The country of France is absolutely beautiful. There are countless cities, castles, and tiny villages work exploring. However, it can be hard deciding exactly where to go! This guide will introduce you to the best places to visit in France so that you can plan your France itinerary perfectly.
Alsace is home to some popular places such as Strasbourg and Colmar. Yet, many guidebooks bypass Alsace’s second-largest city, Mulhouse. Maybe this is due to its reputation of having been an industrial city in the past (as it was nicknamed the “French Manchester”). Granted, it doesn’t have all the picturesque charm of the fairy-tale villages of the wine route further north. However, the Alsatian city and its surroundings do have a number of attractive sights.
Here are 5 things to see:
The square is the historic centre of Mulhouse. It is bordered by the town’s most interesting monuments: the Neo-Gothic Temple Saint-Etienne (France’s tallest protestant church), the painted façade of the old town-hall, and a number of quaint old houses from the Renaissance.
The five museums reflect the town’s manufacturing past and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. They are: the automobile museum (Cité de l’Automobile – 400 rare and classic motors from the Schlumpf collection), the train museum (Cité du Train – Europe’s largest railway museum), the Electropolis museum (electricity museum), the Printing Fabrics museum, and the Wallpaper museum.
Covering 25 hectares it ranks as one of France’s most visited parks of the kind. The park is home to more than 900 animals representing 170 species – some rare and endangered. The romantic landscaped garden displays 3,500 plant varieties and has been included in the list of Remarkable Gardens of France by the French Ministry of Culture.
Situated 15 km / 9 mi from the city-centre, the Ecomusée is France’s largest open-air museum. It is a fascinating place where Alsatian country life from the early 20th century is brought to life by an army of volunteers: blacksmiths, cartwrights, potters, coopers, farmers, bakers, school teachers… The park includes more than 70 traditional Alsatian houses saved from demolition and brought there for preservation.
To the South of Mulhouse lies a rural region made up of rolling hills covered with deep forests, fields, orchards and medieval ponds. The picturesque landscape is dotted by a multitude of old villages with stunning half-timbered houses. The little town of Altkirch serves as its capital while the historic village of Ferrette is dominated by the ruins of its two medieval castles.
Finally, during Advent Mulhouse is home to one of France’s most popular Christmas markets. Set in Place de la Réunion, it becomes an enchanting place at nightfall.
Traveled by Pierre from French Moments
Paris is one of the best places that I was lucky enough to visit when studying abroad in Dublin. It’s filled with amazing Instagram spots and lovely places to stay. If you’re visiting France, it’s one city that you won’t want to miss.
Of course, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic structures in the entire country. It was built for the World’s Fair by Gustave Eiffel and is an absolute must-see in Paris. You can pay a small fee to go to the top of the tower if you’d like. Another fun way to see the tower is at night. There are light shows every hour once the sun goes down for free!
Versailles is the infamous chateau owned by King Louis XIV. The castle was notoriously stormed ultimately leading to the beginning of the French Revolution. It’s crazy to see how lavishly he lived, which is why I suggest you visit. If you don’t want to pay to see the inside, then you can visit the gardens for free!
Disneyland Paris is one of Walt Disney’s amusement parks. Each park is different, and Disneyland Paris is no exception. It’s only a short day trip from Paris too!
There are so many amazing places to eat in Paris. When visiting, you absolutely must try croissants, crepes, and croque monsieurs. The champagne and wine is also amazing, which comes from the nearby wine regions.
A multitude of cathedrals and basilicas are in Paris. The most popular is the Notre Dame Cathedral, which unfortunately caught on fire during spring 2019. It’s still worth seeing, even from the outside. The Sacre Coeur Basilica is another must-see. If you climb all the way up to the basilica in Montmartre, you’ll have one of the best views of Paris FOR FREE.
Traveled by Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages
Nancy is the capital of the north-eastern French department of Meurthe-et-Moselle. The metropolitan area of Nancy had a population of 434,565 inhabitants, making it the 20th largest urban area in France.
The main attraction in Nancy is Place Stanislas. It is the largest and one of the loveliest main squares I have seen. Paved in light stone and bordered on each side by grand buildings such as the city hall and the opera house; there’s no wonder it’s the top attraction in the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Right off Place Stanislas is the Place de la Carriére. Connecting the square and the Government Palace, Carriére originally meant racecourse in English and that was the original 17th-century function of this long “square” that is 290 metres long and 50 metres wide. Now bordered by Linden trees and wrought iron railings it’s a very lovely walk between the two historic areas.
A natural history museum and an aquarium all in one; The Nancy Museum Aquarium is a kid-friendly couple of hours of entertainment. Although if your little one is disturbed by stuffed animals (not the plushy type), I would just stick to the aquarium.
The Little Tourist Train (le Train Touristique) is a 45-minute tour of the Nancy old town in a little train (actually a trolley on wheels). Buy the tickets from the driver, put on your headset, turn your dial to your language and volume preference, and away you go! We really enjoyed this tour that takes you through the entire old town.
Once a royal tree nursery, the Parc de la Pépinière is very close to Place Stanislas and a great place to wander. There are playgrounds for the kids and mini-golf for the whole family.
We enjoyed Nancy very much and would travel there again given the chance.
Traveled by Theresa from Adventures in Middle-Aged Travel
Located about 2.5 hours from Paris, this small town in the Alsace region of France looks straight out of a fairytale. The colorful houses, overflowing flower pots, serene canals, exceptional wines, and amazing cuisine, it’s easy to see why Colmar is one of the best places to visit in France.
