Provence is a region in southeastern France that has long been a favourite destination for travellers worldwide. With its stunning natural landscapes, picturesque villages, and rich cultural heritage, Provence offers a unique blend of history, art, and nature that appeals to all kinds of visitors. Whether you're interested in exploring ancient Roman ruins, tasting local wines and cuisine, or simply enjoying the Mediterranean sun, Provence has something for everyone. One of the best ways to experience the beauty and charm of Provence is by renting a villa. From cosy cottages to grand estates, villas in Provence come in all shapes and sizes, each with its character, history, and amenities. They offer a luxurious and authentic way to stay in the region, allowing you to enjoy a traditional house's privacy, comfort, and style while immersing yourself in the local lifestyle and scenery.
A closer look at villas in Provence
In this article, we'll take a closer look at villas in Provence, exploring their traditional architecture, unique features, and benefits for foreign tourists. We'll also provide tips and advice for renting a villa in Provence, including choosing the right location, amenities, and services. Finally, we'll showcase some of the best regions to rent villas in Provence that you can book for your next trip. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveller, this article will help you discover the villas in Provence's secrets and make the most of your stay in this enchanting region.
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Traditional houses in Provence
Provence is known for its distinctive architecture, which reflects the region's long history and diverse influences. Traditional houses in Provence are typically made of local materials such as stone, wood, and terracotta and feature a range of design elements that are both functional and decorative.
One of the most striking features of traditional houses in Provence is their thick stone walls, which are designed to keep the interior cool during hot summers and warm during cold winters. These walls are often painted in soft pastel colours, such as ochre, pink, or blue, which blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape.
Another common feature of traditional houses in Provence is wooden shutters, which serve both practical and aesthetic purposes. Shutters can be opened to let in natural light and fresh air or closed to provide shade and privacy. They also add a touch of charm and character to the house's façade with their bright colours and ornate designs.
Roofs in traditional houses in Provence are usually made of terracotta tiles, which have a distinctive orange-red colour and a slightly curved shape (Genoese tiles). These tiles are well-suited to the Mediterranean climate, as they are durable, waterproof, and provide good insulation.
Inside a Provençal house
Inside, traditional houses in Provence often feature spacious rooms with high ceilings, exposed beams, and tiled floors. The décor is typically rustic and elegant, with natural materials such as wood, stone, and linen and a mix of antique and modern furniture.
Whether in a bustling town or a sleepy hamlet, these houses offer visitors a glimpse into the authentic Provençal lifestyle. Let's focus on three traditional Provençal houses: le mas, la bastide and la maison de ville/de village.
The mas provençal
The mas provençal is a typical rural dwelling of Provence, characterised by its simplicity, functionality, and integration with the natural environment.
A Provençal farmhouse
The mas, also known as the farmhouse, is usually built with local stone, often featuring thick walls and a terracotta-tiled roof. It is designed to withstand the harsh Mediterranean climate, with small windows and thick walls providing insulation from the summer heat and the mistral wind in winter.
A courtyard or a garden usually surrounds the mas, often featuring a well or a fountain.
Inside a mas
Inside, the mas is divided into several rooms, including a kitchen, a living room, and bedrooms. The interior is decorated with simple and rustic furnishings, often featuring handmade textiles, ceramics, and wooden furniture.
The bastides provençales
The bastide is a grand country house that originated in the 18th century in Provence. These houses were built for wealthy landowners who wanted to escape the city during summer. They are characterised by their imposing size, symmetrical facades, and spacious interiors.
The exterior of a bastide
The bastides were built with local stone, featuring large windows and decorative elements such as pilasters, cornices, and balustrades. These picturesque houses were often built on elevated positions to provide a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.
Vast gardens or parks surrounded them with ornamental fountains, terraces, and walkways.
Indeed, builders sometimes gave their houses a square shape similar to that of their ancestor, the classical Greek temple.
The interior of a bastide
The bastides symbolised wealth and prestige in the region, reflecting the grandeur of the Provençal lifestyle. Landlords often decorated the interiors of the bastides with elaborate stucco, painted ceilings, and frescoes. They arranged the rooms around a central hall or staircase, with grand reception rooms and private suites for the family.
