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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.

tourist spots french

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.

Chiara Salvadori/Getty Images

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

John Harper/Getty Images

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

Christopher Larson/Travel + Leisure

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

Paula Galindo Valle/Travel + Leisure

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

David Silverman/Getty Images

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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Gorges du Verdon

The 16 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

France   is one of the most visited places on the planet – and you better believe that it lives up to every bit of the hype. This famous country has been at the cultural heart of western Europe for millennia, and you can see signs of its complex and fascinating past all over the place. But it’s not all   grand old châteaux : France is also blessed with some exceptionally beautiful natural wonders   and   some of Europe’s coolest city-break destinations .

So, from heavenly beach destinations and   picturesque rural villages   to grand old cities like   Paris ,   Lyon   and   Marseille , these are the best places to visit in France – and some of the world’s most essential destinations.

Discover France:

📍 The best   things to do in France 🌳 The prettiest   villages in France 🏖 The best   beaches in France 🌆 The best French cities to visit 🏰 Spectacular  French châteaux you can rent 😋 The best   restaurants in France 🌊  The best places to stay on the French Riviera

An email you’ll actually love

Best places to visit in France

Paris

Where do you start with a city like Paris? The French capital is one of the great global cities, as renowned for its world-class museums, magnificent grub and lavish shopping options as it is for its mere vibe . From the Louvre to the Jardin de Luxembourg, the place oozes history, beauty and, yes, romance. There is, quite plainly, nowhere quite like it.

Discover Paris:

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

Marseille

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. 

Discover Marseille:

📍 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

Nice

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:

🍴 The best restaurants in Lyon

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.

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.

Discover the French Riviera:

😎 The best places to stay on the French Riviera

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Discover more in Europe

The best places to visit in Italy

The best places to visit in Italy

I conic cities, gorgeous towns and villages, incredible islands and all the rest

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The best places to visit in Greece

From Athens to the islands, there’s so much to fall in love with here

The best places to visit in Spain

The best places to visit in Spain

Sure, the beaches and big cities are incredible – but there’s much, much more to Spain

The best places to visit in France

The best places to visit in France

It’s one of the most visited places on the planet, but France always lives up to the hype

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Gardens of France

Cities to Visit

Romantic Destinations

One-Week Itinerary

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Food to Try

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Best Time to Visit

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Top Attractions

The Most-Visited Sites in France

Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

The top 20 most visited sites in France might come as a surprise. There are quite a few museums here but count both foreign and French visitors. The French are hot on cultural institutions. Left to the foreign visitors alone, the figures might be slightly different. Visitor figures refer to December 2014 and come from INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies).

Disneyland Paris

16 million visitors The enduring appeal of Disney and all those characters we remember from our childhood came to Europe in Disneyland Paris . Opened in 1992, it’s just an hour’s simple ride by commuter train from Paris. It has two full theme parks, hotels, shopping, and entertainment.

Louvre Museum, Paris

Tim Graham / Getty Images News Collection / Getty Images

9.4 million visitors The Louvre Museum is the big daddy of Paris museums, a vast building housing a vast collection of art from the Greeks and the Romans to the early modern period. It’s something every visitor to Paris must see, apart from Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. 

Eiffel Tower, Paris

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

7.5 million visitors Think of Paris and most people instantly think of the Eiffel Tower . Its wonderful iron structure has been dominating the skyline of the City of Light since 1889 and the World Exposition. It’s odd to think that when it was first built, people talked of pulling it down. Today it lights up at night with a show hourly.

Château de Versailles near Paris

Sami Sarkis / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

6.7 million visitors It’s not surprising that Versailles , a UNESCO World Heritage Site , is next on the list. It’s a magnificent, huge palace just a short ride away from Paris. It’s another must-see on anybody’s visit to France, and particularly to Paris. If you’re there, do a bit of luxury shopping at the Courtyard of the Senses .

Pompidou Centre (National Museum of Modern Art, NMMA), Paris

Taylor McIntyre

3.8 million visitors The Centre Georges Pompidou stands in its own huge space in Beaubourg. It’s a magnificent building designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano and opened in 1977. It houses the National Museum of Modern Art, a superb collection of contemporary artworks with all the great names from Matisse to Picasso. It also puts on top temporary shows.​

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

3.5 million visitors This is many people’s favorite museum and it’s easy to see why. The Musée d’Orsay is housed in a former grand Beaux-Arts railway station in St Germain on the left bank. Its roomy interior now offers four floors of superb Impressionist artworks. This is the place for a feast of Monets, Manets, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec , and more. Taking art from 1848 to 1914 the museum shows the effect that Impressionism, at the time a revolutionary approach to painting, had on the artists who followed that generation.

Science & Industry Museum, La Villette, Paris

2.6 million visitors The Science and Industry Museum ( Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie ) is the place to visit with your family but it’s relatively unknown to tourists. It’s designed for children aged from 2 to 18 with exhibits that capture their imagination and teach them science in easy steps. Divided into themes from light games to mathematics, it covers everything from human anatomy to space exploration with a mass of interactive exhibits. It’s at La Villette, an area well worth a visit.

National Museum of Natural History, Paris

Christopher Groenhout / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

1.9 million visitors The Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle is in a royal garden of medicinal plants of King Louis XIII which opened to the public as the Jardin des Plantes in 1640. There’s also a small zoo, the Mineralogy and Geology gallery, and the Paleontology gallery. They are all part of the National Museum of Natural History, another major site little known to foreign tourists. The highlight is the Great Gallery of Evolution, where thousands of creatures stand in the center while exhibits to each side explain their habitats and characteristics.

Futuroscope Theme Park, Poitiers

Courtesy of Futuroscope

1.8 million visitors An astonishing, futuristic theme park which opened 25 years ago, Futuroscope in Poitiers, west France offers differently themed rides and shows. It’s the place to go under the sea or into space.

Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Champs-Elysées, Paris

1.5 million visitors Restored and re-opened in 2008, the Grand Palais is the place for blockbuster art exhibitions. Originally opened for the Great Exhibition of 1900, it then put on some adventurous exhibitions such as the 1905 Salon d’Automne which shocked the general public with art by Matisse, Braque and Derain and the birth of Fauvism. The exhibition on Monet attracted 900,000 visitors; other popular exhibitions have included Edward Hopper and Helmut Newton. Its vast open spaces are perfect for exhibitions of fashion, photography as well as performances of theater, music and dance.

Omaha Beach American Cemetery, Normandy

1.6 million visitors Omaha Beach played a vital, and tragic role in the D-Day Landings on June 6 th , 1944. Today the long sandy beach attracts walkers and swimmers, while the American Military Cemetery above it, is the most visited site of World War II in Normandy.

The cemetery holds 9,387 graves; the visitor center tells the story of some of the American forces killed here.

Parc Astérix, Picardy

1.5 million visitors Parc Astérix in Picardy is great fun for families, whether you are familiar with Obelix, Astérix and the diverse cast of characters from the original comic books or not. Plenty of rides and attractions for all ages and it’s just 30 ​km north of Paris so easy to reach for a day out.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris

 1.7 million visitors The Arc de Triomphe is another iconic image of Paris, standing at the top of the Champs-Élysèes and honoring Napoleon Bonaparte, the army and his victories. Started in 1806 on the Place d’Etoile and finally finished 30 years later, it’s one of the most photographed buildings in the French capital. At ground floor level there’s the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, You can climb the 284 steps, or take the elevator then climb 64 steps to the top (there is an admission charge for this). It’s worth it for the stunning views over Paris.

Puy du Fou Theme Park, Atlantic Coast

Courtesy of Puy du Fou

1.4 million visitors This favorite theme park in France has everything. There are chariot races, a Viking ship that rises from the lake, gladiatorial contests and a wonderful nighttime show that is well worth the extra cost. Diehard enthusiasts can stay here as well in a themed hotel.

Quai Branly Museum, Paris

1.3 million visitors The Quai Branly museum opened in 2006 in an uncompromising contemporary building to display the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. It has a fabulous permanent collection and also puts on a varied program of temporary displays. Recent exhibitions include the lives and ambitions of the Ican Atahualpa and the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro, and one on tattooing which shows the social and mystical role of tattoos in early societies from the Oriental, African and Oceanian worlds to today’s embracing of tattoos by fashionistas.

Army Museum (Musée de l’Armée Invalides), Paris

1.4 million visitors The Army Museum is housed in Les Invalides , an imposing building of 1670 intended as a hospital and convalescent home for injured soldiers in the reign of Louis XIV. The Army Museum has a vast collection of weapons and armor from the 13 th to the 17 th centuries; it’s one of the three largest army museums in the world. There’s a section on the French Army from 1871 to 1945 and covers both World Wars comprehensively. The museum also includes jousting, hunting and tournaments and weaponry from the Ottoman, Persian, Mongolian, Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian worlds.

Les Invalides is probably best known for Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb, moved here in 1840.

Mont St-Michel, Normandy

1.3 million visitors Mont St-Michel stands on a rocky island off the coast of Normandy, an abbey which has attracted pilgrims and worshippers since the first buildings of the 9 th century. A new bridge has replaced the old causeway, and the place is once again an island, washed by the tides. It's one of the great sacred sites of France.

Millau Viaduct, Mid-Pyrénées

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

1.2 million visitors The Millau Viaduct was first drawn up in 1987 to link the Causse Rouge to the north with the Causse du Larzac to the south on the A75 autoroute. Designed by Michel Virlogeux and realized by the British architect Lord Norman Foster, work started in 2001. The viaduct was opened in 2004. It’s a beautiful structure, seemingly floating over the Tarn river valley.

It’s currently (records are made to be broken) the tallest vehicle bridge in the world and taller than the Eiffel Tower at its tallest point.

Chateau and Museum of the Dukes of Brittany, Nantes

1.3 million visitors The Dukes of Brittany were once rich and powerful, building themselves a glorious 15 th -century château in the middle of the port of Nantes . Today it houses a museum, telling the colorful story of Nantes. Nantes is a fabulous city, often overlooked particularly by foreign visitors, but well worth a visit.

Bois de Boulogne Zoo (Jardin d’acclimatation), Paris

1.1million visitors Created in 1860 the Jardin d'acclimatation took over the winter gardens of the hothouses as well as exotic animals. It grew into a pleasure park with a merry-go-round and puppet shows for children, as well as housing bears, lions, monkeys, and deer. But it’s mainly about plants, whether providing tea or perfumes. It’s also a fabulous place for bird watching as the lakes and ponds provide shelter for migrating species. It’s in the popular Bois de Boulogne .

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Cité de l’Espace

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Paris, France - August 13, 2016: The Pompidou Centre is a complex building in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement. It houses the Public Information Library and the museum of Modern art.

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Home to Europe's largest collection of modern and contemporary art, Centre Pompidou has amazed and delighted visitors ever since it opened in 1977, not…

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Château de Chenonceau

Spanning the languid Cher River atop a graceful arched bridge, Chenonceau is one of France's most elegant châteaux. It's hard not to be moved and…

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Musée du Louvre

It isn’t until you’re standing in the vast courtyard of the Louvre, with its glass pyramid and ornate façade, that you can truly say you’ve been to Paris.

The royal Chateau de Chambord in the evening, France. This castle is located in the Loire Valley, was built in the 16th century and is one of the most recognizable chateaux in the world.

Château de Chambord

The Loire Valley

If you only have time to visit one château in the Loire, you might as well make it the grandest – and Chambord is the most lavish of them all, and the…

Skulls and bones in Paris Catacombs

Les Catacombes

It’s gruesome, ghoulish and downright spooky, but it never fails to captivate visitors. In 1785, the subterranean tunnels of an abandoned quarry were…

Grounds of Rodin Museum sculpture garden.

Musée Rodin

St-Germain & Les Invalides

Even if you're not an art lover, it is worth visiting this high-profile art museum to lose yourself in its romantic gardens.

JULY 30, 2012: Model sailing boats in the pool in front of Luxembourg Palace in Luxembourg Gardens.

Jardin du Luxembourg

This famous inner-city oasis of formal terraces, chestnut groves and lush lawns has a special place in Parisians' hearts. 

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Latin Quarter

Elegant and regal in equal measure, the massive neoclassical dome of the Left Bank's iconic Panthéon is an icon of the Parisian skyline. Louis XV…

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Abbaye du Mont St-Michel

Mont St-Michel

Mont St-Michel's one main street, the Grande Rue, leads up the slope – past souvenir shops, eateries and a forest of elbows – to the star attraction of a…

France, Paris, Seine River banks listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, musee d'Orsay

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay may not be quite as famous as the Louvre—though it’s located a mere 10-minute walk away—but this Left Bank museum holds its own in its…

tourist spots french

Couvent des Jacobins

With its palm tree vaulted ceiling, the Couvent des Jacobins is one of Toulouse’s oldest and most recognizable buildings

The Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.

Jardin des Tuileries

Filled with fountains, ponds and sculptures, the formal 28-hectare Tuileries Garden, which begins just west of the Jardin du Carrousel, was laid out in…

Station F in the 13th arrondissement (district).

The world's largest start-up campus was unveiled by French president, Emmanuel Macron, in mid-2017. At any one time, some 3000 resident entrepreneurs from…

Coucher de l'Arc de Triomphe de l'étoile à Paris

Arc de Triomphe

If anything rivals the Eiffel Tower as the symbol of Paris, it’s this magnificent 1836 monument to Napoléon’s victory at Austerlitz (1805), which he…

tourist spots french

Cathédrale Notre Dame

One of Western civilisation’s crowning architectural achievements, the 130m-long Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres is renowned for its brilliant-blue…

Exterior of Villandry Castle with its manicured garden.

Château de Villandry

Villandry's six glorious landscaped gardens à la française are some of France's finest, with more than 6 hectares of kitchen gardens, cascading flowers,…

tourist spots french

Château Royal de Blois

Seven French kings lived in Blois' royal château, whose four grand wings were built during four distinct periods in French architecture: Gothic (13th…

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Carnac Alignments

Golfe du Morbihan

Predating Stonehenge by around 100 years, the Carnac (Garnag in Breton) area is the world's greatest concentration of megalithic sites, with no fewer than…

Reconstruction of cave paintings of animals inside Lascaux II.

Grotte de Lascaux

The Dordogne

France’s most famous prehistoric cave paintings are at the Grotte de Lascaux, 2km southeast of Montignac. Naturally sealed and protected for millennia, it…

Cathedral Notre Dame in Reims, France

Imagine the extravagance of a French royal coronation. The focal point of such pomposity was Reims’ resplendent Gothic cathedral, begun in 1211 on a site…

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Le Marais, Ménilmontant & Belleville

Opened in 1804, Père Lachaise is the world's most visited cemetery. Its 70,000 ornate tombs of the rich and famous form a verdant, 44-hectare sculpture…

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Château de Versailles

Amid magnificently landscaped formal gardens, this splendid and enormous palace was built in the mid-17th century during the reign of Louis XIV – the Roi…

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Musée Toulouse-Lautrec

Lodged inside the Palais de la Berbie (built in the early Middle Ages for the town's archbishop), this wonderful museum offers an overview of Albi's most…

Inside the Orange Amphitheatre (Théâtre antique d'Orange).

Théâtre Antique

Orange's monumental, Unesco-protected Roman theatre is unquestionably one of France's most impressive Roman sights. It's one of only three intact Roman…

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Dune du Pilat

This colossal sand dune (sometimes referred to as the Dune de Pyla because of its location 4km from the small seaside resort town of Pyla-sur-Mer), 8km…

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Les Machines de l’Île de Nantes

Nantes' quirkiest sight is this fantasy world – a serious and seriously wacky workshop with mechanical contraptions galore displayed in plant-filled…

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For a very insightful and vivid account of the entire war, with special focus on the Battle of Normandy, Le Mémorial is unparalleled – it's one of Europe…

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Nîmes’ twin-tiered amphitheatre is the best preserved in France. Built around 100 BC, the arena once seated 24,000 spectators and staged gladiatorial…

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Founded in 1825 by painter François-Xavier Fabre, this exceptional museum houses one of France’s richest collections of European art. The galleries…

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24 Best Tourist attractions in France

You are currently viewing 24 Best Tourist attractions in France

  • Post category: Travel to France
  • Post author: Nassie Angadi

Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a solo adventure, or a family holiday, France is a wonderful destination. The language, the culture, the food, there just something about L’Hexagone , as mainland France is called.

Paris , of course, is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations but there are many other sites throughout this beautiful country to see. The country is home to some of the most breathtaking coastal regions, medieval villages and cheerful cities.

From the châteaux of the Loire Valley to the quaint little towns, charming countryside, and mountainous regions, there is something for everyone. After living in France for over 10 years, I should know!

Whether you choose to walk along the beach in Saint Tropez, go shopping in old towns like as Annecy and Carcassonne, and take in the sights and sounds , food and drinks , and the culture of it all.

So with that, here are the top tourist attractions in France, as well as notable landmarks that are sure to leave you wanting more. Allons-y!

