Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is one of the 13 (until 2016: 18) administrative regions of France. It has a long coastline to the Mediterranean Sea, which also got its way into the name of the region as the Côte d'Azur. It also borders the Occitania region to the west and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes to the north. To the east, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur borders on Italy (regions of Liguria and Piedmont). The Principality of Monaco is an enclave in the region.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) stretches from the Mediterranean coast to the French Alps. The region is known for its scenic beauty, Mediterranean cuisine and mild climate.

PACA is made up of six departments: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Hautes-Alpes, Var and Vaucluse. Each department offers a unique mix of natural landscapes, historic cities and cultural heritage.

The Côte d'Azur, also known as the French Riviera, is a well-known part and attracts visitors from all over the world. Cities like Nice, Cannes, Saint-Tropez and Monaco are known for their luxurious beaches, promenades, exclusive shops and glamorous events like the Cannes Film Festival.

In the hinterland there are picturesque villages, vineyards, lavender fields and the impressive mountain ranges of the French Alps. The region offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, climbing and rafting.

Provence, a sub-regional subdivision of PACA, is known for its idyllic landscapes, fragrant fields of lavender, olive groves and quaint villages. Cities like Aix-en-Provence, Avignon and Arles are cultural centers and offer a rich history, art and architecture.

The kitchen is characterized by Mediterranean influences. Olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, vegetables and seafood play an important role in local dishes. Popular specialties include bouillabaisse (a fish soup), ratatouille (a vegetable stew) and socca (a type of pancake made from chickpea flour).

Overall, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region is a unique blend of stunning nature, rich history, cultural heritage and Mediterranean lifestyle.



Marseille The urban area of Marseille - Marselha / Marsiho in Provençal - is located in the Bouches-du-Rhône and in the Var. Marseille is the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department and the region, as well as the seat of its prefecture.

Marseille ranks second among the most populated municipalities in France, with 858,120 inhabitants, the third urban area with 1,578,584 inhabitants and the third urban area after those of Paris and Lyon with 1,743,990 inhabitants in 2014. Marseille is since the January 1, 2016 the seat of the metropolis of Aix-Marseille-Provence, the second most populated in France with 1,859,922 inhabitants.

Oldest city in France, founded under the name of Μασσαλία (Massalía) around 600 BC. AD by Greek sailors from Phocaea, Marseille has been an important trading and transit port since Antiquity. In particular, it experienced a considerable commercial boom during the 19th century, becoming a prosperous industrial and trading town.

Inherited from this past, the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille (GPMM) and the maritime economy are still major centers of regional and national activity and Marseille remains the leading French port, the second Mediterranean port and the fifth European port.

Since its origins, Marseille's openness to the Mediterranean Sea has made it a cosmopolitan city of cultural and economic exchanges with Southern Europe, the Near East, North Africa and Asia. It is also often considered the "Gateway to the East".


Nice The urban area of Nice — Nissa / Niça in Nice — is located in the Alpes-Maritimes and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Nice the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department and seat of its prefecture, as well as the second largest city in the region behind Marseille.

Nice ranks fifth among the most populated municipalities in France, with 343,895 inhabitants, the fifth largest agglomeration with 943,695 inhabitants and the seventh largest urban area with 1,006,402 inhabitants. The city is the center of a metropolis, Nice Côte d'Azur, which brings together forty-nine municipalities and 536,327 inhabitants.

Historical capital of the County of Nice, it belonged to Provence before seceding from it and choosing to join the States of Savoy in 1388 (Act of Derogation). Nice only became French in 1860, a year before the achievement of Italian unity.

Located between the sea and the mountains, the economic and cultural capital of the Côte d'Azur, Nice benefits from significant natural assets. Tourism, trade and administrations (public or private) occupy an important place in the economic activity of the city. It has the second largest hotel capacity in the country, after Paris, and welcomes 4 million tourists every year. It also has the third largest airport in France (the first in the Province) and two convention centers devoted to business tourism. The city also has a university and several business districts. Finally, Nice is endowed with certain important cultural facilities. It thus has many museums (it is even the city that has the most in France, after Paris), a national theatre, an opera, a library with a regional vocation, a conservatory with regional influence and concert halls . It is located about thirty kilometers from the Franco-Italian border, it is established on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, along the Baie des Anges and at the mouth of the Paillon.


