France consistently tops the list as the most visited country in the world, and for good reason. Visitors love the historic architecture, stunning French cities, and beautiful countryside. During your visit, you will also come to understand that the locals have an appreciation of the finer things in life like the arts and culinary creations. A visit to France is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Whether this is your first visit, or you’re back for another vacation, there are many beautiful places to visit in France. During your trip, you can visit the most populous cities, like Paris or Marseille. However, the smaller villages in the countryside are also beautiful places for visitors. Our list of the best cities in France is a perfect summary of the best that this country has to offer.
Paris, The City Of Lights
Believe the hype. Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Due to its charms, it is also consistently one of the most visited cities in the world for international travelers. In one city you can see many architectural marvels like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc d’Triomphe and the Louvre, and more. Paris has something special that people have tried to describe throughout the ages. Whether you’re a romantic, a history buff, or a foodie, Paris is the peak of decadence.
This city deserves at least 3 days to truly explore its many landmarks and world-famous museums. If you have more time, you can start to get a feel for the everyday life of the local Paris population, by exploring their many pristine parks, cafes, and restaurants.
Paris is spectacular at all times of the day. In fact, one of the best times to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower is at sunset so that you can see the transition from day and night. As the street lamps start to turn on, you can see why Paris earned the nickname The City of Lights.
Paris has been home to prolific artists and writers throughout the ages. As a result, many of the world’s greatest masterpieces are housed in the museums of Paris, like Da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa, The Thinker sculpture by Rodin, and Monet’s Water Lilies. The best museums in Paris are the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou. Each of these museums showcases different types of art, so they are all worth a visit. The Louvre has an enormous collection of masterpieces from many different eras, the Musee d’Orsay focuses more on Impressionist paintings, and the Centre Pompidou is a modern and contemporary art museum.
Aside from all the spectacular things to see, Paris boasts one of the most iconic food scenes in the entire world. You can truly indulge yourself with the many pastries, bakery goods, and culinary delights.
Charm Around Every Corner In Strasbourg
Located in the eastern part of France on the German border, Strasbourg is the main city in the Alsace region of France. This area retains a unique culture which is a blend of French and German influences. This is not only because of the proximity to the border but also because the region has changed hands between the two countries over the centuries.
Strasbourg’s Petite France neighborhood is a picture-perfect area full of half-timbered houses, canals, and window boxes bursting with flowers. Moreover, the pink sandstone cathedral, Notre Dame de Strasbourg, is also well worth a visit. After it was built, it stood as the tallest building in the world for over 200 years.
The Alsace region is famous for their white wines which grow in the foothills of the Vosges mountains, as well as their regional Tarte Flambee. The dish is similar to a thin pizza with creme fraiche, white onions, and thick-cut bacon. What’s not to love?
Strasbourg is also home to one of the most beloved Christmas markets in France. If you’re there in winter you can enjoy some mulled wine and pick up some traditional handicrafts for friends and family back home.
Awe-Inspiring Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel can be seen rising above the flat French countryside from miles away. The city centers around an abbey that was built on top of an island in the shallow shores off the coast of Normandy. Moreover, the island is located in a unique position which means that when the tides roll in, the whole city becomes surrounded by water. During low tide, visitors can walk up to the abbey and stroll around in the sand on the outside of the city walls. This phenomenon needs to be seen to be believed.
Once inside the city walls, start your ascent to the very top of the abbey. Along the way, you’ll pass by former residential streets, shops, and restaurants. Not surprisingly, there is a stunning viewpoint opportunity down almost every alleyway. In the upper levels of the city, you can visit the old cloisters of the Abbey, and walk the city walls which provide a stunning view of the sea and the surrounding countryside.
The Sparkling Cities Of The French Riviera
Can you imagine anything more romantic than taking a dip in the warm waters of the French Riviera? The region, known locally as the Côte d’Azur, refers to a stretch of coastline in the south of France. Some of the main cities in the region are Nice, Saint Tropez, and Marseille.
The Mediterranean lifestyle is in full force all along the French Riviera. Nice is a larger city offering the spectacular Promenade des Anglais, which is a long stretch of beach where pedestrians can take in the beauty of the sand and sea.
Marseille is also well worth a visit. It is the 2nd most populous city in France and is located at the southernmost tip of France close to the Italian border. As a result, some say that that culture in Marseille has more of an Italian flair than the rest of the cities in France. The highlight of Marseille is perhaps the Vieux-Port (Old Port). It is in this area that visitors will see street musicians, dance, and art exhibits.
