Départements: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04), Haute-Alpes (05), Alpes-Maritimes (06), Bouches de Rhône (13), Var (83) and Vaucluse (84)
Provence encompasses the snow-peaked lower Alps and their foothills, descending in the east almost to the coast, and extending to the west to just before the Rhône. Central Provence features high plateaux and a hinterland of steep, forested hills covered in pines, eucalyptus and wild herbs, while to the west, the marshlands of the Camargue are famous for their wildlife. The Luberon and its vine-covered lower slopes are a well-established country retreat for Europeans and Americans, thanks in part to Peter Mayle’s best-selling tales of life here, and it is the location for many upmarket holiday homes.
Perhaps the most desirable stretch of the Mediterranean coast, the Côte d’Azur, runs from Hyères in the west to La Napoule in the east, taking in a string of former fishing villages turned pleasure ports such as Le Lavandou, St-Tropez and St-Raphaël. Turquoise seas and sandy beaches, the heady scent of pine and eucalyptus plus the Mediterranean sunshine combine to form a potent cocktail, but in peak holiday season this can also mean traffic jams, crowded streets and high prices.
Although developers have been quick to capitalise on the region’s popularity, there are still small stretches which have resisted their advances. The southern end of the Saint-Tropez peninsula, the Corniche de l’Esterel and parts of the Corniche des Maures will appeal to those who prefer a more traditional style to the glamorous chic of St-Tropez.
The population of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is 4,9 million – a figure which rises considerably in the holiday season. Average temperatures range from 12°C (54°F) in February to 28.2°C (83°F) in August, but this is across what is a very large region, and temperatures can (and do) reach freezing point in Provence.
Property in Provence is more expensive than most other parts of rural France, and real bargains are few. Seemingly cheap and cheerful properties can still be picked up for as little as €40,000, but what might appear at first glance to be a charming, ramshackle cottage is in fact a major renovation project needing a total makeover, including new roof and sanitation, so you’ll need to have the necessary funds, vision and energy to pull it off.
Homes tend to be slightly cheaper heading north from the coast, and the A8 autoroute running east to west marks the boundaries for this divide. The Var and Alpes-Maritimes can be happy hunting ground for those wishing to spend a little less, with village houses currently priced between €175,000–350,000 . Overall, the demand for property in Provence seems to be as high as ever; it’s worth bearing in mind that Provençal holiday homes in good locations can command high rents from May through October.
The Côte d’Azur is certainly one of France’s hottest property spots, and in terms of prices, the sky really is the limit; head inland to find more reasonably priced choices. For a bijou residence within easy reach of the coast, the old town centre of Nice has one-bedroom apartments from around €175,000. There’s a good mixture of older, traditional property and newer, modern villas and purpose-built apartments, so all tastes are catered for. You’re unlikely to pick up a bargain in this area, but a well maintained and furnished holiday home in good order should have excellent rental potential, provided it’s within easy reach of the coast, local shops and restaurants.
See also: Provence property for sale
Getting here is easy; the region has four airports (Avignon, Marseille, Nice and Toulon) and there are plenty of direct flights available from a variety of UK airports. See flights to France
HIgh-speed train travel is also an option, with services running from Paris – Gare de Lyon and Lille to Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille; Eurostar offers a TGV service from London to Marseille and Avignon RailEurope and SNCF – French National Railways
Cities and towns: Avignon, Digne, Gap, Nice, Cannes, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Toulon.
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