Toulon The urban area of Toulon — Tolon / Touloun in Provençal — is located in the Var. Toulon is the capital of the Var department and seat of its prefecture. It also houses the headquarters of the maritime prefecture of the Mediterranean.

Toulon ranks fifteenth among the most populated municipalities in France, with 165,584 inhabitants, the ninth largest urban area with 561,155 inhabitants and thirteenth urban area with 611,237 inhabitants. The city is the seat of an urban community, Toulon Provence Méditerranée, the first in France, which brings together twelve municipalities and 425,612 inhabitants.

Located between sea and mountains, economic capital of the Var, Toulon benefits from many natural assets. The naval base (largest French military port), commerce, administrations (public or private), tourism and research (PACA Sea cluster, IFREMER, etc.) are the mainstay of the town's economic activity, which shares with Hyères an airport through which approximately 500,000 passengers pass per year.

The city also has a university (sciences, humanities, literature, law, Staps and higher education centers: preparatory classes for the Grandes Ecoles of the Dumont-d'Urville and Rouvière high schools, the Higher Institute of Electronics and digital (ISEN Toulon) and the SeaTech engineering school.

Finally, Toulon has an Opera, a National Regional Conservatory, several museums, concert halls (Palais Neptune and Zénith-Omega) and a theater with the “national stage” label: the Théâtre Liberté.

The city of Toulon is located in the South of France in the south-west of the Var department on the Mediterranean coast, halfway between Marseille, to the west, and Saint-Tropez, to the east. It is sometimes considered the first city west of the Côte d'Azur.



Ecrins National Park
Mercantour National Park
Verdon Gorge



The traditional language of the region is Provencal (Provençal; also known as Occitan), which occurs in various dialects (e.g. Nissart in Nice). In the Middle Ages it was a separate high-level language independent of French (although related to it). Roughly speaking, it occupies an intermediate position between French, Italian and Catalan. As a result of the centralization of France, however, it lost its importance and was mostly regarded only as a dialect. In a survey in 1999, there were only 100,000 active speakers. They are more likely to be found in the countryside than in the cities, and more among the older generation than the younger.

Since (standard) French is the only official language and language of instruction, everyone can understand and speak it - possibly with a certain Provençal accent.

Only in the tourist strongholds on the Côte d'Azur is some English spoken in the hospitality industry, individual establishments have also adapted to rich Russian guests and speak Russian; In the far east on the Italian border, some Italian may be spoken. Otherwise, knowledge of foreign languages - as everywhere in France - is a rarity.



Gorges du Verdon: Also known as the "Grand Canyon" of Europe, the Gorges du Verdon offer spectacular gorges, turquoise waters and breathtaking views. It is a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking and rafting.

Lavender fields of Provence: Provence is known worldwide for its fragrant lavender fields. Especially in summer, the fields bloom in bright purple and offer an impressive backdrop. Popular places for lavender viewing include the Plateau de Valensole and the village of Sault.

Calanques: The Calanques are fjord-like bays along the coast between Marseille and Cassis. With their steep cliffs, turquoise waters and hidden beaches, they are a paradise for nature lovers and hikers.

Mont Ventoux: Mont Ventoux is a prominent mountain in the region and a popular destination for cyclists and hikers. Its summit offers an impressive view of the surrounding landscape.

Camargue: The Camargue is a unique region in the Rhône Delta known for its wild horses, pink flamingos and unspoiled nature. Visitors can explore the salt lakes, paddy fields and abundant wildlife.

Sainte-Victoire Mountains: This impressive mountain range was a source of inspiration for the painter Paul Cézanne. It offers hiking trails and views of the surrounding countryside, including the city of Aix-en-Provence.

Porquerolles: Part of the Port Cros National Park, this island off the coast of Hyères offers pristine beaches, crystal clear waters and a laid-back vibe. It is a perfect destination for sun lovers and nature lovers.



Visit to the Provençal markets
Bathing holidays on the fashionable beaches of the Côte-d'Azur or in the reservoirs of Haute-Provence, surfing and sailing
Hiking, mountain biking, climbing (e.g. on the walls of the Verdon Gorge)


Getting here

By plane
The main airports in the region are Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur (IATA: NCE) in the east and Marseille-Provence Airport (IATA: MRS) in the west. Both airports maintain numerous international connections, including various direct flights from German-speaking countries. Far behind in third place is Toulon-Hyères Airport (IATA: TLN) with only a few international connections. For those traveling to the westernmost part of the region (Camargue, Arles, Avignon), a flight to Montpellier Airport (IATA: MPL) is also an option. B. 70 km to Arles.

