Where to Stay and Things to Do in Provence, France

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Provence With Kids

There’s a dream vacation out there for everyone. Some envision lazy days on an island in the Caribbean, while some of us harbor fantasies of an African safari. For me, that dream has always been Provence in the South of France. Medieval villages, rolling vineyards, and miles of lavender; I’ve been dreaming about Provence for as long as I can remember. This past summer, my family and I decided to finally make that dream a reality. 

brown steeple of historic building in Provence with blue skies

Provence is not a typical destination that comes to mind when planning travel with kids. In fact, the region is known for its laid-back vibe. Sleepy villages, leisurely lunches, and open-air markets may not sound like family-friendly fun, but I’m here to tell you that Provence has plenty to offer for kids. And it makes for one of the most beautiful, relaxing vacations you’ll ever experience. 


Where is Provence?

Located in Southeastern France, Provence begins near the lower Rhone River and stretches all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. When most travelers imagine Provence, they may think of bustling towns like Aix-en-Provence. They might even think of the French Riviera and cities near the Mediterranean coast like Nice. But if your vision of a French vacation consists of ancient stone villages, winding roads, and vast lavender fields of Provence, then you are in fact, dreaming of the Luberon.

Known as the heart of Provence, the Luberon region is located between Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. The Luberon is home to dozens of picture-perfect villages, including the cliffside town of Gordes and the medieval hamlet of Lacoste. We chose to stay in the town of Gargas, in an area known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ of the Luberon. The ‘Golden Triangle’ is the area between the hilltop villages of Ménerbes, Oppède-le-Vieux, and Bonnieux. To its north is the village of Gordes. It was one of the best places to base our family for a five-day trip.

Getting There

You can reach Provence in two ways. The main airport is Marseille, about an hour and fifteen minutes from where we were staying in Gargas. We chose to take the high-speed TGV train from Paris to Avignon, a trip of less than three hours. In Avignon, we rented a car from the European agency Sixt. However, there are also offices for Hertz, Enterprise, and other well-known chains steps from the train station. 

Do you need a rental car? The short answer is yes. When we first planned the trip, we resisted the idea of a car rental. We thought we would hire a driver for a full day of exploring. Fortunately, our resort strongly recommended we rent our own car and it was one of the best things we did. Provence is all about exploring, and you will want the freedom of being able to set off on your own and create your own itinerary.

The roads are clearly marked, and easy to navigate, and the scenery is spectacular. Many of the villages are a mere few minutes apart, so having a car is the best way to linger longer or move on when you want. During the five days we spent in Provence, we saw nine villages. We explored a village or two every morning before returning to our resort to unwind each afternoon. It was the perfect place for relaxation and discovery. 

Where to Stay in Provence

When choosing where to stay in Provence, you’ll find an abundance of options, but most of them are rental villas, bastides, or small boutique hotels. For full-service resorts, there are few choices. We chose to stay at Coquillade, a Relais & Chateaux resort in Gargas. A Forbes Five-Star resort, Coquillade is a 63-room and suite resort set on 100 acres. The resort is located within Aureto Vineyards. The great thing about staying here is that many rooms have vineyard views. We got full Luxe Recess amenities for our stay with comped breakfasts daily and a resort credit, too. (Book your stay here).

sunset over the vineyards in Provence, France

Arriving at the gates of Coquillade, you drive up a long drive flanked by olive trees. Coquillade was built on the site of an 11th-century monastery and there are a few remaining buildings and artifacts at the resort. Laid out like a small Provencal village, rooms, and suites are spread across a series of low-lying buildings and joined by cobbled pathways and gardens. The effect is so charming that it’s hard to believe you haven’t stumbled upon a movie set. 

viewpoint with mountain backdrop and green landscape

At Porte cochere, we were warmly greeted and offered champagne or rosé, snacks, and drinks for the kids. Almost everyone at Coquillade speaks English and the service was always prompt, attentive, and friendly. It was a great place to stay for families, as our three kids (19, 16, and 13) were welcomed wherever we went on the property.