Wander into the cobblestoned streets of Colmar’s old town that are lined with candy-colored half-timbered houses with geranium decked balconies, cute boutique shops, and flower-lined canals. Explore bustling street cafes, as well as some notable buildings such as the Unterlinden Museum, House of Heads, the Customs House, Pfister House, and St. Martin’s Church.
Perhaps the most picturesque district in Colmar, a visit to “La Petite Venise” is a must. You can walk along the canal and take in all its beauty or for a different perspective, hop on a flat-bottom boat, and enjoy a lovely cruise along the Lauch river.
Home to no fewer than three Michelin starred restaurants, it would be amiss not to taste what culinary delights this charming commune has to offer. Choucroute Alsacienne (French sauerkraut), foie gras, baeckeoffe, Munster cheese and Kougelhopf are some highlights. Visit the covered market where you can find a variety of vendors selling local produce, cheeses, charcuterie, and flaky pastries.
This region is known for its Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris, but the star of the show here is Crémant d’Alsace. Located on the Alsatian Wine Route, there are a handful of tasting rooms you can visit in Colmar such as Domaine Robert Karcher et Fils and Maison Martin Jund. No appointments are needed and the wines are incredibly affordable.
If you are feeling adventurous, why not take a leisurely 30-minute bike ride through stunning Alsatian vineyards into the town of Eguisheim? This charming medieval town is home to 33 wine producers with two holding the highly-esteemed designation of Grand Cru including Pfersigberg and Eichberg wineries.
Traveled by Kristen & Gabriel Glasier from Chef Travel Guide
The stunning medieval city of Metz captures you already before you enter, with the 42 meter tall Metz Cathedral towering as one of the tallest in Europe. Though only a day trip from Paris by train, this is also a great place to stay a few days, wander the narrow, cobbled streets, browse local boutiques, and enjoy endless sunsets on the river.
There are plenty of things to do, but you shouldn’t miss the cathedral. And yes, I know, you won’t possibly miss it from the outside, but it’s stunning on the inside too. With color stained glass windows surrounding the whole structure, it’s known as the Lantern of God. The light flowing in the windows makes it truly magical.
Walk through the medieval, fortified gate of Porte des Allemandes and explore the 13th century watch towers.
The Temple Neuf is also worth a visit, sitting on the Île du Petit-Saulcy in the middle of the Moselle River. Built in the beginning of the 1900s in a Romanesque Revival style, the church is a wonderful sight.
On the same square, you find the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole. This is the oldest operative opera house in the whole of France. You should definitely try to go for an opera experience here.
Finally, you should not miss out on the old Basilica of Saint-Pierre-Aux-Nonnains. As one of France’s oldest churches, it was built in 380D back in Roman times. First as a part of a Roman spa, later as a school, and eventually as a church.
Traveled by Linn from Brainy Backpackers
Located on the English Channel less than 10 km west of the border with Belgium the city of Dunkirk is France’s most northerly city. Frequently overlooked as just a ferry port Dunkirk boasts a rich history and numerous attractions to make it a worthy destination in its own right.
Dunkirk is famously known for the evacuation of over 300,000 British and French soldiers during the Second World War. This incredible achievement is celebrated at the recently refurbished Operation Dynamo Museum housed in the Bastion 32 casemates constructed in 1874 as part of the city’s coastal defence.
To the east of the museum starts the impressive Malo les Bains beach. Running 4 km from Dunkirk to the neighbouring village of Leffrinckoucke this sandy beach is perfect for family entertainment, sailing and kitesurfing.
Running alongside Malo les Bains beach is the equally impressive Digue de Mer promenade. Ideal for cycling or a leisurely stroll the Digue de Mer also boasts a fine selection of local restaurants. Pick any one for a delicious bowl of mussels or a charcuterie selection and a fitting end to any day in Dunkirk.
Away from the seafront one of Dunkirk’s many cultural highlights is the LAAC Modern Art Museum. Situated in a sculpture park the LAAC is home to over 1,500 works of art including fine examples by iconic artists such as Warhol and César.
Adjacent to the LAAC and visible from across the city the FRAC Regional Collection of Contemporary Art is another fabulous attraction, perfect for a wet or autumnal day. Situated in the new part of Dunkirk on the site of a former shipyard the FRAC offers contemporary rather than Modern masterpieces.
Traveled by Paul from The Two That Do
Located a mere 45 minute train ride from Paris, the city of Reims has a lot to offer to those needing an escape from France’s capital city. Reims has everything one could ask for – food, culture, history, and art.
Reims is perhaps most famous for being one of the top destinations in the Champagne region of France to tour one of the famed Champagne houses. Some of the most renowned houses in Reims include Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, and Champagne Louis Roederer. Different tasting options are available, reservations are a must.
To see where the Kings of France were crowned for over 1,000 years, visit Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims.
At Palais du Tau, you’ll find a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace is home to a collection of stunning tapestries, a talisman belonging to Charlemagne, and the cathedral’s treasury. One of the major highlights of Palais du Tau is the Holy Ampulla, which contained the anointing oil for every coronation from Louis VII (1131) to Louis XVI (1774).
But perhaps the most moving and significant thing to do in Reims is visit the Musée de la Reddition, which highlights the role of Reims in WWII. This small museum is found in the very building that Edison’s headquarters were located during WWII, as well as the building where Germany signed documents of surrender, ending the war. To visit the very room where this took place is an unparalleled experience and should not be missed. Expect to be emotionally upended, particularly after the short film shown upon arrival.
From its extensive history to the luxurious experience of exploring underground champagne cellars, Reims is the absolute ideal day trip from Paris and one of the best places to visit in all of France.
Traveled by Jade from The Migrant Yogi
Dijon is a beautiful historic city in eastern France and a perfect off the beaten path French destination for wine lovers and foodies. It is set in the heart of ancient Burgundy and surrounded by the Cote d’Or vineyards where over 3,000 winemakers produce their world famous wines.
Visit the historic centre of Dijon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Atmospheric with half-timbered medieval houses and elegant Renaissance buildings, the city was once home to the Duchy of Burgundy and was a hugely wealthy major power in Europe from the 11th to the 15th century. Renowned for its prowess in the fields of science and learning, Dijon’s historic importance is reflected in its opulent buildings and palaces.
In the pedestrianised city centre you’ll find a bustling street scene and delicious regional food. Make sure to visit the very social Les Halles market, where the best of local and regional foods are for sale every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday under steel beams and a glass ceiling designed by Gustave Eiffel.
The thing that Dijon is probably most famous for, mustard, is now almost exclusively produced in Canada, you should visit one of the mustard shops in the centre to try out some traditional flavours of the historic French accompaniment.
Follow the Parcours de la Chouette (Owl Route) which takes you to the top places of interest in the historic city. If you prefer not to walk the route, you can do it on a bike or even a segway! The very first owl was carved on the side of the Église Notre-Dame and tradition says if you rub the owl with your left hand whilst making a wish, your wish will come true.
Make sure to take a vineyard tour from Dijon, which includes a wine tasting. The wine history in the region is fascinating and the vineyards have passed from the hands of the church to noble rule, before being sold to merchants who make wine for profit. Some of the vines in the region have been dated back to 600AD, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being the principle wines of the Cote d’Or region.
Traveled by Izzy from The Gap Decaders
Besançon is a hidden gem city located near the Swiss border. From Paris and Lyon, you can easily visit via direct train in 2.5 hours. With a population of 120,000, the city is highly walkable, and the surrounding hills also offer more to explore for active travelers.
Besançon’s crown jewel is its 17th-century fort called la Citadelle, a UNESCO World Heritage site with scenic views of the city and hillside. The Citadel is more than a historic site, though. It’s also home to museums on local history and culture, and a zoo with 70% protected species.
The city is also known as the Capital of Time for its watchmaking industry. A popular attraction is the 30,000-piece Astronomical Clock, built in the late 1850s by Auguste-Lucien Vérité. Beyond time, it also tracks solar eclipses, zodiac signs, moon phases, and other data.
Similarly, you might also visit the Musée du Temps (Museum of Time). There, you can view countless watches, grandfather clocks, pendulums, and other specimens to learn more about the industry.
The ticket for the Museum of Time also gets you into the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology. This musem is actually the oldest public museum in France. Its most prominent collections include 14th-20th century European art and Gallo-Roman artifacts found in Besançon.
If you like hiking, you also can’t forget the scenic trails around the city! A popular hike goes up to the Fort de Chaudanne, an 18th-century fort overlooking the city. While you can’t visit the inside of the fort, the views alone are said to be worth the walk.
Traveled by Lily from Imperfect Idealist
One of the most iconic destinations in France is Mont Saint Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the bay between Normandy and Brittany. Only 1 km off the coast, Mont Saint Michel is surrounded by water at high tide and by endless sand at low tide. Its stunning Benedictine Abbey sits at the top of the mountain and is visible from all directions.
Here are a few experiences to add to your Mont Saint Michel itinerary!
While you can take a shuttle from the parking lot, I recommend walking if you are able. It will give you time to linger over the views and take pictures. Some of the best photo opportunities of the island and surrounding area are along the path!
You should definitely wear sturdy walking shoes when visiting Mont Saint Michel. Making the most of your day requires lots of walking! The journey to the top will take you through narrow, winding streets filled with shops and up many stairs, but the views are worth it!
We almost didn’t go inside the Abbey. After several days of touring the sites of Normandy, we were almost touristed-out. Fortunately, we changed our minds, because missing the Abbey would have been a mistake. The Abbey itself is beautiful and quite interesting to visit. Some of the best views from Mont Saint Michel are only accessible from here.
Mont Saint Michel has many restaurants, most of which specialize in omelettes and crepes. Make sure you choose one with a nice patio or windows overlooking the water to make the most of your meal!
You can only do this at low tide. It can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Book a tour with a guide if you want this unique perspective of the island!
Traveled by Stephanie from Poppin’ Smoke
The Loire Valley is one of the most beautiful areas in France. The area around the Loire river is known for its charming villages, delicious wine, and stunning palaces. Castle hunting along the Loire river a highlight of any trip to France.
The Loire river was popular with nobility and royalty at one point in history, resulting in the highest concentration of palaces anywhere in the world. The best way to make the most out of this area is by taking a road trip along the river. You won’t be able to visit all of them, as there are simply too many.
The most visited palace is the beautiful Chateau de Chenonceau. This palace is built upon the river, connecting the two river banks. It’s not just the castle, the castle grounds are wonderful as well. You can rent a boat, see the maze, enjoy the landscaped gardens and stroll around the forest and vegetable garden.
