Aaaahhhh Provence. Few places come to mind that, when I think of them, fill my heart with so much amour. But Provence with kids? Bien sur! There are plenty of things to do in Provence with kids!
Surely, you have seen images of Provence and its rolling hills of serene lavender as far as the eye can see. The gorgeous hilltop towns that make you want to break out into song like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Extraordinary vineyards with exquisite wine. And of course, the quiet and relaxing Provencal farmhouse with resident pets basking in the Joie de vie. There’s a reason so many artists make Provence the backdrop for so much of their work.
We have gone to France two years in a row and have found several great things to do in Provence with kids. It is a great place to relax and enjoy special family time while simultaneously experiencing French culture. And, there are several unique family experiences to do with kids in Provence. Here are my eight favorite activities to do with kids.
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There’s plenty of family-friendly things to do in Provence with kids. More than just visiting historic sites and museums, we love to have family experiences together. They make our family trips richer and create lasting memories that we still talk about, long after our vacation is over. They are also great ways for our kids to learn about France and French culture.
France is known for its cuisine, and so taking a family cooking class together is a great thing to do in Provence with kids. Most kids love cooking, and learning from a professional French chef? Well, that is a special experience.
We had the opportunity to join French chef Jacques Steiner in his home, which also happens to be a bed and breakfast, at Terres De Vignes. It was arranged for us by the company we used for our first trip to Provence, France Just For You, which creates self-guided itineraries for adults and families around France.
Chef Jacques was a chef in restaurants throughout France for over 40 years, and he and his wife Hélène regularly welcome travelers to their kitchen. Chef Jacques was wonderful teaching us how to make a gorgeous French meal, teaching us all some new skills, and allowing the kids to participate. Afterward, we enjoyed a lovely family meal overlooking vineyards. It was a fantastic way for kids to try new French flavors in a memorable way.
To book, contact Chef Jacques Steine at Terres De Vignes.
The south of France can be extremely hot in the summer, and outdoor activities in Provence with kids can be hard on these blistering hot days. In fact, on our recent trip, temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. So why not do what the locals do?
The locals head over to picnic at the Tourlourenc river, a lovely, clean stream area where you can cool down and enjoy a picnic. Some folks just enjoy a walk up and down the river and enjoy the scenery. There is an area with a bit more of a rushing stream which turns the rocks into a mini waterslide. The area leading up to the stream is a bit woodsy and bathrooms are – well, nature. Taking life slow like the French is a great thing to do in Provence with kids.
My kids loved cooling down by just sitting in the crystal clear water among the quiet of the trees. It is a really nice, simple way to enjoy a cool-down break.
Be sure and hit a boulangerie or grocery store before you come so you can bring a sandwich or salad to enjoy. There are dry rock areas where you can set your towel and enjoy your lunch. You should definitely wear your swimsuit and water shoes because the rocks hurt to walk on in bare feet.
La Pétanque is a sport commonly played in the south of France. Traveling around, you often find locals (often older gentleman) playing in courtyards or public parks throughout the region. Similar to boule, it differentiates itself by the way in which you hold the ball (with your hand on top.) Like boule, the objective is to try to score by getting your boules close to the target and often achieve this by knocking opponents’ boules out of the area. Played on hard dirt or gravel, the present form of the game was invented in Provence in the early 1900’s, so it is a special game to learn while visiting the region.
My kids love all sports, so teaching them something unique to Provence was a particularly special experience and such a great thing to do in Provence with kids. To be honest, we expected our guides to be older gentlemen wearing French caps ready to show us the ropes. Instead, they were younger men, including a local pétanque champ, who really connected with my kids.
We met our teachers in one of the local towns and actually played in one of the designated pétanque grounds called a boulodrome. We learned a lot of the nuances of the game, including how to shoot, score, cheat, and how to measure your ball to find out if you are indeed the winner! They also brought along a table full of traditional french treats, including rosé and pastis (for the adults), flavored syrup for the kids, pate, and olive tapenade to enjoy while playing the game. It was great fun and a fantastic cultural experience for our family.
To book, contact Johann Pepin of Les Pastras. In addition to pétanque lessons, his company also offers other activities in the region such as fishing trips, fossil foraging, and mushroom and truffle hunting. Recently, they were also designated as a group to work with Adventures by Disney, so you can be assured of their excellent quality tours and lessons.
An absolute must-do in Provence is to visit the town of Les Baux. A picturesque walled town with ancient houses that have been carefully restored, this lovely village can only be visited by foot. In addition to its beauty and history, it is adorned with lovely little shops selling high-quality Provencal crafts, souvenirs, and specialty foods. Afterward, walk five minutes down to the underground stone quarry which is now the site of Carrières de Lumières.
A magical, family-friendly exhibition of art, Carrières de Lumières is an amazing experience for kids and adults, where they will feel they are inside the works of the art. With artwork projected on walls and the floor in the darkened quarry, my kids were mesmerized as the oversized art appeared to be dancing to choreographed music. It was also nice and cool in the space, making it a great spot for a break from the Provencal heat. It is a wonderful way to expose children to art in an interesting and fun way.
The full run-through of the artwork lasts about an hour. You can feel free to walk around as you please and there are a few places to sit. The location also has a cafe and a gift shop. The exhibitions change and until December 2019, they are showing Van Gogh, the starry night and Dreamed Japan, images of a floating world.
