Aix-en-Provence, Arles, or Avignon


I'm planning a trip to France this fall with my mother to celebrate her 80th birthday. We'll spend a few days in Paris, then plan to travel to Provence and Monaco. Our total time in the south of France will be limited to about 4 days. I'm thinking of staying in Villefranche-Sur-Mer for 2 nights because of its close proximity to Nice and Monaco, but I'd also like to spend 1-2 nights in Provence. I've read a lot about Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and Avignon, but just don't know which would be a good place to visit for 1-2 nights. Rick Steves makes them all sound ideal! It's hard to decide on just one! We won't have a car, so we need to be able to get to one of these towns via train.

  1. Can you recommend which of these towns we should visit? Is it easy to visit more than one, but use only one as our base?
  2. Can you recommend a hotel or small inn that is quaint, clean, and has private baths?

I'd appreciate any recommendations that you can offer.

Thank you!

Posted by Frances
Milford, MI, USA
15 posts

Thank you so much for your quick responses and for pointing me in the right direction! I'll focus my search on the 7th arrondissement. I looked at Vacations in Paris and found a few nice apartments that seem like they're exactly what we're looking for and allow us to rent them by the night vs. for the week.

You've all been a tremendous help. If you have any other suggestions on places to stay, visit, or tours, please pass them along!

Thank you!

Posted by Wayne
Washington, DC, USA
13 posts

I'm thinking that Avignon may be your best bet because you can take the TGV from Paris and be there in just a few short hours. We rented a car at the station there and drove down to Arles, where we spent 3 nights at the Hotel du Musee (absolutely wonderful). You will likely have more options for buses to nearby sights from Avignon than from Arles. Check out Rick's book on Provence. He talks about some options for day trips that buses have access to (e.g. the Pont du Gard). We only drove through Aix-en-Provence on our way to Antibes, so no suggestions there. We spent a day in Nice and it was more trouble getting there by train, then to the Musee Matisse by bus than it was worth. We stayed in Antibes and if I were to do this part of the trip over again, I'd just find a nice place to hang out on the Riviera and relax.

Posted by Adam
2923 posts

I think Arles makes a great base. It is not as bustling as Avignon (which is a quick train ride away), but has lots of charm and worthwhile things to see right there. It is also well located as a base for day trips, though some populat destinations may be difficult without a car. Still, Avignon, Nimes, & Orange are easy trips by rail, and there may be buses or provate tours to places like Les baux and the Pont du Gard.

Aix is very pleasant, but unless you plan to use it as a base from which to explore Marseilles, there is not so much to do there.

In the end it probably comes down to what you and your mother hope to see.

Posted by bluedenim
vancouver, bc, canada
421 posts

I say Arles
We spent two nights here and toured the area including avignon and pont du Gard.
Its a nice town, I would love to go back