1. Eiffel Tower

She goes by many names. La Tour Eiffel or la Dame de Fer (“The Iron Lady”) in French, and of course the Eiffel Tower to the rest of the world. Instantly recognizable, the Eiffel Tower has become the symbol of not only Paris, but also all of France .

Eiffel tower from the Seine River

☞ READ MORE: French travel phrases you need for a trip to France

Construction of the Eiffel Tower started on 26th January 1887, and was completed in 2 years, 2 months and 5 days, a massive technological feat.

Today, tourists the world over flock to the Eiffel Tower to take in the views from all around and its observation decks. With expansive views stretching from the Arc de Triomphe to Bastille , millions of visitors put it on their bucket list every year. You can read more about the Tour Eiffel here.

If you are visiting Paris and would like to visit the Eiffel Tower, I highly recommend buying tickets in advance .

2. Palais de Versailles

It was built by the famous Sun King Louis XIV , but we think more today of the tragic destiny of Marie-Antoinette and the French Revolution .

Chateau de Versailles

Many other key moments in history took place here as well, such as the Treaty of Versailles (WW1), subsequent German retaliation (WW2), amongst many others, so wander around and breathe in the history of France .

You can read more about visiting the Château de Versailles here. It does get quite crowded, especially in the summer so I highly advise booking tickets in advance.

3. Musée du Louvre

This former castle, turned royal palace , turned zoo, turned museum is a must for lovers of art and history. It is said the Louvre Museum’s collection is so big only 5-10% of its artwork is actually on display.

Courtyard inside Louvre Museum

In fact, there is so much art at the Louvre, so you have to pick and choose. For those keen to get clear shot of the Mona Lisa , relax afterward in the peaceful inner courtyard that is filled with ancient Greek statues. You can read more about visiting the Louvre here.

Note: During the busy summer season, tickets often are only sold online for timed entrances. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.

4. Mont Saint Michel

One of the most beautiful and unique sights in the world, Mont Saint Michel is a sight to behold. Legend has it that the archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert of Avranches in 708 and instructed him to build a church on a large rock.

Mont Saint Michel in France

Surrounded by marshland, the waters turns the UNESCO World heritage site into an island when the tide comes in.

It takes about 4 hours to get there from Paris, and to get there from Paris you can take the train from Paris’ Gare Montparnasse to the city Rennes (2 hours), from where SNCF buses travel to Mont St. Michel (1.5hrs).

It is a bit of an adventure though, so this one day trip that I would strongly recommend going with a tour company . You can read more about visiting Mont Saint Michel here.

5. Châteaux de la Loire

It is lucky that the Loire Valley is about 2.5 hours away from Paris (by car), because that meant many of its luxurious renaissance châteaux were saved from the destruction of the French Revolution .

Chateau de Chenonceau

Chateau de Chenonceau and Chambord are two of its most famous. The beautiful city of Amboise has its own Royal Château that you shouldn’t miss.

In addition, the Loire Valley is a wine-producing region , so there are many popular white wines that are grown in the region, which you can read about here. The area is the second-largest concentration of sparkling-wine producing vines in France after the Champagne region.

And since they don’t build train stations next to castles, I would highly recommend taking a tour from Paris. There are several tours that combine wine-tasting and château-hopping as a day trip, or longer if you choose. You can see Loire Valley tour options here.

6. Cité de Carcassonne

Moving to the south of France, one of the most popular tourist attractions in France has to be the in town of Carcassonne.

La Cité de Carcassonne and its Château Comtal, with its enormous walls, look and feel like they belong in another time. And indeed they do, dating back to the Middle ages, when wars were waged on horseback and moats were enough to keep invaders out.

carcassonne

A UNESCO world-heritage site, the Cité de Carcassone is one of the largest of its kind with two outer walls and 53 towers.

The impressive citadel towers on a hilltop, surrounded by wide, stone ramparts that you can walk along and explore. There is quite a lot of see, so to make the most of your day, I suggest taking a guided tour when you arrive at Carcassonne . You can read more about visiting Carcassonne here.

7. Pont du Gard

About 72 miles (117 km) away from Aix-en-Provence in the region of Provence, is an ancient Roman aqueduct known as Pont du Gard.

Built over a period of 5 years in the 1st century, the aqueduct was built to carry water to over 50 km (31 miles) to what was then the Roman colony of Nimes .

Pont du Gard in Provence, South of France

With 3 tiers of arches, it crosses the river Gardon and is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges, as well as being one of the best-preserved.

After the Roman empire collapsed, the Pont du Gard remained in use as it also served as a toll bridge for people looking to cross the river. The bridge remained mostly intact, with the Ducs of nearby Uzès being responsible for maintaining the bridge.

Rather than delivering water, the bridge instead became a tourist attraction, with everyone from French Kings to apprentice masons making their way to the bridge to admire its architecture.

In the early 2000s, traffic around the area was rerouted to preserve this UNESCO world heritage site and from pollution and maintain the tranquil nature of the area. Today, it is one of the most popular destinations in France after the Palace of Versailles and Mont Saint Michel.

You will need a rental car to visit, or alternatively you can book a tour from Aix-en-Provence . You can read more about Pont du Gard here.

8. Cliffs of Etretat

The beach town of Étretat in Normandy is one of those places that is very famous in France, but quite unknown to foreigners and tourists.

Etretat in Normandy

A small town on the north coast of France, the area is known for the striking rock formations known as  falaises  in French, that carved out of its white cliffs.

It also has beautiful beaches and a long boardwalk all along its coast line. In summer or winter, this coastal town attracts tons of visitors.

With award-winning gardens, beautiful seashore, and a charming old town, there is plenty to see and do in Etretat. You can read more about visiting Etretat here, and find out about tour options from Paris .

9. Cave paintings of Grotte Chauvet

One of the greatest cultural treasures in the world is located in the heart of department of Ardèche, about 124 miles (200 km) away from Lyon .

Known as Grotte Chauvet (Cave Chauvet), it is a cave network which has some of the earliest known Paleolithic human cave paintings. Dating back about 28,000 – 32,000 years old these are among the oldest in the world.

grotte chauvet wide panel

There are several panels with some of the earliest known figurative drawings, making it one of the most important prehistoric art sites in the world. These spectacular images were created by prehistoric humans, or Homo sapiens, as they roamed the European continent.

The actual cave is too fragile to allow visitors, and so an exact replica was built called Grotte Chauvet 2. Built to educate visitors about the Paleolithic era, there is an entire complex of exhibitions to visit about the lives of these prehistoric humans.

Other prehistoric cave complexes called Lascaux and Grotte Cosquer are also on the UNESCO world heritage list , but similarly it is the replicas that are open to visitors. You can read more about visiting Grotte Chauvet 2 here.

10. Mont Blanc and the Alps

The Alps are one of Europe’s most iconic mountain ranges, and certainly one of the most diverse. From the breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn to the exquisite Lake Annecy at its foothills, the mighty Alps are a sight to behold.

The highest peak in the Alps is Mont Blanc which is about 15,782 feet (4810 metres) tall.  Mont Blanc is the name in French while the Italians call it Monte Blanco , both meaning White Mountain. 

Mont Blanc in France - skiing in the French alps

From December to April , the Alps becomes a winter sports haven . Activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and tobogganing are extremely popular . 

The 3 Vallées and Paradiski have proclaimed themselves the largest ski domaines in the world, with some of the top resorts in France . In summer, activities such as hiking, mountain biking, sightseeing, mountaineering and paragliding are also quite popular.

With local dishes like fondue and raclette originating in this area, it has a culture all its own. (Remember to try the génépi digestif if you are in the area!) You can read more about the Alps mountains here.

11. Rocamadour

The tiny village of Rocamadour in Occitanie has attracted visitors for centuries, among them pilgrims, kings, and nobility.

It is known for its position, perched 150m high on a hillside overlooking the Alzou canyon. It has been a place of worship since the Middle ages for those to come to pray at the chapel to the Black Virgin after having climbed the 216 steps pilgrims’ staircase.

Rocamadour

In the last weekend of September, a spectacular sight takes place in Rocamadour, a small clifftop village in south-central France. Around 30 hot air balloons take flight over the valley to pay tribute to the inventors of the Montgolfières , the Montgolfier brothers who were from nearby Ardéche.

Rocamadour is also one of the stops on the pilgrimage route of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. You can take a tour to Rocamadour from Bordeaux or Sarlat-la-Canéda .

12. Villages of Alsace

The region of Alsace is known for its charming towns and medieval villages with their cobblestoned streets and traditional half-timbered houses.

Houses in Alsace

Located along the eastern border of France and Germany , the region has known many centuries of strife, from the days of Charlemagne to more recently WWII.

After finally becoming a part of France, the Alsace is now thriving as a tourist hub, attracting visitors to its charming little villages and its famous vineyards.

The Alsace Wine Route spans 105 miles (170 km) and along the way are dotted several vineyards and charming little villages like Ribeauvillé , Eguishem, and Riquewihr.

wine from alsace - map of region

It starts near Strasbourg in the north, past Colmar and ending west of Mulhouse.

Known as the Route des Vins d’Alsace in French, roadtrippers can drive through the region, stopping at vineyards offering tastings, and take home a few souvenirs .

You can find out more information about tours and tour companies travelling in the area here.

13. D-Day Beaches of Normandy

There is a lot to see in historical Normandy , but if you are short on time and want to pay your respects to the soldiers who fought so bravely on D-Day, a day trip from Paris is quite do-able.

Omaha beach memorial

There are many cemeteries, monuments, and museums dedicated to the lives of those soldiers and those living in France at the time. A somber journey, but one that is worth the trip.

You can read more about visiting the D-day beaches here, as well as see tour options to visit the D-day beaches, the Allied cemeteries and more here.

14. Lavender fields of Provence

If you are visiting the south of France, you will not want to miss out on the famed lavender fields in Provence . Those sweet-smelling purple flowers are certainly a sight to behold.

Now, I should note that if you want to see lavender fields, you have to visit Provence in the summer. The best time to visit the lavender fields is between mid- June to mid- July . There is no point visiting in October because there will be no lavender growing, it will already have been harvested.

avender field provence valensole

If you do happen to be in Aix-en-Provence during that time, you can visit a nearby lavender farm and learn about its cultivation and uses from a local producer. There are several tours , some which leave in the mornings or in the afternoons that you can see here.

I recommend the morning tours , especially if you are visiting in the summer because it gets very hot under the sun in this part of the world.

15. Reims Cathedral

The historic city of Reims was at one time one of the most important cities in France. Like other cathedrals in France from the Middle ages, it is a gothic-style Roman catholic church.

The cathedral used to be the traditional site of the coronations of French Royalty , and with Reims known known as the “City of Kings”.

Reims Cathedral in France

Founded by the Gauls at the time of the Roman Empire , it was the place where Clovis I, the first King of the Franks was anointed monarch. Christianity had come to the area, brought by St. Rémi who baptized Clovis here at the end of the 5th century, and after whom the city was named.

Only a handful of the French monarchs were not crowned here, including Napoleon Bonaparte who decided to be crowned at Notre Dame de Paris . His successor Louis XVIII also tried to dispense with the tradition, after the guillotine of his uncle Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette .

The last coronation here was 1825 of Charles X, who was quite unpopular and shortly overthrown after.

The city survived the upheaval of the French Revolution , but it would not be so lucky during World War I. German soldiers invaded the city, and with French and Allied bombs falling, more than 70% of the city was destroyed.

The Reims Cathedral was one of the buildings substantially destroyed and had to be almost entirely rebuilt. A large donation from John D. Rockefeller was able to restore the Cathedral to what we see today.

When you walk through the cathedral, you can’t help but remark upon its extraordinary history. All around the exterior and interior facades, there are giant size statues of French Kings and saints .

The building today is an inspiration for the reconstruction of Notre Dame de Paris which was also significantly damaged after a large fire in 2019. You can read more about visiting Reims here.

16. Beaches and boardwalks of Côte d’Azur (French Riviera)

The French Riviera is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. With its glistening waters, beautiful coast, and the attractive towns that line it, it’s easy to see why this place is so popular.

And there is nowhere that epitomizes the Côte d’Azur more than glitzy Saint Tropez. If you are looking for a luxurious beach holiday that will help you relax and enjoy life, Saint Tropez is the place to be.

Yachts in Saint Tropez

As one of the most famous coastlines in the world, it and has been the playground of the rich and famous for decades, with a rich history of film stars, actors and celebrities , so keep your eyes peeled.

Other nearby cities on the coast that have the requisite sun, beaches, and deep blue seas are Cassis , Bandol , La Ciotat , Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat , Cannes, and Villefranche-sur-Mer . And of course, we cannot forget the principality of Monaco .

17. Wine region of Bordeaux

With some of the most popular red wines in the world, Bordeaux is a wine region to be reckoned with. Located on the west coast of France, its easy access to the ocean meant that Bordeaux wines could be easily exported to England, Netherlands, and other European countries as early as the Middle Ages.

When Eleanor of Aquitaine married the English king Henry II, she and her royal court brought with them their culture of wine, as well as easy access to Bordeaux’s vineyards.

When picking a bottle of wine in Bordeaux, it is important to note that a good bottle of wine will be named after the château/domaine it is produced at, not the type of grape. This is unlike some of the other French wine regions , who name the bottle after the grape.

St Emilon Grand Cru wines

Some of the Bordeaux Grand Crus and the most famous French wines in the world are:

There are five different wine trails around the city of Bordeaux, with the most popular one being the Médoc wine tour. Its unofficial name is the “ Route des chateaux ”, because these days the châteaux have mostly been converted into luxury wine houses with sprawling vineyards that are open to visitors.

Map of Region - Bordeaux Wines

Tourists are welcomed for tastings and to purchase their own souvenirs to take back home. You can get more information about tours and tour companies in the area here. You can read more about Bordeaux wines here.

18. Les Calanques

A set of cliffs to the west of Marseille , Les Calanques are a magnificent natural wonder. With towering rocks and aquamarine clear water, you can decide to hike, swim, or just take it all in.

calanques near marseille, provence

Drive over to the small fishing town of Cassis if you prefer to explore the Calanques by land, or take a boat leaving from the Vieux port of Marseille .

There are several tour boat options to head to the Calanques and you can read more about visiting the Calanques here.

19. Jeanne d’Arc in Rouen

The town of Rouen is about 50 km from Paris , downstream on the same river Seine.

Being part of the Duchy of Normandy, whose lords sometimes swore fealty to the French kings (and sometimes didn’t), it was this strategic location that led the city to grow in size and importance.

24 Best Tourist attractions in France 1

But what really put Rouen on the map, when it comes to tourism in France, is a young girl named Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) who would change the history of France .

She was born in Domrémy over 460km away, but it was in Rouen that she died, burnt at the stake by the dastardly English and their allies on 30 May, 1431.

Walking around Rouen, you will see several streets and landmarks that recount the history of this young woman in Rouen.  A discreet statue of her is placed on the side of Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc to mark the spot where she was burned at the stake for heresy. You can read more about visiting Rouen here.

20. Gorges du Verdon

About 62miles (100km) away from Aix-en-Provence lies the Gorges du Verdon . It is gorgeous natural river canyon about 15 miles (25km) long. If you are a nature-lover who enjoys hiking, kayaking, and swimming, you will not want to miss this beautiful protected natural park.

gorges du verdon, provence, france

Along with hiking trails and kayak rentals, there is also a man-made Lac de Sainte-Croix at one end of the Verdon Gorge, which has sandy beaches for those who want to spend the day relaxing.

In addition, one of the most beautiful villages in Provence , Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is just a few miles from the Gorges, making it the ideal place to stop and have lunch.

The Gorges is very popular with tourists and there are several tours leaving from Aix-en-Provence to help you make the most of your time in the area. You can read more about visiting the Gorges du Verdon here.

21. Disneyland Paris

If you are traveling with a family (and even if you are not) you cannot miss going to the Château of Mickey. Located just outside Paris, Disneyland Paris actually is much cheaper, compared to other Disneylands in the U.S., Japan, and elsewhere.

Mad hatters at disneyland paris

The park is split into two parts: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. You can buy tickets for both parks, or just one.

There is also the Disney Village which is outside the theme parks and free to visit. You can read more about visiting Disneyland Paris here. Like with most things around Paris, it is best to skip the line and buy tickets and transportation in advance.

22. Lourdes and the Catholic Pilgrimage

In 1858, a 14-year-old poor peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirou thought she had visions of an apparition in a grotto near her family home. Based on her recountings, the townspeople thought it was of the Virgin Mary.

Bernadette would go on to to become Saint Bernadette of Lourdes , and the village she was born in would become one of the the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage.

Basilique Notre Dame de Lourdes at France Miniature themepark

The spring from the grotto is believed to have healing properties, and close to 5 million people are believed to visit the site every year.

In addition to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, the town was best known for the Château fort de Lourdes , a large and imposing castle that sits on a rocky escarpment.

