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Rent a car in Provence for 10 days? What + How Many Cities to Stay in Provence?

My husband and I will be traveling to Provence for 10 days in early May. This will be both of our first time in Provence. (We've only been to Paris, and just once.)

We're trying to figure out whether we should rent a car or rely completely on public transportation. I think renting a car would be nice for the flexibility (we could stay outside of the cities), but not sure about parking in cities or driving.

This is our tentative schedule:

May 3: Fly into Nice from Amsterdam

May 4: Nice sightseeing

May 5: Nice side trips (Monaco & Eze. Is it possible to do both?)

May 6: Nice side trips (Cannes & Antibes both?)

May 7: Nice sightseeing?

May 8: Travel to Marseille

May 9: Marseille sidetrips (Aix-en-Provence)

May 10: Marseille?

May 11: Travel to Lyon

May 12: Lyon sightseeing

May 13: Travel to CDG airport

Some things we'd really like to do on this trip include: visiting the villages and the markets, experiencing the food and scenery, visit some locations of Van Gogh's paintings, souvenir shopping, etc.

Should we rent a car? Is there a good city or two that's in a central location? (I've seen St. Remy come up often, but that seems a bit out of the area we'll be focusing on.) Or would it not matter too much if we rent a car? Are we trying to do too much? Not enough? Any other general advice you guys have?

Posted by
4125 posts

These are great destinations, but you are missing the heart of Provence, which is east of Marseilles.

You mention St Remy, but you don't really go near it.

I'd strongly recommend redirecting some of your trip from the Cote D'Azure and Marseilles to the Rhone Valley. You could stay in St Remy if you like, it makes a great base, with a car.

Honestly, when I red the title of your post I though, 10 days is a lot! They could spend a few nights in the Luberon and still have plenty of time in the valley. Was surpised when I read your itinerary.

Posted by
3470 posts

There is a lot to say about your plan, so I hope I don't sound too disjointed.
1st of all, regarding seeing works by Van Gogh . . You say you're coming from Amsterdam. Thst's where to see his works. You can visit St. Remy and Arles, where he spent time, both worth seeing in their own right; but I don't think either has any of his works.

Some people like Marseille, but it's not where I would choose to base. Too big and urban. Provence is about beautiful countryside, charming villages, etc. Any number of towns would be more attractive. A wonderful thing to do is to stay at a b&b in or near one of them.
I also wouldn't bother with Aix-en-Provence, Just my opinion.
A good day trip from Nice is St.Paul de Vence. The Fondation Maeght is a center for modern art; and the town , itself, shows a lot of its medieval past. Yes, it's touristy; but tourists go where there's good stuff to see. Vence is also worthy of a stop.
We haven't been to Cannes, but I've read that it's not that great compared to other places nearby.

Having a car would be very convenient. A couple of times we've stayed in Nice and picked up a car when we were ready to leave.
Since Lyon isn't in Provence, I'd leave it for another trip. There's plenty to do in Provence with those days. You can get to CDG easily from several places in the south, by TGV or, by air.
Finally, or maybe it should be firstly, I suggest you consult a good guide book to help you get a sense of what to see.

Posted by
24061 posts

I suggest a guide book that limits itself to southern France (though Lyon likely will not be covered). All-France books tend not to have the same level of detail.

There's train service to most of the places you mentioned (not sure about Eze), and I think using trains would be simpler than dealing with (and trying to park) a car. However, I suspect when you dig into a guide book your plans will change. You'll add places like Les Baux, and a car will come into play. You're running out of time, though. Better get that book!

Posted by
784 posts

We based in a small village in the Luberon and day tripped from Cassis to La Camargue by car, visiting villages, hill towns, etc. for a week by car. We tend to skip the larger towns/cities when we have a car as we prefer smaller towns and villages, and we had been to Arles on another trip. My suggestion is that you spend half your time on the Riviera, perhaps based in Nice, and half of your time further east in Provence. St. Remy would be a good base, but if you look at a good map, you might come up with other ideas.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you so much for the thoughtful responses so far! This is a very rushed trip in planning AND execution, so we're feeling pretty stressed... In fact, we just decided on Provence as our destination last night! (We're also planning our 3-day trip to Amsterdam which will be right before we head to Provence, adding to the planning stress.)

After reading the replies, we are definitely tweaking the cities a bit, and will pick up a rental car at the end of our stay in Nice. We were initially going to skip Lyon but since we'd really like to come back to Provence during the lavender season, we compromised on not covering all of the cities we'd like to go this time. Still, we've changed our schedule to arrive a day earlier so we have more time in Provence, on May 2.

We watched some videos and sort of skimmed through the small section in Rick Steve's "Best of Europe" book, but the "Provence and Riviera" will be delivered tomorrow (thanks to Amazon's one-day shipping). I'm sure the book will have a lot of the details we are looking for.

Thank you again!

Posted by
375 posts

Rick has a book dedicated to Provence and the Riviera. We stayed in Avignon and did day trips all around it: Les Baux, Luberon, St. Remy, Orange, Pont du Gard, Cassis, Tarascon. All wonderful and relaxing and beautiful!