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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 27 May, 2023
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

Mention art in Provence, and two names immediately spring to mind: Cezanne and Van Gogh (see bios below). But the region offers so much more than the duo who created the iconic images of its lovely landscapes.

Although Provence can’t match the explosion of contemporary art along the neighbouring Cote d’Azur, new foundations, galleries and museums have sprung up, notably in Avignon and Arles, with outstanding collections.

Van Gogh 

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) moved to Provence in 1888, during a time of ill health. He fell in love with the landscape and the rich light, and decided to stay and try to set up an artists’ colony.

Initially, he settled in Arles, where he created over 300 paintings and drawings, some of his best-known works – including the famous Sunflowers paintings (now held in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, National Gallery in London, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Sompo Japan Museum of Art in Tokyo).

The following year, however, in 1889, after a bout of poor mental health, Van Gogh committed himself to the St-Paul-de-Mausole asylum just outside Saint-Remy. There he painted more of his masterpieces, including The Starry Night, now displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Cezanne 

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) was born and died in Aix-en-Provence. A so-called ‘Post-Impressionist’ painter, he is credited with laying the foundations of modern art by bridging the gap between the 19th-century Impressionists and the later works of Cubist painters like Picasso. His style was highly unique and distinctive, using planes of colour and small brushstrokes to create complex paintings on natural forms that inspired both Matisse and Picasso.

One of his favourite landscapes to paint was the Montagne Sainte-Victorie Mountain, which overlooks Aix. He created a now world-famous series, exhibited in different art museums around the world. See a catalogue of his most famous works on Wikipedia.

Recommendations

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Angladon Museum

Avignon, Provence, France

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Bucket List Experience
Inside the museum, three paintings hang on three different coloured walls.

A superb private art collection in a townhouse, including the only Van Gogh in Provence. There are also paintings by Chardin, Manet, Cezanne, Degas, Modigliani, Sisley and Picasso.

Adult price: £7

Best for ages 18+

Cezanne’s Studio

Aix-en-Provence, Provence, France

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Bucket List Experience
The interior of Cezanne's studio, with art implements and still life objects.

The studio where French artist Paul Cezanne painted – evocatively preserved, as if he had just put down his brushes.

Adult price: £6

Best for ages 13+

Estrine Museum

Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Provence, France

Close up of a a book on the biography of the painter Van Gogh

In an 18th-century mansion, this museum bases its exhibits on Van Gogh’s complaint that living artists were unfairly ignored. It has a fine permanent collection of 20th- and 21th-century works, along with a Van Gogh interpretation centre.

Adult price: £6

Best for ages 18+

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Granet Museum

Aix-en-Provence, Provence, France

Exterior of the Granet Museum, a low stone building with steps leading up to a red door.

A must for any art lover, this museum holds one of Provence’s top art collections, including works by Cézanne, Rubens, Rembrandt, and the Collection Planque.

Adult price: £5

Best for ages 18+

Lambert Collection

Avignon, Provence, France

Exterior of the stone building

Two beautiful 18th-century mansions in Avignon host this contemporary collection. Established by Yvon Lambert, a renowned art collector, the collection features works by renowned artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Cy Twombly.

Adult price: £8

Best for ages 18+

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Petit Palais Museum

Avignon, Provence, France

Exterior of the Little Palace Museum

Papal Avignon was the centre of the European art for decades, and over 300 works of (mostly) Italian medieval and renaissance paintings and sculptures commissioned by the wealthy prelates of the church, including a Botticelli Madonna, are displayed in this 14th-century palace.

Best for ages 18+

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Pierre-de-Luxembourg Museum

Villeneuve-les-Avignon, Provence, France

Close up of a famous painting

Museum housing masterpieces of French International Gothic art, including Enguerrand Quarton’s famous Coronation of the Virgin. It’s housed within a former cardinal’s palace, and named after the renowned cardinal who resided there in the 14th century. Exhibitions range from medieval sculptures and religious art to Renaissance paintings and decorative arts.

Adult price: £3

Best for ages 18+

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Reattu Fine Arts Museum

Arles, Provence, France

Exterior of the stone building showing entrance

Set in the 15th-century Grand Priory of the Knights of Malta, this museum features tapestries on the Seven Wonders of the World (1614), Van Gogh’s famous letter to Gaugin, 57 drawings donated by Picasso, and much more.