Another gem is Chambord, the largest castle in the Loire Valley with 440 rooms and 85 staircases. The highlight is the main staircase, designed by the famous Leonardo da Vinci. This double staircase is designed in such a way the two twisting stairs don’t ever meet.
Villandry with its amazing flower and vegetable gardens, Cheverny with its extensive castle grounds and dog kennels, Azay-le-Rideau on a river island and the eclectically designed Blois castle are highlights as well.
If you’re done with castle hunting, the charming towns and villages like Tours are highly recommended. A wine tasting should also be in your Loire wishlist.
Traveled by Maartje from The Orange Backpack
Located on the west coast of France, La Rochelle is a lovely place to visit and definitely one to put on your list. It’s small enough to see the main sights in a short time but big enough to find plenty to do.
There’s an attractive old town with a lively daily market set amongst the old cobbled streets. Spending some time wandering through these streets is a must. You’ll find an impressive selection of cafes and bars and outdoor terraces from which you can watch the world go by.
There’s also a lovely port. This is flanked by two imposing towers (La Tour Saint-Nicolas and La Tour de la Chaîne), with La Tour de la Lanterne nearby and the remains of the old city walls. All three towers can be visited. Walk around the port and you’ll come to a small beach, ideal for picnicking in the summer sun.
For history lovers, visit Le Bunker de la Rochelle. This was unearthed in the 1980s underneath one of the local hotels. Built in 1941, it was designed to protect the Germans from Allied bombing raids during the occupation of the city. You can walk through the bunker and the various rooms and bedrooms, and learn more about the city at that time.
For anyone seeking a more activity-based break, La Rochelle also fits the bill. Situated on the Atlantic coast, sailing and windsurfing are big activities here. And if cycling is more your thing, you could hop across the bridge to the nearby Ile de Re, a small island off the coast. Here there are more than 100 km of flat cycle lanes that connect the towns and villages.
For children, or for those rainy days, there is an aquarium just a short walk from the main port area.
Traveled by Emma from Travel on a Time Budget
The postcard-perfect medieval town of Carcassonne is often visited as a day trip from Toulouse, but it really deserves an overnight stay. Even though it’s small enough to be explored in two or three hours, you’ll appreciate having it to yourself in the early morning or late evening when the daytrippers have left.
This is the best place to cross the Aude River that separates the newer part of Carcassonne from the medieval town that you’ve come to see. Originally built in the 14th century and later renovated, it’s one of just a handful of medieval bridges still standing in France today. Open only for pedestrians, it offers a quiet and peaceful approach to medieval Carcassonne.
The Porte Narbonnaise, or the “Gate of Narbonne” in English, is the main gate that allows passage through fortified walls that protect the medieval town. This is a great vantage point from which to photograph the beautiful towers just inside the gate. The conical red roofs on the turrets were part of a 19th-century renovation, so in medieval times it would have looked different.
Although wandering around the streets of the medieval town is free, it’s worth paying the entrance fee to visit the viscount’s castle, or “château comtal”, which is the undisputed architectural highlight of Carcassonne. A short film explains the history of the building, and there’s also a museum inside with antique sculptures.
Your entrance ticket to the castle also entitles you to access the ramparts. Standing on the top of these medieval battlements, you will have spectacular views over Carcassonne and the countryside surrounding it. You can even see the Pyrenees mountains in the distance.
Sometimes called the “jewel of the city”, this beautiful basilica is definitely worth a peek inside. First built in the 11th century in the Romanesque style, it also has some Gothic features from a later renovation. The stained glass windows are exceptional, and you can often hear traditional plainchant music being sung inside.
Traveled by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
What is striking about Biarritz is the contrast between the elegant villas of the 19th century and the surfer culture that has heightened the town’s reputation. This stylish town on France’s southwestern Atlantic coast was put on the map by Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugenia, who enjoyed spending her summers here. French aristocracy followed and put Biarritz on every self-respecting Basque country itinerary.
Here are 5 of the top things to do in Biarritz:
The structure itself is stunning – built in 1834 and open for visits – but what draws us here is the vista. At sunset, you’ll get a stunning view of Biarritz either from the top (248 steps) or simply at its foot. The sunset will be gorgeous from either place.
This wonderful stretch of beach is the birthplace of European surfing, open to the winds and with waves that attract surfers from all over. Here’s the backstory: in 1957 the screenwriter Peter Vietel was shooting The Sun Also Rises here and missed his surfboard – which was sent to him from California. Everyone’s curiosity was aroused and soon this new sport became the latest rage.
This delightful building is Art Deco through and through, both inside and out. It stands at the head of the Grande Plage, where the main beach joins the city, and is a favorite for people-watching. You can eat or have a drink here, but what you really come here for is the architecture. Just take a look around before you head out for your afternoon walk.
The beauty of Biarritz is its “walkability”, so head along the coast away from the Grande Plage and you’ll soon reach Port-Vieux, which used to be the main port when this was a small whaling village. The beach is tiny and crowded, but protected from the elements, and this is a great vantage point for the Villa Belza, which we’ll come to in a minute.
The Villa Belza is one of many luxurious 19th century villas built at the height of Biarritz’s popularity. This particular villa has been used as a backdrop for films and was once a restaurant and even a cabaret. Walking around the city’s historic villas is a wonderful way to spend a few hours… there’s also the Villa Natacha and the Château Boulard. You could also drop by the luxurious Hotel du Palais, rebuilt and refurbished but once the Empress’s summer villa (and later frequented by other crowned heads).
Traveled by Leyla from Offbeat France
Cap Ferret is a chic beach town in the southwest of France located an hour from Bordeaux. Unlike the glitzy and busy beach towns you will find on the eastern coast such as St. Tropez, Cap Ferret is the discreet version where the French like to escape. The relaxed beach town offers luxuries, yet has a free-spirited vibe with no crowds.
Cap Ferret is the perfect weekend getaway. With 50km of beautiful beaches along the Atlantic, Bordeaux wines and fresh seafood, it feels like true paradise!
Best things to do in Cap Ferret:
Go swimming in the baïne, a natural pool hundreds of meters long created by the tide and waves from the ocean. It’s fun to take turns taking a dip in the Atlantic ocean and the baïne that runs parallel.
Have a picnic on the beach during sunset and watch the surfers. Along the beach you will see old WWII bunkers sunken into the sand.
Shop for goodies at the Cap Ferret Market. The market is filled with amazing products from linen shirts and beach blankets to local food and wine.
Go for a bike ride to the charming town of L’herbe. Cap Ferret has over 100km of bike paths through the forest. L’herbe is the perfect spot for lunch.
Eat fresh seafood along the ocean and pair it with French wine. Cap Ferret is known for its fresh shucked oysters.
The easiest way to get to Cap Ferret is by taking a flight or the train to Bordeaux. From Bordeaux, it will take a one hour drive with a rental car.
Traveled by Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes
Bayeux, an ancient town of cobblestone lanes, with the serene River Aure running through it, is just a two-hour train ride from Paris.So, Bayeux makes a perfect day trip or weekend getaway from big city life. From world-famous art to the historic D-Day beaches nearby, this charming Normandy town offers fascinating sights.
Visitors come from all over the world to view the Bayeux Tapestry. This embroidered cloth, which is almost 230 feet long and 20 inches high, depicts events leading up to the Norman conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy and ending with the Battle of Hastings. It is the largest and most well-preserved artwork in this style from the Middle Ages.
Bayeux is a top place to stay when you want to tour the Normandy D-Day beaches. It is only about 6 miles from Omaha Beach at Colleville-sur-Mer. A moving part of any visit to Omaha Beach is the peaceful cemetery that is the final resting place of almost 10,000 American soldiers who gave their lives in the battle for Normandy.
Head to the excellent Museum of the Battle of Normandy to learn about World War II in this area. The museum presents in chronological order the events of the war in Normandy, starting with the D-Day landings and continuing through that summer of 1944. Tanks, Jeeps, and artifacts are on display.
The towering Cathedral Notre Dame decorates the skyline of Bayeux. This ancient architectural treasure dates to 1077, to the time of William, Duke of Normandy, King of England. Built in the Norman-Romanesque style it suffered damage in a fire and was rebuilt with Gothic elements.
With its narrow, winding lanes and medieval architecture, the town center of Bayeux is an attraction in itself. Enjoy the steepled skyline, waterwheels on the river, and stone buildings hundreds of years old. Take time to enjoy a coffee and pastry or lunch at a sidewalk café and you will be transported to life as it was lived centuries ago.
Traveled by Sharon from Exploring Our World
With its pretty harbour, attractive half-timbered houses, and holiday atmosphere, it’s easy to see why Honfleur, in the northern region of Normandy, is considered one of the best places to visit in France. Situated at the junction of the River Seine and the English Channel, the town has a long maritime history and offers plenty to see and do.
Here are my must-do’s when you visit Honfleur:
Most visitors to Honfleur will head straight to the Vieux Bassin (Old Dock). Here, narrow, 6- and 7-storey buildings line the small harbour, overlooking the yachts and sailboats that bob about on the water. Mirror images of the colourful buildings reflected in the water make perfect photo opportunities, and when lit up at night, the harbour sets a romantic scene.
No visit to Honfleur is complete without eating seafood. Many restaurants, offering a wide range of cuisine, line the harbour but most feature the local specialties of mussels and fish soup on their menus. There’s no better place to eat fresh seafood than beside the Vieux Bassin on a balmy summer’s night.
Resembling an upside-down boat, St. Catherine’s Church is a symbol of the maritime traditions of Honfleur. Dating back to the 15th century, the church was built by local boat builders using timber from the nearby Touques forest. Numerous restorations have taken place over the years but St. Catherine’s remains the largest church in France built entirely of wood with a separate bell tower.
The cobbled, narrow streets of Honfleur are a joy to discover. Lined with half-timbered buildings housing cafes, galleries, boutiques and artisan workshops, there is always something to catch the eye. There are also stores selling delicious local produce including cheeses, cider, truffles, spices and biscuits. A weekly market is held every Saturday morning, adding an even more convivial atmosphere to the town.
For those interested in learning more about Honfleur’s nautical past, the Musee de la Marine, which is home to a collection of marine artefacts and model ships, is a must-visit. Two of the town’s famous sons also have museums named in their honour – the Satie Houses pay homage to the musician and composer, Erik Satie, whilst the Eugene Boudin Museum features the work of Boudin and other 19th century painters.
Traveled by Carolyn from Holidays to Europe
If you are heading to South West France, visiting Toulouse is a must-do! Known as the “pink city” (la ville rose), Toulouse is one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in France. The city centre is quite small, making it very easy to explore. Most of the time, you won’t even have to take public transport!
