Rick Steves Provence & the French Riviera


By Rick Steves

By Steve Smith

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Now more than ever, you can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling through Provence and the French Riviera. Stroll breathtaking coastlines, explore Roman ruins, and soak up some sun in the South of France! Inside Rick Steves Provence & the French Riviera you'll find:
  • Fully updated, comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more exploring Provence and the Riviera
  • Rick's strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
  • Top sights and hidden gems, from the Pont du Gard aqueduct and Impressionist masterpieces to warm stone villages and cozy wineries
  • How to connect with local culture: Relax at a waterfront café, dive into a bowl of bouillabaisse, and watch fishermen sail back to the harbor
  • Beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps with Rick's candid, humorous insight
  • The best places to eat, sleep, and relax over a glass of Provençal wine
  • Self-guided walking tours of lively neighborhoods and incredible museums
  • Detailed maps for exploring on the go
  • Over 500 bible-thin pages include everything worth seeing without weighing you down
  • Complete coverage of Arles, Avignon, Orange and the Côtes du Rhône, Nice, Monaco, Antibes, the Inland Riviera, and more
  • Covid-related travel info and resources for a smooth trip
Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves Provence & the French Riviera.

Exploring more? Try Rick Steves France for comprehensive coverage, detailed itineraries, and essential information for planning a countrywide trip.



Provence and the French Riviera at a Glance

Map: Provence & the French Riviera






Map: Top Destinations in Provence & the French Riviera

Before You Go

Travel Smart

Provence and the French Riviera are an intoxicating bouillabaisse of enjoyable cities, warm stone villages, Roman ruins, contemporary art, and breathtaking coastlines steaming with sunshine and stirred by the wind. There’s something about the play of light in this region, where natural and man-made beauty mingle to dazzle the senses and nourish the soul. It all adds up to une magnifique vacation.

Provence and the Riviera stretch along France’s southeast Mediterranean coast from the Camargue (south of Arles) to Monaco, and ramble north along the Rhône Valley into the Alps. The regions combined are about the same size as Massachusetts—you can take a train or drive from one end to the other in just three hours—yet they contain more sightseeing opportunities and let’s-live-here villages than anywhere else in France. Marseille and Nice, the country’s second- and fifth-largest cities, provide good transportation and an urban perspective to this otherwise laid-back region, where every day feels like Sunday.

In Provence, gnarled sycamores line the roads that twist their way through stone towns and between oceans of vineyards. France’s Riviera is about the sea and money—it’s populated by a yacht-happy crowd wondering where the next “scene” will be. Provence feels older and more español (with paella on menus and bullfights on Sundays), while the Riviera feels downright Italian—with fresh-Parmesan-topped pasta and red-orange, pastel-colored buildings. For every Roman ruin in Provence, there’s a modern-art museum in the Riviera. Provence is famous for its wines and wind, while the bikini and ravioli were conceived on the Riviera.

This book covers the predictable biggies, from jet-setting beach resorts to famous museums, but it also mixes in a healthy dose of Back Door intimacy. Along with the Pont du Gard, Nice, and Avignon, we’ll introduce you to our favorite villages and scenic walks. You’ll marvel at ancient monuments, take a canoe trip down the meandering Sorgue River, and settle into a shaded café on a made-for-movies square. Claim your favorite beach to call home, and at day’s end dive headfirst into a southern France sunset. You’ll enjoy tasty-yet-affordable wines while feasting on a healthy cuisine bursting with olives, tomatoes, and spices.

This book is selective, including only the most exciting sights and romantic villages. There are beaucoup de Provençal hill towns...but we cover only the most intriguing. And though there are scads of beach towns on the Riviera, we recommend our favorite three.

The best is, of course, only our opinion. But after spending more than half of our adult lives writing and lecturing about travel, guiding tours, and gaining an appreciation for all things French, we’ve developed a sixth sense for what touches the traveler’s imagination.


Rick Steves Provence & the French Riviera is a personal tour guide in your pocket. Better yet, it’s actually two tour guides in your pocket: The co-author of this book is Steve Smith. Steve, who has lived in France, now travels there annually (as he has since 1986) as a guide, a researcher, a homeowner, and a devout Francophile. He has restored an old farmhouse in Burgundy and today keeps one foot on each side of the Atlantic. Together, Steve and I keep this book up-to-date and accurate (though for simplicity, from this point “we” will shed our respective egos and become “I”).

