7 Hidden Gems in the South of France
The South of France is blessed with gorgeous weather, miles of sandy coastline and amazing cultural attractions. One of the biggest challenges when visiting is choosing exactly where you’re going to stay. You might be tempted by the eye-catching names like St Tropez or Monaco, but there’s a lot to be gained by trying somewhere a little different. Here are seven amazing hidden gem destinations that are well worth visiting.
It’s often overlooked for more famous names like Nice and Toulouse but for many people, Montpellier is the traditional vision a French city: stylish, elegant and cultured. Large student numbers and a multi-cultural population ensure that this is a city with a charm unlike anywhere else in the country.
And alongside its own allures, Montpellier is outstanding for its truly superb location. A stone’s throw from virtually deserted Mediterranean beaches and a short drive to the fairy-tale walled town of Carcassonne, it also has its own airport and excellent transport links. If you’re looking for a practical base, with beautiful holiday villas to explore the South of France from, Montpellier might just be the perfect place.
Straddling the border with Italy, Menton takes an influence from both countries. It’s a sedate example of a beautiful French Riviera town with easy access to lovely beaches. The picturesque old town is well preserved and you could spend a day just marvelling at the scenery, but there is plenty of competition for your attention too with the Jean Cocteau Museum, Mare Nostrum brewery and beautiful gardens all within easy reach. If you visit in February you might be lucky enough to catch the annual Lemon Festival which is a true celebration of lemons like you’ve never seen.
Sometimes overshadowed by better known neighbours like Cannes and Nice, Antibes is well worth a holiday in its own right. Divided neatly into two sections, the delightful cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways of the town centre are home to cute local restaurants and boutiques. In the other, Juan-les-Pins, you’ll find one of the most wonderful stretches of beach anywhere in France. The town was home to Pablo Picasso for a number of years and today you’ll find a museum dedicated to his works that’s worth a visit.
4. Ile de Porquerolles
Said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Ile de Porquerolles is an island that sits just off the coast from Toulon. This is a beautiful Mediterranean island that’s just a short ferry journey from the mainland, yet it remains relatively untouched by UK visitors, so you can enjoy a unique vision of Southern France here.
Given its cutesy name, you’d be forgiven for assumed that Barcelonnette is a misplaced model village of Barcelona – the reality is far more appealing. Snuggled at the foot of the Southern Alps, the slim streets offer a bounty of traditional Provencal living with little cafes and shops to explore. During the festival season in August, the town takes on a truly Mexican flavour. It’s unlike anywhere else in the region.
6. Le Grau-du-Roi
A seaside secret sitting beneath Nimes and Montpellier, Le Grau-du-Roi has been a popular destination for French holidaymakers for many years – British tourists are only just beginning to see its potential. It’s a lovely destination for the whole family and you’ll get to holiday the way the French do!
For many visitors to Southern France, Marseille is an airport and nothing more. But to discard it this way is to miss out on a city going through something of a renaissance. Marseille was European Capital of Culture in 2013 - which has seen a development of new museums, restaurants and more. It is France’s second most populated city and shouldn’t be missed.