Provence is definitely one of my new favourite parts of France. I’ll be telling you the best things to do in Roussillon, which soon became one of my favourite towns in Provence. When I was younger, I used to go to France every year, to the Dordogne. I have also been to Paris a few times and to the North, Mont Saint Michel and Etretat. It was great to come back and explore more of the south of France. There were so many beautiful towns here, my favourite of which were Roussillon, Gordes and Moustiers Sainte Marie.
Unfortunately, lavender season was over by the time we were here at the beginning of August, but we managed to find an even more amazing hidden gem! Did you know that France has pink salt pans? I’ll be showing you the one we visited at the end of this post. Even without lavender and sunflowers, there is plenty to see in Provence!
Best things to do in Roussillon
Visit the most Instagrammable spot
Place de la Mairie is home to the most picture perfect town hall. It is a very popular spot, so you may have to wait a while to have photo here by yourself. If you go in summer, I would recommend going here very early, as it was so hot when we went later on in the day. I had a very fast photo here before we ran back into the shade. Once you have taken some photos here, head to one of the many cafés surrounding the town hall. All around are 18th century homes.
The orange buildings are all because of the large amounts of Ochre in the area. There is a lovely walk you can do called the Ochre trail, which I will explain below. Ochre is an earthy clay coloured pigment.
Walk the Ochre Trail – Sentiers Des Ochres
Incredible bright orange clay rocks surround the village of Roussillon. For just a few Euro, you can walk the trail right through these. The walk takes about an hour, but there is also a shorter walk for those who don’t want to spend an hour in the heat hiking. I would definitely recommend going here as early as possible, as it gets very hot and there is no shade anywhere.
If you have ever been to Bryce Canyon in the US, it really reminds me of it. You walk right through huge pillars of orange earthy clay.
Have lunch in a Cliffside café
We had lunch at Chez Nino, the entrance is on a little street just by the parking in the main square. However, only the till is at this level, the restaurants then has lots of steps down and many different levels. This is one of my favourite things here in Roussillon that everything is built into the rock. We had a Croque Monsieur here which you must try! It is like a toasted cheese and ham sandwich with lots of melted cheese on top, and this one also had lots of herbs to make it especially tasty. The meal came with chips on the side and a salad and I think it was about 13 Euro each. They also had Croque Madame, which is the same but with an egg on top!
There are plenty of other lovely cafés but this one was reasonable priced and had the perfect view. Another bonus was that it had water sprayers to keep you cool, as it really was hot when we were there.
The market day here is a Thursday. Here you can buy lots of locally grown vegetables and fruit.
Visit one of the art galleries
Roussillon is home to eight art galleries! If you are an art fan, then this is the perfect village for you. Lourmarin was also full of art galleries, so head there for more amazing art galleries.
How to get here?
We were doing a road trip through Provence and were staying at Coquillade Village. Roussillon is a 10-15 minute drive from here. It is about an hour drive from Aix-en-Provence where we spent the last few days of our trip. If you are staying closer to Valensole for the lavender fields, then it is also about an hour from here. From Marseille, on the coast it is also just over an hour away. I would recommend staying in any of those places.
Remember to keep your card handy on the roads in France if you are on a motorway as the French love toll roads! When we drove from the South of France back to the Netherlands we spent about 50 Euro plus on toll roads.
Where to park?
There is one car park right in the centre of Roussillon, it is free but only for 45 minutes. There is a bit of shade here and if you have a blue card saying what time you arrived then you can stay for 45 minutes. A lady patrols the parking so make sure you don’t outstay your welcome! The best place to park is just at the beginning of the town; at the top of the hill you drive up to get here. For a few Euro you can park here all day. There are lots of shaded spaces and the parking meter even takes card and contactless payment.
Where to stay close to Roussillon?
This is a stunning hotel that we stayed at for a few nights, near to Gargas and Roussillon. It is really secluded, on it’s own hill in the middle of cast amounts of vineyards. They have acres of land you can enjoy. The rooms are incredible, with very comfortable large beds, Jacuzzi and lots of space. The breakfast was divine, with all kinds of French cheese and breads. We also had dinner here one night and I would recommend the steak and the pasta dishes. The pool is also very instagrammable, it really is a beautiful place to stay and relax by the pool for a few days. However, it is also a great base for exploring the nearby villages.
This is another one of my favourite villages in Provence. Set right on top of a hill with incredible views. This is slightly more lively than Roussillon but with the same beautiful architecture and lots of little streets.
This is another stunning little village in Provence. There is an impressive castle and lots of lovely streets to wander around. The main square has lots of cafes and restaurants to choose from.
This is a great place to stay if you want to stay in a town rather than a village. There are plenty of restaurants here and nice places to stay. We actually stayed in an Air Bnb here very close by to Aix. We prefer small villages, but Aix is a lovely town and not too busy.
What else to do nearby?
See the lavender fields!
For this you need to come between June and the end of July. We were here in August and all the lavender had been harvested. Also all the sunflowers were dead, so come well before August.
Go kayaking in Gorges du Verdon
We didn’t have time to do this but a lot of people recommended it to me. Verdon gorge is a river canyon with incredibly colourful water. It even has white water rapids, and you can kayak among the huge cliffs either side. You can also go rafting here.
Visit the pink salt pans down south!
This was one of the most incredible places I visited during this trip! This salt pan is absolutely incredible and not the usual touristy one that everyone goes to. We managed to find our very own salt pan and we really were the only ones here!
Read more: The best place to see a pink lake in France
What season is the best to visit Provence?
Depends what you want to do here!
August when we went was roasting, and perfect if you want to lie by the pool and relax. However, it really was too hot to wander around al of these towns. We don’t have AC in the car so it was a struggle at times!
The best time is June to July. After this the lavender will be harvested and the sunflowers will all be dead. Even when it was cut the lavender fields looked amazing, with all the lavender in rows for as far as the eye can see. However, it’s not the same when it is all green!
There were lots of people cycling everywhere when we were here. There are some lovely routed through the villages. However, it is quite hilly so be prepared!
Taking a road trip through France?
Things to remember:
France is full of toll roads, so always keep your card handy to pay. Some roads cost up to 35 Euro, so they aren’t cheap.
If you are planning a big road rip in France, always leave early. The tolls get very busy, as you have to wait in a huge queue to pay, so avoid this by always leaving as early as you can before a long drive. On the drive from Italy to France, we waited once for an hour and a half to pay for a toll road in France!
Planning a European Road Trip? Here are some more destinations to add to your list!
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