This book is organized by destinations. Each is a mini vacation on its own, filled with exciting sights, strollable neighborhoods, affordable places to stay, and memorable places to eat. The content consists of two obvious parts: Provence and the Riviera (although almost everything covered in this book is officially considered part of the “Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region” by the French government). The Provence half highlights Arles, Nîmes, and Avignon, and their day-trip destinations; the photogenic hill towns of the Côtes du Rhône and Luberon; and the coastal towns of Marseille and Cassis, and nearby Aix-en-Provence. On the high-rolling French Riviera, I cover the waterfront destinations of Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, Monaco, Antibes, Cannes, and St-Tropez—plus the best of the inland hill towns and the truly grand Grand Canyon du Verdon.

The introductions to Provence and The French Riviera acquaint you with the history, cuisine, and wine of the places you’ll be visiting, and give practical advice on what to see, how to get around, and lots more. Don’t overlook the valuable tips in these chapters.

In the destination chapters, you’ll find these sections:

Planning Your Time suggests a schedule for how to best to use your limited time.

Orientation has specifics on public transportation, helpful hints, local tour options, easy-to-read maps, and tourist information.

Sights describes the top attractions and includes their cost and hours.

Self-Guided Walks and Tours help you explore these fascinating towns and sights: Avignon, Nîmes, Arles, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Les Baux, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Roussillon, Nice (Promenade des Anglais, Vieux Nice, and the Chagall Museum), Monaco, Antibes, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Cannes. Self-guided driving tours let you explore the Côtes du Rhône wine road, the Grand Canyon du Verdon, and inland hill towns of the Riviera with the knowledge of a local.

Sleeping describes my favorite hotels, from good-value deals to cushy splurges.

Eating serves up a buffet of options, from inexpensive cafés to fancy restaurants.

Connections outlines your options for traveling to destinations by train and bus, plus route tips for drivers.

The book also includes detailed chapters on these key topics:

Traveling with Children offers general tips and destination-specific advice on finding kid-friendly sights, hotels, and restaurants. Kids have greatly enriched my travels, and I hope the same will be true for you.

Shopping has suggestions for this region’s best souvenirs and bargains. My longtime friendships with shopkeepers, local guides, and vintners have contributed greatly to the savvy shopping advice.

France: Past & Present gives you a quick overview of the country’s history and current political issues.

The Practicalities chapter near the end of this book is a traveler’s tool kit, with my best advice about money, sightseeing, sleeping, eating, staying connected, and transportation (trains, buses, car rentals, driving, and flights).

The appendix has the nuts-and-bolts: useful phone numbers and websites, a holiday and festival list, recommended books and films, a climate chart, a handy packing checklist, and French survival phrases.

Throughout this book, you’ll find money- and time-saving tips for sightseeing, transportation, and more. Some businesses—especially hotels and walking tour companies—offer special discounts to my readers, indicated in their listings.

Browse through this book, choose your favorite destinations, and link them up. Then have a très bon voyage! Traveling like a temporary local, you’ll get the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and dollar. As you visit places I know and love, I’m happy that you’ll be meeting some of my favorite French people.


This section will help you get started planning your trip—with advice on trip costs, when to go, and what you should know before you take off.


Five components make up your trip costs: airfare to Europe, transportation in Europe, room and board, sightseeing and entertainment, and shopping and miscellany.

Airfare to Europe: Nice is the handiest airport for Provence and the Riviera (Marseille is a good second choice). A basic round-trip flight from the US to Nice or Paris can cost, on average, about $1,000-2,000 total, depending on where you fly from and when (cheaper in winter). Smaller budget airlines may provide bargain service from Paris and other European cities to places such as Marseille, Toulouse, Avignon, and Montpellier (see “Flights” on here for details). If your trip covers a wide area, consider saving time and money in Europe by flying into one city and out of another—for instance, into Nice and out of Paris. Overall, Kayak.com is the best place to start searching for flights on a combination of mainstream and budget carriers.

