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Uncovering Roman History in Provence

From Marie Antoinette to Napoleon Bonaparte, you may have brushed up on French history. Perhaps you’ve watched Les Misérables and even celebrated Bastille Day. But what happened in France long before Louis XIV ruled, before the Enlightenment took place or before the Eiffel Tower was built? The country we know as France today has been inhabited for thousands of years. And the country is still filled with relics from these ancient periods, particularly from the Roman era. In the region of Provence, many Roman ruins can still be explored. We’re uncovering Roman history in Provence and sharing the best sites you can still visit today.


Uncovering Roman History in Provence

Ancient France

Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The first farmers were believed to have arrived in present-day France around 5000 B.C., according to Archéologie Aérienne. It’s clear that the land, leaders and peoples have changed vastly over the past thousands of years. But one period that remains influential is the Roman era. The Roman Empire controlled the land where France stands today, but at that time, it was called Gaul. Under the reign of Julius Caesar, the Romans conquered Gaul during the years 58 and 51 B.C., per World History Encyclopedia.

“Never before had such a frenzy of construction taken place — cities were first, at the initiative of Augustus in 27 BCE, because for Rome, urbanization was the very symbol of civilization,” according to Archéologie Aérienne. And the fruit of the Roman Empire in Gaul can still be seen today in France.

Looking to uncover the best of Roman history in Provence? Here are some of our favorite experiences for history buffs:

Private Cultural Luxury Tour of Roman Provence

It’s one thing to read about Roman history in a textbook; it’s another thing to have a personal guide take you to the ruins. You’ll start in Nîmes. At first glance, this town may seem like any modernized French town. But upon closer look, you’ll discover the rich Roman history hidden here. Nîmes was founded by a Celtic tribe in the 6th century B.C., and Roman influence truly took root in the first century B.C., according to Nîmes Tourisme. Your guide will show you the Magne Tower with sweeping views of the town. As you climb up the 140 stairs, you can imagine what life was like thousands of years ago. Later you’ll wander the impressive Jardins de la Fontaine, which have been recognized as one of Europe’s first public gardens. Be sure to stop and poke around the Roman ruin, the Temple of Diane.

As you wander Nîmes, you might forget you’re even in France as its Roman characteristics still shine today. Your guide will lead you to the Maison Carrée, one of the best preserved temples from the former Roman Empire, according to UNESCO. Many have heard of the Colosseum in Italy, but Nîmes has a similar-looking amphitheater, which was built just 20 years after its Italian lookalike. Gladiators used to fight with an audience of 24,000 spectators in this very arena, per Arènes Nîmes.

After you’ve wandered Nîmes’ Roman ruins, your guide will drive you to the nearby Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct built during the reigns of Nero and Claudius. Built around 50 A.D., this aqueduct provided water for hundreds of years. 

Private Visit and Wine Tasting at Mas des Tourelles

Courtesy of Mas des Tourelles

From smartphones to smart cars, the world is constantly innovating. But some things don’t change across the centuries, even millennia. One of those things is wine, which played an important role in Roman culture. Tucked in the Roman province of Beaucaire, this domain will transport you back to another era in its reconstruction of a Roman winery. Not only will you taste the domain’s wine crafted with ancient techniques, but you’ll also enjoy a workshop on how it’s made. As you sip on wine and nosh on tapenade, you’ll watch a film about the Roman grape harvest. 

After Hours Palais des Papes Visit

When imagining the history of the Roman Catholic church, we often think of, well, Rome and the Vatican. But from 1309 to 1377, the popes left Rome for a southern French town, per Britannica. Avignon became the papal residence for this period, and you can still visit the Palais des Papes today. This impressive 14th century palace has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. French Side Travel will secure an exclusive, after-hours visit for your group to explore at your own pace. 

Glanum Archeological Site 

Long before the Romans arrived, the Celto-Ligurian Salyens people built this ancient city just a stone’s throw away from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence starting in 6th century B.C. During the Roman Empire’s reign of Gaul, Glanum was developed, but around 270 A.D., the settlement was destroyed and abandoned, according to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. It wasn’t until 1921 that archeologists rediscovered this former oppidum. French Side Travel will organize a private after-hours visit for your group. You’ll get to explore the temples, buildings and its underground fountain.

From the French Revolutions and the French Resistance, there’s much to be explored in modern history in France. But these events only scratch the surface. Roman history plays a large part in France’s ancient history, and we’d be delighted to help you plan your trip to see these spots.

Where to Stay in Provence

Hotel La Mirande in Avignon
Step into another era at Hotel La Mirande, a 5-star hotel fit for a queen and king. Its 26 rooms are tastefully decorated with cotton prints and each has their own name. Explore the hotel’s intimate garden, which is home to a wide array of plants and herbs picked by its chefs. The hotel also has its own cooking school where guests can book sessions to learn alongside decorated chefs. Try your hand at the pavlova pastry or perhaps sauteed squid. We’d be happy to book you a table at La Mirande’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Nosh on Chef Florent Pietravalle’s latest creations from black pear to meat paired with a rye-bread crust. Not only is this hotel rich with its cuisine but also its history.  In the 1300s, the popes came to dine in the oldest room of this hotel.

Hotel Imperator in Nîmes
This five-star boutique hotel in Nîmes is the perfect spot to rest your head after exploring Roman ruins in Provence. Delight yourself in one of its chic 54 rooms or 7 private houses. At the hotel’s restaurant l’Impé, you can savor dishes with local ingredients. Later, you can head to Bar Hemingway for some libations. Don’t just take our word for it; names such as Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso even stayed here.


