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Best places to visit in france.

France is home to some of the most lively cities, bucolic villages and renowned wine regions on the globe. U.S. News considered factors like variety of attractions, lodging, weather and culinary scenes to create this ranking of the best places to visit in France. Whether you're seeking an action-packed sightseeing adventure or a relaxing wine retreat, you'll find a fun French vacation here. To influence next year's ranking, vote below for your favorite destinations in France.

Mont Saint-Michel

Montpellier, french alps, chamonix-mont-blanc, aix-en-provence, loire valley.

5 cities to visit in france

As the world's best place to visit , it's no surprise that the electrifying City of Light tops this list. France's capital city is a year-round tourist destination with iconic attractions like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and incredible architecture (think: the dazzling Basilique du Sacré-Coeur). Not to mention, Paris offers unparalleled dining and shopping scenes and more museums than you could hope to visit in one trip. Keep in mind, Paris is often flooded with tourists and room rates can be pricey. If you're looking for a deal, travel in winter or early spring.

5 cities to visit in france

The capital of the Alsace region offers the perfect mix of French and German culture thanks to its location on the France-Germany border. While here, travelers should see Strasbourg's Gothic-style cathedral and stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Petite France quarter with its half-timbered houses and postcard-worthy waterways. Plus, those with an interest in politics can tour several important European institutions during their visit, including the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. For an extra dose of charm, arrive in December to see one of Europe's oldest Christmas markets.

5 cities to visit in france

Rising above the sea like a castle in a fairy tale, Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy is one of France's most-visited sights. Legend says the archangel Michael, the island's namesake, repeatedly appeared to Bishop Aubert of Avranches in dreams, telling him to build a church on top of the island in A.D. 708. Since its completion, it has become an important pilgrimage site for Christians and European intellectuals. Visitors can tour the picturesque abbey and admire its incredible medieval architecture or wander its surrounding streets, which are lined with tiny shops and quaint cafes.

5 cities to visit in france

Dubbed La Ville Rose due to the prominence of distinctive clay bricks in its architecture, Toulouse is a feast for the eyes. Throughout this city, which is located in the South of France, you'll find marvels like the neoclassical Le Capitole on the main square, the stately Basilica of Saint-Sernin (an 11th-century UNESCO site) and the Hôtel d’Assézat, which houses a noteworthy art gallery. What's more, several canals with shady footpaths pass through the city, including the idyllic Canal du Midi. For some of the best views of Toulouse, take a cruise on the River Garonne, or just sunbathe on its banks.

5 cities to visit in france

Sunny Montpellier glows with a combination of old world charm and a trendy university lifestyle. This city in the south of France evokes Parisian appeal with Haussmann architecture and stylish promenades. And like Paris, adornment is everywhere in Montpellier, from fashionable boutiques to street art to France's oldest botanical garden. Plus, since Montpellier is located 7 miles from the coast of the Mediterranean, a beach break is close at hand. Once the sun sets, take part in the city's youthful nightlife scene, which includes everything from music halls to dance clubs.

5 cities to visit in france

It's easy to see why Colmar, located in the heart of Alsace's wine region, is considered one of France's most beautiful cities. Colorful houses that look as if they belong in a fairy tale line the Little Venice district, where you can take a boat tour through Colmar's canals or reach boutiques and eateries on foot. The setting is picturesque regardless of when you vacation here, but for even more charm, visit Colmar at night when lights illuminate the city during annual events like the Colmar International Festival, Alsace's wine fair and Colmar's Christmas market.

5 cities to visit in france

To see some of France's most spectacular art and architecture, head to Avignon. This city in southeastern France is full of stunning structures, including the 14th-century Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace in the world, and the arched bridge, Pont d'Avignon. A number of can't-miss museums are spread throughout Avignon as well, such as the Musée Angladon, which houses works by highly regarded artists like Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. Visit in July to attend the Festival d'Avignon, one of the world's largest performing arts festivals.

5 cities to visit in france

If your ideal French vacation involves a little more nature and a little less city, head to the French Alps . Here, you'll find some of the best ski slopes in Europe, as well as beautiful scenery that rivals any work of art or architecture. In summer, the typically snow-covered mountains thaw just enough to create perfect conditions for hiking and biking. Enchanting villages sit at the base of the range, offering several places to unwind when you've had enough fun on the slopes or trails.

5 cities to visit in france

Despite its war-filled past, this region in northern France is also a place of great beauty and culture. Étretat's white cliffs are a great place to take in the area's natural scenery. Then, visit the region's capital city, Rouen, to admire works of art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts and stroll past the quaint half-timbered houses. Be sure to sample some of the city's culinary specialties to see why it is now a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Or, see some of the remnants of Normandy's heavy history at the D-Day Landing Beaches and The Bayeux Tapestry.

5 cities to visit in france

Glamorous Nice occupies a picturesque spot along the French Riviera. Beach bums and culture hounds alike will enjoy the city's pebbly shores, engaging museums, boutique shops and Baroque-style palaces. Be sure to stroll along the coastline's Promenade des Anglais and pick up some fresh flowers and produce at the vibrant Cours Saleya market, located in old town. You'll likely spend a pretty penny on lodging and beach access, but experiencing Nice is worth it. To save some coin, travel between mid-March and April or from September to October, the area's shoulder seasons.

5 cities to visit in france

Often called "France's Isle of Beauty," Corsica features diverse landscapes and a unique culture that make it seem like a miniature continent. The Mediterranean island's clear blue water and white sand beaches are ideal for sunbathing, snorkeling and kayaking, while its mountainous terrain and dense forests provide ample opportunities to hike trails like the highly regarded (albeit challenging) GR20. Those looking to take in some history can visit the Maison Bonaparte museum to see Napoleon's birthplace. What's more, Corsica offers a one-of-a-kind food scene that showcases various local delicacies, such as lonzu (dry-cured ham) and brocciu (cheese).

5 cities to visit in france

While it may not be as well known as big-name cities like Paris, Lyon competes with the best of them. Despite being the third-largest city in France, Lyon is much calmer and less touristy than other similarly sized destinations. The streets are filled with public art, including the city's famous trompe l'oeil murals, and there are museums that focus on everything from movies to history. Plus, it's surrounded by hundreds of wineries and home to 4,000-plus restaurants, several of which boast Michelin stars, making it especially appealing to oenophiles and foodies.

5 cities to visit in france

If you love to ski, chances are you'll enjoy shredding powder at Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. In the bustling Chamonix (the main place to stay if you want to ski at Mont Blanc), you'll have easy access to the longest off-piste run in the world (Vallée Blanche) and rugged, challenging slopes. But this destination, which hosted the 1924 Winter Olympics, offers more than just top-notch skiing. Chamonix is also a great place to go hiking, mountain biking and whitewater rafting. For some family-friendly fun, visit the town's adventure park to zip down its Alpine coaster and various slides.

5 cities to visit in france

Quaint, charming Aix-en-Provence is a university city known for its tree-lined boulevards, cute cafes and lively markets. Life moves at a more leisurely pace here than in other French cities, meaning it's the perfect place for travelers to get lost in the scenic streets. Make sure to add Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur and Le Grand Marché – two of the city's top attractions – to your itinerary. You can also see where artist Paul Cézanne (an Aix-en-Provence native) painted some of his masterpieces at Atelier de Cezanne, or venture outside of the city to see the Provencal scenes that inspired him.

5 cities to visit in france

Vincent Van Gogh fans may recognize the streetscapes of Arles: This small city in Provence inspired some of the artist's best-known works with its bright colors and rustic feel. Art aficionados can walk in Van Gogh's footsteps and explore his favorite haunts on a walking tour through this romantic city or visit the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles. Beyond this noteworthy connection, Arles is renowned for its Roman ruins, including a two-tiered amphitheater, the Alyscamps necropolis and the Constantine Baths. And as the gateway to the Camargue region, Arles is a great base for visitors looking to explore this marshy, flamingo-filled area.

5 cities to visit in france

Another popular wine region, Burgundy is home to rolling hills, superior cuisine and an array of vineyards. Those visiting Burgundy must spend time exploring the medieval villages, historical abbeys and museums that call this area home. Dijon, the region's history-rich capital, makes a great home base for touring the area. And, of course, you can't leave without trying the region's wine, which mainly uses the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, and dining on some of its rich cuisine.

5 cities to visit in france

Northwestern France's Brittany region stands out from the rest of the country in more ways than one. Locals are proud and protective of their Celtic heritage, including their unique language, traditions and festivals. As a result, visitors will find many well-preserved historical sites throughout the area, including prehistoric megaliths and medieval towns like Saint-Malo, a popular port town with a 12th-century citadel. Brittany also features breathtaking coastlines with fantastic beaches that are known for their phenomenal waves for surfing, dive spots and dolphin-spotting opportunities. 

5 cities to visit in france

As the capital of France's Champagne region, Reims is a must-visit destination for both history buffs and those who love bubbly. The city offers many Champagne cellars where visitors can learn about how the popular wine is produced before tasting it. Additionally, Reims features breathtaking Gothic architecture at attractions like the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims, where 25 French monarchs were crowned between 1223 and 1825, and the adjacent Palace of Tau, the former residence of France's archbishops. No visit would be complete without perusing the exhibits in one of Reims' museums, which cover a range of topics from war history to art and automobiles.

5 cities to visit in france

The gateway to the Loire Valley, Tours is perfectly situated for touring the region's wineries. But with Tours' historical elements and prime location along the Loire River, you may just want to stay in town. Place Plumereau, a medieval marketplace that remains one of the city's oldest squares, exudes irresistible charm with half-timbered houses, while churches like the Saint-Gatien Cathedral stun with their stately façades. Visitors will also have their pick of green spaces, from parks like Prébendes d’Oé Garden to riverside guinguettes (open-air cafes) at Tours sur Loire. What's more, several of the region's famed châteaux (including the Château de Villandry) sit just outside the city.

5 cities to visit in france

For a romantic escape, visit the Loire Valley in central France. Situated along the Loire River, the area is peppered with châteaux, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, farms and wineries renowned for their sauvignon blanc. The region itself is even a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its beauty and historical villages. Plan to spend some time in a few of the valley's laid-back cities and towns, such as Orléans and Saumur, and you can't miss the emblematic Château de Chambord.

5 cities to visit in france

This wine-producing hub woos travelers with its riverbank location and surrounding countryside. With nearly 300,000 acres of vineyards, Bordeaux offers ample choices for those looking to sip some of the best (typically bold red) wines in the world. In the city center, marvel at the Gothic-style Basilique Saint Michel, walk across the Pont de Pierre (a beautiful stone bridge), snap a photo of the iconic Place de la Bourse and enjoy the Jardin Public's pathways and flora.

5 cities to visit in france

Located on the French Riviera just 8 miles from Nice, the tiny hilltop village of Èze makes for an excellent daytrip. The best way to spend your time in this medieval town is meandering through its cobbled streets that look as though they've been pulled from a postcard. In doing so, you'll find picturesque views of the coast, as well as luxury hotels and shops from another era. Top sights include the Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption and Jardin Exotique d'Èze, as well as the walking path of Nietzsche, who was inspired to write here. Before leaving town, stop by the Fragonard Parfumeur factory for a fragrant tour.

5 cities to visit in france

Located 35 miles northeast of Montpellier, Nîmes delights history buffs with some of the world's best-preserved Roman treasures like its emblematic arena and La Maison Carrée, a temple dating back to 10 B.C. Museums throughout Nîmes also cover its past. But lest you get the wrong impression, Nîmes is anything but stuffy. The city embraces the joie de vivre of the South of France with countless festivals, from structured events like the concert lineups of the Festival de Nîmes to lively Ferias de Nîmes – multi-day celebrations that occur twice a year at Pentecost and in September, and center around bullfighting, dancing and music.

5 cities to visit in france

France's oldest and second-largest city has become an exciting, up-and-coming tourist destination. Marseille has a number of sights to see, including the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde and Château d'If, the ominous prison made famous by Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo." When the weather is nice, the rocky cliffs and secluded beaches of the Calanques are excellent for swimming, boating and hiking. No trip to Marseille would be complete without a stop by the Mucem, a museum dedicated to Mediterranean civilization. Plus, its rooftop terrace makes the perfect vantage point to admire the city.

5 cities to visit in france

Famous for its annual film festival in May, Cannes is just as impressive (and much less congested) other times of the year. Cannes is another French Riviera hot spot that welcomes travelers looking for a little relaxation (think: sun-soaked beaches and meandering walks through the steep streets of Le Suquet, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods). Visitors can sightsee as they stroll along La Croisette, a 2-mile-long promenade, or sit down for an exquisite meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Feeling lucky? Stop by one of Cannes' casinos.

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20 Beautiful Places to Visit in France — From Normandy to the French Riviera

The best places to visit in France range from iconic landmarks to charming villages.

Lindsay Cohn is a writer, editor, and avid traveler who has visited 45 countries across six continents — and counting. She contributes to Travel + Leisure, Hotels Above Par, InsideHook, Well+Good, The Zoe Report, and more.

5 cities to visit in france

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Many things entice travelers to visit France — food, wine, fashion, architecture, and natural beauty among them. There’s something wonderful to eat, drink, see, and do in every corner of this Western European nation. It’s hard not to fall in love with Paris . The glamorous beaches along the Côte d'Azur are legendary. Provence also packs a punch with fragrant lavender fields, the hilltop villages of the Luberon , and vineyards. Vines and grand chateaux mix in the Loire Valley . Truth be told, the number of dazzling places within the country is actually quite dizzying, but we’re more than happy to help point you in some of the most photogenic directions. Scroll on for 20 of the best places to visit in France.

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Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful small towns in the world , Gordes draws heaps of tourists who descend upon this idyllic Luberon village in the hopes of capturing the perfect shot of its cobbled lanes, time-worn churches, and 12th-century Sénanque Abbey framed by lavender fields.

Palace of Versailles

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Whether you’re a film buff, love history, or simply want to tick one of France’s most famous landmarks off your sightseeing list, the grandeur of Versailles never fails to impress. The palace is home to the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Chapel, and many other opulent rooms. Outside are the magnificent gardens, fountains, and sprawling park.

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Camargue doesn’t look or feel like anywhere else in southern France. This wild region between the Mediterranean Sea and the two branches of the Rhône River delta brims with the untamed natural beauty of salt marshes, reed beds, free-roaming white horses, and hundreds of bird species — most notably, pink flamingos.

Eiffel Tower

Built for the 1889 World's Fair, the Eiffel Tower is an enduring symbol of Paris. It’s one thing to see the famous landmark in films, television shows, and photographs, but it’s quite another to get a close-up look at this incredible feat of ingenuity in real life. The twinkly lights at night only add to the romance of it all.

Île Sainte-Marguerite

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Located about half a mile offshore from tourist-laden Cannes, Île Sainte-Marguerite reflects a more low-key side of the French Riviera with lovely scenery at every turn. The largest of the Lérins Islands has beautiful rocky beaches, turquoise waters, and a eucalyptus forest, plus an underwater sculpture museum.

Châteaux of the Loire Valley

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Part of the historical and architectural fabric of the country, the châteaux of the Loire Valley are an enduring reminder of Renaissance resplendence. Impressive from both a design and landscaping perspective, these regal landmarks range from palaces with sprawling gardens (like Château de Chambord) to smaller castles.

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

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Tucked on the eastern side of a forested peninsula, the exclusive commune of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has long captivated artists such as Henri Matisse, writers, and well-heeled holiday-goers with its spellbinding beauty. Expect exquisite villas hidden by lush vegetation, breathtaking beaches with clear waters for snorkeling, hiking trails, and a yacht-filled harbor.

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Situated just south of Colmar in the Alsace region of France, Eguisheim looks like a medieval village you’d see on the cover of a storybook with a concentric plan of narrow streets, half-timbered houses, bubbling fountains, centuries-old castles, and wine caves.

Louvre Museum

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No list of the best places to visit in France would be complete without mentioning the Louvre. The most patronized museum in the world is a historic landmark in its own right with an eye-catching exterior and rooms filled with priceless works of art including the "Mona Lisa" and the Venus de Milo.

Strasbourg Cathedral

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Strasbourg Cathedral is widely regarded as one the most outstanding examples of Rayonnant Gothic architecture (though, for accuracy, the remaining parts of the original structure are Romanesque). It’s a beautiful landmark with heaps of history and visual appeal that’s well worth visiting while in the Alsace region.

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Straddling the French-Italian border and extending into Switzerland, Mont Blanc (which translates to “White Mountain”) rises 15,771 feet, making it the highest mountain in the Alps and the second most prominent peak in Europe. People come from near and far to go skiing, ride the Aiguille du Midi cable car, and even attempt to climb to the summit.

Valensole Plateau Lavender Fields

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Lavender fields have come to define Provence. This purple-hued visual is splashed across the front of virtually every postcard in the region. Many of those photos were taken on the Valensole Plateau, which erupts in a fragrant and vibrant bloom each summer.

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The charming hilltop district of Montmartre in Paris’s 18th arrondissement feels more like a small village than a big city. Cobbled streets, sidewalk cafes, windmills, and performances from local musicians give it a quaint atmosphere. Its crown jewel, the iconic white-domed Sacré-Cœur commands attention.

Saint-Tropez

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Few places shine quite like Saint-Tropez. Celebrities, artists, and jet setters have been flocking to this cinematic holiday hotspot on the French Riveria since the 1960s. The glamorous beach clubs, mega yachts, and charming old fishing quarter keep the crowds thick every summer. 

Belle-Île-en-Mer

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The largest of the islands off the coast of Brittany in northwest France, the aptly named Belle-Île-en-Mer is a beautiful destination with uncrowded beaches, enchanting villages, and rugged cliffs. The jagged rock formation known as Les Aiguilles de Port Coton even inspired Monet to pick up his paintbrush.

Porquerolles

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While it’s impossible to pick a favorite spot along the French Riveria, there’s a lot to love about Porquerolles. The largest of the Îles d'Hyères offers peaceful beaches, calm waters, rolling vineyards, cycling paths through the countryside, old forts, and an off-the-beaten-path vibe.

Veuve Clicquot Champagne House

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For fans of bubbly, few things are as fabulous as a trip to the Champagne region of France. Founded in 1772, Veuve Clicquot tops the list of the most significant and celebrated producers. A visit to this world-famous house in Reims entails touring the historic cellars and, of course, sipping the finest sparkling wine.

Arc De Triomphe

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Everyone who visits France’s capital for the first time heads over to the Arc De Triomphe for that “I went to Paris" photo. It’s worth joining the masses in admiring this famous monument that stands tall at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc

Courtesy of Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc

Admittedly, an overnight stay at the luxurious Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc at the tip of Cap d’Antibes isn’t in the budget for most travelers. But that shouldn’t preclude you from visiting. Reserve a terrace table at the restaurant to savor Mediterranean cuisine alongside stunning views of the sea and the rock-framed infinity pool.

D-Day Landing Beaches

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Normandy is closely associated with WWII — specifically, the fateful day the Allied troops made landfall at the D-Day beaches, an operation that ultimately led to the liberation of France (and eventually Western Europe) from Nazi occupation. Today, travelers can visit the many museums and memorials along the 50-mile stretch of coastline.

8 best cities to visit in France and what you can do in each

Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux in France

Paris’ iconic landmarks, the sun-kissed French Riviera, Bordeaux’s verdant vineyards…list goes on. France ’s cultural and natural offerings are staggering, not just in volume but in terms of charm and diversity. It’s no surprise that painters and poets have flocked to France to be inspired.

We’ve rounded the best cities to visit in France and what you can do in each. Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best times to visit France to plan your next French vacation.

Aerial view of Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France

Paris is obviously one of the top cities to visit in France. Spend a few days checking out bucket list sights like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre . There are so many things to do in Paris but remember to save a few days to explore local neighborhoods like Rue Cler , the Marais district , and the Latin Quarter .

The Parisian calendar is packed with events throughout the year. The best time to visit Paris is in the fall when the summer crowds have dwindled. Partake in the celebration of French food at the French Cuisine Festival ( Fête de la Gastronomie ) in September and Paris Chocolate Show ( Salon du Chocolat ) in October.

Where to stay: Take your Paris trip to the next level by splurging on hotels with the best views of the Eiffel Tower like Hotel Plaza Athenee and Hôtel La Comtesse .

Rouen city in France

Just 1.5 hours by train from Paris, Rouen , the capital city of Normandy , is one of the most beautiful cities in France, filled with over 2,000 half-timbered houses dating back to the late Middle Ages. Walk down Rue du Gros-Horloge and marvel at the much-photographed Great Clock ( Gros-Horloge ). Look for the towering cast iron spires of the tallest church in France, Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen .

Visit Rouen in spring when the flowers bloom and join the Joan of Arc festival in May to commemorate the French heroine who was burnt at the stake in the town. Learn more about her bravery at the Church of Saint Joan of Arc and the Joan of Arc Museum .

Where to stay: Pamper yourself at the historic Hotel de Bourgtheroulde in the city center.

3. Bordeaux

A girl running across the water mirror in Bordeaux France

Hop on an eastbound high-speed train in Paris and you’ll arrive in Bordeaux in just two hours. The elegant port city boasts many historical and heritage sites. Join a walking tour to explore breathtaking spots like the Place de la Bourse and the mesmerizing “ Water Mirror ”, said to be the world’s largest reflecting pool.

Bordeaux is the gateway to the wine region of France. Join a wine-tasting tour to Saint Émilion to experience the magic of French wine. Plan a trip in the fall so you can participate in the traditional grape harvest festival.

Where to stay: Unwind after your long days of exploration in cozy boutique hotels like L'Hotel Particulier and Yndo Hotel .

Beach goers relaxing on a beach in Nice, France

The sparkling capital of the Côte d'Azur , Nice is a popular spot to start your escapade in the Mediterranean coast. It’s a convenient base to explore other seaside towns like Antibes and Villefranche-sur-Mer as frequent train and bus connections run through the area.

Other than relaxing by the glorious beaches, hike up Castle Hill for sensational scenery. Nice is home to boutique vineyards perched on the coastal hills that you can visit on a leisurely bike tour .

Nice is more pleasant in September and October without the crowds. For a different experience, visit in winter and be swept away by the energy of the long-running Nice Carnival in February when colorful floats and the Mardi Gras vibe takes over the coastal city.

Where to stay: Indulge in resort-style properties flanking the famous Promenade des Anglais like Hotel Le Negresco and Le Meridien Nice .

People walking along a river in Lyon, France

Positioned comfortably between Burgundy and Provence , Lyon is France’s third-largest city. The metropolitan city is easy to get to—just under two hours from Paris–but difficult to leave with its eclectic offerings.

Join a guided tour in Lyon to discover the covered passageways in Vieux Lyon . You’re in for an epicurean adventure as Lyon, the culinary capital of France, is the birthplace of bouchons , casual bistros where traditional French food is perfected. Be dazzled by the cavernous food market Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Lyon is the ideal launchpad to the French countryside like Rhône Valley and the magnificent French Alps .

Where to stay: Make Presqu’île , the city’s island nestled between the Rhône and Saône rivers, your base and spend your nights in Hotel Carlton Lyon or Hotel des Celestins .

Palace in Dijon, France

Dijon is a feast for all senses from its elegant medieval buildings to its gastronomic delights. Follow the fascinating Owl’s Trail to cover the city’s main attractions.

Dijon is the capital city of Burgundy , the serene and cultivated region of France that produces outstanding wine. You’ll be spoiled by the wide range of vineyards and wine-tasting activities .

Visit in the fall and be welcomed by stunning foliage and the smell of fresh grape harvests. Don’t miss the annual Dijon International Gastronomy Fair in November where you can savor the finest French products like Dijon’s renowned spicy mustard and wine-infused escargots.

Where to stay: Check out the impressive range of accommodation, from the Michelin-recommended Grand Hotel La Cloche Dijon to a beautiful monastery-turned-hotel Appart'Hotel Odalys Les Cordeliers .

7. Marseille

Vieux Port in Marseille, France

The port city Marseille is France’s second-largest and often underrated city. Connected to most parts of France via trains, Marseille is a vibrant city that’s refreshingly different from other French cities. Soak in the unique atmosphere of Marseille by wandering through its old port and the multicultural Panier District .

Venture beyond central Marseille and join a bike tour to explore the rocky coastal inlets in the Calanques National Park . Fall is a perfect time to do outdoor activities here. In October, the city hosts Fiesta des Suds, a music festival.

Where to stay: Hotel la Residence du Vieux Port and Grand Hotel Beauvau Marseille Vieux Port have enviable locations by the old port and guests are treated to stunning views of the waterfront.

Pink blooms in Rennes, France

Tucked in the north-western part of Brittany , Rennes is a lively city and the region’s hub–just a swift 2-hour train ride from Paris. Swing to the rhythm of the French way of life in Rennes by strolling through bustling weekend morning markets in Place des Lices .

Enjoy lots of crêpes—the classic French crêpe is Brittany’s gift to the world—with locally produced cider. Thanks to Brittany’s coastline, fresh oysters are available all year round.

Visit Rennes in spring to immerse yourself in the relaxing vibe when popular spots are not packed yet. Embark on single or multi-day tours to nearby attractions like Mont-Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo .

Where to stay: Boutique hotels like Le Saint-Antoine Hotel & Spa and Balthazar Hôtel & Spa are irresistible with their top-notch services and facilities.

Recommended tours and activities

5 cities to visit in france

13 of the best places to visit in France

Mary Novakovich

Nov 25, 2023 • 7 min read

Afro mother and her daughter bonding together outdoors at the lavender field

Have you been to France if you haven't got a shot in the lavender fields of Provence? © iStock / Getty Images

France  consistently tops the list as the world’s most visited destination – and it doesn’t take much imagination to see why.

Its winning formula of captivating cities, awe-inspiring landscapes – including the  Alps and the  Pyrenees – an enviable coastline and some of the world’s best food and wine is hard to resist. Affordable public transportation and a sprawling network of motorways mean you can cover a lot of ground if you want to visit more than one region. But it’s just as tempting to stick to one place and enjoy the country's seductive lifestyle.

Wondering where to go in France? Have a look at these top destinations for some inspiration.

A man performs a trick on a skateboard in a square in Paris

1. Paris has great urban vibes

Much as you’d like to tick the main sights of  Paris off your list – world-class art at the  Louvre and  Musée d’Orsay , the  Eiffel Tower ,  Sacré-Coeur – make time for some of its lesser-known attractions. Wander the atmospheric streets of the  Marais – popping into the free  Musée Carnavalet as well as  Musée Picasso – before checking out the vintage shops of the 10th arrondissement . Make your way over to buzzing Belleville and take in fabulous views of Paris from Parc de Belleville. For full-on greenery in the city, follow the footpaths around the elegant 19th-century  Parc des Buttes-Chaumont .

Local tip : For authentic local dining experiences, avoid restaurants that tout a menu touristique, or display a sample meal of plastic food on the pavement outside.

Read more: Where locals go on vacation in France

2. the loire valley's castles are best explored by bike.

At some point, you’ll want to be on two wheels as you explore the gently rolling landscapes of the  Loire Valley – especially as cycling is made so much easier thanks to the extensive Vélo Verte network of bike routes. Combine visiting vineyards with glimpses into lavish Renaissance life in the 42 sumptuous chateaux, particularly the fantastically elaborate  Chateau de Chenonceau and the more intimate and romantic  Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau on its own island on the Indre tributary.

Local tip:  Don't leave your bicycle locked up outside on the street overnight if you want to see it (or at least most of its parts) again. Some hotels offer enclosed bicycle parking. 

A cave frames the shoreline at Etretat, Normandy

3. Normandy’s coast is the place to learn about WWII history  

Normandy ’s long coastline is packed with historical landmarks, the D-Day beaches being the most striking. It’s impossible not to be moved by the many poignant memorials, including the  American cemetery at Omaha Beach and the  Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer. Head further east, and you end up in a 19th-century time capsule in the alluring resorts of Cabourg, Deauville, Trouville and  Honfleur .

4. Strasbourg and Alsace’s wine routes are full of fairy-tale charm

Strasbourg is half-timbered heaven, with an outrageously picturesque old town set on its own island on the  River Ill . Wander round its imposing Cathédrale Notre-Dame before relaxing on one of the cafe terraces in little Place du Marché Gayot just behind. The city is an excellent starting point for a tour of the  Alsace Wine Route, the oldest in France. Beer drinkers aren’t left out: Alsace is the only region in France that makes wine and beer.

People relaxing on a restaurant terrace in a village in France

5. The Luberon in Provence has many lovely hilltop villages

Terracotta rooftops and honey-colored stone cottages tumble down pine-clad hills, while vineyards crisscross the valleys with olive groves and lavender fields. That’s when you know you’re in Provence, specifically the wonderfully mellow  Luberon . Wander from village to hilltop village and lose yourself in the medieval lanes of some of the most gorgeous places in France. Put Bonnieux, Gordes, Ménerbes, Roussillon and Saignon on your list just for starters.

Local tip : Buy a baguette from the boulangerie (bakery) and fill it with Camembert, pâté or charcuterie (cold meats). Finish sweet with macarons, buttery kouign amann (Breton butter cake) or cherries in summer. 

6. Mont-St-Michel is a top destination for medieval history buffs

The 10th-century Benedictine abbey at  Mont-St-Michel casts its spell even before you arrive. The walk to this tidal island takes at least 20 minutes, during which you have this magnificent abbey, monastery and snail-like spiral of village houses in your sights. You certainly won’t tire of that view. Once you’ve explored the gothic interiors, take your pick from one of the panoramic restaurants circling the island.

A paraglider prepares to head out from the top a sand dune

7. Dune du Pilat is France's most scenic place to camp

Soaring more than 100m (328ft) above sea level, the otherworldly Dune du Pilat is Europe’s tallest sand dune. Sheltered by the Arguin sandbank, its waters are much gentler than further up the Atlantic coast on the western side of Cap Ferret. It’s ringed with campsites, giving you not only one of the loveliest views but also utterly mesmerizing sunsets. When you’re not running up the mountain of sand, you’ll be transfixed by the antics of the paragliders who rarely leave this place.

Local tip : There is a large car park about 400 meters (437 yards) from the dune, which charges a small fee for parking. However, you cannot park here overnight without being fined €50. 

8. Lyon is a top food destination

Even Parisians have to admit that  Lyon is gastronomic royalty in France. Bring a big appetite to do justice to eating in Lyon’s trademark bouchons , intimate little bistros that specialize in hearty meat-heavy lyonnaise cuisine. Start your bouchon tour in the UNESCO-listed Renaissance lanes of Vieux Lyon, where you can also spot the old secret passageways known as traboules .

A woman walks carefully along a wall in the village of Saint Emilion in France

9. Bordeaux is the best place to go for wine lovers

Mixing easy elegance with liveliness, France’s wine capital hums with the sounds of people enjoying themselves in  Bordeaux ’s cafe-filled 18th-century lanes of Saint-Pierre and Place du Parlement. Take the pleasant, pedestrianized path along the River Garonne to  La Cité du Vin , whose audacious design holds a thoroughly enjoyable museum celebrating wine from Bordeaux and beyond.

Local tip : Dress up when dining out, even at mid-range restaurants, clubs and bars. Leave the jeans and sneakers in your suitcase (unless you're at the local village bar where a more casual style is fine).

10. Annecy has the best Alpine beauty

On the doorstep of the French Alps,  Annecy is another one of those sigh-inducing gorgeous cities that France does so well. Its medieval heart squeezes into gaps between the Thiou River and Canal, with tall pastel-colored townhouses towering over the quayside cafes. You can’t miss the  Vieille Ville ’s most distinctive landmark,  Palais de l’Île , a medieval castle and former prison that’s now a museum. Your wanderings will inevitably take you to the glorious shores of Lake Annecy, one of France’s most beautiful.

11. Biarritz and Basque Country is packed with boho chic

Royalty has been flocking to  Biarritz for more than two centuries since Napoleon III’s mother, Queen Hortense, fell in love with this fishing village on the Atlantic coast. Then the surfers joined in from the 1950s onward, bringing some laid-back cool to go with Biarritz’s superb beaches. Once you’ve had a swim in the  Grande Plage and  Plage de la Côte des Basques , check out the  Basque Country coastal towns of  Bayonne and  St-Jean-de-Luz before heading into the Pyrenees.

12. Nice is a vibrant taste of life on the Mediterranean

The sun-drenched capital of the Côte d’Azur is everything you want in a Mediterranean city, and then some. Explore the labyrinthine lanes of  Vieux Nice , with an obligatory trawl through the morning food market at  Cours Saleya  before taking in the views from the top of  Colline du Chateau . Chill out on one of  Nice ’s many beaches before getting a culture fix at the  Chagall and  Matisse museums. Hop on one of the most scenic train lines in Europe and pop into the attractive coastal villages of  Villefranche-sur-Mer and  Èze .

Planning tip: If you're heading to the Côte d’Azur in May, book time to get over to star-studded Cannes for Europe's biggest cinema extravaganza. Every evening from 9:30pm, the Cinéma de la Plage provides free open-air screenings on the beachfront.

A woman hikes up a path towards a mountain peak

13. Auvergne has a captivating natural landscape

The lush volcanic landscape of the  Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne is one of the most dramatic in France. Among its four volcanic massifs, the green-covered lava domes, cinder cones and craters of the Chaîne des Puys – more than 80 volcanoes – are a dream to explore on foot, on two wheels or from an exhilarating paraglide flight.

Local tip : If you're traveling with children, head to the surprisingly educative Vulcania theme park and learn about Auvergne's long-extinct volcanoes. 

This article was first published June 2012 and updated November 2023

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Gorges du Verdon

The 16 best places to visit in France

From buzzing cities to gorgeous countryside escapes, these are the essential places in France to visit at least once in your life

France   is one of the most visited places on the planet – and you better believe that it lives up to every bit of the hype. This famous country has been at the cultural heart of western Europe for millennia, and you can see signs of its complex and fascinating past all over the place. But it’s not all   grand old châteaux : France is also blessed with some exceptionally beautiful natural wonders   and   some of Europe’s coolest city-break destinations .

So, from heavenly beach destinations and   picturesque rural villages   to grand old cities like   Paris ,   Lyon   and   Marseille , these are the best places to visit in France – and some of the world’s most essential destinations.

Discover France:

📍 The best   things to do in France 🌳 The prettiest   villages in France 🏖 The best   beaches in France 🏰 Spectacular  French châteaux you can rent 😋 The best   restaurants in France 🌊  The best places to stay on the French Riviera

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Best places to visit in France

Paris

Where do you start with a city like Paris? The French capital is one of the great global cities, as renowned for its world-class museums, magnificent grub and lavish shopping options as it is for its mere vibe . From the Louvre to the Jardin de Luxembourg, the place oozes history, beauty and, yes, romance. There is, quite plainly, nowhere quite like it.