Transportation in Europe: Allow $30 per day per person for public transportation (trains, buses, and taxis). If you’ll be renting a car, allow at least $250 per week, not including tolls, gas, and supplemental insurance. If you need the car for three weeks or more, leasing can save you money on insurance and taxes. A short flight can be cheaper than the train (check www.skyscanner.com for intra-European flights).

Room and Board: You can thrive in Provence and the Riviera on $140 a day per person for room and board. This allows an average of $12 for breakfast, $18 for lunch, $40 for dinner with drinks, and $70 for lodging (based on two people splitting the cost of a $140 double room). Students and tightwads can enjoy Provence and the Riviera for as little as $60 a day ($30 per bed, $30 for meals and snacks).

Sightseeing and Entertainment: Figure about $10 per major sight ($9-10 for Arles’ Roman Arena or Nice’s Chagall Museum, $13 for Avignon’s Palace of the Popes), around $6 for minor ones (e.g., climbing church towers), $30 for guided walks, and $40-70 for splurge experiences (such as bullfights or concerts). An overall average of $25 a day works for most people. Don’t skimp here. After all, this category is the driving force behind your trip—you came to sightsee, enjoy, and experience this wonderfully French region.

Shopping and Miscellany: Figure $4 per ice-cream cone, café au lait, or soft drink. Shopping can vary in cost from nearly nothing to a small fortune. Good budget travelers find that this category has little to do with assembling a trip full of lifelong memories.


So much to see, so little time. How to choose? Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, here are my recommended priorities:

6 days: Arles and day trips to Pont du Gard and Les Baux, a night in a Côtes du Rhône village, and Nice with a day trip to Monaco
9 days, add: A second night in a Côtes du Rhône village with a day trip to Avignon en route, and two nights in Cassis
12 days, add: Luberon, Grand Canyon du Verdon, and one more night in Nice with a day trip to Antibes
14 days, add: Two nights in Aix-en-Provence and side-trips to Nîmes, Marseille, and the Camargue

This includes nearly everything on the map on here. If you don’t have time to see it all, prioritize according to your interests. The “Provence and the Riviera at a Glance” sidebar can help you decide where to go (here). For a day-by-day itinerary of a two-week trip, see this chapter’s two recommended routes (by car, and by train and bus).


With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, Provence and the Riviera enjoy France’s sunniest weather. Spring and fall are best, with generally comfortable weather—though crowds can be a problem, particularly during holiday weekends and major events (May is worst). April can be damp, and any month can be windy. Don’t be fooled by sunny forecasts in shoulder season (April and October)—if the wind is blowing it can be chilly.

Summer means festivals, lavender (late June through July), sunflowers, steamy weather, long hours at sights, and longer lines of cars along the Riviera. Europeans vacation in July and August, jamming the Riviera, the Gorges du Verdon, and Ardèche (worst from mid-July through mid-Aug), but leaving the rest of this region relatively calm. Though many French businesses close in August, the traveler hardly notices.

September brings the grape harvest, when small wineries are off-limits to taste-seeking travelers (for information on wine tasting, see here). Late fall delivers beautiful foliage and a return to tranquility.

Winter travel is OK in Nice, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon, but you’ll find smaller cities and villages buttoned up tight. Sights and tourist-information offices keep shorter hours, and some tourist activities (such as English-language castle tours) vanish altogether.

Thanks to Provence’s temperate climate, fields of flowers greet the traveler much of the year:

May: Wild red poppies (coquelicots) sprout.

June: Lavender begins to bloom in the lower hills of Provence, generally during the last week of the month.

July: Lavender is in full swing in Provence, and sunflowers are awakening. If you can find adjacent fields with lavender and sunflowers, celebrate! Cities, towns, and villages everywhere overflow with carefully tended flowers.

August-September: Sunflowers flourish.

October: In the latter half of the month, the countryside glistens with fall colors (most trees are deciduous). Vineyards go for the gold.

Before You Go

You’ll have a smoother trip if you tackle a few things ahead of time. For more information on these topics, see the Practicalities chapter (and www.ricksteves.com, which has helpful travel tips and talks).


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On Sale
Nov 8, 2022
Page Count
576 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

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