Holidays on the Cote d’Azur: our top reasons to visit
Book a holiday on the Cote d’Azur in the south of France and you’ll travel through scented lavender fields, ancient villages, chic seaside resorts and spectacular Alpine scenery. Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (referred to as ‘PACA’) is one of the most diverse regions of France, with an attractive climate all year round. Whatever your family enjoy doing, you’ll find it here.
One word of warning, the Cote d’Azur is a great area to visit but does get very busy during the main holiday season in July and August – you’ll need a lot of patience (and air-conditioning) to deal with the traffic along the coastal roads. Avoid Saturday travel if you can to avoid the worst.
1. Sea, sun and style
The French Riviera is a ‘cool’ destination for even the most style-conscious teenager, with iconic resorts such as Nice, Juan-les-Pins, and Saint Tropez fringing the sparkling Mediterranean. And even if you’re not quite in the super-yacht bracket, there are villas and apartments with pools to suit more modest budgets, all within easy reach of the coast. When it’s time for a little culture, you’ll find museums to suit every taste from Marseilles to Menton, Aix-en-Provence to Antibes, many with activity sheets and themed visits for younger visitors.
2. Walk in Roman footsteps
The Romans really left their mark here as the empire expanded, building cities and monuments that still have the power to amaze us 2,000 years later. Provence is home to some of the most atmospheric sites in France – the twin communities at Vaison-la-Romaine; the towering wall of the theatre at Orange; and the vast arena at Arles. Ask about guided tours or audio guides which bring the Roman era zinging vividly to life, as well as the many concerts and festivals which take place amongst these ancient stones in the summer months.
3. Spend a day with a difference
Sur le Pont d’Avignon is one of the first songs that British school children learn in French. Walk on what’s left of it – the rest was swept away by floods – and visit Avignon’s amazing Palace of the Popes. The whole family can have fun browsing the vast street market in Aix-en-Provence, and the antique dealers and bric-a-brac stalls at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. A budding artist in the family? Then follow in the footsteps of Matisse and Picasso, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Chagal, all lured here by the combination of light and scenery. Book a family-friendly workshop in Grasse to create your own perfumes; visit a lavender distillery; or swim in the rocky inlets of the calanques near Marseilles.
4. Explore France’s largest wetland area
The Camargue lies in a triangle between Arles at the northern point and the two arms of the Rhône. Famous for its black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos, this unique wetland combines a variety of eco-systems from marshes and lagoons to dunes, beaches and even paddy fields. Rich in wildlife, it’s a great destination for families who love nature and the great outdoors. Go birdwatching with an expert guide; take a tour in a 4×4, or – the classic mode of transport – explore on horseback. Progress is gentle and the comfortable Western saddles make treks suitable for beginners as well as experienced riders. Don’t miss the colourful bull games where cowboys pluck rosettes from the horns and every animal lives to play another day.
5. Live the Luberon lifestyle
Tucked between two arcs of hills to the east of the Rhône Valley, the Luberon is famous for its ancient perched villages that rise out of the vineyards in a landscape that’s almost too pretty to be true. Rent cycles, follow quiet walking trails, and browse pretty local markets for fresh local produce to eat al fresco at your gîte or villa. Here children can enjoy the freedom of a traditional rural lifestyle where life evolves at its own gentle pace – a novelty for many youngsters brought up in today’s fast-moving world.
6. Adventures for all
But if you’re in the mood for a burst of adrenalin, head for some of the region’s more challenging terrain. The peaks of the Alpes-Maritimes tour over the eastern side of the region and the Mercantour National Park offers a wide range of outdoor adventure for active families. You can even visit a wolf park to find out about these elusive mountain dwellers. Or head inland from Cannes to the Gorges du Verdon to take a kayak through France’s answer to the Grand Canyon.
Provence is known for its long hot summers. Winters are mild although the cold “mistral” wind can blow strongly from the south on some days. For an up to date weather forecast, select here.
For further ideas, visit: www.cotedazur-tourisme.com
Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to the Cote d’Azur: