The history of the South is based on great builders. Always visionary, unquestionably talented, they have shaped the landscape and identity of the region. Find out about our top picks of the great monuments to visit in Provence!
Discover Roman Engineering In the North
Start your journey through the architectural jewels of Provence by winding back through history in Vaison-la-Romaine. See how the town lives up to its name as you are wowed by the beauty of the archaeological sites of Puymin, La Villasse and the Théâtre Antique. Then, take the Roman Bridge over the Ouvèze which has been there for … 2,000 years! Not far from there, the town of Orange houses two other architectural gems from the Roman era: the Arc de Triomphe and the Théâtre Antique. Finally, at the edge of Provence, the magnificent Pont du Gard, a three-level Roman aqueduct, has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985.
…and in the South of Provence
Your journey continues in the capital of the Alpilles, Saint Rémy-de-Provence, at the Glanum archaeological site. Then, let’s go to Arles, where it is impossible to take a step without seeing the remains of the old Roman city. Visit the Arènes, at which fierce fighting was carried out by gladiators under a blazing sun. Next, head to the Théâtre Antique, where tragedians recited their text before 10,000 spectators. In Arles, Constantine’s Bath-house, the cryptoporticus and the Necropolis of Les Alyscamps are also not to be missed.
Live like a Pope in Avignon
Built by the orders of successive Popes, Benedict XII and Clement VI, the Palais des Papes in Avignon is a crossroads of Provence architecture, art and history. Thanks to the Histopad, a tactile augmented reality tablet, you can see the rooms of the Palais as they were in the 14th century and experience a real immersion in this iconic Provençal monument. Look up and admire the gorgeous frescoes of the Saint-Martial and Saint-Jean chapels. Continue your visit with the Tour des Anges and let yourself be enveloped by the bucolic patterns of the papal bedroom. Complete your tour on the palace terrace: it offers a clear view over Avignon and the Rhône.
Discover Architecture with Le Corbusier
Enthusiastic about modern architecture? Your visit to Provence will inevitably lead you through Marseille and its Cité Radieuse, Le Corbusier‘s revolutionary masterpiece. Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site, “La Maison du Fada” (The Madman’s House) as the locals called it when it was being built, might, at first glance, appear to be just a concrete ship on stilts. It is actually teeming with a thousand and one details that make it a unique and historic living space. To explore the Cité Radieuse via an informative, guided tour, contact Marseille’s tourist office. After the hall and the roof terrace, you will have exclusive access to apartment No. 50, classified as a historical monument!
Forget the Rules with Frank Gehry
Led by patron Maja Hoffman and the visionary architect Frank Gehry, the Fondation Luma in Arles, is disrupting the architectural codes of Provence. Designed as an ecosystem dedicated to supporting innovative artists and building bridges between disciplines, the project is centered on Gehry’s Bâtiment Ressource (Resource Building), a brilliant and deconstructed monumental tower. The art campus also houses Le Réfectoire, a friendly canteen where local gourmet cuisine can be enjoyed. You should also go to the Parc des Ateliers, an industrial site renovated by the foundation, to explore the exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art.
Mix the Future and the Past with Foster
What do the Musée de la Préhistoire of the Gorges du Verdon and the Ombrière of Marseille’s Vieux-Port share? Their architect, Norman Foster. His elegant lines and ultra-designed style seduces art-lovers. Fun and exciting, the Musée de la Préhistoire lets you leap back in time and reveals the secrets of prehistoric animals. The Ombrière, a huge mirror ceiling on the Quai des Belges, reflects the silhouettes of passers-by, the water, and the nearby boats.
Explore the sea with Rudy Ricciotti
The Mucem needs no introduction. Designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti at the entrance to the Port of Marseille, this vast block of perforated black coral will plunge visitors into the world of modern art, where history, anthropology and archaeology meet. The Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée hosts semi-permanent and temporary exhibitions. It also houses an auditorium with shows, concerts and conferences. For the kids, head to the Treasure Island room to explore the Mediterranean and its great empires. Finally, savour the magnificent view of the Mediterranean from the restaurant of the Mucem, Le Môle Passedat.