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12 Days in south of France - itinerary suggestions

My husband and I are planning a trip to south of France next August. We fly in to Nice on August 8 will have about 12 days in the south of France. Our orignal plan was to stay in Nice for a few days and then leisurely make our way down towards Marseille and catch a flight from Marseille to Barcelona on August 19 , where we'll meet up with friends for the next part of our trip. We are not planning to rent a car, so looking for suggestions for the 12 days. We travel very light (1 carry on and small backpack each), so moving from place to place is not an issue, although we're also considering having a few base towns like Nice or Antibes and take day trips. We love to walk and visit historical sites. Would it be doable to include Avignon area in the 12 days? If so, what would be a good base town?

Posted by
2624 posts

Since you’re flying into Nice stay there. Good day trip options by direct train are Villefranche sur Mer and Monaco.

From Nice take a direct train to Avignon and sleep there so you can take direct trains to Pont du Gard and Nîmes and a direct bus to Uzès. Avignon is where you need to stay if relying on public transportation to get around Provence.
From Avignon take a direct train to Marseille and sleep there a couple nights so you can spend a day at the Calanques.

Posted by
15448 posts

There's enough to see in Nice to fill 2 days if you want to visit at least one of the art museums (I loved the Chagall museum). It's easy to day trip to towns on the Riviera by train - Antibes, Villefranche (my favorite), Menton, Monaco and a few more. There are convenient buses to nearby inland towns as well.

I spent 2 days in Marseille before taking the train to Nice (about 3 hours) and enjoyed that as well.

Posted by
9733 posts

August can be very warm, even along the coast, I'd check average temperatures before committing to any travel inland. With 12 days, you could go further along the coast and avoid flying by taking the high-speed train from one of the following.

You have several choices of stops to pick and choose from west of Nice. Although the train from Nice to Marseille is local and takes quite a bit of time, Marseille is a jumping off point for going to Cassis and seeing the Calanques. Be aware that Marseille can get very hot and Cassis is full of visitors in August. You have to change trains to stop in Cassis or backtrack from Marseille.
Nimes is an hour beyond Marseille by Intercité train. Local trains will be longer, but Nimes has its Roman ruins, museum, and bus connections to the Pont du Gard and Uzès, as mentioned above. You don't need to go further inland to Avignon or the Nimes TGV station as buses leave from Nimes center, too..
A half-hour from Nimes is Montpellier, with its historic center and tons of activities. The beaches are sand west of the Rhone, BTW.
Fifteen minutes beyond Montpellier is Sète, a picturesque town, largest working French port on the Mediterranean and full of local traditions.
You still have Narbonne, a Roman capital, beyond Sète, and then Perpignan, which is French Catalan.
On the Spanish/Catalan side you could stop at Girona or a couple of other places.
So with all these to choose from, a high-speed train that takes you to Barcelona in no time, you have plenty to visit and can lower your carbon footprint during the smoggiest month of the year by taking trains. The high-speed train to Barcelona stops at all of these cities along the coast except Sète. From Montpellier, it's 3 hours, and even less further west.

Posted by
34 posts

Thank you for all of these lovely suggestions! I especially like Bets' suggestion for staying along the coast while making our way towards Barcelona, especially the towns mentioned west of Marseille! With all of the suggested places to visit, are there a few towns that are a little more low key and less crowded in August that we could stay 3-4 nights while making day trips, or would it be better just to continue moving west and staying 1 or 2 nights in different towns along the way? For instance, would Hyeres or Toulon be a better option than Marseille or Cassis to stay for 3 nights or so? Or is it worth staying a few nights in Marseille instead? Nimes or Montpellier? Of course, I like the idea of lowering our carbon footprint by taking trains, but it may make more sense to rent a car if we aren't spending more than a day or two at any place.

Posted by
613 posts

Hyeres is lovely and a great stop. Porquerolles island is just off the coast. This also makes for a great car trip, although traffic can be a bear on the St. Tropez peninsula in August (really unpleasant --- coming down from the main autoroute directly to Toulon/Hyeres is better). These are all sandy beaches as well.

A car can make the the countryside easier to navigate and more time efficient (and making the heat a bit more bearable). Just not in the big cities like Marseilles and Nice where public transport is much better (or St. Tropez in August). You can even stay in a place like Arles and use a rental car for part of the journey. It could also be useful west of Marseilles because you can get access to less crowded beaches and towns more easily. You just have to return within the country to avoid a bigger drop off fee.

BTW, Nimes is among the hottest areas in France in the summer -- that region has some of the hottest days on record in France.