Here are the most popular things to do in Toulouse:
Located in the heart of Toulouse, Le Capitole is the main square. It features beautiful architecture, the city hall, and many luxury restaurants.
If you’d like to discover the local’s favourite spot, make sure to head to La Daurade and St Pierre. You can walk and have a picnic along the river Garonne banks. It’s also a great place to go out in the evening. It’s very lively and there are many cool bars.
This area is particularly well known for shopping. You will find all sorts of boutiques, luxury shops and craft shops.
There are loads of museums in Toulouse. The best ones are Les Abattoirs (contemporary art) and the Toulouse Museum (Natural History). Pro tip: All museums in France are free on the first sunday of the month so if you are visiting on that weekend, you can see them all for free!
Toulouse is full of green patches! Locals love hanging out in the parks as they are a great place to go for a stroll. The prettiest ones are the Jardin des Carmes and the Japanese Garden in Compans Caffarelli.
Finally, Toulouse is a great place to experience the food! South West France is a land of culture and traditions! People love their food and more importantly, they love to share it. If you head to rue du taur, you will find loads of local restaurants serving local dishes such as Cassoulet and Confit de Canard.
Traveled by Pauline from Beeloved City
Located in the heart of the French Riviera, Nice is one of the best cities in France that shouldn’t be missed. Thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate, Nice can be visited all year round. Although it’s one of the biggest cities in the country, spending one day in Nice will grant you enough time to visit all the highlights.
Climbing up to Castle Hill is one of the best things you can do in Nice. Despite the name, you won’t find any castle on the hill but in exchange you will get the best views over Nice and the coastline.
After soaking up the views, head over to the Old Town of Nice where you will find many pastel colored houses, interesting local markets and cute little shops and restaurants. If you want to try some local specialties, don’t forget to check out Cours Saleya Market which is the most famous street market in Nice.
Place Garibaldi and Place Massena are two sites that shouldn’t be missed. You can admire the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings and it’s also the perfect place to grab a bite or do some people watching.
Having a stroll on the 7 km long Promenade des Anglais is a must when visiting Nice. It’s quite popular among locals and tourists alike and you will come across many luxurious hotels and fancy restaurants along the way.
A visit to Nice wouldn’t be complete without a little beach time. You can find many public and private beaches along the shore, it only depends on your budget which one you choose. One of the most famous beaches is Ruhl Plage with the iconic white-blue striped parasols. It’s a great place to visit but be prepared for the prices as you need to pay 28 EUR for a sun lounger with an umbrella.
Traveled by Krisztina from She Wanders Abroad
Cannes, a glamorous city on the French Riviera, became famous primarily for its annual Film Festival held in May. It’s a time when celebrities pack the town and the prices shoot through the roof. Outside of the Film Festival, though, Cannes is relatively quiet.
For the ultimate peace and quiet, stroll to the Old Town of Cannes – the Le Suquet. With small narrow streets lined by old buildings, laundry hanging high above your head. It’s the ultimate medieval French experience. Walk the steep alleys all the way up to the Château de la Castre offering stunning views over the Bay of Cannes.
Notice the long riverfront pathway below – that’s the 3km long Promenade de la Croisette. Any visit to Cannes cannot go without strolling along the boulevard lined with elegant Art Deco houses, luxury shops and casinos. It’s also right here where you can go to a public beach. There’s a few of them and they’re often quite crowded, but still worth it.
Old Harbor in Cannes belongs to one of the most interesting places. You can see luxury boats with quite a few old barges mingling in between and beautifully contrasting with the shiny and new.
There are a few islands in the Bay of Cannes that you can explore on boat trips. I haven’t done so myself but both the bigger Île Sainte-Marguerite and its smaller sister Île Saint-Honorat can be visited to add another layer to experiencing Cannes.
Cannes can easily be visited on a day trip from Nice. I highly recommend getting a scooter and take the ride with the wind in your hair (under a helmet, of course). The scenic ride is beautiful and if you come across a traffic jam, you can get ahead of the cars easily – that’s how locals do it!
Traveled by Veronika from Travel Geekery
If you’re a fan of Roman history, the beautiful city of Nimes is home to an amazing collection of some of the world’s best preserved Roman monuments. Often referred to as the “Rome in France”, this is a place you will want to add to your France bucket list! Located in the south of France only an hour’s drive from Montpellier, Nimes makes a great addition to any road trip itinerary but it’s also perfect as a destination on its own.
The most popular attraction of Nimes is the 2,000 year old Roman arena located in the heart of the city. Although it has many similarities to that of the Colosseum in Rome, Nimes Arena is actually much smaller. The most impressive part is how well it’s been preserved over the centuries. After its construction in 70 AD, it has been used for many different purposes and is still in use today for concerts and special events.
This incredible Roman Temple is quite a spectacular sight. Built in the year 2 AD, it has been said that Maison Carree is in fact the best preserved of its kind! Pop inside to watch a short film on the history of Nimes.
A visit to Nimes isn’t complete without a stroll through the elaborate and well decorated 18th century gardens featuring sculptures, fountains, ponds, grand staircases and much more. It’s truly a work of art!
A short walk up the hill from the Jardin will take you to a tower which is the last remaining part of the Roman wall that once encircled the city. Take a walk up to the top for a panoramic view of Nimes below.
A 30 minute drive from Nimes will take you to one of the most amazing Roman sites of all! Pont du Gard is an aqueduct from the 1st century AD which is listed as a UNESCO site. Make sure to stroll across the aqueduct to check out the museum on the other side of the river!
