Southern France travel recs
February 16, 2020 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Howdy, the wife and I are putting together 8 days along the southern French coast and wondered if you had any "oh holy crap do this" recommendations? Thinking of flying into Marseilles and getting a car, and maybe doing Saint Tropez, Porquerolles Island, Cannes, Antibes, maybe Nice, Monaco, whatever. Help me!
posted by xmutex to Travel & Transportation around France (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The calanques are beautiful. I saw them from a boat tour that departed from Marseille's Vieux Port, and I can recommend doing it that way, but there is also the option to hike in (I believe it is strenuous and not allowed during the hottest months because of fire risk).
posted by aws17576 at 9:37 PM on February 16, 2020

Porquerolles is great but very expensive, so plan accordingly. I remember there being no affordable options to eat out, and the grocery was also small and expensive.

Loved Nice. Personally I found Antibes forgettable.
posted by egeanin at 10:46 PM on February 16, 2020

Hmm. If you are not set on that itinerary, I have flown to Marseille, taken the train from the nearby station to Nimes. Used Nimes as a base to take the train or bus to Montpellier, Arles, Tarascon/Beaucaire, Saint Remy, and Avignon. It's almost effortless. This itinerary includes Roman amphitheatres, a Roman temple, a 15th century castle, a 17th c? 18th c? aqueduct adjacent to a gorgeous park with spectacular views, the pope's palace, plus the usual parks, "vieux villes", markets, covered markets, and large "places" lined with cafes, all within walking distances of the train/bus station. Better experienced in the fall, after the heat dies down.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:54 PM on February 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Very broadly, there are 2 "southern French coast" options. If you head east from Marseilles towards the Italian border then you have all the places that you mention. However you can also head west towards the Spanish border: the route takes you through the Camargue and then along the coast of Languedoc Roussillon. Places to see like Sète, Montpellier, Agde - as well as the national park of Haut Languedoc. All of France's southern coast can get busy in July and August - but Languedoc is a little less hectic and expensive - while still being interesting.

Travelling to coastal destinations in August, especially, is not something you want to do accidentally: because that is when most of France is also there. On the other hand, it can be good to be somewhere where basically everybody is on holiday and the atmosphere is relaxed.

(Third option, I guess, would be Corsica: I have not been so can't comment: but it is sufficiently large and different to make a separate itinerary - you can fly directly or ferry from Nice)
posted by rongorongo at 1:05 AM on February 17, 2020

Eight days isn't a long time. Find a beautiful base like Nîmes and take a few day trips out by bus or train. Other towns not mentioned: Cassis and La Ciotat would be beautiful bases if you want to be right on the water and visit the calanques. Do avoid July and August if possible. Corsica is supposed to be great, but I only speak from others' experiences.
posted by Elsie at 6:18 AM on February 17, 2020

If you get further into September, you'll be in Féria season, and Nîmes and Arles, among other places, will be in full festival mode.

Aix-en-Provence has a really nice town center, especially on market day.

If you're in a car, do yourself a favor and spend just a little time researching parking options in the various destinations before you go. I parked in a big underground facility in Nîmes--convenient, but at a cost. I also remember having to park at beach parking in Cassis and haul my suitcase up the road to the hotel.
posted by gimonca at 7:34 PM on February 17, 2020

Of the towns I sailed into with my uncle a few years ago, Porquerolles was the most relaxing and pleasant, and Antibes was the most elegant and beautiful. but I'll admit we only spent a few hours in each before retiring back to the sailboat.

The Calanques are amazing. I'd see about getting a boat tour that either docks someplace, or drops anchor in one of the coves and lets you go for a little swim.
posted by intermod at 8:05 PM on February 17, 2020

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