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3 Days in Provence & Soak up the Rich Artistic Past

Below is a 3 day itinerary for Provence in the footsteps of the French post-impressionism painters, Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh. When travelling around Provence you will see lush colorful landscapes and centuries-old villages scattered all over the region.

Provence is an incredibly picturesque part of France. It is therefore not surprising that the region served as a muse for so many French artists and painters. Even though Paris was the epicenter of the art world during the 19th and 20th centuries, many French artists decided to leave the capital & move to Southern France.

Many relocated to the French Riviera, such as Dufy, Signac, Matisse, Chagall, Renoir and others. They were drawn to the sparkling Mediterranean sea and bright lights of the region.

Others, such as Van Gogh and Cezanne, preferred the quiet villages of Provence. Go visit the beautiful places that inspired Van Gogh and Cezanne. Even if you do not like art, you will love what these towns have to offer.

Provence travel - Sainte Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence
Sainte Victoire Mountain near Aix-en-Provence / Photo by Pernmith (CC BY 2.0)

Travel Provence in the footsteps of Cezanne & Van Gogh

  • Day 1 – Aix-en-Provence in the footsteps of Cezanne 
  • Day 2 – Arles in the footsteps of Van Gogh
  • Day 3-  Saint Remy in the footsteps of Van Gogh & Les Baux en Provence

3 Days in Provence: Day 1 – Aix-en-Provence – In the footsteps of Paul Cezanne 

Paul Cezanne was born in Aix-en-Provence. In his young adult years, he left for Paris to follow his dream to become an artist. However he didn’t last long in the busy Parisian capital and returned to his beloved Aix where he felt most at home.

Many of Paul Cezanne’s paintings capture the town of Aix, the surrounding countryside and the iconic Sainte Victoire mountain nearby. In fact, the magnificent mountain was Cezanne’s most popular muse. He painted this mountain again and again from different locations and in different seasons. It is said that Paul Cezanne was so obsessed with this mountain that he once painted it outdoors and during a massive thunderstorm.

What to do & see in Aix en Provence

In Aix, you can follow the footsteps of Paul Cézanne and retrace where he worked, lived and the places that inspired him. These places include:

  • Musée Granet – to view some of Cezanne’s masterpieces
  • Atelier de Cézanne – Paul Cezanne’s studio where you can get a sense of how he worked and painted
  • Bastide du jas de bouffan – The Jas de Bouffan mansion was the Cezanne family property 40 years. Here Paul Cezanne lived and often painted.
  • Carrières de Bibémus – an abandoned Ochre rock quarry that inspired many of Cezanne’s famous paintings
The view of Mt. St-Victoire from the   Carrières de Bibémus  - Paul Cezanne Painting
The view of Mt. St-Victoire from the Carrières de Bibémus
Paul Cezanne Painting (Public Domain)

If you have time, outside of Aix (about 70 minutes by car and near to Marseille) is the seaside town of Estaque. Paul Cezanne loved this town and often came here to paint.

In Estaque, you can walk on the lovely Painter’s Trail and view the sites painted by the impressionism and post-impressionism masters.

Looking for a tour that will take you to some of the Paul Cezanne sites in Provence? Check out the options below:

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Atelier de Cézanne – Cezanne’s studio

Looking for a hotel in Aix en Provence? Check out a variety of options on Booking.com

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3 Days in Provence: Day 2 – Arles – In the Footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh

The post-impressionism painter, Vincent Van Gogh spent more than a year in Arles, a picturesque Provence town. During his time there, Van Gogh was incredibly prolific. He painted more than 300 canvases here, immortalizing landmarks in Arles and the nearby surrounding countryside.

For a brief period, Paul Gauguin came to Arles and lived with Van Gogh. The two painted together and shared ideas. However, their artistic partnership ended after a few weeks. Paul Gauguin could not handle Van Gogh’s mental instability and fled.