If you want to go to the Valence or Avignon area, you can also fly into Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport (IATA: LYS). TGVs run directly from the airport station, reaching Valence in half an hour and Avignon in just under an hour (although the TGV stations are both outside the city).

By train
A high-speed TGV line runs from Paris to Marseille via Lyon, Valence, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence (the TGV stations are just outside the city). It only takes 2 hours 45 minutes to get from Paris to Avignon and 3 hours 20 minutes to Marseille. An extension along the Côte d'Azur to Nice is still being planned. TGVs are already running on the route, but they have to use the normal route and can therefore not go as fast. The TGV from Paris to Cannes takes about 5:05 hours and to Nice 5:35 hours.

Germany: From Frankfurt a. M./Mannheim/Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden there is a daily TGV directly to Avignon/Aix/Marseille. From Frankfurt to Marseille, for example, it takes less than eight hours, from Munich (with a change in Mannheim) 10:20 hours. Other connections are with changes in Brussels, Strasbourg or Paris (whereby the station has to be changed here: trains come from Germany at Gare du Nord or Gare de l'Est, trains towards Provence depart at Gare de Lyon), e.g. B. Cologne-Paris-Marseille in a good eight hours. If you like to travel by night train, you can plan the connection so that you arrive in Paris in the evening, board a night train there to the Côte d'Azur and reach Cannes, Antibes or Nice the next morning.

Switzerland: There is also a daily continuous TGV from Basel to Avignon and Marseille (5 hours 15 minutes). A TGV runs daily from Geneva to Valence, Avignon, Marseille (3 hours 40 minutes), Toulon, St-Raphael-Valescure, Cannes, Antibes and Nice (6 hours 25 minutes). Other connections from Switzerland are with changes in Mulhouse, Dijon or Lyon. From Zurich, for example, the fastest connections (one change in Basel, Mulhouse or Dijon) take about 6:15 hours.

Austria: From Austria you can drive through Switzerland, e.g. B. from Salzburg with two changes (in Zurich and Dijon or Mulhouse) in less than 12 hours, from Vienna in 14:20 hours to Marseille. If the destination is in the east of the region on the Côte d'Azur, driving through Italy is also an option, e.g. B. from Vienna or Klagenfurt (and several train stations in between) with the EuroNight to Bologna and from there via Voghera to Nice, which takes 16:40 from Vienna and 12½ hours from Klagenfurt.

On the street
From the north
From Lyon, either the A7 motorway, which is subject to a fee, leads to the destination area or the Route Nationale N7, which runs parallel to it. Contrary to the previously accident-prone three-lane construction of the N7, on which overtaking was possible for both sides, there are now either wide two-lane routes or the road has been expanded to four lanes.

Alternatively, you can take the Route Napoléon from Grenoble towards Grasse.

From Italy
From Sanremo and Ventimiglia (Italian Riviera) either on the motorway or the scenically spectacular but also very winding coastal road via Nice to the destination.

From Spain
Either via the motorway or along the coast via Sête in the direction of Marseille.

By bicycle
The European long-distance cycle route EuroVelo 8 (Mediterranean) leads through the region. To the west it continues to Spain, to the east to Italy.



Provençal cuisine is part of the Mediterranean cuisine. She relies on fresh, regional products such as aubergines, peppers, zucchini and vegetables in general. Of course, all sorts of sea fish and seafood are used to prepare the creations. See also: Provençal cuisine at Koch-Wiki.

Soupe au Pistou is a Provençal vegetable soup. The secret of the vegetable soup is the topping, the soup comes with pistou, a kind of pesto, only without pine nuts. Serve with toasted bread and spread the pistou on a slice of bread.



Nice: Nice is known for its vibrant nightlife. The city offers a wide range of bars, pubs and clubs, particularly along the Promenade des Anglais and in the Vieux Nice (Old Town) district. Beach parties are also held during the summer months. Casino Ruhl is a popular place for gambling and entertainment.

