When planning what to do in France, the first thing that usually comes to mind is vistiting Paris. While the French capital does have a lot to offer, there are many other wonderful places to visit; here are my travel tips on what to see in France during your next vacation.
Situated along the Mediterranean, this coastal town is renowned for its beauty. A walk down the Promenade des Anglais will give you a tour of Nice‘s best beaches as well as a great view of the Côte d’Azur. If you want to experience some history and culture, visit Terra Amata, an archeological site from about 400,000 BC, or the Musée Matisse, which features the work of Henri Matisse and is free to enter.
Nice by Justin Knabb
While many people may think of St. Malo as nothing more than a ferry port, the city actually has a lot to offer. First of all, impressive walls surround what was once a medieval city. Once inside, you will be able to walk the medieval ramparts and the reconstructed city, perusing restaurants and shops along the cobblestone streets. And because of the city’s location, they serve excellent seafood.
The walled city of St.Malo by Thomas Dowson
The city of Metz is more of a European city than a strictly French one. While there are some parts of the city’s past that are a bit dark, such as during WWI, there is also a rich cultural heritage that exists in Metz. One example of this is the New Church, which was built between 1901 and 1904 for the Protestant community during the annexation of the region by Germany. Moreover, the Metz Pompidou is a very large modern art gallery that everyone should see at some point in their lives. If you’re in the mood to be outside, take a stroll through one of Metz’ many national parks.
The New Church in Metz by Thomas Dowson
The city of Albi was added to the list of France’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010. Evidence has been found that suggests Albi has existed since the Bronze Age and that a modest Roman settlement once lived here. The real draw to the area, however, is the medieval architecture. To see some of the best the city has to offer, check out the Old Bridge (Pont-Vieux), the Saint-Salvi quarter, and the church that resides there.
The Pont-Vieux by Sebastian. b on Wikimedia Commons
For those who love exploring European castles and wine tasting in picturesque vineyards the Loire Valley is a must-see destination. Among the vineyards you will not just see grape vines but also charming buildings in states of repair and disrepair. Some fantastic wines come from this region, and if you’d like to sample some of the best visit Antoine Cristal at Le Clos des Murs, or Vineyard of Walls. He came up with this method of wine cultivating as a way to shield the vines roots from the sun, producing a higher quality of wine. If you’re in the mood to check out the beautiful castles of the region you can use this website to choose from 19 featured castles in the Loire Valley.
Loire Valley Vineyard by Thomas Dowson
The city of Annecy is a charming medieval town along Lake Annecy in the Haut Savoie region. The lake itself is just a stroll away from the Old Town, and medieval streets and canals give Annecy a quaint feeling. When visiting this town, make sure you stop by on a Sunday for their famous market, called the Best Market in France by the Michelin Green Guide and featured in our twelve of the best European markets post. Colorful stalls line winding streets and you can sample some of the tastiest cuisine in the country.
Annecy by Kimberly Sullivan
The city of Sisteron is the gateway to Provence and allows for unique scenery as it sits in a narrow gap formed by a river that is cut into a mountain. Evidence shows that the city has been inhabited for over 4,000 years, with the Romans being the first group to traverse through this gap. Latin inscriptions can still be found on the rocks in the area. Not only does Sisteron have 300 days of sunshine each year, it also holds 3 museums and quaint architecture in a natural setting.
Sisteron by Thomas Dowson
Montellier is a University town that offers high speed train access to major railway hubs like Paris and Barcelona. Visitors can find both old world and modern architecture, and the miniature Arc de Triomphe is a must-see. Montpellier is also a major wine producer, with more wine apparently being producers in this one city than in the entire country of Australia in a year. If you’d in the mood for shopping, head over to Rue de la Loge, which also sells great chocolates.
Montpellier by Wolfgang Staudt
Avignon is located in southeastern France and is well-known for its Pont d’Avignon and the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). There is a lot of history here, as this beautiful destination stretches back to pre-Roman times. One thing visitors should not miss, however, is the Festival d’Avignon, an event that combines formal aspects of theatre, dance, cinema, and music, as well as a program of informal events. Avignon along with Aix and Arles is one of Kimberly’s three A-list Provence towns.
Pont d’Avignon by Thomas Dowson
The city of Strasbourg is just off the border of France and Germany and reflects a mixture of both cultures. It is also the seat of many major European counsels, such as the very important Parliament seat it shares with Brussels. Some must visit sites include the Cathédrale Notre Dame, which holds the tallest church steeple in France, Petit France, which was once the Red Light District of the city, and the Orangerie, a beautiful park.
Strasbourg by F Antunes
Bayeux, on the Normandy coast, is best known for the Bayeaux Tapestry. You can see the beautiful 70-meter long tapestry that tells the story of Harold II and William the Conqueror, on display at the Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. The piece is thousands of years old but the colours on the thread are still bright and the detail is impressive. The town is close to the D-Day landing beaches.
Bayeux by Panoramas
Lille is a small city in the North of France located right near the Belgian border. On a high speed railway it is only 90 minutes from London and 30 minutes from Brussels, making it an easily accessible getaway. When visiting, make sure to stop by Vieux Lille, the old part of the city filled with boutique shops, antique stores, and cafes. Also see the Citadel of Lille, which is now a park with criss-crossing trails circling around and through the fortress. The Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille is also a must-see, with an amazing collection and impressive architecture.
Lille by verseguru
Situated on the Seine River, Rouen is most famous for being the site where where Jean d’Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. There is also Le Gros-Horloge, one of Europe’s oldest working clocks, that is now set on the ‘bridge’ of a 13th Century building. The clock actually has a museum to it, which offers behind the scenes tours, taking visitor through the pavillion and the belfry, where you get to see the dials room, the bells chamber, and the clockmaster’s workshop and flat.
