The Vaucluse region of Provence is populated by medieval villages brimming over with history and rustic charm. Vaison-la-Romaine, known as one of the most beautiful towns in Provence. It breathes ancient history and is a superb starting point to explore the region, following our insider guide to exploring Provence villages like a local.
Vaison-la-Romaine is home to the largest Roman archaeological site in the country, which is open for visitors with an interest in history. Two main sites, Puymin and La Villasse are easily accessible from the city-centre where you can walk through the superb Roman theatre and vestiges of the ancient city full of shops, baths and fountains. Vaison-la-Romaine has also a preserved medieval identity that you can explore wandering in the cobbled streets.
The picturesque centre-Ville comes alive on Tuesday mornings for the farmer’s market. The French are renowned for their reverence for food and this is an ideal opportunity to pick up some exceptional local artisanal products. Pick up your basket so you can wander from stall to stall among the fragrant scent of seasonal fruits, olives, Provencal herbs and goat cheese. Provence terroir is as famous as its lavender.
If you missed the market, you can head to Josiane Deal’s artisanal shop, Lou Canesteou, for a selection of cheese or Peyrerol Chocolaterie, which sells decadent handmade chocolates.
Take your time to wander in the centre of the village. Do not miss the open ART studio, a gallery whose small, unassuming entrance on a pedestrian street hides a stunning interior garden with a fountain and a spacious hall showing work from local artists.
When the market starts to wind down at midday, escape the early afternoon sun by heading to the upper part of town where the Bistro du’O is serving a “menu du marché”, showcasing the best of the week’s market produce. If you are next to the Roman bridge, you should head to Le Bateleur restaurant for its excellent gastronomic table focused on Provence produce.
Later, treat yourself with a visit to Léone Artisan Glacier for delicious traditional ice cream, crispy waffles or simply a coffee.
Annexe Café is at the same time a bar and a creperie with a friendly atmosphere and live music on weekends. You can sit at the terrace overlooking the central square of Vaison-La-Romaine, sip a fresh beer or ask for the recommendation of wine.
In the early evening, locals gather at the Place Montfort square in the lower part of the town, often spending a night at l’Arbre à Vins. Join them at this fabulous wine shop, where you can also linger over a plate of cheese or charcuterie while you taste some delicious local wines.
The region is a real paradise for explorers. You could discover many villages by walking, following the hiking paths, or simply cycling from a village to another, through Provence’s landscapes: vineyards, lavender fields, hilltop villages.
The region has many options for hiking accessible to all levels. Dentelles de Montmirail is an easy walk for all. A good pair of walking shoes and some water are all you need to explore typical Mediterranean plant life and protected plants and animals. Sporty types will prefer to explore the Mont Ventoux, the giant Provence mountain.
Take a morning bike ride to visit the perfectly preserved village of Crestet, perched on a ridge of the Dentelles de Montmirail overlooking the River Ouvèze and amazing vineyards. While there, you could explore the meandering cobbled streets that wind around the carefully restored Renaissance houses, before taking a look at the ancient Romanesque Church of Saint-Saveur, at the heart of the village. Before leaving the village, make sure to stop by the local bakery, La Main à la Pâte, for some fresh bread or brioche.