Traveled by Ann from The Road is Life
A cultural city at the heart of Provence, Aix-en-Provence is known for its golden colour palette, famous artist residents, and iconic markets. It’s the perfect base for exploring the wider region, and it still has all the hallmark characteristics of Provençal village living, albeit on a larger scale. There are plenty of things to do in Aix-en-Provence, below are some of my favourites.
Aix-en-Provence is a market town, with stalls peppering the pretty streets every day. From antiques to typical Provence linens, and everything lavender-related, they’re a feast for the eyes, and a shopper’s dream. Be sure to catch the daily produce market where Aix locals pick out the freshest fruit and vegetables for their dinner table, and pick a beautiful bouquet from the flower market in front of the Town Hall.
Cézanne is the city’s most famous artist, and his legacy is still strong within the city today. Visit the permanent Cézanne exhibition in the exquisite surroundings of Hôtel de Caumont, visit the artist’s studio, or see his sketches at Musée Granet.
Known as the city of a thousand fountains, you’ll find them all over the city. Take in the grandiose nature of the Rotonde (pictured), spot the mossy mound on Cours Mirabeau, and hunt out the Quatre Dauphins fountain on the square with the same name.
It’s here you’ll find the best boutique shopping with everything from local designers and Provence cosmetic brands, to more internationally-known high-end brands. The historical heart of Aix-en-Provence is stunning, and you’ll happily get lost in the curving streets for hours.
The Vendôme Pavilion houses a museum, but its gardens are the more popular attraction (pictured). Pick up some goodies from one of the eateries in town and grab a bench around the perimeter to sit in the shade.
Traveled by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
Menton is a lovely town on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea close to the Italian border. This city is so beautiful and gifted with such a pleasant climate that it has been nicknamed “The Pearl of France”! You will fall in love with every corner of this city!
Here are 5 things you can do to in Menton:
Menton has a beautiful Old Town with cobbled streets and picturesque houses painted ochre colors and green louvred shutters. It’s really nice to get lost in this medieval area! As you are walking around you will also probably stumble on the stunning Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel.
Menton is located on the coastline of the Mediterranean see and has a few beautiful beaches! One of the best one is named Plage des Sablettes, on the east side of the old port and close to the Old Town. This shingle beach is rather quiet.
Given the ideal climate, there are a lot of gardens in Menton. The beautiful Villa Maria Serena designed in the late 19th century features an amazing one. This lush place – called “Little Africa” – is full of tropical plants and palm trees!
The Bastion is a fortress built in the 17th century to protect the city. It has been decorated by Jean Cocteau in the 1960’s and it is now a museum. Jean Cocteau is a famous French artist. Because he was very fond of Menton, you will see a few places dedicated to him in this city.
From Quai Impératrice Eugenie you will get the most magnificent views of the coastline of Menton with its myriad of colors!
Traveled by Ophelie from Limitless Secrets
Founded by Greek sailors in 600 BC, the vibrant port city of Marseille is the oldest city in France. Shaking off its bad reputation, parts of the city have been revitalised in recent years, making it an attractive city break destination on the Mediterranean coast.
Top five things to do in Marseille:
Located in the historical heart of the city, Le Panier is Marseille’s oldest quarter. With its pastel-coloured houses and romantic narrow lanes, La Panier is the epitome of those dreamy towns you expect to find in the Provence. Make sure to visit the eye-catching museum La Vieille Charité.
Retrace the steps of those first Greek settlers by visiting the Old Port. Come here for a leisurely stroll or perch yourself down at one of the waterfront cafés to enjoy the harbour views with a refreshing drink at hand. For a taste of local life, visit the picturesque fish market.
Meaning ‘Our Lady of the Guard’, this famous Marseille symbol is perched on the city’s highest point from where it literally watches over the city. From here you’ll get to enjoy stunning views over the Old Port and close-up looks of the splendid church built in Neo-Byzantine style.
Since its opening in 2013, the museum complex MuCEM has become an iconic Marseille landmark. Not necessarily for the exhibitions, but mostly for its captivating architecture. I was particularly struck by the glass building that is covered in a black ‘lacy’ veil made of concrete. Its rooftop bridge connects to the 17th-century stone Fort Saint-Jean, which is also worth visiting.
The hipster neighbourhood Cours Julien is a great off-the-beaten-path destination. Home to dozens of independent shops and eateries, it’s one of the best places to see street art and graffiti in Marseille. Being a street art blogger, this was obviously my favourite spot in Marseille!
Traveled by Zarina from Miss Travel Clogs
The Camargue in southern France is known for its beautiful marshlands, Mediterranean beaches, and ample birdwatching opportunities. Designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1977, the Camargue carries incredible ecological and economic significance for the region.
The Camargue is one of the most important wetland regions in all of Europe, serving as a migration stopover site for birds during wintertime and migration season. It is possible to see hundreds of bright pink Flamingos during a visit to the Camargue. While they’re spotted throughout the region, the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau is the most accessible.
Experienced guides take visitors on an excursion over sand dunes and along waterways to see the beautiful nature the Camargue has to offer, without a motor. Horses have been an important part of Camargue’s history for centuries, and you will learn all about it on your visit!
Just on the western edge of the Camargue is the ancient town of Aigues-Mortes, a fortified village ideal for exploring historic architecture and fun craft shops. Salt production is a big commodity in the region, and just outside the walls, massive pink salt pans create an other-worldly landscape in late summer.
