South of France's Best Places to Visit

South of France's Best Places to Visit
Hotel Airelles Gordes la Bastide in Gordes. Courtesy of Airelles 

A guide to arts and culture in the region during the off-season from Rich Report.

Travelers everywhere are seeking more than a seaside escape after a year in quarantine that felt like a cultural desert. Instead, they are seeking destinations that nourish the mind, body, and soul. It is often overlooked that the South of France is also an epicenter of culture, despite its glitzy beach resorts and yachts. 

Despite this, travelers are exploring the South beyond the French Riviera as a result of its recent renaissance. The South of France is filled with art and culture this fall, from Corbusier's Marseille, which was named European Capital of Culture in 2013, to Provence's Luma induction into Arles. 

This new estate and cellar were designed in collaboration with architect Francois Fontèssolely for Gerard Bertrand. Courtesy of Pinterest 


The Abbaye de Fontfroide and the cathédrale Saint-Just et Saint-Pasteur in Narbonne are often visited by tourists for a day trip, but recent developments are making the case for longer stays in Narbonne. It has over 1,000 objects, temporary exhibitions, films, and interactive displays about Narbonne's ancient Roman history, and was designed by famous architect Norman Foster, so it makes an excellent place to start. Narbonne is mostly known for its wine, however. 

Gerard Bertrand is practically synonymous with Narbonne, as most wine lovers know. Bertrand has expanded his footprint in wine, design, and hospitality. There will be 11 new Villa Soleilla suites at Château l'Hospitalet as well as a beach club at Narbonne Beach on his new wine resort. 

Also, Bertrand unveiled the new estate and cellar of Clos du Temple, which was designed by Francois Fontèssolely and features a great room that overlooks the vineyard 180 degrees. A private chef, pianist, and wine tasting are included in this hotel room, which is priced at 5,000 euros per night for the one-percenters who wish to stay on the property.

Luma Tower. Courtesy of Pinterest 


If you want to experience the best of Provence, you must rent a vintage car through Provence Classics. Provence is known for its lavender fields, charming villages, and culinary excellence. 

Check out one of the region's most charming towns, Airelles Gordes, La Bastide, and begin your trip with the uber-luxe Airelles Gordes, La Bastide. Once you've anchored yourself at La Bastide de Marie, you can visit the markets in Ménerbes and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, which is known to insiders as the home of interior designers. After a little more antiquing, visit Hotel Crillon le Brave in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for some more antique shopping. 

With Luma Arles, the 27-acre multidisciplinary art and cultural campus in Parc des Ateliers, Arles is definitely the buzziest town in Provence for art lovers this year. Maja Hoffmann's Zurich-based contemporary art nonprofit, the Luma Foundation, will use the winding Frank Gehry-designed stainless steel tower to house exhibition galleries, seminar rooms, studios, an auditorium, and archive and research space. 

The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, the Le Rencontres d'Arles international festival of photography, and a swarm of art galleries can be found deeper in town.

Unité d'Habitation de Marseille. Courtesy of Pinterest 


Despite long being overshadowed by the more pristine seaside towns of the French Riviera, Marseille has recently been recognized as the European Capital of Culture in 2013, which has brought a surge of creative energy to the city. It's impossible to mention Marseille without mentioning Corbusier's influence. 

Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation, which is now also home to Ora Ito's Mamo gallery, is undoubtedly his city; his influence dominates the architecture across the urban landscape. He originally designed the building in 1952 as the first of a series of housing projects he developed that focused on communal living where people could live, shop, play, and come together. 

The same can be said of Marseille itself. It is a city that is full of everything you want in a city, including art, culture, good food, and a seaside setting. In the fishing village of Les Goudes, where it is set on a cliffside, the Tuba Club is clearly inspired by Corbusier's Cabanon style lodge. The hotel and restaurant was designed by renowned architect Marion Mailaender. 

Take a hike along the Calanques or take a tour by boat aboard Le Don Du Vent. If you're planning a spring trip, consider staying at Les Roches Blanches in neighboring Cassis.

Palais Bulles. Courtesy of Vogue 

French Riviera/Cote d’Azur

Take a visit to Le Palais Bulles, Pierre Cardin's former holiday home in Théoule-sur-Mer, near Cannes, on the way to the French Riviera. The property was designed by Hungarian architect Antti Lovag for French industrialist Pierre Bernard before it was acquired by the designer in the early 1990s by the late designer.

There's also a new underwater museum built by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor near Cannes, comprising a series of sculptures on the island of Sainte-Marguerite, which you can visit for free. Afterwards, visit Saint-Paul-de-Vence's medieval town and stay at Chateau Saint-Martin & Spa or La Colombe d'Or. 

The Fondation Maeght is a modern art museum built by architect Josep Lluis Sert in the 1960s that showcases works by Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, and Alexander Calder.

An older building next door houses Fondation CAB, a museum with several exhibitions spaces and a guesthouse for a truly immersive experience. It was renovated by French architect and designer Charles Zana in the 1950s.

A visit to The Rosary Chapel, the late 1940s work by Matisse, is recommended before leaving for Nice. The Musée Matisse in Nice is where you'll find more Matisse before continuing your tour of the French Riviera with Le Corbusier's Cabanon and Unités de Camping, located along the same coast line as the E1027, a villa by Jean Badovici and Eileen Gray.

Cabanon de le Corbusier. Courtesy of Fondation le Corbusier
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