wetlands are protected due to their rich flora and fauna. The Camargue National Park is a UNESCO site and a biosphere reserve.
Each year, between April and June large flocks of Pink Flamingos arrive here to breed. Flamingos can be spotted until September but your chances are much lower.
Visit an authentic musée des arômes et du parfum
Wondering what makes Provence so special when it comes to its perfumes and essential oils? Visit a museum dedicated to essential oils and how they are made. You can see various artefacts which helped make perfumes back in the days. You can learn about old techniques too.
Location: 13 Ancien Chemin d'Arles, 13690 Graveson, France
Visit Pont d'Avignon
Pont d'Avignon or Pont Saint-Bénézet is a famous bridge located in Avignon. This medieval bridge was built between 1177 and 1185 from wood. At the beginning of the 13th century, the bridge was rebuilt in stone but it was abandoned in the mid-17th century as the arches collapsed every time the Rhône flooded, thus making it very expensive to maintain. Since then, the Pont d'Avignon become the famous unfinished bridge of Provance.
Don't forget to sing the Sur le Pont d'Avignon when you pass the bridge. This is a local tradition dating back to the 18th century.
On the bridge of Avignon
We're all dancing, we're all dancing
On the bridge of Avignon
We're all dancing round and round.
Visit an aquatic garden
Just 10 minutes by car from the museum of essential oils, you get lost in an urban oasis - an aquatic garden - and take a moment to relax and find your inner zen. The Jardin Aquatique Aux Fleurs de l'Eau is well maintained, suitable for those who want to enjoy the late summer sunshine in the South of France.
You will find many plants, fish & reptile species living in the garden. The flowering time of the water lilies starts in July.
There is an entrance fee to the gardens.
Location: 579 rue de Provence, 13690 Graveson, France
Explore Les Halles covered market
Les Halles covered market is known for its gorgeous façade covered in lush vegetation. In front of the main entrance, you'll find the flower stalls which sell seasonal flowers and gorgeous bouquets of lavender.
Made famous by such authors as Peter Mayle and Jean Viard, Les Halles continues to be a meeting point for locals in Avignon. For shoppers, this is the ideal place to come and shop for fresh produce, eat oysters and have a drink at one of the bars.
Every Saturday from 11 am to 12 noon, local chefs from Avignon will wow you with their talent as they offer a live demonstration of their skills by preparing a dish with fresh produce from the market.
Location: 18 Place Pie, 84000 Avignon, France
Visit the Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a small village dominated by a ruined castle at the top of the hill. It's small and quaint, with various small boutiques and wine cellars. The village is surrounded by myriad wineries, making it a prime location for wine enthusiasts who wish to enjoy tastings during the visit.
Some boutiques will be offering free wine tastings, while others will charge a nominal fee. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is fantastic for photography enthusiasts who wish to capture a few candid moments in lesser-known areas of Provence.
Location: North of Avignon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Learn about wine blending techniques
Can you get enough wine in Provance? We don't think so. Not far from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, join a live wine blending demonstration and wine tasting at one of the old winemakers. Learn how winemakers decide to blend their wine and create masterpieces. You will learn how to sample wine the proper way, starting with essentials on how to determine aromas, tastes and the finish of the wine.
At the end of the demonstration, you'll have the option to purchase or order special wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Location: Bouachon - Le Pavillon des Vins, Avenue Saint-Pierre de Luxembourg, 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France
Take a kayak excursion through the waters of Pont du Gard
If you are feeling adventurous, take a kayak trip of a lifetime: spend time on the river, paddling under the famous Pont du Gard. Pont du Gard is an ancient but very well preserved Roman aqueduct. It is 49m (160 ft) in height and it was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985.
Location: West of Avignon, 400 Route du Pont du Gard, 30210 Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France
Take a guided tour of Arles
Vincent Van Gogh lived in Arles at the end of the 19th century. During this time, he did 200 paintings, inspired by the Provence countryside. Take a guided tour in Arles and learn everything about the life of the painter, or go deeper and meander around the city's streets in order to learn about its history and heritage.
