Travel Guide to The South of France: a Complete Guide
Many people believe that the south of France consists only of the French Riviera, but that’s not the case. Yes, the French Riviera is in the south of France, but there are several other regions that are included in the definition ”south of France”.
When talking about the south of France, we talk about just that: regions. It’s not always that the French Riviera is mentioned, but instead, people talk about the region in which the French Riviera is situated in.
Since the south of France is often misunderstood to only include the French Riviera, the misconception is that beaches, lots of tourists, and crowded shopping streets are all there is to it, but the south of France has so much more to offer than that.
The south of France has a lot to offer for everyone’s taste and preferences. The south of France is a popular travel destination, and while the French Riviera tend to be the most popular, you shouldn’t neglect other parts of the south of France.
There’s so much to explore and so much to offer, and this travel guide to the south of France will help you get started.
What is the difference between the French Riviera and the south of France?
Okay, here’s the deal: unlike what many people believe, there’s a major difference between the two. The French Riviera is a region which is situated inside of the south of France. As such, this means that the south of France is made up of several different smaller regions. But the catch is that the south of France doesn’t have any official boundaries, and so this means that ”the south of France” per definition can vary.
The south of France can be defined, most commonly as ”a geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Marais Poitevin, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy. The south of France is also referred to as le Midi. In terms of regions, the south of France includes:
- The island of Corsica
- Languedoc-Roussillon now part of Occitanie
- Midi-Pyrénées now part of Occitanie
- Poitou-Charentes (the southern parts)
- Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Rhône-Alpes (the southern parts)
Travel guide to the south of France: The French Riviera
The most popular region and part of the south of France is, unsurprisingly the French Riviera. It is a well-known vacation resort among people from all over the world and has been so since the aristocrats first started going there first during the winter and then during the summer. The French Riviera consists of the part of the Mediterranean which is French, as well as its hinterland.
But as you may or may not know, the French Riviera doesn’t stretch along the whole coastline of the south of France, and therefore, this area consists of two regions: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, also abbreviated into PACA, and then the French Riviera.
But again, since the French Riviera has no official boundaries, it can vary based on who you’re asking. The coastal region of the south of France is very busy and very popular during the summer. Traveler’s come from all over the world to enjoy the wonderful Mediterranean climate next to the azure blue waters, and to relax on the incredible beaches.
As part of travel guide to the south of France we cannot talk enough about the Riviera, but at the same time, it’s important to explore and discover that there’s much more than that. Because not everyone likes glitz and glamour and crowding with the rest of the tourists for their vacations.
As such, in this travel guide to the south of France, we’ll all share more authentic and interesting places in the south of France that are well worth visiting, and are a good idea since the tourists don’t find their way there anywhere near as much as the French Riviera.
The French Riviera has a lot to offer, and in fact, that’s the reason why so many tourists find their way there. On the flip side, there are many people who don’t like large crowds and places which have lost their authenticity, and there are some people who mean that the French Riviera has done just that.
I would argue, though, that while there are some parts of the French Riviera that may have lost their French authenticity in favor to the tourists, there are many picturesque places on the French Riviera that are very well worth visiting and that still reflect the southern French culture and that carry a rich, authentic history, Grasse and Mougins are just two of the many towns that can offer this, which will take you a bit away from the crowds along the coastline.
Based on everything the French Riviera has to offer, it’s no surprise that it attracts millions of tourists every year. Beautiful scenery, pleasant climate, beautiful cities, and a whole lot of things to do and see, in an area that is very well alive during the summer.
The problem is that when many people think about the French Riviera, they think about beaches where people are crowding, and you have to walk for hours to find a spot to put your towel, crammed in next to some strangers.
They think about a place that has lost its true French character and has now become some kind of summer hideout and vacation spot for the rich, the famous, and the people who want to be a part of that. They think about expensive restaurants where you have to pay a lot of money for even the most simple dish.
And yes, to some extent, the summers on the French Riviera are like that, but at the same time, the tourists love it, and the French Riviera has a lot of charm.
But on the flip side, yes, the French Riviera is just like that, but not during the other parts of the year. On the other side of the spectrum, you have the iconic and beautiful lavender fields, the stunning old Medieval remains, the buildings from the Roman times, and the picturesque small villages painted in beautiful pastel colors.
The south of France really is a balance between tourist traps and incredible restaurants, crowded tourist places, and picturesque and iconic villages. As such, the south of France offers something for everyone.
If you visit during the off-season, you’ll experience the French Riviera in a completely different light, and you’ll meet a completely different personality of the French Riviera.
During the off-season, the beaches are no longer crowded, and now, you’ll be able to see the local inhabitants walking on the streets instead of families who are in full relax and beach mode.