Does this uncovering of Roman history in Provence make you want to delve even deeper into French culture? You might enjoy: Art, Culture and History trip to the French Riviera or Art, Culture and History trip to Provence. Need some help planning your trip?

From Tire to Table: How the Michelin Star was Born

The name Michelin often evokes swanky restaurants, excellent cuisine and star counts. But the history of the Michelin stars goes back more than a century to a pair of brothers who sold tires. So how does a tire company go on to create one of the most prestigious restaurant rating systems? From the tire to the table, we’re explaining the history of Michelin stars as well as our favorite Michelin experiences in France.


From Tire to Table: How the Michelin Star was Born

Who Were the Michelin Brothers?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hailing from Clermont-Ferrand, brothers André and Édouard Michelin had a challenge. They had a tire company, but in 1889, there were only several thousand cars in France. Alas, how could they inspire the French to purchase cars and eventual tires? “The Michelins were determined to turn vehicles from a novelty that took drivers to a Sunday picnic to a viable mode of transportation over long distances,” writes Richard Feloni in Business Insider.

Perhaps a bit of travel inspiration would get people into the driver’s seat. Much like bloggers do today, the brothers decided to create the Michelin Guide with recommendations. These books included hotel and restaurant recommendations, information on how to change a tire and road maps. And more than a century later, this tire company’s guide has become a sort of litmus test for fine dining. The first Michelin guide was published in 1900, and over the years, these originally free guides continued to grow and evolve, per ERIH

How Does Michelin Operate?

Who gives out Michelin stars to restaurants? We don’t know. The Michelin brothers had anonymous restaurant inspectors who would visit different establishments, and this tradition continues today, per Michelin. Usually boasting culinary backgrounds, these inspectors aren’t allowed to speak to journalists and must undergo Michelin training in France, according to Business Insider. Technically, the Michelin Guide awards stars to the restaurant, not the chef.

What do the Michelin Stars Signify?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1926, the first Michelin stars were given with just one star total being possible; several years later, they increased it to three total stars. One star means “a very good restaurant in category,” two stars means “excellent cooking, worth a detour,” three stars mean “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey,” per Great Big Story.

Michelin’s criteria considered are: food quality, cooking techniques, chef’s personality displayed in the menu, consistency and flavor harmony.

It’s not only about stars. They also have the Bib Gourmand symbol, which is awarded to restaurants who have good quality food at affordable prices. Other symbols in the guide may mention the restaurant’s stunning views, its impressive wine list or its outdoor dining.

Where Can I Find Michelin-starred Restaurants?

Although the Michelin Guide is French, the restaurant need not be in France to earn a Michelin star. It makes sense that France would have the most Michelin stars awarded with more than 600 Michelin-starred restaurants in 2023. The runner-up goes to Japan, which has more than 400 Michelin-starred restaurants. Other countries in the Top 10 list include Italy, Germany and the United States. In France, Michelin stars aren’t reserved only for Paris or even large cities; you can find 3-star Michelin restaurants in charming towns such as Menton and Annecy. At French Side Travel, we’d be more than happy to help you plan your trip with great Michelin stops along the way.


Interested in not only visiting France but also tasting the best of its Michelin-renowned cuisine? French Side Travel offers several luxurious experiences for our foodie travels looking for the best of the best.

Dinner Cruise in Paris

Enjoy a splendid boat ride along the Seine complemented with an exquisite meal. Under the direction of Michelin-starred chef Frédéric Anton, you’ll enjoy the best of French cuisine. The meal includes five courses along with a glass of champagne and a glass of red or white wine. As you sip on your wine, you’ll cruise past the incontournables of Paris: the Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay, Louvre and Notre Dame.  Be sure to dress to the nines as the dress code is formal. 

Cooking Class with Michelin Chef in Provence

Courtesy of Château de Berne

Nestled in the heart of Provence, the Château de Berne offers not only a luxurious place to stay but also the opportunity to take a cooking class with a Michelin-starred chef. You’ll learn new recipes, which feature produce from their gardens, in a traditional kitchen. After you complete your recipes, you’ll enjoy them with wine from the domain.

Private Cooking Class in the Loire Valley

Get some quality time with a Michelin-starred chef as you learn and make classic French recipes. This private cooking class reflects the season in order to provide fresh ingredients and authenticity. Perhaps you’ll make a Blanquette de veau with his signature of Sologne chanterelles and spring onions. Or maybe you’ll make the chef’s version of a tomato salad topped with roses and passion fruit. And don’t worry: you’ll get to taste your dishes!

Where to Stay in France with Michelin Experiences

Les Sources de Caudalie
Tucked south of Bordeaux, les Sources de Caudalie is a five-star palace hotel located in the Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards. Escape from the city center with a stay in one of these 61 rooms and suites in Martillac. You can’t miss a visit to its Vinothérapie Spa where you can enjoy a Crushed Cabernet scrub. Not only will you drink well, but you’ll also dine well at its Michelin-starred restaurant La Grand’Vigne.

Courtesy of Le Petit Nice Passedat

Le Petit Nice Passedat
Located on the glamorous Corniche along the Mediterranean, le Petit Nice Passedat isn’t known just for its views. This five-star hotel boasts a restaurant with three Michelin stars. You’ll nosh on the craftsmanship of chef Gérald Passedat with an unobstructed view of Marseille’s blue waves. You can’t go wrong with his 6-course My Bouille Abaisse menu, which features Marseille’s famed fish soup. President Macron has even been known to dine here!


Is the history of the Michelin star making you crave a trip to France? You might enjoy: A Perfect Mixture Between Gastronomic and Cultural Discoveries in Champagne, Burgundy, and Lyon or Luxury Dive Into French Gastronomy. Need some help planning your trip?

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