Cannes: Cannes is best known for its famous film festival, but the city also offers a lively nightlife. Along the Croisette, the main promenade, you will find a selection of chic bars and clubs. The Casino Barrière Cannes is a popular meeting place for gambling and events.

Saint-Tropez: Saint-Tropez is an exclusive holiday resort and a hotspot for celebrities. Nightlife here is known for its glamorous clubs, including the famous Les Caves du Roy at Hotel Byblos. The town also offers a variety of restaurants, bars and beach clubs where parties go on until the early hours.

Marseille: As the largest city in the region, Marseille offers a vibrant and diverse night scene. The Cours Julien area is a popular meeting place for students and young people with a selection of trendy bars, restaurants and live music venues. The historic district of Le Panier also offers an interesting mix of bars and pubs.



In the hinterland, security is not a problem. The markets are sometimes crowded; Watch out for bags and photo equipment there because of pickpockets. The situation is different in big cities with a lot of tourist traffic. You should generally take good care of your luggage there. When parking in big cities you should like e.g. in Marseille in underground car parks on the lowest level and in car parks on the top level (advice from locals). There, the risk of a break-in or damage is significantly lower.



Due to the Mediterranean climate, the flora is extremely diverse. The plants that are typical for the Côte d'Azur today, such as the green-silver shiny olive trees that grow everywhere on the slopes up to a height of about 500m, orange and lemon groves, grapevines, palm trees, cypresses, pines, aloes, agaves, Cacti and numerous others were imported from different parts of the world - some of them as early as Roman times, others only became native more recently. Pines, sclerophyllous plants, bushes, shrubs and holm oaks belong to the original vegetation, which has suffered severely from human economic use, forest fires and wildfires. Characteristic is the large number and distribution of aromatic shrubs and herbs (e.g. lavender, rosemary, thyme and sage). In summer you can find endless blue fields of lavender in this region.



After the decree of June 2, 1960, the Provence-Côte d'Azur-Corse region was created: it then included the departments of Basses-Alpes, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Corsica, Var and Vaucluse. Corsica is detached from it by the decree of January 12, 1970.

The name "Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur" is used by the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, State bodies and the European Union. It is written with two hyphens. The spelling "Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur", with three hyphens, is little used although recommended by the National Commission of Toponymy in accordance with the rules of French typography which prescribe hyphens between all words composing a given political or administrative territory name.

In June 2009, Michel Vauzelle, president of the regional council, launched a consultation in order to rename the region, at the request of several associations for the promotion of regional identity who recalled that "pacan" means "peasant" in Provençal13 and judging that " Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is a beautiful name, but it's too long and impractical. The acronym PACA illustrates neither the richness nor the diversity of its territories and its exceptional cultural heritage, nor does it allow us to name its inhabitants”. The terms “Provence” and “Mediterranean” emerge, leaving aside “Alps” and “Côte d'Azur”, which provokes the protest of elected officials from neglected areas. Finally, the project was abandoned a few months later and the name of the region remained unchanged.

The regional council voted on December 15, 2017 the use of the name "South region - Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur" on all communication media, in order to promote the use of the abbreviation "South region" instead of the acronym “PACA”.



Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur covers an area of 31,400 km2 and stretches from the Rhône in the west to the Italian border in the east. Its territory includes:
the county of Provence which is the main entity (French since 1482),
the south-east of Dauphiné (French since 1349),
Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin (integrated into France during the Revolution in 1791),
the county of Nice (attached in 1860 as well as Tende and La Brigue attached in 1947).
Menton and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, de facto detached from the Principality of Monaco in 1848 and de jure attached to France in 1861 after buying back his rights from Prince Charles III for 4 million gold francs.

The principality of Monaco is an independent coastal notch.

All of these territories all integrated ancient Provence during the medieval era but were separated because of the divisions between nobles and the civil war of the Union of Aix. The Drôme, the Ardèche and the south of the Isère were also Provençal at the beginning of the county of Provence but are today in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.



Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur welcomes a great diversity of landscapes.

To the west, the relief is relatively flat, bathed by the Rhône and its tributaries (Aygues, Durance in particular). The plains of Vaucluse are alluvial plains while La Crau is a dry stony plain. The Rhône delta forms the Camargue, made up of ponds (Etang de Vaccarès) and amphibious pastures.

The Côte d'Azur has two forests, the Esterel and the Massif des Maures. Further west, the coastline is dominated by rugged white limestone cliffs with gorges: the Calanques.