We booked a family suite at the resort. The package also came with a full breakfast for five daily, as well as a couples massage at the spa. Upon arrival, we were upgraded to two adjoining rooms, one with a king and one with two queens, and they added a rollaway as well. We questioned whether the family suite we booked would be more spacious, but were quickly assured that our rooms were the better option. After seeing our two enormous adjoining rooms with vineyard views and expansive balconies with loungers and dining tables, I had to agree.

Room décor is rustic elegance, with an emphasis on stone and natural materials that echo the Provencal landscape. White bedding and neutral modern furnishings are comfortable and luxurious but don’t try to compete with the beautiful views. Rooms come with minibars stocked with snacks, candy, sodas, and local craft beer. Room rates are all-inclusive of the minibar, an incredible value. My kids were able to help themselves to soda, candy, and snacks like Oreos or Doritos whenever they returned to the room. During the nightly turndown service, the staff replenished the minibars.

Resort Fun

Coquillade has three pools, including an indoor pool. During the summer months, the resort offers kid-focused programming and babysitting services. However, there is not a dedicated kids club. An expansive fitness center has state-of-the-art equipment, and outdoor whirlpools facing the vineyard. The 21,000-square-foot spa is the crown jewel of the resort. With an indoor pool, tea salon, hammam, hydrotherapy, yoga studio, and a full menu of treatments, it’s a destination spa worthy of a visit. The spa is also one of the great values of the resort. All guests can access spa amenities at any time, even without a treatment appointment. I spent many days enjoying the hydrotherapy pools and sauna, in addition to an incredible massage one afternoon.

outdoor pool with blue skies

Coquillade has five dining establishments, two of which are seasonal. The resort’s fine dining venue, Avelan, serves upscale local cuisine, while Les Vignes is a casual outdoor restaurant set along the edge of the vineyard. We had a magical first meal at Les Vignes, enjoying wood-fired chicken and beef, fresh salads, and postcard-worthy views. Cipressa is an Italian restaurant near the pool serving pizza and pasta. Its sister venue, L’Ange Bleu serves outstanding pizzas, salads, and charcuterie poolside. The Bar and Lounge has light bites and kid-friendly favorites. The bar’s terrace is where you’ll find the best views, which stretch all the way to Saignon. 

Traveling to a rural part of France, we wondered whether there would be other families at our resort. Most of the clientele when we visited in late July consisted of well-heeled families, with most hailing from Switzerland, Germany, or France. There were two other American families visiting during our trip, and both were repeat resort guests. After meeting a mom from Manhattan at the pool, I told her I had already fallen in love with the resort. She pleaded with me not to spread the word, saying, ‘We’ve been coming here for years, this place is our little secret.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the cat would soon be out of the bag: Coquillade was recently voted the #1 Resort in France by Travel and Leisure magazine. 


The Luberon is a world-renowned cycling destination and there are many local biking companies that specialize in excursions. Coquillade has a 2,000-square-foot cycling center on-site with e-bikes in every size so the entire family can enjoy outdoor activities. Guests can book a full-day excursion tailored to their interests or a full or half-day cycle rental. We booked a four-hour half-day cycle tour one morning and opted to add a guide to show us some routes. Since the region is hilly, the resort stocks mainly e-bikes, and my kids had a blast learning to use them. Our guide, Christophe, was kind, patient, and informative, pointing out local landmarks and historic points of interest as we rode.

As we left the resort, we cycled through miles of vineyards. We even passed the original Papal Palace used by the Pope before the Palais du Papes was built in Avignon in the 14th century. We rode on to the village of Roussillon before tackling a hilly trek up to the village of Gordes. A regular fixture on TikTok videos and Instagram posts, Gordes is known as the prettiest village in Southern France. Many travelers consider it one of the most beautiful villages in Europe.

Perched on a hillside, it appears as though the entire town is ready to topple into the valley. Christophe gave us time to explore the town before we hopped back on our bikes and rode the short distance to the village of Goult. We stopped at the Moulin de Jerusalem, a 17th-century windmill in the village before filling our water bottles in the town square’s fountain. 