23. Lakeside in Annecy

About 2 hours drive away from Lyon is the Alpine town of Annecy. A delightful combination of medieval France and natural landscapes, it is a town that has attracted visitors for centuries.

Located on Lake Annecy, the city is blessed not only with a charming old town but also with some of the most extraordinary scenery in all of France.

Annecy

From the old Palais de l’Ile to the Château d’Annecy, this was the home of the Counts of Genova. Known as the Venice of the Alps, the town is famous for its many canals.

And with plenty of lakeside beaches, biking lanes and hiking trails nearby, it is a sports-lovers paradise. You can read more about visiting Annecy here.

24. The Camargue

The Camargue national park near the city of Arles , is known for its unique wetlands and horse-riding culture that attract visitors from far and wide.

Located near the French-Spanish border, the locals have a culture of their own with a tradition and cuisine that is heavily influenced by its next-door neighbour, Spain.

From tapas to bull-fighting festivals, this is an area that is unique in France. The Camargue also has an eponymous horse breed, the famous white Camarguais which are raised in almost wild conditions.

The Camargue is also known for its sea salts that are produced by drawing seawater into marsh basins and allow the water to evaporate, leaving behind the salt. Some salt crystals float on the surface of the water, forming a delicate crust of crystals that is called fleur de sel .

You can read more about taking a tour to nearby Arles and the Camargue here.

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So have you planned where you want to visit? If you enjoyed that article, you can read more about visiting France here. A bientôt!

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15 Must-See Attractions and Things To Do in France - 2023

girl enjoying view of eiffel tower in paris france-Leisure

France is a country that never fails to captivate travelers with its charming cities, picturesque countryside, rich history, and world-class cuisine. It's no wonder that France is one of the most visited countries in the world, attracting millions of tourists each year. From the romantic streets of Paris to the sun-kissed beaches of the French Riviera, France offers many experiences that cater to all interests.

In this comprehensive guide, we've curated the top 15 must-see attractions and activities for anyone visiting France in 2023. Whether you're interested in exploring the country's cultural heritage, indulging in its gastronomic delights, or simply basking in the beauty of its natural landscapes, we've got you covered. Our guide is designed to help you plan a memorable trip to France and make the most of your time here. So, pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready to discover France's best!

Visit France's Famous Attractions

1. eiffel tower - paris.

No trip to France is complete without a visit to the iconic Eiffel Tower. This towering metal structure has become a symbol of Paris and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Take a tour of the tower, climb to the top, and enjoy panoramic views of the city.

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2. Louvre Museum - Paris

The Louvre Museum is a must-visit for art lovers. Home to over 35,000 artworks, including the world-famous Mona Lisa, the Louvre is one of the world's largest and most impressive museums. Spend a day exploring the galleries and admiring the masterpieces on display.

3. Palace of Versailles - Versailles

Located just outside Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a stunning example of French Baroque architecture and a famous tourist attraction in France. Once the residence of Louis XIV, this palace is now a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the opulent rooms, the Hall of Mirrors, and the beautiful gardens.

4. Mont Saint-Michel - Normandy

Mont Saint-Michel is a unique and enchanting destination that should not be missed. This medieval fortress is built on a rocky island off the coast of Normandy and is only accessible by a causeway. Explore the winding streets and staircases of the village and climb to the top for stunning views.

5. Cte d'Azur - French Riviera

The French Riviera is a playground for the rich and famous, but it's also a beautiful destination for anyone seeking sun, sea, and sand. The Cte d'Azur is home to stunning beaches, glamorous resorts, and charming towns. Visit Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez to taste the Riviera lifestyle.

6. Sainte-Chapelle - Paris

The Sainte-Chapelle is a hidden gem in the heart of Paris. This Gothic chapel is famous for its stunning stained-glass windows covering the entire upper level. Visit during the day to see the sunlight streaming through the colorful glass.

7. Chteau de Chambord - Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is famous for its beautiful chteaux, and the Chteau de Chambord is among the most impressive. This Renaissance castle was built for King Francis I and is a masterpiece of French architecture. Explore the grand rooms, the gardens, and the surrounding parkland.

8. Notre-Dame Cathedral - Paris

Although a fire severely damaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in 2019, it remains one of the most iconic landmarks in Paris. This Gothic masterpiece took over 200 years to build and is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of medieval builders. Visit the cathedral to see the stunning rose windows and the beautiful interior.

9. Chteau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley

The Chteau de Chenonceau is another stunning example of Renaissance architecture in the Loire Valley. This castle spans the River Cher and is Gorges du Verdon - Provence.

chateau de chinon in loire valley france-Leisure

10. The Gorges du Verdon

It is a natural wonder located in the Provence region of France. Known as the "Grand Canyon of Europe," this spectacular canyon offers stunning views, hiking trails, and water sports. Take a kayak or canoe down the Verdon River for a unique perspective.

11. Muse d'Orsay - Paris

The Muse d'Orsay is another must-visit museum in Paris. Housed in a former train station, this museum is home to an impressive Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art collection. See works by Monet, Van Gogh, and Renoir, among others.

12. Palace of the Popes - Avignon

The Palace of the Popes is a medieval fortress in the charming city of Avignon. Once the seat of the Catholic Church, this palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and a fascinating attraction. Explore the grand halls, the chapels, and the beautiful gardens.

13. Les Calanques - Marseille

Les Calanques is a series of rocky inlets and cliffs located along the Mediterranean coast near Marseille. This beautiful natural area offers hiking trails, rock climbing, and stunning sea views. Take a boat tour to see the inlets up close.

14. Dune du Pilat - Arcachon

The Dune du Pilat is the tallest dune in Europe and a popular attraction in the Arcachon Bay area. Climb to the top for panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding forest. This unique landscape is a must-visit for nature lovers.

15. Cathdrale Notre-Dame de Chartres - Chartres

The Cathdrale Notre-Dame de Chartres is a stunning example of Gothic architecture located in the city of Chartres. Known for its beautiful stained-glass windows and its impressive faade, this cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular pilgrimage destination.

10 Fun Things To Do In France 2023

1. wine tasting.

France is known for its excellent wines ; many vineyards and wineries offer tastings and tours. From the Champagne region in the north to the Bordeaux region in the south, there are countless options for wine enthusiasts to explore. Visitors can tour the vineyards, learn about wine-making, and sample various wines. Some famous vineyards and wineries include Chteau Margaux, Chteau Haut-Brion, and Mot & Chandon.

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France has many scenic cycling routes, including the famous Tour de France route, which passes through the French Alps. The country is known for its beautiful countryside and diverse terrain, making it an ideal destination for cyclists of all levels. Some popular cycling routes include the Loire Valley, Provence, and the French Riviera. Many organized bike and motorcycle tours in France are available, providing everything from bike rentals to accommodations.

3. Food Tours

French cuisine is renowned worldwide, and many food tours and cooking classes are available to help you discover the country's culinary delights. From traditional French dishes like coq au vin and bouillabaisse to pastries like croissants and macarons, there is no shortage of delicious food. Visitors can take guided tours of local markets, visit artisanal cheese shops and bakeries, and even participate in cooking classes to learn how to make their own French dishes.

4. Shopping

France is home to many high-end fashion brands and luxury boutiques, making it a great destination for shoppers. From the designer shops of Paris to the chic boutiques of Cannes, there are many options for those looking to indulge in some retail therapy. Visitors can also explore the many markets throughout the country, which offer a wide range of goods, from local cheeses and wines to handmade crafts and antiques. Some popular shopping destinations include the Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon March in Paris and the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes. 

5. Take a Seine River Cruise 

A Seine River Cruise is one of the most popular things to do in Paris, as it offers a unique perspective of the city's famous landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre Museum. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely ride on a bateau mouche, a glass-topped boat, while taking in the city's beauty from the river.

6. Stroll through the Charming Old Quarters of Paris

Paris is famous for its charming old neighborhoods, such as Le Marais, Saint-Germain-des-Prs, and Montmartre. Each of these neighborhoods has its own unique character, with winding cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and quaint cafes. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through these neighborhoods, stopping to admire the architecture, browse the shops, and enjoy a coffee or pastry.

7. Make a Pilgrimage to Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is a stunning island commune located in Normandy, France. It is home to a medieval monastery and church, perched on top of a rocky island, surrounded by the sea. Visitors can take a guided tour of the abbey and explore the narrow streets of the town, which are lined with shops and restaurants.

mont saint michel in normandy france-Leisure

8. Learn to Cook Classic French Cuisine in Burgundy 

Burgundy is a region in eastern France known for its excellent food and wine. Visitors can take cooking classes and learn to prepare classic French dishes, such as coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon. The classes are taught by professional chefs and often take place in historic chateaus or traditional French homes.

9. Experience a Candlelit Evening at Chteau Vaux-le-Vicomte

Chteau Vaux-le-Vicomte is a stunning 17th-century castle in France's Seine-et-Marne region. Visitors can attend a candlelit evening at the castle, where thousands of candles illuminate the gardens and castle. The event includes live music, a fireworks show, and a guided tour of the castle.

10. Attend the Chartres Cathedral Organ Festival 

The Chartres Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Chartres, France. The cathedral is famous for its stunning stained glass windows and its beautiful pipe organ. Every summer, the cathedral hosts an organ festival, which attracts musicians from all over the world. Visitors can attend concerts and recitals and enjoy the beautiful music in this stunning setting.

In conclusion, France is a country that truly has something to offer everyone. Whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking to experience the French way of life, France has it all.

From the iconic Eiffel Tower to the charming villages of Provence, from the picturesque beaches of the French Riviera to the breathtaking landscapes of the French Alps, the country boasts a wealth of attractions, landmarks, and experiences that will leave you in awe. Our guide to the 15 famous attractions and best things to do in France in 2023 has provided you with a comprehensive list of the country's must-see destinations and experiences. We encourage you to plan your trip carefully and make the most of your visit to this beautiful country.

What is the best time of year to visit France?

The best time to visit France depends on your interests and priorities. The summer months (June to August) are the most popular for tourists due to the warm weather, but they can also be crowded and expensive. Spring (April to May) and fall (September to November) are less busy and offer milder weather, making them ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities.

How much time should I plan to spend in France?

The amount of time you should spend in France depends on what you want to see and do. Three to five days should be enough if you're visiting Paris and its main attractions. However, if you want to explore other parts of the country, such as the French Riviera or the Loire Valley, you should plan to spend at least a week or more.

Is it easy to get around France as a tourist?

Yes, France has a well-developed transportation system, including trains, buses, and flights, making it easy for tourists to get around. Renting a car and driving is also possible, but remember that some areas may have narrow or winding roads.

Do I need to speak French to visit France?

While it's helpful to know some French when visiting France, it's not necessary. Many people in tourist areas speak English, and signs and menus are often translated. However, learning basic French phrases can enhance your experience and help you interact with locals.

What are some lesser-known attractions in France?

While France has many well-known attractions, there are also many lesser-known gems to discover. Some examples include the village of Rocamadour, the Lascaux caves, the Pont du Gard aqueduct, and Annecy.

What are the fun things tourists do when visiting France?

  • Exploring the country's charming villages and towns, such as the medieval town of Carcassonne or the picturesque village of Eze.
  • Visiting historical landmarks and monuments like the Arc de Triomphe or the Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • Enjoying outdoor activities, such as hiking in the French Alps or kayaking in the Ardche Gorges.
  • Sampling the local cuisine, including classic French dishes such as croissants, escargot, and coq au vin.

Our private tours typically range from $500 - $1000 per person/per night depending on chosen hotels and room categories, vehicles used, types of tours, flight cost, time of year and other factors. Make an inquiry for a customized trip quote.

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Paris   Travel Guide

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32 Best Things to Do in Paris, France

If it's your first visit to Paris, you'll probably want to spend some time at the world-renowned  Eiffel Tower , the Louvre (home of the "Mona Lisa") and the Notre-Dame. Don't miss out on other notable city jewels either, such as the Musée

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Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)

U.S. News Insider Tip:  For the best photo opportunities of the Eiffel Tower, head to Place du Trocadéro. (Just expect to contend with some crowds!) – Nicola Wood, Senior Editor

Designed and constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World's Fair), the Eiffel Tower was always meant to be a temporary structure, but it has skirted demolition twice. The first time, in 1909, the tower was kept around because of its potential as a transmission tower (an antenna was installed atop the tower). Gustav Eiffel, chief architect of the Eiffel Tower, had a variety of scientific experiments tested on the tower with the hope that any discoveries would help prolong its lifespan. One of these included a wireless transmissions test, which the tower passed with flying colors. During World War I, the Eiffel Tower's transmission capabilities enabled it to intercept communications from enemies as well as relay intel to troops on the ground. The second time the Eiffel Tower was almost destroyed was during the German occupation of France during World War II. Hitler planned to get rid of the tower, but never ended up going through with his plan.

tourist spots french

Musée du Louvre Musée du Louvre

U.S. News Insider Tip:  The Louvre is free for all visitors on the first Friday of the month after 6 p.m. (except in July and August), and all day on Bastille Day (July 14). – Laura French  

If you only had time to visit one museum in Paris, it should undoubtedly be the Musée du Louvre. That's because the Louvre is not only widely considered to be one of the best art museums in Europe, but one of the best in the world. The museum first opened its doors in 1793 and features more than 35,000 works of art on display. Here, you can get up close to a variety of art from different time periods and cultures. The Louvre features everything from Egyptian mummy tombs to ancient Grecian sculptures (including the renowned Winged Victory of Samothrace and curvaceous Venus de Milo). There are also thousands of paintings to peruse as well. Masterpieces such as "Liberty Leading the People" by Eugene Delacroix, "The Raft of the Medusa" by Théodore Géricault and Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," the museum's biggest star, can be found here.

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Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris) Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris) free

Note that the cathedral sustained significant damage as a result of a fire on April 15, 2019. Its wooden roof and spire collapsed during the fire. The interior of the cathedral remains closed to the public until further notice. It is set to reopen in December 2024. In the meantime, visitors can peruse a new exhibit that debuted in March 2023. It's located in an underground facility in front of the cathedral, the free exhibit highlights the ongoing construction work at the site, including the expertise of the workers, as well as some remains from the fire and works of art from the cathedral. There are also free, volunteer-led informational tours around the outside of the cathedral select days of the week. Consult this online calendar to see when English tours are offered.

Like the Eiffel Tower , the Notre-Dame Cathedral is seen as a Parisian icon. Located along the picturesque River Seine , the Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered a Gothic masterpiece and is often regarded as one of the best Gothic cathedrals of its kind in the world. Construction of the famous cathedral started in the late 12th century and final touches weren't made until nearly 200 years later. Once you get an eyeful of the cathedral yourself, you'll start to understand why it took so long.

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Champs-Élysées Champs-Élysées free

Musician Joe Dassin once sang "Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées," which translates to "There's everything you could want along the Champs-Élysées." And he's right. Paris' most famous boulevard – stretching more than a mile from the glittering obelisk at Place de la Concorde to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe – is a shopper's mecca. Along its wide, tree-lined sidewalks, you'll find such luxury stores as Louis Vuitton and Chanel rubbing elbows with less-pricey establishments like Adidas and Zara.

While the Champs-Élysées is no doubt a shopping paradise, recent travelers noticed the price tags at most stores can be pretty high. And the more affordable options are constantly swamped with people. The Champs-Élysées itself is no different. Because this is such a famous street in Paris, expect there to be crowds galore, both during the day and the nighttime. Still, many travelers enjoyed taking in the Champs-Élysées' bustling atmosphere and observing both locals and tourists come and go. Some recent visitors said a trip to the Champs-Élysées is not complete without a stop at Ladurée, the city's famous macaron shop.

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Arc de Triomphe Arc de Triomphe

Situated at the western end of the Champs-Élysées , the towering Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoléon to honor the Grande Armee during the Napoleonic Wars. The arch, which is the largest of its kind in the world, is adorned with several impressive, intricately carved sculptures. Underneath the arch, travelers will find the names of the battles fought during the first French Republic and Napolean's Empire, as well as generals who fought in them. Travelers will also find the famous tomb of The Unknown Soldier. The unknown soldier currently buried there is meant to represent all the unidentified or unaccounted for soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. The flame that was lit when the soldier was laid to rest has not extinguished since it was initially lit in the 1920s, and is rekindled every night at 6:30 p.m. by a member of the armed services.

Aside from admiring the arch, visitors can climb to the top and take in the Parisian panorama. Most visitors are wowed by the immense size of the structure and recommend ascending to the top for the spectacular Paris views. Visitors caution that you'll have to wait in line to get to the top and the climb, which is made up of hundreds of stairs, can be a serious workout. Others strongly cautioned against trying to cross the roundabout to get to the Arc. Instead, take the underground tunnel near the metro that leads directly to the base of the structure.