Discover Paris:

📍 The best things to do in Paris 🧑 ‍🍳 The best restaurants in Paris 🎨 The best museums in Paris 🥐 The best cafés in Paris

Marseille

The port city of Marseille has been one great big melting pot of cultures ever since it was founded by the Greeks a whopping 2,600 years ago. Having thrown off its rep as a town of sailors and gangsters, these days Marseille is a dazzlingly multicultural city with galleries and rooftop bars galore – and all within easy reach of marvellous spectacles of nature in the form of calanques and coves. 

Discover Marseille:

📍 The best things to do in Marseille 😋 The best restaurants in Marseille 🥾 The essential guide to Marseille’s calanques 🚤 The best boat trips from Marseille

Nice

Nice by name, nice by... alright, that’s a bit too cheesy. But it’s true. With its lavish beachside promenade, throngs of established museums and hearty wine bars, Nice is a rather exceptionally lovely coastal city. It’s the former residence of Henri Matisse, with an entire museum dedicated to the legendary artist – and with skies this vibrant, it’s not hard to see where he found the inspiration for his bold blues.

Discover Nice:

📍 The best things to do in Nice 🏖 The best beaches in Nice 😋 The best restaurants in Nice 🛍 The best shops in Nice

Lyon

Lyonnais are known for being particularly proud of their city – and they’ve every right to be. This place is a gastronomic wonderland and (disputedly, we admit) France’s food capital, with each of its Michelin-starred abodes matched by dozens of under-the-radar culinary masters. And with its Unesco-protected city centre, Rhône and Saône river views and its history as a silk centre, Lyon has loads of non-foodie stuff to do, too.

Discover Lyon:

🍴 The best restaurants in Lyon

Bordeaux

Not just the greatest winemaking hub in the world, Bordeaux is also a full-blown dream of a city: packed with characterful medieval architecture, a top-tier dining scene and sprawling green open spaces, and within touching distance of some of the mightiest (and warmest) beaches on France’s Atlantic coast. Even teetotallers will find a shedload to do here.

Nîmes, Arles and Orange

Nîmes, Arles and Orange

For history buffs, there are few regions of France more worth a week’s visit than the lower reaches of the River Rhône. Impressively preserved Roman amphitheatres, arches, temples and baths draw as many visitors to the cities of Nîmes, Arles and Orange as the laidback lifestyle, local wines and year-round sunshine. But the highlight is the spectacular Pont du Gard: the 2,100-year-old three-tiered aqueduct that straddles the Gardon river. It’s one of the most impressive Roman monuments surviving anywhere – Rome included.

French Riviera

French Riviera

Stretching for more than 100 miles along France’s southeastern coast, the Riviera is best appreciated as a whole: as a series of delightful places rather than any one in particular. From perfume capital Grasse and rocky Èze to legendarily-glitzy Saint-Tropez and film-tastic Cannes, the Côte d'Azur is everything it claims to be and more.

Discover the French Riviera:

😎 The best places to stay on the French Riviera

Provence

Inland from the bustle of the Riviera, the vast and ancient rural region of Provence is the place for a slower pace of life. If you don’t like the smell of lavender, best avoid the Valensole plateau, with its fields of purple stretching into the distance – 300 square miles’ worth of the fragrant stuff. We recommend renting a mountain bike and cycling the yellow dirt paths, with a charming stopover in a village such as Riez or Esparron-de-Verdon. Not far away, the gravity-defying limestone flanks and dazzling turquoise-green waters of the Gorges du Verdon draw hikers, swimmers and kayakers from far and wide.

Dordogne

Named after the river that runs through it, the Dordogne region is almost surreally picturesque. Vines as far as the eye can see, endless rolling hills, impossibly pretty hamlets… from the seventeenth-century Chateau de Marqueyssac and its hypnotic gardens to the oak forests of the Périgord noir, it’s so beautiful it can feel like the stuff of dreams.

Alsace

On the Upper Rhine plain between France and Germany, Alsace has changed hands several times. Start in regional capital Strasbourg for a taste of Alsace’s culture, architecture and food – a distinctive blend of French and German – then  head to half-timbered Colmar for shades of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (plus  one of Europe’s best Christmas markets ). And whatever you do, stop off at  the twelfth-century Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg: an epic complex with views all the way to the Black Forest.

Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy

Bordered by snow-capped mountains in the Haute-Savoie region, Annecy is known as ‘Europe’s cleanest lake’ thanks to strict local environmental regulations. It’s also very beautiful. The third-largest lake within France’s borders, its ten square miles draw bathers, sailors, divers and sunbathers alike to its grassy ‘beaches’ in summer. Rich with flora and fauna, the area’s hills are ideal for hiking, and the town of Annecy itself brims with brilliant restaurants, delis and canals.

Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi

Connecting the Garonne river at Toulouse with the Étang de Thau basin on the Mediterranean, the 150-mile-long Midi makes for the dreamiest of waterside cycle adventures in summer. Built under the patronage of Louis XIV’s first minister Colbert in the seventeenth century, it is now connected to the Canal de Garonne, and together the two canals allow for barges to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. For the full canal experience, you should rent one. A barge, that is, not a canal.

Loire Valley

Loire Valley

Two things make a trip here essential: castles and wine. The Loire is France’s longest river, and the stretch between Orléans and Angers is home to more than 300 grand châteaux dating back to the age when France had kings, as well as 185,000 acres of vineyards. Follow the river past woods and fields and through the medieval towns of Blois, Amboise and Saumur – each crowned by an unmissable royal castle. And don’t miss a chance to sample the local specialities: white wine, rillettes, goat’s cheese and Chambord – the latter named after one of the province’s most spectacular châteaux.

French Basque Country

French Basque Country

Although most of the historic Basque Country lies over the border in modern-day Spain, the French part is well worth a visit – especially if you’re partial to a gnarly surf trip. A classy bathing retreat since the nineteenth century, Biarritz became the home of European surfing in the ’50s, with the Atlantic regularly chucking ten-metre waves up its  Grande Plage.  Once you’ve dried off, refuel with a plate of the signature cured ham from Bayonne, just up the road. And further down the coast, the beach towns of St Jean-de-Luz and Hendaye have miles of golden sand and eye-popping summer sunsets over the ocean.

Brittany

With its sweeping cliffs and capes and proud Celtic heritage, France’s rugged northwest region— aka ‘Little Britain’ — is rightly likened to Cornwall. The coastline gets top billing, from the romantic Pink Granite Coast via quaint fishing villages to walkers’ magnet the Crozon peninsula. History fans should make for Carnac, Brittany’s Stonehenge, while gourmands will love plundering the local larder: crêpes, savoury galettes, and seafood, with France’s oyster capital, Cancale, just east of the picture-perfect walled town of Saint-Malo.

Normandy

Normandy’s stirring white-chalk cliffs – from picturesque port Honfleur to chic weekend getaway Étretat – gave birth to no less than the entire art movement of Impressionism. New bike route  La Seine à Vélo  reunites many of the area’s joys, especially at Monet’s home and lilypad-lined gardens at Giverny, before taking in Rouen (tied to Joan of Arc lore) and seaside Deauville. Keep on coasting for three more musts: the D-Day landing sites, Bayeux’s famously ornate tapestry, and ‘Wonder of the West’ the Mont-Saint-Michel, an island topped by a gravity-defying abbey.

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The best places to visit in France

The best places to visit in France

It’s one of the most visited places on the planet, but France always lives up to the hype

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17 Best Places to Visit in France

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The allure of France lingers in the consciousness of all travelers. Across the six corners of the l’Hexagone are a little something for everyone. It starts in Paris, a place that was so loved it became cool not to love it.

As you expound further, say hello to the bucolic countryside of Alsace, the castles of the Loire Valley, the luxuriation of the French Riviera, and finally, take a deep breath. In the French Alps.

It can be difficult to do it all in one go, but each time you visit, you’ll discover something different. Whether that be a new era of history, such as ancient Greek ports, Roman Catholicism, the Middle Ages or the Renaissance.

Map of France

France Map

Maybe it’s treating yourself to Cote d’Azur and Saint Tropez. Or maybe you head into the mountains for an entirely different adventure. There are always new places to visit in France and exciting attractions to discover. They say you can’t have it all. But in France, maybe you can.

17. Avignon

Avignon

Once the center of Roman Catholicism, this short-lived stint evolved into the culturally rich town we see today. The Pope may be long gone, but the array of canonical architecture remains.

Palace of the Popes

At the heart of this is the Palais des Papes, which is part striking fortress and part palace. It’s the biggest Gothic palace in history and was meant to showcase the might of the Roman Catholic Church in the years after its departure from Rome. Three-meter thick walls enveloped the palace and protected her vast halls, cavernous antechambers and eloquent chapels.

Beyond the palace, Avignon boasts mansions from the Renaissance and features a renowned annual theater festival. With the Rhone River meandering through, you’ll find a vibrant waterfront and wine from nearby vineyards.

16. Marseille

Marseille

One of Europe’s oldest cities and France’s second largest city, Marseille is a major Mediterranean seaport located off the southeast coast of France. Once a prominent Greek harbor, there remains a classic edginess to the city. But it’s evolved into a much richer, interesting culture.

Today, creativity runs through the city and can be seen in its live music, arts and cutting-edge museums. The same can be said of its progressive food scene.

Marseille Old Port

At the core of Marseille is its old port, Vieux Port. Dominated by two historic forts, this bustling harbor is lined with waterfront cafes, shops and bars. At the end of the harbor is the Quai des Belges where visitors can view luxury yachts, ferry boats and fishermen auctioning off their catch at the daily fish market.

One of Marseille’s best natural attractions, the Calanques are a series of small inlets with astonishing blue water and majestic limestone cliffs. Other must-sees include Fort St-Jean, Le Panier, MuCEM and the Basilique Notre Dame de Garde.

With some necessary exploration finished, head offshore to Chateau d’If, which was Immortalized by The Count of Monte Cristo. Finish up with a brilliant sunset while noshing on bouillabaisse.

15. Versailles

Versailles

Second to the Eiffel Tower, Versailles is the most popular landmark in France. Some 15 million arrive every year to experience this decadent symbol of power and history. Here’s the thing about traveling, sometimes you’re gonna have to deal with crowds.

And deal you will, as Versailles is well worth the time and effort. The palace dates back to the late 17th century, beginning life as a luxurious lodge for the monarchs in power. However, it was Louis XIV who moved the court and influence away from Paris to Versailles as tensions blossomed across France.

Versailles Garden

Today, with your pre-purchased ticket (avoid those lines, folks!) you can explore the gorgeous manicured grounds, the Trianon Estate and Queen’s Hamlet. However, it’s the 2,300 room Main Palace, home to the Hall of Mirrors and the King’s Apartments that makes a visit well worth it.

14. Gorges du Verdon

Gorges du Verdon

Calling the Gorges du Verdon “the Grand Canyon of France” seems like a stretch. And it is. But the canyon still belongs on your France itinerary. Gorges du Verdon descends 700 meters at a rapid rate towards the Verdon River with its rushing blue water carving it ever deeper.

It’s the largest canyon on the continent and its 25 kilometers of length creates an abundance of thrilling watersports and adventures. You can cruise the length of the canyon, marveling at the towering limestone cliffs. If this sounds too relaxing, then just switch the boat for a raft and ride the whitewater rapids.

For some of the best views, however, you’ll have to get about on foot…or even horseback. There are around 100 kilometers of trails that course along either side of the canyon, with endless viewpoints throughout.

Lyon

Located in east-central France, Lyon is the capital of the Rhone department. It is the place to stop and splurge on the good things in life. Once you’ve blown your budget at the bouchons Lyonnais (traditional bistros), you’ll still find much to do.

Top of this list should be a jaunt along the paths that snake through the Parc des Hauters. These lead you to the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. Both the city and the Alps combine for an epic view.

Vieux Lyon

Lyon also has several interesting neighborhoods to explore. For example, Presqu’île is the heart of the city with its restaurants, bars and clubs while Croix-Rousse is known for its hundreds of hidden passageways known as traboules. Eventually you’ll end up in Vieux Lyon, the historic center featuring narrow, cobblestone streets, Renaissance architecture and landmarks like St. Jean Cathedral with its astronomical clock.

In the summer months, get in quick for a concert at the Theatre Romain. The original foundation goes back to 15BC when Lyon was all but a small Roman settlement. Continue the arts theme by discovering some of Lyon’s 100+ outdoor murals.

While Lyon frequently illuminates its major monuments year-round, the Festival of Lights is an annual event with various celebrations of candle lightings and professional sound-and-light shows.

12. Normandy

Normandy

Along the northwest coast of France, Normandy is synonymous with modern history. The coast’s lengthy beaches have become famous thanks to D-Day. And while the rugged coast harbors rich WWII history, it’s just the beginning.

Beyond the vast shores is a region steeped in literary history. There’s the bucolic countryside that features not one but four protected cheese origins. But better than them all is Mont St-Michel, which stands along like a mesmerizing iceberg off the coast.

Rouen

Lovers of cheese can’t pass up a cheese tour of Normandy. This will take you to the towns of Camembert, Livarot, Pont l’Eveque and Neufchatel. Beyond their tasty creations lie charming towns that evoke welcome authenticity.

Speaking of memorable towns, be sure to stop by Barneville-Carteret from DIY shucked oysters or Honfleur. The latter is laden by half-timbered homes and marks the end of the Seine.

11. Corsica

Corsica

In the French Mediterranean, the island of Corsica embraces its surrounds. Enveloped with sparkling emerald water, Corsica has as much Italian influence as it does French.

Known as the Island of Beauty, Corsica takes the best of both and boasts coastal towns backed by serene forests and granite mountain tops. It’s no small, dainty island either. There are over 1,000 kilometers of coastline to explore and plenty of chances to get away from it all.

Calanche

Along these coastlines are turquoise waters that harbor beautiful underwater worlds. Chances to snorkel and even scuba dive are ever present. Days spent swimming are rewarded by captivating sunsets in Bastia where you’ll also find a great collection of restaurants and taverns.

The next day you can mix it up by trekking into the forests and mountains that are affixed with snow in the colder months.

10. Bordeaux

Bordeaux

Some great wine regions have made it into our list. But Bordeaux can lay claim to being the best of them. As the country’s wine capital, there is an air of elegance to Bordeaux. This is elevated by the cocktail of 18th century architecture.

Cutting through the center of town are the streets of Place du Parlemant and Saint-Pierre. High culture mingles on these streets that are lined by chic cafes and outdoor seating to bathe under the sun.

Before you venture and experience some of the area’s best vineyards, explore the La Cite du Vin. This museum showcased the history of wine from around Bordeaux and is set in a captivating building. To get there, take a leisurely stroll down the River Garonne.

Bordeaux vineyard

Now you’re all set to try the local tipple. Some of Bordeaux’s best wineries surround elegant chateaus that make for the perfect wine tasting spot.

9. Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy

Chamonix may garner the most attention, but we believe the best of the French Alps lies surrounding the beautiful Lake Annecy. One of the largest lakes in Europe, it can also lay claim to being the cleanest thanks to its pristine high alpine surrounds.

In the summer months, Lake Annecy is a dreamy destination. The sapphire-hued jewel sits enveloped in lush green mountains with the odd dash of granite. As the sun bounces along the lake the azure waters become even more obvious and call you in for a dip.

Annecy

Such is its size, you can do more than swim. Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular and you’ll see several boats making use of the conditions to sail around.

The views of the water are matched by the surrounding mountains including the snowy peaks of Tournette Mountain. Any visit here should also take in the old town of Annecy , which is a picture-perfect alpine village.

8. Carcassonne

Carcassonne

The walled city of Carcassonne sits atop a hill on the banks of the Aude River. The original fortifications date back to Roman occupation in 100 BC, although much has changed since then.

With surrounding threats long gone, you can make your way into the medieval city. The often steep walk requires a break for breath but it’s immediately rewarded once you step beyond the turreted towers that adorn the walls and over the drawbridge.

On the other side of Narbonne Gate, you’ll find the old city is a scene straight from a Disney fairy tale. Cobbled streets guide you along the fortified walls where you’re half expecting a soldier from the Middle Ages to stop you in your tracks.

Along your journey back in time, you’ll cross paths with the Chateau Comtal from the 12th century, adorned with cathedrals and even access a subterranean dungeon.

7. Loire Valley

Loire Valley

Teaming with castles, medieval villages and endless vineyards, the Loire Valley is the personification of art de vivre. Rolling effortlessly through the valley is the Loire River, the last remaining wild river in Europe.

It all combines into an area that is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The landscape alive with the life source of the river creates head-turning scenery. Something that’s only matched by the local culture and one so steeped in history.

At the center of this is the Chateau de Chenonceau. The 16th century masterpiece features the Grande Galerie, which spans 60 meters across the Cher River. In the winter and autumn, the sun sets in the perfect spot, reflecting the dwindling light across the water. Other famous chateaux include Chambord, Rivau and Chinon.

But it’s the Loire River that connects it all. You can cycle along it for over 500km going from town to town, or you can simply do a bite-sized chunk. Either way, with destinations like Angers, Amboise and Nantes, there’s no losing.

Luberon

Auburn sandstone cottages with terracotta rooftops adorn the hilltop towns around Luberon. They rise and fall along the rolling hills and are the only interruptions to fields of pine and symmetric vineyards.

Luberon is a collection of hilltop villages that run through the Provence from east to west. Cavaillon and Manosque are the region’s bookends and along with harboring the aforementioned beauty, it’s the slow pace of life that you’ll love just as much.

The agrarian region remains tied in with its traditional roots. There’s no rush here, with plenty of time to enjoy the region’s fine wine and even tastier food. It’s no wonder the markets held weekly through Luberon have you salivating upon entrance.

Beyond the townships, you can get to know the countryside on foot by exploring the Cedar Forest near Bonnieux. The overarching trees provide relief from the summer heat and lead to captivating views of the hilltop towns.

Alsace

Jumping between the banners of France and Germany, the Alsace Region is distinct from the rest of the country. The dual influence has marked the region with an old-world charm and harmonious countryside that just can’t be replicated.

Germany’s influence is seen in both its cuisine and architecture. The villages throughout Alsace are renowned for their half-timbered homes and striking Gothic churches. The capital Strasbourg is no exception with beautiful homes found in both La Petite France and Grande Ile neighborhoods.

Taking the Alsace Wine Route, you’ll drive through 170 kilometers of bucolic countryside where every stop features a delightful village and yes, great food and wine. Highlights of the route include Colmar . This town encapsulates all that is good here in the Alsace Region. The surrounding hills make the rest of the world feel far away.

You can look forward to half-timbered homes and balconies draped with flowers. Vineyards flow over the hillside like blankets and the Rhine River is the cherry on top of a fairy tale village.

4. Chamonix

Chamonix

In the shadows of Mont Blanc, Chamonix has long inspired mountain lovers and fans of chalets alike. One of France’s oldest alpine resorts, the splendor of its scenery, is matched by the oft-bougie mountain culture.

Epic skiing, mountaineering and the odd marathon fill the outdoor calendar in Chamonix. Such are the epic mountains, you can ski and board here year round. While at the La Vallee Blanche glacier, you can ski uninterrupted for over 20 kilometers.

But you’ll find just as much to do here if these thrills don’t quite pique your interest. The area’s year-round community and the delight of Chamonix Town ensure there’s much to do off-piste. Cafes line the pedestrianized main street and the picturesque village will have you reaching often for your camera.

After a day of adventure, you can partake in the après-ski of your fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Live music flows through the surrounding streets, leading to dancing and a few too many cocktails.

3. Dordogne

Dordogne

In southwestern France, the Dordogne region is incredibly enticing thanks to its array of undulating landscapes, tranquil villages and medieval bastides. It’s a place to discover some of the best of France’s countryside, both the towns and nature.

The Dordogne River courses through the region and is the source of much of its lush nature. Come the summer, the cool waters of the river welcome kayakers, swimmers and those who dabble in fishing. You’ll also spot plenty lining the riverbank basking in the sun. Away from the river, the rolling hills attract hikers and mountain bikers. There are towering craggy cliffs that bring the chalky hands of climbers.

For a more relaxed pace, you can bounce between the idyllic villages, such as La Roque-Gageac. This town features a collection of sandstone homes surrounded by palms at the base of a rising cliff. Then there’s the 13th century settlement of Domme.

The bastide village has an archway entrance and a vibrant old town with artisan shops and restaurants set within medieval buildings.

2. French Riviera

French Riviera

Encompassing a splendid stretch of the Mediterranean, the French Riviera (Cote d’ Azur) is an opulent escape. In southern France, this region is soaked in sun most of the year. This exacerbates the color of the azure waters to heavenly status.

You’ll find a handful of enchanting towns along this coast from Saint-Tropez to Menton. These hug the coast with glee, forming a waterfront destination that has been drawing travelers since the 1800s.

Eze

Although the Riviera is famous for the glamour of St. Tropez, Monaco or the Cannes Film Festival , there are many other less well known destinations, such as the perched villages of Eze and Saint-Paul de Vence , and the perfumeries of Grasse to name a few. The Riviera has been the inspiration for many well-known artists such as Picasso and many of their works are on display in local museums and art galleries.

And then there’s Nice . Arguably the best of the lot. There’s something for everyone, from the region’s patented beachfront to plenty of history. As you discover Nice, you’ll have the pleasure of doing so along her cobbled streets and tree-flanked avenues. There are art galleries and museums and southern French cuisine for a flavor explosion in your mouth.

Paris

There may be no destination on earth that tops bucket lists as much as Paris . Yes, you’ll find the crowds here. But it’s a city that has stood the test of time. If anything, it’s made it all the more romantic.

The grandiose city, home to the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral, still sparks the heart of even the most stoic traveler. It’s a place of rich heritage, one that’s written on the facades of buildings throughout the inner city.

Louvre

There are museums to discover , even beyond the Louvre. Such as the Musee de l’Orangerie and the Musee d’Orsay. What’s more, Paris boasts magnificent gardens such as the Luxembourg Gardens. But it’s the people, the living culture that is most captivating. Any aimless wander down the Champs-Élysées, the Latin Quarter or the Seine will attest to this.

The best and cheapest way to get around Paris is on foot, and secondly, using the excellent underground train system, known as the Métro.

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Reader interactions.

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June 29, 2018 at 7:55 am

France has some many great things to offer. The city that i like is Narbonne and the beaches next to it (Gruissan, La Franqui) . These are the typical south villages that YOU must visit.

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September 21, 2017 at 2:25 am

Guys you really have to go to Biarritz! The city is located in “Basque Country” which is one the most beautiful place in France with lot of culture, beautiful architecture, wonderful landscapes and a tasty cuisine. Furthermore you are close to Spain and the stunning city of San Sebastian. Lots of beautiful towns to discover in Basque country, such as “Saint Jean de Luz”, “Bayonne”, “Guéthary”, “Espelette”. Try to go there during April, May and June. Summer is overcrowded by tourists.

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September 13, 2017 at 7:59 pm

I went to France it was so magical like as if you were in a fairytale or in a book. I got to see the Eiffel Tower it was bigger than I thought. I would love to go there again????

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June 20, 2017 at 4:00 am

I have been to France several times i suggest going to Mon Saint Michel and to a little town called Sainte Anastasie

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June 12, 2016 at 11:56 pm

Everybody’s opinion is different… What one dislikes another may enjoy.

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February 28, 2016 at 8:51 pm

So my wife and I toured Western Franc back in ’99. We both love Paris, but the countryside and smaller towns is where the magic is. We found Saint-Emilion our favorite. A beautiful medieval town with great food and atmosphere. The seaside city of La Rochelle was wonderful as well, what a great place to walk around and great seafood. We really enjoyed Mont Saint-Michel. We stayed in a manor in Pontorson and thoroughly enjoyed it – that stay was somewhat of a high point (great food). Angers also felt like a hidden gem; the castle was beautiful and a great walking town. The chateaux in the Loire were phenomenal – we enjoyed Azay-le-Rideaux, Chenonceaux, Chambord, and Davinci’s home in Amboise. We also took a trip up to Vendôme and say the abbey and checked out the ruined acqueduct outside Luynes. A dolmen in Cognac was also really cool. These nuggest away from the big cities IMHO are highlights. That said, the big cities are great – good food and things to see, but French culture and spirit is more captured when you leave them.

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February 24, 2016 at 6:57 am

totally wrong : this rank does mostly consider big cities, not much countryside. The true spirit of France is not in Paris, sorry, and not in French Riviera either ! Go and visit the countryside, average cities, small villages… The best villages are not in the Loire valley..: go to south Lemuel is wrong : if you look for turquoise beaches and clean sand go to west Brittany, or Corsica. Beach near Nice are ugly and dirty…

(a guy born in France)

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March 18, 2015 at 4:10 am

I’ve always been a huge fan of Paris and don’t think that’ll ever change. That said, you’ve made the Loire valley look pretty tempting too! I can hardly believe that chateau 🙂 Is it open to the public?

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January 7, 2015 at 5:44 am

Arles is a fantastic city to visit for all the reasons you mention. If your readers like Arles they will find Avignon nearby, which is just as fascinating to visit with its medieval history, stunning buildings and Papal connections.

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December 23, 2014 at 3:06 am

france is my dream. after i graduate i will go here and cherish every moment. see you soon FRANCE 🙂 God’s will.

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June 30, 2014 at 1:36 am

I want to visit France in the month of September. I am looking for back packers to stay. Which place would be ideal to stay to travel around France ?

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June 4, 2014 at 8:18 pm

france is my dream. after i graduate i will go here and cherish every moment. see you soon FRANCE 🙂 God’s will.

' src=

May 21, 2014 at 9:30 am

i am planning to visit France soon. Can anyone suggest what’s the best way to go to Nice form Paris(cheap and fast)

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March 3, 2014 at 10:37 am

love love Paris

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July 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm

You forgot Mont Saint Michel…

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June 19, 2013 at 10:02 pm

I love Loire Valley and Nice. If you enjoy villages, you gotta check Loire valley, very beautiful. And if you love turquiose beach with clean sand and neat environment you gotta try Nice.

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Top 12 Cities & Places to Visit in France in 2024

Erica Forster Last Updated: October 26, 2023

France is a beautiful and very diverse country, with lots of different landscapes to discover. If you’re wondering what cities to visit on your next trip, let us help you decide with our list of the top spots to visit in France.

Pro Travel Tip : Looking to enjoy the best food in Paris? We recommend joining our Le Marais Food Tour and enjoy all of the local delicacies, including falafel, oysters and champagne

The Top 12 Places To Visit In France

If we’re being honest, this was a hard list to create. France has so many interesting and alluring cities that it’s hard to narrow them down. The twelve places we’ve included here will appeal to all types of travelers – those looking for history, good food, picture-perfect sites, big cities and small towns, and of course French wine. If you want to discover more about what makes people fall in love with France, read on!

12. Annecy and the French Alps

Nestled between snow-capped mountains and an incredibly picturesque lake, you’ll find the city of Annecy. This is a location that is truly breathtaking year-round. Annecy is sometimes referred to as ‘the Venice of the Alps’ because of its picturesque old town, which has a canal running alongside its winding cobblestone streets. You’ll find bright flowerpots lining the canal, farmers markets and plenty of charming restaurants as well, most offering regional specialties like raclette , tartiflette and fondue . This is the spot if you love melted cheese!

The town is relatively small and you’ll be able to stroll through it within a day or two, but there’s also plenty of outdoor activities to do in the area either on the lake or on the mountains, depending on the season (think paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, skiing and more). From Annecy, you’ll be only about an hour from Chamonix and Mont-Blanc, two of France’s top destinations for skiing and snowboarding. The incredible charm of Annecy’s old town, its proximity to the lake and the rest of the French Alps make this one of the top places in France.

Even though Lyon is France’s third largest city, many tourists sadly never stop here. Don’t be one of them! Lyon has a great atmosphere, blending the charm of a smaller town with the excitement of a bigger city. The fact that many tourists skip this city is actually a plus for travelers who decide to visit, since it has a very authentic French feel to it and less tourist crowds.

Lyon is France’s capital of gastronomy. The world’s top chefs have been coming here to train for years! If you have the time and money to splurge we encourage you to try booking a spot at the iconic Paul Bocuse restaurant a bit outside of the city. While Lyon’s food scene is diverse, the focus is still on classic, rich and rustic French food. You can’t leave the city without eating at a bouchon , a traditional restaurant serving Lyonnaise food such as sausage or quenelles (creamed fish or meat).

Besides food, Lyon has tons of interesting things to see. It’s home to the oldest Roman theatre in France, a beautiful basilica located on a hilltop, multiple art museums and a charming old town. This is one of the most underrated places in France and definitely worth a few days of your trip!

Alsace is the region bordering the German border, in northeastern France. Cities in this region are distinct because while they are definitely French, visitors will notice certain German influences. The capital of the region is Strasbourg, followed by the city of Colmar. Strasbourg has an amazing cathedral, which is officially the sixth-tallest church in the world! Visitors can climb partly up to the top (330 steps) for a great view. These two cities are also great stops if you’re visiting France in December, as they are famous for their Christmas markets.

The cities of Alsace are known for their colorful and picturesque half-timbered houses. If you have extra time to spend here, there are dozens of idyllic villages nearby, including Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, two towns that inspired the village in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast movie. This area is a true Instagrammer’s dream! You can also try the Alsace wine route, a stretch of about 100 miles (170km) which will lead you on wine tasting stops to savor Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and more. To top off your day of drinking, you’ll find lots of Alsatian restaurants scattered around, serving sauerkraut, sausages, flammeküeche (a sort of bacon and onion flatbread) and more.

9. Champagne

the tour guy champagne

Champagne is one of the most famous beverages in the world, so why not make a stop to see where it comes from? Reims is generally considered the capital of the region, with the city of Épernay following close behind. Both of these cities are fairly small, with a more quaint vibe. Reims features a breathtaking cathedral which is one of the most famous in French history, since it’s where more than thirty of France’s kings were crowned.

Across the region, you’ll find hundreds of champagne houses. It’s possible to reserve tours and tastings with many of them, where you can not only taste some bubbly but also discover the secrets of champagne’s production. A great way to visit the Champagne region is with our Day Trip from Paris to the Champagne Region . We set up all the planning and transportation so all you have to worry about is drinking champagne!

8. Saint-Malo and Brittany

The Brittany region ( Bretagne in French) is located in northwestern France. While it tends to get overshadowed by Normandy, which is just north of this region, Brittany is well worth a visit and is one of our personal favorite regions of France.

Brittany is famous for its rugged coastline, and if you have the chance to go anywhere in this area we highly recommend the city of Saint-Malo. This port city, which played an important role in French history due to its strategic location, is popular with both French and foreign tourists. The old part of town is surrounded by a large, medieval-style wall, so visitors can walk around the entire city with a view of the beach. The town is incredibly picturesque, and seafood lovers will enjoy the variety of fresh fish and shellfish available. History buffs will also find plenty of interesting things to see and do in Saint-Malo, like viewing the tomb of explorer Jacques Cartier located in the cathedral, or learning about Saint-Malo’s almost total destruction in World War II.

If you get tired of staring at beautiful coastline, you can always visit Dinan, a city also located in Brittany but further inland. Known for its half-timbered houses, medieval ramparts and cobblestone paths, certain streets in Dinan are perhaps some of the most picturesque you will find in France.

7. Burgundy

Burgundy ( Bourgogne in French) is by far one of the best locations in France for wine lovers to discover. It’s also a top spot for those who love classic French food. This is the region where some of France’s world famous dishes come from, such as escargots (snails), coq au vin, beef bourguignon, and even mustard (Dijon mustard, of course)!

Dijon and Beaune are the two best cities to visit in the region. Dijon is the capital of Burgundy and is much larger. Beaune, on the other hand, is smaller and more charming. Both offer a variety of things to see. If you come to Burgundy, though, we highly suggest going outside of the cities to explore vineyards and wineries. The two main grape varieties grown here are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, although there are others like Aligoté, described as the “other” white grape of Burgundy. While you might associate Burgundy with expensive wine, there are plenty of small or family-owned growers in this region offering tasty and affordable bottles.

We recommend Burgundy if you’re all about wine and food, want a classic French vibe, and prefer a more low-key location than big cities like Paris and Bordeaux.

6. Loire Valley

Known as the Garden of France, the Loire Valley is guaranteed to enchant travelers with its castles, wine and charm. There are more than three hundred castles ( chateaux ) in the Loire Valley! They vary in style and size, many dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The largest and perhaps most magnificent castle is the Château de Chambord, featuring more than 400 rooms. Other popular ones are the Château de Chenonceau and the Château d’Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci is buried.

Tours is one of the main cities in the Loire Valley, with a charming medieval old town, and is a great base for travelers wanting to discover castles or vineyards. The Loire Valley’s main grape varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Cabernet Franc. This is a great destination if you like to combine history and relaxation!

5. Bordeaux

Grosse Cloche Bordeaux

Sometimes referred to as the Petit Paris, or Little Paris, Bordeaux is the sixth biggest city in France. Most visitors probably know this city because of its world famous red wine. There’s lots of things to see in the city, including multiple monuments and a cathedral. There’s also the Cité du Vin, a modern and interactive wine museum, and a nearly thirty-acre park.

Another great thing about Bordeaux is that it’s possible to take multiple day trips from the city. Saint-Émilion, a quaint medieval town surrounded by vineyards, is popular with wine lovers. Bordeaux is also not very far from the beach, making Arcachon, a seaside resort town, another popular day trip. You can also visit the nearby Dune du Pilat, Europe’s highest sand dune.

Bordeaux is a must for travelers who love wine and enjoy a dynamic city vibe.

4. Normandy

Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel

Normandy is a perfect choice for travelers who want to combine seeing French countryside with history. As many know, Normandy was the scene of the heroic Allied invasion on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. Today, it is possible to visit the D-Day beaches, including the Omaha and Utah beaches. Standing at the site of the invasion is a touching moment that most visitors say they will never forget. We also recommend visiting the Normandy American Cemetery that honors the graves of over 9,000 American troops, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. Our Day Trip to Normandy from Paris will take you to these places and more.

Besides World War II history, Normandy offers great natural sites and culture. This region is famous for apple cider, and there’s actually an apple cider tasting route visitors can follow. It’s also one of France’s biggest cheese-producing regions. Those looking for calm and quiet will love driving through the Normandy countryside, which boasts green fields and cows year round. Rouen and Honfleur are two fantastic cities in this region, and the Cliffs of Étretat are a must for nature lovers. The infamous Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey is also located right off the coast of Normandy. There’s enough to see here for weeks!

3. The French Riviera

Ah, the famous Côte d’Azur ! Lining the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the French Riviera regularly welcomes movie stars and millionaires, and you can join them! Its most famous cities are Nice, Cannes, Antibes, and Saint-Tropez. This is the ideal place in France for those who want a beach vacation. The great weather and warm water of the Mediterranean can’t be beat.

