This summer will be the first that British holidaymakers can hop aboard the Eurostar and travel all the way to Marseille, direct. The service, which takes six and a half hours, is the first to link the UK to the glittering shores of the Mediterranean by a single train and means many more of us will be exploring the southeast of France, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's favourite region where their holiday château is found. We take a closer look at the highlights of Marseille and the surrounding area, just a single train ride from St Pancras, London…
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's Château Miraval is nestled in the beautiful Provence countryside
The French port of Marseille was put firmly on the map when it was named European Capital of Culture in 2013 and it has gone from strength to strength since. Make sure you eat splendid seafood – as well as the famous local speciality bouillabaisse fish stew – in the restaurants along the Vieux Port, visit the 17th-century Fort Saint-Jean, and the unmissable Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM), and wander around the former Greek agora, or market place of Place de Lenche, bustling with cafes and cosy theatres. Don't miss a walk along the spectacular coastal pathways of the Calanques national park between Marseilles and pretty Cassis.
The French port of Marseille can now be reached by Eurostar in six and a half hours
AVIGNON and nearby
Surrounded by incredibly preserved 800-year-old stone ramparts, Avignon's turn as the seat of papal power bestowed the city with a treasury of magnificent art and architecture, none grander than the massive medieval fortress and papal palace, Palais des Papes - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A wonderful mix of history and culture that is set on the banks of the River Rhône, this historical city and capital of Provence is perfect for exploring cobbled streets, leafy squares and the performing arts festival it hosts every year.
Avignon, in south-eastern France, is the capital of Provence
The old university city of Aix, often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains, is filled with wonderful cafés once frequented by the likes of famous Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne – who was born here – and Ernest Hemingway, leafy boulevards and 17th- and 18th-century mansions. Wander around this charming town, enjoying pit-stops at the cafés along its grandest avenue cours Mirabeau, photos at the fountains and maybe time your stay with one of the various annual music festivals to listen to some opera or jazz…
Aix, often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains, is the birthplace of famous Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne
With its wide sweeping Bay of Angels and golden beach fringed by the legendary Promenade des Anglais, it’s easy to see why Nice, the capital of the Côte d’Azur draws some three million visitors every year. Other must-sees include the Matisse museum, the Russian Cathedral and Nice’s old town, Vieux Nice, where you’ll find the cours Saleya, a joyous, thriving market square famous for its flower market.
Pictured: Nice, the capital of the Côte d’Azur
Arguably one of the most famous and glamorous resorts in the world, St. Tropez on the French Riviera is the playground of the rich and famous and the place to mingle with the stars. Take in the sparkling sea on the iconic Pampelonne beach, meander cobbled lanes in the old fishing quarter of La Ponche, or enjoy a coastline walk from beach to beach. People watch in one of the cafés in the charming central square Place des Lices and, come nighttime, soak up the glitz and glam in one of France’s most famous nightclubs, Les Caves du Roi, where A-listers regularly head to enjoy a glass or two of champagne along with breathtaking sea views.