Provence can be reached from the French Channel Ports or the Belgian border in around ten hours' driving time if you use autoroutes (motorways) the whole way.
Click here to book a hotel in Provence
To give some sample distances, the fastest route from Calais to Provence (Marseille) is 1080 km / 670 miles and the fastest route from Saint Malo to Provence is 1130 km / 700 miles.
This is a summary of the two quickest routes from the UK / Northern Europe to Provence. Click here for our recommended best route from Northern Europe to Provence.
Many French motorways are toll roads and, on top of fuel and hotel costs, you need to budget for tolls in each direction.
You can find out exactly how much your journey will cost in tolls on the French Motorway Companies website, which also has a calendar of dates when the roads are likely to be busiest as well as live traffic information.
And the Mappy website shows the location of petrol / gas stations en route and gives you an estimate of the fuel costs for the trip. Click here for a list of links to useful websites for drivers in France, including both these ones.
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An atlas shouldn't be necessary for this trip but, if you feel you'd like to have a map with you, the Michelin national map of France is your best bet.
Driving to Provence from Northern Europe is a long journey, and difficult - though not impossible - to achieve in a single day. If you are travelling from the UK, bear in mind that you will also "lose" an hour to the time difference between Britain and France. And, unless you live in south-east England, you will have several hours on the road before you even board the cross-Channel ferry.
So drivers from the UK - and indeed from the Benelux countries or Scandinavia - will almost certainly need an overnight stop. Hotels are infrequent on French motorway lay-bys, and you can drive for very long stretches in central France between motorway exits.
It's therefore advisable to plan and book a hotel room ahead if you intend to do this. Our affiliate partner, booking.com, offers a wide range of hotels to choose from all along the route.
We show here the two best fast routes to Provence using the motorways for the whole journey, one from the Channel ports and the Benelux countries and one from the Normandy and Brittany ports (Roscoff, Saint Malo, Cherbourg and Caen). Click on the map to enlarge the image. And click here for our guide to the laws, rules and regulations governing driving in France, which is essential reading before you go.
Northern Channel ports and Benelux to Provence using motorways (marked in blue on the map)
Options for crossing from the UK to the Northern Channel ports include P&O Ferries, which plies routes from Hull to Zeebrugge and from Dover to Calais and Eurotunnel, which will take you from Folkestone to Calais under the Channel in 35 minutes.
It's also possible to get an overview of fares and price comparisons from different companies on certain routes with our affiliate partner Direct Ferries.
Once you set your wheels on French soil, Google Maps and most GPS systems will try to direct you via Paris as, in theory, this route is very slightly quicker.
However, in practice, going that way not only takes a lot longer, but it also exposes you to the stress of traffic jams, poor signposting and, not least, Parisian drivers.
Indeed, it's generally advisable to avoid driving through Paris if at all possible. Our recommended route is as follows:
From Calais, take the A26 (l'Autoroute des Anglais) via Reims to its end at Troyes. Note that the A4 merges with the A26 at Reims and so, when the two roads divide again some 35 km / 22 miles further south, make sure you follow the A26 towards Troyes.
At Troyes, turn east onto the A5 in the direction of Dijon and Lyon, until it ends. Then turn onto the A31 in the direction of Dijon and Lyon until it ends. Then turn onto the A6 in the direction of Lyon until it becomes the A7.
This motorway goes through the middle of Lyon. However, if the traffic is heavy approaching Lyon, there will probably be serious jams ahead. In that case, turn off onto the A46 Rocade Est (Eastern Bypass) just after Villefranche sur Saône and follow it until it rejoins the A7 south of Lyon. Don't be confused if it changes its number from A46 to N346 and back again - it is the same road.
Once back on the A7, this motorway will take you right through Provence to Marseille with clearly marked exits to Orange, Avignon and Aix.
On the way back north, try continuing from Beaune on the A6 to exit 21 (Tonnerre), rather than turning off onto the A31. Then call in at Chablis for wine and Chaource for its excellent cheese, rejoining the main route at Troyes. The whole deviation will only add around half an hour's driving time and will provide a welcome break from the motorway.
Normandy and Brittany Ports to Provence using motorways (marked in red on the map)
Options for crossing from the UK to Normandy and Britanny ports include Brittany Ferries. It's also possible to get an overview of fares and price comparisons from different companies on certain routes with our affiliate partner Direct Ferries.
Once in Roscoff, Saint Malo, Cherbourg or Caen, head first for Le Mans then take the A28 to its end near Tours. After that, take the A10 in the direction of Bordeaux and Vierzon for 20 kms / 12.5 miles.
Turn onto the A85 in the direction of Lyon as far its end near Vierzon, then turn onto the A71 to its end at Clermont Ferrand.
From Clermont Ferrand there is a choice of routes. You can turn east onto the A70 until it reaches the A7 near Lyon, which in turn takes you straight through Provence to Marseille with clearly marked exits to Orange, Avignon and Aix.
Alternatively you can head south on the A75 and A750 to Montpellier and then take the A9 east to Nîmes. From there, continuing on the A9 will take you to Orange and Avignon and branching off onto the A54 will take you to Aix and Marseille.
The more scenic of these two routes is the A75 from Clermont Ferrand to Montpellier, a mountain road through the Massif Central which includes the famous Millau Viaduct, pictured, the world's tallest bridge designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and the British architect Norman Foster.