A Guide to 48 Hours in Provence

It's time for another 48 Hour Guide, this time to Provence, France! (See what to do with 48 hours in Barcelona here). I'm so excited to show you the magical landscape that is southern France. Two weeks would be a great amount of time to visit the region, but hey, 48 hours will give you quite a taste! If you'd like to see more detailed outfit posts, be check out my flowy floral look here, my black bow and boater hat look here, and my Provenceal pinstripe look here.

I was more and more excited to visit Provence the more and more research I did into the history of the Roman ruins and landmarks that dot the cities and even small villages. These villages (and some bigger towns) form a large triangle, so you definitely need to rent a car to drive it. That said, finding parking was probably the biggest challenge and stressor for us in Provence. These cities were built pre-vehicle and there was often one large city parking garage on the outskirts of the town with very confusing directions (all in French, of course).

I will also say in a lot of places we went we were the youngest tourists... by about 40 years. It was a lot of us and older French tourists in the smaller villages, and we didn't mind one bit! After coming here from Barcelona, where dinners are late, and the vibe is young and hip, I will say it's a very different pace of life. We went from eating dinner at 10 pm, to not even being able to get a drink after 9:30 pm, because establishments were closing for the evening. But, it was good for us to hit the hay early there for a few evenings.

This also meant we didn't have to elbow other travelers out of the way and got up close experiences looking at ruins, sometimes with no one else even around. It has to be said, that makes for some great instagram-photo taking goodness. We were in Provence a the beginning of June, so unfortunately we were a couple of weeks early to see most of the lavender fields in bloom, but we did catch one! There's no way to hit all of Provence in a couple of days, but after lots of research and personal experience (I'm definitely leaving off what is not worth including), here's a list of what to check out if you have 2 days to spend in the region!



This was our first stop in Provence, and was an adorable little village. It was so nice to wander around the town, see the Roman amphitheatre, and the town square, complete with a historic church in the town square. We loved our hotel (scroll down for details on that!), located on a street facing residences. Between our location, and not many people speaking any English, we felt like we got a pretty good slice of living like the locals there!


Nimes had a lot to look at, and unfortunately, this is where we were hit with torrential downpours as we were trying to see it all. We ducked into a wonderful little cafe, but after it stopped raining, we were able to see the Arena of Nimes, Maison Caree (a Roman temple), and Jardin de la Fontaine, the oldest public park in Europe. There was also a lovely town square, complete with a fountain and restaurants.  I would definitely plan for at least a half a day in Nimes! I've given more details on some of the sites we saw below.


We stayed overnight in Avignon, and I wish we could have stayed here a bit longer! Here, we saw The Papal Palace, Pont Saint-Benezet (shown below), and attended a wine festival! This city has over 90,000 residents, so there is a decent array of ethnic food, art and cultural experiences, and nightlife that's open a bit later. 


Gordes is a small village of about 2,000, that's built on a hillside. It's a bit of a drive out of the way, but LOOK AT THAT VIEW. It was probably the most unreal and breathtaking view in Provence. There seemed to be lots of Bed and Breakfasts around the village, as well as wineries, so it would be a fun place to stay and explore, though it might be a little pricey.


I wish we could have spent more time in this bustling city! We ate dinner here at a cafe and walked around a bit, but we had to hurry off to Marseille to spent the night. There was a large shopping center and it felt busier than anywhere else in Provence we went. However, it was still very quaint. As we sat and ate dinner, it was so fun to watch locals hurry by, seriously all with baguettes in tow.

Honestly, I would recommend skipping Marseille if you're just looking for a Provenceal feel and staying somewhere else to drive the nearby airport. That said, below is a photo I snapped in Marseille, since I was too tired-looking to actually take photos in Aix. haha!


Jardins de la Fontaine (in Nîmes)

The Jardins de la Fontaine was the first public park in all of Europe! It was built around existing Roman baths and Roman ruins like the Temple of Diana, in the 18th century as part of a city beautification project. This meant there were lots of ruins and grounds to explore, and there really weren't many people around, it seemed to be mostly kids hanging out after they got out of school and then us. Highly recommend going here if you go to Nimes.

Pont du Gard (in Vers-Pont-du-Gard)

This Roman aquaduct is not to be missed if you're in Provence! My husband said it was his favorite part of our time in Provence. It was amazing how in-tact it was. Again, there just weren't that many people there, so we could walk up the hillside and explore the surrounding area without elbowing anyone out of the way. As we were leaving, people started pouring in with lawn chairs, because they were having a light and fireworks show that evening. Maybe next time we'll stay for that!

Sénanque Abbey (in Gordes)

This monastery, founded in 1152, was definitely the trickiest place to get to! Monks still live and work at the abbey, and tend to the lavender fields on the grounds. In getting there, the long and winding narrow roads on steep hills may have had us fearing for our lives slightly, but my husband, our driver, was a total pro at navigating the road. Ideally, it would be great to go on a scheduled tour leaving from a nearby village if you didn't feel comfortable risking driving. 

