8th May 2017

Visiting le Luberon: Four utterly charming French towns in Provence

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com

A few years ago, my mum said I absolutely MUST watch a film that she had bought on DVD from a second hand store. It’s the story of a man who inherits a vineyard in the South of France, trading the hustle and bustle of the rat race in London for the simple pleasures of life in Provence. I wasn’t much keen on the film itself, but the locations? Oh how I wanted to visit! The scenes of the endless beautiful countryside and the undeniably charming French towns are a recipe for delight – and, yes, perhaps the mention of French wine may have increased my yearn to visit Provence even more.

Parc naturel régional du Luberon is the “green bit above Marseille” on the map, as my sister Becka described it to me when we began planning our trip. The Luberon region was relatively unknown in terms of tourism until the beginning of the 1900s and began booming in the 1980s with the publication of a series of books by Peter Mayle about his life as an expat in Ménerbes. Whilst it’s still a very popular area (particularly in summer), it’s a wonderful place to visit.

The towns in this post are acclaimed as some of the most beautiful French villages in France. An independent tourism body named Les Plus Beaux Villages de France ranks small, picturesque villages across the country, aiming to promote them without turning them into tourist theme-parks or soulless museums. However, with such a prestigious title, I’m always a little skeptical. Are these villages really as beautiful as people say?

The answer is yes, they are. This is the image of France that you conjure up in your head: the romantic, beautiful rêverie in which people carry their baguette in hand while cycling down the street, where the tablecloths in the brasseries are chequered in red and white, and where people don’t seem to do very much apart from walk their dogs, drink coffee, and chatter in the alleyways. There truly is something quite magical about all of these villages; they have an irresistible charm that lures you in and makes you want to linger a little longer… and in Provence, why not? The relaxed, laissez-faire feeling exhumes from the very cobblestones beneath your feet. Just driving through the surrounding countryside whisks you away to a world of sun-kissed happiness.

My sister and I decided to spend a few days in the South of France as an excuse to practice her French before her speaking exams at university. Despite visiting one of the most touristic parts of the country, we spoke entirely in French from the moment we stepped off the plane, and I was surprised to find my French isn’t too rusty after not speaking it for three years! Armed with a road map, car keys and a list of filming locations, we set out on our mission to find those utterly charming French towns featured in Ridley Scott’s ‘A Good Year’.

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com


Gordes

Inarguably pretty, this hilltop village is set amid the countryside of Parc National du Luberon, with endless views of the surrounding fields. Acclaimed as the capital of the Luberon region, Gordes gets its popularity from its undeniable good looks. The tiny streets lined with stone buildings seem to transport you into an enchanting fairytale scene, but really, it’s more than just a pretty face. Bursting with restaurants, cafés and boutique shops, Gordes also has a thriving art scene. Worth a visit is the nearby Sénanque Abbey with its lines of lavender set just outside.

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.comCharming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com


Roussillon

This terracotta town is a little different to the rest; it appears to blend into the reds and oranges of the surrounding nature in the area. The ochre cliffs are a must-see; their assertive shade is a distinct contrast to the greenery of the vast landscape. The sediment from these rocks was first used as a natural paint in pre-historic times, and has since made a come-back in this delightful town. Roussillon showcases the beauty of the natural paint. Its vibrant, long-lasting colour makes ochre the perfect material with which to coat the buildings throughout the town, and make it an intriguing place to spend an afternoon.

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com


Lourmarin

Another small but inviting village, Lourmarin’s alleyways are filled with shops selling books, gifts, arts and crafts, and many a souvenir to remind you of your time in Provence. It’s the perfect place to linger for a while and observe day-to-day Provencal life, with its courtyards of brasseries, cafes and restaurants opening out onto the streets. Just outside of the town is a 15th century château with views onto the fields of surrounding vineyards, olive groves and almond trees.

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com

Bonnieux

If you are driving from Roussillon to Loumarin, Bonnieux is impossible to miss, with the spire of the 12th century Vieille Église (Old Church) rising into the sky. Once a fortified village, this charming town offers plenty to see and do as it’s a little bigger than the previous villages mentioned in this post, with many more restaurants, cafés and a market on Friday mornings. Or you may enjoy simply wandering the winding streets, noting the oh-so-quaint architecture of the 16th century houses, and gazing at the expansive views of the fields of crops and distant Luberon mountains.

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com

Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com


Where to stay in Provence:

We stayed at a number of budget accommodation options in Provence, all of which I reserved just a couple of days in advance through booking.com. Use the form below to browse accommodation listings, or why not try AirBnB?



Booking.com

How to get around

We chose to rent a car with Interrent while we were in Provence, simply because it gave us the most freedom. You can easily visit all of the above villages in a day, and there are many more beautiful villages in Provence to add to your list, such as Lacoste, Ménerbes and Vénasque, among many more. Use a free offline GPS app such as Here We Go (Nokia) to help you get around.


