Looking to take a great day trip from Nice, France? Well, there are lots of amazing villages that you can stop in throughout the Provence region. The best part? Each town is just a few kilometers away. Every village is absolutely breathtaking and full of medieval flair, wonderful shops, and mouth-watering culinary treats. With so much to see and do, you could plan multiple day trips from Nice to spend more time in each location.
That said, each village does have its own particular charm, and some may be more up your alley than others.
I did this excursion in the form of a road trip with my friend Georgeanne. We rented a car, traveled to the mountains, and saw some of the most famous Provence villages. These include Saint Paul de Vence, Tourrettes-Sur-Loup, and a tiny medieval village called Gourdon.
Here are some highlights from each provencal town – along with some tips for villages we didn’t see – including highlights, can’t-miss sites, and other important tips.
Click to watch my Provence Road Trip travel vlog below!
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Hotels in Provence
You may be wondering where to stay in Provence. Because the south of France is such a popular location, there are great hotel options in pretty much every city that you stop in. Turn your day trips from Nice into a longer visit with an overnight stay in a village! Here are some of the best hotels in Provence that offer laid back luxury:
Organized Tours vs Car Rentals
If you’re interested in a day trip from Nice, and you want to explore Provence, you’ll have to decide between an organized tour and a car rental. We rented a car through booking.com, and it cost less than $100 for 24 hours. Make sure to organize an automatic car if you cannot drive a standard stick shift. That said, what we liked about having the car is that we could really take control over our day. We could check out the locations that we found most interesting, and modify our schedule based on how we were feeling and how much time we wanted to spend at a particular location.
In Provence, you can also take part in many great organized tours. Check out Get Your Guide below for great tours from Nice to Provence, as well as other day trips from Nice.
Interactive Day Trips from Nice Map
Saint Paul De Vence
Our first stop on our day trip from Nice was in Saint Paul de Vence. This beautiful medieval town is absolutely gorgeous and really vibrant. There’s lots of shopping, food, and activities to do here – but lots of tourists, as well. I recommend coming early in the morning and then heading out to the next town before the tourist buses arrive at around 11:30 am.
The No. 1 thing to do in St. Paul de Vence is shop! There are so many shops to choose from, and you can find beautiful art, lavender, and long-lasting souvenirs like Provencal tablecloths and napkins.
Personally, I found an amazing small decorative baking pan (pictured below) that sums up my entire trip on the French Riviera and in Provence (aka lots of sunshine and swimming in the Med!). I love it and it now sits in my office reminding me that life is better on The Med.
Want to try something besides shopping? There are tons of museums in Saint Paul de Vence, and you can always find work by great local artists. One particularly famous museum is the Fondation Maeght. It was built in the 1960s by an art collector named Aime Maeght, who collaborated with artists like Chagall, Braque, and Joan Miró to create the unique and modern space. To get there, you have to take a small stroll through the pine forest, and it can be a really meditative, wonderful experience.
Or, if you’re looking for something a little more lively, there are always festivals, exhibitions, and concerts happening in Saint Paul de Vence. Find the full schedule of upcoming events listed by their office of tourism – you can even schedule your road trip around the event of your choosing.
Overall, we spent about three hours in this village. We didn’t stay for lunch because there were tons and tons of tourists, but it was certainly worth spending some time here.
Note: There’s great parking just above the main entrance to the medieval city, and it was very convenient to get in and out of the area. If you don’t feel like driving, though, it’s also really easy to get there from Nice via organized tour. You can book one here.
After a morning in St. Paul de Vence, we headed 7km up the road to Vence.
The next stop on our day trip from Nice was the Matisse Chapel in Vence.
Supposedly, in his last days, Matisse was cared for by a nun here. As a gift to her, he painted part of the chapel, and you can still see his work today.
The only problem for us was that that the chapel is closed on Mondays, and that’s the day we went (whoops!). When you’re traveling in France, things are often closed on Sundays and Mondays, so keep that in mind if there’s a certain place that you have to see and don’t make the same mistake we did!
There really wasn’t much to see in Vence besides the Matisse Chapel, so we quickly moved on to our next town Tourettes-Sur-Loup.
Next on our day trip from Nice, we headed to the town of violets, Tourettes-sur-Loup.
Tourettes-sur-Loup essentially translates to turrets above the river Loup, or the river wolf. This town is incredibly quiet and peaceful, so if you’re looking for a relaxing, gorgeous, and leisurely stroll – without the hustle and bustle that you’ll find in other towns – this is the place for you.
In Tourettes-sur-Loup, there’s still great shopping and great photography, but not nearly as touristy as St. Paul de Vence. It’s really everything you would ever want from a medieval town in the middle of France.
Since the town is known as the town of the violets, we really made a point of trying every culinary treat that we could with violets, including violet ice cream, candied violets, violet jam and violet perfume. My favorite was the violet ice cream; not too sweet and very creamy.
If this is something you’re really interested in, you can also plan your trip around the town’s Violet Festival. This annual event takes place every year in the first week of March (the actual date changes from year to year), and it’s meant to celebrate the end of violet season and the beginning of spring.
The festival starts at around 9:30 am and includes a Floral Procession down the street, along with a Flower Battle that everyone is welcome to take part in.
While in Tourettes-sur-Loup, we also stopped at a small restaurant called L’Epicerie for lunch. We decided to share both specials – one was chorizo, ratatouille with tomato with roasted pork loin, and the other was a delicious avocado salad with prosciutto, melon, and tons of other veggies. Both meals were amazing and certainly much richer and heavier than the food along the coast.
After our perfect lunch and shopping, we jumped in the car and headed to our next town on our day trip from Nice, high in the mountains called Gourdon.
Gourdon is another small, quaint medieval village high in the mountains overlooking the vast landscape of Provence. It’s a really quick stop – there are lots of things to do in Gourdon, but you can basically check everything out, including all the shops that you’d like, in about 2-3 hours.
Our first stop was at one of the town’s gorgeous perfumeries. There are tons all over town, so if you’re interested in finding a unique French perfume, it’s definitely worth your time.
The village is also lined with beautiful shops selling all kinds of artisanal goods, including soap, honey, nougat, hand-blown glassware and paintings on silk. If you’re looking for unique goods that you won’t find elsewhere, this is really the place to go.
Finally, as one of the “perched villages of Provence,” Gourdon offers gorgeous views of the countryside. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the coast – so make sure you take advantage of these gorgeous vistas if you make it to Gourdon.
After seeing the highlights of Provence, we headed back towards the coast, and Nice. Our final stop was Le Bar-sur-Loup.
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After Gourdon, we decided that we would hit one more town on our day trip from Nice before heading back to the coast. We decided to stop at a very famous town called Le Bar-sur-Loup. I read an article about the thirteen villages that you have to see when you’re in France, and this town was on the list.
As we pulled in, I thought it might be a five-minute town, and it was a perfect way to end our day. If you have time and you love adventure travel, Le Bar-sur-Loup is a great jumping-off point for canyoning, rappelling, and various water activities along the river.
At the end of the day, we arrived back in Nice happy, exhausted, and with our arms full of gorgeous souvenirs to take home to our friends and loved ones. Overall, I would recommend this road trip – and I would certainly take it again. Each town was so unique and different. The drive to each village was beautiful, the topography was always changing and there was so much beauty to see along the way.
I highly recommend that you plan day trips from Nice, if you’re ever visiting the Nice, France area.
If you've been on a day trip from Nice, or road trip to Provence? Comment below and let me know your favorite Provence village to visit!
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