Provincial Living In Aix-en-Provence
If you want to get a taste for the countryside lifestyle in France, pay a visit to Aix-en-Provence. Aix-en-Provence is a university town which is surrounded by rolling countryside. The warm climate of the region is perfect for growing the famous french Lavender, as well as the ‘herbs de Provence’ blend of marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano, which is a staple in French cooking.
The city is full of art galleries, peaceful gardens, and stunning architecture. Paul Cezanne lived in Provence and created many of his famous pieces while living in the region. In fact, you can still visit his studio, which has been preserved to the state that it was when the artist lived here.
The Grand Marche of Aix-en-Provence is one of the best examples of a French farmer’s market. For instance, you’ll find the freshest produce, the most potent herbs, and lavender sachets.
Majestic Castles Of The Loire Valley
Not technically a city, the Loire Valley is a region in the center of France which deserves a visit. In fact, the entire region is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Loire Valley is home to some of the most impressive castles found anywhere in the world. Believe it or not, there are over 100 castles in this small region in France. The impressive Château Chambord is one of the most famous. On the other hand, there are many other beautiful examples of French castles like Château Chenonceau, Château de Blois, and Château Cheverny.
One popular activity in the Loire Valley is to explore via the many cycling trails through the region. For instance, you can bike past vineyards, castles, and along the valley and discover why the Loire Valley is one of the top cities in France.
Riquewihr Is Like A Time Capsule
If walking down the main street of Riquewihr gives you a familiar feeling, it might be because the town was the inspiration behind the village in Beauty and the Beast. Some of the timbered houses of the town were built in the 15th century and have been remarkably well-preserved. Today, they are pained with vibrant colors like cobalt blue, deep reds, and all shades of pastel colors.
The color of the houses used to correlate to the type of business in the house. Nowadays, you can still see the merchant signs outside the houses indicating what types of wares are sold. Riquewihr is a great place to pick up local goods like wine, cheese, and to sample the local Alsatian specialties like Tarte Flambee. Riquewihr is one of the many small villages along the famous Alsace Wine Route. Therefore, it is a great place to sample the local Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer.
The city was also named one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, which is a curated list of the most beautiful villages and cities in France. Walking through this charming town it will be easy to see why.
Classic French Wines In Bordeaux
The Bordeaux region in France is one of the best wine-producing regions in the world. The city of Bordeaux itself is a perfect jumping-off point for a tour through the French wine country and a sampling of these pristine wines. Bordeaux wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wine, both of which thrive in the Bordeaux region.
The Bordeaux countryside is full of vineyards, but the towns in the region are also full of charm and history. You can visit the historic wine caves, wine tasting rooms, or even do a tour of the vineyards. Pick up a couple of bottles as a souvenir or a special gift for people back home.
The Garonne river winds through the region and the city of Bordeaux. In the past, the river was an important way for wine producers to transport their wines.
The city of Bordeaux is also full of stunning architecture. In fact, the wide streets and baroque buildings inspired Haussmann, who was the architect behind the modernization of Paris in the 1800s. His project transformed Paris from an over-crowded slum to the stunning French city that i is today with wide boulevards, new parks, and modern infrastructure.
Chamonix And The French Alps
The French Alps offer the perfect opportunity to see impressive natural sights. There can be snow on the peaks around Chamonix year-round. There are also plenty of hiking trails in the region where you can explore the Alpine environment. Or, if you want to get straight to the view, you can take one of the many cable cars leading to the Alpine peaks.
If you’re visiting from mid-December until May, you can partake in one of the most beautiful traditions of skiing in the alps. Chamonix is a great home base for a winter vacation. Nearby, Val Thorens is Europe’s highest-altitude ski resort.
The region is also famous for its cheese fondue and mulled wine. It’s the perfect way to warm up after a day on the slopes.
Gastronomic Center Of Lyon
Lyon is like a well-kept secret among locals. The city was the capital of France during Roman times when France was referred to as the territory of Gaul. Locals are very proud of this history and there are places around the city where you can still see references to the historic roots. For example, there is a Roman amphitheater as well as Roman ruins scattered throughout Lyon.
A highlight of Lyon is Vieux Lyon (Old Town). Or, walk up to the Fourviere viewpoint to get a spectacular panorama view of the city below. Compared to all the other cities in France, Lyon is particularly famous for being a culinary hub for traditional French food. The style of food is classic yet rustic gastronomy that incorporates regional ingredients. Also, the famous wine varietals of Beaujolais and Cotes du Rhone come from the city of Lyon.
As you can see, there are cities in France that offer something for everyone. Whether you want to stroll along the famous Boulevards of Paris, or would prefer to explore tiny alleyways of a French village, we are sure that you will fall in love with France!