Nice is usually the base for most visitors in this area. It’s important to know that while the French Riviera has mesmerizing views and a relaxed vibe, you won’t find quite the amount of historical monuments here like you will in other parts of France. Time in the French Riviera is best spent enjoying the sun with a glass of rosé or gelato, tanning at the beach or strolling the local markets. Of course, if you enjoy a party scene or have money to splurge, you’ll have a wide array of options available too!

2. Aix-en-Provence and its surroundings

Provence is a true dream destination for many travelers. While the area is known for its great weather like the French Riviera, here you’ll find a much more rustic and traditional vibe. Colorful yellow and orange buildings line the streets, many covered with blue shutters that seem to come straight out of a movie set. In the city of Aix-en-Provence, food and flower markets are commonly set up in the old town district. Dozens of fountains are spread throughout the city (it’s known as the City of a Thousand Fountains).

While Aix-en Provence gets our vote as the top city in the area, the general region of Provence is fantastic. Avignon is another great city to visit. And if you happen to be visiting in July, you’ll be able to visit the infamous Provence lavender fields, a truly spectacular sight. Provence is also known for its hilltop villages. While these are a bit more difficult to access, they are well worth the drive. This is one of our absolute favorite parts of France for its culture and atmosphere!

5 cities to visit in france

Paris, the capital of France, is undoubtedly the top place to visit in the country. Even if you’re not a fan of big cities, the history, architecture and monuments in Paris can be appreciated by almost anyone. Top sites include the Eiffel Tower, which you can combine with a Seine River cruise on one of our tours , the Arc de Triomphe and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Paris also has over 130 museums, including the Louvre and Orsay museums. And don’t forget, from Paris you’re only a short train ride away from the jaw-dropping Palace of Versailles , the former home of France’s monarchy.

The city has twenty distinct neighborhoods, called arrondissements . There’s something for everyone, from some of the best shopping in the world to street art, parks, cute cafés and three star Michelin restaurants. You’ll never run out of things to do and see in Paris! If you have the opportunity to visit just one place in France, this is it.

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Travel Lingual

25 Incredible Places to Visit in France | 2024 (with Photos)

Staša Petrović

Staša Petrović - Travel Writer

Last Updated: January 22, 2024

Hi there! I'm Stasha, a travel enthusiast and avid explorer of France. Through my personal experiences and adventures, I have curated a list of 25 incredible places to visit in France, complete with captivating photos to inspire your wanderlust. Happy travels!

Incredible Places to Visit in France

France is a treasure trove of breathtaking destinations, steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty.

From the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris to the sun-kissed beaches of the French Riviera, and from the medieval villages of Provence to the charming vineyards of Bordeaux, there are countless places to explore in this enchanting country.

Whether you're a history buff, a foodie, an art lover, or just seeking to soak in the French joie de vivre, France has something for everyone.

Join us on a journey to discover the 25 best places to visit in France for a truly memorable trip that will captivate your senses and leave you with cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

  • Eiffel Tower

Top Choice Hotel

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Le Comptoir Général

Best Time to Visit

Spring or fall, avoid summer crowds and heat.

Average Temperature

The average temperature in Paris, France is mild.

Transportation Options

Metro, RER, bus, tram, taxi, bike, walking, rideshare.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)

My Top Recommendation

Paris, France has an undeniable charm that captivates visitors from around the world. Immerse yourself in the city's rich history and explore iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame Cathedral, taking in the breathtaking views from their heights.

Indulge your taste buds with a stroll through the charming streets of Le Marais, where you can discover quaint cafes, local bakeries, and trendy boutiques. Savor delicious French cuisine at a cozy bistro, and experience the vibrant nightlife in the lively neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

What You'll Need to Bring

  • Travel documents
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Weather-appropriate clothing

What Not to Miss

  • Louvre Museum
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral
  • Seine River

What to Avoid

  • Pickpocketing and theft
  • Tourist scams
  • Overpriced tourist traps

Table of Contents

Mont Saint-Michel

1. Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is an iconic island commune in Normandy, France, renowned for its stunning medieval abbey perched atop a rocky island, surrounded by vast tidal flats.

It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a place of pilgrimage , attracting visitors with its unique blend of history, architecture, and natural beauty.

As the tides change, Mont Saint-Michel transforms from an island to a peninsula, creating a surreal and awe-inspiring sight.

With its rich cultural significance and breathtaking vistas, Mont Saint-Michel is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a truly unforgettable experience in France.

2. The French Riviera

French Riviera

The French Riviera, also known as the Côte d'Azur, is one of the best places to visit in France, as it boasts a glamorous stretch of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea in Southern France, with popular destinations such as Nice, Cannes, and St. Tropez.

Renowned for its stunning beaches, glamorous resorts, and vibrant nightlife, the French Riviera has long been a playground for the rich and famous.

With its azure waters, picturesque villages, and luxurious yachts dotting the harbors, the French Riviera exudes elegance and sophistication.

From the chic city of Nice to the glamorous principality of Monaco, the French Riviera is a great tourist destination that promises a perfect blend of relaxation and indulgence.

3. The Loire Valley

Loire Valley

The Loire Valley, located in central France, is a picturesque region with an unspoiled landscape and one of the best places to visit in France.

Known as the "Garden of France," Val de Loire Refonte is a UNESCO World Heritage site, dotted with over 300 castles , including the iconic Château de Chambord and Château de Chenonceau.

The region also boasts charming towns, lush gardens, and scenic cycling routes along the Loire River.

Renowned for its wine production and rich history, the Loire Valley is a captivating destination that promises an enchanting experience for everyone that comes.

4. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral, located in the heart of Paris, France, is a world-famous Gothic masterpiece and an iconic symbol of French history and culture.

Built in the 12th century, the Notre Dame cathedral's soaring towers, intricate stained glass windows, and ornate sculptures are a testament to the unparalleled craftsmanship of its time.

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is one of eight religious buildings that visitors can explore after ascending the 216 steps of Le Grand Escalier to the square at the top.

With its rich religious and architectural significance, Notre Dame Cathedral has been a source of inspiration for art, literature, and countless visitors from around the world.

Despite the devastating fire in 2019, Notre Dame Cathedral continues to hold a special place in the hearts of Parisians and travelers alike.

5. Place de la Bourse

Place de la Bourse

Place de la Bourse, located in Bordeaux, France, is a historic square that is a testament to the city's rich cultural heritage.

Built in the 18th century, the square is known for its iconic architectural masterpiece , the Palais de la Bourse, with its grand neoclassical façade and stunning reflecting pool known as the Miroir d'Eau.

The Place de la Bourse is a vibrant hub, surrounded by elegant buildings, charming cafes, and bustling markets, making it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the beauty and history of Bordeaux.

6. The Eiffel Tower - Paris' Beloved Landmark

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower, located in Paris, France, is one of the most famous landmarks in the world , and an enduring symbol of romance, elegance, and French culture.

Standing tall at 330 meters, this iconic iron lattice tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel and completed in 1889 for the World's Fair.

Today, it welcomes millions of visitors annually, who come to marvel at its majestic structure and panoramic views of the city.

Whether it's admiring the tower's intricate details, ascending to the top for breathtaking vistas, or enjoying a leisurely picnic in its surrounding gardens, the Eiffel Tower continues to captivate the hearts and minds of travelers from around the globe.

7. Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau is one of the special places to visit in France, as it is a beloved masterpiece of architectural ingenuity, nestled gracefully over the tranquil waters of the Cher River in France's Loire Valley.

Renowned for its distinctive blend of Renaissance and Gothic architecture, this enchanting castle is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and design.

The Château de Chenonceau is not only a marvel of architectural ingenuity but also has a fascinating history that adds to its allure.

Designed and constructed in the 16th century, it has been home to several notable women who left their mark on the castle and its surroundings.

It was first owned by Catherine Briçonnet, who oversaw the construction of the bridge gallery, and later by Diane de Poitiers, who created the beautiful gardens and added the bridge chapel.

Its elegant arched gallery, known as the " Gallery of the Ladies ," spans the river, creating a breathtaking sight that seems to hover above the water.

With its stunning gardens and romantic ambiance, the Château de Chenonceau is a cherished gem that continues to captivate visitors with its unique charm and allure.

8. Saint Tropez

Saint Tropez

Saint Tropez, located on the French Riviera, is a world-famous destination known for its sun-drenched beaches, vibrant nightlife, and glamorous atmosphere.

This former sleepy fishing village turned jet-setter's playground has been a magnet for celebrities, artists, and fashionistas for decades. The town rose to fame after it was featured in the film "Et Dieu Créa la Femme" (And God Created Woman), starring Brigitte Bardot.

With its picturesque harbor, charming old town, and luxury yachts dotting the marina, beautiful beaches such as the Plage de la Bouillabaisse, Saint Tropez exudes an air of chic sophistication.

From its trendy beach clubs and designer boutiques to its historic sites and cultural events, Saint Tropez offers a perfect blend of relaxation and indulgence, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a taste of the good life.

9. The Beaux Villages de France

Beaux Villages de France

The Beaux Villages de France, or the Most Beautiful Villages of France, are one of the best places to visit in France, as they are a collection of picturesque and quaint villages that showcase the country's rich heritage, culture, and natural beauty.

Nestled in idyllic countryside settings, these villages are known for their well-preserved architecture, historic landmarks, and stunning landscapes.

From medieval fortifications to charming cobblestone streets, each Beaux Village exudes its own unique charm and character.

These hidden gems offer an opportunity to step back in time and experience the beauty and tranquility of rural France, making them a treasure trove for travelers seeking an authentic and enchanting experience.

10. The French Alps

French Alps

The French Alps, located in southeastern France, is a majestic mountain range known for its towering peaks, pristine snow-capped slopes, and breathtaking landscapes.

A paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, the French Alps offer cross-country skiing, hiking, mountaineering, and other adventure sports.

The French Alps are also renowned for their charming alpine villages, where visitors can experience traditional mountain culture and hospitality.

These villages are characterized by their wooden chalets, narrow streets, and local shops and restaurants serving regional delicacies such as cheese fondue and tartiflette.

11. Bordeaux

Bordeaux

The Bordeaux region, located in southwestern France, is a renowned wine-producing region known for its prestigious vineyards, historic chateaux, and world-class wines.

In addition to its wines, Bordeaux is also known for its rich cultural heritage, with a wealth of historical monuments, museums, and art galleries. There are numerous activities to enjoy in Bordeaux .

The city of Bordeaux is particularly notable for its 18th-century architecture, which has earned it the nickname "The Sleeping Beauty."

With its fertile vineyards, historical monuments, picturesque landscapes, and rich winemaking tradition, Bordeaux is a paradise for wine lovers, offering tastings, tours, and the chance to indulge in the finest vintages in the world.

12. Saint-Paul de Vence

Saint-Paul de Vence

Saint-Paul de Vence is a charming medieval village located in the Provence region of France. Perched atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, the village is known for its narrow streets, stone houses, and picturesque squares.

Saint-Paul de Vence has a rich artistic heritage, having been home to many famous painters and writers over the years. Visitors can explore numerous art galleries and museums , including the Fondation Maeght, which showcases works by modern and contemporary artists.

The village also offers stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding countryside, making it a popular destination for travelers seeking a peaceful retreat in a scenic setting.

13. Mont Blanc & its Majestic Summit

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is one of the most thrilling places to visit in France, as it is the highest mountain in the French Alps and Western Europe, standing at an impressive 4,810 meters (15,781 feet) above sea level.

Its majestic summit attracts mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world , seeking to climb its towering peak.

Mont Blanc is renowned for its stunning beauty and challenging terrain, with glaciers, snowfields, and rocky ridges offering a thrilling and unforgettable experience for climbers.

The summit also offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including the French and Italian Alps and the Mont Blanc massif.

For those seeking a less challenging experience, there are also numerous hiking trails and cable cars that provide access to the mountain's lower slopes and offer stunning views of the surrounding scenery.

14. La Petite France in Strasbourg

La Petite France

La Petite France is a picturesque neighborhood located in the heart of Strasbourg, in northeastern France.

Known for its timber-framed houses, narrow streets, and charming canals , the district is a popular tourist destination, offering a glimpse into the city's culture.

La Petite France is home to several historic buildings, including the Maison des Tanneurs, a former tannery that now houses a restaurant, and the Maison Kammerzell, a beautifully preserved medieval house that dates back to the 15th century.

Visitors can stroll along the canals, admire the colorful buildings, and sample the local cuisine in one of the many restaurants and cafes that line the streets.

Kaysersberg, Alsace, France

The Alsace region in northeastern France is one of the most picturesque places to visit in France , renowned for its charming medieval towns, picturesque landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.

With its distinctive half-timbered houses, flower-lined streets, and world-class vineyards, the Alsace region offers a unique blend of French and German influences.

The region's cuisine, featuring traditional dishes such as sauerkraut and flammkuchen, is a culinary delight.

The Alsace region is also home to vibrant festivals, enchanting Christmas markets, and warm hospitality that make it a beloved destination for travelers seeking a taste of Alsatian charm.

16. The Louvre Museum

Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum is one of the most famous museums in Paris and in the world.

It is renowned for its extensive collection of art and artifacts, spanning over 9,000 years of human history.

The Louvre is home to some of the world's most famous works of art, including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the Winged Victory of Samothrace , and the Venus de Milo .

Its collections also include ancient Egyptian artifacts, Greek and Roman sculptures, and Islamic art.

With over 38,000 works of art on display, the Louvre is a must-visit destination for art lovers and history enthusiasts from around the world.

17. The Legacy of Roman Ruins (Provence)

Colosseum, Italy

Roman ruins are one of the most educational places to visit in France, as it provides a thrilling experience that takes visitors back in time to ancient civilizations.

In France, the southern region of Provence is home to some of the best-preserved Roman ruins, including the Amphitheatre of Nimes, the Pont du Gard, and the Arena of Arles.

These sites offer visitors the opportunity to explore ancient ruins, including amphitheaters, temples, and public baths, and learn about the fascinating history of the Roman Empire.

Many sites also offer guided tours, multimedia exhibits, and interactive displays, making it easy for visitors to learn about the lives of the people who once lived in these ancient cities.

18. Cirque de Gavarnie in the Pyrenees

Cirque de Gavarnie

The Cirque de Gavarnie is a natural amphitheater located in the heart of the Pyrenees Mountains, in southwestern France.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its stunning natural beauty, including towering cliffs, sparkling waterfalls, and lush greenery.

The Cirque is also home to the Gavarnie waterfall , one of the highest waterfalls in Europe, with a total height of 422 meters.

The site offers visitors the opportunity to hike, climb, and explore the natural beauty of the Pyrenees , with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape at every turn.

Visiting the Cirque de Gavarnie is a must for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure and stunning scenery.

19. The Champagne Region

Champagne Region

The Champagne region in northeastern France is one of the best places to visit in France, famous for its sparkling wine , which has become synonymous with celebration and luxury around the world.

The region's unique climate and soil make it an ideal location for growing the grapes used in champagne production .

Visitors to this region can take tours of the vineyards and cellars, learn about the history and traditions of champagne-making, and taste the world's finest bubbly.

The region is also home to several charming towns and villages, such as Reims and Épernay, where visitors can sample local cuisine, explore historic landmarks, and experience the French way of life.

20. Lille & its Historic City Center

Chamber of Commerce, Lille

Lille's historic city, located in Northern France, is a treasure trove of architectural splendor, boasting beautiful buildings from various eras, picturesque squares, and charming cobblestone streets.

Its rich cultural heritage is evident in its churches, cathedrals, and museums, showcasing the city's history and artistic legacy.

Lille's historic city is a must-visit destination for those interested in history, art, and architecture.

21. The French Basque Country

French Basque Country

The French Basque Country, located in the southwestern part of France, is a cultural region with a distinct identity, offering some of the most unique places to visit in France.

Known for its vibrant Basque culture , picturesque landscapes, and delicious cuisine, it offers visitors a one-of-a-kind experience.

The region is home to charming towns and villages, such as Bayonne and Biarritz, with colorful architecture and lively markets.

Visitors can also enjoy traditional Basque cuisine , including pintxos and Basque cakes, and explore the region's stunning beaches, rolling hills, and rugged coastline.

This is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing a unique blend of French and Basque culture.

22. Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Strasbourg, a capital city of the Alsace region, is a picturesque city known for its diverse culture, and important European institutions.

Famous for its half-timbered houses, charming canals, and Gothic cathedral, Strasbourg is also home to the European Parliament , making it a significant hub of European politics and diplomacy.

Strasbourg is a unique blend of both France and Germany, a UNESCO-listed old town, and world-renowned Christmas markets making it a popular destination for tourists and a symbol of European unity.

23. Lyon (& Vieux Lyon)

Old Lyon

Vieux Lyon, or Old Lyon, is a historic district located in the heart of Lyon, the third largest city in France.

With its well-preserved medieval and Renaissance architecture , narrow cobblestone streets, and hidden passageways, Vieux Lyon is a historic center of cultural heritage.

Home to stunning churches, museums, and vibrant markets, this historic center offers a captivating glimpse into Lyon's culture and architectural splendor.

24. The Beaches of Normandy

Etretat Beach

The D-Day Landing Beaches of Normandy, located along the northern coast of France, is one of the most important historic places to visit in France and serves as a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made during World War II.

The beaches, including Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, were the sites of the historic D-Day landings , which marked a turning point in the war.

Today, visitors can explore the beaches and learn about the history of the landings through museums, memorials, and guided tours.

The region is also home to charming towns and villages, such as Bayeux, with rich cultural heritage and delicious local cuisine.

Visiting the D-Day Landing Beaches of Normandy is a powerful and educational experience that honors the brave soldiers who fought for freedom and democracy.

25. The Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe, located at the end of the Champs-Elysées in Paris, is one of the must-see places to visit in France. This iconic monument pays tribute to France's military victories and fallen soldiers.

Commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, the monument stands over 50 meters tall and is adorned with intricate carvings and reliefs.

Visitors can climb to the top of the monument for stunning views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.

The monument is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which honors the soldiers who died in World War I. The Arc de Triomphe is a must-visit attraction that offers a glimpse into France's culture.

FAQs About Places to Visit in France

In this section, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the best places to visit in France.

What are some iconic places in France?

Iconic places to visit in France include Blois , a town that the French kings liked because of its rolling green hills; Oppede le Vieux village with its Middle Ages ambiance; Rocamadour , an important pilgrimage site; Dune du Pilat , the tallest sand dune in Europe; and Castelnaud-la-Chapelle , a gorgeous little village.

What should we visit in France?

While in France, you can take a day trip to the Palais des Papes , the largest Gothic palace globally in Avignon, visit a great beach like the iconic Promenade des Anglais, and go on Alsace's scenic wine trail.

What is the most popular place for tourists in France?

The most popular tourist destination in France is undoubtedly the Eiffel Tower, which is an iconic symbol of France and one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world.

What are some major attractions in France?

Some of the most popular attractions in France are the Palace of Versailles near Paris , the Cannes Film Festival, and the French Riviera .

Summing up: Incredible Places to Visit in France

In conclusion, France is one of the best places to visit and it offers a diverse range of experiences to its visitors. Whether you enjoy skiing, exploring lush forests, or wandering through charming villages, France has something to offer everyone.

Beyond the mountains and the cities that we mentioned, France boasts many other French cities and towns that are worth exploring.

From the bustling French capital city of Paris, with its iconic landmarks and museums, to the medieval city of Carcassonne, to the seaside town of Nice, each destination offers its unique charm and attractions.

Overall, France is a country that can be enjoyed in many different ways, with a vast range of attractions to suit all interests.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, visiting France will leave a lasting impression on you.

Mont Saint-Michel

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

The Eiffel Tower - Paris' Beloved Landmark

The Eiffel Tower - Paris' Beloved Landmark

The Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum

The Beaches of Normandy

The Beaches of Normandy

The Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe

Related articles, featured in.

Daily Express

The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

22 Beautiful Cities in France To Visit

Written By: The Planet D

Updated On: February 9, 2024

With its beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets that dance in the morning light, and a turquoise coast, France inspires the romantic in all of us. The most beautiful cities in France have maintained their allure through the eras. They tell stories of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the French Revolution. It’s here you can walk the same path as Monet, to see the same brilliant landscapes that drove his most prized works.

Table of Contents

The Most Beautiful French Cities

Each French city has its own personality and its own take on French culture and cuisine. Cities in France didn’t pop up overnight; they were polished for centuries and now wait for your footsteps.

1. Paris (Capital City)

Cities in France Paris

Paris is one of those destinations that must be visited at least once. It transcends those that wish to stay off the tourist trail on the sheer weight of amazing sights alone. One of the world’s iconic cities, the French capital, firmly belongs at the top of our list.

The City of Light, the home of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre will quickly gain the attention of even the most cynical traveler. Start Planning with: 27 Free Things to do in Paris, France

Grand and splendid, you could spend an entire week in Paris exploring the historic streets that lead to the Arc de Triomphe or the Seine River Bridge that crosses to charming waterside parks. You will be floored by the sheer number of historic monuments, art galleries, and historic churches. Read: 3 Days in Paris: The Best Paris Itinerary for Your First Visit

The surrounding neighborhoods like the Latin Quarter still leave much to be explored. Where authentic local culture will greet you on arrival. Read more: 21 Best Hotels with Eiffel Tower Views

Cities in France Lyon

Home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a buzzing food scene, and rich cultural heritage, Lyon is one of the most beautiful cities in France. On the edge of two rolling rivers, the nation’s “Second City” is a delight for travelers who can wander down her medieval cobblestone streets through the Old Town. You may also like, The Best Day Trips from Paris.

Despite being one of the largest cities in France, its charm remains intact. Lyon boasts exceptional art galleries, such as the Musee des Beaux-Arts and interesting museums with historic Roman antiquities and Egyptian artifacts. Foodies will love Lyon. A leisurely stroll can lead to a whole manner of culinary adventures and authentic French cuisine.

French Cities Nice

Featuring Italian flair, a beautiful coastline, and a historic Old Town, Nice is the summer destination of your dreams. Showcasing the beauty of the French Riviera, Nice is a popular resort town with the spectacular Maritime Alps, creating a scenic backdrop. Read more: 24 Hours in Nice

The elegant city is a haven for culture hounds. Under the warm French sun, spend time exploring the pedestrian-friendly and iconic Promenade des Anglais, which envelopes the bay. Later, journey into the Old Town aka Vieille Ville, where awe-inspiring cathedrals and historic monuments shaped by Italian influence await.

As one of the most popular French cities for tourists, you can save by traveling in the shoulder seasons, in March, April, September, and October. You may also like: Enchanting Medieval Villages in France – The French Riviera

4. Marseille

Cities in France Marseille

2600 years ago, the first homes were built in what is now a bustling seaport. On the banks of the Mediterranean, the former European Capital of Culture, Marseille, is the oldest city in France and the second-largest city in France. But Marseille wasn’t always a modern cosmopolitan city. In fact, it had to shed a seedy reputation and sand off the rough edges during its 20th-century transformation. For this reason, Marseille can often feel different from other popular French cities.

There is an air of possibility as you explore, as if you may stumble upon hidden surprises around any corner. It makes walking around Marseille exciting. When paired with gourmet restaurants at Vieux Port, the historic quarter, and the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, you can see why it’s on our list of beautiful France cities. Read more: Things to do in Marseille, France

5. Bordeaux

Beautiful cities in France Bordeaux

In southwest France, Bordeaux is the place to go for the best wine in the country. The charming city is not just home to exceptional wineries, but its position on Garonne River makes Bordeaux a veritable stunner, with its center a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wander along graceful tree-lined boulevards to cozy cafes, boutique stores, and several museums. For excellent views, head to the top of the Pey-Berland Tower to gaze upon the picturesque city, shaped by the distinct urban planning in the 1700s and Neoclassical architecture. The main attraction in the Bordeaux region is of course, the local wineries, of which there are over 100,000. Some of the most popular include Medoc, Margaux, and St. Emilion.

Strees of the French City of Rouen

One of the most interesting places to visit in northern France, Rouen is a delight for both history buffs and aficionados of half-timbered houses. A relatively small town to some of the other cities in France, Rouen is a journey back to the middle ages.

The capital city of Normandy, Rouen features quaint residences and beguiling architecture, where ancient Gothic churches loom around every corner. The prime example is the 13th century Cathedrale Notre-Dame, best depicted by Claude Monet. Perhaps Rouen’s greatest claim to fame is Joan of Arc. For it was here that she was sent on trial and later martyred.

7. Loire Valley (Unesco World Heritage Site)

Cities in the Loire Valley France UNESCO World Heritage Site

Home to several beautiful France cities, the Loire Valley is a romantic escape in every sense of the world. Such is the history, culture, and aesthetics of the valley that it has become a UNESCO heritage site. Winding roads sweep through gorgeous meadows, leading you to old chateaus, cozy BnBs, and scenic wineries.

The best French cities in the Loire Valley include Tours, Saumur, and Orleans. The former is known as the Garden of France. Its location in between the Cher and Loire River will make your heart flutter. Here, 15th-century cobblestone streets meander between old townhouses, embellished fountains, and weeping willows. Read next: 11 Interesting and Fun Facts About France

8. St. Tropez

Cities in France Saint Tropez

In the French Riviera, St. Tropez and extravagance go hand in hand. The town boomed in the middle of the 20th century as it attracted the rich and famous. Despite its popularity, the population remains a diminutive 4,300 people.

The city boasts a more leisurely pace, where the fishing boats come in and out of the old port, backed by bright and picturesque homes. Of course, if it’s partying and yachts that you seek, then you won’t find a shortage of that either.

Beyond the local museums, wander down to one of the many iconic beaches in St. Tropez, where the water is as blue as the sky above. Later, dine at La Tarte Tropezienne for mouthwatering desserts, before experiencing the coastal town’s celebrated nightlife.

Read More About Great European Cities

  • 14 Best European Capital Cities To Visit
  • 15 Most Beautiful Cities in Italy for Travelers
  • 33 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to See
  • 16 Best Cities in Spain – Beautiful Places to Visit
  • The 16 Most Romantic Cities on Earth

9. Aix-en-Provence

Southwest France Aix-en-Provence City

In southern France, Aix-en-Provence is your chance to indulge in joie de vivre and embrace the local culture. The sun-soaked town is best lived outside, where you can venture down the old streets, stumbling across markets and hole-in-the-wall cafes.

Along the leafy Cours Mirabeau, you can experience authentic French cuisine in outdoor patios with the blue sky poking through the canopy. Afterward, wander through the Old Town without a care in the world, discovering charming squares and the Le Grand Marche. Fine arts are no stranger to Aix-en-Provence. Art lovers can make their way to Musee Granet, or explore the works of the luminary Paul Cezanne. Cezanne’s art is on display in multiple locations, including the open-air Terrain de Peintres.

Cities in France Cannes

No stranger to guides on the most beautiful cities in France, Cannes is a high-end beach experience. Home to the renowned Canned Film Festival held annually in May, the town offers both the Mediterranean and extravagant streets lined with high fashion and Michelin star restaurants. Check out 50 Best Travel Movies For Travel Lovers

Start your morning on some of the best white sand beaches in the French Riviera. The powder sand will float between your toes as you bathe in the sun of southern France.

Cannes isn’t easy on the budget, but you get what you pay for. Whether that be at any one of the up-scale resorts, gourmet restaurants, or mega yachts in the marina. But you don’t have to be a celebrity to enjoy Cannes. There are a variety of budget-friendly experiences such as the Croix des Gardes and the Le Marche Forville, that will have you feeling like a movie star.

11. Antibes

Antibes City in France

Between Cannes and Nice, the expansive coastline of Antibes awaits. The city’s alluring pine groves and the effervescent Mediterranean have predictably attracted artists as much as travelers throughout the years. If you’re handy with a brush, you’ll have no trouble finding inspiration in Antibes.

For us mere mortals, the camera must stay fully charged as you make your way through the Old Town, a fortified castle from the Medieval Era. Thin cobbled streets carve through the historic city. Ancient industries have long been replaced by waterfront restaurants, independent shops, and dim-lit cocktail bars.

Start every morning at Marche Provencal, where you can mingle with the local community, load up the basket with fresh produce and find the perfect spot for a picnic by the Mediterranean.

12. Bayonne

City of Bayonne France City Center

Taking a page out of the book of the canal houses in Amsterdam, Bayonne features similar colorful Basque houses along the serene Nive River. On either side of the river, you can witness the vibrant architecture, home to delicious restaurants and bars.

Bayonne is officially a “Town of Art and History” where historic churches complement the Basque Museum and the Old Castle (Chateaux Vieux). Much of Bayonne has been preserved or masterfully restored in order to represent Basque culture and heritage.

Aside from 13th-century buildings, Bayonne is also known as the French capital of chocolate. The tradition began in the early 17th century when Jewish Portuguese migrants settled in the town.

13. Toulouse

Toulouse in southwest France

With its rose-hued buildings rising out of the storied streets, it’s easy to see why Toulouse is the “Pink City”. In southwestern France, Toulouse rose to prominence from the 1300s to the 1500s when pastel production reached its zenith. The powdered pigment brought gorgeous blues to the rest of France.

Its elegant Old Town harbors narrow cobblestone streets and expansive boulevards that are a delight to walk down, made even better by the city’s pristine weather. Along the way, you’ll find the red-brick buildings filled with an exciting food scene and atmospheric patios.

Toulouse has long been on the traveler’s trail. The Romanesque Basilique Saint-Sernin, is on the Camino de Compostela. The cathedral is a stunning example of the Pink City, with its brick composition changing slightly under the falling sun.

14. Chamonix

The Beautiful city of Chamonix in France

Home to the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, Chamonix is a storybook alpine town. Exploring the famous town, which played host to the 1924 Winter Olympics, will uncover a range of chalet-style structures, old and modern architecture.

While you could spend all day wandering the pristine streets, you’ll soon be inspired by the surrounding landscapes, none more than the towering Mont Blanc. Its summit stands 15,777 feet above sea level. Presenting a challenging and technical climb, the mountain remains a bucket list trek.

But you don’t have to strap on crampons to make it to the peak. With the help of the adorable Tramway du Mont Blanc, you can arrive without breaking a sweat while admiring the spectacular views.

Around town, you’ll find plenty of fun befitting of such a location. Ski the longest run in Europe, go whitewater rafting, or zoom down the mountain on the Alpine Coaster.

15. Strasbourg

Beautiful Southern France City of Strasbourg

On the cusp of the German border, Strasbourg combines French and Germanic culture with aplomb. The French city is the location of the European Parliament and also home to one of the best Christmas markets on the continent.

Since the end of the First World War, Strasbourg has remained French. But its unique heritage as a part of the Alsace region is a huge aspect of local culture. The 2000-year-old Strasbourg has a historic quarter on an island in the center of town, known as La Petite France.

Other top attractions include the second-most visited cathedral in all of France and the embellished Kammerzell House. The local cuisine is, unsurprisingly, delicious, combining the best of both worlds to delight the taste buds.

16. Honfleur

City Centre of The French city of Honfleur

Small yet majestic, Honfleur is a historic port town made famous by Eugene Boudin and the works of Monet. For almost a millennium, ships have departed the local port with loaded cargo bound for England. The commercial hub surrounded itself with a medieval fort for protection, adding another layer of intrigue for tourists exploring in the modern era.

One of the smallest towns on our list, Honfleur, is as charming as it comes. Discover quintessential half-timber homes, old trawlers, and one of the best art galleries in France, the Eugene Boudin Museum.

But to appreciate the town’s history, head to its maritime museum, where you can learn about the sailors and shipbuilding in the early days of Honfleur.

Annecy City in France

Rising from the banks of the local river and canals, Annecy is known as the Venice of the French Alps. Surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, Annecy is an old regional capital and where you’ll find the breathtaking Lake Annecy.

Just like Venice , one of the best ways to see Annecy is from the water. Cruises and small boat trips will guide you along the narrow canals lined with eye-catching homes. From one body of water to another, head to the lake where its turquoise alpine waters lead to soaring peaks.

You’ll have to explore on foot to see the ancient Annecy Castle. In the center of town, the historic structure was built in the 14th century and remains at the heart of local life to this day.

Cityscape view of Dijon France

Replacing vinegar with verjuice in 1856, Jean Naigeon forever changed the perception of this beautiful city in France. Dijon is now one of the most popular types of mustard around the world, but you’ll quickly forget that as you venture between architectural marvels, palaces, and monuments.

Dijon is the capital of Burgundy, home to the former Palace of the Dukes. The Dukes of Burgundy were high royalty in the Middle Ages, above everyone but the King himself. The Dijon region has become only smaller over the ensuing centuries, but its streets still tell the stories of medieval times.

You can experience the history and culture of old Dijon at the local museum and art gallery. Both free, learn about Burgundian life before exploring one of the oldest galleries in the nation. Unsurprisingly, Dijon is a culinary haven. You’ll find ample authentic cuisine, exceptional markets, and even old-fashion gingerbread cakes first made in the 1700s.

French City of Amiens

Visitors may flock to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but the largest such structure in France is right here in Amiens. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is just a short walk away from the first skyscraper ever built in Europe, the Tour Perret.

These are just two of the delightful treasures that await those that travel to Amiens. On the River Somme, the city harbors all the characteristics of French culture while remaining somewhat off the beaten path.

Here, art and literature are celebrated in the Musee de Picardie and the Maison Jules Verne, respectively. You’ll also find a medieval quarter-turned modern hot-spot, the Quartier Saint-Leu, home to a bustling food scene.

20. Montpellier

Montpellier France at night

Among the maze of cobblestone streets is the wonderful city of Montpellier. A place where the wave of tourism has yet to roll through. Now a university town, Montpellier has a long and storied past. Tucked away from the Mediterranean, it’s often overlooked by those seeking the sun and sand on the coast. Leaving plenty of room for you to explore its charming streets, left untouched through the centuries.

Montpellier’s architecture will be the highlight of your time here. In the center of the city, you’ll find rows of historic buildings, with ornate facades and intricate stonework that are highlights of Renaissance architecture. For those that like to indulge in some people-watching, you can do just that in the enormous Place de la Comedie and under the city’s triumphal arch.

The varied neighborhoods combine the old eras with a personality more in-line with Montpelliers’ position near to the Mediterranean. Here you’ll find swaying palm trees above 17th-century homes and town squares enveloped with boisterous patios.

21. Grenoble

Beautiful french city of Grenoble France

France’s own version of Silicon Valley, Grenoble, is still renowned for its breathtaking scenery, culture and Old Town. Backed by the French Alps, Grenoble is arguably the most wheelchair-accessible city in France. Its residents also have an immense sense of community pride.

The mountain city has its own greeters. Not your typical Walmart greeter, however. These are local “Grenoblois” who will be more than happy to show you around town, unveiling a whole host of local secrets.

Although a progressive city, its streets remain historic and its buildings as old as time. Explore the Old Town and its many museums before taking the Red Bubble high above the town, where you can appreciate the skyline and nearby mountains.

UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nancy City France

The old capital of the Dukes of Lorraine, Nancy, is home to a trio of remarkable squares, astonishing architecture and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Exploring on foot and without a plan is the best way to stumble upon endless Art Nouveau treasures, including the jaw-dropping Villa Majorelle. The Carriere and Alliance town squares will make your camera work overtime, but it’s the famous Place Stanislas that commands the bulk of your time.

The iconic landmark is a prime example of French elegance in the lead-up to the 18th-century revolution. Nancy is one of the rare French cities where modern history trumps ancient. Its urban designs are relatively recent, with the prominent square a part of the city’s New Town.

Getting Around France

Making your way around France is fairly simple. A national rail network connects all major cities and regions and is relatively inexpensive.

How to get around France

If you want more power over your adventure, you may wish to hire a car. Reserve ahead of time to guarantee the cheapest rates. Keep in mind that car rental agencies require drivers to be at least 21 years old (sometimes 25) who must have their own credit card.

While car rentals will make traveling between destinations a breeze, you may find a dearth of parking in major cities. The cost of tolls can also quickly add up. Check out prices on Car Rentals Here .

Car Rental in France

Public Transport

The best way to get around France is via train. The network is efficient, smooth, and simple. With regular departures, you won’t be scrambling at 4 am for the day’s only train. While from your window seat, you can enjoy the countryside float by.

For budget travelers, the bus network presents a valid alternative to the TGV rail network. The bus will help you cut costs, however, transit is slower and departures less frequent.

Plan Your Next Trip to France With These Resources

  • 11 Interesting and Fun Facts About France
  • 27 Free Things to do in Paris, France
  • France Travel Guide
  • Enchanting Medieval Villages in France – The French Riviera
  • Things to do in Marseille, France
  • How to Visit Paris on a Budget – 20 Tips to Save Money
  • 3 Days in Paris: The Best Paris Itinerary for Your First Visit

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO . 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

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The Boutique Adventurer: Luxury Adventure Travel Blog focussed on Emerging Destinations for those over 35

36 Most Beautiful Cities in France You’ll Want to Visit

By: Author Amanda OBrien

Posted on Last updated: 19/03/2024

From awe-inspiring cathedrals, gourmet restaurants, fairytale castles, and manicured vineyards, France offers endless stunning attractions.

Travellers to France could spend an entire week or two and only scratch the bare surface of the country’s most popular cities. For many, their first option is to visit glistening Paris, being the most refined, elegant city.

However, each city in France has its own unique and distinctive claim to fame. Nice, the welcoming city in the French Riviera, exhibits an Italian flair with warm golden sands, while Lyon promotes an array of the trendiest dishes in the country. If you’re a history lover, Marseille beams with stunning museums, while Bordeaux highlights some of the best French wines.

Let’s dive into this list of France’s most beautiful cities to add to your ‘must-see’ bucket list .

  • 36 Most Beautiful Cities in France

Table of Contents

2. Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alps

3. nice, cote d’azur, 4. bordeaux, nouvelle-aquitaine, 5. aix-en-provence, provence, 6. marseille, provence-alpes-cote d’azur, 7. strasbourg, alsace, 8. annecy, rhone-alps, 9. honfleur, normandy, 10. ploumanac’h, brittany, 11. chartres, loire valley, 12. st tropez, cote d’azur, 13. grasse, cannes, 14. avignon, provence, 15. l’isle sur la sorgue, provence, 16. vezelay, burgundy, 17, dijon, burgundy, 18. troyes, champagne, 19. metz, grand est, 20. chamonix, the alps, 21. toulouse, occitanie, 22. colmar, alsace, 23. nantes, pays de la loire, 24. tours, centre-val de loire, 25. antibes, provence, 26. bayonne, nouvelle aquitaine, 27. rouen, normandy, 28. amiens, hauts de france, 29. lille, hauts de france, 30. uzes, occitanie, 31. saint antonin noble val – france, 32. montauban, occitanie, 33. cognac, nouvelle-aquitaine, 34. la rochelle, nouvelle-aquitaine, 35. grenoble, auvergne-rhones-alpes, 36. bayeux, normandy, a footnote: most beautiful cities in france.

Beaming with history and passion, just the thought of Paris conjures romance. That, and its alluring famous landmarks like the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and of course, the Eiffel Tower . The city is filled with medieval cobblestone streets, graceful tree-lined boulevards, and quaint riverside pathways.

pont des arts

Here you’ll find some of the top-rated museums and historic churches in Europe. Areas like Montmartre and the Latin Quarter invite visitors to friendly sidewalk cafes and quaint bistros.

Monmartre Paris

Apart from the obvious attractions to Paris, there are plenty of hidden surprises throughout the city. Treat yourself to decadent desserts at one of the many pastry boutiques, or grab one to go and listen to street musicians at the Seine River bridge. While many believe the city comes to life at night, the sunrise in Paris is truly magical.

Nestled between the Rhone and Saone River, Lyon boasts plenty of attractions and is considered France’s food capital. Foodies flock to this historic city for a taste of authentic French cuisine. A food tour is a great way to experience the local food in Lyon.

Lyon France

As the third-largest city in France, Lyon has a bustling metropolitan ambiance. However, the UNESCO-listed Vieux-Lyon (Old Town) has preserved its historical heritage.

You’ll also find medieval, Renaissance-era architecture and Roman ruins dotted throughout the city. The stunning alleyways and unique cobblestone streets are lined with boutiques and cafes to pop into.

Nice, the jewel of the French Riviera ( Côte d’Azur region ), sports a mix of Italian and French culture. One of the prettiest cities in France, it is located at the foothills of the Maritime Alps on the Baie des Anges and boasts some of the best pebble beaches in France.

Nice is endowed with modern art museums, a vibrant street food scene, Franco-Italian architecture, and scenic walkways such as the famous Promenade des Anglais. The city is packed with historic monuments, including the 17th-century Baroque cathedral.

Nice France

Walk through the narrow, cobblestone streets and get lost in Vieille Ville (Old Town). This neighborhood is lined with colourful houses, charming cafes, and cute boutiques and restaurants.

Other incredible attractions in this beautiful French city include an array of blooming lavender fields and manicured gardens. For a panoramic view of this stunning metropolis, climb to the top of Castle Hill for breathtaking scenery. Alternatively, embark on a fun Segway tour of Nice to see the city’s most popular attractions.

If you’re looking for a great wine-tasting experience, you should certainly head to Bordeaux. The capital of wine country is located in southwestern France on the Garonne River, in the Aquitaine region.

The city is filled with charming cafes, restaurants, bars, and boutiques. Head to Parlement Saint-Pierre and treat yourself to an array of different beverages. Discover sweeping views of the city at the Pey-Berland Tower.

bordeaux cathedral

Some must-visit wineries include St. Emilion , Margaux , Medoc , and St. Estephe . While you’re here, don’t miss the Cite du Vin Museum, dedicated to the history and culture of French vineyards and wines.

cite du vin

Apart from world-class wines, Bordeaux is known for its well-preserved historic architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Don’t miss my post on 35 Fantastic things to do in Bordeaux.

With colourful open-air markets, quaint public squares, tranquil fountains, and picture-perfect sidewalk cafes, Aix-en-Provence is the epitome of France’s cultural scene. This is one of the most beautiful places in France. Amble along the beautiful cobblestone streets to discover Vieil Aix (Old Town) and enjoy beautiful fountains dotted throughout its charming plazas.

Lavender fields in provence france

Stroll along the famous tree-lined street of Cours Mirabeau and pop into one of the many restaurants or outdoor cafes. Aix-en-Provence is famous for its world-class art museums. The Musée Granite has a superb collection of fine art from the 14th century to modern times.

Located on the balmy Mediterranean coast, Marseille is the second-largest city in France. The city Vieux-Port (Old Port) is still considered the main attraction. Here you’ll discover vibey street music, delicious cuisines, cafes, and art exhibitions around the area.

marseille france

While you’re here, you won’t want to miss the city’s renowned museums such as the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille and the Mucem. Other top attractions include Le Panier (Old Town) and the city’s most iconic landmark, Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde.

Another exciting place to visit is the National Park of the Calanques . You’ll get spoiled with breathtaking views and surrounded by white cliffs and turquoise waters.

Located in the Alsace region near the German border, Strasbourg is the seat of the European Parliament and several other EU institutions. The city boasts an array of medieval architecture, charming burghers’ houses, and delicious cuisines.

The city is most famous for having one of the most beautiful and oldest Christmas markets in France. Stroll through the picturesque streets and amidst the canals of the ancient quarters on the Grande-Île (historic centre) to discover this picture-perfect city.

Strasbourg Cathedral France

While you’re here, don’t forget to visit “The Pink Cathedral”, the Maison Kammerzell, and the pretty neighbourhood of La Petite France. I highly suggest booking a guided tour to discover the best of Strasbourg.

This city is filled with culture and boasts a range of exceptional museums, archaeology, fine arts, and traditional Alsatian crafts.

Located in the French Alps, Annecy is by far one of the most attractive cities in France. Also known as “the Venice of the Alps”, it’s a fairytale city with waterways crisscrossing through the town and is lined with colourful architecture.

While you’re in Annecy, visit the Château d’Annecy, a 14th-century medieval castle that’s perched at the top of a hill, overlooking the city and Old Town. Pack a picnic basket, and take a walk to the Palais de l’Isle. Alternatively, join a walking tour to discover Annecy’s popular places.

les o d'annecy view

Another must-see sight bordering the city is Lac d’ Annecy (Lake Annecy), it’s one of the most beautiful lakes in France . The city is the perfect getaway destination for photography lovers, romantics, or foodies alike.

annecy lake

Lovely Honfleur has a debt to pay to the painter Eugene Boudin. It was Boudin who convinced Monet to come to Honfleur to paint in the mid-nineteenth century. Many other artists followed and today the Boudin museum is one of the best small art galleries in Normandy .

honfleur normandy france

Honfleur is a town of just over 8,000 and has a historic and very photo-friendly harbour, the beautiful 15th century St Catherine’s Church, a maritime museum and a historic quarter. And just one kilometre from Honfleur is the lovely beach La Plage du Butin. And if you’re feeling weary, you can get around Honfleur on its tourist train.

This lovely seaside resort sits in a landscape of rose-tinted cliffs and boulders. Ploumanac’h is located along the northern coast of Brittany in a section called Cote de Granit Rose or the Pink Granite Coast. Originally a place of prayer, Ploumanc’h still has both a medieval chapel and an ancient shrine.

Ploumanac’h france

This delightful city in France consists of two sections. There is the beach area and then the village centre is a short stroll south and officially called Ploumanac’h-Bourg. The area inbetween is a rather wild public park. In summer, fishing boats set off from the small harbor and head for Sept-Iles seabird sanctuary.

Chartes is best known for its stunning UNESCO listed cathederal. It was built during the 12th century and is considered to be one of the greatest pieces of gothic architecture in the world. Climb the bell tower, explore the pilgrims’ labyrinth, enjoy the stained glass windows and check out the more than 200 sculpted figures.

chartres france

Head down to the lower town and the banks of the Eure to see half-timbered houses and water-mills. And don’t miss the 64 hectare historic centre. It is full of cobblestone streets and historic architecture. For something different explore the International Stained Glass Centre and watch craftsmen and women at work.

This coastal town on the French Riviera in south eastern France is synonymous with glamour. It was the home of the international elite in the 1960s and even today is known for its beaches and nightlife. In reality, this town has a population of less than 5,000 people so it is more like a little village.

st tropez france

The Vieux Port is the heart of St Tropez and is filled with fishing boats and colourful houses. This is the perfect place to stop and enjoy a coffee with a view. If you’re up early head to the Place Aux Herbes and its little farmer’s market. Of course, when in St Tropez you must go to the beach and lie under an umbrella and swim in its sublime turquoise waters.

Grasse has been famous for perfume since the 17th century. It is home to three historic perfume manufacturers, Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard, all of whom allow for free tours. The Grasse perfume and food aroma industry represent two thirds of total French production in this area.

Grasse France

But Grasse is more than just aromas. It has a charming old town with arcades, quaint fountains, medieval houses from the 17th and 18th centuries and even a Belle Epoque casino.

The famous Palace of the Popes is the largest gothic palace in Europe and was the official residence of the pontiff in the 14th century. It is located near the famous bridge Pont d’Avignon. Avignon is a walled city and within those walls are charming winding streets that are begging to be explored.

Pont-d’Avignon

Avignon also has a wide range of museums, a famous theatre festival, is the capital of Cotes-du-Rhone wines, and is an important center for Provencal cuisine.

27 kilometers east of Avignon is the “island city” of L’Isle sur la Sorgue. The river Sorgue surrounds this little city and several canals run through its centre. The city is full of narrow streets, small bridges and water wheels. The Partage des eaux is 1 kilometer upstream from the city and is where the river splits in two. It then forms a shaded body of water with much greenery and trees.

L'Isle sur la Sorgue france

Today L’Isle Sur la Sorgues is best known for its flea markets and art galleries. There are nearly 300 antique dealers in this small town. Twice a year the town holds a major festival for antique and second-hand dealers.

This tiny hilltop town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been a centre of Christianity since the Middle Ages. Founded in the ninth century, this little town still receives over 1 million visitors each year. It is one of the starting points for the famous pilgrimage to Compostela in Spain.

Vezelay most beautiful cities in France

The Basilica of St Mary Magdalene is an outstanding example of Burgundian Romanesque art and architecture. The streets around the church are lined with houses whose cellars open directly onto the sidewalk. Many famous French writers came to Vezelay to climb the “Inspired Hill”. And don’t miss the basilica’s beautiful gardens.

Just 90 minutes from Paris on a high speed train, Dijon is the capital of the Burgundy region and of course home to the world famous mustard. Dijon is also one of the wine capitals of France and is known as one of France’s great gourmet cities. It is surrounded by yellow fields in the spring but they are of colza or oil-seed rape rather than mustard.

Dijon France

Dijon’s UNESCO listed centre is a mix of late medieval and renaissance architecture. The Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy is the most impressive of all the historic buildings. Climb to the top of the Tour Philippe Le Bon for great panoramic views over Dijon.

This lovely medieval town is extremely photogenic with its half timbered houses and cobbled streets. And it is shaped like a cork, very appropriate for a town in Champagne! La Ruelle des Chats or the Cats Alley is one of the cutest streets in Troyes. It received its name because the roofs of the houses in the street are so close that cats could easily pass from one side to the other.

Troyes France

Troyes is only a 90-minute train ride from Paris so it is a delightful day trip – or even better stay the night and use it as a base for exploring the Champagne region.

This charming city is located on the east side of the Moselle River between Nancy and Luxembourg . Metz is close to three international borders (Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg) and only 80 minutes by train from Paris. The city is famous for its gothic Saint-Etienne Cathedral, its German Imperial District and more recently for its Pompidou Centre.

Metz France

Metz is also a Garden City with many flowerbeds, trees and green streets. There are also many cafes and restaurants with outdoor terraces. It is one of France’s greenest cities with more than 25 square metres of green space per inhabitant. There are kilometres of riverside paths, many of which run along the banks of the Moselle and Seille Rivers.

Metz’s Pompidou Centre is the first new location of the famous Parisian museum. And Metz’s German Imperial District was built following the 1870 Franco-Prussian War when the city was annexed back to Germany.

This beautiful alpine village has the magnificent Mont Blanc’s snowcapped peaks as its backdrop. Chamonix has been a world famous ski resort since it was the location for the 1924 Winter Olympics. But Chamonix is not just for skiers. It is also a great spot for paragliding, golf, hiking, rock climbing and just about every outdoor activity you can imagine.

Chamonix France

Visitors can get up close and personal with Mont Blanc by taking a gondola ride. Experienced climbers can attempt to climb to the top of Mont Blanc but it is seriously strenuous and requires technical climbing skills. Another way to enjoy Mont Blanc that is far less strenuous is the very cute Tramway du Mont Blanc.

The town of Chamonix itself is a mix of traditional Alpine architecture and modern buildings. The town has a pedestrian area and many traditional chalets and rustic lodges.

Toulouse or The “Pink City” is located in the heart of southwest France and is the fourth largest city in France. From the 14th to the 16th century, Toulouse became a very wealthy city based on its pastel production, a pigment that created stunning blues. Alas, pastel ended up being replaced by the cheaper and easier-to-use indigo. Today, Toulouse is known as the European capital of the aerospace industry.

Toulouse France

The name “pink city” came from the attractive red brick of the city’s buildings. The center of Toulouse is a maze of narrow streets with a few grand wide boulevards. Place du Capitole is the heart of the pink city.

Instagram has definitely grown the awareness of this gorgeous canal-based city in France. Before that Colmar was the inspiration for the village in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast. This small town in northeast France is a unique mix of German and French historical architecture with winding cobbled street.

It is insanely photogenic with its colourful houses, wooden shutters, and of course window boxes with the latest blooms.

Colmar France

Of course there are museums and churches, but the biggest delight of Colmar is just wandering its very cute streets. Don’t miss Pfister House with its wraparound wooden balcony or the area around the Quai de Poissoniers, which has been nicknamed Petit Venice.

Nantes is a vibrant university city. By the 18th century, Nantes was France’s premier port and in the 19th century, it became an industrial centre. It was the first place in the world to offer a public transport service. In the late 20th century, it has become an arty cultural city.

Nantes France

Today, Nantes is the eighth largest city in France. Its historic region stands on the north bank of the Loire and around the river Erdre. The majority of buildings in Nantes historic center were built during the 18th century so Nantes can feel like a little Paris. Having said that, don’t miss Nantes magnificent restored medieval castle the Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany.

Another university town, Tours, is known as The Garden of France. The city stands on the lower reaches of the Loire River and is sandwiched between it and the Cher River. The cobblestone streets of Tours run between the two rivers.

The streets are full of elegant fountains and weeping willow trees and flowerbeds. Tours has a delightful old town that is a maze of cobbled streets with half timbered and slate townhouses from the 14th to 16th century.

tours france

Tours is a fantastic base for exploring the amazing chateaux of the Loire Valley. However, make sure you keep time in your schedule to explore this relaxed and charming French city. And don’t miss the amazing Tours Cathedral which took nearly 400 years to build.

Located on the Cote d’Azur between Nice and Cannes, Antibes has 23 kilometres of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea. The sea views combined with Antibes signature pine groves has attracted artists for years.

Antibes France

As if all of that natural beauty wasn’t enough, the city also has a medieval fortified castle in its Old Town. The old town of Antibes is walled and filled with narrow, winding cobblestone streets that are home to loads of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops. A traditional market, the Marche Provencal, is held every morning on Cours Massena.

Bayonne sits on the Nive River, which is lined with colorful wooden Basque houses. The city is located at the northernmost point of the French Basque Country, where the Nive and Adour rivers meet.

Bayonne has two main neighborhoods, Grand Bayonne and Petit Bayonne. Buildings in both neighborhoods are a colorful mix of French and Basque architecture. And both sides of the rivers are lined with bars and restaurants.

Bayonne France

Most of the original wall surrounding Bayonne is gone, but there are some remnants. Grand Bayonne is the more commercial area but is also home to some of the most ancient buildings such as the Sainte Marie Cathedral. Petit Bayonne is home to some delightful museums and its highest point is Chateau-Neuf.

The capital of Normandy sits on the River Seine in northern France. Rouen has been called “the city with a hundred bells chiming in the air,” thanks to its churches and cathedrals. Its famous cathedral has paintings by Claude Monet (Rouen is the birthplace of Impressionism) and dazzling stained glass windows.

rouen cathedral

The town has pedestrianized streets lined with timber-framed houses, an antique district, several museums and gothic churches and even a plague cemetery.

Rouen streets

Amiens is just 70 minutes from Paris and is often used as a base to explore the battlefields of World War 1. The city itself is home to its own Notre Dame Cathedral, which is twice the size of the one in Paris. St-Leu is an area just north of the town center with canals and small wooden and brick houses.

Amiens France

Possibly the most delightful area in Amiens is the Hortillonnages. The Hortillonnages is an area of waterways, small islands and footbridges that the locals have been using as their own gardens for centuries.

Lille was once the industrial center of France and the capital city of French Flanders. Today, Lille uses its position on the Belgian border to be a European transport hub. But it has far more to offer than just convenient transport links.

Lille France

The city’s old town is a mix of French and Flemish architecture. The streets are paved with stones and lined with tall red-brick buildings and golden sandstone houses. Lille is home to Palais des Beaux-Arts museum, France’s second largest art collection after the Louvre.

In 2004, Lille was elected European Capital of Culture, and since then, it has pushed both its heritage and contemporary artists. And it is a student town – the third largest in France after Paris and Lyon.

Uzes is a different kind of south of France city. It doesn’t have beaches but the city itself is preserved in white stone. Place aux Herbes is the heart of Uzes and home to more limestone buildings. The entire old town is pedestrianised and this is definitely a city for wandering.

Uzes France

Uzes is home to a chateau, Le Duche d’Uzes, where the original ducal family still lives, Cathedral Saint-Theodorit d’Uzes, a medieval garden and twice-weekly markets. And as you’re so close, don’t miss the amazing French bridge Pont du Gard. This UNESCO heritage site is just 13 kilometers east of Uzes towards Avignon.

If you are looking for the quintessential French countryside town Saint Antonin Noble Val is it. This beautiful town has been featured in several films, including Charlotte Gray and The Hu ndred-Foot Journey.

Saint Antonin Noble Val is situated on the Aveyron River – don’t miss the beautiful bridge with its reflection in the river. Cate Blanchette rode across this in Charlotte Grey.

st antonin noble val

The center of Saint Antonin Noble Val was the home of the town’s most wealthy residents. In medieval times a town was the safest place to live – and within it, the safest place was the centre as anyone who wanted to invade would start with those on the edges.

saint antonin noble val

Therefore the tallest and most decadent houses are in the middle of the city – and these are the streets where the famous St Antonin Sunday Market is held. This is a good place to start exploring Saint Antonin Noble Val.

The old town center of Montauban is quite tiny and so delightful. The majority of Montauban, France, town centre is pedestrianized, so it is lovely to wander its small cobblestone streets.

This is one of the oldest and best-preserved of the medieval new towns in South-West France.

building with painted shutters and person in Montauban

The town’s name means “White Mountain” but most of what you will see is pink! This comes from the local clay and its pink colour.

Droguerie Couderc Montauban

Montauban is full of local producers with the most beautiful stores. Their merchandising is so wonderful and you can feel the passion and love the merchants have for their products.

There are some stunning cheese shops, flower shops, oyster shops and wow the chocolate shops.

Visiting Cognac houses is a must-do in lovely Cognac but don’t miss exploring this beautiful small town with its whitewashed houses and walls. I loved strolling its streets. Walk the main and back streets of Cognac and enjoy the charming pale shaded homes and those with colorful tiles. Many of the old houses date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

cognac streets 15

Head down to the Charentes River and stroll along its banks and cross the old stone bridge. Enjoy the colors of the sunset in the gardens of the Hotel de Ville.

cognac streets 10

Lovely La Rochelle is insanely beautiful. No wonder this seaside town has attracted artists for centuries. I am always looking for light as a keen photographer and I have seldom seen light as soft, clear and golden as in La Rochelle – particularly in the hour or so before sunset.

harbour la rochelle

One of the most enjoyable things to do in La Rochelle is to explore its 17th-century streets. Many towns have one or two particularly beautiful streets. It appears that virtually all the streets of La Rochelle are very beautiful.

harbour la rochelle

And then there is the jaw-dropping beauty of the harbor. Its three towers are extremely well preserved, like the rest of the town. The Chain Tower guarded the entrance to the harbor from foreign intruders. It was named the Chain Tower as it literally had a big chain that attached it to Saint Nicolas Tower and blocked entry to the port. Saint Nicolas Tower held pirates and political prisoners.

Lovely little Grenoble is the gateway town into the French Alpes in the southeast of France . It is small but it is packed with charm and fantastic things to do.

The city is well known for the prestigious University of Grenoble. It is a world-renowned research institution and is known as one of the best places in the world to learn the French language. This has helped the city become a strong tech hub and Grenoble is also home to many world-leading companies in this sector.

grenoble

The combination of this international community, the stunning backdrop of the French Alpes and the beauty of the city itself makes for a unique travel experience.

Don’t miss the city’s extremely charming old town, which is filled with gorgeous boutiques, great cafes and wonderful restaurants focused on local ingredients. And take the city’s iconic “bubbles” cable car up to La Bastille for unforgettable views of the city and surrounding mountains.

grenoble gondola

The old town of Bayeux is a perfect example of a medieval Norman town. It is filled with narrow cobblestone streets, a picturesque canal and some more great examples of Norman architecture. Don’t miss the oldest house in Bayeux. It dates back to the 14th century.

Bayeux oldest building

The city is also home to the most famous tapestry in the world, a 1000-year-old embroidery that tells the story of the conquest of  England  by the man later known as William the Conqueror. The tapestry can be visited at the Bayeux Museum. Tickets come with a 30-minute audio tour that explains each frame of the tapestry.

Bayeux Tapestry building

Originally built in the 11th century, Bayeux Cathedral is a national monument of France. The present cathedral was consecrated in 1077.

Bayeux Cathedral

From vast stretches of lavender fields and idyllic vineyards to quaint cobbled stone streets and picturesque waterways. France is a stunning country filled with beautiful cities to explore.

So what is the most beautiful city in France? I think it is impossible to say, the country has many incredible cities to discover. So, now that you’ve seen this list, it’s time to indulge in your wanderlust and discover the most beautiful French cities.

I covered all of the costs associated with writing this post. However, this most beautiful cities in France post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

IMG 2300 scaled

Amanda O’Brien is the creator and editor of The Boutique Adventurer. She has visited 80 countries and is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers as well as the IFTWTA. She is passionate about wine had has just completed Level 3 of the WSET. Born in Australia, she lives in London.

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8 best cities to visit in France for cultural hotspots in 2023

The french cities you should visit, from bordeaux to cannes, whether you’re after bountiful vineyards, glamorous seafronts and historic cultural hubs, article bookmarked.

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The oldest French city, Marseille, is a cosmopolitan window to the Mediterranean

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Our French neighbours have no shortage of cultural hotspots that make for exciting city breaks. Stray beyond the iconic arrondissements of France ’s poster child,  Paris , and you’ll discover a wealth of food, fashion and art destinations just across the English Channel.

Famous for its rich regional cuisines – we’re talking fine wines, mature cheese and freshly baked baguettes – these cities have more than enough ingredients for tourists to embrace authentic French culture.

In the summer, days spent leisurely lunching in Cannes compete with soaking in the sights of majestic cathedrals in Reims for attention – Europe’s second-largest country is as dynamic as it is vast.

The country’s varied landscape is home to mountain ranges, idyllic islands and bustling cosmopolitan hubs with diverse weather conditions that facilitate holidays from exhilarating snow sports to romantic city breaks and relaxing beach stays on the French Riviera .

From coastal Ajaccio to medieval Lille , here are the best cities to visit to indulge in the ultimate French experience.

Read more on France travel :

  • France travel guide: Everything you need to know before you go
  • Where to go camping in France: Eight best coastal campsites for a beach holiday
  • Marseille city guide: Where to eat, sleep and drink in France’s cool, coastal second city

Notable for its 17th-century architecture alone, northern Lille is a hub of art collections, shopping districts and world-famous waffle houses, all easily explorable on foot. The capital of the Hauts-de-France région , the city is small enough to discover in one weekend, but brimming with attractions such as the historic centre of Vieux-Lille and Palais des Beaux-Arts museum, to satisfy those seeking French cuisine, design and traditions. Dine like the locals at Estaminet Au Vieux de la Vieille on authentic Flemish beef dishes and pâtés in a cosy traditional restaurant.

Where to stay

Au 30  offers self-catering suites and apartments in the centre of Lille. The modern units have hot tubss, saunas and cosy seating areas – all just a stone’s throw away from the Zénith of Lille, Grand Palais and Aeronef music venue.

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France’s oldest city has a rich history as a prosperous trading port dating back to ancient Greece. The cosmopolitan coastal city on the Gulf de Lyon hosts sun, sea, creative culinary scenes and a fusion of cultures in its Mediterranean climate, and was named a European Capital of Culture in 2013. From the old harbour to the impressive Mucem museum and the hilltop Notre-Dame De La Garde, a  Marseille  holiday is a feast for the eyes and stomach. Find unique French delights in the boutiques and cafes of La Panier old town, and head to Calanques National Park by boat for the ultimate southern France city break.

Hôtel 96,  set in a 19th-century house on the outskirts of Marseille, boasts spacious rooms with modern decor, tranquil gardens and proximity to the beach. A relaxed atmosphere, family rooms and the stunning Calanques National Park welcome guests to France’s second-largest city.

Think rolling vineyards, gothic castles and fine wines when you book a holiday to Bordeaux. The  wine region  in southwestern France is home to famous grape blends, wineries and Cité du Vin wine museum, but there’s more to the world’s wine capital than vineyard tours and tastings. Stay within Bordeaux’s stone streets on the Garrone River to admire the Unesco-listed architecture, Places des Quinconces fortress and the Grand Théatre. You can also take in panoramic city views from 229 steps up Pey-Berland bell tower – well worth the climb for a birds-eye look at Bordeaux’s ancient metropolis.

If avant-garde rooms, al fresco garden breakfasts and vineyard tours are what you desire from a Bordeaux holiday, then Hôtel La Maison Bord’eaux should fit the bill. Less than a 10-minute walk from The Grand Théâtre and a tram stop, the hotel also organises guided tours of Saint-Emilion and Médoc vineyards.

The capital of the French island Corsica, Ajaccio boasts wide open squares with traditional French bistros, gold sand beaches and a bustling marina in its horseshoe-shaped bay. Charming ancient streets, chic shopping promenades and a classic Mediterranean climate set Ajaccio up as the lesser-known little sister to iconic cities on the Cote d’Azur. The birthplace of Napoleon still holds the French emperor close to its identity – monuments, museums, squares and bistros bear his name and you can visit Maison Bonaparte, Napoleon’s childhood home, to learn the highlights of the historic military leader’s life.

Hôtel Spunta Di Mare , on the seafront of Corse Azur Beac, features a monochromatic design, a heated indoor swimming pool and panoramic views of Ajaccio Bay. Enjoying regional wines, French cuisine and buffet breakfasts is on the menu for guests, and water sport excursions can be arranged.

Toulouse , a pink-hued city packed with pastel architecture, buzzing markets and aeronautical industries, sits near the French border with Spain. The pink city – “La Ville Rose” – is the capital of the Occitania region and three Unesco World Heritage Sites dot the terracotta streets: the Canal du Midi, Roman Basilica of St. Sernin, and former hospital, Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques. A tango festival comes to Toulouse in July, and jazz bars and speakeasies by the Garonne River come alive for summer in a fusion of French nightlife that’s not to be missed.

Le Grand Balcon Hotel  features 1930s decor, continental buffet breakfasts and a contemporary bar on the doorstep of Place du Capitole and its opera house. The designer labels of Galeries Lafayette are a five-minute walk away from the modern, neutral rooms and suites.

Luxury seafront resorts, designer boutiques and dining on fresh oysters and speciality stews are synonymous with a stay in Cannes. The cinema city on the French Riviera is famous for its film festival , red carpet events and iconic promenade, Boulevard de la Croisette. Glitz and glamour are easy to find even out of the summer season in couture stores, intimate bars and a wealth of decadent palaces looking out on the pristine yachts and striped beach clubs of the Cannes coast.

Just metres from the Palais des Festivals and Croisette Beach,  Hôtel Barrière Le Gray d’Albion  exudes prestige and coastal style. Spacious luxury suites feature large terraces and the hotel’s private beach with seasonal Mediterranean restaurant, Mademoiselle Gray, is the perfect spot for soaking up the sun.

Just a 45-minute train ride from Paris , Reims is a city of royal heritage, Gallic relics and the soft fizz of champagne. The Unesco-listed Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, which played host to the coronation of French kings for over 1,000 years, is the city’s crowning jewel – and the decadent delights don’t stop there. Known for its prestigious champagne houses, including Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger and Pommery, raise a glass to the city of kings on a tour of the cellars and surrounding patchwork of vineyards. The best part? Reims is largely walkable, so there’s no need to call a taxi home after a few glasses of bubbly.

Best Western Premier Hotel de la Paix , a design hotel in the heart of Reims, boasts contemporary rooms, a sun terrace and an on-site restaurant. The central location, modern furnishings and indoor pool give holidaymakers a place to relax between afternoons spent at the local cafes and bistros.

At the gateway of southern France, Valence welcomes visitors to its sunny riverside, 11th-century cathedrals and cobbled pedestrianised streets. A culinary hub of speciality bites, days spent roaming the romantic bandstands and ornate gardens of Park Jouvet are fuelled by Suisse de Valence orange brioche and evenings at one of three Michelin-starred restaurants, including Maison Pic. Visit at Christmas to take in the festive spirit of the biggest market in the Drôme region.

The elegant  Hotel Victoria  offers sleek decor, a quaint terrace and a cosy bar. A short walk from Valence town hall, chic and comfortable bedrooms, marble bathrooms and continental breakfasts are waiting for guests at the boutique hotel.

Read more on the best Paris hotels

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Curious Travel Bug

21 Best Cities in France to Visit that Aren’t Paris

5 cities to visit in france

Chances are when you think of visiting France one of the first things that pops into your mind is Paris. While I definitely recommend a visit to Paris , France is full of wonderful cities that deserve a consideration when you are building your France itinerary.

France is a huge country so choosing where to go in France can be a bit overwhelming as you are absolutely spoiled for choice. With so many fantastic options, France is one of those places you can visit multiple times and still not have seen it all.

With that in mind, I asked travel bloggers to share their favourite French city. The resulting list is some of the best places to visit in France and each offers a fantastic place to base yourself to explore the city and the countryside around it. If you choose to venture beyond Paris, you will often find yourself with cheaper accommodation options and fewer other tourists to contend with. I’ve separated the cities out by region to make it easier to navigate or plan a trip to the area. The South of France is one of the most popular regions to visit and is full of beautiful cities to spend your vacation in. Even though the south of France is a popular destination, the other regions of France can offer up different experiences in architecture, food, and culture that shouldn’t be ignored. There is something on this list of must-see places in France for every type of traveler.

This post contains affiliate links , If you make a purchase through these links I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Best Cities in Normandy and Northern France

By Delahaye of Hues of Delahaye | Instagram

Lille is one of France’s more underrated cities, but if you are looking for authenticity and culture, this is the city to visit.

Lille is a city located in beautiful French Flanders. It was founded in 640, ruled by the Flemish, Burgundians, and the Spanish before being conquered by the French. 

Lille in France's Flemish region is one of the best cities to visit in France because it offers up a historic center and great museums and food for a fraction of the price of Paris. This is one place not to miss when planning a trip to France

Lille is big on history, especially art and architecture, and this is evident in the charming Flemish-inspired old town. Their galleries boast works by Rubens and Manet, and streets lined with beautiful churches, cafes, and cathedrals. 

