Many people wonder what is Provence, what is the best way to understand it and feel its spirit. A good choice can be to live here for a year and let this understanding come at its natural life rhythm pace. But if you come to Provence for a short vacation, you can try a combination of culture and thousand years old traditions, ancient and lovely cities and villages, wonderful nature, lavender, summer cigale songs, warm sea, beautiful mountains, colorful and vivid festivals, delicious food and even more delicious wine, and of course great open and welcoming people.
It is always nice to bring something home from a trip to a new interesting place. Especially such colorful, vivid, and picturesque as Provence in France. We have created a list of ideas of souvenirs you can bring home from a trip to Provence. Each of them is Provence special. And each of them will help you remember your wonderful journey to Provence for a long time.
Lavender is a true symbol of Provence. If you travel to Provence during the lavender blooming season and you visit lavender fields, we recommend you to choose a lavender souvenir at one of the local special boutiques. It can be lavender itself, lavender essential oil, lavender perfume, lavender cosmetics, or even something more exotic, like lavender honey or lavender liqueur. We recommend to choose a product made of lavender fine, not lavandin.
Wine is an important part of the French culture. In Provence, wine traditions are very rich, as the art of winemaking appeared here more than 2600 years ago. Therefore, you have an extremely large number of options.
Rosé wine is consumed in very large quantities in Provence, especially when the weather is hot. We recommend you to taste rosé wine from Cassis, from Bandol, from Les Baux-de-Provence, and from Lourmarin. These are our favorite places to buy rosé wine. At each place, the wine is different, so take your time and carefully taste all the options))
We recommend to examine two options of red wine. The first one is Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, the second – Bandol wines. These wines are world famous. The choice depends on your taste. Or, as a third option, you can buy several bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Bandol wines. And at home, while drinking this wonderful wine, you may greatly appreciate this idea.
We are very fond of Cassis white wines. Due to unique location and climate conditions, Cassis white wines have special taste. They are among the France best white wines. Cassis vineyards are relatively small, so the AOC Cassis wines are produced in limited quantities. Therefore, the best wine often can be bought only directly from the winemakers.
Savon de Marseille
Savon de Marseille is the genuine Marseille soap, which contains 72% of olive oil. It is suitable for all skin types. The secrets of the artisan Marseille soap production are passed from generation to generation starting from the 17th century. You can find several nice soap boutiques in Le Panier – an old part of Marseille.
Faience from Moustiers Sainte-Marie is one of several pleasant souvenirs you can bring home from a journey to Verdon in Provence. You can buy some exceptionally great looking artisan faience at numerous boutiques in the village. Moustiers Sainte-Marie faience has been known worldwide since the XVIIth century. Such souvenir may become a beautiful decoration of your house interior.
Pastis is a very popular in Provence anise-based alcohol drink. Its name is a Provençal language word, meaning mixture. The true pastis, Pastis de Marseille, has 45% volume of alcohol. Pastis is served as an aperitif. It is consumed mixed with water.
We would like to note that buying pastis together with boules for pétanque for yourself can be a huge step towards the Provençal lifestyle. In some cases, it may be the first sign of your internal readiness to move to Provence.
Boules for Pétanque
Modern pétanque is derived from an authentic Provençal game. It has been extremely popular in Provence for centuries. You have definitely seen people playing pétanque in parks or some central locations in Provençal villages. We recommend you to try playing the game. The rules are not very complex. Chances are that you’ll enjoy it.
Nougat is a specialty of numerous sweets boutiques in Aix-en-Provence. Artisan nougat is very tasty. If you like sweets, you will definitely like it. There are many varieties of nougat. And sometimes it is hard to choose among them as all of them are very good. Although you can find nougat in a supermarket, we recommend you to buy it from an artisan manufacturer.