Adult price: £7

Best for ages 18+

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Rencontres Arles

Arles, Provence, France

Lady staring at photo exhibitions on old stone walls

Founded in 1970, this major International Festival of Photography takes place in Arles from July to September in the Espace Van Gogh – the 16th-century Hotel Dieu – the city hospital that treated Vincent after he cut off his ear.

Best for ages 18+

Duration: 3 months

When: July-September

Frequency: annually

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St-Paul-de-Mausole

Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Provence, France

The exterior facade and entrance of the St Paul de Mausole, a golden stone building

The asylum where Van Gogh spent 1888-89 is a masterpiece of Provencal Romanesque, and today specializes, appropriately, in art therapy. His room and reproductions of the paintings he made there are on display, along with temporary exhibitions.

Adult price: £4

Best for ages 18+

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Van Gogh Walk in Arles

Arles, Provence, France

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Bucket List Experience
The Langlois Bridge beside a replica of a Van Gogh painting

Follow in Van Gogh’s footsteps around Arles, the town where he painted some of his best-known works.

Best for ages 13+

Duration: 1-2 hours

Van Gogh Walk in Saint-Remy

Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Provence, France

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Bucket List Experience
Inner corridor at the monastery saint paul de mausole, with sun coming through the stone arches

Follow in Van Gogh’s footsteps through the landscapes around Saint-Remy-de-Provence, where he painted some of his best-known works.

Best for ages 18+

Duration: 1+ hours

Vincent Van Gogh Foundation

Arles, Provence, France

A low white wall painted with Van Gogh's signature

Arles is world-famous thanks to Van Gogh, but to the city’s eternal regret no one bought any of his paintings. This foundation, in the newly renovated Hotel Leautaud de Donines, is dedicated to art exhibitions inspired by the artist.

Adult price: £9

Best for ages 18+

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Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Van Gogh & Carrières de Lumières Half-Day Tour from Avignon

Avignon

Van Gogh & Carrières de Lumières Half-Day Tour from Avignon
Take a half-day tour from Avignon to experience with your own senses the actual atmosphere which made Vincent van Gogh spend his latest years in Provence. Your guide will walk along with you in Arles while showing you around. Then you will be given plenty of time to fully enjoy the most spectacular light show at Carrières de Lumières. Do not miss the beautiful vista to the Alpilles mountains on the way to the sanatorium.

Price: €90

Min age: 0

Rating 4.66 / 5 [24 ratings]

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Half-Day Van Gogh Tour of Provence from Avignon

Avignon

Half-Day Van Gogh Tour of Provence from Avignon
Enjoy a small-group tour from Avignon to follow the steps of Van Gogh with an experienced guide. During this half day tour we will guide you through the wonderful marriage of art and history. Following Van Gogh steps, we will visit Arles and Saint Rémy de Provence where he lived and painted. Explore the incredible perched village Les Baux de Provence one of the most visited destination in France.

Price: €75

Min age: 0

Rating 4.8 / 5 [20 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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History and Van Gogh in Provence from AIX-EN-PROVENCE

Aix-en-Provence

History and Van Gogh in Provence from AIX-EN-PROVENCE
Visit the main historic cities and places Provence is famous for. Small group tour. Kind and professional driver/guides. Fully air/conditioned vehicles.

Price: €135

Min age: 1

Rating 4.38 / 5 [18 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Provence

Provence, France

Field of bright purple lavender in front of an old church

Gorgeous landscapes peppered with beautiful villages, sunflowers and lavender, art-filled towns, lively cultural festivals and exquisite food and wine. Provence is everything you imagined it would be.

Avignon

Provence, France

Exterior photo of the Palace of the Popes lit up at night

A lively medieval town bursting with art and creativity, and centrally located for sightseeing in Provence. Host of the superb Avignon Festival.

Arles

Provence, France

front view of facade at sunset

Fascinating Roman, and medieval monuments and memories of Van Gogh, plus a winsome shabby-chic charm.

Aix-en-Provence

Provence, France

Sunny cardeurs square with cafes and restaurants in the old town of Aix-en-Provence.

Cezanne’s elegant hometown, filled with fountains and beautiful mansions, works of art and excellent restaurants. The ‘Florence of France’.

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1

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