Rouen by Thomas Dowson
The medieval city of Vannes is full of half timbered houses and old narrow lanes. A cathedral acts as the centerpiece, and visitors enjoy taking in the small town, old world feel. The city is located at the heart of the Gulf of Morbihan, a sheltered inland Gulf that is perfect for sailing. Near the docks are formal gardens that make for great photos.
Vannes by heatheronhertravels
Rocamadour is a medieval cliff-face town that is quite a treat for travelers. Down bellow on the valley runs the river Alzou, above which the buildings of the Medieval village look as if they are barely hanging on to the mountainside. Don’t worry, however, as the town is perfectly safe to visit and you will not slide off any cliffs. In Rocamadour, you will be able to enjoy excellent Midi French cuisine while taking in Medieval art and artifacts on display at various locations in the town. There is also a vast history here, as pilgrims began flocking over some time before the 9th century. Over the centuries that followed Rocamadour began to be linked with an important pilgrimage tradition, and many religious sanctuaries were built because of this.
Rocamadour by Thomas Dowson
Dijon is a historical capital in the region of Burgundy. There is a lot to do in this vibrant city, with one of the most enjoyable activities being visiting the wineries. Nature lovers can visit Dijon’s many parks and gardens, such as Parc des Carrières Bacquin, Parc de la Combe Persil, and Jardin de l’Arquebuse. The city hosts an international gastronomic fair in November, one of our featured in our 25 festivals in Europe post.
Dijon vineyard by fakelvis
This small city in central France is the capital of the Mâconnais District and the southernmost city in Burgundy. During WWII Mâcon was the first zone in the unoccupied “zone libre” between Lyon and Paris. Nowadays, there are many great sites to see when visiting this city, including the Mâcon Cathedral in the town center, the Theatre of Mâcon, and many chateaus. There is also many water based activities and the motor boating Grand Prix is held here every September.
Mâcon vineyard by Grimbil
Located on the French island of Corsica, Bonifacio is a like an open-air museum with an array of historic buildings, pristine beaches, and unique land and sea scenery. Not only did Homer mention the “well-known port of seamna” in his Odyssey, there are still artifacts from Roman civilization from as early as 300 B.C. that can be seen today, such as ship wrecks, several ports, a villa, and a granite quarry. The Church of St. Dominic is an example of Corsican Gothic architecture. For those who want to experience the natural wonders of the area, an International marine park, terrestrial paths, and an underwater trail are must-dos.
Bonifacio by vigour
Famous for its cinematic experiences, Cannes was once a small fishing village. This social hub really comes to life in May during the Cannes International Film Festival, when the rich and famous come out to play. Although there are many high-end clubs and casinos in the area, there are also budget-friendly options for those who want a night out on the town without spending a fortune. Visit the Old Town with its narrow winding streets and climb up to the top of the castle for superb views. You should also check out the Covered Market, the biggest and best market in Cannes.
Cannes by ChrisYunker
Giverny is a must-see on anyone’s trip to France, especially art lovers. The famous Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived in Giverny for 43 years. His house and its gardens are a popular tourist attraction attraction and will take your breath away as you see the myriad flowers and Japanese-inspired water garden.
Monet’s Garden in Giverny by nikoretro
Like the lace, Chantilly is elegant and lovely. It is also the horse racing capital of the world, training around 3,000 thoroughbreds in the nearby countryside and forests. If horse racing isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the many parks, forests, lakes, and chateaus that the city has to offer. Visit the Musee Conde to see works by Botticelli, Ingres, and Poussin and wander through the Parc Asterix, a theme park and one of the most popular tourist attractions in France.
Chantilly by dbeck03
Senlis is a royal city with over 2,000 years of history. Over 100 cultural, patriotic, sport, leisure, and mutual aid associations exist in the city to organize myriad festivals and events. If you get the chance to visit this small town filled with Gothic architecture, make sure to visit the Cathedral Notre Dame with its gargoyles, statues, and sculptures. There are also many museums located here to help you learn more about the art, culture, and history of the region.
Senlis by rachel in wonderland
Toulouse is located in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern France on the River Garrone. This city is one of the bases of the European aerospace industry and is the home of CNES’s Toulouse Space Center, the largest space centre in Europe. When traveling in Toulouse, make sure to visit the Capitole de Toulouse where you can see beautiful architecture. You should also visit the Jardin Royal for beautiful landscape, Les Abbattoirs for a dose of modern art, and Saint-Sernin Basilica, the largest Romanesque church in Europe.
Place du Capitole in Tolouse by chakchouka
With its old city center and narrow streets, strolling through Nantes has somewhat of a Parisian feel to it. Located on the Loire River, this is the 6th largest city in France. Once occupied by the Gauls and the Romans, the city was Christianized in the 3rd century. One must-see sight in Nantes includes the Château des ducs de Bretagne, (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany), a very important castle that is home to the History Museum of the City of Nantes. There are also myriad of churches, as well as 2 mosques (a 3rd mosque is under construction). If you love shopping, the Passage Pommeraye is a beautiful 19th century galleria that you should definitely visit.
Annual Gay Pride Parade in Nantes by manuel | MC
Marseille is the 2nd largest city in France and the largest French city on the Mediterranean coast. It is also the oldest city in France, dating back almost 30,000 years. If visiting this historical city, make sure you take in an Opera performance at the Opera House, which was the main cultural attraction from the late 18th century until the late 1970′s. The region is also known for its gastronomy, such as Bourride, a fish-dish composed of monkfish, mayonnaise, and diced vegetables, and Panisse, a pastry made from chickpea flour.
Marseille by Paehder