France has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations. It’s not hard to see why. The country is a land of picturesque countryside, romantic chateaux, fine wines, exquisite cuisine, and beautiful villages.
When thinking of France, most people immediately picture the capital city of Paris with its iconic landmarks, but there’s much more to the country than this beautiful city. The Loire Valley is home to vineyards and castles, and for even more wine, there the world-renowned Bordeaux region. You also have the French Alps, the Germanic cultural region of Alsace, and let’s not forget the French Riviera.
There are so many amazing places to see throughout the country that it can be hard to decide where to go, but here are some of the best places to visit in France.
You can’t have a list of best places to visit in France without including the romantic city of Paris. Often called the “City of Lights” or the “City of Love,” Paris is possibly the most popular tourist destination in the world.
The city is known for its high fashion, romantic ambiance, gastronomy, art and culture, and of course, its iconic landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. Paris is also home to some of the finest museums anywhere in the world, such as the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre Museum.
Located along the Mediterranean coast, the French Riviera is known as a playground for the rich and famous, as well as a popular vacation spot for international tourists. While the region is famous for the Cannes Film Festival, Monaco, and St. Tropez, there are several lesser known destinations in the French Riviera, like the perched villages of Saint-Paul de Vence and Eze. This area of France is great if you’re looking for a year-round mild to warm climate.
An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Loire Valley is well known for historic villages, picturesque vineyards, beautiful chateaux, and splendid scenery. Famous chateaux found in the valley include Chenonceau, Chinon, Amboise, and Chambord.
A land of manicured wineries and rolling vineyards, the Loire Valley is home to many wineries offering wine tastings and tours. The area is best explored by bike to really see the beauty of the valley.
Lyon has a long history and is known for its vibrant cultural scene, gastronomy, and historic architecture. The city is made up of different districts, each with its own treasures.
In the heart of Lyon, Presqu’île boasts many great bars and restaurants, while Fourviere is home to Gothic churches. Croix-Rousse is famous for its hidden passageways and Roman relics, and don’t forget Vieux Lyon.
Situated along the border of Germany and France, Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament and one of the most authentic Christmas markets.
Grand Île, the historic center, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and what really makes the city one of the best places to visit in France. A blend of German and French architecture, you can find several beautiful buildings, harming Alsatian streets, cafes, and shops.
A particularly pretty spot in Strasbourg is the Petite France district, with its winding cobblestone lanes, wood-studded houses, and blooming flower baskets down the edge of canals.
Mont Saint-Michel is a rocky island off the northwest coast of France in Normandy. The construction of medieval structures as if they are stacked on top of one another is one of the main reasons travelers from all over the world visit this tidal island. The most well known structure here is the famous Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, built by monks back in 708 AD.
Annecy is often referred to as the “Venice of the Alps” or “the pearl of the French Alps, and while it may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about France, it’s certainly a hidden jewel that doesn’t disappoint. Canals criss-cross the idyllic town with the Chateau d’Annecy towering over it.
Situated along the Côte d’Azur, Nice is home to some of the country’s best pebble beaches and the Promenade des Anglais. There’s much more to Nice than millionaire yachts and sunny beaches, however. The history of the city goes back to the days of the pre-Roman Gaul, when the area was one of the French Mediterranean’s largest trading outposts.
One area of Nice you shouldn’t miss out on exploring is Vieux Nice, the charming and vibrant old town. The upscale district of Cimiez is also an interesting area with its Roman relics and ancient ruins.
The second largest city in France and one of the oldest cities in Europe, Marseille is one of the Mediterranean’s major seaports. Along with being a working city with a number of universities, Marseill also boasts distinguished cultural venues, medieval architecture, Roman ruins, and an idyllic climate.
The Calanques, a series of idyllic small inlets, is one of the best natural attractions here. The place not to miss, however, is the Vieux-Port with its bars, shops, and waterfront cafes. Art exhibitions, dance performers, and street musicians can often be seen here as well.
Lovely Colmar is one of France’s picturesque and charming small towns. The pretty and quaint little town is great to visit during December for its authentic and very traditional Christmas market, but spring and summer make the fairytale-esque village a magical place to see.
Located along the River Garonne, the city of Bordeaux is packed full of historic sites, world-class arts and culture, excellent shopping, and fine architecture. The city center itself is home to over 300 landmark and historic buildings, including charming old bridges like the Ponte de Pierre and medieval churches, as well as gorgeous plazas. The most stunning is the Place de la Bourse with its mirror-like effect.
Known as the “Capital of Wine,” no trip to Bordeaux would be complete, however, without visiting the surrounding wine country. Many amazing wine experiences can be found at one of the numerous vineyards in the region.
Located deep within the French Alps, the town of Chamonix is a destination for adventure travelers, boarders, skiers, and Alpinists. The host of the first Winter Olympics, the resort town features over 700 acres of skiable terrain. The Aiguille du Midi cable car offers some of the area’s most breathtaking views.
Set between the Mediterranean Sea and the rugged Cevennes range, Nimes is a gem of a destination for travelers looking for Roman ruins. At the heart of the town is the great Roman amphitheatre, the most well preserved anywhere in France. The Roman theme of the area continues with the Maison Carree and the Pont du Gard on the outskirts of town.
Looking like a scene from a Tolkien story or Game of Thrones, Carcassonne remains as the site of one of Europe’s most astounding medieval citadels: La Cite. Today, this fortification boasts a designation from UNESCO and conceals a charming old town with stone-clad streets and alleyways and medieval craft shops.