So, be sure to visit the stunning Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille’s renowned art museums. The Grand Place, a central square in the city. The Old Stock Exchange (The Vieille Bourse) building constructed in 1652 and is one of Lille’s most architecturally impressive buildings – designed with 24 identical houses built around the inner square. Visit in the afternoon, to see locals playing chess in the courtyard or browse the second-hand book market selling only French books.

If you are planning on visiting Lille, walk along the narrow cobbled streets, explore the famous botanical gardens and sample excellent food at local restaurants for a fraction of the price you’d find in Paris.

Lille’s cuisine is a fusion of French and Flemish influences and is so much more than mussels and chips. But this is one of the dishes the city is known for, so do it try. It’s delicious. 

All this makes Lille one of the best city in France that I’ve visited.

By Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan | Instagram

Rouen is a beautiful city that serves as the capital of the northern region of Normandy. But despite its provincial capital status, it’s still a small, walkable city with a population of 110,000. In many ways, walking its cobblestone streets and looking up at the half-timbered houses feels like stepping in back in time, or like stepping into Diagon Alley if you’re a Harry Potter fan.

Half timbered buildings in Rouen, France. Rouen is the capital of the Normandy region and was a popular place for Monet to paint. It's also a walkable city with an interesting history,.

Its many churches have earned it the nickname “City of a Hundred Spires”. The most famous of these is the Rouen Cathedral, which featured in many paintings by Monet. It’s an eclectic mix of architectural styles with roots going back as far as the 4th century AD. Another church not to miss is the imposing Abbatiale St-Ouen. It’s often mistaken for the Cathedral because it’s so large. In fact, its vaults are even higher than those in the Cathedral.

Rouen also has a darker side to its history, and there are some poignant reminders of these times. This is where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and the spot is marked by a small field of wildflowers. Another macabre but oddly beautiful attraction is the 16th-century Aître St-Maclou. It was once used as a burial ground for victims of the plague, and the decorations on the building feature skulls, bones and other reminders of death.

Sharon of  Exploring Our World | Pinterest

The charming town of Bayeux gives you a way to experience a medieval French town while at the same time enjoying modern conveniences. The quiet, winding lanes and cobblestone streets transport you back in time as you wander among the half-timbered buildings. Just a few miles from the channel coast of Normandy, Bayeux is a quick 2-hour train ride from Paris. You can zip here for a couple of days for a change from big city life.

The waterwheel in Bayeux, France. Bayeux is the perfect city in France to visit the D-day Beaches from as well as taste some of the delicious foods of Normandy and tour the medieval city.

People visit from all over the world to see the Bayeux Tapestry, a UNESCO artwork. The tapestry is almost 230 feet in length and 20 inches high. The embroidered scenes depict events of the Norman conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy and ending with the Battle of Hastings.

Bayeux is the perfect base for exploring the D-Day beaches . It boasts an excellent World War II museum and a peaceful cemetery dedicated to British soldiers who died bringing freedom back to the town in 1944. Bayeux is also the meeting place for in-depth tours of the nearby battlegrounds.

Even if you are not one to tour battlefields or marvel at historic art, you can enjoy Bayeux for its outstanding fresh cuisine. The countryside of Normandy that surrounds the town is home to prime farming and dairy. So, in Bayeux, you can treat yourself to cheeses and fresh produce. With the channel nearby, fishermen provide seafood that will melt in your mouth. Stop by a boulangerie for crusty bread, add some cheeses and fruit, grab a bottle of wine, and you’re all set for a delightful picnic.

Bayeux offers something for everyone. It certainly tops the list of my favorite cities in France.

By Chandresh of Family on the Wheels | Instagram

Located around 250 Km from Paris, Etretat is a small town in the Normandy region of northern France. An amazingly beautiful town located on the coast with naturally carved white cliffs and rock formations. This place has a historical significance referring to World War II and one can discover old bunkers and canon marks on the rocks.

The town of Etretat in France with beautiful white cliffs. The cliffs are the highlight of a visit and have WWII significance as well as being an inspiration for painters like Monet.

Art lovers will find it fascinating that Claude Monet found inspiration for many of his masterpieces from Etretat and Giverny . Other places of interest in Etretat include Notre-Dame church, a 1950’s chapel, and a beautiful garden hosting amazing stone sculpture created by famous landscape architect Alexandre Grivko.

Climb the cliff for a breathtaking view of the sea, feel the gusts of wind blowing across your face messing up your hair, lie down on the beach while sipping beers, on a low tide day explore the underneath caves, and taking a walk on the boardwalk along the seashore is the ideal way to spend a day in the town.

The nearest city is Honfleur and you can find regular buses running for as low as € 2 a ticket.  

Tip:   Avoid visiting on weekend especially in spring/summer as it gets really overcrowded and the town has limited car parking options.

Lyon and the French Alps

By Jenni of Hoopla Adventures | Instagram

As a self-confessed foodie and Francophile, I declare Lyon as my favourite city in France. I first discovered France’s third most populous city while living as a hotel and restaurant manager in the Alps on a long weekend to escape the bubble of mountain life!

The city of Lyon in France from the river. Lyon is one of France's largest cities and is known as the gastronomy capital of France. This charming city has an interesting history with secret passageways around the old town for silk workers to use. It's one of the best cities to visit in France if you're a foodie.

Instantly I saw why the locals referred to it as the gastronomy capital of France. You might have even heard of the famous Lyonnaise cuisine. The city is known for traditional ‘bouchons’ which in the past served filling portions of dishes like Coq au Vin and potatoes to the workers, now mostly locals and hungry tourists. For the best authentic bouchon experience head to the Presqu’île area and if you’re on a budget look out for lunchtime set menus.

The city has more than just a delectable food scene, its history is fascinating! Climb up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière which towers over the city, discover a magnificent Roman amphitheatre and learn more about Guignol the famous French hand puppet. Tourists mostly stick to the historic old town (Vieux Lyon) where you can find old passageways that connect the streets between buildings and the wonderful Musée Cinéma et Miniature, a museum of film miniatures and memorabilia from Hollywood and beyond. Lyon was also home to the Lumière brothers, and you can explore the beginnings of cinema in the Institut Lumière museum.

Two rivers run through Lyon, the Rhône and the Saône, perfect for riverside strolls from the old town into the city’s shopping streets. Head up to Rousse Hill for outdoor markets, and La Maison des Canuts to learn about the city’s silk trade and silk workers and to see the revolutionary Jacquard loom machine.

Lyon is the most interesting city for me, a gateway to the Alps with amazing food, history and largely underrated as a tourist destination.

By Arzo of Arzo Travels

It might be arguable whether Annecy is a town or city. What is for sure is that Annecy is one of the best cities or towns to visit in France. Why? There are many reasons for visiting Annecy: colorful medieval houses, with the many canals, the clean and alpine air, and the proximity to a gorgeous, pristine lake.

View of the river and colourful buildings in Annecy, France. Annecy France is one of the most colorful and beautiful cities to visit when you travel to France with plenty of things to do there.

While the buildings are vivid in the summer months, the many flower pots with flowers in all different colors make this place even more beautiful and colorful. Strolling the old town with its narrow streets (also visit the Palais de L´Isle – one of the main attractions and make a stop at Château d’Annecy) and lovely houses is reason enough to fall in love But there is more to Annecy – it is also known as the Venice of the Alps. Crossing the many small bridges is one of the best things to do.  And make sure to spend some time at Lake Annecy. The clear lake just a stone throw from the old town is set against the Alps – making it even more picture-perfect. You can also enjoy some water sports, do a boat tour or just chill at the lake. Annecy is much more than a city – it is a perfect combination of town and nature!

Cities in Brittany and Western France

By Elisa of World in Paris |  Facebook

Nantes, in the French region of Pays de la Loire, is a very cool place to explore in Western France, near the Atlantic coast. The city is located at only 2 hours by TGV train from Paris so it is an easy weekend getaway from the French capital.

Once the capital of the powerful Duchy of Brittany, Nantes has an interesting past still present thanks to its rich heritage. The Dukes of Brittany’s castle and the Gothic cathedral, for example, are among Nantes’ main sights.

The river Loire and buildings in Nantes, western France. This city is home to Jules Verne museum as well as fantastic architecture and is just a short trip from Paris.

Nantes is crossed by the Loire River from east to west, and in the past, the city was one of the most important ports of the longest river in France. Today, the Loire banks are great for an afternoon stroll or a drink in one of its terrace bars when the good weather arrives.

Nantes is also Jules Verne’s birthplace and a visit to his museum is a must. The small but interesting museum contains personal objects of Jules Verne and his family plus gives a very comprehensive tour of his novels.

Finally, don’t miss Nantes’ main highlight,  Les Machines de l’Ile . This is a group of quirky machines invented by a theater company and installed on the grounds of the Isle of Nantes. Among these machines, the wandering elephant and the giant carousel of the seven seas are people’s favorites and a tour on the elephant’s loin is a must of any visit to Nantes.

By Alysa of Voyaging Herbivore | Instagram

Brest, France is a beautiful port city located in Brittany. While not often visited by tourists, you are sure to find some amazing sites and activities that those who simply head to Paris won’t get to experience. Brest does have many stunning beaches but be prepared for cold water! Still, many locals will spend summer Sundays with a picnic on the beach, enjoying the lapping waves.

When not soaking up a tan, get to know Brest for its maritime history and aquatic life. The Oceanapolis Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in Brittany, and if you head there at the right time of the year, you’ll likely get to see baby sea creatures as well. Other attractions include the Abbaye de Daoulas and the medieval Chateau de Brest, which is one of the few remaining relics from before World War II in Brest.

Brest port in France. This Brittany city is a great one to visit to get a taste of French life.

If you’re looking for a true taste of Francophone life, Brest is a great place to set your home base during your time in France. You’ll have access to easy public transportation to get around the major city, as well as opportunities to head further into the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Brittany countryside. Brest is certainly not a stop to be missed and is ideal for history lovers, foodies, and photographers alike!

By Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting | Instagram

Colmar is a must-see city in France that should be on everyone’s bucket list. We travel to the Alsace region a lot because Mike is often sent there for work. That means we make a point to explore the area and Colmar is among our favorite cities. The charm and beauty of Colmar is beyond anything we have seen elsewhere in Europe.  There are so many  things to do in Colmar . Visitors should make sure to sample delicious Alsatian food while there. It’s a blend of German and French cuisine and the result is delicious. Colmar is also the perfect destination for wine lovers. The city lies in the heart of Alsatian wine country and there are wine houses all over the city. If you pay them a visit you can arrange a wine tasting and sample the best of the local vineyards.

The half timbered buildings that are characteristic of Colmar with a church in the background. Colmar is a must see city in France that has delicious Alsatian food and a beautiful Little Venice area

Beyond food and drink, Colmar is famous for its timber-framed houses and canals. The part of the city known as Le Petite Venise, or Little Venice, is known for a network of canals and bridges. You can even arrange a gondola ride through the waterways. It’s truly stunning, and you can fill your day getting lost in the streets of Colmar. There are also beautiful and historic churches in Colmar like The Dominican Church and Saint Martin’s Church. You can explore local art and history in the Unterlinden Museum. Make sure to visit the gorgeous carousel, Carrousel 1900, in Parc du Champ de Mars. There’s something for everyone in Colmar and that’s why it’s the best city to visit in France.

By Brianna of Curious Travel Bug

Strasbourg is a fantastic city to visit in France’s Alsace region. The city has a beautiful old town to explore. This region is known as Petite France is renowned for its canals and adorable cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered buildings. A highlight of the area is the massive Strasbourg Cathedral that sits at the centre of the old town.

Canal on the Rhine River with Half-timbered houses lining it in Strasbourg, France

One of Strasbourg’s most famous sights is the massive Christmas market that is put on every year from November to December. The Christmas Market is one of the best in Europe and is the perfect winter destination in France to experience the charm of the markets. Each of the main squares in Strasbourg’s Petite France old town puts on a different themed Christmas market so there is plenty to explore. In addition to great architecture, Strasbourg is also a fantastic place to try Alsatian food and wine. Flammekueche is a popular one to try as it is basically the Alsatian version of pizza. It’s a thin crust topped with creme fraiche, onions, and ham.

Strasbourg is reachable by high-speed train in only 2 hours from Paris. It’s perfectly placed to explore some of the smaller Alsatian villages like Obernai or Eguisheim or to take a day to explore charming Colmar.

The French Riviera

Saint-tropez.

By Sarah Vanheel of CosmopoliClan | Instagram

Known for its fancy yachts and glamorous party scene,  St Tropez  is a French Riviera hotspot for the jet-set. On the luxurious surface, this celebrity magnet has quite the reputation to uphold. But at the heart of this former fishing village, you’ll find a much mellower and incredibly charming atmosphere.

Colorful buildings of St Tropez with yachts in the harbor. This luxurious destination is one of the best destinations in the south of France.

When you wander the picturesque streets of the old La Ponche district, you’ll discover gorgeous pastel-colored houses, hints of fragrant bougainvillea, inviting restaurants with convivial terraces and picture-perfect cafés offering a welcome break from the summer heat.

Saunter the friendly farmers market at the Place des Herbes, enjoy the sweeping views from the citadel, visit one of the colorful art galleries and sink your teeth in a yummy Tarte Tropézienne under the linden trees at the Place des Lices. Explore the natural highlights along the Sentier Littoral hiking trail or take in the scenic views from Cape Camarat. Visit some of the enchanting Var villages nearby, such as Bormes-les-Mimosas and Ramatuelle, or take a day trip to some of the other French Riviera cities, such as Cannes and Nice.

There truly is more to this gorgeous Mediterranean gem than its sparkling surface would lead you to believe.

By Chrysoula of Travel Passionate

Nice  is arguably one of the best cities to visit in France as it boasts history and culture, stunning architecture, a gorgeous climate, spectacular beaches and a pristine promenade that connects each of these things to make it even easier for us travelers to explore!

Located on the French Riviera looking out over the azure Mediterranean waters, Nice is the perfect place to seek out some sunshine as it’s thought to receive around 300 days of sun per year. This means that spring, summer, and autumn pretty much guarantee bright, sunny days which makes it ideal for discovering the city sights and reclining on the warm, golden sands.

The Mediterranean Sea and the colourful buildings in the southern France city of Nice. This city is easily accessible by train and plane and offers up tons of things to do in Nice.

The city itself stretches inland from the coast, with ochre-coloured houses topped with terracotta roofs making photographs look like a postcard every time. Nice features a whole host of chateaux, parks, museums, beaches, markets, and restaurants, so there’s something for absolutely everyone to enjoy.

Nice is also home to an epic Mardi Gras carnival every year which features extravagant parades, hilarious caricatures and a flower fiesta like never before! If you want to experience Nice Carnival, make sure you plan well in advance as this spring spectacular receives thousands of visitors from around the world each year.

Even if you’ve visited other cities in France, you’re sure to be impressed by Nice’s unique culture, local cuisine and laid-back atmosphere that makes it stand out against the rest. Plus, the city is really accessibly both by plane and train so there really is no excuse not to explore this stunning southern city!

Best Places to Visit in Provence and Southern France

Aix-en-provence.

By Brittany of Bucketlist Bri | Instagram

Aix-en-Provence – or simply Aix as the locals call it – is a charming, sun-soaked town in the south of France with elegant courtyards and pastel facades.

If you follow the maze of winding cobblestone streets and reach the heart of Aix, you’ll quickly find out why Aix-en-Provence is one of the best cities to visit in France. Amid bustling outdoor markets and luxurious storefronts sits a richly historic center brimming with trendy restaurants, cafes, fountains, and not to mention the most satisfying homemade madeleines you could ever dream of (Tip: you can find them at the hole-in-the-wall shop of Madeleines De Christophe). 

The streets of Aix-en-Provence in southern France. Aix-en-Provence is one of the best cities in the south of France to base yourself in because there are plenty of things to do nearby, including visiting the Mediterranean Sea.

Beyond Aix’s curated streets lies a slow-paced coastal lifestyle. The Mediterranean Sea is just a quick 35-minute drive away while the limestone mountains surrounding Aix make for a great outdoor adventure. In fact, the picturesque landscapes enveloping Aix-en-Provence are what inspired the famous impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, who was born and died in Aix.

There are many things to do in Aix for a weekend getaway or a week-long trip. So whether it’s to escape to the leisurely provincial life of the French countryside, inspire your hidden artistic talent, or go on a shopping craze, Aix has something for everyone.

Ultimately, with its sheer cuteness combined with its coastal climate and car-free historic center, Aix has to be one of the best cities to visit in the south of France! 

By Bliss Eatts of Travel for Bliss

Gordes is one of the best towns to visit in France. Filled with Southern French charm and picturesque vistas it’s truly a must-visit, especially as it is one of the famous hilltop towns in Provence. If you drive up to it from the south it makes you gasp with awe when it comes into view. A chateau is perched at the top of the hill and the rest of the town spreads down the cliff in ancient, limestone coloured buildings. Come for a day or spend a week and you’ll never get sick of the views.

Gordes is one of the best towns in France to visit because it is one of the best hilltop town in Provence and is full of delicious food and beautiful architecture. Pictured here is the chateau in Gordes and the town that spreads out below it.

Gordes is a famous artist town, and the chateau is an art museum because of this. Before the artists found Gordes and turned it into a creative commune it was becoming a ghost town. The chateau is a beautiful tribute to the art that saved the town, and always has a temporary art exhibit, as well as a long-running one. There is also a small museum at the beginning so you can understand the history of Gordes.

Make sure you give yourself time to wander the winding cobbled laneways. Each house is old, beautiful, and unique with painted shutters. The shops sell boutique creations and Provence produce, great for souvenirs and mementos. Stop into the bakeries for some fresh croissants and coffee or check out the restaurants for delicious French cooking. The views will be just as amazing as the food. La Trinquette was one of our favourite restaurants in Gordes.

Other must-dos when visiting Gordes are the Caves du Palais Saint Firmin (ancient caves right in the centre of town), the Village des Bories (a glimpse into ancient French life), and the Abbaye de Senanque, which has stunning lavender fields. Gordes is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever seen and belongs on any French itinerary.

Montpellier

By Adrienne of Bucket Half Full | Instagram

Montpellier is a fantastic city to visit in the South of France. The capital of the Languedoc region, it makes a great home base to visit smaller villages in the region, such as Sète or St-Guilhem-le-Désert. Montpellier is a young, student city and its vibe is electric. Even into December, there are dozens of outdoor patios where you can find locals enjoying a glass of local wine.

Colourful stairs in Montpelliers Ancient Quarter. This city is off the beaten track in France but it's one of the best places to visit in France.

The majority of the old town is pedestrian-only, with traffic being limited to the delivery vehicles of the local businesses. One of the best times to visit Montpellier is at the end of November for the Coeur de Lumières festival. Many of the city’s historic sites, such as Musée Fabre and the Porte du Peyrou, are light up with elaborate animations. The Christmas market is also in full swing at this time, so be sure to grab a cup of mulled wine while you walk around and enjoy the lights.

If you visit in the warmer weather, be sure to check out Marché du Lez, a local hangout with food stalls, vintage shops, and a lively pétanque setup. Montpellier is a colourful city with a unique vibe and I definitely recommend you visit if you want to get off the beaten track in the South of France.

By Ann of The Road Is Life | Instagram

If you love Roman history, you’ll want to add Nîmes to your France bucket list. Situated in Southern France, one hour from Montpellier, this picturesque French city is packed full of impressive, well-preserved Roman monuments. Apart from its fascinating Roman history, Nîmes also has a beautiful historic centre along with lovely gardens featuring fountains and sculptures.

One of the most popular attractions of Nîmes is the 2000-year-old Roman Arena that stands in the heart of the city. It may not be as big as the Colosseum in Rome but it’s one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world!

Maison Carree located in the southern France city of Nimes. This along with the ampitheatre and Pont du Gard are some of the top attraction in the city of Nimes.

Another one that cannot be missed is the Maison Carrée, a stunning Roman temple surrounded by intricately designed columns. This ancient temple was built over 2000 years ago and it also happens to be the best-preserved of its kind.

A visit to Nîmes isn’t complete without exploring the Pont-du-Gard, the Roman aqueduct which is a 30-minute drive from the city. Built in the 1 st century AD, its purpose was to transport water to the Roman city of Nîmes. Once again, this monument is one of the best-preserved aqueducts and it has been listed as a UNESCO heritage site.

Nîmes deserves a spot on anyone’s Southern France itinerary and it is an absolute must for any history lovers!

By Gillian of Bucket List France | Instagram

The city of Arles is located in Southern France within the sunny department of Provence. It’s a perfect setting, on the banks of the River Rhone, next to the Camargue natural park and less than an hour from the Mediterranean Sea. This is perhaps why the Romans made it their provincial capital and the artist Vincent Van Gogh became so inspired that he produced 300 paintings here.

It’s an ideal city to explore on foot, with the majority of  must-see attractions  in a concentrated area. Beginning with a Roman theme, you really have to visit the impressive Amphitheatre (Les Arènes) where gladiators used to fight to the death. Considering it was constructed 3000 years ago, it’s in great shape and there is loads to see. You may even recognise it from the exciting gunfight in Robert De Niro’s movie, Ronin?  

The Roman ampitheatre in Arles France. The city of Arles is conveniently located in the south of France and is full of Roman ruins to explore.

Just across the road from the Amphitheatre, are the impressive remains of a Roman theatre (Theatre Antique), however, the jewel in the crown, is the incredible Roman Museum of Arles (Musée Départemental Arles Antique). This is probably the best collection of Roman artefacts outside of Rome. It includes an unbelievably well-preserved barge complete with cargo, mosaics, statues, pottery, and intricately carved sarcophagi.

Anyone interested in art will delight in walking around the city and spotting the various scenes from Vincent Van Gogh’s famous paintings. Head toward the river and see where ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone’ was set, or to the Place du Forum to see the café where ‘Café in the Evening’ was conceived. The highlight for me was the beautiful rose perfumed hospital courtyard where Vincent stayed. Incidentally, this is where the painting ‘The Courtyard of Hospital at Arles’ was created and it’s hardly changed at all.

By Nadine of Le Long Weekend | Facebook

Known as both the cultural and transport hub of Provence, it’s no wonder that most visitors to Provence will pass through Avignon at some point during their trip to the region. But it’s worth far more than a passing glance. Dive into the historical centre of the city and you’ll find an incredible  range of attractions and activities  to keep you occupied for days. Situated on the banks of the Rhône River in Southern France, Avignon was once the seat of the papacy and a renowned centre of culture and learning in the Middle Ages. This legacy has lived on and the city is still humming with festivals and events that celebrate the city’s artistic roots.

Explore within the ancient town walls, which, with its cobbled lanes and charming streets, feels more like a village than a city. Take in the famous sites such as the Palais des Papes and Pont d’Avignon.

Avignon city in southern France. This city feels more like a small village with its charming streets.

Admire the views from the raised Rocher des Doms gardens, and shop for sweet treats in the lively Les Halles markets. And be sure to wander away from the crowds too, as there are many treasures to be discovered around quiet corners. Barthelasse Island, for example, lays just a quick walk, or short (free!) ferry ride from the city centre and creates a rural and tranquil juxtaposition from the buzzing city centre.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port 

By Millie of Amateurist Advice | Instagram

St. Jean Pied de Port is a beautiful little town located in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Its name translates to “foot of the pass”, and is most commonly known as the starting point for the Camino de Santiago. From here pilgrims will hike up the Pyrenees mountains and cross over to Spain. But St. Jean is so much more than a starting point for this world-renowned trek.

View of the Nive river and stone bridges in Saint Jean Pied de Port, the start of the Camino de Santiago. This town is a great break from the city while offering up lots to do in this must visit town in France.

It is a beautiful historical town where you can enjoy the cuisine and pastries of the Basque region. The most delicious cake I’ve ever tasted was in St. Jean. It was layers of meringue, filled with butter icing. The cake was from Barbier-Millox , self-proclaimed “ le roi du gateau Basque,” or “king of the Basque cake”. Seriously, the cake was enough to make the trip worth the journey.

Apart from delicious cakes, St. Jean also offers some of the most picturesque scenery. It is a fortified town and to this day the walls still stand. There are also beautiful views of the Nive river surrounded by historical buildings, and stone bridge crossings. Upon entering, it feels as if you’re taking a walk back in time.

On your visit make sure to take a stroll on the Rue de la Citadelle. The cobblestone road is full of shops and pilgrims ready to hike the Camino de Santiago. At the top of the Citadelle, you can catch a gorgeous view of green valleys dotted with red-tiled roofs.

This romantic little town is the perfect place to get away from the busy city and to learn more about the Basque culture in France.

By Amandine of Les Berlinettes

This year I discovered Toulouse, France’s capital of rugby. Toulouse is the second biggest student city after Paris. Which means, there is always something going on. From the many rugby events, art performances, parties, and some great nightlife.

Toulouse is also a great city of the South of France. It mixes Spanish heritage and France charm.

Toulouse (AKA the Pink City) is famous for its pink buildings and great architecture, from typical French buildings to some Art Deco buildings and medieval churches.

The pink city of Toulouse in southern France is a must visit place in France and is the second largest city after Paris

Toulouse reminded me of a little Paris. Its Vieux Quartier (old quarter) is easily walkable and can be visited in one or two days.

Besides this, Toulouse is also home to the Garonne river. On its banks, you will find many events happening all year-long such as gastronomic pop-up events. Toulouse has indeed some of the best food in France; cassoulet, saucisse de Toulouse, or duck confit are some of the best dishes in the city.

From Toulouse starts the Canal du Midi that goes until the Mediterranean. It is a great piece of French engineering and most people cycle the Canal du Midi in spring, summer, and fall! 

Carcassonne

By Kieren of  Got My Backpack

Carcassonne is a quaint medieval city in Southern France. Aside from the cobbled streets, grand buildings and cute canals that make the city a joy to explore, undeniably the city’s main attraction is the enormous fortress overlooking the city, Cité de Carcassonne. 

Thanks to various restorations over the years, the 2,500-year-old settlement is still in relatively good condition and in 1997 received UNESCO world heritage status that will help protect it in the future.

The walls of the fortress at Carcassonne. This walled city is a UNESCO site in southern France that is worth visiting to see this massive fortress.

Inside the fortress’s two concentric walls with 52 towers lies a castle, a basilica and a 27-acre ancient town that is still alive and well today. There are bustling shops, mainly selling souvenirs alongside an array of cafes and restaurants serving up a variety of cuisines, although they can be a little pricey. Whilst it’s free to enter the fortress, there is an entrance fee to the castle itself where you can visit the courtyards and walk along the ramparts – the parts that overhang castle walls to allow defenders to drop arrows and projectiles on attackers during a siege. Here you’ll also get the best view across the stunning French countryside that surrounds the fortress.

Best Places to Visit in France

There it is, 21 of the best cities to visit in France. If you’ve travelled to any of these cities or have them on your travel wishlist, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Hopefully, this list gave you some inspiration for visiting France and adding a city to your itinerary outside of Paris. France is one of my favourite places to visit and there are so many of these cities on my must-visit list of places in France.

When to Visit France

France can be visited year round but if you can, I would try to avoid visiting in July-August when the weather can get very hot. Cheaper hotel rooms won’t necessarily have air conditioning and it can be uncomfortable. July and August are also peak travel times so you will have the most crowded conditions around popular tourist sites. The shoulder seasons in the spring and autumn make for a great time to visit France. The weather is more comfortable, places are less crowded, and prices for rooms are generally cheaper. The winter season is a great time to visit France if you are looking for Christmas markets or skiing.

Getting Around France

The train system works well for traveling between major cities. In some cases, there are high-speed lines that can get you between Paris and other cities quite quickly. If you want to add smaller towns to your itinerary, you may want to consider renting a car. It will add a lot of flexibility to your itinerary and allow you to fit in smaller locations. To avoid too much driving time, you may want to consider taking a train to a main city in the region and then renting a car for part of your vacation time. I’ve done this in the past in France and it has worked well to mix train and car rentals, both in terms of cost and time efficiency.

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40 comments.

I am so bothered that I never explored more of France! It is a shame. But this year I really want to go for Lavender blossom and Colmar. Thanks to this list, I got some more places to visit now!

Glad you enjoyed the list Paula! I’ve always wanted to see the fields of lavender in France and haven’t gotten around to it yet.

The photos in this post are beautiful, there are so many towns that I have never heard of like Colmar, that I now want to visit.

Thanks Sarah, the contributors to this collab had such fantastic photos it made me want to spend all my vacation time in France this year! I’m glad there are some new places on the list for you. Colmar is a fantastic place to visit.

Such organized article! I’m loving all your pics!

Thanks Elsa, the contributors to this collab really have some fantastic photos of France.

You have covered a lot here. A very comprehensive post I must say! This is helpful for my future trip planning

Thank you, I’m glad this will be helpful for future trip planning.

Some really great cities on here I never even heard of! Going to save this for when I go to France 🙂

Some of these cities definitely get overshadowed by Paris, glad there are some new cities on the list for you.

I feel fortunate to have been able to visit many of these, but Annecy is one I haven’t experienced yet. I’d put that at the top of my list for my next trip to France!

That is very fortunate. I definitely need to visit some more of these cities, especially the southern France ones. Annency looks like such a cute city and seems like a good location to base yourself to explore some of the Alps.

Thank you for providing such a great list of French cities! I booked three weeks in France in the spring but haven’t figured out where I want to go yet, so this post will be a great help in planning my trip!

You’re welcome! Three weeks in France gives you so many possibilities. And spring will be such a nice time to travel, hope you have a wonderful time.

Some great places here I need to visit ASAP. Rouen is one of my favorites, and I loved Nice, but there are so many towns in France to see. I need to do a driving holiday for sure

Both Rouen and Nice are on my France travel wishlist. France is a great country to have a driving holiday because there just is so much to see.

Wow that’s a great post ,I loved it.Never knew so much about France before.thanks for sharing

Thanks Madhu, glad you enjoyed the post.

This is a great list! I spent a month exploring Provence (I second that Aix is a dream town that you have to visit!) but I haven’t gone to the North of France yet, saving for when I go! Crazy how big France is!

A month exploring Provence sounds like a dream vacation! France is such a huge country, it’s incredible the diversity in scenery and cities that exists there. I’m planning my next France trip to be to the south and Aix is high on my travel wishlist.

As I only have been to Paris, I NEEDED this post! I can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country. I am thinking heading to the south this summer!

Nothing wrong with only having seen Paris, it’s a fantastic city! Glad this post could give you a few ideas for your next France vacation. I’m also thinking I will visit the South of France next.

This is such a great list! I’ve been to some of these cities and I highly recommend.

Thanks Bliss! France is such a great country to explore, there is definitely a reason it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations!

I absolutely adore France. Love Lyon and I love Marseille as well which is worth seeing from Aix!

France is definitely a fantastic country. It just has so many possible destinations to visit, Lyon and Marseilles both look wonderful.

France is certainly a country I need to explore more of. I keep saying that and this post made me realize that I need to stop saying that and actually do it. Thanks for the ideas!

Hopefully you get a chance to explore more of France. After seeing all the great cities in the South of France it made me realize I really need to visit that area of the country.

Goodness what a fantastic list, and so many fab bloggers. I have been to France quite a few times, but I have missed most of these cities! I guess I will just have to go back and see more. I love anywhere with a château! 😉

Thanks, the contributors really did a fantastic job! France is just such a huge city, it’s easy to miss places. This list made me realize I really need to explore the South of France. Hopefully next time.

I admit I have totally neglected France. I have only been to Paris once when I was at school at quite frankly that isn’t good enough – especially as I’m a Brit and can get the train! This is a really inspiring guide for me to get some good ideas, thank you for sharing.

Being able to get the train to France instead of having deal with a day or two or jet lag is definitely a huge bonus. I’m happy you like the article, hopefully you can get a chance to visit some of these cities soon 🙂

All of these towns look so charming and beautiful! I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been to Paris twice and nearby areas but have yet to visit the rest of the country. You’ve inspired me to want to go back to France! ?

I’m glad this list has inspired you to want to revisit France! I think on my next trip to France I am going to try and resist visiting Paris again, even though I love it, because there are just so many other places I want to see.

This is a fantastic round up – I think it’s so worth it to get out of the “main” tourist destination cities in Europe and explore lesser known ones. I personally loved Lyon and Nice when I backpacked France. Great post !

Thanks Erin. Getting out of the main tourist destinations is definitely a good thing. The vibe of the country is totally different outside of the capital. Lyon and Nice are high on my travel wishlist for France.

Time to explore France!

Definitely, fantastic country!

Ah, I’d love to explore more of France! I’ve only been to Paris so I’d love to go back. Krystianna

Paris is a good start, France is a great country to explore with so many options I think it has to suit almost every type of traveler.

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5 cities to visit in france

Beyond Paris: 5 Cities Worth Visiting in France

Visiting the international hub of Paris is always a great idea, but it should be used as a launching point to explore other cities in France.

Mitti Hicks • Sep 13, 2023

5 cities to visit in france

Paris is a trip of a lifetime for people who visit France. The City of Lights is iconic and often revered as a symbol of romance, fashion, culture, history and so much more. Visiting the international hub of Paris is always a great idea, but it should be used as a launching point to explore other cities in France.

France has a beautiful riviera where you can sit on top of a rooftop with the best sunset views of the Mediterranean Sea. There are also beautiful countryside towns worth exploring where visitors will find character in quaint cafes and welcoming people who are excited to show off their homes.

Here are five other cities worth visiting in France beyond its capital city.

Lyon is an incredible city with a better gastronomy scene than Paris . While visitors know it as the Gastronomic Capital of France, locals call this Renaissance City the Gastronomic Capital of Europe. There are more than 90 Michelin-starred restaurants in Lyon, ranging from Bib Gourmand to Two Stars. In France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Lyon is about a two-hour train ride from Paris.

Don’t worry about calorie counting in Lyon as you eat through the city. Lyon has incredible city views, but you must work for such beauty. Hike your way to the top of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Once you make it to the top, you will see impressive views of the city.

Visiting museums should also be on your Lyon itinerary because it has as many museums as a city three times its size, according to the Michelin Guide. Must-see museums are the Museum of Fine Arts, Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon, dedicated to contemporary art, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, one of the largest museums in France.

St. Tropez may be priced well above your budget, but don’t let that stop you from seeing the beautiful beaches in France. Nice is along the French Riviera, and while it’s often revered as a destination for luxury experiences, it’s also budget-friendly. Nice is along the Mediterranean Sea with beautiful beaches and lively markets on the weekends to visit during the mornings and early afternoons, where you will find fresh flowers and baked goods. For nightlife, start your evening on a rooftop to take in the sunset. The best rooftop bars in Nice are Le Plongeoir, Farago on the Roof, Movida and La Terrasse.

The rooftops turn into the perfect venues for a night out. High Club, Eleven Club and Au Son des Guitares Nice are fun for a night of dancing.