The French Riviera has built a reputation for itself of glitz and glamour, but what you’ll learn is that during the off-ass, it’s quite different from the personality it has in the summer. Furthermore, in this travel guide to the south of France, we talk about the other parts of the south of France that aren’t as often talked about or as regularly visited, however you want to get away from the large crowds of tourists and experience a completely different side to the south of France, there are plenty of things in the south of France to do and experience.
Travel guide to the French Riviera: background
The south of France corresponds in large part to Occitania. This is the territory in which Occitan was historically the dominant language. Part of Occitania, however, are not normally considered part of the South of France.
Midi which the south of France is often referred to, derives from mi (middle) and di (day) in Old French it is comparable to the term Mezzogiorno from the south of Italy.
When the time was midday, it was synonymous with the direction of south, because France is just like all places on the Northern Hemisphere north of the Tropic of Cancer, the sun is to the south at noon. If it’s not your cup of tea to spend your holidays on the beach soaking the sun, you’ll better enjoy the areas that are located further inland in the south of France.
The South of France: A place to visit all year around
When people think about the French Riviera, they tend to think about summers on the beach. For a long time, the French Riviera has been viewed as a summer-destination only, but that is far from the case. In fact, the whole south of France has been viewed as a summer destination, but if you think that you can only visit in the summer, you’re absolutely wrong.
Sure, it’s easy to understand why people would prefer to lie on the beach when it’s over 30 degrees Celsius with a cocktail in their hand next to the Mediterranean, but not everyone likes that. Furthermore, you might want to change your activities now an then, and going off-season is a great time to do just that. The south of France has an average of more than 300 days of sunshine, and the fact is that only a portion of those days takes place in the summer.
What does this mean? It means that while temperatures may not reach 35 degrees Celsius, during the off-season, especially in the spring and early autumn, the weather tends to be wonderful, but there are at the same time plenty of things to do.
For example, if you plan on visiting the Picasso museum in Antibes, it may not make sense to visit in the middle of the summer when it’s all about sunbathing and relaxing. Instead, it might be better for activities like that during the off-season when it’s not a time to swim in the ocean and lie on a private beach.
Travel guide to the south of France: what to do
As you know by now, the south of France has something for everyone. Even though you may have preconceived notions, the south of France is so much more than a summer tourist destination. It’s a place that offers something for everyone, but most importantly, carries a rich history, offers incredible landscapes, and has a lot of things to do.
If you are planning to visit the south of France, make sure you choose your activities wisely. There are a lot of things to see and visit, but there are also things that may not interest you.
The beaten path of the French Riviera is popular, but don’t get blinded, because they are so many. Because the fact of the matter is that there are plenty of unbeaten paths that are well-worth exploring.
Travel guide to the south of France: Getting around
Getting around the south of France is quite easy, and the transportation networks are quite good.
There are many means of transportation to choose from, but it will ultimately boil down to your preferences, your budget, and your destination.
The French Riviera is quite a different thing from the south of France as a whole, since, generally speaking, the distances aren’t extremely long, and the train that stretches along the coastline will take you to all the main cities on the Riviera within a reasonable amount of time.
Renting a car
Most of the time, renting a car will be the most flexible and easy alternative. This is, of course, except if you’re going to crowded places and you constantly have to spend a long time looking for parking. Public transport doesn’t go to every corner of the south of France seamlessly, and so if you’re going to various parts of the south of France, it might not be possible to transport by public transport.
Renting a car is also a good idea if you don’t like public transport. It’s a great way to explore more of what the south of France has to offer without any restrictions and with great freedom. By renting a car, you can go anywhere you want, anytime you want, and this is a great freedom that will allow you to experience more of the south of France.
There are plenty of car rental services on the south of France that you can choose from, and you can rent anything from cabriolet sportscars to large family trucks, and anything in between to meet your needs.
If you’re coming from Nice airport which most tourists who arrive do, you have car rental services right by the airport, and this makes it a great place to pick up your rental car.
On the French Riviera, the public transportation is good. Of course, since the south of France, as a geographical location is quite large, the same can’t be said for all parts of it.
You have a great train network that goes to a large number of cities and towns in the south of France as well as a large selection of bus lines that you can take to explore the south of France.
Traveling by Bike
It’s no secret that France is one bike-loving country. In fact, the south of France is even more so.
Of course, this may not come as a secret when you have stunning landscapes and plenty of roads to travel on. In the south of France, you’ll find a large number of cycling routes to choose from, and you’ll see lots of people using them. Using a bike is not only a great way of transportation, but also makes for an amazing experience. Firstly, it allows you to see a lot of what the French Riviera has to offer, and secondly, it allows you to see things that you may not otherwise would.
Furthermore, many places in the south of France, especially the French Riviera has bike-sharing schemes for a reasonable price.
South of France travel guide: when is the best time to visit?
The answer is this: most people visit the south of France in the summer, especially the French Riviera. This is, of course, nothing strange considering that most people enjoy warm summers and wish to just lie on the beach and relax during the holidays. But if that is not your cup of tea, or if you can also do other things, then the best time to visit the south of France is any time!
