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Driving holiday in Provence - car hire Nice, France

Provence, the region of southeastern France is a versatile tourist destination. While its coast, with the emblematic locations as Nice, Cannes and Saint Tropez, attracts great numbers of visitors every year, it is well worth to explore Provence beyond the French Riviera.

France car hire - Renault Espace, premium minivan / MPV to rent in France
© Photo: Find-cheap-car-hire.co.uk.

Provence map
Provence is a historic region delimited unofficially by the River Rhône in the west, the Mediterranean in the south, the Alps in the north and the border with Italy in the east. It corresponds roughly to the administrative regions of Alpes-Maritimes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône and Var.

See administrative map of Provence

In Provence you will find the best southern France has to offer, from the mesmerizing views of the Mediterranean coast, through the peaceful lavender-covered flatlands of Provence interior to the imposing Alps. If you enjoy driving, Provence road trip may be one of the best ways to fully experience the picturesque and diverse landscapes of this part of France.

Rent a car in Nice at Côte d’Azur
Although there are many ways of travelling to Provence from abroad, Nice remains one of the most popular gateways to the region, regardlessly of it peripheral location on the eastern edge of Provence.

A city with an outstanding cultural offer and the capital of Côte d’Azur, Nice can also be a starting point for exploring Provence, especially if Nice car hire is your solution for moving around in southern France. From Nice it is also a short drive to Monaco and the border with Italy.

A large supply of rental cars available from major rent-a-car companies at Nice Airport as well as in city centre locations allow to find real bargains in Nice car hire, especially when booking well in advance.

Find cheap car hire in Nice city centre

With the help of internet search engines, such as Cartrawler, it is possible to find the ideal hire car, be it an economy vehicle, a comfortable full-size car or a minivan at competitive rates and to be picked up in Nice, at the place most convenient for you.

Best car hire deals in Nice city centre (Promenade des Anglais)

Compare prices of car hire from Nice train station (Gare de Nice)

Choose your Nice hire car online, from the comfort of your home or office and save money by booking well in advance.

In the super mini class - also known as 'B' class or Ford Fiesta class, you will often be offered in France car hire a Peugeot 208, a Citroen C4 or similar.

Peugeot 208 hire car France

Hertz Peugeot 208 - modern car with room for 4 people and luggage
© Photo: Find-cheap-car.hire.co.uk

Main tourist attractions of Provence

Côte d’Azur
Côte d’Azur, or the French Riviera, does not need much introduction.

Stretching from the border with Italy to Cassis in the west, this part of southern France coast receives every year over 14 million tourists, heading to Nice, Saint Tropez, Cannes, Antibes or Monaco, also considered a part of Côte d’Azur.

Beach, water sports, splendid weather, outstanding historical heritage and vast cultural offer are the undeniable attractions of the French Riviera.

Related article: Major events and festival sin Nice 2014 – Côte d’Azur, France.

If you are not drawn to tourist crowds, a simple drive on the coastal scenic road along the French Riviera can be a rewarding experience itself.

Read more in: Rent a car in Nice – driving holiday in Côte d’Azur.

It takes approximately 3.5 h to cover all the French Riviera in your Nice hire car using only the coastal roads. If you opt for the quicker solution - motorway, you will need only half of that time, to drive from Nice all the way west to Marseille.

Historic cities and towns in Provence
Provence is rich in history. Apart from the obvious UNESCO listed historic treasures of Arles, Avignon, and Orange, valuable historic monuments can be seen in many Provencal cities, towns and hilltop villages.

See map major tourist attractions of Provence.

During your driving holiday in Provence do not miss out on: Aix-en-Provence - the region’s historic capital, Nimes, Nyons, Vaison la Romaine and St. Remy de Provence.

Natural heritage
Provence is a place of singular natural beauty. With a Nice hire car at your disposal you can seek refuge from the crowded tourist centres in many of Provence’s protected areas.

There are three national parks in Provence: Les Ecrins and Le Mercantur in the Alps and Port-Cros on the island of Port-Cros, off the La Lavandou coast.

Les Ecrins National Park – Travelling in Provence:

The unique fana and flora of Provence can also be admired in the five regional natural reserves of Camargue, Cueyras, Luberon, Les Alpilles and Verdon, also referred to as Europe's Grand Canyon.

Provence outdoor adventure
The great variety of landscapes and settings make Provence, in France, a perfect location for an active holiday.

The choice of outdoor activities available in Provence ranges from hiking, cycling, donkey/horse riding and fishing to canoeing, rock climbing and aerial sports, such as ballooning and paragliding.