Bordeaux, France

A high-speed train from Paris will get you to Bordeaux in approximately two hours. Bordeaux is one of the most famous cities in France, due to its wine-producing reputation. Bordeaux produces more than 158 million gallons of wine each year. More than 85 percent of the wine produced in Bordeaux is red, which includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Wineries and wine tasting are a must in Bordeaux. Reserve a spot on a bike tour to see as many wineries as you can with a local guide. OT Bordeaux has a five-hour wine-tasting and vineyard experience. It takes you throughout Bordeaux’s cellars and the countryside to experience the region’s best wines.

Before Bordeaux became a famous and vibrant city, it was a little town with entrance gates for access. Porte Cailhau, or the Palace Gate and the Gross Cloche, are medieval gates that can still be seen up close today.

Another top attraction in Bordeaux is the Famous Water Mirror. While people go to make a splash, the real gem is taking pictures of the stunning architecture.

While Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France, tasting the national pastry canelé is a must in Bordeaux. The cafes in Lyon are all worth visiting and should be done, as you bike along the Garonne River.

Grenoble is considered the capital of the French Alps. It sits at the foot of the mountains between the Drac and Isère rivers. It’s a city in the mountains full of natural parks, so be ready for activity. There is much to do in Grenoble between the winter sports, great food and museums. It’s a great city for walking and cycling with the latter being the most popular. The bike share system, Metrovelo, is efficient. People can rent a bike for less than $5 per day.

The Grenoble cable car is an exciting adventure that takes you to The Bastille of Grenoble. It’s an old fortress boasting incredible views and ancient ruins. With more than 20 ski resorts surrounding Grenoble, the slopes in the middle of the four mountain chains are worth visiting.

Wellness and relaxation are a huge part of Grenoble’s culture. Travelers should take time to get pampered by staff at the Atlanthys Spa, Spa Et Cryo or D’air et d’eau.

Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is an ancient countryside town founded by the Romans in 123 BC. The city boasts 300 days of sunshine year, and aside from the weather, locals say it’s like living in an open-air museum. The city is packed with colorful art and architecture, welcoming cafes, and some of Europe’s most stunning Museums.

Cours Mirabeau is a popular neighborhood in Aix-en-Provence where people venture off to explore the authentic feels of an ancient European town. It’s the heart of the city, lined with exciting restaurants and cafes. Visiting Fondation Vasarely is an epic adventure as it’s known as one of the most unique museums in Europe. The museum and its iconic architecture focus on the world of Victor Vasarely. He is the grandfather and founder of the Op Art movement, which utilizes geometric shapes and colorful graphics to create compelling illusions of spatial depth.

Another gem in Aix-en-Provence is the Granet Museum. It’s not only one of the most beautiful museums in the region, but it houses an incredible collection of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and more.

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15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in France

Written by Lisa Alexander Updated Mar 21, 2024 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Author Lisa Alexander spent two years living in Paris after college, enjoys returning to France as often as possible, and most recently visited France in March 2023.

Take a dream vacation in a country that's full of dreamy destinations. Fairy-tale castles, storybook country villages, fashionable seaside resorts, snowcapped mountains, and of course Paris , the elegant City of Light.

View from the village of Eze

Begin with the Eiffel Tower, the modern emblem of France. Then discover famous masterpieces of art at the Louvre Museum. Spend a day pretending to be royalty at the elegant Palace of Versailles. Save time for leisurely gourmet meals. Traditional French gastronomy has been inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Each region of France boasts its own distinctive cuisine and culture. The coastal region of Brittany offers the old-world charm of quaint fishing villages and ancient seaports, while the French Alps boasts a hearty cuisine of cheese fondue and charcuterie served in cozy chalets near ski slopes.

Every corner of the country has a certain magic. Discover the wonders of travelers' favorite places and learn about the best things to do with my list of the top attractions in France.

1. Eiffel Tower

2. musée du louvre, 3. château de versailles, 4. côte d'azur, 5. mont saint-michel, 6. castles of the loire valley, 7. cathédrale notre-dame de chartres, 8. provence, 9. chamonix-mont-blanc, 10. alsace villages, 11. carcassonne, 12. brittany, 13. biarritz, 14. rocamadour, 15. prehistoric cave paintings in lascaux, best time to visit france.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is a feat of ingenuity as much as it is a famous landmark. This structure of 8,000 metallic parts was designed by Gustave Eiffel as a temporary exhibit for the World Fair of 1889. Originally loathed by critics, the 330-meter-high tower is now a beloved and irreplaceable fixture of the Paris skyline.

Upon the first glimpse, you'll be impressed by the tower's delicate airiness despite its monumental size. Next, the panoramas at each of the three levels will take your breath away.

You can dine with a view on the 1st floor or indulge at the Michelin-starred Le Jules Verne restaurant on the 2nd floor. At the exhilarating height of 276 meters, the top floor offers a sweeping outlook over the city of Paris and beyond. Vistas extend as far as 70 kilometers on a clear day.

Louvre Museum

The most prestigious museum in Paris, the Louvre ranks among the top European collections of fine arts. Many of Western Civilization's most famous works are found here, including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese, and the 1st-century-BC Venus de Milo sculpture.

The collection owes its wealth to the contributions of various kings who lived in the Louvre, in centuries past when it was a royal palace. Other pieces were added as a result of France's treaties with the Vatican and the Republic of Venice, and from the spoils of Napoléon I.

The Louvre displays around 35,000 artworks, including countless masterpieces. It's impossible to see it all in a day or even in a week. Take a private guided tour or focus on a shortlist of key artworks for the most rewarding experience.

Château de Versailles

The UNESCO-listed Château de Versailles immerses you in France's glorious regal history. Step back in time to the era of the ancien régime , when Louis XIV (the "Sun King"), Louis XV, and Louis XVI ruled France. During that period, the Palace of Versailles set the standard for princely courts in Europe.

The most spectacular space in the palace is the Hall of Mirrors , where courtiers waited for an audience with His Majesty. This dazzling gallery sparkles with sunlight that enters through the windows and is reflected off hundreds of ornamental mirrors, while dozens of glittering chandeliers and gilded details make the overall impression even more marvelous.

Versailles is equally renowned for Les Jardins , formal French gardens featuring decorative pools, perfectly trimmed shrubbery, numerous statues, and magnificent fountains. The gardens were created in the 17th century by renowned landscape designer André Le Nôtre and are surrounded by 800 hectares of lush parkland.

Gardens at the Palace of Versailles

Beyond the formal gardens is the Domaine de Trianon , which includes Le Grand Trianon palace; Le Petit Trianon château; and Le Hameau de la Reine (The Queen's Hamlet), Marie-Antoinette's fabricated pastoral village featuring quaint cottages set around a lake.

The buildings of Marie-Antoinette's hamlet were inspired by the rural architecture of the Normandy region. (Faux pastoral hamlets were a typical feature of aristocratic estates during the 18th century.) The "farmhouse" and "cottage" buildings have a weathered finish that was intentionally rendered to lend a rustic look (although the interiors were exquisitely furnished).

Marie-Antoinette's hamlet originally had a working dairy and farm, which served educational purposes for her children. This idyllic spot was designed as a place for Marie-Antoinette to escape from the formality of court life, take walks, and visit with friends. Le Hameau de la Reine provides a rare glimpse of Marie-Antoinette's private world.

Menton, Côte d'Azur

The most fashionable stretch of coastline in France, the Côte d'Azur extends from Saint-Tropez to Menton near the border with Italy. Côte d'Azur translates to "Coast of Blue," a fitting name to describe the Mediterranean's mesmerizing cerulean waters.

To English speakers, this glamorous seaside destination is known as the French Riviera , words that have a ring of sun-drenched decadence.

During summer, the seaside resorts cater to beach lovers and sun-worshippers. The rich and famous are also found here in their lavish villas and luxury yachts.

The town of Nice has panoramic sea views and stellar art museums but nothing beats the views from the hilltop village of Eze . Cannes is famous for its celebrity film festival and legendary Belle Epoque hotels.

Cathedrale Sainte-Reparate in Nice's Old Town

The best sandy beaches are in Antibes , which also has an atmospheric Old Town and superb museums. Saint-Tropez offers fabulous public and private beaches plus the charm of a Provençal fishing village, while Monaco seduces with its exclusive ambiance and stunning scenery.

Mont Saint-Michel

Rising dramatically from a rocky islet off the Normandy coast, the UNESCO-listed Mont Saint-Michel is one of France's most striking landmarks. This "Pyramid of the Seas" is a mystical sight, perched 80 meters above the bay and surrounded by imposing defensive walls and bastions.

The main tourist attraction, the Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel is a marvel of medieval architecture with soaring Gothic spires. You will be awed by the serene beauty of the Abbey Church, with its harmonious Romanesque nave and ornate high-vaulted choir.

Since it was built in the 11th century, the Abbey Church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination, known as "The Heavenly Jerusalem." Modern-day pilgrims are still inspired by Mont Saint-Michel and continue the tradition of crossing the bay by foot as it was done in the Middle Ages.

Loire Valley Châteaux

Traveling through the Loire Valley gives the impression of stepping into a children's storybook. Turreted fairy-tale castles grace a luxuriant countryside of dense woodlands and gently flowing rivers. The entire Loire Valley, an area known as the "Garden of France," is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

Some of the Loire castles are medieval fortresses built on hilltops and surrounded by ramparts. However, the most famous Loire châteaux are sumptuous Renaissance palaces that were designed purely for enjoyment and entertainment, as an extension of court life outside of Paris.

The Château de Chambord , built for King Francis I, is the most magnificent château; the Château de Chenonceau has a distinctive feminine style; and the Château de Cheverny is a Neoclassical-style manor house estate that includes a Tintin exhibition, English gardens, and a forest.

It is also worth visiting the UNESCO-listed cathedrals in Chartres and Bourges as well as the city of Orléans , where Joan of Arc helped defeat the English army in 1429, and the Château Royal d'Amboise , the residence of French kings for five hundred years.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres

For more than eight centuries, the magnificence of Chartres Cathedral has inspired the faithful, and some say this sublime sanctuary has restored belief in the doubtful.

The UNESCO-listed Chartres Cathedral is a marvel of Gothic architecture, renowned for its 12th- and 13th-century stained-glass windows. Covering 2,500 square meters, the brilliant windows allow colorful light to filter into the vast nave, creating an ethereal effect. The intricately detailed windows reveal the incredible craftsmanship in depicting biblical stories.

The rose windows are especially noteworthy for their incredible size and details. Other highlights are the Passion window, one of the most original in its style and expression, and the Blue Virgin window which dates from the 12th century.

On the third Saturday of September, the city of Chartres presents Chartres en Lumières (Festival of Light) during European Heritage Days . The festival includes street art, music, and guided tours. During this annual event, the Chartres Cathedral dazzles crowds with its colorful multimedia show featuring illuminations and sound. The illumination show also takes place at the cathedral in July and August every evening after 10pm.

Lavender field near Valensole, Provence

Escape into a bucolic landscape of olive groves, sun-drenched rolling hills, and deep purple lavender fields, with little villages nestled in the valleys and perched on rocky outcrops. The vibrant scenery has enchanted many famous artists, including Cézanne, Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso.

The rustic natural beauty, country charm, and laid-back atmosphere of Provence allow the region's art de vivre (art of living) to flourish. Sultry weather encourages leisurely strolls along cobblestone streets and afternoons spent on sunny terraces of outdoor cafés.

Among the many attractions of Provence is its delicious Mediterranean cuisine, which is based on olive oil, vegetables, and aromatic herbs. You can choose from a wide range of culinary establishments, from family-run bistros to Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurants.

Saint-Paul-de-Vence

The quintessential Provençal town, Aix-en-Provence is famous for its colorful open-air markets and the hundreds of fountains that are typical of southern France. Fascinating ancient ruins and traditional festivals distinguish Arles , while the medieval city of Avignon is home to the UNESCO-listed Palais de Papes.

Even tiny villages, like Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Saint-Rémy, and Gordes, have amazing historic sites, fantastic museums, and an irresistibly quaint ambiance.

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

The awesome spectacle of Mont Blanc in the French Alps is an unforgettable sight. The highest mountain peak in Europe, Mont Blanc soars to 4,810 meters. Thanks to its elevation, Mont Blanc ("White Mountain") is always blanketed in snow.

Beneath its majestic peak is the traditional alpine village of Chamonix , nestled in a high-mountain valley. This delightful little town is filled with historic churches, traditional alpine restaurants, and charming auberges.

Chamonix is a great base for skiing, hiking, rock climbing, outdoor adventures, or just relaxing. The village is one of the best places to visit in France for inspiring natural scenery and alpine accommodations. Upscale mountain lodges and cozy chalets welcome guests in style.

Catering to diners with good appetites, local restaurants serve hearty meals typical of the Savoie region, as well as international cuisine. To sample the Savoyard specialties, try the charcuterie, fondue , and raclette (melted Gruyère, Comté, or Emmentaler cheese served with boiled potatoes).

Colorful Riquewihr Village in the Alsace region of France

Some of the prettiest villages in France are tucked away in the green, rolling hills of Alsace, where the Vosges Mountains border the Rhine River of Germany. These picturesque Alsatian villages feature pastel-painted, half-timbered houses clustered around small parish churches. Cheerful flowering balconies and pedestrian cobblestone streets add to the appeal.

Villages Fleuris and Plus Beaux Villages de France

Many of the villages have won France's Villages Fleuris award for their lovely floral decorations, such as Obernai , with its characteristic burghers' houses; the charming little village of Ribeauvillé , where many homes are adorned with potted flowers; the Pays d'Art et d'Histoire (Region of Art and History) of Guebwiller ; and the captivating medieval village of Bergheim .

Autumn in Mittelbergheim,, Alsace

Some of the flower-bedecked Alsatian villages are so pretty that they have been designated as both Villages Fleuris and Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages of France), including the storybook hamlet of Riquewihr and the enchanting village of Eguisheim , nestled in a valley. Another of the Plus Beaux Villages is Mittelbergheim , known for its gastronomy and gorgeous pastoral landscape, at the foot of the verdant Mont Saint-Odile.

If you're planning an Alsace vacation itinerary, Colmar is a good base to explore the Alsatian villages and surrounding nature trails.

Carcassonne

With its turreted towers and crenelated ramparts, Carcassonne seems straight out of a fairy-tale scene. This well-preserved (and renovated) fortified city offers a total immersion into the world of the Middle Ages.

Known as La Cité , the UNESCO-listed walled medieval town of Carcassonne is a warren of narrow, winding cobblestone lanes and quaint old houses. Nearly every street, square, and building has retained its historic character. Within la Cité, the 12th-century Château Comtal reveals the Cathar heritage of the Languedoc region .

Must-see tourist attractions are the double-circuited ramparts with 52 towers and the Basilique Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse , which features splendid 13th-century stained-glass windows.

Carcassonne draws many visitors on July 14th for its fireworks show, to celebrate Bastille Day , a national holiday (Fête Nationale). Despite being a small town, Carcassonne presents one of the most dazzling July 14th fireworks displays in France.

Brittany

The Brittany region in northeastern France brims with natural beauty and historic charm. A rugged coastline, quaint fishing villages, and weathered seaports characterize this region. The distinctive local culture is steeped in ancient traditions and famous for its costumed religious festivals.

A mystical land of myths and legends, Brittany has a Celtic influence and a dialect related to Gaelic. The local cuisine is based on seafood and is renowned for its savory buckwheat crêpes and sweet dessert crêpes.

The quintessential Breton port is Saint-Malo surrounded by 17th-century fortifications. Quimper is a picture-postcard town with handsome half-timbered houses, pleasant squares, and an impressive Gothic cathedral. Nantes has a spectacular château and is where the Edict of Nantes was signed in 1598 granting freedom of religious belief to Protestants.

Other highlights of Brittany are the pristine sandy beaches, tiny remote islands, and ancient castles. Belle-Île-en-Mer , the largest of the Breton islands, appeals to vacationers in search of a peaceful seaside setting. Ferry boats run from Quiberon, Port Navalo, and Vannes to Belle-Île-en-Mer.

Biarritz

This fashionable seaside resort has an elegant and aristocratic air; it was a favorite destination of Empress Eugénie , wife of Napoleon III. Empress Eugénie loved the beautiful setting on the Bay of Biscay in France's Basque country.

The imperial couple's grandiose Second Empire palace has been converted into the Hôtel du Palais Biarritz , a luxury hotel featuring a Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant and sensational views of the Grande Plage beach. This large sandy beach, with its broad seafront promenade, has attracted high-society vacation goers since the Belle Epoque.

Other must-see sights of Biarritz are related to the ocean: the Biarritz Aquarium ; the Lighthouse ; and the Rocher de la Vierge (Virgin of the Rock) which stands along the coastline on an immense rock beaten by the Atlantic's wild waves.

For a taste of the town's regal past, visit the chic Miremont tearoom that has served exceptional pastries since 1872.

Rocamadour

Rocamadour resides between heaven and earth, suspended on a sheer limestone cliff as if providing a medium for spiritual wonders.

In the 11th century, this pilgrimage destination was the third most important in Christendom after Jerusalem and Rome. Rocamadour was on the medieval Chemin de Saint-Jacques (Way of Saint James) pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The village has seven ancient sanctuaries, but pilgrims flock to the Chapelle Notre-Dame (Chapelle Miraculeuse), which possesses the venerated Black Virgin (Notre-Dame de Rocamadour). This precious Virgin Mary figure was carved from walnut wood that naturally darkened over the centuries and is associated with miracles.

Another must-see sight is the UNESCO-listed Basilique Saint-Sauveur , the largest church of Rocamadour built in Romanesque and Gothic styles between the 11th and 13th centuries. For a challenging spiritual experience, pilgrims can ascend the steep flight of steps, with 12 Stations of the Cross, leading up to the château at the highest point in the village.

About 145 kilometers from Limoges in the Limousin , Rocamadour is surrounded by the Parc Naturel Régional des Causses du Quercy , a natural park in the Dordogne region.

Prehistoric Cave Paintings in Lascaux

Discover the fascinating world of prehistoric art in Lascaux, the finest example of Paleolithic art in the world. This UNESCO-listed site is in the Vézère Valley of the Dordogne region . Discovered in 1940, the Lascaux Cave contains exquisite prehistoric paintings, but in 1963 was closed to the public to prevent damage.

A replica of the cave was created at the nearby Lascaux II site in Montignac, 200 meters from the actual cave. Opened in 1983, Lascaux II is a faithful reproduction of the Lascaux Cave and its paintings. The Paleolithic art has been carefully recreated, including every detail of the animal paintings in authentic ochre hues.

Opened in 2016, the sleek ultra-modern International Centre for Cave Art (also in Montignac) presents a complete replica ( Lascaux IV ) of the original Lascaux Cave along with museum exhibits that provide context for the prehistoric artworks. Virtual reality exhibits and a 3-D film help bring the prehistoric period to life.

Highlights of the Lascaux prehistoric cave paintings are the Salle des Taureaux (Hall of the Bulls) with panels featuring unicorns and bears and the Diverticule Axial , a narrow 30-meter-long hall with impressive drawings of bulls, cows, and horses. The art reproductions of the replica caves are so accurate that visitors would not be able to tell the difference from the original.

France appeals to travelers through the four seasons. For most tourists, the best seasons to visit are in the late spring, summer, and early autumn . Summertime is the most popular season because of school vacations and warm weather. Late spring and early autumn offer pleasant, mild weather and less crowds.

For those who appreciate beautiful gardens, spring and summer are the best seasons to visit France and especially Paris. One of the top day trips from Paris, Monet's Garden in Giverny is spectacular when tulips bloom in April, in May when wisterias bud, and in June when roses blossom. By July, the famous water lilies of Monet's paintings appear in the garden's pond.

In terms of warm weather and long days, summer is the best season to visit. The months of July and August are great for beach vacations on the French Riviera or the elegant resort of Biarritz on the Atlantic Coast. Outdoor sports enthusiasts enjoy the countryside of Provence, the Auvergne region , and the French Alps during summertime, when the sunshine and comfortable temperatures make hiking and boating enjoyable.

For budget travelers, the winter is a good time to visit France because hotel prices are reduced. However, from December through February the weather can be very chilly (low 40s to mid 40s Fahrenheit in Paris and northern France), as well as rainy.

Many travelers enjoy visiting during the holiday season (end of November through January 1st) since Paris and other cities feature lovely Christmas decorations. In addition, the holidays are the time for Christmas music concerts and traditional Marchés de Noël (Christmas markets) especially in the small towns of Provence, Annecy in the French Alps, and the quaint villages of the Alsace region .

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FRANCE , OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

17 stunning france off the beaten path destinations not to miss.

So many times I’ve got lost in old medieval villages hidden away in France off the beaten path. Small charming corners I can’t even remember the name of and not mentioning search for on the map.

Endless France road trips led me across lavender fields and local markets for baguettes, olives, and fresh fruit.

France really does live up to its reputation and there is so much undiscovered beauty beyond visiting Paris .

This post is all about France off the beaten track destinations so you can experience more of this amazing country while escaping the tourist crowds.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase through one of those links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Table of Contents

France off the beaten path

Here are some of the best places to go off the beaten path in France so you can experience more than the most visited tourist destinations.

Metz is less than an hour and a half east of Paris, yet one of those underrated places in France you should visit. It’s an easy day trip from Paris by train or you can drive there and stay a few nights.

There are plenty of things to do in Metz , and a day trip might just not be enough. The most prominent landmark that rises above the city is Metz Cathedral, but there are so many other amazing medieval buildings there too.

Walk through Porte des Allemands, the fortified wall protecting two medieval towers, crossing the ancient stone bridge across the river, and walk through the narrow streets of Metz.

It the old town, you find the 14th-century square, Place Saint-Louis, which is surrounded by pastel-colored houses with Mediterranean-style windows and restaurants.

Art lovers will enjoy Centre Pompidou-Metz and the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole, while history buffs will love to visit one of the oldest churches in France, the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-Aux-Nonnains.

One of the prettiest sights in Metz is the Temple Neuf, a Romanesque Revival style church built on a small island in the middle of the Moselle river, only connected by stone bridges to the mainland.

Where to stay: La Citadelle Metz MGallery

Metz

Recommended by Mark from Wyld Family Travel

Lunéville is one of those smallish non-descript French towns with a population of just over 17,000 people and not typically on the tourist trail. It’s a town you could easily pass as you head to the Alsace region.

Lunéville has 2 outstanding attractions. The grand Château de Lunéville, built-in 1702 for Leopold, Duke of Lorraine.

The château was designed to resemble Versailles for Leopold’s wife, Élisabeth Charlotte d’Orléans, who was the niece of Louis XIV.

Leopold and his wife were the parents of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor (through him, they were the grandparents of Marie Antoinette). 

The other is Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc de Lunéville, a catholic church that pays homage to Joan of Arc through painting and stain glass windows.

Lunéville is located in western France some 128 km  from Strasbourg  and 344 km from Paris, Nancy is the nearest major city.

Where to stay: Chateau d’Adomenil

Luneville France off the beaten track

Recommended by Ucman of Brown Boy Travels

Grasse is often overlooked for its famous neighbors on Côte d’Azur; Cannes and Nice. Yet, it’s one of the most beautiful places in south of France .

It’s a small city that offers the charm and nostalgia of medieval France with a specialty of its very own; Perfumes. 

You’re in the perfume capital of France if not the world. The town has one of the three colleges of perfumery in France and has been an established center for this fine art for centuries. It even prompted the making of the famous novel and movie, The Perfume.

Grasse is quite easily accessible by Nice airport, it is also a stone’s throw away from some of the best places to stay on the French Riviera , Cannes, and a short drive away from Monaco.

The center of the medieval town is the best spot to stay and offers great views from many viewpoints in the city.

The old town of Grasse still has the same winding, narrow streets, and old buildings. The food is also fresh and great in that Mediterranean style.

The most important thing to do in Grasse is to visit a perfumery and get a tour of how perfumes are made. The level of detail and intricacy of this art is amazing. (It takes 8-13 years of studying before one can call themselves a ‘nose’).

Grasse is not just a beautiful French Riviera town with historical significance it’s also cozy and offers everything you expect from a French town.

Where to stay: Les Passiflores

Grasse is a great France off the beaten track destination

Fontaine de Vaucluse

Recommended by Ophelie of Limitless Secrets

Fontaine de Vaucluse is an enchanting village located in a valley at the foot of a cliff of the Monts de Vaucluse in Provence .

This unique place is worth the visit because of the mythical source of water surging forth from the cliff in the area. Historically named “Vallis Clausa” (meaning closed valley), this spring is the most powerful one in France and the fifth in the world.

Here are a few things you can do in Fontaine de Vaucluse. You can start by walking around the village and enjoy the scenery. The place is full of charm with its traditional houses painted with ocher colors and the river flowing through the village!

Then you should definitely do the little hike that will take you to the source of the spring: it’s impressive!

You can also take a look at the shops selling local and traditional handicrafts and enjoy a yummy lavender ice cream.

The best way to get there and to travel around is to explore Provence by car .

Where to stay: Hotel Restaurant du Parc

Fontaine de Vaucluse - hidden gems of France

Recommended by Carol of Is This Even A Road

Travel off the beaten path in France, slow down, and enjoy the old world charm of Dorres. This rustic 19th century Cerdan village is located in the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees Regional Park in South France. 

Ancient stone buildings line the winding narrow streets. Snow-capped peaks surround the small village (Population 164) that sits at an altitude of 1400 meters.

Dorres is known for its hot sulfurous Roman Baths. The spring water can be heard trickling down the streets towards the pools.

Soak in the ancient outdoor baths with a breathtaking mountain panorama (Cost=5 Euros). A larger soaking area maintains a 38°C temperature while the small individual granite baths can reach a temperature of 41°C.

A short walk through the quaint village past the old wash house brings a couple of dining options. La Bistrot de La Place and Cal Xandera offer authentic French cuisine.

Hike the many mountain trails or ski the nearby slopes. Visit the ancient churches in town including  Notre-Dame-de-Belloc Chapel. The 12th century Église Saint Jean de Dorres houses a rare black Madonna.

You can easily combine the trip with a ride into nearby Spain to stay on a rolling vineyard .

Where to stay: Le Château Brangoly

France off the beaten path - Dorres

Recommended by Josh and Sarah of Veggie Vagabonds

Vézelay is one of those hidden gems in France that really make an impression. The hilltop village is just southeast of Paris, in the direction of Dijon.

Vézelay is perched up high above the surrounding landscape, looming over the nearby fields and vineyards. The outer stone fort was built to protect Vézelay Abbey, a UNESCO heritage site, giving the village an imposing and impressive feel from afar.

The abbey itself was built as early as 1150 and really is a marvel of architecture, making Vézelay an important part of French Christiandom.

You’ll also notice many scallop shells around the village as this is a starting point for the Camino de Santiago, one of the most famous hiking routes in France , traveling all the way to Northern Spain.

Vezelay isn’t the easiest place to reach by public transport and most visitors drive. There is no train station and to arrive by bus is possible but complicated. However, this helps the village remain a lesser-visited destination!

You’ll find a number of traditional guesthouses and gites within the village walls, or, for the campers among you, you’ll find a cheap and cheerful campsite only a stone’s throw away.

Where to stay: La Maison Carolane

Vezelay - France hidden gems

Recommended by Christina of Explore Now Or Never

Just east of its more famous neighbor, Marseille, cute little Cassis offers an idyllic base for seeing the fabulous Cote d’Azur in the south of France without the crowds or traffic of bigger cities.

As a small fishing village nestled up to the turquoise water of the Mediterranean on the French Riviera,  Cassis is one of the  most charming villages in Provence .

Beaches in Cassis are pebbly, rather than sandy, as they are all along the French Riviera. The village is washed in pastel colors and filled with quaint boutiques and restaurants with a harbor view of colorful fishing boats.

In fact, one of the best things to do in Cassis is to take a day tour by boat to the nearby Calanques – narrow limestone valleys that create Scandinavian-like fjords at the water’s edge.

Wine tasting is also an excellent idea in this region. Even though Provence is recognized as the land of rosé around the world, this region makes excellent white wines.

The best way to arrive in Cassis? Drive the incredible Routes des Cretes, one of the most beautiful drives in France. It winds high in the mountains along the coast, passing by the ancient castle, and dropping down into little Cassis at the end for a dramatic arrival.

Where to stay: Puerta Del Sol

Cassis - Hidden gems in France

Crozon Peninsula

Recommended by Veronika of Travel Geekery

Crozon Peninsula  can be found in Brittany in the Finistère department, all the way in the west of the country. The landscape is uniquely beautiful and forms a part of Armorica Regional Natural Park.

It’s amazing for hiking adventures – on a section of the famous hiking trail GR34 covering the whole coast of Brittany. You have to explore the tip of the peninsula called Pointe de Pen-Hir. The cliffside views are absolutely stunning.

From there, you can observe a unique cluster of little islands called a Pile of Peas. A small path lines the coastline and takes you on an amazing walk with dramatic cliffs on one side and lovely heather on the other.

You’ll encounter a few reminders of the Second World War – there’s a large cross remembering the fallen Britons of the Liberation Army, as well as remnants of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall with several bunkers.

It’s ideal to have a car to get there. Public transport does work from the towns nearby, but it’s not easy to navigate.

You can stay in the village of Camaret sur Mer. If you don’t mind a longer drive, I can highly recommend mobile homes at a beachside campsite Camping de la Plage de Treguer, which is an hour away. 

Where to stay: Hôtel de France

Crozon Peninsula is France off the beaten path

Recommended by Dym Abroad

A great place to explore France off the beaten path is Menton. This is without a doubt one of the most  beautiful places in France and is located in the south of the country along the French Riviera. While it’s dominantly a summer destination, it offers lovely winter sun during winter in France too.

You can get there easily from many other parts of the country. For example, from the city of Nice, it is just 40 minutes by train, and from Monaco, it is only 10 minutes.

One of the best things to do in Menton is to go to the beach. Not only are the sand and the sea amazing, but there are a lot of colorful houses next to the beach that together are very beautiful to see.

Besides that, Menton is known for its gardens. One of the best gardens is the Jardin Botanique Exotique de Menton, with many exotic plants.

Where to stay: Hôtel Vacances Bleues Royal Westminster

France off the beaten track Menton

Recommended by Pauline of Beeloved City

If you are looking for a true hidden gem in South West France , Figeac must be on your bucket list.

This beautiful medieval town is located in the Lot. Famous for being the birthplace of Champollion, who deciphered the Egyptians hieroglyphs, Figeac has a lot to offer to visitors in search of authenticity.

The town center is pretty small and very easy to explore on foot. The main square is called Place de la Halle. On Saturday mornings, it hosts one of the biggest markets in the area.

Another beautiful sight is the Calvaire Stairs. They zigzag all the way up to the Jeanne d’Arc school, a beautiful example of an old French convent.

If you are into history, visiting the Champollion Museum is a must-do. You will learn loads about Egypt and how Champollion cracked the ancient language.

Just behind it, hidden in the small streets is the Place des Ecritures. It features a giant Rosetta stone replica on the ground.

Finally, you will also be able to admire the beautiful example of medieval architecture. Some of the houses and shops are over 800 years old.

Where to stay: Hôtel des Bains

Figeac - hidden France

Recommended by Jacquie of Flashpacking Family

Camon is located in the Ariège department of France in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is officially classified as one of the  most beautiful villages in France  and it is easy to see why.

The tiny village is nicknamed ‘Little Carcassonne’ because of its fortified walls surrounding a Benedictine abbey. Another striking feature of the village is that it is home to one hundred rose bushes that burst with color during the spring and summer.

It is ideally located for exploring south-west France and is only 45 minutes from the famous medieval fortress town, Carcassonne.

Camon is such a small village that you will quickly be able to wander around it. It is particularly beautiful at sunset when the village is quiet, and the fortified walls take on a golden glow, but if you want a guided tour of the ramparts, you need to visit during the day.

Where to stay: Château de Camon

Fortified walls of Camon - off the beaten track in France

Recommended by Elisa of France Bucket List

The Jura is a French department in eastern France, part of the French region of Bourgogne-Franche Comté and not far from the border with Switzerland. Best known for its mountains, pristine lakes, and waterfalls, the Jura is truly off the beaten path France on its best.

Public transportation in the Jura is scarce and with schedules mostly adapted to the locals, so the best way to explore the area is with your own car, on a road trip.

A  road trip through the Jura  is one of the best road trips in France for nature lovers. There are many easy hikes to enjoy the natural wonders in this area and we recommend doing at least the Belvedère des 4 Lacs hike that visits the lakes of Lac Ilay, Grand Maclu, Petit Maclu, and Narlay.

From some places, if the sky is clear, you can even see the Montblanc! There are also many picturesque small towns and great food.

Where to stay: L’allée des peupliers

Jura Lake Off the beaten path France

Recommended by Nadine of Le Long Weekend

The petite fishing village of Niolon is tucked away in the Côte Bleue – a stunning area of immense natural beauty where you’ll find some of the  best beaches near Marseille .

Few tourists venture along this stretch of coast, but the locals appreciate its quiet and rugged appeal. Niolon itself is small, with just a tiny settlement centered around a picturesque port, but it comes alive in the summer months when the restaurants are buzzing, and the wharf is full of sun-worshipers and swimmers.

Spend a few days here discovering the quiet way of life and the local walks. This is a hidden France destination for sure.

Wander over to the Calanque de la Vesse next door, before heading over to the wild and hidden Plage de la Pointe de Figuerolles for a swim.

Or go the other way, stopping at the Fort de Niolon and appreciating the view, before trekking along to Calanque de l’Erevine (pictured) – a hidden beach that you could have entirely to yourself in the off-season.

It’s also the perfect place to go diving. To get there, you can drive the short distance from Marseille, or take a scenic train ride along the coast.

Where to stay: Hôtel Restaurant les Pielettes

Niolon - off the beaten track France

Saint Paul de Vence

Recommended by Emma of Emma Jane Explores

The tiny well-preserved medieval town of  Saint Paul de Vence  is the perfect off the beaten path getaway in France.

Located just a little way inland from the French Riviera, this hilltop village is surrounded by rolling hills and olive groves and is the perfect day trip for holidaymakers based in Nice.

The easiest way to get there is to take the 400 bus from Parc Phoenix in Nice to Saint Paul de Vence which will cost just 1.5 euros.  

The town itself is picturesque, with winding cobblestone streets leading visitors through a maze of art galleries, boutiques, and produce stores.

A walk atop the village’s ramparts provides gorgeous views from every angle and a stroll through the town cemetery will lead visitors to the grave of famed French artist Marc Chagall.

In the town is also the beautifully decadent store, Maison de Parfums Godet, which another well-known artist, Henri Matisse frequented. 

Where to stay: La Maison aux Bonsais

Saint Paule de Vence - off the beaten track France

Recommended by Kay of The Awkward Traveller

Although Poitiers is not on the radar for most visitors in France, the small town just 3.5 hours from Paris by train has a surprising amount of things to offer.