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Latin Quarter Latin Quarter free

U.S. News Insider Tip: If you're in the area, check out the Grand Mosquée de Paris, next to the Jardin des Plantes. It's a beautiful mosque with a hidden-away courtyard, and there's an atmospheric tearoom attached that serves Middle Eastern sweet treats. – Laura French

Architecture lovers should not miss the Latin Quarter. Also known as the 5th arrondissement, the Latin Quarter is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris. Its narrow cobblestone streets, winding whimsically through the larger city grid, recall its medieval history. Why does this densely packed neighborhood of attractions, shops and restaurants retain this unique character? It escaped Baron Haussmann's planning reform of the city, thus retaining a more ancient ambience.

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Best Paris Tours

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18 Best Paris Tours of 2024: Food, Versailles & More

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Seine River Seine River free

You won’t have much trouble finding the Seine, as it flows directly through the heart of Paris. The river is perhaps one of the most famous waterways in the world and an attraction in itself. It's also useful for more practical reasons: It flows from east to west, dividing the city into the Left Bank and the Right Bank. Knowing where you are in relation to the Seine can help you find your way around during your trip.

For tourists, the waterway mostly serves as a photo backdrop, but it is a lifeline for locals. It's a reliable water supply, a major transportation route and vital for many kinds of commerce. It has also served as a source of sustenance for many fishermen dating back to the third century. In 1991, the Seine River was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its cultural significance in both the past and the present.

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Musée d'Orsay Musée d'Orsay

U.S. News Insider Tip: Visit on the first Sunday of the month for free entry (when it’s also free to enter the Centre Pompidou, Musée de l'Orangerie, Musée du Rodin, Musée Picasso and several other attractions). – Laura French

Although the extensive Louvre may appear to get most of the Parisian limelight, recent travelers seem to enjoy the Musée d'Orsay more. Travelers say the museum is much more manageable than the often-overwhelming Louvre and note that there are also significantly fewer crowds here. Many visitors confidently report that you can easily get through this museum in a few hours. As for the art, travelers loved the museum's colorful collection of paintings as well as the building itself, with many calling the Belle Epoque architecture of the d'Orsay a work of art on its own.

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Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg) Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg) free

U.S. News Insider Tip:  Pick up picnic provisions at a nearby farmer's market, such as Marché Raspail, to enjoy in the gardens. –  Ann Henson, Assistant Managing Editor

A warm-weather oasis that offers the simplest of pleasures, the Luxembourg Gardens provide ample green space (60 acres) for sun-soaking and people-watching, plus there are plenty of activities to keep kids entertained. When the city bustle becomes too overwhelming, meander around the paths and formal gardens, or just relax with a picnic. Kids can float sailboats at the Grand Basin, ride ponies, take a spin on the merry-go-round, or catch a puppet show at the on-site Theatre des Marionnettes. Adults might delight in the on-site Musée du Luxembourg, the first French museum that was opened to the public. Though with 106 sculptures to its name, including a replica of the Statue of Liberty, the Luxembourg Gardens could easily be considered an open-air museum itself.

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Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre (Sacre-Coeur) Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre (Sacre-Coeur) free

Rising high above Paris, the Sacré-Coeur (meaning "Sacred Heart") looks more like a white castle than a basilica. Towering over the eclectic neighborhood of Montmartre (once a hangout for Paris' bohemian crowd), this Roman-Byzantine, 19th-century masterpiece is easily recognized by its ornate ivory domes. As blanched as it may appear on the outside, the basilica's interior is a sight worth beholding: The ceilings glitter with France's largest mosaic, which depicts Jesus rising alongside the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc.

You'll also likely be left in awe with the panoramic views found from atop the Sacré-Coeur's outdoor staircase. But for an even better photo-op, climb all 300 steps to the top of the dome. The dome is accessible to visitors every day from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mass is held multiple times a day every day.

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Centre Pompidou Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou is one of the most visited cultural sites in Paris. But keep this in mind – and recent travelers attest to this – if you're not a fan of modern art, you probably won't enjoy this museum. The Pompidou is all modern and contemporary art (think cubist, surrealist and pop art, among others). Even its exterior is a little "out there," with its insides (piping, plumbing, elevators, escalators, etc.) exposed on the outside.

Inside the inside-out museum, you'll find one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world (more than 120,000 pieces of art are in its complete collection). The most notable attraction within is France's National Museum of Modern Art, which features works from 20th and 21st-century artists. Here, you can find big names such as Matisse, Picasso and even Andy Warhol. Also within the Centre Pompidou is additional exhibition and entertainment spaces as well as a library, rooftop restaurant and cinemas.

tourist spots french

Jardin des Tuileries Jardin des Tuileries free

U.S. News Insider Tip: While you’re here, don’t miss Angelina, just across the street on Rue de Rivoli. This historic, belle epoque-style salon de thé opened in 1903 and serves excellent French delicacies and pastries alongside its famous, indulgently rich hot chocolate. – Laura French

Centrally located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, the Jardin des Tuileries is a free public garden that spans approximately 55 acres. Though it was initially designed solely for the use of the royal family and court, the park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1991 (as part of the Banks of the Seine) and has been open to the public since the 17th century.

tourist spots french

Sainte-Chapelle Sainte-Chapelle

Nowhere in Paris does stained-glass windows quite as well as Sainte-Chapelle. The panes – dating back to the chapel's construction in the 13th century – depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible in vivid color. Sainte-Chapelle, which took just seven years to build, is a treasured example of French Gothic architecture and originally held Christian artifacts acquired by Louis IX. The building underwent a rigorous restoration between 2008 and 2014 and now welcomes visitors every day of the year except Christmas Day, New Year's Day and May 1 (France's Labor Day). Admission costs 13 euros (about $14) per person ages 18 and older. Audio guides are available in English (among other languages) for an additional 3 euros (about $3.50). 

Recent travelers say the chapel is a true masterpiece and not to be missed, though some visitors did note it was smaller than they anticipated. Still, they say it's worth taking your time to have a closer look at each of the stained-glass windows, as they all tell a different story. Some travelers also recommended touring the Conciergerie next door, a palace turned prison that was erected in the 14th century. If you plan to tour both sites, consider purchasing a joint ticket for 20 euros (about $22).   

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Pantheon Pantheon

Situated in the Latin Quarter – or the 5th arrondissement – of Paris, the Panthéon is a large church and burial ground with a storied history. The structure was completed in 1790 at the start of the French Revolution, and it served as a mausoleum, a church and an art gallery throughout its early years. In 1851, scientist Leon Foucault installed the Foucault pendulum within the building to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. The pendulum was removed and replaced a number of times, and a replica was installed in 1995 and is still in operation today. The Panthéon also contains a crypt where a number of important historians, philosophers, scientists and writers are buried, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Marie Curie.

Most recent travelers loved seeing the museum's noteworthy gravesites and Foucault's pendulum. They also recommended taking a dome tour for exceptional views of Paris; you’ll see the Eiffel Tower from the top, as well as many other well-known landmarks. Still, some visitors said the admission fee is too high.

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Palais Garnier - Opera National de Paris Palais Garnier - Opera National de Paris

A masterpiece of architectural opulence, the Opéra Garnier – also known as the Palais Garnier – still exudes the opulence it radiated in the late 1800s. This palpable sense of intrigue and mystery that permeates the opera is due in part to its awe-inspiring Old-World interiors as well as Gaston Leroux, the author of "Phantom of the Opera," for which the Garnier served as his inspiration. Leroux claimed the phantom was indeed real, successfully incorporating real life opera occurrences (such as the chandelier falling and killing a bystander) into his fiction. The Garnier's lack of a robust historical record, as well as Leroux's writing talents, have left many wondering if there really was a dweller that lurked beneath the opera. Staff have claimed otherwise, but say with the opera's very real underground "lake" (water tank), it's easy to see how the story could be so convincing. Without Napoleon III, who was responsible for commissioning the opera, Leroux's tale may never have never come to fruition.

The best way to fully experience the Palais Garnier is by purchasing a ballet or opera ticket. Remember to book your tickets several months in advance, as performances are highly coveted. If you won't be in town for a performance or aren't up for forking over the oftentimes high price of a performance, you can explore the building's magnificent interiors on your own.

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Le Marais Le Marais free

U.S. News Insider Tip: On Place des Vosges, Paris’s oldest square, you’ll find the former house of Victor Hugo, which is now a museum that’s free to enter. – Laura French

Straddling the 3rd and 4th arrondissements (districts), Le Marais is one of Paris' oldest and coolest districts – so cool, in fact, that French writer Victor Hugo (author of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Les Misérables") called it home. With all of its cobblestone streets, stately stone architecture and tucked away courtyards, it's easy to feel as if you're strolling through medieval Paris. Back in the day, Le Marais housed some notable French royalty. King Henry IV was the one responsible for the construction of the Place des Vosges, Paris' oldest square. And Louis XIV called this neighborhood home for a while until he decided to move his family and court to Versailles . Much of Le Marais also survived the destruction of the French Revolution.

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Versailles Palace (Chateau de Versailles) Versailles Palace (Chateau de Versailles)

U.S. News Insider Tip: In summer, the palace hosts weekend fountain shows in the gardens, featuring music and special effects; come on a Saturday night to see the best, with grounds lit up to magical effect and a firework display at the end. – Laura French

The Château de Versailles, the sprawling palace and former seat of power, is located 10 miles southwest of Paris in Versailles. Every year, nearly 10 million travelers make the trek from Paris to bear witness to the chateau's world-famous grandeur in person. But between all of the gold figurines, dramatic frescoes and cascading crystal chandeliers you'll no doubt find in bulk throughout the chateau, you might be surprised to learn that King Louis XIV's extravagant former residence had pretty humble-ish beginnings.

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Musée Rodin Musée Rodin

A hidden jewel in the city, the Musée Rodin is actually the former residence of famed 19th-century sculptor Auguste Rodin. But in the place of furniture and kitschy lawn ornaments are Rodin's emotive sculptures, including The Walking Man, The Kiss and The Thinker, among many more. In addition to the sculptures, the museum houses 8,000 of the artist's drawings in its collection – a fraction of those are on display –  as well as an area dedicated to the work of his muse and mistress, artist Camille Claudel. Visitors will also get to view pieces from the Rodin's personal art collection, including paintings by Van Gogh.

Recent travelers found Rodin's sculptures to be nothing short of stunning, and highly recommend a visit even if you don't consider yourself an art buff. Another big favorite, and for some visitors as much of a highlight as the art, were the beautiful on-site gardens. To travelers, the gardens, in combination with the museum's manageable size, created a serene and peaceful atmosphere not easily found at other top Parisian museums.

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Saint-Germain-des-Prés Saint-Germain-des-Prés free

The arts abound in Paris. Although visual art gets the most attention here, the city is also a historic literary center. Saint-Germain, in the 6th arrondissement, is known as a 19th- and 20th-century intellectual hub. Here, great writers, thinkers and artists mixed and mingled in their homes and nearby establishments. Anyone battling writer's block will want to spend an afternoon wandering its picturesque streets, stopping by famous literary cafes or enjoying one of the museums located in the neighborhood's borders.

After filling your mind at the Musée Delacroix, Musée du Luxembourg or Musée de Mineralogie, unwind at Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore. The former was visited by everyone from Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, James Joyce, Jean-Paul Sartre, and more recently, Julia Child. Nearby Café de Flore opened in the 1800s as well, and claims visitors from Leon Trotsky to Albert Camus to Picasso. Sartre worked from here – using the space as a historical Starbucks – while New Wave celebrities like Bridget Bardot or fashionista Karl Lagerfeld graced its seats later on, in the 1960s. There are plenty of mouthwatering pastry shops and bridge views, too. Recent visitors noted that this is a perfect neighborhood for strolling, shopping or staying – there are plenty of upscale hotels . Many of the best Paris tours also include guided walks through the neighborhood.

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Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann free

Whether or not you plan to shop, the Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann department store is a sight to be seen. What started as a small novelty shop in 1893 has since grown into an approximately 750,000-square-foot megastore containing hundreds of brands, from budget-friendly options like Levi's and Carhartt to high-end labels like Prada and Cartier. And while you might be dazzled by the unending collection of fashionable goods, don’t forget to look up. The pièce de résistance of the luxury bazaar is the stunning neo-Byzantine glass dome 141 feet above the ground. There's also a glass walkway on the top floor of the building that allows the bravest of visitors to stand above all the action below. 

Several recent visitors called Galeries Lafayette the most beautiful shopping center in the world, pointing out that even if you aren't there to buy luxury products, the stunning building is a destination in itself. They also recommend going up to the roof of the complex (accessible from the eighth floor), which is open to visitors free of charge, to take in breathtaking views of the city below. From the roof, you'll be able to spot the Eiffel Tower , Sacré Cœur and Notre Dame .

tourist spots french

Paris Catacombs (Les Catacombes de Paris) Paris Catacombs (Les Catacombes de Paris)

Not every inch of Paris is as romantic as you think – in fact, the Catacombs are downright chilling. Prior to the creation of the Catacombs in the late 18th century, Parisians buried their dead in cemeteries. But as the city continued to grow, burial grounds ran out of space, graves started to become exposed and stunk up surrounding neighborhoods. The limestone quarries located 65 feet beneath Paris eventually became the solution, providing ample and safe space for the city's deceased loved ones. It took years to move millions of bodies from all the Parisian graves.

Today, the solemn, skull-and-boned lined tunnels weave beneath the heart of the City of Love, beckoning to visitors with an interest in the departed. The catacombs stretch for miles all over the city, but visitors are only allowed to access about a mile's worth for 45 minutes at the Denfert-Rochereau (lines 4,6 and RER B) metro station. Trying to access the catacombs at any other entrance throughout the city is illegal. You'll want to wear sturdy footwear as the paths inside are full of gravel, uneven and even slippery in some sections. What's more, you'll have to descend 131 steps and climb 112 steps back up. As such, the catacombs are not wheelchair-accessible. And because of the attraction's unique nature and popularity, expect a queue.

tourist spots french

Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise) Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise) free

A cemetery as a tourist attraction? If any city can pull it off, it's Paris. Covering nearly 110 acres of the 20th arrondissement (district), the Père-Lachaise Cemetery is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. It's also Paris' largest green space. Père-Lachaise is a maze of cobblestone pathways lined with leafy, cascading trees which perfectly shade the striking 19th-century burial chambers that permeate the grounds. Aesthetics aside, Père-Lachaise is one of the world's most famous burial grounds: Everyone from Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison to Edith Piaf and Gertrude Stein can be found here. Make sure to pick up a map before you venture in, there are more than 100,000 burial plots here (exact estimates vary dramatically).

Travelers admitted the main reason they made the trek to Père-Lachaise was to visit the famous faces buried here, though after discovering the enchanting grounds, they were happy to stay and wander. Visitors found the architecture of the individual tombstones and burial chambers to be stunning, especially with the many dramatic statues included with the plots. Others particularly appreciate the overall peaceful atmosphere of Père-Lachaise. Because the cemetery is so big, visitors say it's unlikely you'll be sharing lots of space with fellow visitors or tourists at any given time.

tourist spots french

Bateaux Mouches Bateaux Mouches

For those who want to cruise down the Seine River , hopping on one of the six Bateaux-Mouches boats is a go-to option. Just about any meal you can think of is offered as you glide along the river – or as the company puts it, Paris's "most beautiful avenue." There are also hourlong cruise-only trips, for those who want to efficiently view some of the city's most iconic sights, including Notre Dame and the Musée d'Orsay . These cruises are among the best Paris tours . Combo tickets that include a bus tour or a cabaret show are also available.

Travelers who recently took a cruise loved the views from the boat and the informational nature of the tour. Many people took a night cruise, which was frequently lauded for its romantic atmosphere. However, a few visitors expressed disappointment with meal portions and the check-in process.

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Musee de l'Orangerie Musee de l'Orangerie

An extension of Musée d'Orsay , Musée de l'Orangerie features a wide selection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. It is best known for its enlarged "Water Lilies" paintings by Claude Monet. The eight massive paintings are divided across two oval rooms that are filled with natural light from a glass roof. Monet increased the size of these paintings with the intention of fully immersing viewers in their beauty, especially after the hardships of World War I. Beyond the "Water Lilies" series, Musée de l'Orangerie houses the Jean Walter-Paul Guillaume collection, which features works by artists like Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse and more.  

Museum visitors – especially Monet fans – said this gallery is a must-see. They were pleased to discover it was a relatively small building, meaning it can be seen fairly quickly if you short on time. The smaller space also translates to less crowds, which many museumgoers appreciated.

tourist spots french

Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck

U.S. News Insider Tip: Walk about 10 minutes around the corner and you’ll find the Montparnasse Cemetery – a fascinating alternative to Père Lachaise , home to the burial places of artists and intellectuals, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Guy de Maupassant and Charles Baudelaire. – Laura French

The Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck claims to have the best views in Paris – and once you reach the top, it's easy to see why. The lower deck stands more than 650 feet high and overlooks major attractions, like the Eiffel Tower , through floor-to-ceiling windows. Travel another 32 feet upward to the rooftop terrace, and you'll find panoramic vistas of the City of Lights 365 days a year. On a clear day, you can see as far as 25 miles in every direction.

