Photo: Francois Roux/Shutterstock

How to Visit Provence, France, Home of the World’s Most Beautiful Lavender Fields

France Insider Guides
by Morgane Croissant Aug 16, 2023

For most French people, Provence conjures up the sound of the cicadas, the lovely accent of the inhabitants of the region, sunny weather, and olives. To most outsiders, Provence is all about lavender fields. No matter where you’re from and what you think Provence is like, you won’t be disappointed because it’s all the above. The historical region of Provence is an area of simple beauty and unhurried, uncomplicated pleasures, all of which are best enjoyed in the late spring and summer.

What is Provence?

Provence is a historical and cultural region of southeastern France. It is not, however, an official administrative region. Provence was a sovereign state from the 10th century to 1481 when it became part of France.

Where is Provence?

The geographical boundaries of Provence have changed over the centuries and remain inexact. It is generally accepted that the boundaries of the region are: the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Alps to the east, the Rhône river to the west, and the town of Embrun and Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to the north.

The Provence region is now encompassed in the administrative region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, aslo known as PACA. PACA consists of six French departments:

  • Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
  • Hautes-Alpes
  • Alpes-Maritimes
  • Bouches-du-Rhône
  • Var
  • Vaucluse

Is Nice in Provence?

Provence’s loose boundaries throughout the centuries means that Nice was once part of Provence, but today is not considered as such (even by the inhabitants of the city.) Nice is, however, part of the administrative region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, also known as PACA.

What is Provence, France, known for?

The Provence region is mostly famous for its sunny weather, varied and beautiful landscapes, fields of lavender, small villages, and markets selling fresh produce, including the star fruit and vegetables of the area: olives, garlic, and tomatoes. The Provence region is also well-known for having inspired many artists who settled in the area, such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, and more.

How far is Paris from Provence? Can you take the train?

Because Provence is a large, historical region and not a city, it is hard to determine the exact distance between Paris and Provence. Instead, we can determine the distance between Paris and Aix-en-Provence, the historical capital of the region.

Aix-en-Provence is located around 450 miles south of Paris, i.e. a 7.5-hour drive. For a quicker trip, you can opt to take the three-hour direct train from Paris Gare de Lyon to the high-speed train station of Aix-en-Provence. The high-speed train station is 11 miles out of the city center of Aix-en-Provence. If you’d rather arrive right in the city center of Aix-en-Provence, you’ll have one connection on the way and the trip will be a little longer. Visit the French railways’ website (SNCF) to learn about departure times and prices.

How to get from Provence to Marseille?

Marseille, the second-largest city in France, is located in the Provence region. If you want to travel between Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, there are hourly direct trains that will take you between the two cities. The train ride takes around 40 minutes and costs less $11 (10 €) in second class. If you’d rather drive, the trip takes 35 minutes.

How to get from Provence to Avignon?

Avignon is located in the Provence region. If you want to travel between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, you can take the high-speed train from the high-speed train station of Aix-en-Provence (11 miles out of the city) and the high-speed train station of Avignon (3.7 miles out of the city). The trip takes just 20 minutes and the trains run twice every hour. If you’d rather go to city center to city center, that’s possible by train too, but it takes over two hours and involves at least one connection in Marseille. If you’d rather drive, the trip takes just over one hour.

How to pronounce “Aix en Provence”? How to pronounce “provençal”?

“Aix-en-Provence” is pronounced [x-on-provons]

“Provençal”, which means “from the Provence region, or typical of the Provence region” is pronounced [pro-von-sal]. “Provençal” is also the name of the endangered dialect spoken in Provence.

When does the lavender bloom in Provence?

Lavender in the plateau de Valensole in Provence, France

Photo: username/Shutterstock

In Provence, lavender blooms in the summer months: June, July, and August; however, not all the fields of lavender bloom or are cut at the same time. Blooming starts first in the areas around the Rhône river, such as in the Vaucluse department, where the blooms open mid-June and are cut before the start of August. In the Vaucluse, the blooms are best observed in the Plateau de Claparédes and in the area around Sault. In the Alpes de Haute-Provence department, where the most famous lavender fields are in the Plateau de Valensole, the blooms start in late June and are cut in August. The third Sunday in July is the Fête de la Lavande de Valensole, an event celebrating the fragrant purple flowers in all its shapes.

No matter where you go to see the lavender fields of Provence, make sure to either go very early in the morning or at sunset, they’ll be very few people around, it won’t be too hot, and the light will be soft and beautiful.

What does Provence mean?

The term “Provence” comes from the Latin Provincia Romana, which means “Roman Province”. The romans occupied this area between the years 125 and 121.

What are herbs de Provence exactly and are they from the Provence region of France?

Herbs de Provence (or as they are known in French herbes de Provence) is a specific mix of dried herbs commonly found growing in the Provence region of France, including thyme, rosemary, oregano, and savory.

Was the series Murder in Provence filmed in Provence? Where exactly?

The English detective series Murder in Provence, a Britbox original show, was and is filmed in Aix-en-Provence, the historic capital of the region.

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