Buy your tickets online in advance to skip the long lines. Ticket prices: children ages 7 and under are free; children ages 7-25 years old are 11€ each; seniors are 12€ each; adults are 13€ each; family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children ages 7-17 years old are 37€. Visit Carrières de Lumières for more information.
Provence is the backdrop for many renowned painters like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Monet – just to name a few. It is not uncommon to find modern-day artists around Provence with their easels, canvas and paints set up on sidewalks and sides of roads capturing the beautiful landscapes of Provence. On our trip to Menerbes, we saw at least four individuals doing just this – painting the streets, houses, and lavender fields from above.
Your kids can be just like Van Gogh and take a family painting class in St. Remy de Provence. It is a wonderful thing to do in Provence with kids. We booked with Christine Gazagnes who has a studio, Atelier des Jardins de St Rémy, and a gorgeous outdoor garden ideal for a painting backdrop. With her help and the help of her friend, we learned some painting techniques and skills using her home and garden as our subjects. Two of my children used acrylic paint and three of us tried watercolor. It was amazing how well our kids did with Christine’s help, and we each learned something new.
To book a family painting class, contact Christine Gazagnes at Atelier des Jardins de St Rémy.
If you want to see the places in St. Remy that inspired some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings, you can download the Van Gogh Natures app to your smartphone or take the free walking tour in the sites which inspired some of his work. You could bring a sketch pad and colored pencils or even your own travel paints, easel and canvas if you are so inclined, and visit these spots in nature. But doing the class together was a wonderful way to spend a morning doing something special as a family, with a lasting memory of our trip to Provence.
Another wonderful family day can be spent swimming and boating on Lac du St. Croix. A manmade lake created in the 1970s, when a nearby dam was built, this beautiful lake of turquoise waters is a must-see. It is a fresh and clear lake perfect for a hot Provencal summer day. It took us about an hour drive from our hotel in central Provence but was well worth the trip.
In addition to the beach, there are paddle boats with a slide you can rent that fit our family of five. For about two hours, we swam, boated and slid on this gorgeous lake at the base of the Gorges du Verdon. There is a beach where you can camp out for the day, and an area for swimming. This is a wonderful thing to do in Provence with kids.
The Lac Du St. Croix has everything you need for a perfect day trip. A parking lot with plenty of room for parking right at the lake makes it easy for access. Activities at the lake include paddle boats (with slides), kayaking, sailboats, swimming, and catamaran tours, to name a few. There are food stands and restrooms there (although be forewarned, the men’s “toilet” is a hole in the floor.) There are also several boulangeries on the way to the lake. We stopped at one and picked up some quiches for a picnic lunch on the boat. The boat rental location provides life vests. You need to bring your own towel.
About an hour drive south of Aix-en-Provence is the Mediterranean coast, and visiting the Calanques is a must-do in this area. A calanque is a geological form made up of rock, usually limestone or granite, with steep valleys, jagged edges and partially submerged under the sea. They are found in the Mediterranean, and there are many near Marseilles.
They are quite a sight, often towering cliffs and sometimes with caves that you can actually swim in. Touring the Calanques by boat is a great family activity.
You can take boats out of Marseille, but frankly, it is a big city and getting to the docks is difficult. Plus the area from where the boats leave is not very picturesque. Instead, visit the lovely town of Cassis, a beautiful French fishing village right on the ocean. Afterward, you can enjoy a meal at an outdoor cafe right in the port, visit the beach, or take a stroll through the picturesque streets full of shops.
We did a three-hour private boat tour, and my kids loved seeing the majestic cliffs. They also loved the swim in the deep blue and turquoise waters.
You can buy tickets from the ticket counter right at the marina, which is very easy to find and at the heart of Cassis. There are options for group boat tours of different lengths or you can take a private guided boat tour of the Calanques and take time for a swim in the Mediterranean. Bring your own towel. If you are unsure which to choose, the Office de Tourisme is also right at the Marina.
Calisson is the famous French cookie of Aix en Provence. It is made with almonds, sugar, dried fruits, and with a royal icing topping. They also come in additional flavors. You may see calisson throughout Provence and called Calisson du Provence; however, the original is Calisson d’Aix and can only be made in Aix en Provence with specified ingredients coming from this area to earn this name.
If you want to do something truly special and unique to Provence, book a family calisson making class and learn the intricate process for making this special cookie. Our family recently enjoyed a private, two-hour calisson making class at the workshop of Roy Rene, one of the most famous makers of calisson. It was a wonderful educational experience for all of us, with a lot of taste-testing. We also took home several tins of our hand-made calissons in gift tins as souvenirs to share with family. Afterward, you can learn about the history of calisson at the Musee du Calisson.
To book your Calisson making class, contact Roy Rene. Workshops cost 55€ per adult and 35€ per child under age 18 Child can be done in English. They are typically offered on Saturdays. You will have to wire payment to them in advance. But from booking to the class, everything went perfectly.
If you are looking for a wonderful, family-friendly bed and breakfast that can suit a larger family, check out La Nesquière.
If it is your first time traveling with kids or you have never taken them overseas, or if you just need a refresher, you’ll love:
Check out this fellow blogger’s and Parisian local’s bucket list of 20 things to do in Paris.
You may also love my guest post on TravelingMom: Paris with kids? Mais Oui!
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