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Moulin Rouge Moulin Rouge

If you're looking for the famed Parisian nightlife experience, Moulin Rouge will likely fit the bill. The legendary cabaret club opened in 1889, wowing crowds with dazzling dancers, free-flowing Champagne and outrageous elements like a gigantic model elephant in the garden. With its rich history and extravagant performances, Moulin Rouge has become an important staple in the City of Lights.

On a night at the Moulin Rouge, visitors can be wined and dined while watching talented burlesque dancers adorned in feathers, rhinestones and sequins. (The costumes are known to be a bit risqué, so travelers should note that the venue may not be the most suitable for children.) While many recent travelers felt that the show was a spectacular must-see while vacationing in Paris, others felt it was overhyped and overcrowded. However, those who opted for the dinner show said the food was fantastic with top-notch service to match.

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Parc des Buttes-Chaumont Parc des Buttes-Chaumont free

Paris is home to many beautiful public parks, where visitors and locals alike relax in grassy squares during periods of pleasant weather. Parc de Buttes-Chaumont's 61 acres boasts this – plus a lake, a suspension bridge and walking paths – and a dark history. Its name comes from the bare hill once occupying the site. Stone was mined here, sewage dumped and even horse carcasses discarded. When Napoleon III renovated Paris in the 19th century, it was selected as a large park site, and the artificial lake created. That transformation also washed away its medieval reputation as a gallows. Known as Gibbet of Montfaucon at that time, the bodies of people executed in the city were sometimes displayed here for months on end.

If you can put that history behind you, cross the Gustave Eiffel-designed suspension bridge, or ascend the hill with the Temple de la Sybille for beautiful views of Montmartre. Inside the hillside, quarrying created a cavern. Napoleon's park builders took the opportunity to add a human-made waterfall to the 65-foot-tall space. Summer visitors will especially enjoy the misty reprieve from Paris's heat and humidity.

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Conciergerie Conciergerie

Located next to Sainte-Chapelle , the Conciergerie was once a royal residence for various French leaders. At the end of the 14th century, King Charles V and the rest of the palace's inhabitants moved to new residences at the Louvre . The abandoned building was then turned into a new parliament and office space for the kingdom. However, during the French Revolution (and for many decades thereafter), the Conciergerie served as a prison compound to hold both political and common criminals. Most famously, it held Marie Antoinette, the fallen queen of France, in the weeks before she was executed by guillotine in October 1793. In the 19th century, Antoinette's cell was transformed into a chapel, and in 1914 the entire building was deemed a historic monument and opened to the public.

Recent travelers said the site is a delight for history buffs. Still, others noted that if you aren’t particularly interested in the French Revolution or Marie Antoinette, you may find the empty jail cells and barren halls a bit dull. All visitors are given a "HistoPad" (available in six languages) to help enhance their experience. The iPad allows visitors to see what the rooms would've looked like centuries ago with the help of augmented reality, 3D reconstructions and interactive functionalities.What everyone seemed to agree on was the medieval architecture, which is said to be stunning both inside and out.

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Rue de Rivoli Rue de Rivoli free

One of the most famous shopping streets in Paris, the elegant Rue de Rivoli is lined with neoclassical buildings housing designer boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants built into historic arcades. Named after Napoleon's victory at the Battle of Rivoli and stretching from Place de la Bastille in the east to Place de la Concorde, it's where you'll find the Louvre , the Jardin des Tuileries , Hôtel de Ville (Paris's elaborate city hall) and other attractions. It's also home to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville – an elaborate department store founded in 1856. Other shops range from affordable brands like Sephora, L'Occitane and Mango to high-end designer stores and local French boutiques.

Recent travelers highly recommended strolling along the street to browse its historic arcades and shops, and many were impressed by the elaborate architecture. They also enjoyed the quiet atmosphere; the street went car-free in 2020, with only pedestrians, cyclists, buses and taxis now allowed here (its former lanes have been turned into a wide bike path, so it provides a welcome respite from the city's at-times hectic traffic). Others said it was a great spot for people-watching, although some said the shops can feel a little commercial.

tourist spots french

Bois de Vincennes Bois de Vincennes free

U.S. News Insider Tip: Come in the summer to catch the Paris Jazz Festival, when the Parc Floral hosts performers from Paris and beyond. – Laura French

Used as a royal hunting ground from the 12th century, this scenic, easterly refuge is Paris's biggest park, sprawling nearly 2,500 acres (making it nearly three times larger than New York's Central Park , and slightly bigger than its westerly sister, the Bois de Boulogne). It's home to verdant woodland as well as the Parc Floral, a botanical garden with its own mini golf course and various other family-friendly attractions. You'll also find four artificial lakes in the park – boats are available to rent on the Lac Daumesnil – alongside the Parc Zoologique de Paris, several cafes and restaurants and the Château de Vincennes, a lavish former royal residence built in the medieval era.

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Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen free

Set on the northern edge of Paris and home to the highest concentration of antiques dealers in the world, this famous flea market is a must for anyone looking to browse and buy vintage treasures. Spread across twelve covered markets and five streets, the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen houses everything from 17th-century furnishings to vintage jewelry, designer clothes, art, books and beyond. When your feet need a break, there are also a handful of restaurants.

At its heart is the Marché Vernaison, an eclectic mishmash of nearly a million objects, spread across nearly 100,000 square feet and selling pretty much anything you can think of. Equally unmissable is the Marché Dauphine, which sells books, vintage records, clothes and more in a huge pavilion, and the Marché Paul Bert Serpette, an upmarket spot specializing in avant-garde interior design that's seen everyone from Julia Roberts to Mick Jagger grace its floors.

tourist spots french

Louis Vuitton Foundation Louis Vuitton Foundation

Open to the public since October 2014, the Louis Vuitton Foundation is the brainchild of the LVMH Group (which owns luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton) and famed American architect Frank Gehry. In addition to the art gallery, Gehry also designed the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles , among other renowned museums, university buildings and residences. Outfitted with curved panels of glass and smooth concrete, the foundation's daring and modern design stands out among Paris' abundance of centuries-old buildings. Inside, you'll find collections of modern and contemporary art housed in both permanent and temporary exhibits. The museum's goal is to promote art and culture on the outskirts of Paris, and it succeeds by attracting more than 1 million visitors each year. 

Though the museum is a bit off the beaten path in the Bois de Boulogne in the 16th arrondissement, visitors loved taking in the architectural wonder and its surrounding gardens, as well as the unique exhibits inside. One common criticism was that the building was a bit far from the nearest metro station (about a 15-minute walk), so keep that in mind when planning your visit.

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Regions of France – Map & Top Tourist Attractions

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

All About the French Regions

Have you ever heard that France is much more than Paris, its capital? Well, it’s true!

No other country has such a diversity of sights and scenery in such a compact area (547,030 sq. km) like France . From the north’s flat and fertile lands washed by the Atlantic Ocean to the sunny stone-built villages of the Mediterranean coast, France is a colorful country well worth exploring.

Since January 2016, France has been divided into 18 French regions: 13 regions of France are on the European continent, and 5 France regions are overseas. While some French regions like  Ile de France  remain as they were before the 2016 changes, other regions like Alsace, Champagne, and Bourgogne are today part of new, more extensive French regions such as  Grand Est  and  Bourgogne-Franche-Comté .

Despite the reduction in the number of regions, the regions of France still have their own distinctive character and particularities, which we will showcase in this article.

Martigues - Southern France

TIP: check out our best tips for planning a trip to France

Regions of France Map

Map of France

The Map of France above shows the regions on France’s mainland and Corsica Island. This Regions of France Map does not include the regions of France Overseas. These regions are in the Caribbean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean and will be covered in the article about the French Overseas Territories .

The French regions are then divided into departments, which are administrative areas of France. There are 95 departments located in France Mainland, 2 in Corsica, and 5 departments Overseas. Next to the department names, we have included the department numbers (e.g., Ain (01)).

List of French Regions

Northern France : Normandy, Hauts de France, Ile-de-France

Southern France : Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Occitanie, Ile de Corse

Central France : Centre-Val de Loire

Eastern France : Grand Est, Auvergne-Rhône Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche Comté

Western France : Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

French Overseas Territories : Mayotte, Martinique , Guyanne, Guadeloupe , Réunion Island, French Polynesia .

Tourist Map of France

Regions of France Map

This colorful tourist map of France comes with the names of the main cities in France and some of France’s main attractions (under the form of drawings) by region. On this France tourist map, you can also see the main rivers in France: Seine, Loire, Garonne, Rhône, Charente, and Ill.

What are the best regions to visit in France?

There are no best regions to visit in France, but some French Regions are more popular than others. The top tourist regions of France are Ile-de-France ( the region of Paris), Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (the region of Provence and the French Riviera), Normandie , Centre-Val de Loire (the region of the Loire Valley Castles), and Grand-Est (the region of Alsace and Champagne).

Getting Around France

Getting around France is very easy, both by public and private transportation. The two most popular ways to explore France on public transport are by train and by car on a road trip.

France By Train

The main cities in France and the top Metropolitan France attractions are well connected by train thanks to TGV trains (fast trains).

From Paris, some great weekend getaways are possible with train journeys of just 4 hours or less – Click here to book your train tickets

France By Car

A self-drive vacation is also a good option in France, especially if you want to go beyond the main sights. The country has a good number of well-maintained highways, but we recommend driving the secondary roads too: most of the best  French road trips  go through secondary, scenic routes.

Whether you’re looking to hug the coast or drive through some of the world’s best vineyards or lavender fields, find your adventure with our France road trip planner e-books. All you need to supply is a car and a killer playlist.

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TIP: DiscoverCars.com compares 900 companies at over 53,000 locations to guarantee you the best price. Check out our best tips for hiring a car in France .

Regions in France (+ Metropolitan France Attractions)

The regions in France are incredibly varied, and they have much to offer: culture and heritage, traditions and gastronomic terroirs, sea or mountain, city or countryside. So pack your bags and let’s explore France’s regions and main attractions.

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Le-Puy-en-Velay Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes

Explore Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes by Car: Road Trip Lyon to Annecy

It’s impossible not to love the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in Eastern France. Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is one of the most varied regions in France, offering a wide range of different destinations to satisfy every traveler. This new region of France includes the pre-2016 regions of Auvergne and Rhône Alpes . The capital city of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is Lyon .

Auvergne is the land of volcanoes and hot spas but also the land of Romanesque churches and good cheese.

Rhône-Alpes is home to picturesque stone-built villages frozen in time. It is also the region of two of  France’s most beautiful cities , Annecy and  Lyon , and the snowy peaks of the French Alps .

Protected natural reserves, almost a hundred volcanoes, walking trails, Romanesque churches, and more than 20,000 kilometers of waterways, all this and more is waiting for you in this blessed land. What are you waiting for to explore this corner of France?

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is divided into thirteen departments:  Ain (01), Allier (03), Ardèche (07), Cantal (15), Drôme (26), Isère (38), Loire (42), Haute-Loire (43), Puy-de-Dôme (63), Rhône (69D), Métropole de Lyon (69M), Savoie (73), Haute-Savoie (74). The main cities in the region are Lyon, Grenoble, Saint-Etienne, Chambéry, Valence, Annecy, and Clermont-Ferrand.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Top Tourist Attractions:   Lyon , the Volcanoes of Auvergne, famous  ski resorts in the French Alps  (Chamonix, Courchevel, Mérivel, Val d’Isère . .),  Annecy  and its lake, the spa town of Vichy, Clermont Ferrand, and Puy-en-Velay (a major pilgrimage site).

Bourgogne-Franche Comté

Semur en Auxois

Explore Bourgogne-Franche-Comté by Car:

  • Road Trip Route des Grands Crus
  • Road Trip in the Jura

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté  in Eastern France is the land of world-famous wines, picturesque small towns , and snails . This new French region comprises the former regions of Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Franche-Comté . The capital city of the Bourgogne-Franche Comté region is Dijon .

The former region of Bourgogne  is famous for its Romanesque heritage, some of the  best vineyards of France , good gastronomy, beautiful Rennaissance and Medieval castles, and river tourism. Actually, Bourgogne has the largest network of inland waterways in France!

Franche-Comté , conversely, is well known for its diverse landscapes and large open spaces thanks to the wealth of the Vosges Massif , the Jura Mountains , and its many lakes and forests.

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté is definitely an excellent combination of heritage + gastronomy, and nature at its best.

The region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté is divided into eight departments:  Côte-d’Or (21), Doubs (25), Jura (39), Nièvre (58), Haute-Saône (70), Saône-et-Loire (71), Yonne (89), Territoire de Belfort (90). The main cities in the region are Dijon, Besançon, Montbéliard, and Belfort.

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Top Tourist Attractions:  Natural Park of Ballons des Vosges, the Jura, the picturesque Burgundy villages, the Royal Salt Works at Arc-et-Senans, Route des Grands Crus and other Burgundy wine routes, Cluny Abbey, Vézelay, Dijon, and Beaune.

B retagne (Brittany)

Ile Vierge Lighthouse -Bretagne

Explore Brittany by Car: Brittany Road Trip

We must admit that we have a crush on  Bretagne ; this French region is so varied and beautiful!

The westernmost region of France is a region of tradition, character, Celtic roots, and legends. It is a land of wild and unique landscapes, from rocky coastlines and cliffs to moorland and medieval towns. The capital city of the Bretagne region is Rennes .

But of course, there is much more! Brittany is also a land of sailors, isolated lighthouses, oysters, fantastic coastal walks, and mysterious prehistoric alignments. Brittany is magical, culture, crêpes & cider, traditional festivals, and, most of all, true nature.

Brittany is divided into four departments:  Côtes-d’Armor (22), Finistère (29), Ille-et-Vilaine (35), and Morbihan (56). The main cities in the region are Rennes, Brest, and Quimper.

Bretagne Top Tourist Attractions:  Rennes, Saint Maló, the Islands, GR34 (coastal multi-day hike), Carnac Alignments, Gulf of Morbihan, Emerald Coast, and the Pink Granite Coast.

C entre-Val de Loire

Blois - Centre-Val-de-Loire

Explore Centre-Val-de-Loire by Car: Loire Valley Road Trip

The region of  Centre-Val de Loire , in Central France, gets its name from the Loire River, the longest river in France. Irrigated by the Loire and its many tributaries, this beautiful French region produces excellent wines perfectly complemented with savorous regional food. The capital city of the Centre-Val de Loire region is Orléans .

Beloved by Kings, Queens, and artists, the Loire Valley is also the cradle of the Renaissance in France and is world-famous thanks to its amazing Châteaux de la Loire and the remarkable gardens that line the river. The Loire Valley Castles are today one of the most popular tourist attractions in France.

Centre-Val de Loire is also one of the regions of France that attracts large numbers of bike tourists: it sees more than 1 million bikers per year! Indeed,  La Loire à Vélo  (the Loire by bike) is perhaps the best way to explore this beautiful region.

The region of Centre-Val-de-Loire is divided into six departments:  Cher (18), Eure-et-Loir (28), Indre (36), Indre-et-Loire (37), Loir-et-Cher (41), and Loiret (45). The main cities in the region are Tours, Orléans, and Bourges.

Centre-Val-de-Loire Top Tourist Attractions:  Loire Valley Castles, the Loire by bike, Chartres and Bourges Cathedrals, Loire Valley vineyards, the historical cities and towns of Tours, Blois, Chinon, and Anjou.

Corse (Corsica Island)

Corsica Island

The island region of Corse (Corsica) is located on the Mediterranean Sea in Southern France. Corsica’s capital is the city of  Ajaccio .

Lying 200 kilometers from the French Riviera, the homeland of Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the most  beautiful French Islands , a mini-continent with hilltop villages and hiking trails, beaches, and idyllic turquoise waters.

Corsica is far away, but don’t hesitate to discover the extraordinary landscapes of this beautiful island! Corsica is best explored by car, and renting a car in Europe is very easy.

Corsica is divided into two departments: Corse-du-Sud (2A) and Haute-Corse (2B).

Corsica Top Tourist Attractions:  Calanques de Piana, Calvi Citadel, its beaches, Porto Vecchio, Bonifacio, water sports.

Kayserberg Alsace

Explore Grand Est by Car:

  • Road Trip in Alsace
  • Alsace Wine Route
  • Champagne Road Trip from Paris

In Eastern France, Grand Est incorporates the former French regions of  Alsace , Champagne-Ardennes , and Lorraine . The capital city of the Grand Est region is Strasbourg .

Alsace is a land between the Germanic and Latin worlds, a mosaic of hills, mountains, and plains dotted with castles, vineyards, and picturesque villages. The Alsace Christmas Markets are some of the best Christmas Markets in France!

