Dramatic scenery with lavender fields and more than a hint of romance in the air – locations in Provence aided and abetted by film and literature seduce many people looking to settle in France.
On a rainy Sunday in London, it’s clear to see why the seductive charms of Provence have the impact that they do. Showcased in film and literature, the vivid pictures painted about Provence are more than enough to draw you to the area. Peter Mayle sparked something in people’s imaginations in the late 80’s, Russell Crowe continued this in “A Good Year” in 2006, and the British love for Provence truly gained momentum. Boasting fantastic scenery and an enviable climate, it’s a place for adventure, love and becoming who you really want to be. Locations in Provence truly offer the good life.
Location and climate
The region of Provence, in Southeast France, stretches from the left bank of the Rhône River to the West, with the Italian border to the East and the Mediterranean Sea to the South. The departments of Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes de Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes and Vaucluse all make up Provence. Marseille is the largest city of the region.
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The climate of Provence is Mediterranean – think hot, dry summers, mild winters, very little snow and more than enough sunshine. And of course, not forgetting the famed “Mistral” wind – cold and dry, often reaching speeds of over 100 km per hour.
Culture and lifestyle
Provence prides itself on attracting a slightly different crowd from other areas of France. A centre for artists, culture and quirkiness, the diversity and acceptance of anyone and anything rings out loud and proud. The colours of the scenery within the region certainly explain the draw to creatives. After all, what better natural tapestry to see day after day to aid inspiration?
Busy and full of activity, the region is full of life and a playground to the wealthy and famous, as well as to people from every walk of life. This provides a wealth of business opportunities for tourism related activities, from accommodation to activity services. It’s also a fantastic arena for artisans showcasing their art, sculpture and less mainstream services.
The colours of the scenery within the region certainly explain the draw to creative types.
The area is famous for its production of “Savon de Marseille”, said to be the best soap in the world, made from hard vegetable oils. And, of course, Provence is as proud of its wine and food as the rest of France. The variety of soil types in the area allow for numerous grape varieties to be cultivated. Over half the wine produced here is rosé. The style of cuisine, “à la provençale”, is simple yet delicious. Based on fresh Mediterranean ingredients, it’s enhanced by herbs, sauces and above all is designed to be “familial” and “convivial”.
Transport links to Provence
The region is served by 3 airports – Nice, Marseille and Montpellier, with several airline operators flying from numerous destinations in the UK. If you fancy a more leisurely trip, stopping en route, the ferry or Euro Tunnel provides a fantastic opportunity for this. Whether you take the auto-route or the slower, scenic route, the choice is yours.
For rail travellers, the Eurostar will take you to Paris, where you can then connect to your desired location in Provence.
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Our favourite locations in Provence
In the Var department on the French Riviera sits the seaside resort of St Tropez – probably the most world-famous of all locations in Provence. Less than 70 km from Nice and 100km from Marseille, this former fishing village was one of the first to be liberated during WWII. Its meteoric rise to fame was ignited by an influx of artists of French New Wave cinema and the “Ye-Ye” music movement. It then quickly became the go-to resort for both European and American tourists. Steeped in history and bursting with life, some of the world’s most renowned beaches and the magnificent port, St Tropez seems to never sleep and is host to many regattas and events. The cost of living here is high, reflected by the costs of goods and services on offer.
With the kudos of St Tropez comes a large price tag. Prices are at a premium, with the average cost for a house being €15,454 per m² for houses and €8,593 per m² for an apartment.
In the department of Bouches-du-Rhône lies beautiful Aix-en-Provence. Its proximity to Marseille (around 30 km) makes Aix one of the most desirable locations in Provence. A large university town, (including international students) it is full of bustle and vitality and is as diverse as it is alive. Overlooking the Arc River, the town is truly picturesque. As with many places in France, Aix’s past is full of history, especially when it comes to the arts, music and dance. Aix holds two festivals each year – an Opera festival in late June/July and “Musique Dans La Rue” in June, coinciding with the national “Fete de la Musique”. A centre of culture showcasing many museums and libraries, Aix draws tourists from all over the world. This also presents business opportunities for providing holiday accommodation, as well as services for tourists, students and locals.
Prices here are more reasonable than in St Tropez, but still average at €5,304 per m² for a house. Apartment prices stand at approximately €4,739 per m².
Capital of the Alpes de Haute-Provence department, Dignes sits in the plain formed around the Bléone Valley and straddles both sides of the river Bléone. It lies on the edge of the Pre-alps on a thrust fault, which explains the spectacular rugged terrain around it. Known for its hot springs and their healing powers, it dates back to the Neolithic era. In 2006 it won the accolade of the “Sportiest town in France”, is home to a butterfly garden and is known for being the place where the novel “Les Miserables” started. Digne celebrates its cultural heritage in May each year with a festival of urban culture and music. Despite its pride in the past, it certainly embraces both the present and future.
Prices here are much more reasonable for buyers, averaging €1930 per m² for a house, with apartment prices at approximately €1388 per m².
Provence can be pricey! If you need to a raise a few more funds, see your options in our guide, How to Pay for a French Property.
The capital of Alpes-Maritime and the seventh most populous urban area in France, Nice is a magnificent city showcased to the world via cinema throughout the years. As a result of its popularity amongst the English upper classes in the second half of the 18th Century, the main seaside promenade was renamed “Promenade des Anglais” (the walkway of the English) in their honour. With the second largest number of hotels in France and playing host to over 4 million tourists each year, it is one of the country’s most visited cities. With its magnificent splendour, diversity of inhabitants/visitors and mix of activities and shops to suit all ages and interests, its not hard to see why Nice remains one of the most popular locations in Provence.
Considering what this city has to offer in terms of activity and opportunity, prices here are relatively affordable (lower than in Aix) at €4,834 per m² for a house. Apartment prices stand at approximately €4,506 per m².
On the left bank of the Rhône river in the department of Vaucluse, you will find the jewel of Avignon. Well known from the song “Sur le Pont D’Avignon” celebrating folk dancing, Avignon is a thriving centre of both business, culture and tourism. River boat tourism took off here, starting with River Boat Hotels, and has expanded into big business. This now includes hotels and sight-seeing boats, which also act as a mode of transport to explore the city. Avignon has an incredibly large number of buildings and sites listed as historical monuments including cathedrals, palaces, churches, bridges and museums. Like other locations in Provence, Avignon prides itself on its culture, hosting two cultural festivals annually.
Prices here are more than in Dignes but nowhere near the prices of Nice, Aix or St Tropez. They average at approximately €2,223 per m² for houses with apartment prices at approximately €2,118 per m².
If you’re looking for adventure and new way of life, maybe it’s time to book that tour. Maybe one of these locations in Provence will provide exactly what you have been searching for!