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Last Updated: 13 January 2023

The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is made up of six départements in south-eastern France. Casually known as “PACA” or “Région Sud”, the region is bordered by Italy to the East and the Mediterranean Sea to the South. We have published several articles on Provence to help you explore this fantastic sunny destination.

 

A brief description of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur on a Map of France © French Moments
© French Moments

For foreign visitors, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is probably one of the most renowned regions of France (along with Paris, the Loire and Périgord). This sun-drenched land stretches from the foothills of the Alps to the mouth of the Rhône and the Mediterranean to the South.

The region is a tourist hotspot. With 10.1 million overnight stays recorded in 2017, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is the first touristic region in France after Paris.

This is made easier thanks to excellent transport infrastructure (the Provence region has a total of 2,500 km of motorway).

The A8 Motorway near Menton - Stock Photos from Michael R Evans - Shutterstock
The A8 Motorway near Menton – Stock Photos from Michael R Evans – Shutterstock

The TGV (French high-speed train) links Paris to Marseille in 3hrs only.

The administrative region is made up of 6 départements :

  • Alpes-de-Haute-Provence [07] – head city: Digne-les-Bains
  • Hautes-Alpes [05] – head city: Gap
  • Alpes-Maritimes [06] – head city: Nice
  • Bouches-du-Rhône [13] – head city: Marseille
  • Var [83] – head city: Toulon
  • Vaucluse [84] – head city: Avignon

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is one of France’s most populated region (pop. 5 007 977 in 2015).

 

The Provençal heritage

What comes to mind when we think about Provence? The typical lavender fields, olive groves and orchards, the colourful façades of picturesque villages, great town markets…

The abbey of Sénanque near Gordes © French Moments
The abbey of Sénanque near Gordes © French Moments

A rich heritage ranges from Roman in Arles, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Vaison-la-Romaine to Romanesque in the Abbeys of Sénanque and Silvacane.

However, some of France’s most thriving cities can be found in Provence: Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon or Nîmes (now in Occitania), without forgetting the always surprising Marseille, now the third biggest city of France.

Popes' Palace in Avignon © French Moments
The famous Popes’ Palace in Avignon © French Moments
Place d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Place d’Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Marseille, capital of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Photo: Grigory_bruev via Envato Elements
Marseille, capital of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Photo: Grigory_bruev via Envato Elements
Arles from above - Stock Photos from Francois BOIZOT - Shutterstock
Arles from above – Stock Photos from Francois BOIZOT – Shutterstock

 

The Provençal gastronomy

Provencal gastronomy has become world-famous and popular with a wide array of delicious dishes and desserts:

 

Bouillabaisse

(a fish stew)

Bouillabaisse - Stock Photos from Michael R Evans - Shutterstock
Bouillabaisse – Stock Photos from Michael R Evans – Shutterstock

 

Pissaladière 

(a sort of Provençal pizza with anchovies)

Pissaladière - Stock Photos from AS Food studio - Shutterstock
Pissaladière – Stock Photos from AS Food studio – Shutterstock

 

Wine
Fancy a glass of Provençal rosé ? - Stock Photos from barmalini - Shutterstock
Fancy a glass of Provençal rosé ? – Stock Photos from barmalini – Shutterstock

 

Herbs
Provençal herbs - Stock Photos from Maria Medvedeva - Shutterstock
Provençal herbs – Stock Photos from Maria Medvedeva – Shutterstock

 

Olives
Olives in Provence - Stock Photos from Sylvie Lebchek - Shutterstock
Olives in Provence – Stock Photos from Sylvie Lebchek – Shutterstock

 

Calissons

(delicious sweet delicacy from Aix-en-Provence)

Calissons from Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Calissons from Aix-en-Provence © French Moments

 

Candied fruits

(originally from Apt)

Glazed and candied fruits from Apt - Stock Photos from Maria Medvedeva - Shutterstock
Glazed and candied fruits from Apt – Stock Photos from Maria Medvedeva – Shutterstock

 

Lemon tart 

(from Menton on the French Riviera)

Lemon tart - Stock Photos from margouillat photo - Shutterstock
Lemon tart – Stock Photos from margouillat photo – Shutterstock

 

Nougat from Montélimar

(a town now in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)

French Nougat - Stock Photos from Hayati Kayhan - Shutterstock
French Nougat – Stock Photos from Hayati Kayhan – Shutterstock

 

Beautiful landscapes of Provence

The Provence countryside is stunning. Some of my favourite destinations are:

 

The Luberon
Roussillon Luberon Provence
The ochre cliffs at Roussillon © French Moments

 

The Alpilles
Eygalières and the Alpilles © French Moments
The village of Eygalières and the Alpilles mountains © French Moments

 

The Camargue
The wild horses of Camargue - Stock Photos from GUDKOV ANDREY - Shutterstock
The wild horses of Camargue – Stock Photos from GUDKOV ANDREY – Shutterstock

 

The Calanques

(of Cassis or Marseille)

Cassis 09 © Olivier Risnes
The beautiful Calanque of Port-Miou © Olivier Risnes

 

The Montagne-Sainte-Victoire
Montagne Sainte-Victoire © Olivier Risnes
The emblematic Montagne Sainte-Victoire © Olivier Risnes

 

A brief description of Côte d’Azur

Menton © Vinbaron - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The Italianate town of Menton © Vinbaron – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Côte d’Azur, also known as the “French Riviera”, has such wonderful scenery that it has attracted millions of visitors over the years.

Between Toulon and Menton, the Mediterranean coast is home to some of the most prestigious European spas and resort towns: Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Menton

Peillon - licence [CC BY-SA 3
The hilltop village of Peillon in the Nice Hinterland – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

This part of Provence is influenced by its neighbour Italy. Lavender fields, chestnut and olive trees, sun-bathed vineyards and nestled villages constantly remind the visitor that he is still in Provence.

Nice is often considered the “Queen of the Riviera”. The former city of the House of Savoy became French in 1860, with most of the territory now called the Maritime Alps département.

The Seafront in Nice - Stock Photos from Sergii Zinko - Shutterstock
The Seafront in Nice – Stock Photos from Sergii Zinko – Shutterstock

 

With more than 500,000 inhabitants, Nice stretches along the shores of the dazzling Baie des Anges and boats a picture-perfect old town with an Italian influence.

Nice is a perfect starting point for further visits towards Cannes, the Esterel mountains, MonacoMenton and the perched villages of Nice’s hinterland: Peille, Peillon, Èze, Sainte-Agnès, Lucéram…

Alongside Marseille and Toulon, it is one of the main French harbours from where boats sail across the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, Nice is France’s second-largest port for intercontinental cruises

Eze by Jimi Magic (Public Domain)
A picture-perfect view of the hilltop village of Eze. Photo by Jimi Magic (Public Domain)

 

Find out more about Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

  • Read more about the Côte d’Azur or French Riviera on the blog.
  • Discover the most beautiful sites in the Luberon region.
  • Visit the Official Website of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Tourist Board for more practical info.
Gems of Paris by French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

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