First, Poitiers is a university town, with a large community of  study abroad students , so the nightlife is always lively with fun events going on every weekend.

Poitiers is known for its medieval architecture, and the city center is full of chic cafes and bars to both start and end your day.

For history lovers, Poitiers is home to the 4th century Baptisterie Saint-Jean, (reputedly) the oldest church in France, as well as other incredibly beautiful cathedrals and chapels.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can spend the day at the region’s only theme park, Futuroscope.

However, if nature is more your calling, you can opt for a relaxing stroll along the river that runs through the town or read a book in Jardin des Plantes, Poitiers famed botanical garden. 

Where to stay: Mercure Poitiers Centre

Poitiers is one of those underrated places in France

Recommended by Nichola of Globalmouse Travels

The Opal Coast is still a much less worn track than some of the more obvious French destinations. Spanning the distance between Calais and Boulogne this can often be merely a route out to holidaymakers exiting the ferry or tunnel from England and heading on.

Head to the coast though for some beautiful beaches like Hardelot and Berck-sur-Mer which are so much quieter than some of their more popular counterparts.

There are some great places to visit from the old town of Boulogne which is full of lovely restaurants to the museums and fortifications around Calais that serve as a testament to the part this area played in the Second World War.

This area is great for couples and  family holidays in northern France and makes one of the best weekend getaways from Paris .

Where to stay: La Minaudière 62

Boulogne

Recommended by Larch of The Silver Nomad

About 2 hours inland from Nice is Fayence, one of the many  hilltop towns in the Var  area of France. It was a fortified town and some of the remnants of the medieval fortifications are still visible including the 14 th  Century Port Sarrasine.

Fayence’s winding streets take you up to the Clock Tower at the top of town for a magnificent 360-degree view over the surrounding plains and hills. Around the edges of the clock tower is a tiled frieze that shows the view.

Three times a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, there is a market in the square where you can pick up fresh produce, olives, honey, and linens.

You will find art galleries, antique shops, and independent clothes shops in the narrow streets. Look out for La Cave de Fayence for a delicious range of wines and gifts.

Where to stay: Hotel les Oliviers

View of Fayence from the Clock Tower

Be responsible when traveling France off the beaten track

When traveling off the beaten track in France, it’s important to respect the places and protect them from mass tourism and future destruction.

Always be mindful about what you tag on Instagram and other social media to avoid the negative effect of Insta-tourism, bringing hordes of people to one single spot to hunt for that single Insta-worthy picture.

It creates huge pressure on the locals. Imagine if that Insta-worthy spot was your own front door. Would you like strangers lining up in queues to take photos of your door? I don’t think so.

So respect private property, respect physical boundaries (they’re there for a reason), and take care of the planet. Bring your own reusable water bottle and coffee cup, and if you’re a fan of drinking with a straw, bring your own reusable one. this goes a long way towards plastic waste.

Finally, I always encourage connecting with the locals wherever you travel to learn their stories, culture, and history.

Not only do you get a great connection, but by showing respect and curiosity, you give the locals a good feeling about having travelers there. Unique travel experiences often start with a conversation with a local.

Like this? Pin it for later!

Want to explore beyond the popular tourist spots and travel off the beaten path in France? This guide takes you to the best France off the beaten path destinations so you can see the real France. #responsibletourism

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4 thoughts on “ 17 Stunning France off the beaten path destinations not to miss! ”

Brilliant suggestions here. I love France and there’s still so much of it left to see!

Thank you! I can’t wait to travel in France again.

So many beautiful places in France! Even though I am French, there are still a few cities of your list that I haven’t visited. So thank you for all the recommendations!

I agree, France is incredibly beautiful! It’s so nice that you can still find new amazing places to explore in your home country:)

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50 Best Things to Do in France

Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info.

What to Do in France?

Looking for some epic ideas to help you decide what to do in France? Look no further.

With so many interesting regions , beautiful landscapes, and endless landmarks scattered throughout the land, France is an excellent travel destination, and discovering the best things to do in France (and write about it!) is a lifelong project for us.

Based in Paris, we take every opportunity to explore different corners of France, and yet our France bucket list seems to keep getting longer instead of shorter!

Here are our favorite things to do and things to see in France – from the obvious to the unusual – for when you visit this great country. Some we’ve done, some we haven’t, and some we like to do again and again. Now, how many have you ticked off your list?

Aiguille du Midi - French Alps

TIP: Start planning your next French adventure; check out our France Travel Planner !

Best Things to Do in Northern France

1. be moved by mont saint-michel.

Mont Saint Michel - Normandy

Be moved by  Mont Saint-Michel , the wonder of the Western World and one of the best places to visit in Northern France . This superb Benedictine abbey and renowned center of pilgrimage is set on a rocky island at the mouth of the Couesnon River, where the regions of Normandy and Brittany meet.

The area is known for its high tides, which leave the abbey inaccessible for some hours and give Mont Saint-Michel a picturesque setting.

MONT SAINT-MICHEL TRIP PLANNING

  • Quick Guide to Mont Saint-Michel
  • Best Hotels in Mont Saint-Michel
  • Buy your Tickets to Mont Saint-Michel

2. A Royal Day in Versailles

Palace of Versailles

The Château of Versailles is a wonder of French baroque architecture and one of the top things to see in France on any holiday to Paris.

Visit the fabulous rooms and halls inside the Château, which was home to three French kings and their courts. Then explore the magnificent French-style gardens , with beautiful fountains and grooves, and the grounds around the Grand Canal, perhaps on two wheels or on a rowboat.

VERSAILLES TRIP PLANNING

  • Quick Guide to Versailles Palace and Gardens
  • Best Hotels near the Palace of Versailles
  • Buy your Tickets to Versailles

3. Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches

Pointe du Hoc - Normandy, France

The Normandy Landing Operations was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The invasion took place on the beaches of Normandy (Omaha, Utah, Sword Gold, and Juno Beach) on Tuesday, 6 June 1944, by the Allies, and it was the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control.

The Normandy D-day Landing Beaches is one of the most popular day trips from Paris. However, if you have the time, explore the area on a multi-day road trip to visit the beaches and some war cemeteries and memorials.

D-DAY LANDING BEACHES TRIP PLANNING

  • Normandy WW2 Sites Road Trip
  • Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches Tour from Paris

4. Spend a Night (or Two) in a French Château

Hotel - Château near Paris - France

Spending a night in a French château is one of the unique things to do in France. France is home to more than 40,000 châteaux of all periods and styles. Some of these French châteaux are home to nobles or rich people, while others have been beautifully restored and turned into boutique hotels, perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway in France.

Château de Villiers-le-Mahieu (in the picture above) and Château d’Ermenonville are two beautiful examples near Paris, but there are many more!

  • Best Château-hotels in the Loire Valley
  • Best Château-hotels in Burgundy
  • Best Château-hotels in the Champagne region

5. Climb Up the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower - Paris

The Eiffel Tower is the most iconic monument in Paris (and France), and the climb up to the summit is always on the top of any Paris bucket list .

The views from the top of the Eiffel Tower are amazing, especially at sunset. On the second floor, there’s also an interesting exhibition about the history of the Eiffel Tower and its construction – Click here to buy your tickets to the Eiffel Tower

6. Visit the Burial Place of the Kings of France at Saint-Denis

Basilica of Saint-Denis - France

The Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis is the burial place of the Kings of France from the 12th century to the 19th century. This magnificent building also represents the birth of Gothic architecture in France.

Indeed, this is the first French cathedral rebuilt using new techniques like the pointed arch, the pointed ribbed vault, or the use of stained glass windows to get more light inside.

Located in the city of Saint-Denis, a few kilometers north of Paris, the Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis makes for an easy half-day trip from the French capital – Click here to Buy your Tickets to the Basilica of Saint-Denis

7. A Day at the Louvre Museum

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Visit the Louvre, the world’s best museum, and admire some of the greatest masterworks of all time!

Also, take the time to learn the history of this former Royal Palace. For many centuries, the Louvre was the seat of the French Kings until King Louis XIV moved to Versailles. Explore the Louvre’s medieval moats and walls, Napoleon iii’s apartments, the royal galleries, and more!

LOUVRE MUSEUM TRIP PLANNING

  • Buy your Tickets to the Louvre Museum
  • How to Visit the Louvre in 2 hours or Less

Join France Bucket List Facebook Group

8. Follow the Cider Route in Normandy

Cider Route - Normandy

If you are looking for fun things to do in France, take the Cider Trail in Normandy . Here, apples abound, and the region is famous for its cider and other famous French drinks like Calvados or Pommeau.

Get ready to unfold the journey of apples from farms to your glasses by following the Cider Trail – a well-marked 40km tourist circuit through the region of Pays d’Auge in Lower Normandy.

The Pays d’Auge is popular for typical half-timbered houses, stud farms, apple orchards, and distillers who open their cellars and pressing sheds to visitors to taste their products.

9. A Night of Can Can Dance and Bubbles in a Parisian Cabaret

5 cities to visit in france

Parisian cabarets are a fun way to enjoy Paris at night in style and a popular option for special celebrations.

Today, the most famous cabaret shows in Paris, like the Moulin Rouge or the Paradis Latin , are a mix of music hall and burlesque shows offering lavish musical and theatrical productions with elaborate costumes, singing, and dancing.

In Paris, a cabaret show is traditionally served with dinner, paired with some of the best French wines and champagne into an all-evening extravaganza. It is an evening of entertainment, fun, and lots of bubbles.

CABARET SHOW PLANNING

  • Quick Guide to the Best Cabarets in Paris
  • Buy your Tickets to the Moulin Rouge Cabaret Show
  • Buy your Tickets to the Paradis Latin Cabaret Show
  • Buy your Tickets to the Crazy Horse Cabaret Show

10. Admire the Spectacular Cliffs of Etretat

Etretat - Normandy

Our France Bucket List is also full of natural wonders. Etretat is a small town on the Alabaster Coast in Normandy, famous for its spectacular vertical cliffs and other rock formations that inspired some of Monet’s masterworks. There are arches, sea stacks, and tunnels cut into the 50 to 80 m high chalk walls.

Etretat also has beautiful architecture built in the Anglo-Norman style and some interesting sites. It is possible to visit Etretat on a weekend trip from Paris – or even better – as part of a Normandy road trip .

11. Feel the Divine at the Grandes Cathédrales

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The historical region of Picardy , in Hauts-de-France , is probably the region with the most awesome Gothic cathedrals per square meter in the world!

From  Laon , one of the first Grandes Cathédrales inspired by this new Gothic art, to the cathedrals of  Amiens  or  Beauvais , visitors can witness the main steps of the evolution of Gothic architecture in France, extraordinary buildings, all listed UNESCO heritage and usually surrounded by charming old towns.

12. Nature as its Best at the Bay of Somme

Somme Bay - France

The Bay of Somme  is the largest estuary in Northern France, an unspoiled place composed of dunes, marshes, and salt meadows.

Situated on the route of migrating birds, the Bay of Somme is a paradise for birdwatchers, with more than 250 different species of birds spending a part of the year in the area. It is also home to the largest colony of French seals, which can be spotted resting on sandbanks that emerge as the tide recedes.

Enjoy the Bay of Somme and its wildlife from the water, on foot, or by bike. The Belle Époque steam train ( Le Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme ) is also fun to discover these beautiful landscapes.

13. Look for the Water Lilies at Monet’s Garden

Monet's Garden - Giverny

Explore Monet’s Gardens in Giverny , the object of some of Monet’s masterworks. Admire the water lily pond, where Monet painted his world-famous water lilies series.

The artist’s house and the attached workshop are also worth the visit, and they are an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse of Monet’s life and work in Giverny – Click here to book a Giverny day trip from Paris

Best Things to Do in Central France

14. fly over the valley of the kings on a hot-air balloon.

Hot-Air Balloon Ride - Châteaux de la Loire

A hot air balloon flight , wherever it is in the world, is a truly magical experience. But it is even more magical if you can fly over some of the most beautiful châteaux of the Loire Valley .

Glide through the sky in a massive floating vessel while enjoying sunrise or sunset — and perhaps a glass of champagne — over magnificent Renaissance châteaux and their beautiful grounds in the Loire Valley – Book your Hot Air Balloon Experience over the Loire Valley

LOIRE VALLEY TRIP PLANNING

  • Loire Valley Trip Planner
  • Loire Valley Road Trip Itinerary

15. The Loire Valley by Bike

5 cities to visit in france

La Loire à Vélo is one of the top activities in France for bike lovers. The Loire by Bike is a unique 800 km cycle route that links Nevers to Saint Brevin-Les-Pins in the Atlantic Ocean. Follow France’s last great wild river on two wheels while exploring the Loire Valley with its beautiful Renaissance châteaux, medieval towns, and good wines!

Best Things to Do in Southern France

16. go in search of the blue gold of provence.

5 cities to visit in france

The lavender fields in Provence are some of the most striking landscapes in Southern France. From mid-June to late August, explore the Valensole Plateau , the Luberon Valley , and the Sault Plateau , well known for its “blue gold,” lavender distilleries, and pretty small towns.

A trip to the lavender fields in Provence is one of the unique things to do in France. For the best pictures, plan your trip carefully around the blooming periods in each area.

LAVENDER FIELDS TRIP PLANNING

  • Quick Guide to the Lavender Fields in Provence
  • Lavender Season in Provence
  • The Ultimate Lavender Route Road Trip

17. Explore the World of Perfumes in Grasse

Fragonard Perfume Bottles

Worldwide known as the perfume capital, Grasse is a small town in Provence where the perfume industry has prospered since the end of the 18th century.

Today, Grasse attracts visitors worldwide willing to learn about the art of perfumes in France at the Musée International de la Parfumerie (2 Boulevard du Jeu de Ballon). Grasse is also the last stop of the Route du Mimosa , which is especially beautiful to drive in wintertime.

Grasse has several perfume factories, but Fragonard’s Historical Factory (20 Boulevard Fragonard, free entrance) is the most famous. There are also many perfume workshops where you can learn the art of perfume making and create your own essence – Click here to design your own Fragrance in Grasse

18. The Gorges du Verdon by Kayak

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Set in the Verdon Regional Park, Gorges du Verdon is one of Europe’s most fabulous natural settings and one of the most beautiful places to see in France. This limestone canyon with turquoise waters runs for 25 kilometers through the Park, and at points, it reaches depths of more than 700 meters.

Among the different ways to explore the Gorges du Verdon, kayaking is the most popular. Rent a kayak for half a day and paddle through the canyon alone or in two. There are some spots where you can tie the kayak to take a refreshing bath.

The list of outdoor activities around the Gorges du Verdon includes canyoning, rafting, hiking, via ferrata, paragliding, and rock climbing. Click here to browse all outdoor activities in Gorges du Verdon .

TIP: This Gorges du Verdon Road Trip covers the Gorges and some pretty neighboring villages.

19. Explore the Magnificent Palace of the Popes in Avignon

Avignon - France

If you are wondering what to see in France for great architecture and history, Avignon is a good place to visit. Avignon , in Southern France, was in the 14th century the heart of Christendom and home to six Catholic Popes. Standing high above the city, visitors will find the Palais des Papes , the magnificent 14th-century building where the Popes lived and celebrated the most important religious events.

Listed as UNESCO World Heritage, the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) is also the world’s largest and most important civil construction built in Gothic style, with more than 15,000 square meters of living space – Click here to buy your Tickets to the Palace of the Popes

20. A Breath of Fresh Air at the Calanques of Marseille

Calanques Marseille Port Miou - France

The National Park Calanques of Marseille–Cassis , in Southern France, offers spectacular landscapes, rich flora and fauna, and endless outdoor activities. This National Park includes coastal ranges of creeks, a vast marine area of the Mediterranean Sea, several islands, and one of the richest submarine canyons in the world.

The best way to explore the Calanques is by walking one of the hiking trails that follow the coast, but you can also book a catamaran tour and explore this wonderful area from the water.

21. Explore the Hilltop Villages of Provence

Hilltop Village of Roussillon - Provence

The region of Provence is dotted with many hilltop villages, a world of winding roads, beautiful stone houses, stunning panoramas, and silence. These villages were usually built on the top of the hills to protect their population from different threads.

If the Luberon Villages  ( Roussillon , Gordes, Menerbes , and more) are the most popular villages of Provence , there are still many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

22. Corsica Island by Car

Corsica Island - France

The best way to explore the beautiful Corsica Island is on a road trip. This is also the only way to reach Corsica’s best beaches.

For short stays, we suggest staying in one of the biggest cities and exploring its surroundings on day trips by car. For more extended holidays, go off the beaten path, inland, and also visit the smaller islands nearby – Check out our Best Tips for Renting a Car in France

23. Whisper to Horses at the Camargue Nature Reserve

Camargue - France

A trip to the Camargue is one of the top things to do in France for nature lovers. This protected area in Southern France, mostly made of marshlands, is famous for its herd of horses and pink flamingos. The Camargue is also an excellent place for bird watching or just for a relaxing mini-holiday among great nature.

TIP: This Road Trip in Southern France covers the Camargue and much more!

24. Explore the Cathar Region of France

Château de Peyrepertuse - Cathar Country, France

The Cathar Route takes you to some of the most incredible fortresses, intriguing abbeys, and medieval towns in Southern France. These sites are related to the Cathars, a Christian dualist movement in the Languedoc region between the 12th and 14th centuries. The Cathars were considered heretics by the Catholic Church, and they were the main target of some of the most violent crusades.

A Cathar Country road trip with your own car is the best way to explore the Cathar sites like the Cité de Carcassonne , Château de Montségur, or Fontfroide.

25. Walk the Ochre Trail in Roussillon

Ochre Trail Roussillon

Le Sentier des Ochres (the Ochre Trail) in Roussillon is a beautiful hike through Roussillon’s remains of the ochre quarries. Walk between the cliffs and the red tints, surrounded by a lush forest, and learn about the ochre exploitation in Provence.

There are two different trails of 30 and 50 minutes. Although it is not adapted for people in wheelchairs, the first 50 meters are accessible (and free to visit for them) and end with a panoramic view.

The site is closed to the public from 1 January to 9 February. Out of these dates, Le Sentier des Ochres is open every day.

26. Winter Fun at Menton’s Lemon Festival

Lemon Festival Menton

If you are looking for fun things to do in France in wintertime, don’t miss Menton in February. The picturesque town of Menton , close to the Italian border, is famous for its lemons: very bright, yellow, and elongated fruits prized by chefs for their rich essential oil.

Menton is one of the best places to visit in France in winter . Every February since 1934, the  Fête du Citron (Menton’s Lemon Festival) takes place. This unique event that celebrates lemons involves giant sculptures of lemons and other citrus fruits. The displays are also accompanied by parades, shows, music, and dances.

27. A Journey to the Center of the Earth at Gouffrede Padirac

Gouffre de Padirac

The Gouffre de Padirac (Padirac Chasm) is another of the best things to see in France. This is the monumental entrance to a natural cavity 53 meters wide and 103 meters deep located in the Lot department in Occitanie.

After a vertiginous descent, embark on a boat trip along the underground river to explore one of the most interesting geological sites in France,

The best part of the visit comes after the boat trip, where the caves are stunningly brilliant. Book your tickets well in advance!

28. Dreamy Days in the French Riviera

Nice - France

The French Riviera (Côte d’Azur) is one of the most beautiful parts of southern France, which always seems to be bathed in sunshine.  Nice  is the French Riviera’s capital and a convenient place to stay to explore the surroundings.

Clustered around  Nice , there are some compelling destinations like  Antibes , the hilltop villages ,  Cannes ,  Menton,  or  Saint Tropez , perfect for exploring on day trips from Nice. You can really spend some dreamy days on the French Riviera!

FRENCH RIVIERA TRIP PLANNING

  • Best Places to Visit in the French Riviera
  • Best Beaches in the French Riviera
  • Best Resorts on the French Riviera
  • French Riviera Road Trip

29. Canal du Midi on a Boat Barge or by Bike

Canal de Midi

Stretching from Toulouse to Sète, the Canal du Midi is a feat of architectural genius that links the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This 17th-century construction required the work of 12,000 men over fifteen years.

The Canal du Midi is listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is an unmissable tourist destination in Southern France. Visitors can explore the Canal du Midi by boat, hotel barge, and bike.

30. Get Lost in the Markets of Provence

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The markets of Provence are lovely and a ritual that is truly part of living in Provence. Just about every village in Provence has a weekly market, usually in one of the main squares, while markets in bigger towns occur twice a week or even daily.

The markets of Provence sell prepared foods and fresh produce but not only. There are also stalls with flowers and provençal goods such as lavender, tablecloths, clothes, and more.

We have some favorites, like the markets of Saint-Rémy, Lourmarin, Apt (voted one of the most beautiful markets in France), and Aix-en-Provence market (the most famous). You can easily spend a day wandering through the colorful stalls and people-watching, or you can sit at a wonky table with a coffee or a glass of rosé.

Best Things to Do in Eastern France

31. follow the alsace wine route.

Alsace Wine Trail

The Wine Route of Alsace is one of the best road trips in France . The legendary 170-kilometer stretch along the historic region of Alsace in Grand Est takes you through a string of picturesque villages, well-known wine-producing towns, and exceptional landscapes.

To get the most out of the Alsace Wine Route, consider a minimum of three days, but of course, you can take more time! Be sure to include places like Strasbourg , Colmar , and perhaps a short hike through the vineyards.

ALSACE WINE ROUTE TRIP PLANNING

  • Alsace Wine Route Road Trip
  • Things to Do in Strasbourg
  • Things to Do in Colmar
  • Most Beautiful Villages in Alsace

32. Join a Food Tour in Lyon

Food Tour

If you are wondering what to do in France to enjoy great food, head to Vieux Lyon. Generally acknowledged to be the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon is the ideal place to discover French cuisine and fall in love with it .  

Lyon is a city with more restaurants per head and where food is taken to another level and people, it’s a way of life!

Join this top-rated food tour to discover the secrets of Lyon’s traditional cuisine . This tour visits a traditional bouillon Lyonnais, a cheese shop, a chocolate shop, and other shops selling local products.

33. Explore the Lakes and Waterfalls of the Jura

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In the region of Bourgogne-Franche Comté, the department of Jura offers a magnificent succession of forests and lakes with wooded banks. Some belvederes are perfect for admiring the lakes and getting some fresh air.

The Jura is also land to many waterfalls, usually linked through beautiful hikes.

The Jura and its natural wonders are best explored by car. Have a look at this  road trip through the Jura , one of the best road trips for nature lovers.

34. Stunning Modern Architecture by Le Corbusier

Notre Dame de Ronchamp - France

This France things to do list also has space for iconic architecture. The Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier is the father of Modern Architecture, and he designed many iconic buildings all around France.

Villa Savoye near Paris is Le Corbusier’s most famous work, the first project to which he applied the five pillars of Modern Architecture. Other famous buildings by Le Corbusier include Ronchamp Chapel (in the picture above), L’ Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, and La Tourette Convent.

35. Enjoy Some of the World’s Best Wines along the Route des Grands Crus

Côte-de-Nuits Vineyards

The Route des Grands Crus is the most famous wine trail in Bourgogne. This Burgundy wine trail from Beaune to Dijon is an ideal road trip for wine lovers who also enjoy picturesque small towns and beautiful landscapes.

Explore the beautiful region of Burgundy and learn about its winemakers’ savoir-faire while enjoying some of the world’s best reds and whites.

36. Winter Getaway at Les Trois Vallées

La Plagne - French Alps

The French Alps are an excellent destination for a winter getaway in France, home to iconic snow-capped peaks, charming old towns, and endless ski slopes.

Les Trois Vallées is the largest ski area in the world, with 600 kilometers of pistes and some of the best ski resorts in the French Alps . Enjoy a ski holiday in one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe, as well as other thrilling activities guaranteed to keep dedicated skiers and non-skiers alike happy all holiday.

37. Lyon’s Festival of Lights Awaits

Festival of Lights - Lyon

In Lyon , the coldest season kicks off with the Festival of Lights ,  one of the best things to do in France in wintertime.

The  Fête des Lumières (usually the first weekend of December) began as a spontaneous celebration of the Virgin Mary when her bronze statue was erected, and all the Lyonnais placed candles in their windows to honor Her.

Today, different artists light up buildings, streets, squares, and parks all over the city. The city has a magical atmosphere with more than forty light installations to discover.

38. Admire the Top of Europe from Aiguille du Midi

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The Aiguille du Midi is a 3,842-metre-tall mountain in the Mont Blanc massif within the French Alps. It can be directly accessed by cable car from Chamonix for a closer view of the Mont Blanc (4,810m).

Once up, several terraces offer panoramic views of beautiful glaciers and the Alps. Don’t miss The Vertical Space , a museum dedicated to the adventure of ascending Mont Blanc throughout history.

Chamonix is also home to many fun outdoor activities all year round. Click here for the full list of fun things to do in Chamonix .

39. Champagne Tasting in Epernay

Sunset Champagne Celebration

Epernay , in the region of Grand Est, is the capital of the Champagne region, where the most important champagne houses succeed one another along its famous Avenue de Champagne .

Visit the city with its beautiful 19th-century private mansions and join a tour of one of the best Champagne houses in Epernay to learn about the history and production of champagne wine . Most of the time, these tours end with some champagne tastings.

40. Hike the Volcanoes of Auvergne

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Auvergne , in the Massif Central, is one of the most beautiful things to see in France, a land of 450 dormant volcanoes spread in the Chaîne des Puys, Monts Dore, Artense, Cézallier, and Monts du Cantal. The Volcanoes of Auvergne are a paradise for hikers, with long and short trails that suit all levels.

The Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park is the largest French regional natural park, home to the famous Puy-de-Dome and other stunning volcanos. It has unique landscapes but also a beautiful heritage built with volcanic stones and remarkable biodiversity.

The city of Clermont Ferrand is a good base to explore the Volcanoes of Auvergne. From here, you can do many fun activities like paragliding, quad bike, canyoning, and karting – Click here for the full list

41. A Spa Day in Vichy

Vichy - Wellness

Thanks to the richness of its volcanic soil, the region of Auvergne contains a variety of thermal sources to treat many conditions, also perfect for a quick recovery after a long hike.

Among the Auvergne’s spa towns, Vichy is the spa resort par excellence, well known for its springs’ healing and therapeutic properties and its beautiful Art-Déco architecture.

Enjoy Vichy Thermal Spa , one of the biggest spas in Europe, but also be sure to explore Vichy’s rich Art-Déco heritage, its Opera House, eclectic villas, grand hotels, and two casinos.

42. Christmas Wonderland in Alsace

Christmas Colmar

Alsace’s Christmas Markets are the best Christmas Markets in France to visit. As Alsace sits on the border with Germany, some of the German traditions of Christmas have become part of the culture in Alsace.

From mid-November to December, the Christmas Markets of Alsace are a must-do in France. There are huge Christmas trees, many lights, and many Christmas decorations in the different old towns, and it truly feels like a Christmas wonderland.

Wander around the different wooden chalets, do your last Christmas shopping, and eat some sweets or gingerbread. When it gets too cold, you can always keep yourself warm with a hot chocolate or a jar of mulled wine.

ALSACE CHRISTMAS MARKETS TRIP PLANNING

  • Best Christmas Markets in Alsace
  • Quick Guide to the Strasbourg Christmas Market
  • Quick Guide to the Colmar Christmas Market
  • Where to Sleep in Strasbourg
  • Where to Sleep in Colmar

Best Things to Do in Western France

43. surf the waves in biarritz.

Biarritz - French Basque Country

In the French Basque Country, Biarritz is a surfing haven, the undisputed epicenter of surfing in France.

In the beginning, only foreigners came to surf in Biarritz. Soon, the locals adopted the sport and promoted it to the point that today, Biarritz is at the top of anyone’s places-to-surf bucket list, the place where some of the biggest international surfing competitions take place.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, we are sure that you will find your sweet surfing spot in Biarritz. Check out this list of places in Biarritz where you can learn or improve your surfing skills . 

44. Hike the Sentier des Douaniers (GR34)

Le Sentier des Douaniers

The GR34 , also known as  Le Sentier des Douaniers , is one of the top hikes in France. This path borders the coastline of Brittany for over 2,000 kilometers, and it was originally used by customs officers to prevent smuggling.

Walk the whole hike (or only a part of it) and explore Brittany’s impressive cliffs, lonely beaches, and picturesque coastal towns.

45. Visit the Quirky Machines de l’Ile in Nantes

Machines of the Isle of Nantes

Les Machines de l’Ile , is the must-attraction in Nantes and one of the quirkiest things to do in France. Located on an isle in the middle of the Loire River, in the city’s former shipyards, this artistic project brings together a set of crazy machines that seem straight out of Jules Verne’s imagination and Leonardo Da Vinci’s invention.

Ride the  Sea World Carousel  on the back of the strangest marine creatures. Wander around the island on a  crazy elephant  who likes to shower all the kids he finds on his way! Visit the  Galerie des Machines , where a team of crazy inventors and machinists are working on new projects and machines.

46. Get Mystic at the Alignments of Carnac

Carnac Stones - Brittany

The Alignments of Carnac , in Bretagne, Western France, is an exceptional site of megalithic alignments with more than 3,000 menhirs over more than 4 kilometers. These menhirs were erected between 6,000 and 2,000 AD, and even if we still don’t know the purpose of these alignments, they are just amazing.

Carnac is one of the unique places to see in France. Start with an introductory video and exhibition at the Maison des Mégalithes . Then take the time to wander around the stones and soak up the special atmosphere of this unique site.

47. Run the Quirky Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc  

5 cities to visit in france

If you are looking for fun things to do in France, don’t miss the Marathon du Médoc . This unique event takes place every year in September through the world-famous vineyards of Médoc, near Bordeaux . Here, participants run with fun costumes on, and wine tastings and other activities are organized along the course.   

This marathon race is considered “the longest marathon in the world” because of the numerous activities for runners scattered around the course. The various wine tastings do not help either!

The Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc attracts every year around 8,500 participants, representing more than 50 nations, as well as many spectators. The marathon is organized by a volunteer association with more than 2,800 volunteers, and it’s a joyful event that we suggest to try at least once in your life.

48. Climb up the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s Largest Sand Dune

Dune du Pilat - France

Dune du Pilat is an impressive sight, spanning around 3 km in length, 600 m in width, and a lofty 100 or so meters high. It is located in the Arcachon Basin, and it is one of the best places to visit near Bordeaux .

Dune du Pilat is one of the most unique things to do in Western France . Climb up to the top of the dune to admire the nature on offer, or book in for a paraglide over the dune to gain a bird’s eye view of the nearby forest and the Atlantic Ocean – Click here to book a Dune du Pilat day tour from Bordeaux

49. Enjoy Amazing Prehistoric Art At Lascaux IV

Lascaux Paintings - France

Lascaux , near Sarlat-la-Canéda , is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world! A UNESCO World Heritage site, the cave features over 600 parietal paintings, considered to be masterpieces of Stone Age art.

Lascaux was discovered in 1940 by a group of local young boys and opened to the public in 1963. Unfortunately, human breath started to make the paintings deteriorate, so the original site was permanently closed in the 80s.

The current site is a perfect replica of the original. It is called  Lascaux IV , being Lascaux II and Lascaux III partial replicas that you can also visit. Don’t miss Lascaux IV’s great guided visit, which starts with an emotional approach to the discovery. You can visit Lascaux IV on a day trip from Sarlat or as part of a Dordogne road trip . Book your tickets well in advance!

50. The Sweet Life in the Gulf of Morbihan

Gulf of Morbihan

The best things to do in France list ends on the Brittany coast. With its many islands and islets, its microclimate that warms the sea, and its sweet life, the Gulf of Morbihan is one of the most beautiful landscapes in western Frane to discover all year.

Morbihan means little sea in the local language, and it is the perfect place for sailing on a catamaran, hiking, or exploring the little islands protected from the vagaries of the ocean. Among the fifty or so islands in Morbihan,  Île aux Moines  and Île d’ Arz  are locals’ favorites.

More France Bucket List Ideas

  • Things to Do in Northern France
  • Things to Do in Southern France
  • Things to Do in Eastern France
  • Things to Do in Western France

And there you have it, our France Bucket List, the list of what to do in France for a unique French holiday. Do you have any favorites not included in this list? Let us know in the France Travel Facebook Group ; we will be happy to enlarge the list!

Click here for more Travel Inspiration .

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5 cities to visit in france

15 Most Beautiful Cities in France for a Group Trip

F rance is a beautiful country and a top tourist destination. Its historical heritage is remarkable, its landscapes superb, and its cities amazing and romantic. Not to mention the famous French cuisine and the world-class wines. This country allows tourists to experience unforgettable emotions. Besides Paris, this guide will present some hidden treasures that are by far some of the most beautiful cities in France to add to your itinerary.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. Please check out our  disclosure policy  for more details. Thank you for your support!

What Are The Most Beautiful Cities in France to Visit?

Whether you are traveling with extended family, friends, or other couples, France is a destination that will please even the pickiest traveler. These are some of the most beautiful cities in France that should be on everyone’s radar. Each one offers something unique for travelers, so take a look and be sure to spend some time in one or more of these gorgeous cities and towns.

Many consider Paris as the most beautiful city in the world. Tourists have the opportunity to admire the historical and cultural past of France by visiting the Louvre and dozens of other museums.

The streets around the Sacre Coeur Basilica are full of painters that wait for you to draw your portrait. When the sun sets a nighttime cruise on the Seine River will give a different perspective of Paris.

Head to a bistro or a restaurant in the Latin Quarter at the end of the day. It is the best way to end one of the most memorable days of your life.

Orleans is the soul of France. It is located 80 miles southwest of Paris in the banks of the Loire River. The city endured more sieges than any other in the history of the country.

In addition to the amazing buildings, churches, and museums, Orleans is a city of festivals and bohemian entertainment. It is also a perfect starting point to explore the castles and the countryside of the Loire Valley. A visit to the house of the tragic hero Joan of Arc is a must.

Nestled along the banks of the Rance River in Brittany, Dinan exudes medieval charm. With its well-preserved ramparts, half-timbered houses, and cobblestone streets, this city offers a glimpse into France’s past.

Explore the majestic Dinan Castle, stroll through the enchanting Rue du Jerzual, and savor the breathtaking panoramic views from the Saint-Malo Tower.

Arles is a Roman city located in the south of France close to Marseilles. The beauty of Arles is depicted in the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, who lived there, and in the movie Ronin with Robert de Niro.

The arena, the aqueducts, the baths, and the mill are some of the marvels of Roman engineering that a tourist can admire in Arles. It is no accident that the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Reims is located 80 miles east of Paris. The city holds a special place in France’s history, since its spectacular cathedral was the coronation place of the French Kings. The Palace of Tau and the St Remi Basilica, along with the numerous museums and forts worth a visit.