The Pre-Alps form the middle and upper Provence: Ventoux, Lure mountain, Digne and Castellane pre-Alps, Valensole plateau, Canjuers plan (cut from the Verdon gorges), Caussols plan. Further south are the reliefs of the Luberon, the Alpilles, the Sainte-Victoire mountain and Sainte-Baume. To the east, the Pre-Alps end near the sea, towards Nice and Menton.

Finally, the region includes several medium and high mountain areas: the Mercantour to the east, with its highest point at 3,143 m: the summit of Gélas, the Écrins massif to the north, which culminates at more than 4,000 m altitude (Barre des Écrins at 4,101 m, Pelvoux at 3,946 m), and the smaller massifs of Dévoluy, Queyras and Cerces.



The region is characterized by a Mediterranean climate on the coast and inland and by a mountain climate which declines towards the cold depending on the altitude. Over the period 1971-2000, the hottest sectors on average were located on the coast, from Nice to Cassis, with average annual temperatures of around 16°C; winters are mild (7 to 14°C) and summers hot (21 to 29°C on average). The average temperatures decrease as you go deeper into the land with values between 13 and 15°C, but the summers are particularly hot there (31°C on average in the afternoon at Luc, which holds the French record with 42, 7°C in 1982). The Alps experience more or less cold temperatures depending on the altitude with average annual temperatures of around 10°C at 1,000 m; 4°C at 2,500m.

The region is particularly sunny: 2,700 to 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.

Winters are cold, even harsh and snowy in the mountains, but mild on the coast, especially on the Côte d'Azur. The Rhône valley and part of the coast are subject to the mistral, a cold and strong wind blowing from the north.

Annual rainfall varies from 600 mm (Rhône delta) to 1,000 mm (Alps) but is very unevenly distributed throughout the year: if it rains as much in Nice and Marseille as in Brest and Paris, the drought is very marked summer but the showers are violent, especially in the fall.



The mountain occupies half of the regional territory and the coastline extends over 700 km. Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur has four national parks, eight regional natural parks, four of which are contiguous, twelve national natural reserves and six regional natural reserves. Some sites are also classified as Natura 2000 zones, etc.

Due to urbanization, agricultural land is under strong pressure: between 1970 and 2000, the productive agricultural area was reduced by 20%. This is particularly the case on the coast and in the Pays d'Avignon.




Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur has 5,081,101 inhabitants, making it the seventh most populated region in France. Its population is mainly concentrated on the coast around the conurbations of Marseille - Aix-en-Provence, Toulon, Fréjus, Cannes - Antibes and Nice, and in the Rhône valley around the conurbation of Avignon. The northern alpine part is very sparsely populated and the two alpine departments are among the least populated French departments.

Although its dynamism is today in decline, the region is characterized by very strong demographic growth in the second half of the 20th century: it is the region of France which experienced the strongest growth in its population between 1962 and 2009. It represented 4.5% of the total French population in 1975 compared to 7.8% in 2014. This growth is the result of both the natural surplus and a strong migratory contribution.

Contrary to popular belief, residential migrations have contributed to slowing down the aging of the regional population. Nevertheless, nearly 27% of the inhabitants are over 60 years old (the national rate is 24%) and the region has more than 500,000 people aged 75 and over. It is estimated that in 2030, one in three inhabitants of the region will be over 60 years old.

International immigration also plays an important role in the demography of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Today there are approximately 430,000 immigrants in the region, or almost 10% of the population. The history of immigration goes back a long way: from the 19th century, a third of the employees of the Toulon arsenals were Italian, as were 43% of the workers in the perfumeries of Grasse at the beginning of the 20th century21. Marseille in particular has welcomed many migrants over the past 150 years: Italian workers, then North Africans from the 1920s and especially the 1950s, Comorians more recently, Armenian refugees, Spaniards and then Pieds-Noirs. Nice and the Côte d'Azur are experiencing luxury immigration, mainly made up of British, Russians and Germans.

Geography, rural exodus and industrialization mean that the population of this region is today very unevenly distributed. 75% of the inhabitants are concentrated on 10% of the territory and 80% of the region's population lives on the coast, which is home to the largest regional cities: Marseille, Nice, Toulon. The population of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is also very urbanized, with a rate of 94.3% and very marked periurbanisation.