Charming French Towns in Provence - spinthewindrose.com

Have you visited any of these charming French towns?

Thanks for reading & happy travels!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something from the linked site, I’ll earn a tiny (and I mean tiny!) commission at no extra cost to you, which contributes to running this blog.


Shop my travel essentials for Provence


Like this post? Pin it!

Charming French towns in Luberon, Provence, France - spinthewindrose.com

28 responses to “Visiting le Luberon: Four utterly charming French towns in Provence”

  1. LenaAmeri says:

    Luberon looks incredible! Love all of your photos! Breaking your post down by which cities to visit was so helpful and I have such great ideas for my trip now. Thank you!

  2. Inge says:

    The Provence really is charming and welcoming! Great destination for a relaxed sunny vacation 🙂 I really love your pictures too! Thanks for sharing!

  3. France has so many charming spots to visit, all these little villages are so pretty! Literally all of them look like a postcard. It´s been years since I´ve been to France – now it´s a bit too much for my budget, but would love to get back one day and explore Provence…btw. I loved seeing your pictures from Provence on instagram too 🙂

  4. Marvi says:

    The towns in Provence looks really amazing! It seemed like you had such a relaxing vacation. 🙂 The view of Gordes is absolutely breathtaking, great capture! 🙂

  5. Flo says:

    All these towns are so incredibly charming! I’d love to make it over to explore these French towns one day, I have yet to make it past Paris. Beautiful wanderlust-inspiring photos, Abbi!

  6. Kristina says:

    I miss Europe SO MUCH. Your photos are like a fairy tale. I haven’t had much chance to explore Provence, so this was particularly lovely. What a charming town.

  7. What a charming place! It reminded me of parts of Cortona, Italy!

  8. I really want to visit Province!!

  9. This looks like a fantastic little road trip! I’m ashamed to say I haven’t visited France outside of Paris, but this has definitely inspired for to explore some more of the country, I love little towns and villages like this 🙂 how long was your road trip? And do you think it’s possible to travel that area when you haven’t spoken French since GCSE? ?

    • Haha – you can definitely see Provence without any French at all! But the locals do appreciate a bonjour and merci of course. It’s actually quite a popular area with tourists but is so beautiful, it’s easy to see why! We did a week in total which included two days in Italy – but we saw all of the towns in this post in one afternoon (driving from Avignon through Luberon and south to Aix). I hope you make it there someday! 🙂

  10. Catherine says:

    Lovely article and beautiful photos. You make it all look so charming and peaceful… Magnifique! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Kristine says:

    I’m gonna bookmark this!! I live in France and often go on roadtrips within the country with my boyfriend. Haven’t been to Provence yet! I love your photos… Makes me impatient to visit these idyllic places!

  12. LC says:

    How lovely is small town France?! I’ve only been to Aix in this region, but would love to visit some of the smaller villages one day.

  13. Laura says:

    Beautiful photos! This looks so stunning. Currently planning a trip to France in the summer so this has been bookmarked! Thank you for sharing

  14. Great post, really enjoyed reading it. Your pictures are beautiful and the ochre cliffs looks incredible! Think I’ll have to check them out one day!

  15. These towns are beautiful!! I’m sad to say the only place I’ve been in France is Paris, but I really hope to change that some day! 🙂

  16. Christie says:

    Your photos are AMAZING! This is exactly what you picture when you think of France. I’ve been to Paris, Lyon, and Annecy, but Provence is an area I’m still dying to visit. I’ve been looking into spending a year in France teaching English and improving my French, so Provence might be the perfect place to do that!

  17. Anshula says:

    I love your photos and post! The towns seem so picturesque! I’d love to visit Roussillon, I’ve never seen terra cotta architecture and it sounds so interesting!

  18. Aarti Kamath says:

    What a shame I never made it these places while in France!!… Well, hopefully when i am in France later this year, I will keep a few days for one of these towns. Roussillon looks quite interesting to me – Something different :).. Thanks for the wonderful pics

  19. C-Ludik says:

    Lovely photos, brought back memories. There is no doubt that the Provence is France’s hidden gem… and I do not say it because I’m french 🙂 . My favorites places are Gordes and Roussillon !

  20. Wow! The first two could be from Game of Thrones! They are so pretty!!!

  21. Paroma says:

    This post is pure good karma meets serendipity, because I am planning a trip to Provence this Aug. I have bookmarked your post for reference. Thanks so much!

  22. Alice says:

    I’m from Paris and I don’t think I’ve been to Luberon even when I was a kid… It looks amazing though the way you depicted it and now I’m much more into these quiet little villages… It really makes me want to go, I should plan this soon!

  23. Great blog post. It looks so beautiful

  24. You visited four of my favourite villages in the Luberon – it’s such a stunning place isn’t it! Next time you visit make sure you go to Goult too – it’s underrated but so beautiful 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.