The small seaside town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is the capital of the Camargue. Delicious restaurants offer some of the freshest seafood straight from the boat, myriad artists open shop with spun pottery and hand painted canvases, and visitors can relax from the heat of the day with a locally brewed rice beer.
Some beaches in the Mediterranean are rocky and uncomfortable for lounging. Not the beaches in the Camargue! Miles of sandy beach stretch from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, making for the perfect relaxing beach getaway.
Traveled by Christa Rolls from Expedition Wildlife
Lyon is a wonderful city to visit, especially the older part of town which is called Vieux Lyon. The entire of Vieux Lyon has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site so that the ancient facades of the Renaissance architecture can be enjoyed by future generations.
A few popular places to visit in Lyon are:
The cathedral dates back to the 1100s and took over three centuries to complete. Because of the length of time, it took to complete the cathedral has both Gothic and Roman architecture. Explore the beautiful leadlight windows, gargoyles and one of the worlds oldest astronomical clocks.
Discover movie props and costumes from all your favourite movies including Batman, Spiderman, Return of the Jedi, Jurassic Park, Mask, Robocop, Mrs. Doubtfire, Stargate, and many more. You can also explore the impressive collection of miniature scenes created by museum founder, Dan Ohlmann.
A popular activity in Lyon is exploring the hidden passages, called Traboules. Most of Lyon’s streets in the old town run parallel to the river so the Traboules (meaning to pass through) were created back in the 4th century so that workers could easily collect drinking water from the river.
Lyon has over 150 giant murals making it the European capital of Street Art. One of the most famous murals is called La Fresque des Lyonnais which depicts 30 famous figures from Lyon’s 2,000-year history including Emperor Claudius (Roman emperor from 41-54), Joseph-Marie Jacquard (inventor of the Jacquard loom) and Auguste and Louis Lumière (inventors of the first motion-picture camera).’
Two ancient theatres are located on the hill above Vieux Lyon. The older of the two theatres, called the Great Theatre, dates back to 15 BC making it the oldest amphitheater in France. The theatres are open to the public daily, at no cost, between the hours of 7am and 7pm.
Traveled by Susan from Thrifty After 50
One of the most beautiful areas to visit in the South of France is the glorious town of Les-Baux-De-Provence, a spectacular, pedestrian-only village set perfectly atop of a hill with extraordinary views of La Camargue and the Alpilles. A very picturesque medieval village, this immense and spectacular stone fortress town is a “must-see” location for your next visit to Provence.
A village only available on foot, you will be in awe of the beautiful, ancient houses, Renaissance facades, and magnificent views. In addition to checking out the glorious views from the lookouts, you can get a spectacular view from the Chateau-Fortress de Baux.
During your visit to Les Baux, you will most certainly want to stop at the many craft shops selling Provencal products and souvenirs. It is a great area to purchase hand-made Provence-made soaps, olive oil, locally made Santons, lavender products, or a beautiful piece of pottery or art.
Our family loves looking at the Santon stores to pick one out as a special souvenir. These local handicrafts are a true Provencal treasure and depict a range of Provencal life. One of the things that makes these detailed, hand-painted terracotta figures so fantastic is they come in a range of sizes, from miniature to quite large, all depicting the same incredible detail. In fact, if interested in their hundreds-year old history, you can visit the Musee de Santon located right in Les Baux.
Lex Baux is a great place to stop for a quick snack or to enjoy one of the local treats. At the very least, you will want to try some of the locally crafted nougats available from sellers in the village, which my kids love!
But if you only have time for one thing during your trip to Les Baux, the Les Carrières de Lumières is absolutely the must-see activity of the area. Located in a former stone quarry on the lower part of the town, immense, larger than life-size paintings of famous artists are projected on the walls with movement and set to beautiful music. It feels as though you are walking in the paintings themselves. It is definitely one of the best things to do with kids in Provence, or for anyone who wants to enjoy a very unique experience.
One of the most beautiful towns in Provence, Les Baux is definitely one of the best places to visit in France.
Traveled by Keri from Bon Voyage With Kids
Located in southeastern France, Gordes is a beautiful hill-top village in Provence, a region known for its beautiful lavender fields. The village is set on the Plateau de Vaucluse and is surrounded by a beautiful valley. Some of the best things to do in this charming French village include:
Visit the 12th-century Renaissance style castle which also houses a museum named after Pol Mara who was a contemporary Flemish painter. The entrance to the castle costs 7 EUR, and it is open Mondays-Saturdays.
Walk in the town square and visit the weekly farmer’s market. In the summers, the village market is held every Tuesday morning. It’s a great place to find local cheese, crafts, lavender soaps, and knick-knacks.
Visit Abbey of Senanque, which continues to be occupied by monks, and is a stunning photographic spot located in the valley, 4kms from Gordes
Make a stop to see about thirty traditional stone huts a short drive away from Gordes. These huts were used as summer homes, and even as a shelter for farm animals.
For a superb panoramic view of the tiered village and the valley below, follow the signs from the town center to the Gordes viewpoint at the edge of the village. Parking is available in the nearby parking lot, though the spot can be teeming with tourists.
Gordes is located conveniently from Marseille and Avignon, two major French towns, and is easily accessible by road. Its location, stone houses, and picturesque setting make it one of the most irresistible places to visit in all of France.
Traveled by Supriya from Fun Travelog