No other region of France inspires expat dreams quite the way Provence does. With its rolling fields of lavender, sun-baked stone medieval villages tinged with the scent of orange blossoms, lines of stately cypress trees, and daily blue skies, it seems to wave the essence of beautiful living before our eyes.
Provence is a sweeping area at the centre of the Alps-Provence-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region of south-eastern France. It shares a border with the Languedoc-Roussillon region as well as the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps. France’s second largest city, Marseille, is its capital, but many people tend to gravitate to smaller popular towns, such as Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and Arles, or the small, heartbreakingly picturesque villages for which the region is best known.
This region takes all of the best parts of France and wraps them up in a very French bow of fascinating history and culture, beautiful weather, excellent food and wines, laidback atmosphere, and, of course, the glittering waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s also close to the Italian border—less than an hour away in certain areas—so it’s the perfect starting point for travelling around the region.
Given that Provence offers some of the best year-round weather in France, it’s a great expat location for those seeking a new life in long days of sunshine and blue skies. The region boasts 300 days of sun, and warm weather that stretches from April through October. Winters tend to be cool with some rain, but rarely dip below freezing. The excellent weather allows expats to enjoy the region’s many outdoor activities at any point during the year.
Provence also makes an excellent destination for those wishing to be near other expats. The region’s charms have attracted a huge international community, particularly many Americans, Australians, and British. You’ll almost certainly have a selection of Anglophone social groups that offer a range of activities, from book clubs, to wine tasting groups and hiking.
Next to its beauty, the Provençal lifestyle probably holds the most allure for expats. Life moves more slowly in the sunny south of France. Even in larger cities, like Aix-en-Provence, people are inclined to take their time and appreciate the natural beauty and bounty the region offers.
Naturally, this being France, food plays a major role. Virtually every Provençal town either has an outdoor market or is within a short drive of one. These markets offer fresh, regionally-produced fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, and olives, all top quality.
In Provence, too, you will also be tempted by local products: lovely bowls carved of olive wood, bright linens and tablecloths, wicker shopping baskets, and lavender products, soaps, honey, sachets full of fragrant buds. The markets alone can make you want to live there.
In larger towns, expats can enjoy their pick of eating options, from traditional local fare to ethnic cuisine.
Given the large number of tourists Provence attracts, even small towns and villages—unlike other parts of France—offer a diverse range of dining spots. The area has a range of Michelin-starred restaurants, but you’ll also readily find plenty of delicious three-course prix fixe meals. Depending on your location, you can pick up street food such as panisse (chickpea fritters) or pissaladiere (onion tart) and enjoy local fare.
Though Provence is known for its food, there’s more to life than eating here. Those who enjoy leisure activities can spend time exploring the vast region, which is geographically diverse. Provence is home to tranquil sandy beaches that offer kitesurfing, canoeing, or sailing on crystalline turquoise waters, as well as wonderful mountain ranges with trails for Sunday strollers to advanced hikers.
Provence is also home to hundreds of scenic medieval villages and towns worth visiting, many with attractions such as Roman ruins, centuries-old churches, museums, and special events and festivals. You can find jazz festivals and art exhibitions just about everywhere in Provence.
But equally renowned are the gatherings that focus on local specialties, like the “Cherry Festival” in the cherry-growing town of Venasque, or the “Feast of the Vineyard” in the winemaking towns of Vaison-la-Romaine and Rasteau.
Thanks to its movie-star looks and pleasant climate (and let’s not forget Peter Mayle’s infamous book “A Year in Provence”), the cost of living in Provence is higher than other regions of France. Still, you can find surprisingly affordable areas.
Popular towns near the coastline tend to have inflated prices compared to small inland towns. For example, rent for a small, furnished one-bedroom apartment in Aix-en-Provence runs about $920 per month (current), while the same amount will get you a large, two- or three-bedroom, fully-furnished house with a garden in the hilly green heart of the Var department, about 50 miles further inland.
Provence really is about living the good life, and the opportunities are endless. If you’re moving to France, find out how our international removals team can help to arrange packing, storage and transportation on your behalf.