Today, many of these historic houses have been restored and converted into luxury hotels or private residences, providing visitors with a glimpse into the grandeur of the past.
The traditional village houses
The traditional village houses in Provence (maisons de village) are charming and distinctive. They are typically constructed with local stone or plaster, often featuring terracotta roofs and brightly painted shutters.
During the Middle Ages, space was limited within the village walls. The villagers, therefore, built their houses upwards with more than one level. Their houses were constructed close together, forming narrow streets and winding alleys that are a hallmark of the region.
Many village houses have small courtyards or gardens where residents can enjoy the Mediterranean climate.
Inside a village house
Inside, the houses are compact but functional, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard or staircase. The living spaces are often on the upper floors, while the ground floor is used for storage or as a workshop.
The interiors are simple but elegant, with exposed beams, terracotta floors, and whitewashed walls. The village houses in Provence are an integral part of the region's cultural heritage, reflecting the traditional way of life and the close-knit community spirit that is still evident in many villages today.
The villas of the French Riviera
The beauty of the Mediterranean coast of Provence and its pleasant climate have long attracted people from all over the world. From the 19th century onwards, Cannes, Nice and Menton became winter resorts for wealthy Europeans, hosting the holiday homes of aristocrats, industrialists, artists and entertainment stars.
Magnificent homes were constructed as summer residences for these Europeans seeking to escape the colder climates of the north. In this context, Queen Victoria stayed two months in Menton in 1882.
Allure and glamour
The villas built on the French Riviera since the 19th century are a testament to the region's allure and glamour. They are typically built on hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean sea, with expansive terraces and lush gardens.
The architecture of these villas varies, with styles ranging from neo-classical to Art Deco. In fact, eclecticism was the rule, in a complete break with the models of the Provencal tradition. All fantasies and even eccentricities were allowed, the villas having no other vocation than social life and holidays.
In addition, the new inhabitants also enjoyed transforming nature by planting exotic plants in their gardens, always green. Therefore, all these French Riviera villas share a sense of grandeur and luxury.
Inside a French Riviera villa
Inside, the villas are often decorated with fine art, antique furnishings, and luxurious fabrics, creating a sense of elegance and refinement. Many estates are surrounded by swimming pools, tennis courts, and other amenities, allowing residents to enjoy the warm Mediterranean climate to the fullest.
Today, many of these villas have been converted into boutique hotels or luxury rental properties, offering visitors the chance to experience the glamorous lifestyle of the French Riviera's elite.
As we mentioned above, the villas built on the French Riviera since the 19th century exhibit a wide variety of architectural styles, reflecting the tastes of their wealthy owners and the prevailing design trends of the time. Here are five examples:
The Belle Époque style (including Art nouveau) emerged in the late 19th century in France and remained popular through the early 20th century.
Ornate, often asymmetrical facades characterise Belle Époque villas with detailed stonework and wrought-iron balconies.
The interiors are typically opulent, with marble floors, grand staircases, and ornate mouldings.
Examples of Belle Époque villas on the French Riviera:
- Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
- Villa Kérylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer
- Villa Les Cèdres in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
- Villa Nellcote in Villefranche-sur-Mer
- Villa Cyrnos in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
The Art Deco style, which emerged in the 1920s and 30s, is characterised by geometric shapes, streamlined forms, and a focus on modern materials such as glass and steel. Art Deco villas often feature sleek facades with bold, colourful accents and dramatic lighting.
Examples of Art Deco villas on the French Riviera:
- Villa Romée in Cannes
- Villa La Sabranette (or Villa Santa Clara) in Grasse
In the mid-20th century, several prominent architects began designing villas that incorporated principles of modernism, such as simplicity, functionality, and an emphasis on natural light. These villas often feature flat roofs, large windows, and open floor plans.
Examples of Modernist villas on the French Riviera:
- Villa E-1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
- Villa Noailles in Hyères
- Le Corbusier's Cabanon in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
- Villa Arpel from Jacques Tati's "Mon Oncle" in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Some French Riviera villas are designed in the traditional Provençal style with sober façades and Genoese tiles that emphasise warm, earthy colours and natural materials such as stone and wood.
These villas often have rustic, farmhouse-style kitchens and cosy living spaces with exposed ceiling beams. Windows have been enlarged to become bay windows to adapt to the lifestyle of our time.