With about 300 days of sunshine per year, the weather is good most of the time, and most of the time, the temperatures tend to be quite good as well, which don’t demand you to wear too many clothes.
It’s never a bad time to visit the South of France, but when you should go depends on your preferences and what you plan to do. Of course, if you plan to lie on the beaches in January, it might not be the best idea.
The beginning of summer is a highly underestimated time to visit the south of France since the weather is warm and pleasant, but the large crowds haven’t come to the Riviera and the south of France yet. At the same time, the temperatures are pleasant enough to do daytime activities, which may not be the case in the middle of the summer.
Of course, if you are going to trust the options of the crowd, the best time to visit the south of France is in July and August. Of course, at this time, the French Riviera, in particular, will be absolutely packed.
The Languedoc region
The Languedoc region is situated west of the Rhone and is known for its long sandy beaches, its many vineyards, and rocky Mediterranean. It’s an underestimated place in the South of France to visit and it is much less crowded than the south of France. Its large sandy beaches can be found between popular modern resorts such as Cap d’Agde or Le Grau du Roi.
The coast of the Languedoc region is great for people looking for great restaurant and bards, but want to experience something different than the French Riviera.
With about 200km of sandy coasts, the beaches are generally quite uncrowded.
Bordeaux & Aquitaine
This is a great place to visit if you are interested in wine since Bordeaux, in particular, is famous for its red wine, and thus have plenty of vineyards. It is a great place to go to for wine tasting.
Provence-Alpes is a great place to visit if you want to explore the mountains to the Mediterranean and other mountains in the south of France. There are plenty of mountains in the south of France worth visiting within this area, and it is a great place to go if you are looking to explore the nature of the south of France.
Nimes is the most historic city in the south of France and is a must-visit if you’re interested in history and historical remains. Nimes has plenty of Roman remains that are beautiful to admire.
In Times, you’ll find Nimes’ Maison Carrée which is a well- preserved Roman temple.
Found in the southern Alps, this is an amazing place well worth visiting that is completely different from your regular French Riviera.
If you want to get away from the large crowds of the French Riviera but still spend time in the south of France, you’ll be happy to hear that there are a lot of places in the mountains, far away from all the tourists that you can visit. Briançon is one of them. In the Alps, the Alpes de Haute Provence, you’ll find small villages and towns, many of which are perched on hillsides, creating incredible sceneries and views, and where you, maybe most importantly, can enjoy the calmness and beauty of nature.
Briançon is the capital of the High Alps department and the highest small city in Europe. If this is something for you, it’s certainly worth a visit.
The French Riviera needs no further introduction. It is known for its iconic cities and towns such as Nice, St. Tropez, Monaco, and Cannes, but also some of its popular events taking place throughout the year, such as the Monaco Grand Prix and the Cannes Festival. The French Riviera has a strong acne exclusive reputation of being a city of glitz and glamour as it attracts many of the world’s celebrities every year.
It is great for Mediterranean-style beaches, relaxing under the sun, drinking champagne, but of course, much more. The fact is, there are a lot of off the beaten path activates you can do which will allow you to get a completely different perspective and experience of the French Riviera, so if you dislike the things that the Riviera is known for, don’t call it off immediately, because with the right itinerary, the Riviera has something for everyone.
This place in the south of France is an amazing place to visit for delicious wine, Foie Gras, Truffles and beautiful markets.
Since the French Riviera includes the southern end on the Languedoc includes the eastern end of the Pyrenees, there’s a natural land barrier between France and Spain.
The line between Spain and France, the foothills of the Pyrenees are thus an absolutely beautiful part to visit. It is known for fruit and flowers, and some stunning scenery.
Travel guide to the south of France: Food
The south of France has some amazing French food to offer. After all, France is known as a country of great wine and great food. Since the French Riviera and other parts of the south of France are situated by the Mediterranean, the cuisine of the south of France is to quite an extent influenced by the Mediterranean cuisine.
Seafood plays a big role in the south of France cuisine, with traditional dishes such as grilled sardines with sea salt, Moules Frites, Oysters, Bouillabaisse, and so on.
The food in the summer, however, tends to be more focused on seafood than in the winter, which of course, isn’t very surprising, but during the winter, you can expect more traditional dishes such as sausage, sliced potatoes soaked in wine, local vegetables, lamb, dried meats, and much, much more.
The south of France, or the French Riviera, depending on where you draw the lines, is a popular tourist attraction that attracts millions of tourists every year. The south of France offers a wonderful climate and stunning scenery as far as the eye can see. The south of France is a place with lots of character, life, and history, contrasted by the stunning
No matter what you enjoy doing, you won’t regret visiting the south of France. In the south of France, there’s something for everyone, and the stunning sights and surroundings are something for everyone.