The city of Gordes is built on the side of the hill and is breathtaking to see! This monastery is situated in a valley at the bottom of the surrounding hills. The abbey itself is pretty bare bones, and unfortunately, we arrived slightly before lavender season (end of June to mid-August). There were a lot of people, but the gift shop did have a lot of lavender products and we grabbed some lavender essential oils for souvenirs that smelled amazing. In all honesty, I would say to come here for the view of Gordes more than they abbey—the view was maybe one of the coolest things I've ever witnessed—but you might as well stop here while you're at it!

Palais des Papes (in Avignon)

Did you know that for a period in the 1300s, there were actually two popes? There was a great schism in the Catholic church, and a papal palace was built for the "new" pope in Avignon. It's crazy to tour a building from the 1300s! A lot of paint had faded and of course linens and fabrics weren't in tact, but the tour was one of the best we've been on! 

We were given iPad-like "histopads" you carried from room to room and as you walked into a new room, new information would start playing (after having those walkie-talking looking handheld devices for so many tours that malfunction 99% of the time, this was amazing). You could hold up the histopad and it would show you what the room looked like originally, down to food on the tables in the banquet hall. There were also games you could play to collect coins in rooms, "time portals" set up in some rooms to scan for extra facts and and selfies in the style of 1300s garb you could email yourself. This would be a fun place to go especially if you were traveling with kids!


Hotel du Cloitre (Arles)

This hotel was our first stop in France and it was seriously amazing. Tucked away on a side street off of the town square in the village of Arles, it was a perfect mix of old-world and modern.

It also boasted a wonderful restaurant in the courtyard outside, which serves small plates. Everything was in French, so we only had a slight idea of what we were ordering, but everything was wonderful!  It was really fun coming from Barcelona, where we had tapas for every meal, to having a very French take on tapas here.

Hotel Cloitre Saint-Louis (Avignon)

Like the other hotel, this was also once a monastery, but has been remodeled into a lovely, spacious and modern hotel. The halls feel so grand and the courtyard in the center is filled with arched walkways, mossy fountains and trees that look like they've been there since before America was even founded.

The concierge at the front desk was lovely and we talked to her about the wine festival we were heading to, then asked her for a later evening dinner idea, and she sent us to a French-Asian fusion down the street, where they were already waiting for us with a reservation. We never would have chosen a place like that in Avignon, so it was really awesome to get that recommendation!


I highly recommend just wandering and stopping to eat nearby wherever you are. Snag some pastries and espresso at any outdoor cafe, grab lunch at a cafe, and find a neat-looking spot for dinner. It's a lot about the French experience of eating as it is the actual food you're consuming. However, eating in France can be a bit different if you're not used to it, so here are some things I would suggest:

Eat outside.
We ate outside everywhere we went except the day it was sideways raining torrential downpours. Eating al fresco makes your restaurant experience much more than eating. It makes for excellent people-watching and soaking up French life. After eating outside the entire time we were traveling, we decided we should do it a lot more when we returned home, only to come back to 104 degree weather. Eat outside while you can!

Order the lunch special. 
There are usually a couple of lunch specials and honestly sometimes we got weird looks if we asked for a menu. The server will return in about 10 seconds and if you don't have your order ready, they will never return again. So, for the sake of your sanity, get the lunch special!

Get wine with lunch.  
The locals do, so it can't be wrong! Though there is wine with every meal, the portion sizes tend to be smaller than we're used to in the U.S. A one litre carafe is perfect to split over a meal and roughly the cost that one glass of wine would be at home. 

Always order dessert and coffee. 
That's what the locals do too! That said, dessert is a way smaller portion than we're used to in the U.S. It makes a nice small bite or two if you decide to share it, and a "cafe" is just a small little shot of espresso that will be a perfect pick-me-up after a long day of walking around!

Don't expect American service. 
As I hinted at before, Americans tend to get really used to the way we interact with our servers in the U.S. A lot of negative reviews I'd see on places were because Americans were expecting American service. Let me be clear, French service is in no way worse, it's just totally different. No one really looks at menus, and you have to know what you're ordering right away. Servers do not come back to check on you after they bring you your food. You have to catch them to ask for refills or dessert, and we saw local French folks just walk up to the service counter when they were done to get their check. 

Overall, Provence was a magical place where ancient architecture is mixed into modern life. It's a lot slower pace of life than other places we've visited in France, and is rich in nature and culture. Like I said, next time, we'll just have to plan for two weeks there!

Have you been to Provence? If so, I'd love to know what your recommendations are too! 

Be sure to check out my other 48 Hour City Guides Here:
Paris (coming soon!)
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