Calissons, or Calissons d’Aix are diamond-shaped almond sweets from Aix-en-Provence. According to one of the legends, these sweets were created by the royal cuisinier of the Good King René. These sweets were the only thing which could make the King’s future wife Jeanne de Laval smile. As the legend says, she never smiled before trying the delicious calissons. We recommend you to buy them at one of several specialised boutiques, located in the Aix-en-Provence city center.
In Provence, you have a lot of possibilities to buy several interesting antiques and collectibles. First of all, at one of specialised boutiques, selling a great variety of things – furniture, books, elements of interior decor, tableware, paintings etc. A lot of such boutiques work in Marseille, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, and in Avignon. The second option is to visit one of traditional French vide grenier or marché aux puces. While it is always fun to attend such events, sometimes you can find some rare and precious things there. In a very good condition and for a relatively low price.
We wish you spend wonderful time during your stay in Provence. And hope the ideas we have listed above will help you choose excellent souvenirs from your journey and keep great memories for a long time.
ANY PLACE IN PROVENCE CAN BE VISITED DURING A DAY TRIP FROM MARSEILLE
Really. Any place. Gorges du Verdon is approximately two hours of driving from Marseille. You can start exploring it either from Castellane or from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and spend a wonderful day enjoying stunning views of the greatest canyon in Europe.
Cassis and the Calanques National Park is almost in Marseille. Some calanques like beautiful Sormiou and Morgiou are very close – you can get there by bus (#23 to Sormiou and #22 to Morgiou) from the Rond Point du Prado metro station (you will need to walk for 1-1.5 hours from the bus station to the sea). And some are much closer to Cassis, located about 30 km from Marseille (about 20 min of highway or 30-40 min of coastal road driving). You will need a car to get to Cassis. Once you are there, you are rewarded with nice time you can spend in this charming ancient village, delicious famous Cassis white wine you can taste in one of domains or restaurants, great highest coastal peak Cap Canaille view and wonderful Port Miou, Port Pin and especially d’En-Vau calanques. There is one more option to see the Calanques – you can take a boat tour and enjoy their views from sea. You can find plenty of such tours offers in the Marseille Old Port. But keep in mind that this option is more expensive. The average price is approximately €20 per person for the shortest tour. You can check the prices here.
Aix-en-Provence is another great destination near Marseille. You can get there by bus leaving from the Gare Saint Charles. Get to Saint Charles by metro/bus/tramway (check Marseille transport network website for details). And take a bus to Aix-en-Provence (€6 for a one-way ticket). The bus arrives to the Aix city center, so you are good to start exploring the cultural, art, and academic capital of Provence. Considering the convenient possibility to use a bus, going to Aix by train is an exotic option, but still a valid one. TER to the Aix center costs €8 and goes longer than the bus. If you prefer going by car (about half an hour of driving from Marseille), I recommend you to use the Krypton parking, which is outside the city, but costs only €2.2 per day with up to three city transport tickets included in price. You can use these tickets right away to get to the city center by bus (about 15 min). This parking is a very cool thing, as any parking in the city center is much more expensive and all free parking slots around the center are usually occupied.
The heart of Provence – Luberon valley is located about 1.5 hours of driving from Marseille. You can get to Gordes via the highway approximately in an hour. After visiting this picturesque village, you can choose from a ton of options Luberon valley can offer you. I recommend visiting the Senanque Abbey (especially if you visit the place during lavender blooming season) – it is amazingly beautiful. You will get great emotions and even more great photos. Next, you can go to Roussillon – a wonderful Ochre village and Lourmarin with its charming medieval chateau and gastronomic restaurants. Please check our tours to the Luberon valley for more details.
Valensole lavender fields. 1.5 hours of driving from Marseille. Just look at the photos. You should see it and feel it by yourself. Lavender season in Provence is usually between mid-June and the beginning of August (may vary depending on the weather conditions).
Sainte-Baume ridge is the Bible place located also within an hour of driving from Marseille. The Grotto where Mary Magdalene lived for 30 years is located there. And it is a very beautiful place – you walk to the Grotto via the Road of Kings via the fairy forest. On top of the plateau you can enjoy wonderful valley views. Montagne Sainte-Victoire, from the one side of the valley, and the Mediterranean sea, from the other side – you can spend a lot of time watching this panorama.
Avignon is about an hour of driving from Marseille. Optionally, you can take a train or bus. TGV (fast French train) can get you from Marseille to Avignon in a bit more than half an hour (costs about €20, the cheapest ticket I saw was €10 for OUIGO – the “budget TGV”, which goes as fast as a regular TGV). Please check the fares here. Avignon is a place, which can take you to the Medieval Age right away. The city was the Popes residency at that time. Avignon historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is really amazing.
MARSEILLE HAS A LARGE AND CONVENIENT TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE
Marseille has a large and convenient transport infrastructure. There are a bunch of choices of how to get to Marseille from any other country or how to travel between cities within France.
There is a large international Marseille Provence Airport near Marseille. You can easily get from the airport to the city by shuttle bus, by taxi, or by an individually arranged transfer by car. Shuttle bus is obviously the cheapest option. It costs only €8.30, arrives to the Marseille central train station, where you can use metro. You can check the shuttle buses schedule here. Please note, that while you can take shuttle bus during the day or at night, Marseille metro is closed at night.
Taxi will cost you at least €50, depending on your destination address in Marseille.
At Around Provence, we arrange individual transfers from the airport to the hotel for our clients. Usually, it costs €30, as majority of our clients stop at some hotel near the city center.
Marseille central train station Gare Saint Charles accepts trains from majority of the European cities. Travelling by train in France is fast and very comfortable). From Saint Charles you can easily get to any place in Marseille, due to the city vast transport network. Please check its website for details.
Marseille is a popular cruise ships destination. Marseille port is one of the 15 world largest cruise ports. If you arrive to Marseille by a cruise ship, please note that it is quite a long walk from the terminal to the shuttle bus station. It is much more convenient to take a taxi or to arrange a transfer from the port to your hotel with us. Please note that at Around Provence we have special tours composed for the cruise ships travellers. Please check them here.
MARSEILLE IS A 2600-OLD CITY VISITED BY 2.5 MLN TOURISTS ANNUALLY
Marseille is a very interesting place to visit by itself. The city has more than 2600 – years long history, rich with various events. Its inhabitants have always been very freedom-loving people with strong trade management skills and adventurer mindsets. The only fact that Marseille gave its name to the France National Anthem can tell us a lot about the city significance in the country history and life.
Marseille major sights, such as the picturesque Old Port – the ancient heart of the city, the majestic La Major Cathedral, wonderful Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, where you can enjoy stunning views of Marseille, beautiful Palais Longchamps, interesting old quartier Le Panier, legendary Chateau d’If attract about 2 and a half million of tourists annually. Marseille is the second largest city of France. It is the home for people of more than 160 nationalities. The city is an exotic gem of the Mediterranean. Please check the Marseille destination page for the description of our tours to the major Marseille sights.
An amazing almost two thousand years old antique Roman theatre of Orange (Théâtre antique d’Orange) is located in Orange, Vaucluse. The theatre was built in the Roman colony of Arausio (founded around 35 AD for the veterans of the second Gallic Legion) in the 1st century AD. The Roman Theatre of Orange was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
Gordes is a picturesque medieval city located on a rocky hill. Approaching Gordes, you can enjoy a tremendous view. A castle and a cathedral on top, stone houses and city walls below, green trees on terraces and streets. Alpilles mountains on the horizon and beautiful valley, surrounding the hill, add more strokes to the landscape.
They call lavender a blue gold of Provence because of its unique therapeutic, curative, and cosmetic properties. Blossoming during June-August lavender adds wonderful purple, magenta, and blueish-indigo colors to the Provençal landscapes. These colors change depending on the weather and the blossoming season.