As a family that does not cycle regularly, we found the day to be invigorating, enjoyable, and safe. Once or twice, we had to traverse a stretch of busy road. Our guide was careful to wave along cars and keep my kids safe and protected during the journey. Cycling through miles of vineyards and exploring hilltop villages as a family was one of our favorite things about the trip. It was a day that will endure in our memories forever. 

Hiking & History

In order to truly see Provence, you have to get out and explore the many distinct villages that dot the region, each with its own architecture and personality. Roussillon is the closest village to Gargas and a five-minute drive from our resort. Known for its vibrant red buildings, the village is colored by the sand from the nearby Sentier des Ochres, one of the largest ochre deposits in the world. Known as the ‘Colorado of France’, Roussillon has great hiking trails in the Sentier des Ochres and it is one of the top tourist attractions in the area.

steep grassy cliffside in Provence

The hilltop village of Gordes is one of the top things to do while in the Luberon. The village’s stone streets, excellent dining, and boutique shopping are a big draw, as is the outdoor local market on Tuesday mornings. Nature lovers can also visit the Caves du Palais Saint Firmin. This network of caves under the town is where the original residents worked and lived. If you’re an Emily in Paris fan, head to lunch at Clover Gordes, a hillside restaurant that was the setting for a Provencal lunch scene in Season 3. 

We visited the village of Menerbes twice during our stay and had dinner at Bistrot le 5, a charming outdoor restaurant with views of the entire valley. Menerbes is the setting for Peter Mayle’s famous memoir, A Year in Provence. The village is home to art galleries, a cathedral, and a quirky but expansive corkscrew museum. We also did a wine tasting at a nearby vineyard, Domaine de la Citadelle. They warmly welcomed our kids – our oldest was even invited to taste the nine wines featured that day. 

Provence is an ideal place for families that enjoy history. It was first inhabited by the Romans, who named the region Provincia Romana, later shortened to Provence. Many artifacts from Roman times still stand in Provence, like the UNESCO-listed Pont du Gard near Avignon. In the Luberon, families can visit the Pont Julien, located just beyond the village of Bonnieux. 

Castles in Provence

If castles are what your family craves, there are plenty throughout the region worth visiting. Our first stop was Chateau Lacoste, a crumbling castle dating back to the Middle Ages. It was once the home of the Marquis de Sade. Though his story is not exactly kid-friendly, we had a great time exploring the ruins and walking the narrow streets of the medieval town of Lacoste. Interestingly, much of the village is an art colony occupied by students studying abroad from the Savannah College of Art and Design. 

historic buildings on grassy cliff in Provence

Though the village of Saignon does not offer much in the way of attractions, it is worth a visit. You can explore the picture-perfect city center with its fountain that resembles a scene right out of a Disney movie. From there, we drove across the Clarapédes Plateau. It was a striking drive across vast fields of lavender with views of Mont Ventoux in the distance. Crossing over the Luberon Massif, you reach the village of Lourmarin, our favorite village of the trip. Chateau Lourmarin is a centerpiece of the town, nestled in a valley surrounded by olive groves and almond trees. It was converted from a former fortress into a castle in the 15th century and offers a great guided tour, scavenger hunt, and activities for kids. Lourmarin has plenty of shopping for local gifts and crafts, and we had a delicious lunch at Brasserie L’Insolite. 

A Dream Realized

If you’ve ever seen pictures of Provence and wondered if it is as beautiful as it looks, I can confidently tell you, it is. Visiting in late June and July when much of the lavender was in full bloom was the best time of year to experience the region’s sunny yet dry weather. Our kids still talk about which town was their favorite. They reminisce about the delicious food and laugh about the day we biked to the top of one of the world’s most beautiful villages. We spent mornings exploring local towns and enjoyed indulgent lunches, followed by relaxing afternoons at our resort.

two men and a woman posing for camera with Provence in backdrop

Many, many times over the course of the trip, my husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. Our months of planning had resulted in something even better than we had imagined. As the sun set each evening over the vineyards and valley, it was easy to see why the light in Provence is so famous. It was an otherworldly landscape, a painting come to life—a dream turned reality.