After years of visiting Provence over and over again, I’m lucky enough that it feels like a home away from home. Whether it’s my French ancestry (read more about that here) or the fact that the Provence lifestyle aligns with everything I care most about (food, beauty, wine, thoughtful living), I am not sure. I just can’t seem to spend enough time there. Today I wanted to share with you the most beautiful towns and boutique hotels in Provence I have discovered from a photographer’s perspective.
In this post I will share my list of beautiful towns in Provence, including the highlights of each. I will include my favourite boutique hotels in a separate section.
- Saint-Saturnin-les Apt
- Beautiful boutique hotels in Provence
While not a small town, I’d consider Aix-en-Provence my favourite “big” city in Provence. It’s the city I often orient my trips around, staying in smaller towns but making day trips into Aix-en-Provence. With access to all kinds of shopping and modern comfort, Aix maintains its old world charm by keeping the city centre cobblestone and free of traffic.
Favourite restaurant- La Cita
During our first trip through Europe together, Dan and I stumbled upon the restaurant “La Cita”, and I’ve been back every trip since. This quirky Spanish tapas restaurant in the heart of Aix-en-Provence offers endless flavours in each dish and the perfect amount of night time atmosphere. On our first visit, our little table was so laden with food I thought we might lose a dish or two over the edge. We finished the evening with a pitcher of delicious mint Sangria and piping hot chocolate covered churros. It was the perfect end to a perfect evening, and we were very glad we were walking back to our hotel (and not driving).
Favourite shopping – Bastide and Rose et Marius
Aix-en-Provence provides big box stores like Zara and Sephora, in case you forgot your favourite foundation, or need a cheap bikini for the spa. However, the independent French owned shops are the biggest draw for me. My two favourite stores are Bastide, and Rose et Marius.
A truly beautiful town, Ansouis deserves a mention for my photographers out there. Its beauty is that it feels nearly untouched by modernization. I discovered this gem while researching Lindsay & Bret’s engagement shoot , and couldn’t have been happier with it. There were little to no tourists and lots of beautiful nooks and crannies to explore for photos. We hoped to shoot in the castle but it was private and closed that day, so we shot in the golden fields with the castle in the background.
About Saint-Saturnin-les Apt
Saint-Saturnin-les Apt is high on my most beautiful towns in Provence list for it’s views and charm. I discovered it through another photographer, Jamie Beck. I wanted to stay in a small town that wasn’t too remote with easy access to beautiful places to photograph. Saint-Saturnin-les Apt offered the perfect balance I was seeking.
Favourite cafe and restaurants – Le Saint Hubert
Le Saint Hubert is owned by two Americans who fell in love with Provence. It’s a great choice whether for a morning espresso or a three course dinner. The back of the restaurant features an open air terrace with a birds eye view of the valley. I enjoyed multiple meals there, each one feeling like my new favourite.
Favourite activity – Hike Les Longuets
One of the reasons I chose to stay in Saint-Saturin-les Apt was for the ancient castle ruins on a hill I’d seen in Jamie Beck’s photos. The hike leads straight from the small village of Saint-Saturnin-les Apt up past the castle, and is absolutely worth the hype. From the top, you can see magnificent views of the small town and the surrounding countryside. I suggest to take the hike at sunset so you can enjoy the views during the most stunning time of day.
A city on a hill, and one of the most gorgeous ones at that, Gordes is on my most beautiful Provence towns list because I have been photographing it for years. It is similar to many of the small towns I’ve listed that I love for maintaining its old world charm. One of my favourite French editorials was shot in Gordes, as was my favourite movie about living in Provence “A Good Year” with Russell Crow.
While I did not stay in Carpentras, I believe it deserves a mention for a singularly incredible bakery and great Friday market.
Favourite bakery – La Maison Jouvaud
In my experience, French patisseries are nearly always incredible but La Maison Jouvaud took it to another level. Since I am gluten free it’s not always easy to convey my allergies with my limited French. Thankfully the woman behind the counter was patient and attentive, offering me some great gluten free options. I ate both pastries within minutes of leaving the store and still dream about them to this day.
Favourite market – Carpentras Market
A great morning saunter post pastries, this lovely French Market is a gem. Especially if you enjoy antiques!
Lourmarin gets listed in my beautiful Provence towns for its incredible market. It is a vibrant village on the route I often drove during my last trip to Provence in October 2021. It seemed to straddle the line of a small beautiful town and bustling city, with tourists and locals mingling over piping hot cafes.
Favourite activity – Marché de Lourmarin
The Friday Market in Lourmarin was by far my favourite in Provence. As a foodie, I couldn’t get enough of the stalls of olives and cheese and fresh preserves. I went early in the morning as soon as it opened to experience it before the rush, which I would highly suggest for easier parking. As the crowds packed in, I explored quiet side streets and small cafes.
Saignon is another of the beautiful Provence towns I hope to return to on my next trip. It is tucked into the surrounding countryside near Apt with incredible views and architecture. I was only able to visit for a short few hours on my last day in Provence, but it left an impression of sweetness and peace. The streets are particularly beautiful, with rosy coloured window shutters and ivy growing up the walls. It is also built on a hill, and offers a great hike for those not scared of heights and wearing good hiking shoes (the poor shoe choice being my lesson on this trip!).
My favourite boutique hotels in Provence
This list wouldn’t be complete without sharing my favourite places I’ve stayed in Provence. I’ve been lucky enough to stay at both quaint AirBNB’s and luxury hotels while in France, but this list includes the places I’ve enjoyed most of all.
Les Oliviers du Taulisson in Beaumont-du Ventoux
If you’ve been following my work for a while, you’ll know I am obsessed with Les Oliviers du Taulisson. I discovered this sweet b&b while photographing for The Perfect Hideaway and have been talking about it ever since. The owners, Dina and Guy, along with their two children run the b&b with an incredible amount of passion and love. There are limited rooms, so when you stay you feel (almost) like part of their family. What makes it unique is the authentic Provençal experience of it all. Every detail in the rooms is local to Provence, from the lavender on the window sill to the soap. The breakfasts include eggs from their own chickens and produce they grow. It’s a labour of love, and when you are there you can feel every ounce of it.
Camellas-Lloret – Montreal
Camellas Lloret is much further west than any of the other towns or places I’ve listed, but I truly enjoyed my stay there. What was most unique about it was the design of the rooms, modern but with all the right elements of “old France”.
Pastis Hotel – St. Tropez
Pastis Hotel is in St. Tropez, a town I’d never explored before, right on the mediterranean. If you can’t decide between a tropical vacation or a French one, St. Tropez may be your perfect bet. It has both palm trees and old french charm, offering the best of both worlds. I went in October right before the hotel closed for the season so I wasn’t able to enjoy the pool, but I could only imagine the delight of the space on a hot summer day. The rooms were luxurious and comfortable, beautifully designed with playful modern accents.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my recommendations for your next trip to Provence! I’ll be creating a more detailed PDF in the coming months for those of you wanting even more recommendations that will be available for purchase.
Until then au revoir and happy travels!