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Where to stay in Provence and do we need a car?

We'll be in Provence for three days in April. We have not been there before and are looking for advice. We're thinking of making Avignon our home base and doing day trips. Or, should we stay in the Cote du Rhone region or another area for the charm of a small village and make trips from there? Also, if we don't rent a car are we seriously inhibited from touring the area? Can we do it with arranged tours? Appreciate advice on all these questions!

Posted by
1443 posts

I'm planning a similar trip as a first-timer. I'm working mostly out of Rick Steves' Provence & French Riviera guidebook and travel notes given to me by a long-time Francophile. According to these sources, there are many organized day-trips offered out of Avignon, Arles, Nimes, and other towns. The various companies offer guided tours of the Pont du Gard, wine regions, Les Baux, etc. So you can probably see what you want to see just fine without a car. But there is a certain fun and freedom you get with having your own wheels!

However, my research is showing me that staying in a relatively big town such as Avignon can be problematic if you have a car. The streets can be narrow and confusing, and parking can be a headache.

Posted by
7059 posts

I would say, if you're not going to rent a car then stay in Avignon or Arles. They likely have the most options for organized day tours and also the better rail connections for independent day trips. If you want to stay in a small village for the ambiance, then you may need to rent a car. After all of the research I did for my solo trip to France I chose to rent a car in Provence for the ease of getting to the smaller, more rural, places I wanted to see. Driving in France was as easy as driving in the US, just learn the rules (speed limits, road signs, etc). I used public transportation most of the other places I went in France.

Posted by
2916 posts

You can get to a fair number of places from Avignon by train or bus, but there are a number of villages you just can't get to w/o a car. Without a car, I think staying in the countryside is a better choice.

Posted by
7 posts

Robert, do you have recommendations for countryside hotels or b&bs?

Posted by
1005 posts

The Provencal countryside is magnificent, but you will need to rent a car and keep in mind that there will be a lot of driving time. Since this is your first time in Provence and you only have three days, you might want to consider staying in Arles or Avignon and keeping to those cities. If you are serious about visiting the wine country, you could rent a car for just one day or take a wine tour. For example, you could stay in Avignon and take a day trip to Chateauneuf-du-Pape (have lunch at the magnificent restaurant right by the chateau ruins--Le Verger des Papes--which has a killer fixed-price lunch deal).

Posted by
2916 posts

Julies, when we've been in the area we've always rented gites for a week at a time, so we haven't stayed at any B&B's/Inns. But here's one, in Le Barroux, we always wanted to stay at: http://www.hotel-lesgeraniums.com/. There's a rumor that it was a favorite place for Prince Charles to stay (I have my doubts; doesn't seem up to his level), but the reviews on Trip Advisor are mixed.