Reims has many beautiful squares decorated with Roman and medieval sculptures. And since it is the capital of the Champagne region, a tour to the wineries with their huge caves is a can’t miss experience.

Nevers is located in the heart of Burgundy about two hours south of Paris. It is a medieval town and the highlight is the Ducal Palace with its impressive turrets.

However, Nevers is most famous for its porcelain. The workshops there create fine pieces and a tourist must definitely see the famous faience china. And since Burgundy is the best wine making region on the planet, Nevers offers the opportunity to taste some amazing wines.

7. Biarritz

Biarritz is located in the southwest of France near the borders with Spain. Blessed with a magnificent Atlantic coastline, Biarritz is one of the most high end French resort towns since the times of Napoleon, who had a palace there (Hotel du Palais).

A tourist can visit the casino, play golf on one of the oldest courses in Europe, or enjoy the vibrant nightlife of the city. Biarritz is also one the most popular surf destinations on the world, so if this sounds like a fit for you, be sure to arrange a lesson .

8. Strasbourg

Located on the eastern border, Strasbourg seamlessly blends French and German cultures. Its picturesque city center, known as Grande Île, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Be captivated by the striking Gothic architecture of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, take a boat tour along the charming canals of Petite France, and immerse yourself in the European Parliament district.

9. Carcassonne

Transport yourself to the Middle Ages in Carcassonne, a fortified city in southern France. The UNESCO-listed Cité de Carcassonne boasts impressive medieval walls and towers, creating an enchanting atmosphere.

Wander through narrow streets, visit the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, and admire the breathtaking views from the Château Comtal.

10. Sarlat-la-Canéda

In the heart of the Dordogne region, Sarlat-la-Canéda entices visitors with its well-preserved Renaissance architecture. The charming streets are lined with honey-colored stone buildings, inviting exploration and discovery.

Don’t miss the bustling Saturday market, the stunning Cathédrale Saint-Sacerdos, and the historic Lanterne des Morts.

Renowned for its remarkable Roman ruins, Nîmes showcases France’s ancient past. The iconic Maison Carrée, an exceptionally preserved Roman temple, and the amphitheater known as Les Arènes are must-visit sites.

Stroll along the charming streets, admire the Fountain Gardens, and soak up the city’s vibrant atmosphere.

12. Bordeaux 

A city synonymous with world-class wine, Bordeaux is a blend of old-world charm and contemporary elegance. The historic center, with its grand 18th-century buildings, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Explore the Place de la Bourse, wander through the lively Saint-Pierre district, and indulge in wine tastings at prestigious vineyards in the region .

13. Montpellier

As one of France’s youngest cities, Montpellier is a vibrant blend of history and modernity. The city boasts a wealth of elegant squares, such as Place de la Comédie, adorned with beautiful buildings and bustling cafes.

Explore the historic center, marvel at the Saint-Pierre Cathedral, and soak up the youthful energy of this lively city.

Situated in Normandy, Rouen offers a captivating mix of medieval and Gothic architecture. The stunning Rouen Cathedral, immortalized by Monet’s paintings, is a true masterpiece.

Wander through the charming streets of the Old Town, visit the Gros-Horloge astronomical clock, and appreciate the city’s rich historical heritage.

15. Antibes

Nestled on the French Riviera, Antibes exudes Mediterranean charm with its sandy beaches, vibrant markets, and rich maritime heritage.

Explore the medieval ramparts of the old town, visit the renowned Picasso Museum, and wander through the charming Marché Provençal. Don’t forget to take in the stunning views from Cap d’Antibes and indulge in the local cuisine.

Conclusion – Most Beautiful Cities in France

This list of the most beautiful cities in France is just a glimpse of what the country can offer tourists. There are limitless options. The world-class resorts of the Riviera, the romantic towns of Brittany, and the mountain cities of the Alps are also great places to go for a vacation.

The post 15 Most Beautiful Cities in France for a Group Trip appeared first on Groups Are A Trip .

France is a beautiful country and a top tourist destination. Its historical heritage is remarkable, its landscapes superb, and its cities amazing and romantic. Not to mention the famous French cuisine and the world-class wines. This country allows tourists to experience unforgettable emotions. Besides Paris, this guide will present some hidden treasures that are by ... Read more

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Home » Europe » 20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

By Author Laura Longwell

Posted on Last updated: May 3, 2023

Endless vineyards, hillside towns, pastel villages, and cities packed with history–these are the places and sites that make the South of France an unmissable destination. From Roman ruins to dramatic landscapes and quaint city squares, you’ll find a little of everything here. Between Provence, the French Riveria, and the southwestern part of the country, we’ve spent considerable time exploring the best places to visit in the South of France. Here’s a look at some of our favorites.

Aix-en-Provence

Large ornamental fountain with statues of people on top and lions around the sides

Aix-en-Provence is one of the best cities in the South of France to visit. Often called the City of a Thousand Fountains, Aix is known for its water features, markets, and beautiful pedestrian lanes and squares dotted with plane trees.

A visit to Aix is about being and soaking in the good life. Wander the farmers markets , pull up a chair at one of the cafes, or sample some of the many Provencal specialties at the restaurants and artisan shops.

If you’re looking to visit some of the top attractions in Aix , there are several interesting places to go. The Hotel de Caumont in the city center is an 18 th -century mansion featuring period furnishings. It also has a charming garden and café and features rotating exhibits by well-known artists.

Just outside the center, the Atelier Cezanne is another must-visit. The studio of painter and Aix-en-Provence native Paul Cezanne looks now just as it did when the artists died in 1906. His smock, supplies, and some of his favorite subject matter is still displayed here in a space that looks like he just stepped out for lunch.

Exterior of a two-level ancient stone amphitheater with arched doorways

Splashed in blues, yellows, and greens, visiting Arles makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a Van Gogh painting for good reason—you have. The artist produced over 200 pieces when he lived here. Throughout the city, there are replicas of the works in the exact spots where he painted them with plaques that provide some of the backstory.

Arles has a lot to offer even for those who aren’t art lovers. It is packed with history, ambiance, and lots of great food. A visit here is a highlight of any southern France itinerary .

Right in the center of town is Arles Amphitheater , a two-tiered theater that dates from 90 AD and still hosts events. A short walk from the center is Alyscamps , a Roman necropolis that is now an open-air museum lined with sarcophagi and several chapels. Once the main burial site for the city, it is an interesting look back at thousands of years of history. Both places have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

If you visit Arles on a Wednesday or Saturday, the market on the ring road will be impossible to miss. Stroll through to see the Mediterranean and North African cuisines on display and buy provisions for a picnic.

Saint-Remy-de-Provence

Large Roman stone arch with ornamental detail

With less than 10,000 residents, Saint-Remy-de-Provence is the type of town where you just want to stay for a while. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and things to see, and the pace is typically relaxed, which can be welcome in contrast to some of the larger cities in southern France.

Visitors can see most of the town in just a few hours. Or you can linger much long and explore the honeysuckle and wisteria-covered buildings, fountains, and colorful facades.

Located in Chaine des Alpilles, a small mountain range, Saint Remy has been inhabited for centuries. In fact, one of its main attractions is the archaeological site of Glanum . Many of the ruins there are from Romans who took over the area in the 1 st century BC. Some of the most notable structures are free to visit right along the road and include a triumphal arch that dates from about 10 BC and a funerary monument of a similar age.

A somewhat more contemporary site is Saint-Paul de Mausole , the psychiatric hospital where Vincent Van Gogh was treated for a about year in 1889 and 1890 shortly before his death. His room is preserved as it was during his stay, and you can explore the grounds and the works he painted there, including Starry Night .

Verdon Gorge

Overhead view of people kayaking in a river gorge surrounded by limestone cliffs

The first thing that catches your attention at the Verdon Gorge is the electric blue water. One of the most stunning natural places to visit in the South of France, this river canyon is 15 miles long and up to .4 miles deep. The limestone cliffs make for incredible scenery.

Paragliding over the canyon and climbing its walls are also popular, but we’re partial to being on the water. 

There are three main ways to enjoy the Verdon Gorge river up close—by stand-up paddleboard, kayak, or electric boat. All the watercrafts are available to rent at Base Nautique de l’Etoile at the beginning of the gorge.

Basilica with a bell tower topped with a huge gold statue of Madonna and Child

The second largest city in France, Marseille is a sprawling metropolis with a history stretching back to 600 BC.  

The cosmopolitan city has been an important trading hub since the Middle Ages and has been influenced by all the cultures coming here to do business from southern Europe to North Africa, Asia, and beyond. The Old Port is still at the heart of the city where visitors and locals stroll along the harbor, watch the boats come in, and catch sightseeing cruises to visit the calanques.

One of the best views of the Old Port is from Notre-Dame de la Garde , a hilltop basilica filled with mosaics and topped with a gilded statue of the Madonna and Child. A visit here is one of the top things to do in Marseille.

Marseille has numerous notable museums and a sprawling park (often compared to New York’s Central Park) built around an 18 th -century mansion complete with walking paths, a rose garden, and a lake. For something completely different, visit Cours Julien and Le Panier, the biggest areas for street art in the city .

L’Isle sur la Sorgue

Waterwheel covered in moss

The picturesque town of L’isle sur la Sorgue is situated on the Sorgue River whose canals run beside the ancient streets. Many of the waterwheels that once powered the silk, dyeing, and paper industries are still in place, giving visitors a glimpse into the town’s rich past. Some of them still move, though the show is now just for people’s enjoyment.

In addition to its beautiful setting, people are drawn to L’isle sur la Sorgue for “treasure hunting” and the promise of a bargain. Nearly 300 antique dealers call the town home and specialize in art, furniture, and all manner of unique items. They have an important place in the large weekly market that spills forth all around the center of town.

Visitors will also enjoy the historic mansions that have been converted into art galleries. Don’t miss the Hotel Donadei de Campredon , an 18th-century mansion that is now an art museum featuring modern and contemporary art including sculpture, paintings, and photography.

Exposed cliff with red, orange, yellow, and white hues

Roussillon has been a protected village since 1943. With less than 1300 residents, it has no modern development – just cafes, winding lanes, and amazing views.

The village is most known for having the largest ochre deposit in the world, which is found on the south end of town. The yellow, red, and orange hills are hard to believe until you actually step foot on the brightly hued paths. If you want to walk through the unusual landscape ( a significant landmark in the country ), there are 30- or 60-minute routes to choose from, but pick your clothing carefully so you don’t end up with stained pants or shoes.

If you visit Roussillon on Thursday, take the opportunity to visit the small weekly market. It focuses primarily on specialty items such a linens, soaps, wines, and ochre pigments.

Pont du Gard

Three-level ancient Roman aqueduct towering over a river with people in a raft

One of the most popular places to see when touring the South of France is the Pont du Gard . It’s difficult to imagine the sheer size of the 2000-year-old aqueduct until you see it up close.

The three tiers of the impressive Roman ruin tower 160 feet above the Gardon River. In the summer, people flock to kayak and swim in the chilly waters that flow around the aqueduct.

Building covered with ivy and purple wisteria

The old town of Uzes is ringed by circular streets. In the Middle Ages, these streets were walls designed to protect the Duke’s Castle at its heart. Visiting the town, you can still see towers, medieval gardens, the castle, and streets that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in history about 800 years. 

While the towers and medieval structures are impressive, the real appeal of Uzes comes in wandering through its streets and among its limestone buildings. It’s even better if you find yourself in town on a market day.

On market days—Wednesday and Saturday—much of the town feels taken over by the market sprawling through the streets, though is it centered around the Place aux Herbes. Wednesday is focused on food, including locally grown produce and specialties. The Saturday market adds flowers and household items such as linens, housewares, clothes, and jewelry.

At the same time, regular businesses set up shop outdoors and all the sidewalk cafes fill with people. The atmosphere is welcoming and lively.

Ancient bridge extending partially across a river beside historic buildings

Avignon is a lively city teeming with businesses, cafes, a university, and tons of character. The attractions of its historic core have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites thanks to their architecture and the unique events that took place here. 

At the heart of Avignon is the Palace of the Popes, the largest Gothic palace in Europe. In the 14th century, it was the home of the popes when the papacy moved to Avignon from Rome. Seven legitimate popes and, later, two anti-popes ruled the Catholic Church from France while living here. Though it was was once lavishly decorated, the palace was plundered over the centuries. Nevertheless, it remains one of the top places to see in France. 

There are lots of things to do in Avignon beyond the palace as well. Walk along Saint Bénezet bridge (aka Pont d’Avignon), the famous 12th-century bridge to nowhere. Have lunch at one of the restaurants on Place de l’Horloge or stroll through the Parc Rocher des Doms. End your day at Pinotage, a floating wine bar in the Rhone River where you can watch the sunset over the city. 

If you’d like to explore beyond the center, head to Manguin Distillery, which has made its famous pear brandy for over 50 years. On Saturday mornings you can join a distillery tour and taste a variety of their products. You might even see bottles attached to the trees outside where the the pears are actually growing inside the bottles.

Roman temple with numerous marble columns

Nimes is a workaday city with a handful of well-preserved Roman ruins.

Its covered food market,  Les Halles , bustles with energy as locals buy Provencal specialties such as brandade de morue (pureed salt cod and olive oil) or green olives. As with the other markets, there is also plenty of meat and vegetables on offer plus a handful of restaurants where locals gather sipping wine and catching up on the news.

A short walk from the market is one of the ruins, the Maison Carree . It is one of the best-preserved temples in the Roman Empire, which is amazing when you consider that it is over 2000 years old. Nearby, the Arena of Nimes, which dates from 70AD, is a preserved Roman amphitheater where visitors can still walk the ancient arcades. 

Wrap up your trip with a stroll around the gorgeous Les Jardins de la Fontaine, a 18th-century public park with gardens and ponds. If you would rather be indoors, visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Nimes . It is a fantastic museum featuring a collection of 3600 impressive works of fine art and sculpture from Roman times to the Old Masters.

Porquerolles

People swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach

Off the southeastern coast of France, the small island of Porquerolles is a unique getaway. Only about 200 people live on this car-free island where much of the land is part of a national park and nature conservation area.

A 15-minute ferry ride from Hyeres on the French Riviera takes visitors to the port of Porquerolles where you can walk or rent a bike to visit the local beaches, shops, and vineyard. There is also an art gallery and a 14 th -century fort with a beautiful viewpoint. We spent a day relaxing on Plage d’Argent and are already plotting a return.

Colorful fishing boats in a marina with a hilltop building in the background

Cassis is a gem of a town. With stunning natural features, harborside restaurants serving great food, and a dramatic mountain drive, we love it so much that we’ve included it in our southern France travel on two trips.

The town is most noted as a jumping off point to visit the calanques— white limestone cliffs that plunge dramatically into the Mediterranean Sea. Some of them have small beaches that can be visited by hiking in. Sea kayaks and boat tours are also popular ways to see them from a little further away.

If you want to stick a little closer to town, walk the marina area to browse the shops or go to the beach that’s just steps from the center. Relax at one of the cafes with some fresh seafood while you marvel at the colors of all the boats. Consider a sunset drive (or take a taxi) on La Route des Cretes , a breathtaking mountain drive that takes you high above the town for one of the most scenic things to do in Provence .

Hillside village with stone buildings and trees overlooking a valley

The hilltop village of Gordes is one of the cutest in France. The impression it makes is dramatic from the moment you first see it, seeming to tumble down the hill from its perch high above the valley.

Close up, the stone buildings of Gordes are laced together by narrow cobblestone streets that climb or descend the hill, depending on your perspective. Major sites include Gordes Castle, which originally dates to 1031, and the Cellars of Saint Fermin Palace , a site carved out of rock by Gordes residents in the Middle Ages that includes an olive oil mill, cisterns, and more.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Vineyards surrounding a small village with a tall building at its center

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is all about wine. The tiny town not far from Avignon appears to rise up from a hill surrounded in every direction by vineyards.

At its center is part of the chateau built by Pope John XXII in the 14th century as a refuge from the city’s heat in the summer. During their time here, it was the popes who planted the town’s original grapevines. Over the years, the chateau was partially destroyed, but the part that still stands can be seen from miles around.

The tiny village has a selection of good restaurants and medieval houses in its winding lanes. And, of course, there are lots of wine shops and cellars. Many of them offer tastings of the area’s famous wines. Most are red, but there is also a selection of good whites available.

There are also lots of surrounding wine estates that welcome visitors. Chateau des Fines Roches is one of the newer, more commercial estates, but the wines are good and you’re guaranteed to be able to taste at almost any time.

Ancient Roman Theatre of Orange

Ancient theater with stone seats and a statue in the stone wall above the stage

The city of Orange, France, is renowned for its Roman architecture. Its main site, the Ancient Theater of Orange , is astonishingly well preserved for a 2000-year-old structure, and it is still used for special summer performances.

The original statue of the Emperor Augustus still looks down on the crowd from its original niche on the stage. Visitors can climb on the ancient seats and even walk on the historic stage.

Saint-Emilion

Bell tower of a large church as seen from below

The tiny town of Saint-Emilion has welcomed visitors for centuries to sample the rich red wines the area is known for. 

There are nearly 1000 chateaux to choose from in Saint-Emilion, so the decision about where to go can be a hard one.  if you’re not able to make plans in advance, the tourism office can suggest a few that are open the day of your visit. 

Beyond the vineyards, Saint-Emilion is known for its UNESCO-listed Monolithic Church . The underground church was dug out of limestone in the early 12th century in honor of the hermit monk Emilion who lived in a cave on the site 400 years earlier. The tourism office offers daily tours of the church, the catacombs, and related sites, which is the only way to get an inside look at this part of the village’s history.

Wandering the steep alleys of the village is also a great way to spend an afternoon. Stop at a restaurant, browse the shops, and take in the views. L’Envers du Décor is an excellent option for lunch, and you can stop by the historic Les Cordeliers cloisters to enjoy the grounds and taste their range of Crémant de Bordeaux sparkling wines.

Huge stone city gate topped with turrets

Exquisite architecture, fresh seafood, a vibrant city with an historic core, and some of the best wine in the world—these are the things that make Bordeaux one of the best places to visit in the South of France. Even better, the whole city is highly walkable, with pedestrian-only areas and welcoming squares.

There is an endless selection of things to do in Bordeaux . Visit Mirior d’Eau, a giant pool that creates a unique reflection on its surface. Stroll under the trees at Place des Quinconces, the largest city square in France, and visit one of the regular festivals there. For a break, check out the vendors at Les Halles de Bacalan , a modern food hall with over 20 different merchants.

Don’t miss La Cite du Vin , the amazing, interactive wine museum where you can learn all about wine making and sample lots of varietals from around the world. For a slightly different take on imbibing, visit Moon Harbour Distillery —the first whiskey distillery in Bordeaux. Take a tour or do a tasting at its unique facility, a former German World War II submarine bunker.

White-cap waves crashing on a beach with a boardwalk, buildings, and a lighthouse in the distance

Biarritz is all about the ocean. On the coast of southwestern France and just 20 miles from the border with Spain, this luxurious destination in the Basque Country welcomes visitors to enjoy its sun and sand.

Windy Biarritz is the surfing capital of Europe, drawing people from around the world for casual enjoyment as well as competitions. Even if you’re not surfing yourself, it’s fun to watch the riders do their best tricks among the waves.

The seaside destination also has attractions focusing on the ocean. At the Biarritz Aquarium , visitors can see 50 aquariums filled with thousands of species of sea life, including sharks, seals, rays, and turtles. Just down the coast at City of the Ocean , you can try the surfing simulator, experience the virtual reality shark exhibit, or listen to seafaring explorers explain the mysteries of the ocean.

For something a little calmer, enjoy the Grande Plage, try your luck at the Bellevue casino, or explore the Hotel du Palais—a grand hotel that was originally the imperial residence of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz

People eating at a cafe in a city square

A short drive from Biarritz, the coastal town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is where to go in the South of France if you’re in search of relaxation. It’s all about enjoying the beach, surfing, and discovering charming town squares.

Like its northern neighbor Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz has ideal conditions for surfing and sunbathing. Walking along the seawall provides a great vantage point for seeing all the activity.

When you’re ready for a break from the ocean, check out the town squares. One of the most inviting is Place Louis XIV, which has lots of bars and restaurants plus occasional live music and painters who capture the scene en plein air (outside), which is fascinating to watch.

A few steps from the square, you can visit Maison Louis XIV , a 17 th -century home where the Sun King stayed while anticipating his marriage to the Infanta of Spain, Maria Theresa. They married in 1660 at the church of St-Jean-Baptiste nearby, which is also open for visiting.

5 cities to visit in france

Laura Longwell is an award-winning travel blogger and photographer. Since founding Travel Addicts in 2008, she has written hundreds of articles that help over 3 million people a year get the most out of their travel. In that time, she has visited nearly 60 countries on 5 continents, often returning to favorite destinations over and over again. She has a deep love of history, uncovering unexpected attractions, and trying all the good food a place has to offer.

In addition to Travel Addicts, Laura runs a site about her hometown of Philadelphia—Guide to Philly—which chronicles unique things to do and places to see around southeastern Pennsylvania. Her travel tips and advice appear across the web.

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These are the best places to retire in 2024

Looking for better weather, or a place where you can stretch your retirement dollars? You might want to plan a move to one of these countries.

older couple walking in European city

  • Jennifer Graham Kizer
  • April 4, 2024

If you’re planning to retire soon, you may be considering a move to a whole new place . After all, it may be the first time you’re not tied to a job in a specific city . You also might be looking for areas where your retirement budget will stretch the furthest. Or maybe you’re just ready to live in a warmer climate where you’ll never have to shovel snow again!

MORE: Pilot chartered a plane to take 112 friends to Hawaii for his retirement

Best Countries to Retire

And why limit yourself to just the U.S. when there are excellent options all over the world? The 2024 Annual Global Retirement Index is a list of countries with high ratings in seven pertinent categories for retirees: housing (availability and value), cost of living, healthcare, climate, ease of obtaining a visa (and becoming a permanent citizen), affinity (i.e., ability to assimilate into the culture) and development (local politics, infrastructure, banking, etc.).

The list is compiled from sources who actually live in established expat hubs and have first-hand experience with the comfort level of these overseas communities. For each country, they considered the seven categories and assigned them a number between one and 100. The average of those seven numbers determined each country’s place on the index.

According to this index, here are the top 10 countries to retire, in descending order. Read on to discover whether one of them might be your “happily ever after” destination.

10. Colombia

street in Colombia

Colombia came in at No. 10 with a score of 74.7. It earned particularly high marks in the categories of cost of living (98) and climate (87). Its lower scores were in development (60) and affinity (63).

The biggest benefit of Colombia is how affordable it is to live there. According to International Living , your monthly expenses could be as low as $1,000 to $2,000. And if you enjoy the outdoors, there are quite a few activities to explore. There are also plenty of gorgeous parks and cultural festivals.

Do you prefer a particular climate? Colombia offers a wide range of choices, from warm coastal beaches to cool mountain towns to tropical rainforests. In past decades, Colombia acquired a reputation for violence associated with the drug trade. But sources tell the Global Index that over the last two decades, the government has made a good deal of progress in ensuring safety for citizens.

Village in south of France

France placed No. 9 on the list with a score of 74.8. This country scored highest in the areas of development (88) and healthcare (86) and lowest in cost of living (59) and housing (62).

France is renowned for its gourmet food and refined culture. How do you like the idea of a daily shopping trip to a fresh vegetable market, then picking up a baguette at your local boulangerie? If that sounds good to you, France may be worth looking into.

France’s healthcare system is frequently ranked among the top 10 in the world, and those with chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease will find that the treatment is covered throughout the duration of the illness.

If budget is a concern, you’ll have to be intentional about where in France you choose to settle down. Housing costs are high in places like Paris, Cannes and Lyon, but elsewhere in the country the home prices average 34% less than those in the U.S. And the French pay a fraction of the property taxes that Americans pay.

8. Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia came in eighth on this list, with a score of 75.7. Its highest ratings were in cost of living (96) and healthcare (82). Its lowest rating was in the area of visas (56).

If you are content to live in a hot, humid climate year-round (average temperature: 75-90 degrees F), you will find a lot to love in Malaysia. To start with, it’s easily more affordable than living in the U.S.

According to the sources informing the Global Index, housing, transportation, food and entertainment expenses can cost you one-third to one-fifth of what they might be in the U.S. You can live a comfortable lifestyle here — dining out, going to cultural festivals, enjoying the country’s natural beauty — for much less.

Its restaurants are diverse, and its street food scene is famous. And the ethnic fusion of its population is unique; its people have roots in China, India, Portugal, the Netherlands and several other places. That said, it’s easy to assimilate here, since on the western side of the country, the English language is widespread. And Malaysia’s location in central Asia makes it easy to travel to other Asian countries, too.

Santorini Island, Greece

Greece has a gorgeous, mountainous landscape that’s surrounded by sea. You’ll have your choice of which climate you prefer, since it varies in different parts of the country. Though it’s generally warm and mild, there are northern cities with ski resorts. You can also choose between a bustling city or a small village.

Home prices also vary a lot depending on location. But sources for the Global Index have estimated the housing costs to be as much as 75% lower than in the U.S. The cost of living in general ranges from between 30% and 50% below that of America.

Healthy eating is easier here, too. In fact, the Aegean island of Ikaria is a blue zone location, where people are known for their longevity. But if you do struggle with health issues, be intentional about where you settle. The high quality doctors tend to be situated in the more populated cities.

A carefree café culture is going strong in Greece, and expats looking for a slower lifestyle will fit right in.

Otovalo, Equador

Ecuador came in at No. 6 on the list with a score of 77.4. It earned its highest ratings for cost of living (91) and climate (87), but scored lower in the area of development (56).

This small South American country has a temperate climate year-round. Foreigners often settle in the mountain highlands, where the temperature ranges from the high 60s to the low 70s. This allows people to enjoy the beautiful landscape and participate in lots of outdoor activities. There are 14 designated National Parks in Ecuador.

A couple can live comfortably for $2,000 to $2,500 per month, including housing, food and public transportation. Healthcare is also affordable, accessible and high-quality: It costs about $95 per month for a couple. An added bonus: Ecuador uses the American dollar for currency.

Madrid city skyline, Spain

Spain made it into the top five with a score of 79.7. It earned high ratings for affinity (89), development (88) and healthcare (88). Its lowest rating was in the housing category (68).

Whether you’re looking for mild coastal temperatures along the Mediterranean Sea, sunny weather in the Canary Islands or a snowy area in the North, Spain has a climate option for everyone. No matter where you live in Spain, you’ll enjoy a culturally rich lifestyle full of history, art and culinary delights.

You can live comfortably on $2,000 to $3,000 per month, though this will depend on which area you choose. Home costs in Madrid or Barcelona are much higher than in Valencia or Andalucia.

Once you’ve lived in Spain for five years, you automatically attain resident status and can opt into the public healthcare system. Prior to that, you’ll need to buy private medical insurance, but it can cost as little as $100 per month.

Skyline of Panama City, Panama

Panama placed fourth in this year’s index with a score of 82.8. Its highest-scoring categories were visa (98), affinity (86) and development (86). Its lowest-scoring area was housing (72).

Panama’s fast-growing economy (which uses American currency) makes it the wealthiest country in Central America. Panama has an excellent international airport, which makes travel easy, and it’s just a 3-hour flight from Miami.

Beautiful beaches and a sunny, mild climate will make you feel like you are on vacation year-round, and there are no hurricanes in Panama. The healthcare system is affordable and high-quality.

If you choose to live in the capitol, Panama City, you’ll be in the midst of thriving art and culinary scenes. And it’s a place where you can live a cosmopolitan lifestyle for much less than you’d spend in the U.S. One expat claims to live comfortably on $2,700 per month .

Street in Mexico

Mexico earned an 80 or above in every category except housing (74) and ultimately landed in the third-place spot with an overall score of 83. It scored highest in the categories of visa (89) and affinity (88).

Why did Mexico perform so well in this index? If you’ve vacationed in Mexico, you know it has a warm and sunny climate and lovely beaches. But all types of geographical areas can be found in Mexico, from desert towns to bustling cities to jungle areas. Inland communities are temperate year-round, while coastal communities can get hot and humid in the summer. You’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to moving to Mexico.

Because life is so affordable in this central American country, you can enjoy a higher standard of living and find a comfortable home for less. Even in a city, you can rent an apartment for $400 per month , or buy a house for $200,000. And the cost of healthcare  is about 50% lower in Mexico than it is in America.

2. Portugal

Lisbon's Avenida da Liberdade

Portugal won last year’s top spot in the Annual Global Retirement Index, and it came in at second place this year (missing No. 1 by only a fraction of a point) with a score of 83.2. This small European country on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula scored highest in development (93) and in healthcare (92). Its lowest-scoring category was housing (64).

You might come to Portugal for its sunny climate and mild winters, but you’ll say for many other reasons. This popular spot for foreign retirees is extremely safe (strict gun laws keep gun violence down) and welcoming (with an older population and lots of English-speaking citizens).

Portugal’s foremost draw might be its low cost of living, as a couple can live comfortably in inland areas for about $1,700 a month and in larger cities like Lisbon for about $2,100 to $2,200 a month.

This country also boasts one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Expats can access both private and public healthcare (though they must start out with private insurance for the duration of their temporary visa).

1. Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Topping the Annual Global Retirement Index this year was Costa Rica, with a score of 83.57. It earned its highest marks in the affinity category (96) and for visa ease (94) and healthcare (89). It scored lowest in the category of housing (66).

About 70,000 U.S. expatriates have already discovered the benefits of living in Costa Rica, and many of them are retirees. While the cost of living here is higher than in other Central American countries, it’s still more affordable to live comfortably in this country than in the U.S.

According to expats already living here, you’ll need a total budget of between $2,000 and $3,500 per month. Popular expat areas are in San Jose and the Central Valley, which both feature great weather, good healthcare options (both public and private) and lots of shopping.

But no matter where you live in this country, there are gorgeous landscapes to explore. A quarter of Costa Rica has the protected status of national parks or wildlife refuges. So, if you’re looking for a place where you can enjoy the outdoors year-round, alongside many other expats like yourself, Costa Rica may be your No. 1 choice, too.

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5 cities to visit in france

Solar eclipse 2024: Follow the path of totality

Solar eclipse, here's what time the eclipse will be visible in your region.

Emily Alfin Johnson

5 cities to visit in france

Visitors look through a pair of oversized eclipse glasses set up in the town square on Sunday in Houlton, Maine. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

Visitors look through a pair of oversized eclipse glasses set up in the town square on Sunday in Houlton, Maine.

On Monday, a solar eclipse will cross from Texas to Maine, putting over 30 million people in the path of totality , with a partial eclipse visible briefly for millions more.

Monday's weather forecast for the path of totality

Totality in the U.S. starts around 1:30 p.m. CT/2:30 ET and continues until 2:30 p.m. CT/3:30 p.m. ET, lasting for a few minutes in each location.

The folks at NASA have a detailed breakdown for anyone in the U.S. Just pop in your ZIP code .

If you're lucky enough to find yourself in the path of totality, you can also find a minute-by-minute breakdown of when totality begins in your area, here.

More resources to enjoy the eclipse

  • Sharing the eclipse with tiny humans?  Check out these  kid-friendly total solar eclipse learning guides  from Vermont Public's  But Why,  and this great explainer from KERA Kids on  the difference between a solar and a lunar eclipse .
  • Feeling whimsical?  Here are three ways to  sprinkle a little magic into your eclipse experience .
  • Plan to wander into the wild for the best view?   Here are some tips from outdoor experts.
  • Tips from Bill Nye  on the best ways to enjoy the eclipse.

NPR will be sharing highlights here from across the NPR Network throughout the day Monday if you're unable to get out and see it in real time.

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  2. 5 Best Cities to Visit in France

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    Don't forget to check out our guide to the best times to visit France to plan your next French vacation. 1. Paris. Image: Daniele D'Andreti / Unsplash. Paris is obviously one of the top cities to visit in France. Spend a few days checking out bucket list sights like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

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    7. Dune du Pilat is France's most scenic place to camp. Soaring more than 100m (328ft) above sea level, the otherworldly Dune du Pilat is Europe's tallest sand dune. Sheltered by the Arguin sandbank, its waters are much gentler than further up the Atlantic coast on the western side of Cap Ferret.

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    16. Marseille. One of Europe's oldest cities and France's second largest city, Marseille is a major Mediterranean seaport located off the southeast coast of France. Once a prominent Greek harbor, there remains a classic edginess to the city. But it's evolved into a much richer, interesting culture.

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    French cities are well designed to receive visitors, with plenty of tourist services. Travelers can rely on efficient public transportation, as well as an extensive choice of hotels and other accommodations. Pinpoint the top places to visit with our list of the best cities in France. On This Page: 1. Paris.

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    Tourists may wander around Le Hameau de la Reine, the make-believe country village created by the last Queen as a way to escape the formality of court life. The hamlet includes a lake, orchard, dovecote, and originally had a working dairy. 5. Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. Mont Saint-Michel.

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    10. Alsace. Alsace is the region bordering the German border, in northeastern France. Cities in this region are distinct because while they are definitely French, visitors will notice certain German influences. The capital of the region is Strasbourg, followed by the city of Colmar.

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    6. Rouen. One of the most interesting places to visit in northern France, Rouen is a delight for both history buffs and aficionados of half-timbered houses. A relatively small town to some of the other cities in France, Rouen is a journey back to the middle ages.

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    Cassis is a sleepy fishing village in the South of France and a wonderful destination for hikers and swimmers. Its relaxed environment makes it one of the best places to visit in France for people who just want to chill out for a few days. The rocky beaches are a major attraction, as are the limestone cliffs.

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    6. Marseille, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur. Located on the balmy Mediterranean coast, Marseille is the second-largest city in France. The city Vieux-Port (Old Port) is still considered the main attraction. Here you'll discover vibey street music, delicious cuisines, cafes, and art exhibitions around the area.

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    3. Marseille. Marseille is one of the main cities in Southern France and another of the most beautiful French cities to visit. Bathed by the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is essentially a port city with a particular character and soul. The capital of the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is far from the clichés of Provence.However, it is a great destination for sightseeing, cultural or ...

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    Best Things to Do in Northern France 1. Be Moved by Mont Saint-Michel. Be moved by Mont Saint-Michel, the wonder of the Western World and one of the best places to visit in Northern France.This superb Benedictine abbey and renowned center of pilgrimage is set on a rocky island at the mouth of the Couesnon River, where the regions of Normandy and Brittany meet.

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    The most famous fountain in Aix, Fontaine de la Rotonde. Aix-en-Provence is one of the best cities in the South of France to visit. Often called the City of a Thousand Fountains, Aix is known for its water features, markets, and beautiful pedestrian lanes and squares dotted with plane trees.

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    Adobe. France placed No. 9 on the list with a score of 74.8. This country scored highest in the areas of development (88) and healthcare (86) and lowest in cost of living (59) and housing (62).

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