Champagne , on the other hand, is best known for its bubbles and historical cities like Reims and Troyes . Last but not least, Lorraine is world-known for its quiche, madeleines, and mirabelle plum.

Bordering Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, Grand Est is a place with many tourist attractions. It is also a land of memory, and it was the theater of some of the most important battles of WWI. In Grand Est, you are never far from the forest: the Vosges and the Regional Parks of Ardennes and Lorraine .

Grand Est is divided into ten departments:  Ardennes (08), Aube (10), Marne (51), Haute-Marne (52), Meurthe-et-Moselle (54), Meuse (55), Moselle (57), Bas-Rhin (67), Haut-Rhin (68), and Vosges (88). The main cities in Grand Est are Strasbourg, Metz, Nancy, Reims, Mulhouse, and Colmar.

Grand Est Top Tourist Attractions:   Alsace Wine Route , the villages of Alsace, Alsace’s Christmas Markets, Champagne’s vineyards, Reims Cathedral, Verdun and other WWI historical sites,  Strasbourg , Colmar, Troyes, Nancy, the Vosges, and the Ardennes.

Hauts-de-France

Lille Hauts-de-France

Explore Hauts-de-France by Car:

  • Road Trip in Northern France (near Paris)
  • Road Trip from Calais to Paris

Hauts-de-France , in Northern France, is one of the lesser-known regions of France. And it is a pity because it is located just a stone’s throw from Paris. Stretching from just outside the northern suburbs of Paris right up to the coastline of the English Channel, the former Nord Pas-de-Calais and Picardie regions officially became the northernmost region of France with the regional changes in 2016. The capital city of the Hauts-de-France region is Lille .

The Hauts-de-France region is full of beautiful cathedrals, belfries, and citadels, and its plains bear witness to its mining history. It is also the region of the Channel beach resorts and relaxing seaside getaways on the Opal Coast .

Don’t miss beautiful Lille , with its Lille Stock Exchange , and Notre Dame d’Amiens Cathedral , one of the  Grandes Cathédrales  featuring the highest nave in France.

Hauts-de-France is divided into five departments:  Aisne (02), Nord (59), Oise (60), Pas-de-Calais (62), and Somme (80). The main cities in Hauts-de-France are Lille, Amiens, Roubaix, and the port cities of Dunkerque (Dunkirk) and Calais.

Hauts-de-France Top Tourist Attractions:  Amiens Cathedral, Domaine de Chantilly, Dunkirk, the seaside resort of Le Touquet, Lille, the Somme Bay & WW1 battlefields.

Ile-de-France

Paris - Ile de France

Unlike its neighbor, the Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France  is one of the most visited regions in France, mainly thanks to  Paris , France’s capital city. Its name means “Island of France” because, in Medieval times, the French Kingdom was not much bigger than Ile-de-France.

After visiting the top sites in Paris , venture beyond the Boulevard Périphérique to explore what Ile de France has to offer. Some attractions like the  Palace of Versailles  or  Disneyland Paris  are known to all, but there are many more interesting things to see and do in Ile-de-France.

Visitors can enjoy nature and relaxation in one of the four regional natural parks while history buffs can learn about the Kings and Queens of France in amazing historical sites such as Château de Fontainebleau and Saint-Denis Basilica-Cathedral .

Picturesque villages are never far from the capital, and places like Auvers-Sur-Oise and Bougival were immortalized by Van Gogh, Renoir, and the Impressionists.

Ile-de-France is divided into eight departments:  Paris (75), Seine-et-Marne (77), Yvelines (78), Essonne (91), Hauts-de-Seine (92), Seine-Saint-Denis (93), Val-de-Marne (94), Val-d’Oise (95). The main cities in Ile-de-France are Paris, Boulogne-Billancourt, Saint-Denis, and Versailles.

Ile-de-France Top Tourist Attractions:  Paris,  Versailles , Château de Fontainebleau, Disneyland Paris, Château de Vincennes, Provins medieval city, and Saint-Denis Basilica Cathedral.

Normandie (Normandy)

Honfleur Normandy

Explore Normandy by Car:

  • Road Trip Normandy WW2 Sites
  • Normandy Road Trip from Paris

Normandy , in Northern France, is one of the most popular French regions on the tourist map of France. And for a reason! Normandy offers the visitor a stunning coastline, picturesque villages, and idyllic countryside. Normandy is also famous for its rich history, tower bells, cows, and cheese. The capital city of Normandy is Caen .

Normandy is a popular weekend getaway from Paris, and many hotels and restaurants thrive along the Normandy coast, especially around the towns of Deauville and Honfleur .

Normandy is also a land of medieval towns, fabulous castles , and artists. The Impressionist movement was born in Normandy, inspired by Monet’s “Impression” of the sunrise at Le Havre.

Normandy is divided into five departments:  Calvados (14), Eure (27), Manche (50), Orne (61), and Seine-Maritime (76). Normandy’s main cities are Le Havre, Caen, and  Rouen .

Normandy Top Tourist Attractions: Mont Saint-Michel , the Bayeux Tapestry,  D-Day Landing Sites , Honfleur harbor, Rouen and its Cathedral, chic Deauville,  picturesque villages , the Seine Valley and Monet’s Gardens in Giverny .

Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Bordeaux France

Explore Nouvelle-Aquitaine by Car:

  • Road Trip in the French Basque Country
  • Dordogne Road Trip
  • Road Trip from Bordeaux to Biarritz

It’s almost impossible to get bored in  Nouvelle-Aquitaine . Located in Western France, this is the French region of mountains and forests, prehistoric caves, beaches, medieval villages, and some of the  most beautiful castles in France . The capital city of Nouvelle-Aquitaine is Bordeaux .

Its 720 kilometers of coast are a paradise for surfers, while people looking for a quiet vacation can enjoy no less than 30 spa towns, including Dax , France’s top spa town.

Nouvelle-Aquitaine is also a delight for foodies, with excellent wines and brandies and around twenty Michelin-starred restaurants.

Sun, history, dynamism, and gastronomy . . . there’s a great French vacation for everyone in Nouvelle Aquitaine!

Nouvelle-Aquitaine is divided into twelve departments:  Charente (16), Charente-Maritime (17), Corrèze (19), Creuse (23), Dordogne (24), Gironde (33), Landes (40), Lot-et-Garonne (47), Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64), Deux-Sèvres (79), Vienne (86), and Haute-Vienne (87). The main cities in the region are Bordeaux, Limoges, and Poitiers.

Nouvelle Aquitaine Top Tourist Attractions:  Bordeaux, the Cité du Vin, the Arcachons Bassin, Saint Emilion, the Landes Forest, the Atlantic Pyrénées, Lascaux Caves,  Dordogne region , the Basque Country, La Rochelle, and Atlantic isalands.

Minerve-France

Explore Occitanie by Car: Carcassonne and the Cathar Country Road Trip

Traveling to  Occitanie  is like returning to the basics: the land, the sea, and the sky. Lesser-known than its chic neighbor, Occitanie in Southern France, is a fantastic region to explore, nestled between the Pyrénées and the Mediterranean Sea. The capital city of the Occitanie region is Toulouse .

Less frenetic than Provence and the French Riviera but definitely more affordable, Occitanie is a land of sunny stone-built villages, vertiginous citadels, great mountain hikes, and fascinating history. A land where its inhabitants like to take their time and enjoy the small pleasures of this life.

Occitanie does not lack lively cities like Roussillon, Toulouse, and Montpellier . History buffs will want to head to Rocamadour, Albi , and Carcassonne , the gate to the fascinating Cathar Country .

Occitanie is divided into thirteen departments:  Ariège (09), Aude (11), Aveyron (12), Gard (30), Haute-Garonne (31), Gers (32), Hérault (34), Lot (46), Lozère (48), Hautes-Pyrénées (65), Pyrénées-Orientales (66), Tarn (81), Tarn-et-Garonne (82). The main cities in Occitanie are Toulouse, Montpellier, Nîmes, Perpignan, and Béziers.

Occitanie Top Tourist Attractions:  Carcassonne and the Cathar Country, Albi, Toulouse, the Pyrénées, the Camargue, Rocamadour, Nîmes, Pont du Gard, the Valleys of the Cévennes, and Canal de Midi.

P ays de la Loire

Nantes - Pays de La Loire

Explore Pays de la Loire by Car: Road Trip Pays de la Loire from Nantes

Located in Western France,  Pays de la Loire  is a region of châteaux and vineyards, with  Nantes  as its capital.

Pays de la Loire is lesser known than the neighboring region Centre-Val de Loire, and perhaps it lacks top tourist attractions, but this does not mean that it is not an interesting region to be explored. Crossed from east to west by the Loire River and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Pays de La Loire showcases a stunning coastline, charming towns and villages, varied natural landscapes, and cultural cities.

Nantes , the Dukes of Brittany’s historic capital, is packed with interesting things to see and do, followed by the historic cities of Angers and Le Mans . The latter is best known for its legendary racetrack and prestigious 24-hour race.

History buffs will love to visit Fontevraud Abbey , the final resting place for a line of monarchs, starting with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and Richard the Lionheart. Children will have a blast at Puy du Fou , one of the country’s most-visited theme parks, with medieval and fantasy-style shows.

Pays de la Loire is divided into five departments:  Loire-Atlantique (44), Maine-et-Loire (49), Mayenne (53), Sarthe (72), and Vendée (85). The main cities in the region are Nantes, Angers, Le Mans, and Saint-Nazaire.

Pays de La Loire Top Tourist Attractions:  the Atlantic Coast’s delightful landscapes, vineyards, 24 hours of Le Mans, Angers,  Les Machines de l’Ile in Nantes , Puy du Fou, Fontevraud Abbey.

P rovence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Marseille-France

Explore Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur by Car:

  • Road Trip Gorges du Verdon
  • The Ultimate Lavender Route
  • Road Trip Route du Mimosa
  • French Riviera Road Trip
  • The Ultimate Road Trip in Provence
  • Road Trip in the Luberon, Provence

The region of  Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur , in Southern France, has everything to make visitors happy: the French Riviera’s sunny beaches and chic resorts, the endless lavender fields and stone villages of  Provence , picturesque marinas, secluded creeks with turquoise waters, great hikes and skiing in the wintertime, and excellent gastronomy. The capital city of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is Marseille .

Bordering Monaco and Italy, cities like Nice and Cannes in Côte d’Azur are often the departure point of a French Riviera road trip or a stop on longer  trips to Italy .

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA between friends) is one of the most visited regions of France. It gets hot and crowded in the summer, but it is an excellent travel destination in spring or fall when the crowds are gone and the temperatures are mild.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is divided into six departments:  Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04), Hautes-Alpes (05), Alpes-Maritimes (06), Bouches-du-Rhône (13), Var (83), Vaucluse (84). The main cities in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur are  Marseille ,  Nice , Toulon, Avignon, and Aix-en-Provence .

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Top Tourist Attractions:   Marseille , the Alps Maritimes,  French Riviera  (St Tropez,  Nice , Cannes, Antibes),  villages of Provence , Aix-en-Provence,  Avignon , Arles, and the Calanques de Marseille-Cassis .

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So there you have it, a quick guide to the regions of France and the best (Metropolitan) France attractions. What are your favorite France regions?

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17 Best Cities to Visit in France

By Alex Schultz · Last updated on May 4, 2024

Much more than just Paris, France has a number of unbelievably beautiful cities that are waiting to be explored. History abounds throughout the land, and cathedrals, castles, culture and refined cuisine combine to entice you on a journey of discovery of all things French.

With such a wealth of wonderful sights on offer, the best cities in France are simply a joy to visit. So, what are you waiting for? Bienvenue and happy travels!

Dijon

Formerly a capital to the Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries, as the city sponsored the arts and sciences. As such, the old city center is lovely to walk around due to its delightful sculptures and architecture, with the cathedral being particularly resplendent. While it is not enormous, Dijon is definitely worth stopping by for a couple of days, as it is one of the best-looking French cities.

Lille

The largest city in the north of France, Lille was formerly a merchant city that owes its wealth to the fact that it lies between Flanders and Paris. Nowadays, it has a lovely city center and vibrant cultural sector, with numerous museums that are worth checking out.

With a lively university community, some great places to go shopping and a thriving nightlife, Lille is a dynamic city with a lot going on. For a glimpse of some of the beautiful Flemish and French architecture on offer, head to the Grand´place, La Vielle Bourse or the winding streets of the old town.

15. Toulouse

Toulouse

The fourth largest city in the country, Toulouse is a lively place, in part thanks to its huge university community. With bustling markets, a vibrant music scene and a penchant for the alternative, there are different sides to Toulouse – the old town remains a peaceful and picturesque place to wander around.

Nicknamed ´the Pink City´ due to its rose-colored buildings, a lovely way to see Toulouse is to go on a boat trip along the Canal du Midi or Garonne River that frame the center.

Rouen

The city where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake is a pleasant contrast to this violent event, and a picturesque place to wander around. The old town is full of restored medieval buildings constructed from wattle and daub.

Situated on the banks of the Seine, one sight stands alone when it comes to visiting Rouen: that of the majestic cathedral that dominates the center. Dating all the way back to the 4th century it encompasses an eclectic mix of architectural styles – inspiring Monet to create over thirty paintings of it.

13. Ajaccio

Ajaccio

Located on the lovely Mediterranean island of Corsica , Ajaccio – its capital city – is worth stopping by, even if only to use it as a base from which to explore the beautiful landscapes surrounding it.

The old town itself has some nice streets to wander around, while the harbor surrounding it conjures up images of the Cote d´Azur. Famed as the birthplace of Napoleon, Ajaccio is pleasant enough to visit without setting the world alight.

12. La Rochelle

La Rochelle

Nicknamed the ´White City,´ due to its limestone edifices that are so beautifully illuminated at night, La Rochelle is a charming place to visit. Once an important seaport in centuries gone by, the old port, historic center and picturesque waterfront are reason enough to visit La Rochelle. With a huge marina at Port des Minimes, and sandy beaches in the vicinity, it´s a nice laidback place to spend some time.

Colmar

Situated in the Alsace region , Colmar´s proximity to Germany has meant that it has changed hands numerous times between the two nations over the course of its history. Tourists flock to the city for its stunning old town that so perfectly combines weaving cobblestone alleys with delightful canals, and the distinctive houses that line its streets.

Churches and museums are dotted around the place, and the Isenheim Altarpiece is particularly impressive to behold. As it is in the wine region, take the time to sample some of the best wines that Colmar has to offer.

Annecy

Located in the north of the Alps, Annecy´s proximity to Geneva, along with its historic city center, make it a popular day-trip among tourists. Also known as the ´Venice of Savoie´, quaint canals crisscross Annecy and weave their way between its ancient buildings.

Lying on the shores of Lake Annecy, the city´s surroundings are stunning, and visitors can hike, bike or swim in the nearby natural attractions. With a 14th century castle located in the center, it´s a picturesque and memorable place to visit, though it can get a bit too crowded in summer.

Avignon

Famous for the popes that set up shop in the city after fleeing Rome in the 14th century, Avignon was the capital of the Catholic Church for a period during the Middle Ages. The colossal palace that the popes built is impressive for its size and Gothic architecture, while the ramparts, towers and gates that line the old town are also fantastic to view.

The old part of the city is beautifully enclosed by the River Rhone that snakes its way around it. A great time to visit is during the art festival in July, though you will have to battle your way through the crowds at this popular destination.

8. Biarritz

Biarritz

Formerly a playground for the rich and famous, this seaside resort now attracts families, surfers and sun-worshippers alike. Situated in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, Biarritz´s town center lies on the Bay of Biscay, and is famed for its beautiful coast and excellent beaches, which are its main attraction. While the town is not the most picturesque to look at, its great location right next to the water more than makes up for that slight downfall.

7. Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Capital of Alsace, Strasbourg has a stunning historical center and occupies a strategic setting on the west bank of the Rhone. Consequently, it has been fought over by France and Germany throughout its long history.

Now, however, the glassy European Union buildings glitter in the sun and, along with the teeming student body, help to give a modern air to this ancient city. The gothic cathedral is simply stunning to behold, as is the delightful La Petite France that is home to the old part of town.

Nantes

Situated on the banks of the Loire, Nantes´ long and tumultuous history has seen the city constantly reinvent itself. As such, it has numerous sites from different epochs that entice visitors to its shores.

As the historic capital of Brittany , Nantes´ old medieval center, with its cathedral and castle, is enchanting to explore. In recent years, it has developed a thriving student body that gives the city its energetic vibe. An incredible and unique attraction to visit is the Machines de l´Ile – a fantastical and futuristic exhibition of giant mechanical animals.

5. Marseille

Marseille

France´s second city is a diverse melting pot of people and cultures that all call Marseille their home. Traditionally thought of as grimy and a bit run-down, this bustling port city has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, though its primary attractions remain the same.

