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Where to stay in Provence

This is a similar question to my Loire Valley post. We will be staying in Provence for 4-6 days in May and are wondering which town/village area is the best for a home base. We would like to use public transportation, but may rent a car if that will maximize our ability to experience more of the area. An option would be to rent a car and drive for the 10-12 days we will be in the Loire and Provence. Either way, we need a home base in each area. We prefer renting flats. Ideas? Thanks.

Posted by
1319 posts

I'd recommend renting a car. We really liked Lourmarin and rented a house there through France Homestyle. I've also really liked staying in Carpentras (Best Western), Vaison la Romaine (Le Beffroi), and Arles.

Posted by
2028 posts

We chose to stay in Arles and were very happy. We found it prettier and more charming than Avignon, which we visited. Avignon may have better train connections, but from Arles it just meant another 20 minutes train to Avignon for the change, maybe. We spent about a week in Provence, in hotels. Used trains the first few days, then rented a car to spend a few days driving around Provence, still basing in Arles. At the end, we drove onto Burgundy for a week. With 12 days you might divide your time between Provence and the Loire, though no idea of how to drive there. We spent four days there a few years ago with a car and LOVED it. We stayed in a small B&B/hotel across the river from Amboise. We liked the location, sort of middle of the valley area; drive east one day, drive west another day, etc. We never tired of the countryside, towns or all the chateaux. Driving in both Provence and the Loire was easy. Both these trips were in early May. Have a great trip.

Posted by
1518 posts

We recently spent 5 days in Arles and 5 in St. Remy. If you want to use a town/village for a home base in Provence a car will greatly improve your experience. There are so many sights and small villages to explore that even with 10 nights in the area we had to trim our itinerary. With a car you can pick and choose which to visit and how long to stay without being tied to a local bus schedule, if there is public transportation to the sights you're interested in. As for renting a flat, we rented from Airbnb in St. Remy and had a hotel in Arles. Hope this info is helpful.

Posted by
112 posts

Thank you very much for all of the information. I'm thinking that Arles sounds great. We will likely rent a car thanks to all of the persuasive comments : ). I think the added flexibility will be worth it. Thx again!!

Posted by
10344 posts

It sounds like you have decided to: 1) sleep in Arles and 2) rent a car.
I've done exactly that on visits to the area.

Perhaps an important detail, for your best enjoyment of this experience, is: try to be sure of what your overnight parking options will be before you book your Arles lodging.

What you want is relatively easy and secure car parking. I say relatively because car parking and sleeping in Arles are not as mutually consistent as many N. American visitors might assume if they have not slept before in Arles.

Recommend you pin the hotel down, by e-mail, regarding the parking issue. Know before you go. This will probably take a little extra work, because the Arles lodging websites often don't make your parking options clear.

The "Arlesque" lodging options located in the central area may offer more "quaintness" (possibly) but possibly may not offer easy and secure surface car parking adjacent to the property. The more modern, less quaint accommodations outside the central area may include more convenient and secure parking adjacent to the property.
FWIT, my experience has been that you don't get both quaint and easy parking. One or the other but not both.

To sum up, renting a car in that part of Provence is worth the trouble, assuming you want to see country locations, for example, Les Baux and St. Remy, that are not well served by public transportation.

Of course, the larger towns and cities are well served by rail. But the trains don't go into the country, since that's not where the locals live and commute to.

Posted by
255 posts

This past May we spent 3 nights in Arles and 3 nights in Buisson in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. We had a car having come down from Amboise and it all worked out great. You totally need a car to really enjoy Provence. The weather was awsome and it is a wonderful time of the year to be in that area. I would suggest that you consider the same as it made it so easy to explore an expanded beautiful area. In Arles we stayed at the Hotel Calendal with a direct view of the Roman Arena, room 43, and it was a great characteristic hotel with a nice outdoor courtyard for breakfast or drink at night. You can make arrangements with them for reserved public parking for 8 E per night. Arles is a great base and preferable to Avignon which is an easy day trip and a must do. Try to be in Arles over a Friday night for the big Saturday market. Buisson is a small village 5 minutes from Vaison la Romaine. The reason to stay there is an excellent, highly rated B&B, L' Ecoile Buissionere. The hosts are excellent and professional and can help you plan whatever kind of sights and activities that you would like.That opens up another area to explore including the spectacular scenic vineyards that are everywhere. The Sunday market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is amazing as is the Tuesday market in Vaison la Romaine. We felt that by spending 3 nights in each area we were able to see and do a lot more rather than having to return to one place each night.

Posted by
10327 posts

I stayed at Hotel Regence in Arles. They have a pay lot, but I easily found free parking across the street. The hotel is located inside, but next to the wall. That made it easy to drive in and out, but allowed us to be able to wander inside the walls. It's across the street from the Rhone River and some rooms have a view. I enjoyed watching the sun set behind the river.

Posted by
3614 posts

Kent raises an excellent point about parking. It's something that we now check out VERY carefully. Many hotels and B&Bs rather casually mention something like "public parking nearby". I'd say that nearby is in the eye of the beholder (voice of experience). Also, if a fee is mentioned, find out how expensive it will be. (voice of experience, again.) If the hotel has its own parking, be sure to determine if you need to reserve a space. (Oh yes, voe) If you rent a flat, I think it would be even more essential to get clear on the parking question.

Posted by
2526 posts

I am usually anti-car but I have to agree with earlier posts about the area around Vaison la Romaine -- it was one of the rare instances in which I wish I had a car to be able to get around to the local villages at will.
Tuesday market in Vaison la Romaine was my second favorite marche of this trip

(Number one for me was the Saturday morning marche in the Croix Rousse neighborhood of Lyon. One local shopper complained to the person at the stand I was dawdling at about the market starting to have too many tourists dawdling around -- that's one clue that it was still authentic -- the 'real' customers didn't care if I was catered to or not. Amazing baked goods at Croix Rousse marche. but shh! don't tell any outsiders.)

Posted by
1518 posts

In Arles we stayed in a hotel in Place Voltaire. We were directed to free parking just outside the city walls, a 5 minute walk, on Bd. Emile Combes. We were in Arles 5 nights and had no problem parking there, except that parking was prohibited the night before market day, but we were lucky to find free parking near the hotel that evening. You might ask if there is any free parking before you reserve your hotel/apartment.

Posted by
112 posts

This info is SO-O-O helpful. You are really educating me with great info and tips I had not considered before. I can't thank all of you enough. If anyone rented apartments, either in Provence or the Loire, I would appreciate recommendations. I am grateful for all info. Susan

Posted by
805 posts

To get to the really neat small towns etc. in Provence you really need a car as the terrain and lack of population density make public transportation pretty thin. Lourmarin is a really nice small town and is within easy driving range of most of the sights in Provence. I have no ideas about flats as we prefer the B&B route. Le Cordiere was a very pleasant B&B we stayed at in Lourmarin, I found it through Rick's book.