Examples of Provençal villas on the French Riviera:
- Villa Leopolda in Villefranche-sur-Mer
- Villa Fiorentina in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
- Villa La Madrague in Saint-Tropez
In recent years, some modern architects have designed villas on the French Riviera that reflect the latest trends in architecture and design.
These villas often feature minimalist, monochromatic interiors with clean lines and high-tech amenities such as smart home technology and home theatres.
Examples of Contemporary villas on the French Riviera:
- Villa Alang Alang in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
- Villa Oxygène in Cannes
Renting villas in Provence
Renting villas in Provence is a popular option for foreign tourists who want to experience the region's beauty, culture, and lifestyle more intimately and luxuriously. Villas in Provence come in various sizes, styles, and locations, from rustic cottages in the countryside to grand estates in historic towns.
If you're considering renting a villa in Provence, here are some tips and advice to help you plan your trip:
Choose the right location
Provence is a large region with many towns, villages, and landscapes to explore. When choosing a villa, consider what kind of experience you want.
Do you prefer a peaceful countryside setting or a lively town with restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions?
Do you want to be close to the coast or the mountains?
By considering your preferences and priorities, you can narrow your options and find the perfect location for your villa.
Determine your budget
Provence has many villas available, so you must determine your budget before searching. Consider location, size, and amenities when deciding how much you will spend.
Look for the right amenities
Villas in Provence offer a range of amenities, from swimming pools and gardens to Wi-Fi and air conditioning.
Before booking a villa, check what amenities are included and what additional services are available, such as cleaning, cooking, or concierge services. This will help you to plan your stay and make the most of your villa experience.
Depending on your location, you may need to rent a car or arrange transportation to get around. Make sure you factor this into your budget and plan accordingly.
Renting an apartment in Menton or Nice is different from booking a country villa in the Luberon where you'll need a car.
Villas in Provence are in high demand during the peak tourist season, which runs from June to September. To ensure you get the villa you want, booking early, ideally several months in advance, is essential. This will also give you more time to plan your itinerary, activities, and transportation.
Be prepared for the local culture
Renting a villa in Provence is not just about the accommodation but also about the local culture and lifestyle. To fully enjoy your villa experience, be prepared to adapt to the local customs and traditions, such as eating late, taking afternoon siestas, and speaking some basic French. By embracing the local culture, you can connect with the people and the place and create a more authentic and meaningful travel experience.
Where to Rent Villas in Provence
With so many beautiful areas to choose from in Provence, knowing where to rent villas in Provence can be challenging. Four of my favourite regions to experience the charm of southern France are:
Four must-see regions in Provence
No matter where you stay in Provence, you will be charmed by the region's rich history, beautiful scenery, and vibrant culture. The Luberon is known for its stunning hilltop villages and beautiful countryside, while the Alpilles offer a more rugged landscape with picturesque towns and vineyards. And for those seeking the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera, there are plenty of luxurious villas in places like Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and Nice. Let's have a closer look at these four regions of Provence.
The Luberon is a beautiful mountain range located in the heart of Provence. This area is famous for its stunning landscapes, charming villages, and rich cultural heritage.
One of the highlights of the Luberon is its famous perched villages, which are built on hilltops and offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside. One of the most famous villages is Gordes, which is perched on a rocky outcrop and boasts narrow streets, old stone houses, and a beautiful Renaissance castle. Visitors can explore the village's many galleries and boutiques or simply soak up the views from the village square.
Another must-see village in the Luberon is Roussillon, known for its unique ochre cliffs and brightly coloured houses. Visitors can explore the village's many artisan shops and galleries or take a walk through the nearby ochre quarries and admire the area's stunning natural beauty.
Ménerbes is another charming Luberon village known for its historic architecture and beautiful views. This village is home to several museums, art galleries, and a stunning 16th-century church.
Lacoste, Bonnieux, and Lourmarin are also worth visiting, each offering its unique charm and character. Lacoste is dominated by a ruined castle once home to the infamous Marquis de Sade, while Bonnieux offers stunning views of the Luberon valley and a beautiful 12th-century church. South of the Luberon mountain, Lourmarin is known for its charming streets lined with cafes and boutiques and its stunning Renaissance castle.
