Four Seasons in Provence

At the peak of summer Provence is a must-see for tourists dreaming of lavender fields, rosé wine, endless alfresco lunches, golden beaches and buzzing music festivals.

But, as Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence revealed, this part of the world is beautiful, fascinating, maddening, surprising and entirely irresistible all year round.

And, if you have the choice, midsummer in Provence, with its sweltering heat, constant risk of forest fires, choked-up motorways and sky-high prices, is far from the best time to come - even though, as our summer page suggests, it still has quite a bit to recommend it!

This section tours all four seasons in Provence, helping you plan your trip and - we hope - inspiring you to discover our region away from the crowds. Scroll down the page to discover our guides.

french calendarAnd, if you're planning a trip to Provence in 2018, it's wise to check the dates of France's public holidays (jours feriés).

Road traffic will be very busy around these times, rail, ferry and air fares will be more expensive, hotels will be more booked up and many shops will be closed, especially in small towns and villages. So you might want to plan your travel to avoid these days.

May is a particular bottleneck and in some years there are four bank holidays in this month. Some are are secular, some (despite France's insistence on the separation of Church and State) are religious.

The ones around Easter are moveable feasts, of course, but many other holidays in France are fixed dates. So, if they fall on a Sunday, the Monday will be a normal working day.

On the other hand, if they fall on a Thursday or a Tuesday, many French people will take an extra day off to make it a long weekend (this is referred to as "faire le pont" - "bridging the gap").

Here are the public holidays in France for 2018:

Monday 1 January - New Year's Day (le Jour de l'An)

Monday 2 April - Easter Monday (lundi de Pâques)

Tuesday 1 May - Labour Day (la Fête du travail). Despite the name, no-one works on this day and shops and supermarkets remain closed - they don't even have Sunday opening hours! The custom in France is to offer friends and family a sprig of lily of the valley for good luck and you'll see these on sale everywhere.

Tuesday 8 May - VE Day (la Fête de la Victoire - though this day is generally just known as "le huit mai"). It marks the surrender of the Nazis in Europe and General de Gaulle's victory speech. There is likely to be some sort of patriotic parade or other commemoration in most French towns.

Thursday 10 May – Feast of the Ascension. This is the day when Christians believe Jesus ascended into heaven.

Monday 21 May - Whit Monday / Pentecost (lundi de Pentecôte) Another Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Christ's disciples.

Saturday 14 July - Bastille Day (la Fête Nationale). France's national holiday marks the beginning of the Revolution with the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789. No-one here seems to call it Bastille Day, though!

FireworksIt's usually referred to as "le quatorze juillet" or "la fête nationale" and is the pretext for showers of fireworks lighting up the skies.

In 2016 on this day, 86 people died in a terrorist attack at the display in Nice, so expect the shadow of this memory to be cast over future celebrations.

Wednesday 15 August - Feast of the Assumption (l'Assomption). The day when Christians believe the Virgin Mary ascended into heaven. This public holiday has its origins in 1638, when King Louis XIII vowed to consecrate France to the Virgin Mary if his wife (who was pregnant) gave birth to a son and heir. The future Louis XIV came along a few months later and the rest is history.

assumption procession marseilleThere are some fervent religious processions on this day, especially in Marseille, pictured.

Provence also celebrates the anniversary of the Allied Forces' landings in Toulon and Marseille on 14-15 August 1945 and the beginning of the Liberation from the Nazis.

Expect fireworks and spectacular aerial displays in Marseille and Toulon by the Patrouille de France, the Air Force's crack aerobatics team.

Thursday 1 November - All Saints' Day (La Toussaint). A Christian festival in honour of all the saints. The French honour their dead on this day and it is traditional to lay white chrysanthemums on family graves (never offer these flowers as a gift, by the way!)

Half-term holidays in Provence fall around this time. The North American tradition of Halloween is rapidly gaining popularity too.

Sunday 11 November - Armistice Day (l'Armistice). This marks the end of the First World War in 1918. Whereas VE Day has a celebratory tone, the 11 November is, as elsewhere in Europe and North America, a sombre day to remember and honour the fallen.

Tuesday 25 December - Christmas Day (Noël). No explanation needed! Click here to read all about celebrating Christmas in Provence. logoClick here to book a hotel in Provence

Vines MontmirailAutumn is surely the best time of year to visit Provence. Here are five great reasons to come here then, and some of the annual fall highlights in September, October and November.

Niolon in the snowProvence in winter is very different from the tourist clichés of lavender fields and rosé wine. Here are six excellent reasons to explore its undiscovered side in December, January and February.

cherry trees in provence smallForget Paris! Provence in springtime offers just as many equally tempting attractions - and much better weather. Here are five fine reasons to come to the South of France in March, April and May.

Senanque with lavender fieldsDid you really still need convincing? Provence in summer is - despite the heat, the crowds and the soaring prices - the place to be! Here are five fabulous reasons to come here in June, July and August.

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