The old harbor, for instance, is a magical setting from which to watch fishermen returning to shore with their catch. It is the heart of Marseille, and you´ll really get a feel for the city here. The oldest neighborhood, Le Panier, is definitely worth checking out, as is the stunning Notre Dame de Major cathedral that overlooks the sea.

Lyon

Lyon, the third largest city in the country, is located where the Rhone and Saone Rivers join. Its strategic location has enabled it to attract merchants and industries to the city ever since it was founded by the Romans in 43 BC.

An orderly and sophisticated place, renaissance buildings dot its streets. Lyon seamlessly mixes the new with the old, with a rich cultural heritage that encompasses gastronomic delights and fine architecture. Lyon Cathedral is one of the most impressive sights , and the old town is lovely to walk around. Make sure to try some of the sumptuous cuisine before you continue on your way.

3. Bordeaux

Bordeaux

Straddling the banks of the Garonne River, Bordeaux is a large city with a lot to offer . Its impressive old town is delightful to walk around, and the architecture on show is ravishing. Surrounding Place de la Bourse, you can find 18th century mansions rubbing shoulders with decadent palaces, as well as a number of great art museums.

With a modern feel to it, Bordeaux has a thriving university community. In recent years, a number of vintage shops have sprung up. For a great walk, head to Les Quais and gaze out over the waters of the river – at night, the view of the city lights from the Napoleonic-era Pont de Pierre is magical. Home to some of the best wines in the world, make sure to give them a taste before you head off.

Nice

Located on the French Riviera , or Cote d´Azur, as it is known in French, Nice is constantly bathed in sunshine. As the fifth largest city in France, it has a vibrant mix of cultures. Because it is a port city, Nice has a gritty side to it, which contrasts with its Italian inspired architecture and the medieval streets of the old town.

Walking along the famous Promenade des Anglais and gazing out over the turquoise waters is simply heavenly. For a great view of the city and the shimmering Mediterranean Sea below, head to the Colline du Chateau. A charming place to spend some time, Nice has something for everyone, as it combines city life with a beautiful setting.

See also: Best Neighborhoods & Hotels in Nice

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

With some of the most recognizable buildings and monuments in the world, Paris is a must-see city to visit, with a never-ending array of things to see and do . Situated on the banks of La Seine, the elegant and stylish capital of France is a romantic place, with lovely boulevards, beautiful buildings, and sights like the Eiffel Tower and gleaming Sacre-Coeur rising towards the heavens. Renowned for its cuisine, Paris has a plethora of restaurants to choose from – watch out though, it is very easy to spend a lot of money in a short amount of time.

From the stunning art collections at the Louvre to the eerie catacombs beneath the streets and the breath taking Notre-Dame Cathedral, you could spend a lifetime getting to know all of Paris´ wonderful sights.

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The Five Phrases Tourists Must Know Before A Trip To France, According To Rick Steves

Rick Steves at Notre Dame cathedral

Maybe you've heard that people in France get annoyed when you visit but don't speak their language. Perhaps that oft-repeated chestnut has even kept you from taking that dream trip to this beautiful country. Everyone is different, and while some people might be fine with you not knowing a word of French, others can certainly seem unhappy about it. Either way, learning a few words is something travel expert Rick Steves says to always do before traveling abroad. It's a mark of respect, but you certainly don't have to be fluent. From Steves' website , he recommends you learn at least five specific phrases to help you on your travels. Even if you have a last-minute business trip to Paris, these words and phrases are easy to learn. In fact, you may know some of them already. 

Don't worry, we're not talking about reading Albert Camus books to prepare to see the Eiffel Tower and Versailles. These are simple things like saying "pardon me," "hello," and "goodbye," as well as "please" and "thank you." Steves suggests that you'll get better treatment if you use these phrases while visiting France. Even a good-faith attempt goes a long way. In addition, we have a few more words and phrases that you can add to this list if you have more time and the inclination to learn. We've also got some additional tips to help you navigate through a country that speaks a language different from your own. 

The five phrases you should learn before visiting France

Steves wrote on his website that you should learn to say "bonjour," which means "good day." You may know this one, but if not, it's pronounced "bohn zhoor." If you feel like you sound too American, try saying the word with a French accent. Silly or not, it's probably going to get you closer than you might otherwise be. To say "goodbye," say "au revoir." It's pronounced "oh rev wah." Steves also recommends you learn to say "pardon me," which is an easy one. It's "pardon," pronounced "par duhn" with the tiniest suggestion of an "n" sound at the end. He mentions that you'll use this a lot on public transportation, but you'll also say this on the street to get someone's attention and to squeeze through crowded tourist spots. 

To say "please," you'll say "s'il vous plaît." Don't be intimidated by the accent marks. It's pronounced "see voo play." "Thank you" is "merci," or "mare see." To greet someone, you can say "bonjour, madame" or "bonjour, monsieur" for "ma'am" and "sir" (madame is pronounced like it is in English, and monsieur is pronounced "mis yur"). Then, simply replace "bonjour" with "au revoir" when you leave.

We also suggest a few other phrases, like "Parlez-vous anglais?" which means "Do you speak English?" (It's best used once you've said "pardon.") It's pronounced "par lay voo ahn glays." Another important one is "Où sont les toilettes?" which means "Where is the bathroom?" (Oo sohn lay twah let).

Other tips for being understood in Paris

An attempt to speak French in France will go a long way, even if you're not good at it. Your accent doesn't have to be perfect. After all, even if someone said "hello" and a few other words in English with a French accent, you would still know what they meant. You can also use hand gestures to back up your words, like waving hello and goodbye, or a hand on your heart while saying "thank you." It's also important to pay attention to context. Are you in a restaurant? Is someone asking for help? A lot of things are communicated without words. Numbers or prices can be written down. Even a simple smile can go a long way. 

If you really need to communicate past a few phrases, however, tourists traveling abroad to France or anywhere else can use Google Translate's phone hacks for a more stress-free trip . Simply  download the app and let it access your camera. Hold it over text to instantly translate menus, labels, signs, and more. You can also do live translation on the app with conversation mode to quickly go back and forth between English and French speakers. Finally, if you have some time before your trip, an app like Duolingo  can give you some more basics. Here are some more of the best language teachers for first time travelers . 

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Shop For A Scenic Picnic Like A Local At Rick Steves' Favorite Street In Paris

P aris is brimming with greenery and gardens. What better way to enjoy the city than with a picnic in one of these spaces? Likewise, if you fly into Charles de Gaulle Airport, considered one of the most stressful airports in Europe , this will undoubtedly help you unwind. Of course, you're going to need light bites, treats, and drinks. With that in mind, European master traveler Rick Steves has got you covered on where you can purchase all your picnic essentials. He recommends Rue Cler, a street located in the 7th arrondissement.  In fact, famed chef Julia Child was known to shop at Rue Cler.

Steves has featured Rue Cler on his hit show "Rick Steves' Europe" and on his YouTube channel. On his website, Rick Steves' Europe , the PBS star explained, "In all of Paris, my favorite street is Rue Cler, a small lane in the skinny shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Lined with shops that spill out into the street, it's a slice of village life in this giant city, and picnic shopping here is one of my favorite Parisian pleasures."

Steves says that the produce found at Rue Cler is exceptional in quality. If you want fresh fruit or veggies for your picnic, he recommends doing what the Parisians do: Opt for whatever is local to France and in season. However, fruit is only a small slice of what you need for your perfect picnic in Paris. Luckily, Rue Cler has it all.

Read more: 22 Gorgeous Islands For Vacationing That Won't Break The Bank, According To Booking Sites

Must Stop Shops On Rue Cler

It would be an understatement to say that the French love cheese. Thus, it's fundamental to include it on your Rue Cler picnic shopping list. Rick Steves recommends a visit to La Fromagerie, known for its extensive cheese inventory. Naturally, you'll want to pair your choice of cheese with deli meats. For charcuterie, head to Jeusselin. Reviewers on Tripadvisor mention purchasing everything from Saucisson Sec (salami) to salads and quiches at this spot.

One reviewer said, "If eating well-made French food in one of this country's many public parks is on your bucket list, hit up Jeusselin. They have everything you need to create a storybook experience." For dessert, avoid macarons, the sweet treat that has become a Parisian tourist trap . Instead, as Rick Steves suggests on his website, nab a pastry from a boulangerie. Artisan Boulanger is one spot found on Rue Cler. You can also purchase bread here to accompany your cheese and charcuterie.

Lastly, you can't set off for your picnic without wine. Rue Cler has several shops selling this culturally significant beverage, including Le Repaire de Bacchus. Writing on his website, Steves said,"If you're less attuned to these nuances than the typical Parisian, chat up the shop's salesperson, whom you can expect to be skilled advisor — they'll factor in your tastes, menu, and budget." After you've gathered everything you need for your picnic, it's time to choose where to enjoy your al fresco meal.

Picturesque Picnic Spots In Paris

Rue Cler is only five minutes away from the Eiffel Tower. Although the area is typically busy, which occasionally leaves visitors to Paris disappointed , don't let this deter you from having a picnic at Champ de Mars. What can top sampling French food while looking at this iconic structure? Of course, there are also countless gardens where you can picnic. The Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Gardens (pictured), is one such spot. Located in the 6th arrondissement, a short distance from Rue Cler, the Luxembourg Gardens date back to the 1600s. Reviewers on Tripadvisor rave about its beauty and say that it's the ideal location for a Parisian picnic.

There's also Parc Monceau, in the 8th arrondissement. Notably, this destination inspired several of Claude Monet's works. While it is further away from Rue Cler, Parc des Buttes, in the 19th arrondissement, has acres of greenery for picnicking and, as reviewers on Tripadvisor note, provides an authentic Parisian experience. One reviewer stated, "It was fun to feel like we were surrounded by locals instead of just tourists and the group of people was so diverse."

You could always forego the parks and gardens and find a spot on the banks of the Seine. Whatever location you decide on in the City of Light for your picnic, it will surely be unforgettable. Just remember to consider other tips from Steves, including how  to avoid getting pickpocketed on your trip to Europe .

Read the original article on Islands

Rue Cler, Paris

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20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

Written by Lisa Alexander Updated Aug 24, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Just mentioning the "South of France" conjures up images of stylish seaside holidays, complete with private beach clubs, upscale boutique shopping, and fancy gourmet dining. This description fits the French Riviera (especially Cannes, Monaco, and Saint-Tropez), but it's just one aspect of the South of France.

A street in Saint-Paul de Vence

After the French Riviera, the second most-visited area in the South of France is sunny rural Provence . A patchwork of small farms, fields of lavender and sunflowers, and colorful open-air markets characterize the Provençal countryside. There are also fascinating medieval hilltop towns, Roman ruins, and historic cities such as Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and Avignon.

Would you like to discover the South of France's less touristy side ? Then head to Marseille for a glimpse of a real working city with a cosmopolitan vibe. Toulon is another authentic seaport with tourist appeal.

In Southwest France, the Basque seaside resort of Biarritz boasts an elegant Second Empire hotel, beautiful sandy beaches, and spectacular coastal scenery. Biarritz also has a superb aquarium and many fine-dining restaurants, as well as trendy bistros.

Slightly off the beaten path, the Languedoc-Roussillon region includes outstanding attractions like the UNESCO-listed fortified city of Carcassonne and the lively university town of Montpellier.

The most undiscovered area in the South of France is the rural Gascony region . This unspoiled countryside is known for its quiet villages and hearty cuisine. Toulouse is the biggest city in Gascony yet has the feel of a small town, thanks to its relaxed and convivial ambiance.

Plan your French sightseeing itinerary with our list of the best places to visit in the South of France.

1. French Riviera Seaside Resorts

2. nice: art museums and beaches, 3. aix-en-provence, 4. historic monuments in avignon & arles, 5. saint-tropez: a charming village with beautiful beaches, 6. the upscale seaside resort of biarritz, 7. the walled medieval town of carcassonne, 8. hilltop villages of provence (villages perchés), 9. the glamorous seaside city-state of monaco, 10. montpellier, 11. lourdes & pyrénées nature sites, 12. marseilles, the calanques & cassis, 13. ancient roman monuments & archaeological sites, 14. unesco-listed albi, 15. toulon & île de porquerolles, 16. the gascony region, 17. bordeaux, 19. the camargue, 20. plage de l'espiguette, map of places to visit in the south of france.

Beach in Cannes

The sunny weather, mesmerizing deep-blue sea, and leafy palm trees give the French Riviera a dreamy quality. Also known as the "Côte d'Azur," the French Riviera delivers fabulous beach holidays with a hefty dose of culture.

During the early 20th century, artists flocked to the Côte d'Azur to capture the sublime scenery on canvas. As a result, many local museums display the works of Renoir, Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, and other painters who were captivated by the coastal landscapes.

Nice is prized for its gorgeous waterfront promenade and art museums, while Cannes is known for private beach clubs and the annual film festival.

Antibes on the French Riviera

Other top resort destinations include Monaco and Saint-Tropez . The French Riviera also has smaller lesser-known towns that are full of charm, such as Fréjus, Antibes, Villefrance-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Èze, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and Menton.

Of all the French Riviera resorts, the coastline near Antibes has the best beaches, especially along the Golfe Juan on the Juan-les-Pins and Cap d'Antibes headland. In this area, there are about a dozen public beaches. The Plage de la Garoupe is the prettiest beach, with a fine white-sand shoreline, but much of it is occupied by private beach clubs during the summertime.

Place Massena in Nice

One of the highlights of the Côte d'Azur, the town of Nice deserves special mention because of its charming historic city center and amazing art collections: the Matisse Museum, Chagall Museum, Fine Arts Museum, and Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

With its scenic beachside location, balmy weather, and pleasant Mediterranean landscape, Nice has it all. The centerpiece of Nice is the Promenade des Anglais , a palm-fringed seafront promenade, while the Vieille Ville (Old Town) is a delightful warren of medieval alleyways and winding cobblestone streets.

Beach along the Promenade des Anglais

Surrounding Nice, the sunny Provençal countryside brims with day-trip possibilities, such as Grasse and Fréjus. Within a 30-minute drive are the atmospheric hilltop towns of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Èze , as well as the fetching seaside villages of Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villefranche-sur-Mer .

Other highlights include the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula and the sea-facing Villa Kérylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, designed to resemble an ancient Greek nobleman's mansion of the 2nd century BC. Both villas are open to the public for visits.

The Fontaine de la Rotonde in Aix-en-Provence

To experience the quintessential lifestyle of southern France, visit Aix-en-Provence. This elegant city epitomizes the Provençal region's character with its open-air markets, bustling outdoor cafés, and refreshing fountains that adorn the public squares.

As in most towns of Provence, the ambiance is slow-paced and relaxing. Aix-en-Provence residents have perfected the art de vivre, with leisurely meals and strolls along graceful tree-lined streets.

Top tourist attractions in Aix-en-Provence are Vieil Aix (the Old Town); the Cours Mirabeau , a tree-lined avenue with many sidewalk cafés and restaurants; and the Quartier Mazarin neighborhood, which was developed in the 17th century.

If you appreciate Post-Impressionist art, visit the Atelier de Cézanne , the studio where Paul Cézanne created many famous paintings. Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence and spent his childhood here. The Cézanne Trail gives you a chance to explore the landmarks associated with the artist on a self-guided walking tour.

Palais des Papes in Avignon

Discover the cultural heritage of Provence in Avignon and Arles. The UNESCO-listed Palais des Papes in Avignon stands as an awe-inspiring testimony to the grandeur of Christendom during the 14th century.

Avignon also has an outstanding museum of fine arts (the Musée du Petit Palais ), noteworthy medieval churches, and lively festivals throughout the year.

In the heart of Provence, Arles boasts a must-see Roman Amphitheater that was built in the 1st century to accommodate 21,000 spectators, as well as several other Roman-era archaeological sites.

In Arles, it's fun to wander the town to find the landmarks painted by Vincent van Gogh such as the Café du Forum (now called the Café van Gogh) on the Place du Forum . To see more sights painted by Vincent van Gogh, try the Van Gogh Route self-guided walking tour .

Vieux Port in Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez was just a humble fishing village until 1956 when the film And God Created Woman (starring Brigitte Bardot) made it famous. Scenes from the movie were shot on location throughout the town, including at the Plages de Pampelonne where private beach clubs continue to draw a fashionable clientele.

Today, this alluring beach resort still has the charm of a bygone era with its picturesque old fishing harbor ( Vieux Port ) and quaint historic town center ( La Ponche ). At the Musée d'Histoire Maritime , learn about local fishermen who began traveling beyond the Mediterranean Sea in the 16th century.

Besides its old-world charm and pristine sandy beaches, Saint-Tropez offers interesting cultural attractions . An outstanding collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art is on display at the Musée de l'Annonciade , housed in a chapel that dates to 1510.

To soak up the ambiance of Saint-Tropez, spend time at the Place des Lices . This tree-shaded square features outdoor cafés where you can take in the everyday scenes of men playing pétanque (the Provençal version of bocce ball) and women shopping at the open-air produce market (on Tuesday and Saturday mornings).

