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21 traditional villages in Provence you should stroll through

PUBLISHED: 15:06 18 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:16 23 May 2018

The charming streets of Valbonne ©Robert Palomba Photographe

The charming streets of Valbonne ©Robert Palomba Photographe

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Home to lavender fields, ochre stone, olive groves and bountiful vineyards, Provence is a feast for all senses and its charming villages are a concentrated dose of Provençal art de vivre. Here are 21 villages of Provence you should visit

1. Seillans, Var

This hilltop Plus Beau Village is full of historical sites, including a 12th century Sarasine gateway which is built into the fortified walls, and ancient fountain, an 11th century château, a church and a chapel. With beautiful views over vineyards and olive groves, it’s unsurprising Max Ernst chose this spot to spend the last years of his life here.

2. Banon, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

Located close to the Ventoux mountain, this charming village is a must-see during the summer as the fields of lavender surrounding it bloom. It is renowned for its goat’s cheese, named Banon. You can also admire plenty of history as a 15th-century fortified keep surveys the village and churches and chapels dot its streets.

3. Brantes, Vaucluse

Situated in the north of Vaucluse, this pretty village is well-worth a stop if you fancy tasting delicious cheese, honey, almonds and aromatic plants. It is also a favoured location for artists and artisans whose workshops and galleries you can admire as you stroll around the narrow streets and arched passageways.

4. Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

Clinging to the banks of lake Sainte-Croix, this pretty little village is a great base to explore the beautiful Verdon gorges. You’ll also find an ancient castle belonging to the Riez bishops and a 16th century church but its cobbled streets and flowery balconies are enough to conjure Provence’s feast for the senses.

5. Roussillon, Vaucluse

Famous for its iconic ochre stone which is used all over the local area, Roussillon is perched on a hill and boasts breathtaking panoramic views of the Luberon countryside. With such harmonious colours on its houses, it deserves its listing as a Plus Beau Village.

6. Eze, Alpes-Maritimes

This highly picturesque village overlooks the Mediterranean sea from its rocky outcrop. Its famous exotic gardens offer incredible views of the coastline while its castle in ruins, church and narrow streets are enough to fascinate any wanderer.

7. Gordes, Vaucluse

Set in the heart of the Luberon Regional Park, this Plus Beau Village is highly picturesque with a harmonious architecture. With its 16th century castle in the heart of the village, Gordes offers plenty of historical buildings to visit, including a palace and church dedicated to St Firmin, old lavoirs, an ancient mill and several chapels.

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8. Les-Baux-de-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône

This medieval town, sat on a small mountainous range called the Alpilles, is well known for its castle and city walls. As a Plus Beau Village de France, it has an exceptionally rich cultural heritage with no less than 22 listed buildings.

9. Ménerbes, Vaucluse

Come spring, the streets of this quaint village are full of flowers and plants making a lovely place to take a walk in. Notable sites are its belfry, a mill, a 13th century citadel and even a dolmen. This Plus Beau Village was home to artistic figures, including Picasso and Nicolas de Staël, but also British author Peter Mayle. It therefore boasts some lovely mansions.

10. Lourmarin, Vaucluse

Located at the south of the Luberon, this village, another Plus Beau Village de France, makes an ideal base for hiking around the Luberon. The village also has a castle, built in the 15th century, a church and a protestant temple, and offers a charming insight into Provence’s special art de vivre.

11. Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Alpes-Maritimes

A favourite destination for artists, Saint-Paul-de-Vence has charming winding streets, preserved fortified walls, 16th and 17th century houses and a centre for contemporary art. The surroundings are also breathtaking as you can enjoy views of the coast from the ramparts.

12. Bonnieux, Vaucluse

Perched on the Luberon Massif, this village offers breathtaking views of the planes of Vaucluse. The surrounding countryside is ideal walking country: enjoy the shade of the cedar trees or find an ancient roman bridge dating back to 3 BC.

13. Sainte-Agnès, Alpes-Maritimes

Located just north of Menton, this village is one of France’s most beautiful medieval villages. It has a fort, built in the 1930s, medieval gardens and the ruins of an old castle.

14. Cotignac, Var

A gateway to the Natural Regional park of Verdon, this picturesque village has beautiful winding streets to explore. Hugging an impressive rocky cliff from which a waterfall is bursting, Cotignac has a number of troglodyte dwellings as well as some grand 16th and 17th century homes and refreshing fountains.

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15. Séguret, Vaucluse

Overlooked by an ancient feudal castle in ruins, Séguret lies at the foot of a hill west of Mont Ventoux. Wander through its cobbled streets and you’ll find pretty fountains, squares, and houses with vine-clad walls. It also offers wonderful views of the green vineyards and the Cévennes.

16. Venasque, Vaucluse

Set on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Gorges de la Nesque and its cherry trees and vines, this Plus Beau Village has a rich religious heritage which can be seen through the many religious buildings in town such as the roman church, a 4th century baptistery, a chapel and a priory.

17. Barjols, Var

Located in the heart of the Provence Verte, this village is renowned for having seven fountains. It is a wonderfully peaceful place which used to be the home of the Provence Counts. It also used to be a very prosperous town which harboured a thriving textile and tannery industry.

18. Grasse, Alpes-Maritimes

Famous for its long-standing perfume industry, this pretty town is located on the hills above Cannes. Gallimard, Fragonard and Molinard all offer free tours of their perfumeries but the town’s cathedral, home to some works from Rubens, as well as the historical centre, are also worth a visit.

19. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

Sitting on the doorstep of Verdon’s ‘Grand Canyon’ – a spectacular ochre quarry – this village was made famous in 17th and 18th century Europe for producing delicate earthenware.

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20. Valbonne, Alpes-Maritimes

With a name meaning ‘the good valley’ in Provençal, this pretty town is tucked away in the countryside behind Cannes and offers a welcome break from the glitzy Riviera resorts. The village is built in an interesting grid pattern, contrasting with the usual spiral layout of other towns in Provence.

21. Gigondas, Vaucluse

Backed up against the impressive Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range, Gigondas is circled by ancient medieval walls, testifying to its historical past as a part of the Orange principality. It produces an excellent wine and its surrounding natural environment is particularly good for outdoor activities such as hiking or climbing.

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