Although many tourists flock to France during the hot and crowded summer months, perhaps the most delightful time of year to visit the South of France is autumn. The colorful outdoor markets, cobblestone streets of hilltop villages and rolling vineyards have been turned back to the locals after the summer tourist invasion and the cold, violent Mistral winter winds have not yet arrived. The days are sunny and breezy and the temperature warm, but not too hot.
Autumn also brings the grape harvest in the Côtes du Rhône wine region, so if you make the voyage to Provence in the fall, you will be lucky enough to see trucks overflowing with grapes winding through the country side. Avignon, where you can visit the old papal palace and Roman aqueducts, also has a Côtes du Rhône wine festival to celebrate the grape harvest. You can stroll the narrow cobblestone streets, go to wine tastings and enjoy local cuisine. Cool fall evenings and the relaxed Provençal way of life will make you wish the early days of fall would never end and you could stay in Provence forever.
Top 5 Fall Destinations in Provence
- Avignon: Visit the historical Palais des Papes (Papal Palace), where 14th-century popes fled the corruption of Rome, without the hoards of tourists like in the summer months. The Côtes du Rhône Wine Festival also takes place here in early November.
- Les Baux: In the shadow of ancient hilltop ruins, Les Baux is a sleepy little town near Arles. In the valley below the scenic, white-stone ruins is a beautiful valley full of grape vines and olive trees. Changing autumn foliage and the disappearance of most tourists make this a perfect fall destination in Provence.
- Saint Remy de Provence: Located about 20 km south of Avignon, this small, Gallo-Roman village was once the home and inspiration for Vincent Van Gogh. With its Roman ruins and stone buildings built in a protective circle around the center of town, this sleepy little town is the perfect place to relax, take in the scenery and enjoy French provincial life.
- Aix-en-Provence: This is the center of trade for the South of France. The town sees bushels of olives, vats of wine and huge amounts of almonds travel through its center. The city is also the center of trade for many textiles and leathers. Enjoy the amazing outdoor markets with the locals here.
- Carpenteras: Try to come through Carpenteras on a Friday morning, when hundreds of vendors take over the streets for an outdoor market. Here you can sample fresh almonds in the fall, peruse fresh cheeses, olives, oils and fruits (figs in the autumn). This pedestrian friendly agricultural center is a great place to do some of your best French market shopping.
Now, because I’m a full-service guide and because you seem like a nice person, here are a ton more useful links to help you plan a trip to Provence in the fall: