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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.

French Alps

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

france top tourist cities

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). Paris also offers unparalleled dining and shopping scenes, plus 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.

france top tourist cities

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.

france top tourist cities

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.

france top tourist cities

Known as the "Venice of the Alps" for its many winding canals, this enchanting town overlooks the northern tip of Lake Annecy in southeastern France. Here, travelers can admire the pastel-colored buildings and cobblestone streets of Vieille Ville, Annecy's Old Town, or explore the town's namesake lake on a boat tour. Meanwhile, couples won't want to miss a chance to stroll hand in hand across Annecy's romantic Pont des Amours (Lover's Bridge). Just don't forget to allot time to visit Annecy's historic structures, including Palais de l'Île and the Château d’Annecy, the former residence of the Counts of Geneva.

france top tourist cities

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 less than 10 miles from the coast of the Mediterranean, a beach break is always 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.

france top tourist cities

The capital of the Alsace region offers the perfect mix of French and German cultures thanks to its position 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, including the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. For an extra dose of magic, arrive in December to see one of Europe's oldest Christmas markets.

france top tourist cities

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.

france top tourist cities

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 if you want to be awed, 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.

france top tourist cities

If you love to ski, chances are you'll enjoy shredding powder at Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. In the bustling Chamonix (the main place to stay if you want to ski at Mont Blanc), you'll have easy access to one of the longest off-piste runs 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.

france top tourist cities

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 pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, and dining on some of its rich cuisine.

france top tourist cities

Dubbed la Ville Rose (the Pink City) 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.

france top tourist cities

Located on the French Riviera about 8 miles east of Nice, the tiny hilltop village of Èze makes for an excellent day trip. 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.

france top tourist cities

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 wineries and home to 4,000-plus restaurants, several of which boast Michelin stars, making it especially appealing to oenophiles and foodies.

france top tourist cities

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.

france top tourist cities

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.

france top tourist cities

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.

france top tourist cities

In the foothills of southern France's Pyrenees mountains sits charming Lourdes, where in 1858, a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen several apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Today, it is an important Catholic pilgrimage site, with millions making the journey here every year. But one does not have to be religious to enjoy the stunning architecture and fascinating history behind top sights like the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes or Château Fort de Lourdes. Meanwhile, for incredible views of the town and its surrounding peaks, take a funicular ride to the top of Pic du Jer.

france top tourist cities

Teeming with joie de vivre (a French phrase used to express an exuberant enjoyment of life), Antibes on the Côte d'Azur is packed with great beaches, gorgeous art and gigantic yachts. Antibes was beloved by many notable figures like Pablo Picasso, whose works can be found in his former studio (which happens to be an ancient Greek castle) that is now the Musée Picasso. The museum is located in Antibes' Old Town, a picturesque district full of local shops, markets and some of the city's best restaurants. The scenic, 3-mile Le Sentier du Littoral takes visitors from Old Town to the chic Cap d'Antibes area.

france top tourist cities

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 grueling) 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 pork tenderloin) and brocciu (cheese).

france top tourist cities

Famous for its annual film festival in May, Cannes is just as impressive (and much less congested) at 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 nearly 2-mile-long promenade, or sit down for an exquisite meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Feeling lucky? Stop by one of Cannes' casinos.

france top tourist cities

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, snorkeling and dolphin-spotting opportunities.

france top tourist cities

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 Saint-Bénezet (also called 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.

france top tourist cities

You'll feel as if you've stepped back in time during a stroll within the fortified walls of Carcassonne – in fact, the city even inspired a board game of the same name. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed city was restored to its former medieval glory in the 1800s. In the upper, older part of town known as La Cité, you can tour storybook streets and magnificent cathedrals. And in the lower and newer (but equally historic) Bastide Saint-Louis area, you'll find various museums, shops and cafes. Before you leave, take a mini boat cruise on Canal du Midi.

france top tourist cities

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.

france top tourist cities

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 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.

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france top tourist cities

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france top tourist cities

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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.

france top tourist cities

Eduardo_oliveros/Getty Images

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.

ANDREYGUDKOV/Getty Images

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.

Milena Pigdanowicz-Fidera/Getty Images

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

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

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.

Simon Koh/EyeEm/Getty Images

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.

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View on Paloma Beach near Villefranche-sur-Mer on french riviera, cote d'azur, France

The 17 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

Photograph: Shutterstock.com

There’s a reason France has been the most visited country in the world for a number of years now. It quite simply has it all. And you’re not confined to just one kind of vibe: wherever you go in France, you’ll get something totally different. That’s the magic of it. 

Looking for the ultimate city break? Paris has got you covered. A port stay in a seriously up-and-coming travel destination? Marseille is waiting. Beaches, bougie bars and Michelin-starred dining? It’s time to head to Nice. Whether you’re looking for picturesque rural villages or remote towns away from civilisation, you’ll find it here. Here’s our top picks for where to visit in France. 

RECOMMENDED: 🌆 The best   French cities to visit 🏖 The best   beaches in France ☀️ Where to stay on the French Riviera 📍 The best city breaks in Europe

Clodagh Kinsella is a travel writer based in Paris, France. At Time Out, all of our  travel guides  are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our  editorial guidelines .  This guide includes affiliate links, which have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, see our  affiliate guidelines . 

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

Best places to visit in France

Paris

You sort of have to see it to believe it when it comes to Paris. You can’t quite get why this city is so magical until you’re there. And sure, cram your schedule full of Eiffel Tower climbing and trips to the Louvre, but make sure you factor in some time to just sit, order a coffee or a rosé, and just watch the day go by. That’s the best way to do Paris: slowly.

Discover Paris:

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

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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. 

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📍 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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Carcasonne

If you want somewhere that isn’t (completely) overrun with tourists, check out Carcassonne, a delightful little town in Aude. There’s the famous castle, sure, which is actually a properly good tourist attraction, completely beautiful and not too busy if you go in the morning. But there’s also the beautiful Cavayére Lake just a short one-euro bus ride out of the town, which is really quiet even in peak season, and has tons of kids activities and a more kid-free area too. 

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.

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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10 best places to visit in France

Nicola Williams

May 14, 2024 • 10 min read

france top tourist cities

Admire the striking coastal scenery near Normandy's Étretat © Raphael Rivest / Shutterstock

Nicola is one of the writers on Lonely Planet's latest France guidebook . Here she shares ten incredible places to plan a French holiday.

So belle is France , that where on earth do you start when it comes to planning a trip to Europe’s unapologetically gourmet, cultural and artistic titan?

From vertiginous peaks and cut-throat valleys in the colossal French Alps and  Pyrenees  to sun-spangled blue vistas and chiseled cliffs along the country’s 4853km (3015 miles) of coastline, L’Hexagone (as the French call their hexagon-shaped land in western Europe) is bestowed with remarkable natural treasures. Pair this with a Herculean cache of human creations – ancient Roman towns, art-rich cities, a capital that is the last word in romance, and rural, jack-in-the-box hilltop villages – and you'd need years to really see it all.

To ensure a sweet taste of French art de vivre , move slowly between map pins – by train, bicycle or car in rural regions. Spend days, not hours, in each place and factor in ample time for mooching open-air markets, dégustation (tasting) with growers and endless lunch lazing.

Here are the 10 best places to do just that between sights and activities.

Many people stroll along pathways lined with cherry blossom trees in bloom at the Jardin des Plantes in springtime

Best for a city break in spring

Elegant Paris , with its Haussmann boulevards and world-class art museums, is a heartthrob at any time of year: the city panorama from basilica-crowned Montmartre on a snowy winter day; cycling or playing the flaneur along the Seine or Canal St-Martin in fall;  Cimetière du Père Lachaise after the rain; Sainte-Chapelle ’s soul-piercing stained glass on a glorious summer afternoon…

But it is March and April’s iridescent, sun-dappled days that truly embody Paris’ unique energy and romance. Fresh goat cheese, creamy Saint-Marcellin and the tail-end of winter’s Mont d’Or appear in fromageries like Quatrehomme and Paroles de Fromagers (with cheese school and upcoming new cheese museum). Cherry blossoms paint Jardin des Tuileries , Jardin des Plantes and local secret Parc de Sceaux pink. Cafe terraces bloom, rooftop bars and restaurants (like vegetarian Créatures atop central department store Galeries Lafayette) emerge from hibernation. Paris’ festival calendar explodes.

Planning tip: Ditch the metro for blue-sky exploration along hundreds of miles of dedicated, two-way cycling lanes. Rent a public-sharing Vélib bike or a free-floating e-bike operated by Dott, Lime and Tier; download the appropriate app to locate, pay and unlock.

Read more:  11 things only the locals know in France (and now you do too)

2. Arcachon

Best for old-school seaside charm

Artists fell for the shimmering blues, grays and greens of northern France’s Côte d’Opale in the 19th century, and the Côte d’Azur ’s golden light in the 20th. Neither has lost its razzle-dazzle. But for retro chic, Arcachon on the Atlantic Coast is the masterpiece. A deep, golden-sand beach laces the seafront of this unpretentious seaside town, with four quarters named after the seasons and a shoal of tasty seafood restaurants serving locally farmed oysters. Reserve a table at Chez Pierre .

Lingering for several days? Pair bucket-and-spade beach days with a coastal two-wheel spin to Europe’s mightiest sand dune,  Dune du Pilat , and a boat trip across the bay to Cap Ferret, with a story-book lighthouse to clamber up, pine-scented beaches to surf and a traditional oyster-farming village to explore. If sea-kayaking rocks your boat, paddle with Arcachon Kayak Aventure to Île aux Oiseaux, a chameleon of a bird island that almost disappears at high tide.

A rugged trail winds through a rocky, grassy alpine landscape, with snow-dusted mountains in the distance

3. Parc National de la Vanoise

Best for hiking and wildlife encounters

Fizzing with adrenaline and natural beauty, France’s oldest national park embraces 529 sq km (204 sq miles) of mountain peaks, glaciers and pastoral valleys in the French Alps . World-class ski resorts Val d’Isère and Tignes (both open late November to April) are household names, particularly among powder addicts and springtime skiers. But it’s the hundreds of miles of summertime hiking trails (including the mythical GR5 from Lake Geneva in Haute-Savoie to Nice on the Med) and wildlife-watching ops that pull the real punch.

Well-marked trails spaghetti beneath 107 mighty peaks above 3000m (9842ft), home to France’s largest colony of wild ibex. Don’t miss the dramatic day hike to Lac des Vaches (“Lake of Cows”), a lake at an altitude of 2318m (7605ft) that doubles as pasture for grazing cows in August when the lake completely dries. Other months, “walk on water” across a 210m-long (689ft) boardwalk of stone slabs traversing its moraine-fringed length.

Planning tip: Pick up park information and trail maps at the Maison du Parc in the small alpine village of Pralognan-la-Vanoise, a 1½-hour drive from Chambéry in Savoie.

4. The Loire Valley

Best for romantic château-hopping

Nowhere does châteaux like France. For first-timers, the château-strewn Loire Valley – an hour's hop by train from Paris to Tours – assures instant immersion. Roman oenophiles first planted vines on the banks of the River Loire (look for Sancerre, Chinon, St-Nicolas de Bourgeuil and Montlouis-sur-Loire on wine lists). Then French royalty had a ball in megalomaniacal pleasure palaces and weekend hunting retreats during the Renaissance: 440-room Château de Chambord , garden-graced Château de Villandry and  Chaumont-sur-Loire , and hopelessly romantic Château de Chenonceau must be seen to be believed.

Forget traipsing through endless fusty rooms filled with dated trappings. Château-hopping in this emblematic valley is about observing deer at dawn on Chambord’s colossal forested estate, watching foxhounds wolf down 100kg (220lbs) of meat in 10 seconds flat at Château de Cheverny , and feasting on five centuries of history at Gothic-to-Renaissance Château de Blois during a son-et-lumière (sound-and-light show). To bond with grassroots river life, navigate the Loire in a traditional  flat-bottomed toue and overnight in a bivouac camp on its riverbanks.

Planning tip: Château-hop by bike. Research cycling routes, bike rental, cyclist-friendly accommodations et al with Loire à Vélo . Join the dots between castles around Blois with Les Châteaux à Vélo cycling trails.

Floor-to-ceiling shelving displays hundreds of wine bottles for sale in the shop inside La Cité du Vin wine museum.

5. Bordeaux

Best wine region for tasting

Dégustation (tasting) is an essential part of daily life in France’s celebrated wine regions:  Burgundy , Bordeaux, Champagne , Alsace , the Loire and Rhône Valleys, Provence and Languedoc . But it’s the handsome wine city of Bordeaux – where English merchants rolled barrels of claret (red wine) from quayside to ship in the 15th century and winegrowers stunned the world with mind-blowing Médoc and St-Émilion reds three centuries on – that pairs top-drawer vintages with easily-accessible visits around ancestral estates.

Memorable stops on a tasting grand tour around Bordeaux include the “Guggenheim of wine”  La Cité du Vin ; a wine flight at the superlative  Bar à Vin inside Maison du Vin de Bordeaux; backstage cellar tours in town at Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion  and out of town at Château Lynches-Bages (with state-of-the-art winemaking facilities designed by the architect son of Pei, creator of the Louvre glass pyramid).

Planning tip: Reserve cellar tours and lunch tables well in advance. In St-Émilion, dine among sun-soaked vines at Château Troplong-Mondot’s Les Belles Perdrix vineyard restaurant. In the Médoc,  Nomade is the wine lover’s gourmet secret.

6. Normandy

Best northern region for art fiends and foodies

From prehistoric cave art at Lascaux to the Louvre’s Mona Lisa , France’s illustrious art portfolio spans all eras and genres. In northern France, Normandy’s extraordinary light spawned impressionism. French painter Claude Monet painted and repainted Rouen’s masterpiece cathedral obsessively in the late 19th century; ditto for sunrise in UNESCO port town Le Havre and backyard water lilies on his flowery country estate in Giverny .

Admire impressionism’s many Norman subjects from all angles on an art lover’s pilgrimage. Set up your easel to capture Étretat ’s iconic white chalk cliffs on canvas. Wade across sand at low tide to visit Gothic abbey Mont St-Michel . Hop between art galleries in fashionable Honfleur and among oyster beds in the picture-postcard fishing village of St-Vaast-la-Hougue. Don’t miss Camembert: a visit to the village’s Ferme du Champ Secret – where rounds of buttery AOP Camembert cheese are still made with unpasteurized milk fresh from the farm’s herd of Normande cows – is unforgettable.

Many small sailing boats are moored in the Port of Cannes, with traditional French houses built up the hill behind

7. Côte d’Azur

Best for train travel (and winter sunshine)

When the urge hits to rattle past a cinematic mirage of vineyards, fruit orchards and indigo blue water, ride the rails aboard a slow train along the Côte d’Azur (“Azure Coast”). Beach-blessed stops on the coastal route along the Med between unsung Hyères and Italianate Menton (lemons galore!) include red-carpet Cannes , Picasso’s Antibes , ochre-hued fishing village Villefranche-sur-Mer , the seaside wedge of hilltop village Èze , and Monaco , the world's second-smallest country. Embrace lazy beach days, lively bar nights, sensational modern-art museums, historic gardens and open-air markets in spades.

The ultimate train journey south? A couchette in a sleeper aboard the revived Train Bleu (“Blue Train”) from Paris to Nice , beloved by 19th-century hivernants  (winter vacationers). From 1896 onwards they began arriving in the Riviera capital by train in search of warmth, sunshine and nourishing sea air.

Planning tip: Pair coastal train trips with an inland rail adventure: to the perfume-making town of Grasse , off-grid into Côte d’Azur backcountry on the Train des Merveilles (“Train of Marvels”), or back in time from Nice to Digne-les-Bains aboard the narrow-gauge Train des Pignes .

Read more:  The 8 most spectacular train journeys in France

8. Rocamadour

Best for a hilltop-village family adventure

The Luberon in Provence is renowned for its flush of hilltop villages (foodie Bonnieux, chateau-capped Lacoste, and the scenic hike from lavender-stitched Abbaye de Sénanque to eagle-nest Gordes are undeniably gorgeous). Yet moving west, it is the less fabled Lot where the tourist horde suddenly dissipates, and the natural grandeur and majesty of medieval villages take rightful center stage, strategically perched atop vertical crags and outcrops. 

Cliff-hanger Rocamadour, an ancient stop on the epic pilgrimage route from Rome to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, has the epicurean bonus of producing its own eponymous cheese. It's crafted on goat farms such as La Borie d’Imbert , which opens its doors to fromage curios and goat-loving kids. Pair with tree trampolining (yes, really) at Saute-Mouton and wild swimming from pebble beaches along the frisky Lot and Dordogne rivers for an assured, no-holds-barred family adventure.

A red car drives around a bend on a narrow road alongside a towering cliff-face

Best for open-road escapes

Journeys are measured in hours, not miles, on Corsica – nicknamed Île de Beauté (“Island of Beauty”) for good reason. Golden beaches, turquoise coves and fire-red rocks color road trips here, punctuated with unhurried stops at time-forgotten hilltop villages and ancient churches, prehistoric relics, wineries and an overdose of foodie temptations.

With the exception of nose-to-tail August (when French holidaymakers also hit Corsica for their traditional summer break in the sun), there is no lovelier place to take your foot off the pedal and cruise through natural landscapes so beautiful you could weep. Narrow, serpentine coastal roads and torturously steep mountain roads infuse journeys with a heart-pounding dash of trepidation; and there’s bags of outdoor action (hiking, biking, sea kayaking) to let off steam. Bookworms take note, Corsican beaches (looking at you Bonifacio , uninhabited Lavezzi islands and Porto Vecchio) are sublime.

Planning tip: Add Corsican polyphony to your playlist to enjoy on the road: I Muvrini, Cantu U Populu Corsu and Voce di Corsica are classic artists.

10. Lorraine

Best for history geeks (and something different)

Few linger in Lorraine, the industrial underdog in northeastern France with ample contemporary allure. History buffs naturally gravitate to Verdun’s WWI battlefields and the well-marked Remembrance Circuit, a 25km (15-mile) driving and cycling route along the Somme River, where one of WWI’s bloodiest battles was fought in 1916. But there’s so much more to enthrall and thrill. See the striking Centre Pompidou in Metz , and  Nancy ’s wondrous art nouveau architecture and neoclassical central square, best soaked up over alfresco coffee or an early evening apéro (predinner drink). Take an after-dark guided tour of the straight-out-a-sci-fi-movie  Parc du Haut Fourneau U4 ironworks in Uckange and experience bucolic green escapes in the gloriously people-empty Hautes-Vosges mountains. Embrace the quiet and difference.

Keep planning your trip to France:

Choose the best time to go to France for your perfect vacation Check out these budget-friendly tips before you book Save our kid-friendly guide to France

This article was first published Jun 12, 2012 and updated May 14, 2024.

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Inside the walls of Provins, a commune in the Seine-et-Marne department in the Île-de-France region in north-central France., License Type: media, Download Time: 2024-05-24T21:21:51.000Z, User: bfreeman_lonelyplanet, Editorial: false, GL: 65050, netsuite: Online Editorial, full: Why visit Provins, name: Bailey Freeman

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PlanetWare.com

26 Best Places to Visit in France

Written by Lisa Alexander Updated Jan 19, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Author Lisa Alexander studied and lived in Paris, and has traveled extensively around the country.

The French affectionately call their homeland "l'Hexagone" because of its distinct six-sided shape. Each corner of France has its own unique character: the rugged and outdoorsy French Alps ; sun-drenched and slow-paced Provence ; the glamorous and gorgeous Côte d'Azur ; and idyllic Alsace , a pastoral region where storybook hamlets are tucked away in the vine-covered rolling hills.

View over Paris with the Eiffel Tower

Paris and Versailles are must-see destinations for a first trip to France. Other classic travel itineraries include stops at fashionable seaside resorts, fairy-tale castles, and glorious Gothic cathedrals.

More off-the-beaten-path experiences are found in the countryside, such as at farmhouses in Burgundy , fishing villages in Brittany , and thermal spas in the Pyrenees Mountains .

From cultured cities to pristine nature sites, France offers endless tourist attractions . Discover this fascinating and diverse country with our list of the best places to visit in France.

2. The Charming Countryside of Provence

3. côte d'azur, 4. versailles, 5. mont saint-michel in normandy, 6. the châteaux of the loire valley, 7. strasbourg's unesco-listed historic center, 8. seaside towns & resorts in brittany, 9. biarritz & saint-jean-de-luz, 10. chartres cathedral: a gem of medieval architecture, 11. joan of arc monuments in chinon, rouen & orléans, 12. quaint villages of the alsace region, 13. walled medieval city of carcassonne, 14. mont-blanc & annecy in the french alps, 15. unesco world heritage sites in reims, 16. prehistoric caves in the dordogne & the pyrenees, 17. rocamadour: a medieval pilgrimage destination, 18. bordeaux & saint-émilion, 19. the burgundy region: quintessential france, 20. cirque de gavarnie in the pyrenees mountains, 21. lourdes: france's biggest catholic pilgrimage site, 22. gourmet restaurants & cultural attractions in lyon, 23. belle époque spa towns, 24. gascony region & toulouse in the south of france, 25. the camargue, 26. island of corsica, map of best places to visit in france.

Paris Cityscape including Hôtel des Invalides and the Eiffel Tower

Appreciated for its elegance and joie de vivre, Paris is a grand European capital filled with architectural masterpieces like the Eiffel Tower and the Notre-Dame Cathedral .

Reflecting the city's rich heritage, the Louvre (one of the top museums in Paris ) contains an exceptional fine arts collection, while the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie display treasures of French Impressionist art.

Other charms of Paris are its atmospheric medieval quarters and graceful boulevards. Quintessential tourist experiences include shopping at bookshops in the Latin Quarter , strolling the Champs-Elysées , and people-watching from a sidewalk café terrace on the Boulevard Saint-Germain-de-Prés .

Lavender fields in the Alpes de Haute Provence

In contrast to the grey skies of Paris and northern France, the charming region of Provence basks in bright Mediterranean sunshine most of the year. This rural area feels untouched by the modern world and has a rugged, earthy appeal.

The rolling hills are covered with a patchwork of small farms, olive groves, sunflowers, and lavender fields. Fragrant rosemary, sage, and thyme and other wild herbs grow here in abundance and enliven the local cuisine.

In this dreamy landscape, Impressionist painters found inspiration to create vibrant works of art.

The Charming Countryside of Provence

Visitors are enchanted by the villages perchés , which crown Provence's hilltops. Two favorite destinations are Saint-Paul-de-Vence , a picture-perfect walled medieval town (near many Côte d'Azur tourist spots , such as Eze) and Gordes , which is among the top places to see in the Luberon .

In the heart of Provence, traditional ambience is found on the tree-shaded streets and outdoor cafés of Aix-en-Provence , at the festivals of Arles , and by the old seaport of Marseilles .

Also not-to-be missed are the Palais de Papes in Avignon ; the legendary beach resort of Saint-Tropez ; and the Roman theater in Orange , one of the amazing sites of the Haut-Vaucluse .

Villefranche-sur-Mer (Day Trip from Nice) on the Côte d'Azur

Also known as the French Riviera, the Côte d'Azur is a glamorous stretch of Mediterranean coastline named for its deep azure-blue waters. The skies are often a mesmerizing cerulean hue as well, thanks to the sunny weather most of the year in this area of southern France.

Stretching roughly from Saint-Tropez (overlapping with the Provence region) to Menton , less than 30 kilometers from the border with Italy, the Côte d'Azur has been a fashionable seaside resort destination since the early 19th century.

Spring and autumn bring milder weather and a quieter, more relaxing atmosphere.

The Côte d'Azur has something for everyone . Nice is the place to enjoy the good life, visit art museums, and stroll along cobblestone streets and palm-fringed boulevards. Within a short drive from Nice are places to visit as day trips , such as splendid waterfront villas and top-notch art museums.

Among the most famous French Riviera tourist attractions are Cannes , which has a dazzling beachfront promenade and an alluring Old Town; and Monaco , a tiny royal principality that is synonymous with luxury and decadence. Both Cannes and Monaco feature five-star hotels, acclaimed restaurants, and yacht-filled marinas.

Sun worshippers flock to Saint-Tropez , a happening summer vacation spot with exclusive private beaches, as well as public beaches that appeal to regular tourists. Vacationers appreciate Antibes for its expansive sandy beaches, atmospheric medieval quarter, and fabulous Picasso Museum housed in a castle overlooking the sea.

Apollo Fountain in the Versailles Gardens

A short train ride from Paris is the UNESCO-listed Château de Versailles . Built for Louis XIV (the "Sun King"), this opulent 17th-century palace is a testament to the glory and absolute power of the French monarch.

The château's splendid Baroque façade, dazzling Hall of Mirrors , and fountain-adorned formal gardens allow visitors to imagine a scene of France's bygone royal court.

Versailles immerses visitors into the extravagance of France's Ancien Régime , the glittering world where Marie-Antoinette hosted lavish balls and garden parties.

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.

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is a highlight of the Normandy region, a pastoral landscape of apple orchards, woodlands, and cow pastures. This unmissable tourist attraction ranks number one on the long list of Normandy travel destinations , which includes stellar sights such as historic castles and picture-perfect towns.

Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in France. The UNESCO-listed abbey is perched on the hilltop of an islet in the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel and is considered a marvel of Gothic architecture.

The abbey church was an important medieval pilgrimage site on the "Way of Saint James" route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Modern-day pilgrims still make the journey here, crossing the Bay of Saint-Michel by foot at low tide.

Visiting Mont Saint-Michel is a spirit-lifting experience. Tourists may attend religious services, concerts, and cultural events at this sublime historic abbey.

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

Like the scene of a fairy tale, magnificent castles are scattered throughout the densely forested landscape of the Loire Valley. Stretching for 280 kilometers, from Sully-sur-Loire to Chalonnes-sur-Loire in Anjou, the Loire Valley is the largest UNESCO-listed site in France .

The region boasts an incredibly rich cultural heritage. During the 15th and 16th centuries, France's kings built sumptuous country retreats here purely for entertainment and enjoyment.

Extravagant châteaux, such as the grandiose Château de Chambord and the emblematic Château de Chenonceau , offer insight into the opulence of the Renaissance-era French court.

French nobles and elites also built stately manor houses, such as the majestic Château of Cheverny and the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau in an idyllic setting with a water-filled moat.

For families with kids, the M ini-Châteaux Park in Amboise is a marvelous destination. Set in two hectares of woodlands, the amusement park features 41 replicas of Loire châteaux built on a 1/25 scale. Children love exploring the kid-sized castles designed with authentic details.

Strasbourg's historic center

Quaint and cultured, Strasbourg enchants visitors with its old-world charm . The entire historic center of Strasbourg, the Grande-Île , is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

When stepping foot into this mostly pedestrian area, one enters the world of centuries past. Medieval cobblestone lanes and narrow alleyways invite travelers to discover a delightful maze of pastel-painted half-timbered houses, ancient churches, and public squares filled with outdoor café tables.

At the heart of Strasbourg, the cathedral amazes all who admire its breathtakingly ornate façade.

The cathedral is within easy walking distance of many top tourist attractions, like the Maison des Tanneurs , a fine-dining restaurant in a classified Historic Monument; the 15th-century Maison Kammerzell , considered a gem of Alsatian Renaissance architecture; and the Eglise de Saint-Thomas , a 12th-century church that played an important role during the Protestant Reformation.

To soak up the quaint ambience of Strasbourg, be sure to wander around one of the most picturesque quarters of the Grande-Île, the Quartier des Tanneurs ("La Petite France"), with its meandering canals, tree-shaded walking paths, and traditional flower-bedecked Alsatian houses. The Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes is especially charming.

Also within the Grande-Île, the Quartier Krutenau is another wonderful neighborhood for a stroll. With the feel of a small village, this lively quarter brims with restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries.

The walled city of Saint-Malo

A picturesque coastal region, Brittany has a rich maritime heritage seen in its historic port towns: Saint-Malo , surrounded by old ramparts; the medieval capital of Nantes; and the fortified 14th-century Concarneau .

The seaside also boasts stylish beach resorts like fashionable Dinard on the Côte d'Emeraude, the summertime vacation destination of La Baule on the estuary of the Loire River, and Tréboul near the lovely riverside town of Quimper.

The scenery is dramatic and unspoiled, with secluded sandy beaches and a rocky coastline where wild Atlantic waves crash against the shore. Centuries-old fishing villages are sheltered in quiet bays and on tiny windswept offshore islands.

Breton culture can be traced back to the Celts (the local dialect is related to Gaelic). Similar to Ireland, it is a land of mythology and legends. Today, Brittany is strongly Catholic. Locals celebrate ancient religious customs called "pardons," special festivals when townspeople wear old-fashioned regional costumes.

The local cuisine features delicious specialties such as fresh seafood and savory buckwheat crepes. Brittany also has a famous regional pastry, the " kouign-amann ," a buttery pastry made with croissant dough that is layered with sprinkles of sugar, has a moist cake-like center, and a crispy caramelized exterior.

Biarritz Beach

A blend of Parisian-style elegance and the untamed natural beauty of the Atlantic coast, Biarritz is an upscale seaside resort with fabulous beaches. Biarritz was favored by Empress Eugénie, who loved this area of the Basque region. She chose a sandy hillside overlooking the Bay of Biscay as the location for her Imperial residence, the Villa Eugénie.

This Second Empire palace has been converted into luxury accommodations, the five-star Hôtel du Palais , which offers exquisitely decorated guest rooms and an oceanfront gastronomic restaurant. Next to the hotel property is the Grande Plage , a sandy beach that has attracted sunbathers since the Belle Époque.

Another of the top beaches in Biarritz is the Plage du Miramar . A picturesque scene of colorful, striped cabanas and parasols during summertime, this sheltered beach has the delightful ambience of an old-fashioned seaside resort.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Just a half-hour drive (15 kilometers) from Biarritz is the historic fishing port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz , a popular summertime destination with family-friendly beaches.

Traveling inland 25 kilometers from Biarritz is the traditional Basque village of Espelette. This small village boasts typical half-timbered, red-shuttered Basque houses decorated with rows of dried red peppers called Piment d'Espelette (prized for use in Basque cuisine).

In Spain's Basque country, 50 kilometers by bus, car, or train from Biarritz, the lively seaside city of San Sebastian delights visitors with its elegant architecture, sandy beaches, and gourmet tapas.

Chartres Cathedral

If you only have time to visit one cathedral in France, then head to Chartres. Crowning the historic town, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . This magnificent Gothic monument dates to the 12th and 13th centuries and is remarkably well preserved.

Visitors are awed by the soaring spires, elaborately decorated façade, and marvelous array of stained-glass windows that give the sanctuary an ethereal quality. Most of the windows were created between 1210 and 1260, which is extremely rare.

During summertime, the cathedral hosts the Chartres International Organ Festival with performances of sacred music on Sunday afternoons.

Joan of Arc Monument at Place du Matroi in Orléans

France's national heroine, Joan of Arc led the country to victory during the Hundred Years' War when she was only seventeen years old. Her divinely ordained mission, instructed by heavenly voices, is still an inspiration to the faithful.

Joan of Arc's remarkable story began in Chinon , where on March 9, 1429, she went to meet the future Charles VII (the "Dauphin") at the Forteresse Royale (a medieval fortified castle). On this momentous occasion, the "Maid of Orléans" informed the Dauphin of his right to the crown and asked for help in forming an army, which was needed to break the Siege of Orléans (a pivotal event during the Hundred Years' War between France and England).

Because of its rich heritage, Chinon is listed as a Ville d'Art et d'Histoire (City of Art and History). At the tree-lined Place Jeanne d'Arc stands a monumental bronze equestrian statue of Joan of Arc depicted as a heroic military leader.

Among the top attractions of the Loire Valley , Orléans is another essential stop on the Joan of Arc trail. The city was saved by the "Maid of Orléans," during the Siege of 1429. After leading the French to defeat the English army, Joan of Arc came to the town's Cathédrale Sainte-Croix to pray. The cathedral's 19th-century stained-glass windows recount the history of Joan of Arc.

In a 15th-century half-timbered house, the Maison de Jeanne d'Arc in Orléans presents exhibits about Joan of Arc, who is now recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. A bronze equestrian statue of Joan of Arc graces the Place du Martroi in Orléans.

Eglise Jeanne d'Arc in Rouen

Tourists can learn more about Joan of Arc's life story at several of the top sights in Rouen . At the 13th-century Tour Jeanne d'Arc (dungeon), a relic of the town's old château, Joan of Arc was imprisoned, threatened with torture, put on trial, and accused of heresy.

Since this infamous trial in 1431 and martyrdom, Joan of Arc has been elevated to a saint. Built on the site in Rouen where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, the Eglise Jeanne d'Arc pays tribute to the saint's legacy. This modern church features an upwards-swooping roof designed to resemble flames.

Rouen also has a museum devoted to Joan of Arc, the Historial Jeanne d'Arc , in the former Archbishop's Palace (a classified Historic Monument) on the Rue Saint-Romain. This museum delves into Joan of Arc's epic story and explains how she changed the course of French history. Evocative multimedia exhibits and videos bring the events to life in a thrilling way.

Tiny Hamlet of Hunawihr in the Alsace Region

Bucolic scenery and old-world charm set Alsace apart from the rest of France. The architecture and ambience of the region has been influenced over the centuries by neighboring Germany, as seen in the brightly painted, half-timbered buildings and ornate Gothic churches.

Colmar is the quintessential Alsatian town, full of interesting historic monuments and traditional houses with flower-bedecked balconies. An unspoiled landscape of vine-covered foothills surrounds Colmar, and nestled in the nearby valleys and along the Rhine River are tiny storybook hamlets and picturesque villages.

The Alsace Villages route is a delightful way to explore the region. Many villages are listed as the Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages of France), and some are designated as Villages Fleuris (Flowering Villages) because of the vibrant potted flowers that adorn the homes and streets.

Walled city of Carcassonne

Carcassonne has the look of a Disneyland castle, with massive fortifications that enclose the medieval citadel ( La Cité ). The concentric circles of defensive walls feature 52 turreted towers, many of which were renovated in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc (who also restored Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris).

The integrity of the ramparts gives Carcassonne a picture-perfect appearance and makes it one of the world's best-preserved medieval towns. Because of its cultural value, La Cité de Carcassonne is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

Drawbridges once provided access into Carcassonne. Today, tourists can walk freely into this medieval citadel at any time. Stepping foot into La Cité provides visitors with a glimpse of life during the Middle Ages.

Wandering the labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets leads to discoveries of historic monuments (such as the Basilique Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse and the 12th-century Château Comtal ), small squares, and plenty of touristy restaurants and boutiques.

The French Alps

The French Alps boast some of the most awe-inspiring natural scenery in the world.

The majestic Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe, an iconic snowcapped peak that soars to 4,810 meters. At this altitude, the air is fresh and the landscape is sublime, with crystal-clear lakes, dramatic rushing waterfalls, peaceful valleys, and refreshing pine forests.

During summertime, visitors flock to the Alps to go hiking, cycling, and mountain climbing. In the winter, the French Alps draw many tourists for Alpine skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. The area has many of France's best ski resorts . Other things to do during the snowy season include ice-skating, dog sledding rides, and old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh rides.

Besides the spectacular mountain terrain, the region also has a rich cultural heritage linked to the ancestral territory of the Italian royal House of Savoy, as well as the historic Dauphiné region.

The lovely mountain village of Chamonix (about a 15-minute drive from the base of Mont Blanc) offers traditional Alpine ambience, while Annecy (just over a one-hour drive from Chamonix) has an ancient château, lakeside parks, and fairy-tale ambience.

Reims Cathedral

Reims is justifiably placed among France's list of " Villes d'Art et d'Histoire " ("Cities of Art and History").

Of the town's three UNESCO World Heritage Sites , the most renowned is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims , where French kings were crowned. The most celebrated event was when Joan of Arc escorted Charles VII to the cathedral in July of 1429 for his coronation as king.

Built in the 13th century, the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims is a gem of High Gothic architecture. The dazzling exterior features a profusion of flying buttresses and sculpted angels, while the spacious interior has a solemn ambience of spirituality.

Among the city's top attractions , other UNESCO-listed landmarks include the Palais du Tau , a 17th-century Archbishops' Palace, and the 11th-century Basilique Saint-Rémi .

Prehistoric Painting at Lascaux Cave

The Dordogne region is one of the best places to visit in France for viewing prehistoric cave paintings. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lascaux Cave in the Dordogne's Vallée de la Vézère contains masterpieces of Paleolithic art created by Cro-Magnon man.

Although the Lascaux Cave has been closed to the public to prevent damage, visitors may view copies of the cave's artwork at the nearby Lascaux II site (in Montignac).

Also in Montignac is the Centre International de l'Art Pariétal (International Center of Cave Art), which presents exhibits about prehistoric animal paintings and reveals the work of archaeologists. The center includes Lascaux IV , which is a complete replica of the prehistoric Lascaux Cave.

Also in the Vézère Valley, the Grotte de Rouffignac is adorned with paintings of horses, cows, bison, deer, goats, and mammoths.

Grotte du Mas d'Azil in the Pyrenees

One of the top attractions of the Pyrenees region is the Grotte du Mas d'Azil , an immense cave decorated with drawings from the Magdalenian and Azilian periods. This tourist attraction deep in the Pyrenees Mountains offers guided tours and admission to the nearby Musée de la Préhistoire .

About an hour drive from the Mas d'Azil Cave, the Grotte de Niaux also has remarkable Palaeolithic art dating from 14,000 to 10,000 BCE. The Grotte de Niaux is open to the public for guided tours (reservations required).

Near the town of Tarascon-sur-Ariège , the Grotte de Lombrives reveals fascinating ancient history, and the Grotte de Bédeilhac dazzles with its rare Magdalenian-era prehistoric art.

Rocamadour: A Medieval Pilgrimage Destination

Clinging to a sheer cliff, Rocamadour seems to aspire towards heaven. This amazing site was the third most important Christian pilgrimage destination in the 11th century and a stop on the Camino de Santiago pilgrims' route.

The village has seven medieval-era sanctuaries, accessible by steep pedestrian staircases. The most famous is the Chapelle Notre-Dame (Chapelle Miraculeuse), which contains the precious 12th-century Black Virgin (Notre-Dame de Rocamadour) associated with miracles.

Rocamadour's largest church, the Basilique Saint-Sauveur is a UNESCO-listed historic monument. This 13th-century pilgrimage church displays the architectural transition from Romanesque to Gothic.

Outside the village is the Causses du Quercy Regional Nature Park . Within this unspoiled landscape on the Quercy plateaus, grazing goats produce milk that is used to make AOC-labeled Cabécou de Rocamadour cheese. In late May or early June, the Rocamadour village hosts the Fête des Fromages (Cheese Festival) devoted to farmhouse cheeses of the region.

Other top attractions within an hour-and-a-half drive of Rocamadour include: Limoges (145 kilometers away), classified as a Ville d'Art et d'Histoire and one of the top travel destinations in the Limousin region ; and Périgueux (115 kilometers away), a quaint town in the Dordogne region dating to the Roman era, which was also on the Camino de Santiago.

Palais de la Bourse, Bordeaux

The Bordeaux region is a beautiful bucolic corner of France, where grandiose castles preside over rolling, vine-covered hills. Scenic tree-shaded paths traverse the countryside and follow alongside the Garonne River, as well as its placid canals. Many travelers enjoy exploring this area on a leisurely cycling itinerary.

The region has two exceptional UNESCO World Heritage Sites : the elegant city of Bordeaux , with more than 350 buildings classified as historical monuments, and the little country village of Saint-Émilion, 51 kilometers from Bordeaux, which is packed with notable churches and monasteries.

Abbey of Cluny in the Burgundy Region

The Burgundy region is an idyllic landscape of lush woodlands and rolling hills dotted with impressive monuments. Romanesque chapels, ancient towns, and inspiring old abbeys attest to a rich cultural heritage.

Among the top sights of the Burgundy region are the historic city of Dijon , with its aristocratic palaces, ornate Gothic churches, and excellent museums; the charming medieval town of Beaune ; and the monumental Abbaye de Cluny , a Benedictine abbey founded in the 10th century. The abbey belonged to the most influential monastic order of the medieval era.

Besides its incredible history, Burgundy is renowned for gastronomy. The traditional cuisine includes a repertoire of famous specialities such as escargot, Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy), and Coq au Vin .

Cirque de Gavarnie in the Pyrenees Mountains

The mountainous Pyrenees region is a soul-inspiring place that offers both natural splendor and spiritual wonders. The region has many sacred pilgrimage sites, as well as rejuvenating spa towns.

The UNESCO-listed Cirque de Gavarnie is nature's version of a cathedral. Forming a semicircle, these awesome 1,700-meter-high limestone rock walls are draped with dramatic waterfalls that tumble down into rushing rivers and peaceful streams.

The entire Hautes-Pyrénées region is part of a national park, the Parc National des Pyrénées , which borders Spain. Within the park are hiking trails through lush forests and verdant valleys.

During wintertime, the French Pyrenees is a popular destination for downhill skiing. Top resorts include Cauterets, Font-Romeu, and the Grand Tourmalet ski area.

Lourdes: France's Biggest Catholic Pilgrimage Site

Nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, Lourdes is France's most important Catholic pilgrimage site.

Millions of visitors come to Lourdes every year for spiritual inspiration. Some arrive to bathe in the waters in hopes of miracle cures. To the faithful, Lourdes is known for the 70 validated miracles that have occurred here.

The main pilgrimage sites, the Grotto (where Saint Bernadette received her divine visions), and the Basilique Notre-Dame du Rosaire are surrounded by a serene woodland alongside a tranquil babbling brook.

Marian Processions take place every evening at 9pm from April through October. The procession of hundreds of pilgrims holding candles is a breathtaking sight to behold.

Outdoor seating at a

An enticing destination for gourmands to visit, Lyon is at the heart of French gastronomy. Lyonnais cuisine is renowned for its delicious regional specialties such as quenelles (fish dumplings served in a creamy sauce), steak, Bresse chicken with morels, sausages, and salads.

Tourists can choose from an incredible selection of restaurants. For casual everyday dining, the "Bouchons Lyonnais" (traditional bistros) allow visitors to sample the authentic local cuisine while enjoying an inviting, cozy ambience.

A top destination for fine dining, the Auberge du Pont de Collonges was helmed by famous chef Paul Bocuse for decades. Today this legendary gastronomic establishment with two Michelin stars has changed its name to Restaurant Paul Bocuse . The restaurant carries on the legacy of Paul Bocuse by continuing to serve his signature dishes.

Besides its gourmet delights, Lyon is rich in cultural heritage . The city's four historic districts (representing 500 hectares) are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Among the many historic attractions are ancient Roman ruins, atmospheric medieval quarters, and elegant Renaissance houses.

Lyon's Musée des Beaux-Arts is second only to Paris' Louvre Museum in its wealth of artistic treasures. The museum contains an outstanding assortment of European paintings from the 14th to 20th centuries, including masterpieces by Véronèse, Rubens, Delacroix, Renoir, Monet, and Picasso.

Aerial view Evian-Les-Bains

For those seeking a rejuvenating getaway, the Belle Époque spa towns in the French Alps region, such as the lakeside resorts of Aix-les-Bains and Evian-les-Bains , deliver the ultimate relaxing vacation experience at pampering thermal spas and upscale hotels.

The Pyrenees region is prized for its pristine fresh-water streams and rejuvenating spa towns. During the 19th century, the area's thermal spa resorts such as Cauterets and Luz-Saint-Sauveur attracted a silk-stocking clientele, who came to soak in the healing mineral waters.

Set in a verdant valley, Bagnères-de-Bigorre is home to the top spa resort of the Hautes-Pyrénées region. The town's thermal spa was inaugurated in 1823 by Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte , the daughter of Marie-Antoinette.

In an elegant marble-faced 19th-century building, Les Grands Thermes offers thermal baths filled with certified mineral waters that are said to cure various health conditions. Five-day retreats with lodging are available.

Toulouse

The rural area of Gascony and the city of Toulouse exude the sultry charm of southern France.

Sunny and slow-paced, Gascony (Le Gers) has a traditional rural character that seems untouched by modernity. The rolling hills are blanketed with a patchwork of small farms and dotted with quiet country villages and ancient castles.

Steeped in history dating back to the 13th century, Toulouse is known as " The Pink City " because of its distinctive red-brick architecture. These buildings reflect the sunlight in a rosy-toned hue.

While ambling the pleasant town squares and basking on outdoor café terraces in Toulouse, visitors soak up the laid-back vibe of this beautiful and balmy city.

The UNESCO-listed Canal du Midi runs through Toulouse and flows all the way to the Mediterranean port of Sète near Marseille. The tree-shaded path along the canal is popular for leisurely strolls and cycling.

Wild horses in the Camargue

The Parc Régional de Camargue , just 16 kilometers from Arles in Provence , is a place where visitors can take a breath of fresh air and enjoy unspoiled natural scenery. Marshlands, meadows, salt flats, and pastures blanket the landscape.

In this pristine UNESCO-listed Biosphere Reserve (around 100,000 hectares of protected wetlands), wild white horses roam free, and pink flamingoes thrive.

The nature reserve is home to over 300 bird species, which makes it a paradise for bird-watching. Other famous fauna include the native Camargue Bulls, which are raised for use in bullfighting.

Fishing boats in Bastia, Corsica

The island of Corsica has a rugged and raw beauty, seen in its dramatic coastal landscapes, pristine forests, and snowcapped mountains. The island is fringed with beautiful beaches, quiet bays, attractive fishing ports, and lively seaside cities, while the inland hillsides are crowned with ancient villages where time seems to stand still.

Sun-worshipping beach lovers and outdoorsy and sporty types (including hard-core hikers) are drawn to the island's incomparable nature sites. The 1,000-kilometer shoreline offers crystal-clear waters that make it a paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving.

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Beyond Paris, The Best Places to Visit in France This Year

France can capture your heart in a week but takes a lifetime to truly explore..

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One person walking on Biarritz's waterfront

Surf culture and Basque cuisine meet in Biarritz.

Photo by Michelle Heimerman

The French have long perfected the art of vacationing and take great pride in exploring their own country year after year. There’s little wonder why. France packs a lot within its borders. There are two gorgeous coastlines, one lapped by the gentle waters of the Mediterranean, the other pounded by Atlantic surf, plus more than 1,000 islands and islets. Inland, as soon as you get away from the big cities—having gotten your fill of restaurants, markets, and museums—you’ll find yourself in blissfully peaceful countryside, meandering between villages and vineyards, or even hiking the slopes of now-extinct ancient volcanoes.

The most important thing is to take your time. You can easily spend two weeks just in Provence or Corsica. So, as you’re researching places to visit in France, do as the French do—pick one destination and get to know it inside out. You can always visit somewhere new next year. Here’s a complete guide on where to go next in France.

Where should I go if it’s my first time in France?

Aerial view of the countryside of Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence: the birthplace of Paul Cézanne and a quintessential Provençale getaway

Photo by Eric Masur/Unsplash

There’s nowhere more quintessentially French than Provence, where olive trees dot the arid countryside and lavender fields burst into barely believable color come June. This is the France that inspired Cezanne’s softly focused landscapes, the France where the sun shines some 300 days a year, and where market day still sets the rhythm of weekly life.

Aix-en-Provence should be your first base. This sun-soaked tangle of ancient stone buildings with creaky shutters is at once a sleepy college town and elegant former provincial capital. A few days is plenty to soak up its charms: guided tours of the olive-laden markets followed by a game of pétanque , the Bonnard exhibition (and checking out the beautiful courtyard garden) at the Hôtel de Caumont , and at least one afternoon spent sipping rosé in a shady square, church bells tolling in the background.

You’ll need a car to explore further, staying in a mas (farmhouse B&B) or two as you go. The hilltop village of Gordes, its tile-roofed houses stacked up a rocky outcrop, is so pretty it’s officially classed as one of the most beautiful in France —and attracts plenty of visitors, especially in July and August, when the French enjoy their month-long vacations. Take your time exploring the Luberon to discover Provence’s lesser-known highlights, among them discovering the medieval village of Oppède le Vieux, hiking through the Foret de Cedres near Bonnieux, and kayaking down the Sorgue River.

How about if I like big waves and taking it easy?

Surfboards on beach (left) and alfresco dining in Biarritz, France

Biarritz, an erstwhile seaside getaway for royalty, is now renowned for its surf breaks and high-end alfresco dining.

Photos by Michelle Heimerman

You can really let your hair down in France’s surf capital, just 30 minutes’ drive from the Spanish border. It’s undoubtedly the only place in the country where you can watch a surfer tuck a longboard under their arm in the middle of a city street on your way to a Michelin-starred dinner. This is France, but not as you know it, fueled by wild Atlantic waves and the richness of Basque culture and cuisine.

That said, the secret is definitely out. Biarritz is now as chic and expensive in some parts as it is laid-back in others. But if you’re not a Parisan driving up local property prices, you’ll find the welcome warm, the surf powerful, and opportunities to try the local hot pepper, piment d’Espelette , plentiful.

Steer away from the fancy Grand Plage and hire boards or book lessons from Hastea on the Côte des Basques instead. It’s not uncommon to see surfers rescued by helicopter when the beach vanishes at high tide and waves crash into the promenade, so keep an eye on the shore as well as the break. If you’d prefer not to get your feet wet, watch the action with a beer from Etxola Bibi high on the clifftop.

I’m all about urban music and street art

France’s second most populated city divides opinion. To some, Marseille is a sleepy southern backwater. To others , it’s wild and downright dangerous. The truth is somewhere in between. While your first impression is likely to be one of charming pastel buildings and a yacht-stuffed harbor, the real beat of Marseille is harder to find.

Street art tours are a great way to get under the city’s skin. The best guides take you away from the waterfront to explore the area around Le Cours Julien . Once dominated by markets and warehouses, this neighborhood is now a colorful outdoor canvas, peppered with expressive street art, cool galleries, coffee shops, and bars. At night, it’s one of the best spots to join the locals for a spritz (or three).

Rap is just as intertwined with the city’s creative soul as its graffiti scene. An ever-evolving legacy started in Marseille’s 1980s heyday can be traced across spots name-checked by the likes of Jul and SCH. If French rap is new to you, the lyrics to their 2020 smash (with several other rappers) Bande Organisée perfectly paint the city’s seedy side, giving new meaning to the phrase “ C’est Marseille, bébé” (This is Marseille, baby).

For DJs and epic views, head to R2 Le Rooftop , where thousand-strong crowds dance the night away to everything from hip-hop to house.

I’m looking for art, culture, and photography. Surprise me.

Exterior of Luma museum designed by Frank Gehry

Modern architecture and Roman amphitheaters share a home in Arles.

Photo by Baptiste Buisson/Unsplash

The opening of the Frank Gehry–designed arts center, Luma , really put Arles on the map three years ago. But this tiny, UNESCO-listed southern city has been on the French cultural radar for much longer.

It doesn’t take long to get your bearings. Arles is set around a magnificently preserved Roman amphitheater, where mock gladiator fights enrapture groups of kiddos. Beyond, narrow alleyways lace between ancient ruins and vine-draped houses, restaurant tables spilling into the streets and barely a car in sight. It’s a magical place, particularly during its many festivals and events. Watch flamenco performers dance beneath the moonlight in cobblestone courtyards during FlamencA , held this year from July 29 to August 15, and then go wandering in search of free live music during Les Rues en Musique , which runs around the same time from July 26 to August 10.

The best time to visit is between July and September when you can catch the internationally renowned Rencontres d’Arles , the annual photography festival, which spreads exhibitions across venues around the city. This year, the festival will explore the theme “beneath the surface”, exploring new perspectives and intertwining narratives.

Staying at L’Arlatan , a gorgeously colorful boutique hotel set in a private mansion, protected as a historic monument and renovated by artist Jorge Pardo, puts you in the center of the city.

I’ve eaten my way around Lyon. Where next?

france top tourist cities

Bordeaux has the most restaurants per capita outside Paris.

Photo by Guillaume Flandre/Unsplash

Bordeaux is fast becoming one of France’s most youthful, dynamic cities, with a growing tech scene and culinary offering that easily ranks among the best in Europe. The wine trade, of course, has underpinned the very fabric of Bordeaux since the Middle Ages. Barrels might no longer be rolled down to barges on the Garonne, but you can visit the engaging Cité du Vin , a museum dedicated to the history of wine and winemaking. The tourist office has the most comprehensive schedule of tours and tastings at nearby vineyards.

As for dining out, your options abound. Aside from Paris, Bordeaux claims to have the most restaurants per capita in the country; 12 of them have received one or two Michelin stars. Try the superb Ressources , with affordable and inventive three-, four-, or five-course menus. Expect delicate and precisely constructed dishes, such as scallops with garlic and cédrat (a large, knobbly cousin of the lemon otherwise known as citron) or beetroot or goose breast with porcini mushrooms and caviar.

Seafood, especially oysters raised in the tidal Arcachon basin, is particularly worth seeking out, as is an entrecôte bordelaise (steak with a rich, red-wine sauce) and at least one canelé (Bordeaux’s famous rum-soaked pastry). No matter the season, you’ll always find the very best of local produce on display at the city-center covered market, the Marché des Capucins.

Stay at the Bordeaux outpost of funky budget-boutique chain Mama Shelter to see the city at its most vibrant (and to soak up the views from the rooftop terrace).

Challenge my idea of France and French culture . . .

The old town of Bonifacio, Corsica, surrounded by green hills

The island of Corsica is a dream destination for hiking, kayaking, and exploring medieval architecture in the town of Bonifacio.

Photo by Vadym Lavra/Shutterstock

What if you could lay on the beach in the morning and hike a snow-covered trail in the afternoon? It’s a combo more than possible on a trip to Corsica, the French island neighboring Sardinia in the northern Mediterranean, where vertiginous mountains appear to shoot straight from sea to sky.

Corsicans themselves will tell you one thing: They’re Corsican first and French second (if at all). Fiery politics aside, they’ve got plenty to be proud of. As well as some of the country’s most beautiful beaches (the white sands and translucent waters of Palombaggia and Rondinara in the southeast could be straight out of the Caribbean), you’ll find prehistoric ruins, ancient citadel cities, and scenic port towns such as Bonifacio and Saint-Florent, their marinas crowded with luxury yachts and speedboats.

You can’t see the whole island on one visit, but you can easily link the larger towns, such as Ajaccio, Porto Vecchio, and Bonifacio, driving your way across Corsica’s rugged interior in between. Hiking the entirety of the island’s infamous 124-mile-long trail, the GR20 , requires serious commitment and at least two weeks, but you can get a taste by joining one of the “stages” for a day.

Give me rolling countryside.

The brown mountains of Auvergne

Trips to the Auvergne are all about scaling mountains—and rewarding yourself with plenty of local cheese.

Photo by Adrien Brun/Unsplash

The Auvergne

The French love to joke about the diagonale du vide, a vast diagonal swathe of rural France that sweeps from the country’s northeast to southwest. At its heart, you’ll find the Auvergne, the embodiment of bucolic sleepiness, where dense woodland seems to stretch endlessly over rolling hills—actually extinct volcanoes.

This wild region is fascinating to explore, especially with a pair of good hiking boots. Climbing the Puy de Dôme, the highest peak in the chain of 80 or so volcanoes that make up the UNESCO-listed Chaîne des Puys outside the city of Clermont-Ferrand, is a great place to start. You can also follow the Auvergne cheese route , tasting your way through slices of pungent Bleu d’Auvergne, crumbly Cantal, and earthy Saint-Nectaire.

There’s luxury, too, if you know where to look, including at the Hôtel Restaurant Le Pré with its two-Michelin-star dining room. Unforgettable stays also await in the forest canopy itself at the Cabanes des Volcans tree houses (bookable in English via Airbnb ).

I want to visit the Riviera, but Cannes isn’t my vibe.

Shoppers at the Cours Saleya outdoor market in Vieux Nice

Kick-start a jaunt around southern France with a few days in Nice.

Photo by Kirk Fisher/Shutterstock

There’s so much more to the Riviera than the glitz of Cannes and Saint-Tropez. Nice, unlike the resort towns, remains an authentic city in its own right, especially when you wander beyond the Promenade des Anglais and the romantic (if touristy) old town into the genteel, residential neighborhoods that stack up the hillside.

Place du Pin, where cafés buzz from the first purr of the espresso machine to the last pour of beer, is the perfect local spot to get your bearings over coffee. From here, you’re steps from the modern art museum, MAMAC , or the start of the walk through the leafy Park de la Colline du Château , which offers wonderful views over the bay. The other essential Niçoise experience in this part of town is eating. Italian influences abound with the border just 30 minutes’ drive away, but the real local specialty is the crispy, chickpea-flour pancake, socca. Try it at Chez Pipo .

Down by the seafront, the Cours Saleya markets are always interesting to wander, overflowing with flowers and fresh produce each morning from Tuesday to Sunday. Nice’s narrow beach is best enjoyed from the comfort of a lounger, sequestered beneath one of the many beach clubs’ blue-and-white striped parasols, cocktail in hand. Or book a stay at Hôtel la Pérouse , up on the cliffs with far-reaching sea views over the sweeping Baie des Anges.

How about a totally untouched coastline?

White sailboat near coast in Britanny

Wild, rugged Brittany is a land of secret coves, charming ports, and excellent sailing opportunities.

Photo by Maureen Cosnard/Unsplash

If you’re looking for coastal isolation, Brittany’s calling your name. Especially out of high season, France’s northwestern tip is still a land of wild and windy coves, idyllic harbor villages, strings of protected islands, and salt-water swimming pools, fed by the tide. Avoid July and August, when Parisians flock to their second homes, and you’ll almost feel as if you have Brittany to yourself. The only downside is you can’t see the whole region on one trip.

If you’re dreaming of sunsets, long walks, and sea swims, base yourself on the northern pink granite coast . The village of Ploumanac’h, famous for the Men Ruz lighthouse, and Plougrescant, Brittany’s northernmost point, are among the best spots to see the glowing pink granite from which the area takes its name.

In the Gulf of Morbihan , to the south, it’s all about setting sail. Some 40 islands dot this protected bay. You can explore them from the deck of traditional fishing boats as well as small ferries that ply some of the major crossings.

True seclusion comes true with a short stay on wind-lashed Ouessant, part of the Molène archipelago, strung out in the Atlantic swell. The four-star Le Sport Ouessant & Spa has an outdoor pool, meditation spaces, and a restaurant serving local cuisine—but only 11 tranquil rooms.

Read more on why Brittany is best seen from the sea .

This article was originally published in June 2023 and was updated in June 2024 with new information.

A spectacular Sanibel beach

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.

Book Your Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner. We have used them for years and have found that they have the best flight deals.

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:

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

Book Your Activities: Looking for walking tours, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more? Then we recommend Get Your Guide.

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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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine , the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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Europe Travel Blog

35 most Beautiful Cities to visit in France to put on your Bucket List (with Itinerary)

france top tourist cities

France is one of the most touristic countries in the world. There is good reason for that. It has amazing cities, villages, landscapes, culture, and regions like the Loire Valley. This is your travel inspiration list of the best and most beautiful French cities to visit in France.

It has amazing cities, villages, landscape and culture

We created a big list of the 35 most beautiful cities to visit in France.

You should definitely add these French cities to your bucket list; there’s no way around it.

In order to make things easier for you, we created a map of France with cities that are worth to visit.

That will help you to plan your 10 days in France, your round trip or your travel plans overall. Anyways, I personally love to plan my travels with an actual map, so I thought that will be handy for you too.

  • Best places to visit in France
  • Mont Saint Michel
  • Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg
  • Verdon Gorge
  • Bormes les Mimosas
  • Aix en Provence
  • Aigues Mortes
  • Saintes Maries de la mer
  • Carcassonne
  • La Rochelle
  • Map with all sights

Get around France and Itinerary

Hotels and hostels in france.

For the road trip around France, we recommend reading: 

  • renting a car in Europe – do’s and dont’s
  • Travel Insurance? Safetywing is a solid option. Read here the review of Safetwings Insurance
  • Where to stay in Europe? An overview of Accommodation options in Europe
  • 16 websites for travelling Europe safely and to find hidden gems

List of 35 best places to visit in France

This is your inspirational list of the best and most beautiful cities to visit. To simplify it for you, I created a map and put all towns on it. You find this map at the end of the article.

This list also includes Paris.

Why? Simply because it is gorgeous. You have to visit the French capital as well. I know it sounds obvious, but I just wanted to emphasize this.

Remember, we put all cities on the map.

We started in the North-East and went clock-wise around France. Take notes of the cities you would love to visit.

We also wrote:

  • 41 most beautiful cities in Spain
  • 34 most beautiful cities in Germany
  • 25 best European Winter Destinations

1. Mont Saint Michel

When it comes to places to visit in France, Mont Saint Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cannot be missed. There is no way around it.

This majestic castle is settled above the water. It is only a myth that you can only walk over during low-tide. The bridge is always above water (except two times a year).

Click on the video to get amazed. It is incredibly beautiful – and even better in real-life.

Is it better to see Mont Saint Michel during High Tide or Low Tide?

BOTH! At low tide you can walk around the tiny island/ village/ rock.

On high tide you get an impressive landscape to enjoy.

So my best recommendation is not to worry too much about low or high tide, but more about weekend days. Obviously it is best to visit early and late. From 11am the tourist buses arrive and it can be packed.

Please note that most shops only open from 9am in the morning. So even if you come over at like 8am, do not expect a breakfast with a view here.

Tall granite walls and the sea shore right in front of you. This tiny village with only 45.000 inhabitants is located in the Brittany, in France’s northwest coast line.

It also took an important role during WW2.

The best way to get here is by car.

St Malo in France

Photo by @ thierrybegoud

The highlight of tiny Bayeux is its medieval city center and the Tapisserie de Bayeux.

This is a 11th-century tapestry depicting the 1066 Norman invasion of England.

You can park your car in the city center and wander around. Wander the cobbled streets and take endlessly great shots for your travel album.

Bayeux in France

photo by @gabri_ang97

4. Le Havre

Another highlight along the Northern Coast: Le Havre.

It is known for its artsy scene and the endless walks along the boardwalk. In ww2 git got heavily damaged and the city center itself is rebuild. Nevertheless, it’s beautiful!

Cities to visit in France: Le Havre in North France

Following the river Seine from Paris, you will end up here, in Rouen.

The Roman era and Middle Ages formed the city of Rouen until today.

I loved wandering around the old town. There is also many beautiful churches you can enter for free. It is not a very touristic city, so that is a big plus too.

On your way from Paris to the Normandie, you can stop here and walk around for 2 hours.

7 Days in France, Rouen should be on your roundtrip

Photo by @ kings through

The French Capital of Paris is always in the top 10 cities in France. It is such a cliché, but it is always true.

We wrote a big guide to one week in Paris .

It covers everything you need to know to have a great time. Most likely your trip around the country will start and end here. Plan accordingly and spend a few days here in the City of Love.

I recommend staying here at least for 3 nights.

This gives you time to explore the romantic area of Montmartre, climb up the Eiffel Tower and take a river cruise at night or right before sunset.

The Louvre is obviously not to miss as well. Just make sure you get your skip-the-line ticket for Louvre .

Same goes for the island of Notre Dame and the Champs-Élysées.

Here is a full list of 27 Fun Things to do in Paris .

10 Days in France: Paris has to be on your list

photo by @ theliamman

Amiens is by divided by the Somme river and is known for its Gothic Amiens Cathedral overlooking the city.

I love to come here just to sit down in one of the many cafés. Order a Café au lait and Croissant; thank me later!

Same as Rouen, it is not a super overrun touristy place.

The cathedral has the same Gothic style as Notre Dame in Paris, very beautiful! Go up here and enjoy the scenery!

Amiens Cathedral in France

photo by @ audrey_hncq

Up in the North, Lille is one of the places to see in France.

The city center is filled with plenty of shops, it is very popular to come here for shopping.

The highlight is the medieval castle and old town.

Lille is a very industrial city, and recently many industrial chic cafés and shops openend up.

Good to know: Lille has one of the best Christmas markets in France.

Read: best Christmas markets in Europe .

Lille in North France

photo by @ claire__paris

9. Strasbourg

Strasbourg is a gorgeous pearl right next to the German border, not far away from Colmar.

I have been to Strasbourg several times. It is always worth it. You can wander La Petit France, the most scenic district.

I summed up all best places to visit in this list of 28 things to do in Strasbourg .

Good to know : The Christmas market in Strasbourg is amazing!

Strasbourg in Alsace, East France

10. Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg

You cannot make a list of best places in France, without adding some castles.

Chateau du Haut Koenigsburg is a restored 12th-century mountain fortress with artillery platform, and medieval garden.

Right next to it you can find another castle, the Château de l’Œdenbourg.

Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg

photo by @ christierosen

Located close to the German and Swiss Border, Colmar is a beautiful, tiny village. It is named “small Venice”. You can even take a small Gondola ride on the small river.

You can walk around the city center in 30 minutes. One thing you should put on your list as well: the local market.

It is a local market with local fruits, vegetables and cheese. Endless cheese!

Strasbourg and Colmar are one of the safest cities in France to visit. The whole area is super safe and beautiful at the same time.

Cities to visit in France: Colmar

Photo by @ Jamiesweetie

12. Eguisheim

One of the best preserved medieval towns in France. It is full of color and plants.

And most likely, this is the kind of town you have in your mind when thinking of cities and towns in France.

It is just a stone throw away from Colmar, previously mentioned in this list of the best cities to visit in France. It is a very small city, you can walk around in just 1 hour.

Eguisheim; one of the best preserved mediaval towns in France

13. Besancon

I wanted to include Besancon due to its distribution and location. And also, since it is for me one of the friendliest cities in France.

It is a peninsula, 90% surrounded by its river. It is accessible by around 10 bridges.

Only the part of the castle is directly connected with the “main land”.

I have spent a few days here. It is not very touristic, and the castle is impressive to visit. There is even some history about World War 2, the resistance was hiding in the area.

The castle has also a zoo inside. Personally, I do not enjoy visiting a Zoo, but the animals look very healthy and are well taken care of. I guess it is one of the great things to do in France with families.

The landscape around Dijon is something not to miss. Here you can visit wineries and taste the world famous Burgundy cheese.

There are numerous authentic tours to join.

You can find all wine tours and cheese tastings in Dijon here .

This is a must-do!

Dijon in France

Photo by @ thelondonfoodie

Annecy, a beautiful village and castle near the Alps.

It is only 40km South of Geneva, so actually very close to Switzerland and Italy.

Annecy is the capital of the Départements Haute-Savoie, directly located at a beautiful lake.

In the area you find many different lakes, perfect for the summer.

Annecy, south of Genova

photo by @ vehbi_ch

Known as the “next Paris” or “Small Paris”, Lyon is certainly a city to keep an eye on. Lyon is certainly one of the best cities in France to live.

World class cooks call this city their home.

The markets are filled with delicious cakes, cheese, wine and more tasty products you want to taste.

When visiting Lyon, make sure you wander the 4th district.

This is the area of the Croix-Rousse.

It is well known for its partially colorful stairways, the market and art.

Another highlight is Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.

It is the Basilica on top of the hill.

You can come here by walking up 20 minutes or taking the funicular. From here you have a panoramic view all over Lyon.

Good to know : I recommend walking down. You will pass a tiny park and more monuments you would not expect.

I include here a beautiful video; it sums up the city really well, better than a photo could do.

17. Grenoble

The highlight in Grenoble is taking the cable car ride over the city, up the mountain, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, including the stunning French Alps.

Grenoble serves as the gateway to Switzerland and is also conveniently close to the Italian border with Torino.

Good to know : North ot Grenoble you have many many lakes, perfect for the hot summer time! I went to Lago Bourget, loved this! There is certain swimming areas for families, but also areas for kite surfing.

Grenoble in France; check out the many lakes in the area

photo by @ luciedgr

18. Verdon Gorge

Verdon Gorge is not an actual city, but one of the best places to visit in France.

It also one of the best regions of France to visit thanks to the mountains but also the Lavender fields in the area. This area is one of the best road trips in France you can take; no doubt! As it is a river canyon, popular for Kayaking. Verdon Gorge is often considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful river canyons.

Although I have not seen every single canyon in Europe, this is very likely.

Especially in summer this place was wonderful! I came here in August with our camper van, and in the mountains the temperature was wonderful! It was warm and at night you could actually cool down again. Before coming here, I was in Avignon; it was boiling hot. The lakes in Gorge du Verdon are also great to have a swim. You can also rent Kayak and do other family-friendly activities.

In winter times, this are is covered in snow. Bare this in mind.

Have a look at this video.

19. Bormes les Mimosas

Bormes les Mimosas is a very popular destination to get married. So, yes, it is one of the romantic places to visit in France!

The city is covered in the Mimosas flowers.

And not just that.

The city organizes every year a traditional floral procession: the Grand Mimosa Procession.

More than 12 tonnes of yellow sprigs and more than 90.000 flowers decorate the streets in the old village.

The festivals takes place at the last weekend of February.

Bormes les Mimosas in France, a very romantic city to visit in France for couples

photo by @ ettavee

Limestone cliffs, fishing port, romantinc ambiant.

Just a shor ride away from Marseille, you can find the tiny town of Cassis.

You can come here as well for a day trip.

Make sure you walk along the boardwalk and get a coffee along the way.

Cassis in France

photo by @ sophiecstuart

21. Marseille

The city on the Mediterranean is a well-known tourist destination. Besides the city center and the Roman architecture, there are many dreamy day trips from Marseille to join .

There is the French version of Alcatraz, the Château d’If, a prison located on the sea.

22. Aix en Provence

The birthplace of Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne awakes in serious charm when the sun goes down.

The main square is illuminated, and the city awakes.

I recommend having dinner at a restaurant nearby. Here you can soak in the full charm.

Aix en Provence

23. Avignon (my favorite!)

Avignon is the former seat of Catholic popes.

Although this is long time passed, the Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace) is still the main attraction of the city.

I have to say, Avignon is my absolute favorite city in France!

Read: things to do in Avignon

I had zero expectations when we got here. I thought “ oh sure, let us stop here and walk around “.

Let me tell you, Avignon is one of the underrated cities in France.

By complete coincidence we visited during the Theater and Cinema Festival in July.

The medieval city center is packed with theater shows, no cars are allowed in the old town, and people are celebrating for 2-3 weeks.

Avignon is a very artsy city, packed with history and beautiful buildings. I was so surprised, really. Check out all their festivals here .

Besides, the Palais des Papes is a very impressive building to visit. Book your ticket with Get Your Guide and get the Audio and Virtual-reality Guide.

The guide even has a game in it, perfect for kids. You have to find virtually hidden treasures around the Palace.

One of the most beautiful towns in France: Avignon

Same story : Uzès is magnificent.

The main attraction is to visit is their colorful flower and vegetable market.

It is very popular. Even French citizens come over just for the market.

Uzes in France

photo by @ julieannstokes

I hope I really fired you up with Avignon and Uzes. Here comes my next big thing I sooooo enjoyed: Nimes!

Nimmes took an important role during Roman Empire.

Some photos could even be taken for Rome.

Other than the Colosseum in Rome, the Arena of Nimes is still in use – and very well preserved!

The amphitheater holds concerts and other city events.

I included here a photo from Rammsteins concert.

WOW, right?!

Day Trips from Avignon

26. Aigues Mortes

The medieval city center of Aigues Mortes is well-preserved.

Yet, the highlight of Aigues Mortes is outside the city walls.

It is the Pink Lake.

The unnatural, pinkish colour of the salty water is given by micro-organisms growing in this environment.

It is not because of the pink flamingos nestling here.

Nevertheless, that’s a cute thought.

27. Saintes Maries de la Mer

This is probably the tiniest village, town, on this list.

Saintes Maries de la mar has only around 2500 inhabitants.

Yet, in summer time, the population grows dramatically due it’s beauty.

Have a look at this video of Saintes Maries de la mer.

It shows you the animals in the area, things to do and what to admire.

28. Collioure

I visited this small village during Spring time. Collioure is located near the Catalan border, directly at the Mediterranean.

So if you are travelling around Costa Brava in Spain, you can come here easily.

The well preserved wall tower is the monument of the little village.

I also recommend walking around the narrow streets. It is said that Salvador Dalí came here to get inspiration once in a while.

Read : 41 most beautiful cities to visit in Spain

Collioure in South France, a beautiful costal town in France near Costa Brava

photo by @ johanni_he

29. Carcassonne

The city of Carcassonne is not just a famous board game, but also a real city.

Carcassonne a top-hill city with double-walled fortifications and citadel. It is one of the many points of interests in France.

Come here in the early morning.

At this time of day it is usually less busy.

Known for its rural landscape and its magnificent castle Château de Foix, Ariege had to make this list.

Have a look at this video by the official tourism board.

This castle looks like a painting to me. Sitting on the hill, with this massive tower overlooking the area. And all that is very well preserved.

This is something to visit for every family, the kids will love that!

31. Toulouse

From Carcassonne, you can drive over to Toulouse. It is just a short car ride away, and it’s a beautiful city.

You can even take a day trip from Toulouse to the city of Carcassonne .

The highlights here are the old stone bridges as well as the big local markets.

I love to try out cheese and get some local wine for the house here.

If you or someone in your family is into football, visit the Stadium of FC Toulouse.

It is located on an actual island in the river.

Toulouse in France

photo by @ sr_solo

32. Montauban

Located North of Toulouse, Montauban is mini-version of the bigger brother.

montauban tourisme in France

Photo by @ montaubantourisme

33. Biarritz

A bit more up the Atlantic coast, but still in the Basque area.

This is BIARRITZ.

The surfers paradise is perfect for every beginner and pro on the surf board.

It is also a small, cosy village with a beachy vibe. If you’re looking for a blend of beach life and sophistication, the French Riviera, with its stunning coastline and glamorous atmosphere, is not far away.

Biarritz is genuinely laid-back and easy-going, with monuments, architecture, and a culinary scene to explore.

Just have a look at this video:

34. Bayonne

Bayonne is at the confluence of the Nive and Adour Rivers in far southwestern France, where historical regions overlap.

Other than Biarritz, it is not located directly at the ocean, but at the river.

The best way to explore Bayonne and area is by bike.

The two main sights are the small castle and the cathedral in the city center.

Bayonne in France

photo by @ mila71369

35. La Rochelle

Last but not least, La Rochelle.

La Rochelle is a Renaissance Architecture village in the West France.

I wanted to end this list with a city that somehow combines many sides of the French life and culture. And I think La Rochelle ticks a few of the boxes.

As mentioned, it has the Renaissance Architecture, a rich culinary scene, it is located on the the Atlantic Coast and in the area they produce plenty of great wine.

Map of France with all beautiful cities

My map of France with cities covers all mentioned places, towns and villages.

It will help you to plan your France itinerary properly.

The south of France cities are very popular in the summer months, especially during July and August.

We start in the North-East and went clock-wise. Take notes of the cities, areas and towns you would love to visit. That will make your 10 days in France much much easier.

Personally, I love my freedom.

Therefore, for getting around France, I recommend renting a car.

The motorways/ freeways in France come with a road charge. Depending on your itinerary it can be pricey.

I love to use Via Michelin.com to plan my itinerary.

It gives you an overview of road charges, distances and patrol consumption.

It is very likely you will start in Paris. Since you are up in the North, you should travel clock wise.

You find castles and tiny villages all around the border of France.

Good to know :

  • If you prefer the beach and coastline: start in the East and travel southwards.
  • If you are more into mountains, I recommend the area of Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Alps.

Please drop me a comment below if you need help with planning your itinerary.

You can find all hotels in France with Booking.com

Booking.com is the only website you need to book your accommodation. You can book the accommodation without any prepayment. There is also a free cancellation policy.

Booking covers the widest selection of accommodations in Europe.

This includes

  • guesthouses

Just check out Booking.com .

We have written a detailed guide on where to stay in Paris France here.

Here’s a guide to the best hostels in France , including the coastal towns and the cities such as:

  • Paris: Generator Paris
  • Lille: Gastama Hostel
  • Near Mont Saint Michel: Edd Hostel
  • Strasbourg: Ciarus
  • Marseille: Vertigo Vieux-Port
  • Nice: Villa Saint Exupery Beach Hostel
  • Sète: Georges Hostel & Cafe
  • Soorts-Hoosegor: Jo&Joes Hostel

Why should I visit Mont Saint Michel in France?

Mont Saint Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit destination in France. This majestic castle sits above the water and offers breathtaking views. It's known for its unique location and is accessible via a bridge that is above water except during exceptionally high tides.

What are some must-visit cities in Northern France?

Some of the must-visit cities in Northern France include St Malo, Bayeux, Le Havre, Rouen, Lille, and Amiens. Each of these cities offers its own unique charm, from medieval architecture to picturesque waterfronts.

What are the top attractions in Paris, France?

Paris, the capital of France, offers a wealth of attractions. Must-visit sites in Paris include the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, Champs-Élysées, and Montmartre. It's a city known for its romantic ambiance, world-class art, and rich history.

Which cities in France are known for their culinary experiences?

Lyon is often referred to as the "food capital of France" and is known for its culinary delights. Dijon, in the Burgundy region, is famous for its wine and cheese. Additionally, cities like Aix en Provence and Marseille offer delightful Provençal cuisine.

How can I plan my itinerary for a road trip in France?

To plan a road trip in France, consider using resources like Via Michelin to plan your routes and calculate driving distances. Start with a central location like Paris and explore in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction based on your interests. Renting a car provides flexibility for exploring various regions.

More Guides to France

Get Your Guide is my favorite way to find

  • things to do

It is also the best way to get inspired.

Here’s my favorite guides to France:

  • Lonely Planet for France (my favorite!)
  • Rick Steves Best of France
  • DK Eyewitness Travel Guide France

Summary: Beautiful Cities to visit in France

I hope this list gave you a lot of inspiration.

France is simply awesome. Whether you are coming over for One Week, two weeks or a full month, make sure you spend your time wisely. Try not to get overwhelmed by all these points of interests in France.

As long as you do following things during your holiday, you are good:

  • Try Local cheese
  • Try local wine
  • Visit a chateau aka. castle
  • Visit a small village
  • lean back and enjoy the journey

Before you run off, remember we also collected much more cool guides for your Europe adventure:

  • best Christmas markets in Europe

Do you have any questions? Did I miss any village?

Please let me know. I would love to have this list completed.

– – – Pin it for later:

35 most Beautiful Cities to visit in France

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What about Grasse? I would love to yo there, for perfume history. All of my colleagues are from Brittany. Not so intrigued to go there.

Hey Jennifer,

Oh yes, Grasse is beautiful to visit for a day! I would go there too when in the area! I also absolutely loved Gorge du Verdon and the lakes in the area!

Thanks for pointing that out, Jennifer!

Safe travels, Matt

Non mais attends, Marseilles, et pas Nice et les alentours? It’s like saying, go to LA, San Diego, Sacramento, and not San Francisco.

Thanks, Alain! Marseilles is a great place to visit in France, too.

Hi there we plan to visit France for a month Though ur ITINERARY was extremely helpful but we would still like you to to help us plan the route map starting and ending in Paris We are heavy drivers and dont mind driving 250 to 300km a day with toilet and coffee breaks and activities tours that we can do with an overnight accommodation in between so that we can continue our drive the next day we would like to cover the whole of France… We dont mind spending 2 night or even 1 night in a Place so that we can cover the whole of France and not miss any Thank you in advance

So glad to hear you enjoyed our map and guide. It really depends on what you want to see; small villages, beaches, mountain, special events, farms, activities, you name it. I recommend to have a closer look again at our map with all the maps and then write down your favorite places to visit.

Personally, I would start in Paris and drive up to Ghent in Belgium. Then off to Normandie and down the Atlantic Coast to Mont Saint Michel, down to the Spanish Border. Enjoy a wine tasting in the area of Bordeaux. In the south you have also the famous castle of Carcassonne; worth it! I absolutely recommend Nimes and it’s Roman sights. Then I so enjoyed Avignon, a total gem in France! If you have time, hop down to Barcelona in Catalonia and Costa Brava!!

A full month is a lot of time to enjoy France. You won’t be able to see everything anyways, therefore my best recommendation is to narrow it down, enjoy it to the best and do not rush it. France is big; if you run through it you will drive-pass everything but not see anything.

Enjoy and safe travels, Matt

Hi Matt, Your artical in inspiring, – i am planning a trip to France with my wife and daughter after Corona and maybe another family of 3 will join. – Sure will start in Paris and Disney. – i prefer to keep the alps for another trip to combine it with Switzerland and Austria. – i can start in Paris and finish it in nice. – will rent a car for sure – i can go for 15 to 20 days, depend on the accommodation and budget. i have to take into consideration that my daughter is with me she’s now 5 years old. will travel in spring. it will be great if you can help me

This is awesome!!

Paris and Disneyland sounds like a pretty good kickstart for travelling around France.

You can find my guide on renting a car in France and Europe here . In spring it is not yet high season, so prices could be great!

I think adding Austria as well to your list within 20 days is quite ambitious. I would reduce the itinerary a bit and make the best ouf of the area. France itself is impressive. I recommend for instance Normandie, Mont Saint Michel, St Malo, La Rochelle Island, the Dunes near Bordeaux and Bordeaux itself (maybe the most beautiful big city in France).

Then in the South you have gorgeous places as well like Carcassone (only a day trip) and Collioure. On your way to Switzerland you could stop in Gorge du Verdon. In Switzerland I recommend going to Geneva and Interlaken for hiking. Since your daughter is young, you could do Kayaking (I think this should be possible on these beautiful lakes and with a life vest).

I hope this helps a bit. I am sending you an email as well 🙂

Nothing in the Centre – you are missing out!

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29 Top Tourist Attractions in France

By Jamie Gambetta · Last updated on May 22, 2024

When the mind ponders a trip to France, Paris quickly makes an appearance. Its storied streets are the very definition of romanticism. But beyond the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées is a sprawling country with the rugged Normandy coast on one side and the French Riviera on the other.


Day trips from Paris to Champagne and Versailles are easy to add to the list of things to do in France. But one needs to make use of the country’s efficient (and fun) train network to venture beyond to such memorable towns as Strasbourg, Lyon, Cannes, and St. Tropez.


Beyond glamour, the turquoise Mediterranean and ancient old towns, the French Alps harbor spectacular scenery where skiing, hiking, and climbing come to the fore.

But perhaps the biggest tourist attractions in France are found among its rich culture with food and wines that are among the most celebrated in the world.

29. Chateau de Chenonceau

Chateau de Chenonceau

The Loire Valley is home to countless spectacular castles. At the top of your list should be the Chateau de Chenonceau. Dating back to the early 1500s, the castle has seen multiple iterations, each an improvement on the last.


Over time, the bridge spanning the Cher grows in length. But as it crosses the water, the arch bridge becomes the pillar that holds up an expanded castle. Showcasing a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, the Chateau de Chenonceau reflects off the water below, offering brilliant photography.


Travelers can make their way into the castle where they’ll find the ornate chapel, the King Louis XIV Drawing Room, and bedrooms fixed with period furniture. Beyond the castle are expansive gardens that stretch into the French countryside.

28. Le Puy-en-Velay

Le Puy-en-Velay

Thousands of years ago, volcanic eruptions carved the landscapes surrounding Le Puy-en-Velay. Today, dormant volcanoes and basalt spires are within constant sight. Yet, perhaps what brings Le Puy the most notoriety is its position along the Camino de Santiago.


For many, the 800km journey along the Way of St. James begins right here. The town has a storied connection to the pilgrimage and religion. One of the first sights you’ll see as you make your way into Le Puy-en-Velay is Our Lady of France statue which showcases the Virgin Mary. It’s almost 23 meters tall.


Beyond the Camino, visitors can experience the town’s traditional lacemaking industry.

27. Epernay Champagne

Epernay Champagne

Alongside Reims, Epernay is the best town to visit in Champagne to experience the local delicacy. A simple day trip from Paris , Epernay, is a wonderful place to sample a wide range of world class champagne. After all, if it’s not from around here, then it isn’t really champagne.


Surrounded by rolling green hills, Epernay is the home of the famous Moet & Chandon. Arguably the world’s most sampled champagne, Moet & Chandon offer a range of tours where you can wander through the cellars and try their beloved drink within a sightly tasting room.


After visiting a range of other champagne houses, make your way to Hautvillers, where you can enjoy expansive views across multiple vineyards.

26. Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Festival

Along the Cote d’Azur, Cannes is lined with high-end hotels, glamorous boutiques, fine dining and plenty of sunshine. At the center of its fame is the Cannes Film Festival, which attracts the biggest movie stars from across the globe.


Although Cannes is a year-round destination with plenty of things to do, the film festival is one to mark on your calendar. Held in May, it’s a chaotic yet rewarding time to visit the stunning seaside town. You’ll find stars dotting the red carpet outside of the Lumiere Theater at the Palais. The 18 on-site auditoriums host many of the year’s top films.


Sans tux or ball gown and a hefty check, the best way to see movies (for free!) is the Cinema de la Plage, an open-air cinema steps from the Med.

25. Val d’Isere

Val d'Isere

Alongside Chamonix, Val d’Isere is a destination not to be missed among snowbirds. This world-class skiing and snowboarding destination offers guaranteed snow cover, fun for beginners through to expert, and thrilling après-ski.


On the edge of the Tarentaise Valley, minutes from the Italian border, reaching the high alpine village is a trek. A forty-minute drive up from the valley is immediately rewarded with an exciting destination that harbors enough history to rival its sea-level compatriots.


Beyond the chalets, chairlifts take you up into the heavens. The run awaits, yet you’ll want to take in the spectacular views of the surrounding Alps. Once the day is done, change boots and experience Val d’Isere’s vibrant nightlife.

24. Nîmes Roman Monuments

Nîmes Roman Monuments

Around 2,000 years ago, the Romans made their mark upon the town of Nimes in southern France. Today, it’s the most Roman city to exist outside Italy. At the heart of this are the Nimes Roman Monuments that showcase an incredible city at its peak.


Once a major regional capital, Nîmes was where engineers and architects pushed boundaries to create the Pont du Gard, the Maison Carree, Temple of Diana and the Arena of Nîmes.


The Maison Carrée was built around the same time as the birth of Christ. It translates to square house and, incredibly, is almost completely intact. The Arena of Nîmes is another highlight. Similar in age to the Roman Coliseum, it remains in use today.

23. Camargue

Camargue

Beneath the city of Arles in southern France, the Parc Regional de Camargue is a protected landscape. France is teeming with old town and glamorous coastal enclaves. This sets Camargue apart.


UNESCO has listed this as a Biosphere Reserve, a place where wild horse saunter along the golden sands, at times venturing into the Med. Elsewhere, the park’s famous pink flamingos go about their daily lives.


There are over 300 bird species, both local and migrating within Camargue. This makes the reserve one of the best spots for birdwatching in France. Beyond hiking, you can explore on riverboats, kayaks, or horseback.


22. Vieux Lyon

Vieux Lyon

On the precipice of Fourviere Hill, Vieux Lyon ( Lyon Old Town ) is home to vibrant facades, old communes, churches, and business all reached along paved streets that have been worn smooth by the passage of time.


Thanks to a movement in the 1960s, the Vieux Lyon has remained much as it was going back hundreds of years. It has also been revitalized to the point it’s as prominent a part of local life as the popular Presqu’ile.


Now a World Heritage Site, Vieux Lyon’s three districts are waiting for your footsteps. Within them are three distinct churches, each with an important chapter in Middle Age religion.

21. Bonifacio

Bonifacio

Known as the City of Cliffs, Bonifacio is one of France’s best-kept secrets. Clinging to the edge of white limestone cliffs, this seaside town along the Corsica coast is relaxing to visit, even at the height of summer.


Back from the cliffs that fall quickly to the kaleidoscopic Mediterranean Sea, is a medieval town that was once a part of Sardinia, an Italian island. Volcanic activity put an end to the connection leading to waters that are now littered with infamous pirate ships.


The vibe of the oft-chaotic sea is left behind once you step inside the coastline’s oldest town. The fortified Bonifacio is an ancient citadel, with colorful homes, and a culture that is a fascinating mix of Italian and French.

20. Millau Bridge

Millau Bridge

Touring around southern France is on the bucket list of many travelers. As such, it’s nice to know that such a journey can take you across one of the most incredible bridges in the world. The Millau Bridge stands at 343 meters tall, a world record. Add on stunning panoramas and you’ll quickly be changing course.


The Millau Bridge stretches across the stunning Tarn Valley, connecting a duo of limestone plateaus otherwise known as the Causse du Larzac and Causse Rouge across 2.5 kilometers. The cable-stayed bridge is as visually appealing as the surrounding landscape featuring white towers that often poke through the clouds above.


19. Ètretat Cliffs

Étretat Cliffs

Along the hauntingly beautiful Normandy coast, stands the towering white rock known as the Étretat Cliffs. Looking out across the English Channel, the cliffs are home to two famous natural arches that jut into the water, showcasing both its strength and fragility.


The white cliffs are encased in thick greenery, providing a beautiful breadth of colors on a sunny day. It’s easy to scale up the Étretat Cliffs to enjoy vast views of the coast and the ghost white sand below. But it’s from the beach that you can best appreciate the scale of the cliffs and the arches which were initially carved by a rolling river.

18. Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

For eight centuries until 1825, French kings received their coronation within the walls of the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral. All up there were 29 such kings, which include the famous names of Francois I and Louis XIV. Such was the esteem of the cathedral’s coronations that led Joan of Arc to its doorstep in 1429.


Today, the Reims Cathedral is a brilliant example of High Gothic architecture and is one of the most stunning attractions in France. Despite enduring heavy artillery fire and bombings in the Second World War, it has returned to its former glory. Its front facade features more statues than any equivalent on each and comes with a trio of towering entrances, known as portals.


Like other French cathedrals, Reims also has an enormous rose window which leads to the Gallery of Kings.

17. Strasbourg Old Town

Strasbourg Old Town

In northeast France, Strasbourg is the capital of the Grand Est Region. Minutes from the German border, Strasbourg’s entire Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Encased in picturesque half-timbered houses and the canals of Petite France, it’s a destination that oozes history.


The wider Strasbourg is a town driven by youthfulness, but its historic interior tells the tale of a city that has lived under many kingdoms and within multiple nations. The narrow passageways act as a maze, guiding you by the pastel homes half covered in wood, past medieval churches and onto vibrant town squares where locals gather in droves on the cafe patios.


Within the Old Town are a number of unique quarters, such as La Petite France and the Quartier Krutenau, each with their own story to tell.


16. Promenade des Anglais

Promenade des Anglais

Set along Nice ’s spectacular waterfront, the Promenade des Anglais spans seven kilometers. It splits Nice’s beloved Baroque palaces, historic museums, and high-end shops with its pebbly shores home to scantily clad travelers soaking up as many rays as possible.


While there’s much to do on the city-side of the promenade, it’s along this path that you can best participate in local culture. The Promenade des Anglais boasts a series of cafe terraces, offering gorgeous views of the Med. Festivals are consistently set upon the smooth path and in the center is the Jardin Albert 1er, one of Nice’s original parks.


After a lengthy stroll, the Promenade delivers you to the doorstep of Nice’s memorable Old Town.

See also: Best Neighborhoods & Hotels in Nice

Annecy

In southeastern France, Annecy is surrounded by giant snow-capped peaks. But little time is spent marveling at the mountains as Lake Annecy steals the show. Known as the Venice of the Alps, Annecy features pastel-colored homes, narrow alleys, and an abundance of old churches. All set upon the waterfront or the town’s series of slim canals.


Between the memorable man-made creations is a town that preserves its natural beauty. Almost 30,000 trees are spread across the locale, a historic town that refuses to grow much beyond its original design. Here, pedestrians are king and getting about on foot is the best way to admire not just the buildings, but each garden and the alpine lake that reflects the surrounding mountains.

14. Bordeaux Wine Regions

Bordeaux Wine Regions

Broken up into 38 sub-regions, the Bordeaux Wine Regions are not to be missed. Though enjoying a good wine is one of the most popular things to do in France, you may not enjoy sampling the local tipple in Bordeaux . If that’s the case, you’ll have no problem falling in love with the countryside home to such quaint towns as Pomerol, Graves, and Saint-Emilion.


Set between each charming village is a collection of 7,000 vineyards split by the Gironde Estuary. Mesmerizing views are found around each passing corner, whether it be the lush rolling hills or the sight of the spire rising above a town as old as time.


The Gironde Estuary separates the region along the Left and Right banks. The former is famous for its cabernet sauvignon, while the latter provides sumptuous merlot and white wines.

13. Palace of Fontainebleau

Palace of Fontainebleau

It was here, within the walls of the Palace of Fontainebleau, that Napoleon abdicated the throne and was exiled to Elba. Unsurprisingly, the palace, which dates back to the 1130s, is lathered in history.

Older than the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles, Fontainebleau was once the home of Marie Antoinette, among other famous (and infamous) royal characters. Inside, you’ll find the horseshoe staircase which was created for Louis XIII and where Napoleon saluted his guards for the last time.


Decorated hallways lead you to the renowned Throne Room where Napoleon once sat. It’s the only one of its kind in France to remain exactly as it was. Each part of Fontainebleau has much to say. However, as most travelers choose Versailles, this palace remains easy to explore.


12. Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

In the south of France, the River Gardon snakes its way through the surrounded landscapes. As it reaches the Occitanie region, it passes under Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct that was built in the heart of the first century.


The aqueduct, which at its height was as long as 50km, is one of the most impressive Roman creations. Built by the ancient Nemausus, a Roman colony, the three-story creation supplied the city of Nimes with water from Uzes. Pont du Gard was pivotal, as it allowed the water to cross over the River Gardon.


In 1985, it joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, allowing the preservation and celebration of this historic and vital work of art.

11. Carcassonne

Carcassonne

Once you set foot within the town limits of Carcassonne, you’ll understand how it came to inspire the strategic board game that harbors the same name. The ancient town has been impeccably preserved over the centuries, so each step along the cobblestone streets feels like another step back in time.


Among the lush green trees are fortified walls eclipsed by towers that sparkle under the French sun. Also known as La Cite, it’s a fascinating journey back to the Middle Ages, where the streets guide you to historic sites such as the Chateau Comtal, constructed in the 1100s, and the 52 towers that belong to the Basilique Saint-Nazaire et Sainte-Celse.

10. Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

The story of France’s connection with religion is as old as time, as ancient even as the medieval Gothic architecture strewn across the provinces. Each is a prominent reminder of culture within the middle ages and the endurance of spirituality. Standing at the forefront of this is the Chartres Cathedral.


For over 800 years, the spectacular cathedral, with its twin spires, has inspired the masses and provided a sanctuary. The UNESCO-listed cathedral features impressive stained-glass windows that you can admire from several blocks away.


Two windows are particularly beloved. They are the Blue Virgin and the Passion windows that are almost as old as the structure itself. They both come to life during the annual light show.

9. Dune of Pyla

Dune of Pyla

An hour southwest of Bordeaux, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean is a soaring sand dune. The Dune of Pyla is the tallest in Europe and grows further eastward every year. On its edges is a vast forest creating eye-catching contrast that only enhances the dune’s beauty.


The Dune of Pyla stretches along the Arcachon Bay for three kilometers, holding off the pounding Atlantic surf while thousands of trees rustle on the other side. At its highest, the Dune of Pyla stands 100 meters above sea level, providing epic west-facing sunsets as the sun dances along the glistening sands.


Whatever the time of day, a quick stroll down to the Arcachon Bay for a refreshing dip will be a traveler’s reward.


8. Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

Within the medieval city of Avignon , is the equally medieval Palais des Papes. The remarkable gothic architecture dates back to the 14th century and is the largest of its kind on earth. From then until now, it’s been a constant symbol of Christendom.


At first glimpse, you’ll notice just how imposing the fortress is. Yet it’s equally luxurious within the fortified walls. A visit to the gothic palace will provide you with a look into the immaculate staterooms, ornate chapels lined with historic decor and private apartments where a series of nine popes resided in the 1300s.


Within, you’ll spot countless works of art while the onsite museum dives into the story behind Palais de Papes. Before departing, admire the views of Avignon from the terraces.

7. Chateau de Chambord

Chateau de Chambord

Set in the romantic Loire Valley, the Chateau de Chambord is a veritable masterpiece that owes its origins to the French Renaissance. Ordered under the rule of King Francois I in the early 1500s, the chateau features over 400 rooms, 282 fireplaces (naturally) and even 83 staircases.


It’s enough to fill the stats book, yet Francois I, who had planned to use it as a hunting escape, spent only a handful of nights staying within its four walls. It was maintained over the centuries, yet recently it received rejuvenation. The colorful surrounding gardens are now just as much a reason to visit.


The Chateau de Chambord is just one of the numerous incredible castles within the valley. Others include the neoclassical Chateau de Cheverny and the Chateau de Chenonceau. 


6. Gorge du Verdon

Gorge du Verdon

One of Europe’s largest canyon, Gorge du Verdon, brings together the strength and might of ancient rock and the turquoise beauty of the Mediterranean. Set between Marseilles and Nice, north of the French Riviera , Gorge du Verdon was carved by glaciers creating cliffs as tall as 700 meters that soar about the milky blue water illuminated by glacial till.


It’s the Grand Canyon, but with a river far more relaxing. The canyon walls are littered with lush vegetation, seeming holding on for dear life as the canyons rise sharply upwards and sometimes over the Verdon River.


Beginning at the Pont du Galetas bridge in the Provence, you can kayak along the river admiring the sheer scale of the canyon with each stroke.

5. Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel

Surrounded by the chilling waters of the English Channel, along France’s memorable Normandy coast, is the UNESCO-listed Mont Saint-Michel. It’s the castle of dreams known as the Pyramid of the Seas that rises out of the encompassing landscape to provide one of the world’s great vistas.


The castle’s story begins in the 11th century, its awe-inspiring architecture home to Abbey Church (Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel) draws pilgrims in large numbers a 1000 years later. From the beginning, pilgrims crossed the surrounding bay by foot, a tradition that has not lost steam.


Viewing the castle from a distance will only inspire you to come closer. The aforementioned church is the main attraction, boasting inspiring high-vaulted choirs, ancient naves and striking gothic spires.

4. Palace of Versailles

Palace of Versailles

France has no shortage of groundbreaking architecture. Perhaps the most prominent is the Palace of Versailles. Originally constructed in the 1600s as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII, such was the beauty of the building that the country’s royal court was moved from Paris to Versailles, up until the infamous French Revolution.


Under an hour from downtown Paris, the Palace of Versailles continues to capture the imaginations of all visitors into the 21st century and remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Within is five centuries of untouched history and stunning works of art splashed across the ornate walls.

Yet the palace itself, which boasts an incredible 2,300 rooms is the true work of art. The highlight of the palace is the Hall of Mirrors featuring over 350 mirrors that reflect the surrounding gardens.


3. Chamonix

Chamonix

A year-round destination, Chamonix is one of the more famous alpine villages in Europe. Nestled in the foothills of France’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc, Chamonix captures all that is good about nature and humanity.


The picture-perfect village provides access to a lively local culture where locals and travelers mix within the storied buildings from alpine churches to rustic auberges. But steps from the quaint cobblestone streets bring you to the marvels of the French Alps, from world class skiing and hiking to towering rock walls made for fearless climbers.


One could indulge in only the human or natural aspect of Chamonix and still walk away with an unforgettable experience. Regardless, a mouthwatering, traditional cuisine awaits every evening.

2. St Tropez

St Tropez

In the 1950s, St Tropez was a simple fishing village harboring an eye-catching secret. As tourists ventured elsewhere, locals went about their daily lives surrounded by striking beauty. Upon the release of the film And God Created Woman, the coastal town was forever changed.


Today, it’s a gorgeous hot spot along the famed French Riviera. In the distance the Alps rise across southeastern France, but for visitors’ eyes are firmly fixed on the arresting architecture and the glistening sea.


Eyes dart from spot to spot with the possibility of spotting a celebrity in a town that has now become a hallmark for glitz and glamour. Elsewhere, the calm sea breeze laps the sand as windsurfers and sailors play on the water mere yards from million-dollar yachts.

1. Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Such is the modern-day popularity of the Eiffel Tower. It’s hard to imagine that it was once despised among local Parisians. Built in 1889, the famous tower which harbors the bulk of Paris ’ romantic sensibilities has come a long way.

No trip to France’s biggest city is complete without a closeup view of the Eiffel Tower’s 8,000 parts. Once you’ve admired the marvelous architecture, wander up the staircase to restaurants across multiple levels, plus wondrous views of the city itself.

Within the tower, you can enjoy fine dining at the Michelin starred Le Jules Verne. Later, venture to the highest level almost 280 meters (905ft). From the jaw-dropping height, appreciate the beauty of the River Seine, Notre Dame, and the Trocadero.

Map of Tourist Attractions in France

Map of Tourist Attractions in France

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Reader interactions.

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January 25, 2024 at 5:57 am

Brilliant list! I’ve been to most of these places and enjoyed them massively. Calanques National Park in Marseille is another one that isn’t featured. There are so many picturesque hikes and fun activities for a busy day out.

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November 28, 2016 at 10:14 am

Very good list but Lyon is missing! There is so much to discover…Vieux Lyon, Traboules, Fouviere and its Basilica but mostly lyonnais cuisine as Lyon is the Capital of Gastronomy.

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July 14, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Pity that Lourdes is not mention….especially in these times of such unrest….many prayers have gone forth from that Holy Place…much unity and peace has gone forth from there to the world. Our Lady of Lourdes pray for us.

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February 2, 2016 at 3:18 am

You’ve listed two of my favourite places in France! First is the Gorges du Verdon. I doubt if there’s anywhere in France that’s more spectacular. The second is the Chateau de Chambord. Certainly my most favourite Chateau in the Loire if not France!

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January 25, 2016 at 10:34 am

I think it’s a “pity” that Val d’Isère always comes up as the best ski resort in France. Ok maybe it is not usurped, but many others “genuine” and wonderful villages deserve to be visited in the Alps.

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June 23, 2015 at 3:10 am

I ve been to all of that places and if i could go back to one of them i would choose the Gorges du Verdon. Clearly one of the most beautiful canyon in the world. Perfect place for canoeing, swimming, and it’s not really far from the french riviera if your staying there for holiday (around 1 hour by car !)

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January 16, 2015 at 5:07 am

Have been up the Dune du Pyla near Arcachon – remarkable ! but take food and drink with you! Have been next to the Eiffel Tower and have skied in Les Contamines but only see Mont Blanc from there – does that count ?!? Yes as someone says surely the Louvre as I think it had something like 7 or 8 million visitors last year!

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August 7, 2014 at 6:37 am

I love these places. It makes me feel like I want to visit France and explore these places. This site is soooo useful for my project,wayyyy tooo useful, haha…..Thanks to the writer or blogger of this site/page. Thanks so much !

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March 19, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Thanks for the tips. I´m planning a 20 day tour in France next month and certainly I´ll use your informations. I want to include Bordeaux and some other places. Mercy.

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March 5, 2014 at 11:36 am

This website really helped with my French homework, it made it quick, easy and enjoyable and I loved learning these facts on these stunning attractions!

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February 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm

This really helped me out to giv a wonderfull project on tourism in college thanks to one who wrote tis

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January 30, 2013 at 4:34 am

The Pyrenees National Park is just one of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty to be found on this planet!

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January 14, 2012 at 8:49 am

Hi this is really helping me on my speech. thnx to whoever wrote this

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October 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Would love to visit the Chamonix – mountain biking is something I recently took up and this place just seems perfect………

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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!

france top tourist cities

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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These are the Most Beautiful Cities in France to Visit!

Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info.

Explore the Prettiest Cities in France

France is a stunning country to explore, and if you’re planning your first French trip , you may want to visit some of the most beautiful cities in France. It’s a tough decision, for good reason — all the most beautiful French cities have an enticing mix of scenery, historic sites, architecture, museums, and great cuisine and ambiance.

The good news is that the prettiest cities in France can easily be reached from Paris by train, with train journeys of four hours or less.  

The amount of time you have in France will likely dictate how many places you can visit. But where to go? These are our picks for the most beautiful cities in France to visit, the best cities in France with their unique character and appeal.

Plan Your Trip to France

  • France Travel Planner
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  • Quick Guide to Driving in France (and the best French road trips )
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france top tourist cities

Most Beautiful French Cities to Visit

One of the things we like most about France is its diversity. You can literally go from the north to the south of France and feel like you’re in a totally different country. The culture, food, and cities are all so different and unique!

Here’s the list of the best cities in France to visit this year in no particular order.

1. Paris, the Capital

Paris - France

Look no further: Paris is the most beautiful city in France and also the most romantic. For many, Paris is the first contact with the country, the final destination, or the starting point for fun road trips through France .

The French capital is a great place for sightseeing and cultural or gastronomic weekends — check out our Paris bucket list — and you can easily visit small towns or beautiful castles on day trips, too.

With a fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and a busy agenda of exhibitions, fairs, and festivals, it is impossible not to have a great time in Paris!

The list of top things to do in Paris includes the Eiffel Tower , the Louvre Museum , the Tuileries Garden, Montmartre, or Ile de la Cité , but believe us when we say that the city has much more to offer apart from the main tourist sights.

If you visit Paris for the first time, we recommend spending at least 3 days in Paris — one more day if you plan to visit Versailles.

  • Book your flight tickets to Paris with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Paris with Omio

Where to stay in Paris :

  • Le Robinet d’Or (budget)
  • Hotel La Lanterne (mid-range)
  • Le Meurice (luxury)
  • Best Districts to Say in Paris

Harbor Nice

Nice is another of the most beautiful cities France has to offer in the south. The capital of the French Riviera is a great destination all year round: a buzzing sea city in the summer and a relaxing sunny place for a winter break in France .

One of the loveliest cities in Europe , we recommend spending at least 2 days in Nice , visiting its beautiful Baroque architecture, colorful markets, pretty beaches, and interesting museums. The list of top things to do in Nice includes Old Nice , the iconic Promenade des Anglais with the Negresco Hotel , and the Musée Matisse .

Nice is also the perfect starting point for a fun French Riviera road trip . You can also visit many beautiful places on day trips from Nice .

  • Book your flight tickets to Nice with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Nice with Omio .

Where to stay in Nice:

  • Hotel Durante (budget)
  • Palais Saleya Boutique Hotel (mid-range)
  • Hotel Negresco (luxury)
  • Best hotels in Nice with a pool

3. Marseille

Marseille - France

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 gastronomic weekends. It is also the perfect base to explore pretty Mediterranean towns nearby or enjoy sea-related activities like sailing or diving.

The list of the best things to do in Marseille includes the Old Port, the neighborhood of Le Panier, the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the MuCEM, and the Palace of Pharo with its garden. We recommend spending 2 days in Marseille — one more day if you plan on visiting the Parc National des Calanques de Cassis-Marseille .

  • Book your train tickets to Marseille with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Marseille with Omio .

Where to stay in Marseille:

  • Massilia Hotel (budget)
  • Best Western Hotel du Mucem (mid-range)
  • La Résidence Du Vieux Port (luxury)
  • Best Hotels in Marseille

Lyon - France

In the Southeast, Lyon is another beautiful city in France well connected with Paris. Bisected by the rivers Rhône and Saône from north to south, Lyon is well known for its quality of life and beautiful heritage from Roman times to contemporary architecture.

Lyon is also the food capital of France. In 1935, French food critic Curnonsky, dubbed the Prince of Gastronomy, described the city of Lyon as the “world capital of gastronomy,” so if you ever find yourself in Lyon, you must learn about its local dishes and, of course, try them!

With 2 days in Lyon , you can visit most of the main sights in the city. The list of top things to do in Lyon includes the Fourvière Hill  for the Basilica and beautiful panoramic views of the city, Vieux Lyon — the city’s historical center and its beating heart —, the Lumière Museum , and the Presqu’Ile  (Lyon’s river-bound peninsula) for more beautiful architecture and good shopping. The Traboules are unique to Vieux Lyon, so while you are there, don’t forget to explore a couple of them!

Add a couple more days and explore the surroundings on day trips from Lyon .

  • Book your flight tickets to Lyon with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Lyon with Omio .

Where to stay in Lyon:

  • Hotel Le Lumière (budget)
  • Hotel des Artistes (mid-range)
  • Intercontinental Lyon – Hotel Dieu (luxury)
  • Best hotels in Lyon

5. Strasbourg

Strasbourg - France

In Eastern France, Strasbourg is the capital of historical Alsace , the capital of the new French region of Grand Est , and the seat of many European institutions like the European Parliament.

Strasbourg is one of the best French cities for sightseeing or a gastronomic weekend . We recommend spending 2 days in Strasbourg , more days if you plan to take day trips . The list of main sights in Strasbourg includes the Gothic Cathedral , the neighborhood of La Petite France with its picturesque houses and canals, the Maison Kammerzel , and the European Parliament . At lunch or dinner time, don’t miss the traditional winstubs for a more local atmosphere.

A modern city that does not forget its roots, Strasbourg is the main starting point for the Alsace Wine Route and a great base camp for exploring picturesque villages in Alsace . The city is also famous for its Christmas market , one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in France !

  • Book your train tickets to Strasbourg with Omio .

Where to stay in Strasbourg :

  • Hotel Arok (budget)
  • Hotel Cathédrale (mid-range)
  • Hotel & Spa Regent Petite France (luxury)
  • Best neighborhoods to stay in Strasbourg

Nantes - Pays de La Loire

Nantes is one of the best cities in France to visit from Paris. Bisected by the Loire River, Nantes boasts a beautiful city center with elegant squares and private mansions.

Nantes is an excellent destination to visit with kids. We recommend spending 2 days in Nantes to get a good taste of what the city offers. The list of top things to do in Nantes includes the central neighborhoods , the banks of the River Loire , especially animated in the summer, and the medieval Château of the Dukes of Brittany .

Nantes is also the city of Jules Verne , who was born and raised there. The Jules Verne Museum is dedicated to the famous French writer, and some of his novels inspired  Les Machines de l’Ile , a quirky attraction set in the former shipyards on the Isle of Nantes. There are few places in Europe where you can stroll around the city on the back of a mechanical elephant!

  • Book your train tickets to Nantes with Omio

Where to stay in Nantes:

  • Kyriad Nantes Centre Graslin (budget)
  • Oceania l’Hotel de France Nantes (mid-range)
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Nantes (luxury)
  • Best hotels in Nantes

Colmar - Alsace

Colmar  is the type of city people dream about when planning a trip to France. Not only is it one of the prettiest cities in France, but it’s also been one of France’s cultural centers since the 13th century.

From spring to fall, Colmar is a must-stop for any Alsace road trip . From mid-November to the end of the year, the city hosts one of the best Christmas markets in Alsace in a fairytale atmosphere.

There are numerous  things to do in Colmar , but the historic center is the star. It’s filled with floral displays on every corner, half-timbered houses, and historic mansions begging to be explored. For a more cultural visit, don’t miss the Unterlinden Museum , which has a stunning collection of medieval art, and the Bartholdi Museum , dedicated to the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Kids (and adults) will love the Toy Museum and the Choco-Story Colmar .

  • Book your train tickets to Colmar with Omio .

Where to stay in Colmar:

  • Paul & Pia – Welcome Home Hotel (budget)
  • Hotel Turenne (mid-range)
  • Hotel Le Colombier (luxury)
  • Best neighborhoods to stay in Colmar

8. Bordeaux

Bordeaux - France

In Western France, Bordeaux is the capital of the region Nouvelle-Aquitaine and one of the most elegant French cities to visit. Most of all, Bordeaux is the capital of one of the best wine regions in France and worldwide!

Bordeaux’s historical center boasts a beautiful collection of Classical and Neo-classical private mansions. The architecture is elegant and homogeneous. Come to Bordeaux for sightseeing, to enjoy its excellent cuisine , and to taste some of the world’s best wines.  

The best things to do in this beautiful city in France include its excellent Cité du Vin , the Place de la Bourse, the water mirror, and a stroll around the Old Town . We recommend spending two days in Bordeaux , a perfect amount of time to visit the city and do a wine-tasting tour, plus one day to explore the surrounding areas of Arcachon or Saint Emilion .

  • Book your train tickets to Bordeaux with Omio .

Where to stay in Bordeaux:

  • Hotel des Voyageurs Centre Bastide (budget)
  • Golden Tulip Bordeaux Euratlantique (mid-range)
  • Yndo Hotel (luxury)
  • Best hotels in Bordeaux

france top tourist cities

Annecy is a small city in the French Alps , quite different from the other best cities to visit in France on this list. This picture-perfect city, crisscrossed by canals, is located by Lake Annecy, more precisely, where Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. Here, we are not far from the Alps, the Montblanc, and the border with Switzerland.

Is Annecy the prettiest city in France? Annecy’s charming Old Town , with its cobbled streets, winding canals, and pastel-colored houses, is the perfect place for a stroll. Here, you cannot miss the medieval Château d’Annecy , overlooking the city, and the Palais de l’Ile — an 11th-century house-fortress with a particular vessel shape.

With the arrival of the beautiful days, the city moves to the lake, the perfect spot for a picnic, a hike, or a bike ride. There are many water activities, too, and the possibility of having a bath at the Plages des Marquisats or d’Albigny.

Annecy is a great city for a relaxing weekend getaway. With 2 days in Annecy , you can explore the Old Town and dedicate a whole day to one of the endless outdoor activities in or around the lake.

  • Book your train tickets to Annecy with Omio .

Where to stay in Annecy:

  • Hotel des Alpes (budget)
  • Best Western Plus Hotel Carlton Annecy (mid-range)
  • Impérial Palace (luxury)

Lille - Hauts-de-France

Lille is one of the most beautiful cities in Northern France . Located in the region of  Hauts-de-France , near the border with Belgium, Lille is a bustling city known for its Flemish architecture and deep cultural heritage.

What to do in Lille? The Grand Place is Lille’s beating heart, with the Old Stock Market , extravagant Flemish Baroque buildings, and the Belfry in the background. Vieux Lille and the Musée des Beaux-Arts are also a must, and the Parc de la Citadelle is the perfect place to relax. Try some of the typical food in Lille , and you’ve got the perfect weekend getaway from Paris.

  • Book your flight tickets to Lille with Omio ; Book your train tickets to Lille with Omio .

Where to stay in Lille:

  • Hotel de la Paix (budget)
  • Boa Hotel (mid-range)
  • Clarance Hotel Lille (luxury)
  • Best Hotels in Lille

Tours - France

Tours is one of the prettiest French cities in Central France. Tours is a historic city, the capital of the Kingdom of France, even if for a short time, and with a rich heritage. It is also a student city, with a lively city center populated by many restaurants and bars that pop up their terraces outside as soon as the beautiful days arrive. 

With such an interesting past and its perfect location in the heart of the Loire Valley , Tours is one of the best cities in France for exploring the Châteaux of the Loire Valley .

Two days in Tours is a good time to explore the city. Wander around the Old Town with its pretty architecture of half-timbered houses and visit  Saint-Gatien Cathedral . The Olivier Debré Contemporary Art Centre is worth the visit, too, and the bustling  Place Plumereau is perfect for a coffee break. On sunny days, be sure to check out the famous  Tours-sur-Loire Guinguette,  where the beach extends the city limits to the banks of the Loire River.

  • Book your train tickets to Tours with Omio .

Where to stay in Tours:

  • Hotel du Cygne Tours (budget)
  • Best Western Central Hotel (mid-range)
  • Château Belmont Tours (luxury)

12. Avignon

Avignon - France

Avignon is one of the most beautiful cities in Southern France . The former city of Popes and cardinals, once the center of intrigues and passions, is one of the most fascinating destinations in France, with an exciting past and a rich heritage. The city is also an excellent base from which to explore some of the most beautiful towns in Provence and the lavender fields of Provence (from mid-June to the end of August).

Avignon is a great destination for sightseeing. The best things to do in Avignon include the Old Town , the Palais des Papes , Notre Dame-des-Doms , and the Pont d’Avignon . In July, Avignon transforms into an open-air theater thanks to its reputed  Festival d’Avignon .

Avignon is small, and you could easily squeeze the main sights in one day in Avignon . But why rush? You are in Provence , where people like to take their time to enjoy the small pleasures of life. That’s why we still recommend taking it easy and spending 2 days in Avignon to enjoy the city at a more relaxed pace.

  • Book your train tickets to Avignon with Omio

Where to stay in Avignon:

  • HO36 Avignon (budget)
  • Hotel Central (mid-range)
  • Hotel d’Europe (luxury)

Dijon - France

If you are looking for the most beautiful cities in France to visit near Paris, then Dijon is a good option. The capital of the Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon, has an interesting history, beautiful medieval architecture, tasty local produce, and good wine. 

Dijon is a great destination for a cultural weekend or a gastronomic weekend. Dijon’s Old Town  is like a trip back in time, with its impressive Ducal Palace , medieval architecture, and religious buildings.

Dijon is also a good starting point for exploring the Route des Grands Crus or the most beautiful towns in Burgundy . Beaune , famous for its Hospices, is another popular day trip from Dijon.

  • Book your train tickets to Dijon with Omio .

Where to stay in Dijon:

  • Hotel des Halles (budget)
  • Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge (mid-range)
  • Grand Hotel La Cloche Dijon (luxury)

And there you have it — the list of the most beautiful cities in France for every kind of traveler. Which cities would you like to explore right now?

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Urban Splatter

Most Beautiful Cities in France You Must Visit

July 9, 2024.

Have you ever dreamed of strolling along the charming streets of France, soaking in the rich history and breathtaking beauty that this country has to offer? From the romantic allure of Paris to the sun-kissed shores of Nice, France is a treasure trove of enchanting cities waiting to be explored. Join me on a journey through the most beautiful cities in France that will captivate your imagination and steal your heart.

France, a country known for its romantic charm and rich cultural heritage, is home to some of the most beautiful cities in the world. From bustling metropolises to quaint towns, each city in France has its unique allure. Let's explore the top 10 most beautiful cities in France!

Paris, the capital city, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in France. Known as the "City of Light," Paris boasts an array of iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Additionally, the city is a hub of art, fashion, and gastronomy, making it a must-visit destination.

Eiffel Tower Paris

Located on the French Riviera, Nice is famous for its stunning seaside views and vibrant markets. The city's Promenade des Anglais offers a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea, while its Old Town charms visitors with narrow streets and lively cafes.

Nice French Riviera

3. Marseille

Marseille, the oldest city in France, is known for its rich history and cultural diversity. The city's Old Port is a bustling area filled with seafood restaurants and cafes, while the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde offers panoramic views of the Mediterranean coast.

Marseille Old Port

Renowned for its culinary excellence, Lyon offers a mix of Roman and contemporary architecture. The city's Old Lyon district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its Renaissance buildings and vibrant markets. The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière provides a stunning view of the city.

Lyon Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière

5. Bordeaux

Bordeaux is an elegant city in Western France, famous for its wine and classical architecture. The Place de la Bourse, with its stunning reflection pool, is a must-see attraction. Bordeaux's Wine Museum provides insights into the region's winemaking history.

Bordeaux Place de la Bourse

6. Strasbourg

Strasbourg, located in Eastern France, is known for its Gothic cathedral and blend of French and Germanic cultures. The city's Petite France district, with its half-timbered houses and canals, offers a picturesque setting for a leisurely stroll.

Strasbourg Petite France

Nestled in the French Alps, Annecy is often referred to as the "Venice of the Alps" due to its canals and cobbled streets. The city's picturesque setting around Lake Annecy makes it a popular destination for outdoor activities and relaxation.

Annecy Lake Annecy

8. Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is known for its sunny climate, outdoor cafes, and vibrant art scene. The city's Cours Mirabeau is a major thoroughfare lined with trees, fountains, and cafes, providing a delightful atmosphere for visitors.

Rouen, a small town with a rich history, is known for its stunning Gothic architecture and half-timbered houses. The Rouen Cathedral and the Gros Horloge, a medieval astronomical clock, are among the city's most famous landmarks.

Rouen Cathedral

Dijon, located near Paris, is famous for its rich history and medieval architecture. The city's Palace of the Dukes and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon are must-visit attractions. Dijon is also known for its local produce and wine tours in the Burgundy region.

Dijon Palace of the Dukes

Most Beautiful French Cities to Visit

As I reflect on the beauty and charm of these French cities, I am reminded of the timeless allure that France holds for travelers. From the romantic streets of Paris to the picturesque landscapes of Annecy, each city has a unique story to tell. Let yourself be whisked away by the melody of French culture, history, and gastronomy in these enchanting destinations. Whether you are strolling along the Seine in Paris or sipping wine in Bordeaux, there is a magic in the air that lingers long after you have returned home. So pack your bags and set out on your own adventure to discover the most beautiful cities in France – your heart will thank you for it. Bon voyage!

Where is the most beautiful city in France?

Determining the most beautiful city in France is subjective and depends on personal preferences. Paris is often considered the epitome of beauty with its historical and cultural landmarks. However, cities like Nice, with its Mediterranean charm, or Annecy, often called the "Venice of the Alps," also contend for the title.

What are the must-see attractions in Paris?

When in Paris, do not miss iconic attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre-Dame Cathedral. Wander through Montmartre for a mix of today's vibrant café culture and timeless architecture.

What makes Nice a popular destination?

Nice is celebrated for its vibrant seaside atmosphere, stunning Promenade des Anglais, and the charming Old Town. With an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, it's a haven for sun lovers.

What are the top attractions in Marseille?

Marseille offers a blend of historical and cultural experiences. Top attractions include the Old Port, Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde with its panoramic views, and the nearby Calanques National Park.

Why is Lyon known as the gastronomic capital of France?

Lyon is famed for its culinary excellence. The city boasts many world-renowned chefs and traditional eateries called "bouchons." Don't miss the annual light festival, Fête des Lumières, which attracts millions.

What should I do in Bordeaux?

In Bordeaux, explore the Place de la Bourse, visit the Bordeaux Wine Museum, and indulge in wine tastings. The city is known for its elegant architecture and is the world's wine capital.

What is special about Strasbourg?

Strasbourg, with its Gothic cathedral, offers a blend of French and German cultures. The Petite France district, canals, and timber-framed houses enhance its historical charm. The city also hosts the European Parliament.

Why is Annecy referred to as the "Venice of the Alps"?

Annecy earns this title due to its picturesque canals flowing through the old town. With the beautiful Lake Annecy and its annual prestigious animation festival, the city is a top destination for scenic beauty and cultural events.

What makes Aix-en-Provence unique?

Aix-en-Provence is famous for its vibrant art scene, outdoor cafés, and stunning promenades like Cours Mirabeau. It is also the hometown of the post-impressionist painter, Paul Cézanne.

What are the historical highlights of Rouen?

Rouen, renowned for its Gothic architecture, is home to the magnificent Rouen Cathedral and the Musée des Beaux-Arts. It's also historically significant as the place where Joan of Arc was tried and martyred.

Why is Dijon famous?

Dijon is celebrated for its rich history and medieval architecture, being the heart of the Burgundy wine region. It is also renowned worldwide for Dijon mustard.

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13 Coastal French Villages We Can't Stop Dreaming About

Posted: April 20, 2024 | Last updated: April 20, 2024

This pretty French beach town overlooking the Atlantic is perfect for Instagram pictures with  its numerous white buildings topped with red roofs. Situated just along the coast from Biarritz, in the Basque region of France, it is a quiet fishing village that is protected by three sea walls. The main beach is a large golden crescent that is simply called ‘<em>the big beach’ – ‘le grande plage’ </em>and there are four other beaches to enjoy too, especially Lafiténia, if you are an experienced surfer.<p>The town has always been strongly linked with Louis IV, the Sun King, as the king was married in the beautiful church of Saint Jean-Bapiste in the town. There are colorful half-timbered houses in the town and the Maison Louis XIV Museum in the town has scenes that portray life in the 17th century and the exhibit include the king’s bed.</p><p><b>Related: </b><a href="https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/common-american-customs-that-are-often-offensive-in-other-countries/ss-AA12UPRY"><b>Common American habits that are offensive in other countries</b></a></p>

Best 13 beach and coastal towns in France

The French coastline has more than 2,000 miles of sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and rolling waves that are great for surfing. In many other places, the sea is calm, clear, and azure in color. There are beaches that are large and sandy, and others are small and secluded. There are numerous rocky bays too. One thing’s for certain if you’re looking for  places to live in France  and being near the water is important, there are plenty of great French beach towns situated close to its beautiful coastline.

Living in France  near the coast brings so many merits. Certainly, looking out over the ocean is a great mood booster and helps reduce stress. The cleaner air and higher levels of vitamin D will help you to feel better, and being by the sea definitely promotes a more active lifestyle.

Here are France’s best coastal towns and cities you will truly enjoy: 

Close to the northern ports of Calais and Dieppe and overlooking the English Channel stands the delightful coastal town of Ault. There are pebbled beaches and snowy white cliffs and a relaxing ambiance in the town itself – probably as it is visited by few tourists. Ault is well worth a visit as it is an attractive coastal town in France as it stands in a beautiful location at the head of a green valley that is protected by the Bois de Cise, with the start of the cliffs of the Normandy Alabaster Coast, just a short distance away.<p><b>Related: </b><a href="https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/19-of-the-worlds-most-unique-airbnb-listings/ss-AA14JzyS"><b>These are some of the most unique Airbnb listings in the world</b></a></p>

3. Honfleur

This delightful coastal town in France is perfect for those traveling across the English Channel from the U.K. as it is situated in the Calvados region – not far from the ferry port of Le Havre. Trouville sur Mer has a large sandy beach, that is rarely busy and there is a promenade that is lined with colorful gift shops. Close by there is the old fishing port that is still working and beautiful old villas nestle in the gently rolling hills that overlook this beautiful coastal town in France.<p>Trouville sur Mer is a great choice for those who want to visit this part of France to as it lies within close proximity of the Normandy beaches and it really is an attractive coastal town in France.</p><p>For help financing or budgeting for your travel plans, consider working with a fiduciary financial advisor. <a href="https://bit.ly/3DwULP0">Find an advisor who serves your area today</a> (Sponsored).</p>

4. Trouville sur Mer

Trouville sur Mer is a great choice for those who want to visit this part of France to as it lies within close proximity of the Normandy beaches and it really is an attractive coastal town in France.

Brest is best known because it has been a French naval base for several centuries and stands on a huge natural harbor. For this reason, very few of the buildings in this beach town in France are pre- Second World War. Brest has always been connected to the sea and today is a world leader in ocean research. There is so much to discover in Brest that is linked to the sea including <a href="https://www.oceanopolis.com/en/welcome">Océanopolis</a> – a world-class aquarium – and the galleries of the Naval Museum, which can be found in the castle.<p>Brest appeals to beach lovers too as just a couple of kilometers further west is a really special spot called Pointe du Petit Minou. This is a pretty sandy cove with great rolling waves which are popular with surfers.</p>

Brest appeals to beach lovers too as just a couple of kilometers further west is a really special spot called Pointe du Petit Minou. This is a pretty sandy cove with great rolling waves which are popular with surfers.

Quimper is a delightful coastal French city that stands on the shore and is also Brittany’s oldest city. The city is dominated by the soaring twin spires of the Gothic style Quimper Cathedral and all the old town features traditional, half-timbered houses. This is a great place for museum lovers as there are several to enjoy including the <a href="https://www.mbaq.fr/en/home-3.html">Fine Arts Museum</a> which is filled with a wealth of European paintings. Quimper is famous for its faience – a type of hand-painted Breton pottery.<p>Although Quimper has a lovely sea front to enjoy for a leisurely stroll, its nearest beach, the pretty beach of Saint Gilles Beach – Bénodet is 20 km from the city center and is one of ten beaches in the close vicinity. In and around Quimper there are numerous restaurants serving ocean-fresh seafood and excellent local cider.</p>

Although Quimper has a lovely sea front to enjoy for a leisurely stroll, its nearest beach, the pretty beach of Saint Gilles Beach – Bénodet is 20 km from the city center and is one of ten beaches in the close vicinity. In and around Quimper there are numerous restaurants serving ocean-fresh seafood and excellent local cider.

La Rochelle is one of the nicest coastal French cities. It is situated in south-western France,  on the tip of Charente-Maritime peninsula which is well known for its beautiful coastline with numerous little fishing ports and sandy beaches. La Rochelle has been important for France’s fishing industry for centuries and remnants of its maritime tradition can be see in the Old Harbor which is situated close to its impressive new marine – Les Minimes.<p>There is plenty to see and do in La Rochelle and after exploring this coastal French city it is fun to stretch out on one of its three sandy beaches “Plage de la Concurrence” is just a 5-minute walk from the city center and is ideal for families. The beach also has an access ramp for wheelchair users. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the sea with boat trips plus kite boarding and jet ski rental. Just outside the city, you will find Châtelaillon beach – said to be one of the best beaches in Charente Maritime. The whole area is well known for its oysters and you will find numerous oyster farms strung along the coast.</p>

7. La Rochelle

There is plenty to see and do in La Rochelle and after exploring this coastal French city it is fun to stretch out on one of its three sandy beaches “Plage de la Concurrence” is just a 5-minute walk from the city center and is ideal for families. The beach also has an access ramp for wheelchair users. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the sea with boat trips plus kite boarding and jet ski rental. Just outside the city, you will find Châtelaillon beach – said to be one of the best beaches in Charente Maritime. The whole area is well known for its oysters and you will find numerous oyster farms strung along the coast.

<p>Arcachon is considered one of the best French beach towns and this is certainly reflected in the house prices! Arcachon is situated in south-west France and is famous for its oysters. The town is divided into four districts – all named after a different season.</p><p>You will find all the shops and the main sandy beach in Ville d’Été (summer). In Ville d’Hiver (winter) there are gorgeous 19th-century villas to admire. Just  south of the town, stands the highest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du Pilat, which measure 102 metres. It is hard work scrambling to the top but the view makes the effort really worthwhile.</p>

8. Arcachon

Arcachon is considered one of the best French beach towns and this is certainly reflected in the house prices! Arcachon is situated in south-west France and is famous for its oysters. The town is divided into four districts – all named after a different season.

You will find all the shops and the main sandy beach in Ville d’Été (summer). In Ville d’Hiver (winter) there are gorgeous 19th-century villas to admire. Just  south of the town, stands the highest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du Pilat, which measure 102 metres. It is hard work scrambling to the top but the view makes the effort really worthwhile.

<p>Situated on the country’s south western coast overlooking the Atlantic, stands Biarritz which is a very chic and fashionable French beach town that was first made popular by Emperor Napoleon III and his Spanish wife Eugenie. Biarritz soon became popular with many European monarchs including Queen Victoria. Biarritz has beautiful beaches with rolling surf that is  much loved by surfers and the town hosts a popular surfing competition every summer. Biarritz is well known for its center for thalassotherapy which uses the local sea water in all of its treatments.</p><p>This delightful French beach town lies just a few kilometers from the border with Spain and this is reflected in the regional cuisine which is a wonderful blend of French and Spanish specialties. There is a lovely promenade that links the town’s two main beaches.</p>

9. Biarritz

Situated on the country’s south western coast overlooking the Atlantic, stands Biarritz which is a very chic and fashionable French beach town that was first made popular by Emperor Napoleon III and his Spanish wife Eugenie. Biarritz soon became popular with many European monarchs including Queen Victoria. Biarritz has beautiful beaches with rolling surf that is  much loved by surfers and the town hosts a popular surfing competition every summer. Biarritz is well known for its center for thalassotherapy which uses the local sea water in all of its treatments.

This delightful French beach town lies just a few kilometers from the border with Spain and this is reflected in the regional cuisine which is a wonderful blend of French and Spanish specialties. There is a lovely promenade that links the town’s two main beaches.

10. Saint-Jean-de-Luz

The town has always been strongly linked with Louis IV, the Sun King, as the king was married in the beautiful church of Saint Jean-Bapiste in the town. There are colorful half-timbered houses in the town and the Maison Louis XIV Museum in the town has scenes that portray life in the 17th century and the exhibit include the king’s bed.

Marseille is France’s second largest city and is situated on the country’s south-east coast, overlooking the Mediterranean. It is certainly the largest French coastal cities. Marseille is popular as it is the most vibrant of the coastal French cities and much cheaper than its star-studded neighbor, Cannes. The Old Port is a pleasant place to wander with a new cultural museum and lies close to the city’s large sandy beaches. The city lies close to the famous coastal area called Les Calanques which are a series of deep coastal inlets with the most amazing clear turquoise waters.

11. Marseille

Long a popular haunt for the rich and famous and world known for its international film festival, Cannes is one of the best-known coastal towns in France. Situated on the beautiful French Riviera in the south of France, the town enjoys gorgeous weather all year through. Its famous  Boulevard de la Croisette, curves along the coast and is lined with soft sandy beaches and upmarket boutiques and hotels. Nothing is cheap in Cannes and only the seriously rich can afford to live there. It is definitely a fun place to visit if you want to rub shoulders with the rich and famous.

As well as enjoying the beaches, the Old Town with its winding narrow streets is fun to explore. While you are in the city, it is fun to try some of the famous local dishes which include: Salade Niçoise, Ratatouille, Daube Niçoise (beef casseroled red wine). Pissaladière (a flan made with caramelized onions and anchovies) and Socca the tasty street food which is a flatbread made from chickpea flour. The perfect accompaniment to all of these is a glass of local wine!

There are so many lovely beaches and coastal towns and cities in France and each is special as it has its own individual character. Whether you like action-packed beaches with water sports, quiet, secluded coves with soft golden sand or coastal towns where you can relax with a chilled glass or fine or cider, you will definitely find the ideal place for you among France’s amazing coastal spots.

Fallen in love with beautiful France?

 Check out more  amazing articles about living in France .

This article originally appeared on MyDolceCasa  and was syndicated by MediaFeed .

<p>This particularly picturesque area in southwest France is nicknamed ‘Dordogneshire’ as it really is a popular place with English-speaking expats!  It really is a delightful part of France, home to ten of the prettiest villages in France and a lovely view around nearly every corner! There is a huge number of expats living in this region that enjoys nearly 200 days of sunshine each year. In some of the market towns like Eymet, it is sometimes hard to hear any French voices! It really is one of the best places to live in France for English speakers.</p><p>Dordogne is a good place to consider as there are many properties for sale or rent  ranging from modest apartments to chateaux. Some of the shops advertise that their staff speak English and there are several that import all the favorite UK or US food products such as Heinz Baked Beans and Colmans mustard! There are a number of different expat clubs to join and for those who are feeling homesick, one of the restaurants in Eymet serves fish n’ chips on a Friday evening! Golf and horse riding are popular in the area as well as canoeing and swimming. For those who prefer a pleasant walk in the country, there are plenty of opportunities although a sport that is definitely gaining is exploring on an electric bike.</p><p>Importantly, <a href="https://mydolcecasa.com/top-things-to-know-about-living-in-bordeaux-france-as-an-american/">Bordeaux</a> international airport is accessible, as well as Bergerac, which is a smaller regional airport used by several low-cost airlines.</p><p><a href="https://goo.gl/maps/MXL1HzKedoVUeuH39">See it on the map</a></p>

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Beyond paris: 6 cities in france to visit during the olympic games.

Beyond Paris: 6 Cities In France To Visit During The Olympic Games

There is more to France than Paris and if you’re looking to explore this European country, here are some of the cities you shouldn’t miss. (Image by Getty Images .)

The gaze of global sports fans during an Olympic year is focused on the host city and nearby venues that stage associated specialised events. Paris and other French cities such as Lyon , Saint-Etienne, Nice, Bordeaux, Nantes, and Marseille are on the main Olympic stage. France is a country everyone should visit, even during the Olympics, when the streets and sights will be crowded and security tight.

Hidden gems: Lesser-known cities in France for a French experience

I love everything about France except crowds, so I thought it would be fun to look at some lesser-visited locations that offer an exciting French experience without the hustle and bustle and swarms of other tourists. However, bear in mind that the Paris Olympics will be staged at the height of summer, and most places in France and Europe will be crowded anyway.

Here are half a dozen destinations that have captured my attention on my trips to France over the past few years. Once you leave the main cities and towns, you’ll need to hire a car to access remote villages such as Nohèdes, Séguret, and Saint-Guilhen-Le-Désert.

Avignon and Provence

Provence is one of the most exciting destinations in the southeast of France. Avignon, Arles, and Nîmes are the main tourist towns, supported by more remote places such as Uzès, Pont-de-Gard, and Séguret.

france top tourist cities

Ancient ruins are one of the main reasons visitors are attracted here, but the Rhône River, markets, vineyards, and the Provence climate are also most appealing. Roman (and some dating back to the Greek era) ruins are located in Glanom, along with the famous Pont du Gard bridge and the Arles Amphitheatre (Les Arènes), which dates back hundreds of years.

france top tourist cities

Built across the Gard River (275 m long and 50 m high), Pont du Gard is a triumph of Roman aqueduct architecture. Built some 2,000 years ago, it was erected to supply mountain water to Nîmes, and its construction was an important symbol of Roman dominance in Europe.

france top tourist cities

Pont du Gard is located near the charming town of Uzès, which has a vibrant Saturday market that’s well worth visiting.

france top tourist cities

Vineyards are located all over the southeast. Stay the night with Domaine Cabasse , a fine estate to sample wines, and visit the nearby pedestrian-only village of Séguret. Artists like Cezanne and Van Gogh were attracted to Arles for the dramatic landscape, and the abundance and quality of the light.

Dijon and Burgundy

Accessible by France’s high-speed TGV train, Dijon is the capital of Burgundy , known for its mustard, historic town centre, with medieval stone and half-timbered buildings, 13th-century cathedral, Musée des Beaux-Arts, and the lively Les Halles Market.

Enjoying the fruits of the vines is a good reason to visit Burgundy, which is famous for its premier Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. These thrive along the Route des Grands Crus wine route, which leads south from Dijon. This 60-km route, listed by UNESCO, ends in Santenay, just after Beaune. It takes in famous grand crus such as Chevaliers-Montrachet and wine towns with local hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.

france top tourist cities

This wine route and others throughout Burgundy pass through small villages mostly accessible by bike, and cycling tours are offered by companies like Bourgogne Evasion .

Beaune is one of the best towns to base yourself in and explore the surrounding wine estates. Visit the 15th-century Hospices de Beaune with its distinctive tiled roof, shop in the open-air market, and stay and dine in famous restaurants such as Loiseau des Vignes .

france top tourist cities

Another exciting way to discover Burgundy is by small boat along one of several rivers or canals. Team up with your friends and family to hire a self-contained boat in Branges and head down the Seille River. Using a series of locks, which take some getting used to, the rivers link up with a series of other rivers and canals.

france top tourist cities

Montpellier and the Mediterranean

Located in southern France, Montpellier is enchantingly close to the Mediterranean Sea and champions urban revival by inviting celebrated architects to design buildings destined for greatness.

Numerous contemporary buildings designed by luminaries such as Philippe Starck’s Le Nuage and Japan’s Sou Fujimoto attract design-conscious travellers. The city also has a large student population, and the University of Montpellier dates back to the 12th century.

france top tourist cities

The Mediterranean Sea is a short drive to the south, and La Grande Motte is an excellent place to start exploring the coast.

Built between 1960 and 1975, this resort town was one of the world’s first attempts at eco-living in a green location. Architect Jean Balladur drew inspiration from pre-Columbian structures to create pyramid-shaped buildings in a seaside resort that included extensive wetlands, open areas, a marina, and a golf course. The Palais de Congrès (conference centre), a casino, and the church of St. Augustine are also key elements.

Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert offers a vastly different experience. Check into La Taverne de L’Escuelle and enjoy a pace of life that hasn’t changed much since medieval days. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Abbey of Gellone and Pont du Diable. The village is regarded as one of France’s most beautiful, and the nearby Cave of Clamouse is one of the best in France. The village is 43km northwest of Montpellier.

france top tourist cities

Nohèdes and the Pyrenees

The Pyrenees Mountains form the border between parts of Spain , France, and Andorra. The small mountain village, located in the mountains above Prades in the far southeast of France, has just a handful of ancient stone buildings dating back to the 17th century. The village is at the entrance to a forested reserve offering trails and snow country in winter.

france top tourist cities

Book into River Mountain House to enjoy total solitude in the forest by a brook. Several different types of accommodation are available, from a large four-bedroom house to a studio apartment. Visitors need to be well-stocked to use the kitchen facilities, as the nearest shops are in Prades down in the valley, and there’s just one restaurant in Nohèdes.

Travel to Nohèdes from Latour-de-Carol on La Petit Train Jaune (the Little Yellow Train), crossing the Gisciard Bridge before reaching Villefranche-de-Conflent. From here, it’s a winding, narrow road to Nohèdes. Use Nohèdes as a base to explore the forest reserve, the vineyards of Roussillon-Languedoc, the Pyrenees, and tourist towns along the Mediterranean Sea, such as Collioure (Henri Matisse painted here in the town), Banyuls-sur-Mer and Cerbère/Portbou. The Salvador Dali Theatre Museum is just across the Spanish border in Figueres.

france top tourist cities

Rouen and Honfleur

Rouen is one of the closest large cities to Paris and could be the ideal base for Olympic sports fans to use during the games. The Seine River flows through Rouen on its way to the Atlantic coast and destinations such as Le Havre and Honfleur. The once powerful medieval centre of Rouen spreads out from the impressive Gothic cathedral dating to the 16th century, and its half-timbered houses provide a colourful streetscape. It also has some impressive museums and gardens.

france top tourist cities

Place du Vieux Marché houses the market, an expansive plaza, and restaurants that sprawl across the cobblestone plaza in the summer. Dine on dishes such as foie gras , Atlantic oysters, casserole of sweetbreads, or sole meunière in Brasserie Les Maraichers , facing the plaza.

france top tourist cities

The Atlantic Coast is not far downriver from Rouen, and small seaports like Honfleur and Fécamp are charming places to visit along what is known as the Alabaster Coast. Honfleur has a weekend market, while Fécamp is home to a marina and museums dedicated to its fishing pioneers and DOM Benedictine liqueur.

france top tourist cities

Toulouse and Occitanie

Toulouse, France’s fifth-largest city, is home to Airbus and two UNESCO sites. It is a wonderful gateway for exploring France’s southeastern region, Occitanie.

The man-made Canal du Midi flows through the city and is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Designed and built by Pierre-Paul Riquet from 1662 to 1681, this 240-km-long waterway connects to the Canal de Garonne and various rivers.

france top tourist cities

Several religious sites in the city are also recognised as the ‘Route of Santiago de Compostela in France’ UNESCO site. Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, built in the 13th century, forms part of the site.

Toulouse is important to aviation, and Aeroscopia (an aviation museum) adjoins the Airbus site. Toulouse is also home to the Ariane Space Programme, and the space discovery centre Cité de l’espace is another must-visit site.

Not far from Aeroscopia, Halle de La Machine is a fun venue that houses an amazing collection of interactive, animatronic exhibits built by La Machine. While it’s difficult to categorise this museum, visit it to admire its oversized machines, including Ariane the Spider.

france top tourist cities

Everyone loves a market, and as far as markets go, Marché Victor Hugo is up there with the best in France. This vibrant market is popular with discerning shoppers attracted to the fresh meats, cheeses, seafood, bread, and regional wines. The interior is brilliant and clean, and some traders operate along the adjoining streets.

I also took the opportunity to enjoy Toulouse’s signature dish, cassoulet de Toulouse , at Le J’Go Restaurant , just opposite the market. Cassoulet is a medieval peasant dish made for eating after a hard day’s work. It was traditionally made from whatever was around or in season, and in this part of France, this usually meant beans and preserved meats like duck. All the ingredients are baked in a casserole dish and delivered to the table. It tastes much better than it looks, is quite filling, and is best shared between two.

france top tourist cities

Enjoy the greatest sporting event on earth and admire it from afar in all these delightful destinations in the more remote parts of France. France is justifiably one of the most visited countries in the world, with numerous out-of-the-way places and well-known sights.

Getting there: Fly with KLM from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam or Air France from Singapore.

Useful information: Operated by French Tourism, Atout France has all the details on tourism destinations in the country.

france top tourist cities

David is a photojournalist specialising in travel, wine, trains, and the environment. He's lived in Asia for three decades and has written several books including 10 in the Enchanting Series (Enchanting Penang was awarded the best book on Malaysia at Tourism Malaysia’s Awards 2016). He has also written books on railway journeys in Australia/New Zealand, Asia, and Europe.

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The best holiday destinations in Europe you can reach by train from London

You don’t need to fly for a european break – here’s how to avoid the plane and take a train this summer, article bookmarked.

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A train will take you to Paris in just over two hours from London

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It’s 2024, so the idea of sustainable travel is hardly a new concept. There’s a certain attraction to ditching long plane journeys and airport hassle but still getting to your holiday destination. If there are other ways to travel, why fly? In most cases, train stations are located in the heart of the city so you’ll arrive closer to where you want to be, rather than have to spend money on taxis or other forms of transport.

While rail travel in the UK remains as expensive and controversial as ever , train companies across Europe have been refining and expanding their services to make travelling across the continent more convenient.

From Eurostar’s cross-channel journeys to overnight sleeper trains that take you through several countries while you snooze, train travel across the region has never been as accessible. With the summer fast approaching, take advantage of the rails to reach some of Europe’s best destinations.

Here’s our guide to some of the finest spots in Europe that you can get to within 24 hours by train from London .

Paris, France

Paris is just over two hours from London

The French capital has been a brilliant city to visit by train since the launch of Eurostar in 1994. Nowadays, trains from St Pancras International will get you there in around two hours and 16 minutes, making it a potential day-trip destination as well as a great place for a weekend break. As a transport hub, it also serves as the changing destination for many of the other cities on this list, with easy travel to the rest of France, Belgium and Spain, among others.

Read more on Europe travel :

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From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, explore the city’s various ‘arrondissements’ (districts) for a chance to take in world-famous landmarks, galleries and museums while wandering through the city’s streets. The 19th-century Hausmannian architecture adds to the city’s unique style and romance, while a world-famous gastronomic scene offers everything from fine dining to casual patisseries.

How to get to Paris by train

Eurostar runs up to 17 services per day from St Pancras to Gare du Nord. Tickets from £78 return, and they also offer packages that include hotels and train travel. eurostar.com

Where to stay

Set in the centre of the city, Chouchou is a sophisticated Parisian hotel, from the facade to the elegant interiors. It is also well within walking distance for several of the city’s main landmarks, including the Champs-Elysees, Notre Dame and the Louvre.

Rooms available from {{#price}} {{price}} per night {{/price}} {{^price}} Check availability for dates and prices {{/price}}

Rates provided by Booking.com

Hotel Amenities

Health & wellbeing, bruges, belgium.

Bruges is easily reachable with a change in Brussels

Bruges is another destination that benefits from Eurostar’s routes into France and Belgium. Trains from London change at Brussels-Midi/Zuid, with a further 70 minutes before reaching the northern city. It’s also a great spot for further travel around the country, with trains to Ghent and Antwerp taking just 30 and 90 minutes, respectively.

Once in Bruges, enjoy the picturesque canals and dramatic architecture as you wander its winding streets. Winter visits are great for the famous Christmas Market , although the city comes alive in summer, with the colourful buildings and canals resplendent in the sunshine. The historic core is a Unesco Heritage Site, with several interesting landmarks, including the City Hall, the Groeninge Museum and the Belfry.

How to get to Bruges by train

The total journey time from London is around three hours and 25 minutes, with a change in Brussels after roughly one hour and 50 minutes. Return tickets from London to any Belgian station start at £102. eurostar.com

Despite being housed in a 14th-century building, Hotel Monsieur Ernest has slick, modern interiors that are at odds with the Gothic and Middle Aged architecture in areas such as the nearby Market Square. Combined with the preserved period features, it makes for an interesting mix.

Venice, Italy

Venice’s canals can be reached by train from London

If you don’t mind making a day of it, you can catch a post-breakfast train in Paris and arrive in Venice in the evening. Glide beneath bridges on a gondola, taking in the stunning Renaissance architecture. Explore St. Mark’s Square, a vibrant hub with cafes and the iconic basilica. Get lost in the maze of alleyways, stumbling upon hidden squares and artisan workshops. For a unique experience, visit Murano, famous for its centuries-old glassblowing tradition, or Burano, a colorful island known for its lace.

There’s plenty for food lovers, too. Make sure to try chichetti, which are small Venetian tapas, perfect for a casual lunch or aperitivo. They come in a variety of flavours, from seafood options like salt cod crostini to meatballs and vegetables.

How to get to Venice by train

The TGV-Lyria from Paris to Zurich is an impressive 320km/h (199mph) double-deck high-speed train. Change trains in Zurich for the prettiest part of the route where a EuroCity train passes Lake Como and heads through the Alps over the Gotthard route, past pretty Lake Lugano. Finally, from Milan you’ll take a high speed Frecciarossa operated by Italian Rail to Venice.

Philippe Starck designed the interiors of the 16th-century Palazzina Grassi. It’s 26 rooms are full of signature Starck touches: mirrored walls, ceilings and chairs, carnival masks and stools that look like silver-coated tree-stumps. There’s no check-in desk here – it’s way too cool for that – but there is a Krug Lounge (the second in the world) and a beautiful main room – low-lit and framed by Corinthian columns – which serves as a restaurant, bar and lobby area.

Berlin, Germany

An aerial view of Berlin’s skyline, with the famous TV tower at Alexanderplatz

With new overnight routes launched by Dutch-Belgian rail company European Sleeper in May 2023, Berlin has suddenly become much more accessible by train. The German capital is another trendy European destination, whether you’re a hardcore partygoer or a history buff. Of course, many visitors choose to sample both on their visit, so time can be spent trying to gain entry to the city’s notoriously strict nightclubs or wandering around the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall.

While other sites such as Checkpoint Charlie or the Brandenburg Gate attract thousands of tourists, it’s a good idea to simply wander some of the city’s varied districts. Mitte is the heart of the city, though Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg are other great options for an afternoon wander.

How to get to Berlin by train

The overnight sleeper train runs from Brussels, with services departing at 7.22pm local time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and arriving at 6.48am the next morning. The company have aligned its schedules with Eurostar’s arrivals, meaning the changeover should be easy enough. europeansleeper.eu

The MotelOne chain are known for good accommodation options at tempting prices, and the Hackescher Market location is no different. As always, interiors are pared-back and contemporary, but the real selling point here is the location – you’ll be near Alexanderplatz, the TV Tower and Brandenburg Gate.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague hosted football’s Europa Conference Final

The European Sleeper route added two stops in 2024: Dresden and Prague . This makes travelling from the UK (and indeed Brussels) far easier. If you’re travelling from London, you can jump on an afternoon Eurostar to Brussels and then book a cosy couchette to get a good night’s rest while the sleeper travels next to the river Elbe overnight.

Prague’s focal point is its remarkable Old Town, replete with winding cobbled streets and dozens of choices for drinking and dining. Old Town Square is the heart of the city, while Wenceslas Square is just five minutes away. Across the river, on a hill overlooking the city, stands Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world.

How to get to Prague by train

Your best bet is to travel by Eurostar to Brussels (from £78 return), changing there and going onwards to Prague. total journey time between 14 and 20 hours on average (depending on what time you leave London). Tickets for the final leg start at £45 for a single. europeansleeper.eu

Art and decoration are the focus at NYX Hotel Prague, with an eccentric mix of decorations – including arcade machines in the lobby and a motorbike in the restaurant. It’s less than a mile from Wenceslas Square and Charles Bridge, making it a great option for those who want to explore the city extensively.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s Placa Reial

With trains operating every day from Paris, Barcelona is a surprisingly easy city to reach from the UK. TGV operate fast trains that take just over six hours, meaning that you can easily have breakfast in London and end the day sipping cocktails opposite the Sagrada Familia. Spain’s rebellious second city is the cosmopolitan cousin of Madrid, where European and Spanish influences mix to create a unique, eclectic destination.

Its location is perfect for holidays, as the sprawling metropolis leads you right to the coast, where long stretches of golden sand and warm sea meet bustling beach bars and nightclubs. There are more tourist sites than you could possibly cover in a single weekend break – from the Gaudi buildings to the Olympic Park at Montjuic – but what sets the city apart from other European destinations is the quality and range of things to do. Whether watching football matches at Camp Nou or spending an afternoon strolling through the Picasso Museum, many of its sites and activities are among the “best in class” across the whole of Europe.

How to get to Barcelona by train

One of the easier journey’s on the list, and it can be done in a day if you leave early – the average journey time is roughy 12 hours, including waiting and changing times. After leaving the Eurostar at Paris Gare du Nord, cross the city to Gare du Lyon, where six-hour trains to Barcelona depart three times a day. Prices for the second leg start at £44. sncf-connect.com

Located on the famous Rambla (at the start, near Placa Catalunya), Hotel 1898 has a perfect location for exploring the whole city (but especially the Gothic Quarter, Poblenou and the Old Town). Its rooftop terrace and pool also offer sweeping views all the way out to sea.

Vienna, Austria

A panoramic view of Vienna’s skyline

Though the journey to Vienna can be done in a single day from London, Austria’s own OBB train service offers comfortable overnight trains from Brussels that reach the capital pleasantly early in the morning. Arriving just after 9am, you’ll be able to make the most of your first day in this grand old city.

It is perhaps no surprise that the city of Freud, Mozart and Beethoven has a sophisticated vibe. This feeling is increased to by the vibrant culture and arts scene found today, while its well-preserved architecture reflects a rich and complicated history that stretches back to Roman times. Here, Gothic cathedrals meet Baroque palaces and the world-famous Renaissance Revival-style Opera House – all buildings which help to preserve a sense of elegance and grandeur.

How to get to Vienna by train

The most time-effective option is to make use of Austria’s OBB Nightjet service. Take the Eurostar to Brussels and change for a direct overnight train to Vienna. The Nightjet leaves at 7.32pm local time, arriving in Vienna at 9.05am. Single tickets for this leg start at just under £80. nightjet.com

The Guesthouse sits right in the heart of Vienna’s Old Town, with many rooms overlooking the Staatsoper and the Albertina museum.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam is one of Eurostar’s newer routes

While the train to Amsterdam takes a much longer than flying, take this opportunity to see great countryside views in northern France and Belgium. You’ll arrive at Amsterdam Centraal, where you can step out of the station and right into the centre of the city.

The Dutch capital’s scenic network of canals – backed by seemingly endless rows of 17th-century houses – steal the show in this exceptionally walkable (and cyclable) city, while its parks, such as Vondelpark and Oosterpark, provide numerous pleasant green areas. The Red Light District attracts hundreds of visitors every day, while historical sites and museums including the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum are among the other worthwhile attractions.

How to get to Amsterdam by train

Amsterdam can be reached in just under four hours on Eurostar. Like all of the other direct Eurostar services, return tickets in standard class start at £78. eurostar.com

The Craftsmen is a classic example of a quirky, characterful Dutch hotel. Sitting along the Singel canal near the city centre, its cosy interiors and eccentric decoration make it a hotel fitting of such a fantastic European city.

Milan, Italy

The Naviglio Grande canal, part of Milan’s Navigli district

The journey to Milan offers scenic views as it passes through sections of the French and Italian Alps. Italy’s second city is known worldwide for the finer things in life – whether that be cuisine, high-end fashion or expensive aperitifs – and you can find them all in abundance when you arrive.

The Duomo cathedral (and its piazza) are at the heart of the city; from here, you can easily reach sites such as the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, the Santa Maria basilica and the Sforzesco Castle. If you want to wander further afield, head to the lively canal district of Navigli, or NoLo, one of the city’s social hubs.

How to get to Milan by train

From Paris Gare du Nord, make your way to Gare du Lyon, where you’ll find that a direct TGV (or Frecciarossa, Italy’s competition to TGV) will take you straight to Milan in anywhere between 10 and 22 hours. Prices start at £58 for a single ticket. sncf-connect.com

Hotel Manzioni is located in Milan’s so-called “Golden Rectangle” of high-end fashion (between the streets of Via Sant’Andrea and Monte Napoleone). It is a suitably opulent hotel for the fashion capital – think refined, traditional interiors – that is also within a mile of several of the city’s important landmarks.

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10 of the Most Beautiful Cities in the World to Visit in Your Lifetime

Beauty lies in every corner of these global locales.

florence cathedral

Narrowing down a list of the world's most beautiful cities feels nearly impossible, as each one brings something unique to the table. For our guide we've selected culture centers that celebrate the past through the preservation of art and architecture while inviting younger creatives and thinkers to experiment and redefine urban identity. From an ancient Greek city steeped in culture and history to a hip burgeoning arts city hidden in the mountains of Thailand, here is our guide to the 10 most beautiful cities around the world to visit.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

aldama street parish archangel church san miguel de allende mexico

Dripping in Old World charm, San Miguel de Allende serves as an artistic hub for local craftspeople, designers, and admirers from far and wide. The intricate Spanish Baroque architecture and cobblestone streets play host to countless celebrated shops, darling boutique hotels , and acclaimed restaurants. At the center of the nearly 500-year-old city sits La Parroquía, a striking Neo-Gothic church made of pink stone showcasing the work of indigenous stonemason Zeferino Gutiérrez.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

monastery on top of the montain

Thailand boasts some of the world's most vibrant cities and picturesque landscapes. The northern city of Chiang Mai gives adventurers a taste of both, as the former trading outpost is surrounded by vast mountain ranges. Take a day hike through the forest to the sacred Wat Palad temple complex and venture down the mount to enjoy the food and beverage scene right in the heart of the city. The Rose of the North also has a rising art scene with modern art galleries, such as the Gongdee Gallery, popping up throughout the city.

Paris, France

cityscape of paris

Just at a mere mention of Paris, scenes of style mavens fluttering through historic cobblestone streets past the Seine and pristine gardens come to mind. History can be seen on every corner with the city preserving its astonishing buildings and landmarks, which provide lessons on architectural styles of the past. Meanwhile chic boutique hotels , contemporary art and design shops, and award-winning restaurants continue popping up, cementing Paris's role as a decorative and style leader.

Cape Town, South Africa

clouds over lion's head and table mountain from helicopter

Shadowed by the magnificent Table Mountain and sculpted by the Atlantic and Indian oceans, Cape Town has all the bustle of a thriving city and stunning lures of nature. Spend the early hours learning about the region's native flora at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden before seeing the colorful side of the city in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. At night, enjoy cuisines from across the continent at the Neighbourgoods Market before retiring for the day at one of Cape Town's world-class wellness retreats . A trip to Cape Town would not be complete without a stop at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa to discover the latest and greatest African artists.

Cartagena, Colombia

historical center of cartagena de indias, colombia

A joyous spirit erupts from every colorful Colonial-style home and lively street corner in Cartagena. The historic center of this Caribbean coastal city is surrounded by old city walls built by the Spanish between the 16th and 18th centuries. Within those limits sit several jaw-dropping attractions such as the Clock Tower and Santuario San Pedro Claver and delectable places to eat—like Portal de los Dulces, an entire street filled with sweet treats. Just south of the walled city, the Getsemaní neighborhood offers a more intimate experience with quaint cafés decorated in youthful murals by local artists.

Florence, Italy

florence cathedral

The birthplace of the Renaissance boasts world-class galleries, striking examples of architecture, and some of the world's most prized shops. However, the real charm of Florence is its ability to honor the past while welcoming new ways of living. After spending hours looking through the Opera del Duomo Museum and Uffizi Gallery , head down to Locale Firenze , where bartenders trained in molecular mixology serve eccentric cocktails in handblown glasses and mini greenhouses. And it's a magical scene strolling past the enchanting piazzas and cathedrals glowing under the moonlight.

Istanbul, Turkey

aerial view of hagia sophia in istanbul, turkey

Opulence and ancient beauty meet in the gardens and ornate buildings of Istanbul. Connecting the East to the West, the Turkish city was captured by many armies, but it wasn't until the Byzantine Empire that a distinct style was born. Lavish mosaics and frescoes covered churches and palaces—many of which have been preserved, like the Hagia Sophia. Once the Ottomans came into power, they launched a program to build imperial mosques, such as the Blue Mosque, and extravagant galleries. Many of these significant monuments remain in the city, giving visitors a glimpse into the world's past.

Kyoto, Japan

kyoto, japan alleys

A sense of history can be felt from the moment one enters the old capital of Japan. Bountiful branches of fragrant cherry blossoms serve as the backdrop for craft shops and bustling food markets. Kyoto's food scene rivals that of any large bustling city in the world, with brilliant chefs putting modern spins on classic Japanese dishes and practices.

Kyoto is also home to more than 1,600 Buddhist temples and more than 400 Shinto shrines with the most famous being Kinkaku-ji and Fushimi Inari Taisha, respectively. For a quiet break from the city, take an afternoon to unwind among the towering stalks of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove before paying respects at one of the golden temples.

Athens, Greece

view of the acropolis of athens in greece

Many of the dreamy villages of Greece have seen a recent rise in popularity, yet Athens remains the country's crown jewel. The famous ruins of the Acropolis stand as visual lessons in not only architecture and art, but also culture. That said, the capital isn't at all stuck in the past as burgeoning artists, designers, and thinkers continue to make the ancient city a playground for new ideas. A designer's dream hotel, AthensWas pays homage to midcentury modernism with furnishings from the likes of Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier all while being in the heart of the old town. A trip to Athens isn't complete without an afternoon spent in one of the colorful cafés or artist-run galleries in the youthful Pangrati neighborhood.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

blue stairway with colourful flowerpots

Nestled in the quiet Rif Mountains of Morocco sits a centuries-old city painting the landscape exhilarating shades of blue. The origins of Chefchaouen's watery tones are a bit of a mystery. Some say it was Jewish communities settling into the medina during the 1930s who painted the buildings, but many locals claim the blue shades have decorated the town since its founding in the 15th century. Regardless of the reason, the soothing city offers a much more relaxed look at the history and lifestyle of Morocco.

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Sarah DiMarco (she/her) is the associate editor at VERANDA, covering all things design, architecture, art, gardens, jewelry, travel, wine and spirits. She also manages social media for the brand.

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Breaking news, i photographed the wildest mcdonald’s in more than 50 countries — and then created a ‘mcatlas’.

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He’s had many a happy meal.

An NYC-based food photojournalist who documented his travels across six continents to find the world’s most unique McDonald’s locations is now releasing a book after completing his five-year McExpedition.

Brooklyn’s Gary He, 39, wrote the scrumptious guide — aptly titled “ McAtlas: A Global Guide to the Golden Arches ,” due out in the fall — to highlight the fast-food franchise’s most architecturally daring branches. Coming out in November, the book boasts 200 photos taken from the more than 1,000 burger joints he saw.

A new photo book highlights some of the coolest McDonald's in the world.

“McDonald’s is the largest and most important influential restaurant in the world,” He told The Post. “You always want to cover the biggest story as a journalist. There really is no bigger story than McDonald’s.”

He also explores regional meals — the author swears Mickey D’s tastes better overseas — like burgers served on a McBaugette in Paris, a New Zealand favorite “kiwi burger” served with eggs and beets , and marinated chicken bones in China.

In France, McDonald's is served on baguettes at times.

As for style, a few one-of-a-kind dining rooms on the menu include a log cabin designed by Mickey D’s in Wisconsin and a “Big Mac Museum” at the sandwich’s 1967 birthplace in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

Also, there is an Italian location where an ancient Roman road was excavated below its arches.

In addition to those, here are some spots The Post thinks you can sink your teeth into.

Plane burgers

New Zealand is home to a McDonald's in a converted plane.

There’s nothing plain about this Kiwi location.

Burger-loving Taupo, New Zealand, is home to a refitted propeller plane that serves some of the best airline food while stationary.

At first, the only McDonald’s of its kind can seem like some sort of prop, according to He. But perception changes the closer you get to the Douglas DC-3 model from the World War II era.

“As you’re walking up to it, you go, ‘Oh, wait, oh wait, it is a real plane,'” He said, adding that McDonald’s “always tastes better” on board any sort of flying machine.

The ‘McSki’

A location in Sweden is tailored for skiers on a mountain.

Here’s one that will have you earn your calories.

A McDonald’s in Lindvallen, Sweden, is accessible only to skiers coming on and off the Scandinavian mountaintop.

“You don’t even need to take off your skis — there is a ‘ski-up window,’ which I thought was pretty cool,” He said.

An unidentified frying object

Roswell has an alien themed McDonald's.

It’s out of this world: Roswell, New Mexico, a little town that gained notoriety in 1947 for an alleged spaceship crash, adapted its local McDonald’s exterior to evoke that of a spaceship in shape and decoration.

The inside also features a special gift shop solely for the UFO theme, plus a stellar McPlay Place where Ronald McDonald and pals are all sporting spacesuits.

On top of all that, “there are just alien statues, everywhere,” He said.

A German McDonald's is built into a popular canal.

Head to a very special canal in Hamburg, Germany’s “City of Bridges” for a chance to enjoy a Big Mac or, maybe more fittingly, a Filet-O-Fish while seabound.

This McDonald’s has a lengthy pier that allows boaters to pull up for some takeout as employees walk an order down to each vessel, according to He.

“The boating culture there in its canals is it goes back centuries,” He said. “I believe it’s the only boat-up McDonald’s in the world.”

East meets West

China's first McDonald's became a huge gamechanger.

When China’s first McDonald’s opened in Shenzhen, China, in 1990, it wasn’t equipped with the stereotypical red roof on top. Instead, the experimental concept — there are now close to 5,000 — was erected with a traditional pagoda-style roof.

Also keeping to local customs, the location has special items like bamboo shoot chicken wraps, porridge, youtiao fried dough, matcha and green-tea McFlurries, He said.

Art deco in the outback

An art deco themed McDonald's is famous in Australia.

A former two-level hotel and later bar designed in fabulous art deco style outside of Melbourne, Australia, is now arguably the nation’s most hip fast-food joint.

“Because it’s on the Melbourne tourism website, you can safely assume that it is one of the favorite buildings in the city,” He said. “I think most people go there just to snap a photo of it.”

The appetizing architecture also happens to be located adjacent to a 24/7 brothel — where clients certainly work up their appetites.

The McMansion

Not far from Long Island's gold coast sits a literal McMansion on Jericho Turnpike.

This location doesn’t require any elaborate travel for New Yorkers.

On Long Island in New Hyde Park, a converted mansion with local historical significance dating back to the 1700s had its distinct exterior and some of its insides kept intact when McDonald’s came marching in during the mid-1980s.

Now, the two-floor extravaganza off Jericho Turnpike is busy as ever with an eloquent dining room, grand staircase and a packed drive-thru that loops around the property.

He said that this was one of the first examples of the fast-food titan defying its usual building standards at the request of locals.

Since then, more locations on LI — particularly out east on the North Fork — have followed suit with designs that look closer to quant houses than burger joints.

A new photo book highlights some of the coolest McDonald's in the world.

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