What to do & see in Arles in the Footsteps of Van Gogh

The Van Gogh Walking Trail allows the independent traveler to visit many of the sites related to Van Gogh and his paintings. Press here to download the map of the walking trail. The sites in Arles where Van Gogh set up his easel are marked with panels showing his paintings. About ten different locations have been marked. They include:

If you would like to go on an organized walking tour and hear the interesting stories about Van Gogh during his time in Arles, press here for more details

The hospital gardens in Arles - Vincent Van Gogh Painting
The hospital gardens in Arles – Vincent Van Gogh Painting (public domain)
3 days in Provence - Visit Arles in the footsteps of Van Gogh
The Arles hospital gardens / Photo by Matt Boulton (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Looking for an organized tour from Arles in the Footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh? Check out the options below:

3 Days in Provence: Day 3 –  Saint Remy and Les Baux de Provence

Les Baux de Provence is a stunning village located in the heart of Alpilles. The village itself is small but worth exploring. Next to the village are the ruins of a 12th century castle. From the castle ruins, you get the best views of the entire area.

However, the highlight of Le Baux de Provence is the nearby Carrieres de Lumieres. The Carrieres de Lumieres is a MUST for any art lover. It is a state-of-the-art multimedia Sound & Light show.

Les Baux de Provence – The Carrieres de Lumieres

The unusual and beautiful setting is a huge limestone quarry carved inside a mountain. The sound and light show exhibits famous artworks on the large limestone rock walls, ceilings and floors, providing you with a magnificent multi-sensory experience. Carrieres de Lumieres immerses you into the world of art.

Please note that the exhibition is so popular that it is advisable to buy your tickets in advance to avoid waiting in long queues. For more information, press here.

Saint-Rémy de Provence in the Footsteps of Van Gogh

In May 1889 and after spending months in the hospital in Arles, Van Gogh moved to the beautiful town, Saint Remy. Here he committed himself into the psychiatric hospital Saint-Paul de Mausole, hoping for a cure. Van Gogh spent a year in the Saint Remy hospital.

‘As for me, my health is good, and as for the head it will, let’s hope, be a matter of time and patience.’ Vincent writes in a letter to his brother Theo from Saint-Rémy

Despite his many psychiatric relapses, Van Gogh still managed to paint prolifically.In fact, during his one year in Saint Remy, Van Gogh completed around 150 paintings. He painted the asylum, its gardens and the surrounding region. Some of Van Gogh’s most famous masterpieces are from this period in the asylum in Saint-Remy.

3 days in Provence - The Van Gogh trail in Saint-Rémy
At the Asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy / Photo by Dana McMahan (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Van Gogh Walking Trail in Saint Remy

The Van Gogh walking trail is a MUST for all Van Gogh fans. It is a well marked trail(small brass circular plates with the Vincent signature embedded into the pavement).

Along the way, are plaques with reproductions of Van Gogh’s artworks, including quotes by the artist and/or a blurb about him during his time in Saint-Remy. The trail ends at the Saint-Paul de Mausole, the psychiatric hospital where Van Gogh spent time… incredible!

My tip: To enhance your experience on this walking trail, pay for an audio guide for 3 Euros at the Saint Remy tourist information.

Saint-Paul de Mausole: The hospital where Van Gogh stayed

Make sure that at the end of the trail that you go inside Saint-Paul de Mausole. Van Gogh spent one year here & it is a wonderful place to visit. Reproductions of Van Gogh’s artworks are scattered all over the hospital grounds and also in his hospital bedroom. You will find yourself standing in the exact spots where Van Gogh set up his easel and painted more than 100 years ago.

3 days in Provence: Saint-Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy
3 days in Provence: Saint-Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy
Photo by Philippe MARC (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Another wonderful place to visit in Saint Remy is Musee Estrine. It is a small museum housed in a gorgeous building. The museum does not have any original Van Gogh artworks but offers a fabulous exhibition about the history of the Dutch artist. On show is a fantastic short movie about Van Gogh, a chronology of his life and copies of the nearly 800 letters he wrote to his brother Theo.

For organized Van Gogh tours in Saint-Remy, check out the options below.

Looking for accomodation in Saint Remy? Press on the link below

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