The video below shows some of the fun activities for adults and children in Provence:

Many of the Provence outdoor adventures are organized by professional companies who provide all the necessary equipment. If you are travelling to Provence with your own large dimension sports equipment (bicycles, canoes, etc.), see to book a suitable hire car well in advance. During the busiest summer months, in the most popular locations, as for example Nice, hire minivans and vans may come in short supply.

Provence weather
Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters is typical to most of Provence. However, due to the considerable size of this French region, you may experience many local variations and different micro-climates in Provence.

The department of Var, with cities as Toulon, Saint Tropez and Hyères, is the warmest part of Provence, with temperatures reaching 29-30 degrees Celsius in the summer.

See Toulon (Provence) temperature chart

For contrast, the mountainous climate of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence hardly ever allows temperatures higher than 22-23 degrees Celsius in the summer.

In the Alpes-Maritimes province, nestled between the Alps and the Mediterranean, the climate remains very pleasant with an average summer temperature of 28 degrees Celsius and many sunny days throughout the year.

Further away from the Alps, in the Vaucluse province, where the cities of Avignon and Orange are located, expect a mix of alpine, continental and (prevailing) Mediterranean climates.

Please note that snowfall is practically inexistent in the costal areas of Provence, unlike in its northern parts.

Provence is also known for the Le Mistral wind, blowing from the Alps, towards the Rhône River valley. Mistral is a cold and strong wind, at times reaching 100 km/h, most frequent during the winter months, although not unseen in the summer.

Provence ski holiday
Buzzing with tourist traffic in the summer time, Provence, or more precisely, its Alpes-Maritimes province, becomes a popular ski destination in the winter.

Several ski resorts are located in a fairly short driving distance – approx. 40 miles – from Nice, amongst them Isola 2000, Auron and Valberg/Beuil.

See map of popular ski resorts of Alpes-Maritimes.

If you are heading to Provence ski resorts in a Nice Airport hire car and require a larger vehicle, remember to book in advance. It is also advisable to order roof ski racks online, while booking.

Food and wine of Provence
It is not without a reason that herbes de Provence, a mix of dried herbs, including rosemary, marjoram, thyme, oregano and savory is one of the best known Provencal products worldwide. The aromatic Provence dishes, quite distinctive from the rest of French cuisine, provide a prime culinary experience, especially if accompanied by locally produced wine.

Provencal cuisine combines the elements of the typical light, seafood-based Mediterranean diet, with the prime products of farmlands and the hearty food of the mountains.

Vegetables are largely used all across Provence in aromatic stews, as for instant the famous ratatouille or eaten row in salads, very popular in southern France, being the Niçoise salad one of the most recognisable Provencal dishes.

In southern Provence, at the coast areas, amongst the classic seafood dishes are escabeche, poached or fried marinated sardines, or bouillabaisse, a saffron-aromatised fish and seafood stew.

Daube Provençale, a slowely cooked, aromatic beef stew is a preferred dish during colder days in central and northern Provence.

A universal component of almost every meal in traditional Provencal cuisine is aioli, a creamy, garlic sauce and the fougasse olive bread.

The tradition of winemaking in Provence dates back to the times of the Roman Empire. Although the region offers conditions for growing a large variety of grapes, Provence is known mostly for the rosé wine, followed by excellent reds. The largest AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) region in Provence is Côtes de Provence.

See map of main wine regions in Provence

Major airports of Provence – fly to Provence from the UK
Nice Airport is by far the major gateway to Provence offering the largest choice of international routes.

Compare prices of Nice Airport car hire

Flights from the UK to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport are available from many airlines, including British Airways, as well as the low-cost carriers Jet2, Easyjet, Flybe, Monarch Airlines and Norwegian.

It is also possible fly from UK to Provence via large Marseille Airport and several smaller airports, amongst them Avignon Airport, Nimes Airport and Toulon Airport. 

Driving distances from Nice
When planning a driving holiday in a Nice hire car, you may find useful the below approximate road distances from Nice to major places of interest in Provence:

  • distance from Nice to Cannes: 17 mi / 28 km
  • distance from Nice to Saint Tropez: 68 mi / 110 km
  • distance from Nice to Marseille: 125 mi / 200 km
  • distance from Nice to Aix-en-Provence: 110 mi / 175 km
  • distance from Nice to Avignon: 163 mi / 261 km
  • distance from Nice to Arles: 153 mi / 245 km
  • distance from Nice to Isola ski resort: 46 mi / 75 km
  • distance from Nice to Monaco: 12 mi / 20 km

Driving holiday in Provence - car hire Nice, France
Article: Driving holiday in Provence - car hire Nice, France
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Published: Thursday, February 06 2014
Latest revision: Thursday, May 12 2016

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