If you get hungry, take a seat at one of the French bistros and sample the local cuisine followed by outstanding French wines.
Visit the Roman Amphitheatre in Arles
The Roman Amphitheatre is the number one attraction in Arles and for good reason. The well preserved two-tier amphitheatre thrived in Roman times, built-in 90 AD.
The Arles Amphitheatre is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and it attracts countless visitors from all over the world. Around the amphitheatre, there are various restaurants and boutiques selling quaint souvenirs for all budgets.
Location: 1 Rond-Point des Arènes, 13200 Arles, France
Meander around Les Baux-de-Provence
Ever dreamt of visiting a truly unique and quaint village in Provence? Les Baux is the place for you, with its narrow alleyways, unique small gift shops and boutiques filled with local produce. Located on top of a hill, Les Baux offers stunning vista points. It's the perfect escape for a nice afternoon walk on cobbled streets and friendly locals.
Sit down for a French coffee with a view, try some local wine or get some olive oils from Provence.
Check Rencontres d'Arles
The Rencontres d’Arles is an annual photography festival held during the summer months. The idea behind it is to showcase an array of photography from various artists from all around the world. Some photographers will have their art displayed in dedicated galleries whereby others will showcase photos all around the streets in the city.
The festival was founded in 1970.
Guided Hike around Val d'Enfer
Dedicate a whole morning to hiking around Val d'Enfer, a beautiful nature area for outdoors enthusiasts. The hike is relatively easy and it offers stunning vista points to all sort of lime formations, which make the area look quite exotic.
You'll see views of the Les Baux-de-Provence, a quaint town which you can add to your bucket list for later during the day.
The hike will take around 1-2 hours and will enable you to see the local flora.
Visit Carrières de Lumières
Once you finish with your hike around Val d'Enfer, visit the charming Carrières de Lumières, which is an old quarry transformed into an art gallery. As you walk inside, the massive stone walls will be enveloped in projections of paintings. The whole audio-visual experience will make you feel as if you walked into a real painting.
This was one of the highlights of our trip with Avalon Waterways, and it's something we wholeheartedly recommend.
Location: Route de Maillane, 13520 Les Baux-de-Provence, France
Enjoy a guided excursion to Salin d'Aigues-Mortes
Visit the salt marshes of Salin d'Aigues-Mortes and discover the largest Mediterranean salt marshes. You'll see an array of flora and fauna like in no other place on Earth and take beautiful pictures of the pink marshes.
Join an oil tasting experience
Olive oil lover? This is one of the best things to do in Provence: join an olive oil tasting experience. You will first walk around the olive trees to understand the differences between them and how to spot the young or old trees.
Then you will learn how oil is made and look at the state of the art machinery in the complex. Finally, - the best part - you'll try a variety of olive oils and learn about what makes them different.
After the tasting, visit the shop to purchase extra virgin olive oil from Provence as a great souvenir for you, your family and friends.
Purchase French souvenirs
Provence has so many interesting local products, we found it quite difficult to pick just one souvenir. Our recommendation to you is to come with an emptier suitcase so you can fill it up with local souvenirs. Purchase soaps, known for the essential oil content, get wines and oils, French sweets and lavender products. You'll be spoilt for choice during your time in Provence.
Visit an oyster farm
Love oysters? Visit an oyster farm in the Camargue National Park to learn how these delicacies are grown. You can join a tasting as well where you can indulge in local bio oysters. Alternatively, book a table at the Du Bar à l'Huître in Arles and order as many local oysters as you can eat.
Avalon Waterways partnered up with You Could Travel in order to take professional photographs and create videos, as well as promote Avalon Waterways on our platforms. Avalon Waterways hired us on a basis that we will provide honest, unbiased opinions of their services which is exactly what we did. We were very much impressed with our French river cruise and couldn't stop recommending it to family and friends since. We are now inviting you to book your next adventure with Avalon Waterways, in order to experience the true spirit of what is like to embark on an active and discovery European River Cruise.