Activities in the Luberon
In addition to its perched villages, the Luberon also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, and kayaking. Visitors can explore the hiking trails that wind through the mountain range or leisurely cycle through the picturesque countryside.
Visiting a open-air market is also a popular activity in the Luberon!
The Alpilles is a stunning mountain range located in the heart of Provence, France. This area is famous for its rugged beauty, picturesque hilltop villages, and rich history.
One of the most charming towns in the Alpilles is Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, known for its narrow streets, old stone houses, and bustling markets. Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch painter, spent a year in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and painted some of his most famous works here. Visitors can follow in his footsteps and visit the asylum where he stayed or simply wander through the town's charming squares and alleyways.
Just outside Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, visitors can explore the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Glanum. This well-preserved archaeological site includes the remains of temples, baths, and a theatre and offers a fascinating glimpse into the region's rich history.
Another must-see attraction in the Alpilles is the village of Les-Baux-de-Provence, which is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley below. This fortified village has several historical monuments, including a medieval castle and a 12th-century church. Visitors can wander through the narrow streets, admire the stunning views, or explore the village's many galleries and boutiques.
The mountain range
In addition to its charming villages and rich history, the Alpilles is renowned for its natural beauty. The mountain range is home to several hiking trails, which wind through olive groves, vineyards, and rocky outcrops. Visitors can also take a scenic drive through the Alpilles and admire the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Carpentras Plain and Dentelles de Montmirail
The Carpentras region includes the Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail. There are charming Provençal villages which do not attract as many tourists as the Luberon or the Alpilles. Nevertheless, this region in the Vaucluse département, close to the historic city of Avignon, has much to offer. I advise you to visit the villages of Pernes-les-Fontaines, Vénasque, Flassan, and Le Barroux.
Dentelles de Montmirail
The Dentelles de Montmirail is a stunning mountain range located in the Vaucluse département. The range takes its name from its jagged peaks and ridges, which resemble a "dentelles" or lace set. The area is famous for its beautiful hiking trails, which wind through the rugged landscape and offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
The Dentelles de Montmirail is also known for its wine production, with several vineyards in the area. Visitors can take wine tours and tastings and learn about the history and traditions of winemaking in Provence. Make sure to explore the wine villages of Gigondas and Séguret.
One of the most popular hikes in the area is the ascent to the summit of Mont Ventoux, which offers panoramic views of the entire region. Along the way, hikers can stop at traditional Provençal villages, such as Bédoin and Malaucène, which offer charming cafés, restaurants, and shops selling local products.
The French Riviera, also known as the Côte d'Azur, is a stunning stretch of coastline in the southeast of Provence. This area is famous for its turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and luxurious resorts and has long been a playground for the rich and famous.
From Cannes to Menton
Between Cannes and Menton, the region is home to several historic towns and cities, each with its unique character and charm.
Cannes is famous for its film festival and chic boutiques, while Nice is known for its beautiful Old Town and bustling markets.
Further west, the Esterel massif rises dramatically from the sea, providing a rugged and wild landscape perfect for hiking and exploring.
Villas in Provence: Conclusion
In conclusion, renting villas in Provence is an excellent way to experience the beauty, culture, and lifestyle of this enchanting region in southern France. Whether you're looking for a peaceful retreat in the countryside, a luxurious home in a charming town, or a modern villa with stunning views, plenty of options cater to every taste and budget.
Research, plan and follow advice!
When renting villas in Provence, it's essential to research, plan, and follow some basic advice to ensure a smooth and enjoyable stay. From choosing a reputable rental agency and checking the villa's location, amenities, and reviews to packing appropriately and respecting the local customs and rules, many factors can make a big difference in your experience.
Get ready for an unforgettable travel experience
Overall, renting a Provençal villa can be an unforgettable travel experience that combines comfort, luxury, and authenticity in a way few other accommodations can match. So why not start planning your next trip to Provence today and discover the magic of this beautiful region for yourself?
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About the illustrations in the article
Most of the photos are ours (© French Moments). However, I have selected some photos (including the Featured Image of this article) from Depositphotos, a commercial platform that brings authors of high-quality licensed stock photos, graphics, vectors and videos together with appreciative buyers.