If you are outdoorsy, take a hike on the Sentier du Littoral , a trail with superb views of the coastline. The trail begins in La Ponche and continues along a seaside path until Tahiti Plage (beach). Keep in mind that this trail has some rocky areas. Tip: Wear good hiking shoes.

View of Grande Plage in Biarritz

Stunning coastal scenery and elegant architecture distinguish Biarritz from other seaside resorts in the South of France. The town was once a holiday destination for aristocrats and royalty, and for that reason is known as the "Queen of Resorts and the Resort of Kings."

Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) adored this seaside location in the Basque region because of its dramatic natural beauty. Thanks to the empress and other aristocratic visitors in the 19th century, the little fishing village became a sophisticated and genteel beach town. The regal air of the past is evident in opulent oceanfront mansions and streets named after royalty.

The magnificent palace built for Empress Eugénie now houses the five-star Hôtel du Palais overlooking the Grande Plage , one of the top tourist attractions of Biarritz . The hotel offers sumptuous accommodations and exquisite fine dining.

Even if you don't stay at the Hôtel du Palais , you can splurge on a meal at the La Table d'Aurélien Largeau . This Michelin-starred restaurant serves contemporary Basque cuisine in a lavish Second Empire salon with ocean views.

The walled town of Carcassone

Carcassonne gives you the impression of stepping into the scene of a fairy tale. Perfectly preserved, this fortified medieval town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . The turreted towers lend a Disneyland-like quality.

By exploring the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets of Carcassonne, you can imagine what life was like during the Middle Ages. Check out the Grand Puits de la Cité , a listed Monument Historique . Townspeople once withdrew drinking water from this 14th-century well.

As early as the 12th century, residents worshipped at the Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse , an impressive Gothic monument that is now a basilica. For a peek at a medieval fortress, head to the Château Comtal , where the Viscounts of Carcassonne resided in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Another nearby UNESCO-designated site in the Languedoc-Roussillon region is the Canal du Midi . This 360-kilometer canal was created in the 17th century to link the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

Walking through Saint-Paul de Vence

Hilltop villages ( villages perché s in French) encapsulate the old-world charm of Provence. Many of these ancient towns are still enclosed by ramparts, which adds to the magical feeling of being enclosed in a little medieval world.

You will enjoy wandering narrow cobblestone streets and pedestrian lanes to discover small boutiques, fountain-adorned squares, and historic churches. Provençal hilltop villages also will delight you with splendid views of the rural landscape.

If you are traveling by car, you can create a driving itinerary to discover the quaint country villages of Provence, especially in the remote Luberon region , which is designated as a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve.

Saint-Paul de Vence

For those based in Nice, several interesting hilltop villages are easy day-trip destinations . These are beautiful little towns, although this area is no longer rural and instead is part of the suburban sprawl around Nice.

It's hard to resist the allure of Saint-Paul de Vence , about a 30-minute drive from Nice. This well-preserved walled town stands high on a precipice overlooking the landscape. The town's quaint cobblestone streets, enticing boutiques, and fabulous views make up for the fact that the village is overrun with visitors even in the off-season.

Beginning in the 1920s, many famous artists were drawn to the beauty of Saint-Paul de Vence, and their work is on display at the Fondation Maeght , two kilometers outside the village.

Along the French Riviera coastline , Èze is a captivating hilltop village (only 12 kilometers from Nice) perched 400 meters above the sea. This picture-perfect village affords sweeping vistas of the Mediterranean and the Cap-Ferrat coastline. Luxurious accommodations are found at the Château de la Chèvre d'Or hotel , a Relais & Châteaux property with a two Michelin-starred restaurant.

A 45-minute drive from Nice in the foothills of the Maritime Alps is the town famous for its perfume factories. Grasse also has a wonderful Vieille Ville (Old Town), full of narrow pedestrian streets, small squares, and historic buildings. To soak up the ambiance and sunshine, stop for a leisurely al fresco lunch on the Old Town's main square (Place aux Aires).

One of the Plus Beaux Villages de France , Gourdon (40 kilometers from Nice) boasts many artisan craft boutiques and an impressive château with gardens designed by André Le Nôtre. From Nice, you can go on a full-day Provence countryside small-group day trip to visit hilltop towns Grasse, Gourdon, and Saint-Paul de Vence as well as the seaside resort of Cannes.

Medieval hilltop villages are scattered throughout the Haut-Vaucluse area of Provence. Two more of France's Plus Beaux Villages are Séguret (10 kilometers from Vaison-la-Romaine) overlooking the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range and Venasque , which affords views of Mont Ventoux.

Gourdon

Presiding above rocky gorges in the Haut-Vaucluse, Monieux has a museum dedicated to truffles, the Musée de la Truffe du Ventoux, and hosts a Medieval Festival in September.

Crillon-le-Brave offers the charm of a quiet hilltop hamlet along with a five-star Relais & Châteaux resort property, the Hôtel Crillon Le Brave .

The Luberon natural regional park in the Haut Vaucluse has many medieval hilltop towns on the Plus Beaux Villages list: Gordes , dramatically perched on a steep promontory; Ménerbes , made famous by Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence novel; Lourmarin , which has a majestic château that hosts cultural events and festivals; Roussillon , built alongside an ochre cliff and surrounded by woodlands; and Lacoste , a tiny village full of art galleries and outdoor cafés.

Also in the Luberon natural park, Bonnieux stands out because of its traditional Provençal market and its fantastic museum devoted to the history of bread, the Musée de la Boulangerie. The town also has an interesting Romanesque church.

Apt is known for its large Provençal market (held on Saturday mornings) and museum of archaeology, while Cadenet has a luxurious boutique hotel, the Auberge La Fenière , with a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Goût de Bonheur .

View of Monaco on a beautiful summer day

Perched on a promontory above the sea, Monaco boasts an impressive ancient castle and splendid coastal views. This dazzling city-state on the French Riviera is home to a royal family with a heritage that dates back to the 13th century.

Just a 30-minute train ride from Nice, Monaco draws fashionable crowds to its high-profile yacht shows, the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco car race, and the Opening Gala at the Opera House.

Opera House, Monaco

Even if you only visit for a day or afternoon, you can see many of the highlights of Monaco including the Palais Princier (Prince's Palace), the Musée Océanographique , and the ritzy Place du Casino in the Monte-Carlo district. These top attractions are all within easy walking distance.

Old Town of Montpellier

Despite being a modern urban city, Montpellier has retained its historic character in L'Écusson (the Old Town) with its jumble of winding medieval streets, elegant squares, beautiful churches, and stately hôtel particuliers (aristocratic mansions).

Encircling L'Écusson, spacious tree-lined boulevards were created by Baron Haussmann (who designed the Grands Boulevards of Paris) in the 19th century, replacing the city's medieval ramparts. The best of the 21st century is seen in Montpellier's sleek tram system with new cars featuring decorations by Christian Lacroix.

An air of trendiness and youthful energy reigns throughout Montpellier, thanks to the university-student population. Buzzing sidewalk cafés and chic gourmet restaurants delight locals and tourists alike.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes

Densely forested, rolling hills provide an inspiring backdrop for the Lourdes cathedral alongside the rushing Ousse River. Pure spring waters flow into a Grotto where Saint Bernadette received visions of the Virgin Mary. Water from this source is believed to have healing properties.

Millions of pilgrims visit Lourdes annually, making it the biggest pilgrimage destination in France and one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. Pilgrims visit the Grotto of the Apparitions, worship at the Basilique Notre-Dame du Rosaire (Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary), and participate in candlelit Marian processions.

One of the top attractions of the French Pyrenees , Lourdes draws many pilgrims who hope for cures to an illness by bathing in the sacred waters. So far, the Catholic church has validated 70 official miracles.

Lourdes is an ideal starting point to explore the Pyrenees Mountains. The UNESCO-listed Cirque de Gavarnie awes you with its spectacular scenery of sheer granite walls and rushing waterfalls. The highest summit (the peak of Mont Perdu ) soars to over 3,300 meters; the Grande Cascade with a 422-meter drop is Europe's tallest waterfall .

An easy walking path at the Cirque de Gavarnie allows you to soak up the scenery of snow-dusted mountains, alpine chalets, and goats grazing on the grass. You'll also enjoy listening to the refreshing sounds of a meandering stream and the chirping of little birds.

Fishing Boats in the Port de Cassis

To experience an authentic Mediterranean seaport, spend a day or two exploring Marseilles . A bustling harbor explains the city's raison d' ê tre , as well as its rich multicultural heritage.

The Old Town ( Le Panier ) of Marseille brims with historic buildings, artisan boutiques, and authentic restaurants, while the Vieux Port dating back to the 6th century BC is still in use today as a launching point for fishing boats.

A fish market is held every morning at the harbor, and the restaurants around the waterfront are the best places to visit to sample the gastronomic specialty of Marseilles, bouillabaisse (seafood stew). The upscale Restaurant Miramar (12 Quai du Port) is famous for its bouillabaisse.

From the Vieux Port in Marseille, you can hop on a ferry to reach two favorite tourist destinations: the 16th-century Château d'If (fortress) on the île d'If, and the Calanques , a national park featuring white limestone coves filled with seawater. You can also take cruises and private boat excursions to explore the Calanques (coves).

It is even possible to take an Electric Bike Tour to the Calanques from Marseille . This full-day tour traverses the wild terrain of the Calanques with a stop at a beach for swimming and concludes with a visit to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, one of the top tourist attractions in Marseille .

Less than 30 kilometers from Marseilles is Cassis . The pastel-painted houses, picturesque port, and bright Mediterranean sunlight of this Provençal fishing village appealed to Post-Impressionist painters such as Paul Signac, Henri Matisse, and Raoul Dufy, who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century to paint scenes of the harbor and coastline.

Today, Cassis is a recreational getaway for residents of Marseille as well as travelers who appreciate the charm of a small seaside town. If you would like to visit Cassis and the Calanques as a day trip from Marseille, an organized sightseeing tour is the perfect option.

Arènes de Nîmes

Both Arles in Provence and Nice on the French Riviera have fascinating ancient Roman ruins, among their other tourist attractions. The Arènes d'Arles was once used for gladiator fights and today hosts cultural performances. In the Cimiez quarter of Nice are the ancient ruins of Cemenelum, revealing vestiges of the Roman baths and amphitheater.

Nîmes in the Languedoc region has some of the most impressive ancient Roman monuments in the south of France. The Arènes de Nîmes , a perfectly designed Roman amphitheater, and the Maison Carrée (Roman temple) are remarkable for their exceptional state of preservation.

An important town during classical antiquity, Orange boasts a UNESCO-listed Théâtre Antique (Roman theater dating to the 1st century). This incredibly well-preserved ancient theater today hosts the renowned Chorégies d'Orange music festival, as well as other cultural events.

In the Haut-Vaucluse area of Provence , Orange is a 30-minute drive away from Vaison-la-Romaine , which is considered one of the Plus Beaux Détours de France (France's official list of places worthy of a detour).

Vaison-la-Romaine has remarkable archaeological sites dating to the 1st century. The old Roman theater of Vaison-la-Romaine is used as an open-air venue for Vaison Danses , an international dance festival that takes place every year in July.

Also in the Haut-Vaucluse area, Pernes-les-Fontaines was founded during the Gallo-Roman era. This relaxing town was named for its many fountains that provide abundant drinking water, a legacy of the Roman heritage.

View of Albi and the Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile

The historic episcopal city of Albi is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its exceptional architecture and cultural value. An imposing fortress-like cathedral presides over the medieval town.

Founded in the 13th century, the enormous Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile is the world's largest cathedral built from brick. The breathtaking vaulted interior features over 18,000 square meters of frescoes and an ornately decorated Gothic choir with 200 intricate statues. Not to be missed is the Last Judgment fresco, a masterpiece of Renaissance painting.

Housed in the UNESCO-listed 13th-century Palais de la Berbie, the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum is devoted to the work of the famous artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born in Albi. The museum displays Lautrec's distinctive posters, as well as paintings and drawings.

Albi is a worthwhile day trip from Toulouse (a one-hour drive) or combined with an itinerary of other attractions such as Carcassonne (about a two-hour drive).

Toulon

Toulon is less touristy than other seaside cities along France's Mediterranean coast yet offers plenty of attractions. This characteristic port town has an attractive palm-fringed waterfront, which is full of shops, and restaurants with outdoor terraces.

Highlights of Toulon are the atmospheric Le Mourillon quarter, an old fishing village; the historic harbor including the Porte de l'Arsenal , an 18th-century military building that houses the Musée National de la Marine (seafaring museum); and the astounding coastal views from Mont Faron (accessible by the Téléphérique du Faron cable car).

A traditional Provençal market has been held in Toulon since the 18th century. Today, this market takes place every day (except Mondays) at the Cours Lafayette from 7:30 am until 12:30 pm; vendors sell fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, specialty food products, and Provençal fabrics.

From the Port of Toulon, you can sail away to the dreamy Île de Porquerolles just an hour's ferry ride away. The island features unspoiled natural scenery, sandy beaches, and secluded coves. It's the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway. Besides sunbathing, the Île de Porquerolles offers opportunities for snorkeling, hiking, and mountain biking.

Lavardens Castle in Gascony

If you really want to get away from all the tourists, go to Le Gers (the Gascony region). This pastoral region in Southwest France is exceptionally charming, yet almost completely undiscovered by travelers.

Unspoiled forests and farmlands blanket the undulating countryside in a colorful patchwork while hilltops are dotted with imposing castles, walled medieval towns, and quiet country villages.

Toulouse is the largest city in the region, but it has a slow-paced, small-town feel. With its sultry climate and sidewalk cafés found at every turn, Toulouse immerses you in a relaxing ambiance typical of southern France.

There are plenty of things to see in Toulouse , including a UNESCO-listed Romanesque basilica and stately civic buildings constructed from the red bricks that earned the city its name, La Ville Rose .

Place de la Bourse

UNESCO has designated the entire historic city center of Bordeaux as a World Heritage Site because of its cultural value and architectural treasures from the Age of Enlightenment. The city boasts nearly 350 buildings that are listed as Monuments Historiques .

Built up along the Garonne River in Southwest France, Bordeaux is a cosmopolitan port town with a heritage that stretches back to antiquity. The city flourished during the 18th century, which explains the coherence of Neoclassical buildings dating to that era.

Among Bordeaux's top tourist attractions are the UNESCO-listed 12th-century Cathédrale Saint-André and the 18th-century Grand-Théâtre, which hosts ballet, opera, and music performances.

Village of Cotignac in the Var Region

Le Var region is a hidden gem of Southern France, nestled between Provence and the French Riviera. Lush woodlands, rolling hills, and farmlands define the landscape of this rural area. The countryside is dotted with historic towns, ancient abbeys, and beautiful villages.

You may visit La Chartreuse de La Verne , a serene Carthusian monastery (and listed Monument Historique ) that is open to the public. You will appreciate the peaceful setting, as well as the monastery's 12th-century Romanesque church and the ceramics (for sale at the monastery's boutique) that are handcrafted by the resident nuns. The boutique is closed on Sundays.

The Abbaye du Thoronet is another 12th-century abbey (classified as a Historic Monument ) hidden deep within a forest of oak and olive trees. The Thoronet Abbey is one of three important Cistercian monuments in the South of France (the others include the Silvacane Abbey and the Abbey of Sénanque in Provence). You may visit the abbey year-round.

The Var region is full of traditional country villages and towns featuring fountain-adorned squares and inviting outdoor cafés. Lorgues is typical with its many fountains, an impressive historic church, an atmospheric medieval quarter, and a weekly open-air market that draws many visitors.

Near Lorgues are two tourist attractions that appeal to luxury seekers and gourmands: the Château de Berne (in the town of Flayosc), a five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel set amid vine-cloaked fields and olive groves; and the famous Chez Bruno fine-dining restaurant (in Le Plan Campagne Mariette near the Château de Berne) that specializes in dishes made with truffles.

Sheltered by steep limestone cliffs, Cotignac (23 kilometers from Lorgues) is classified as a Village de Caractère du Var (Village of Character of the Var) as well as one of the Plus Beaux Villages thanks to its lovely ambiance, picturesque streets, and pleasant tree-lined central square.

If you love the great outdoors, be sure to see the Gorges du Verdon in the region's northeastern corner. Part of the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon , this 700-meter-deep river canyon offers opportunities for swimming, water sports, and hiking.

Wild Horses in the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue

About a 20-minute drive from Arles, the Camargue is a unique landscape of wetlands, marshlands, beaches, and sand dunes. The Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue is home to wild white horses, Camargue bulls (used in bullfighting), and over 300 species of birds including pink flamingos.

Within the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer delights tourists with its sandy beaches and a wide selection of cafés, restaurants, and shops.

Just outside the Camargue Natural Regional Park are several noteworthy historic towns. Dating back to the 13th century, Aigues-Mortes has its medieval fortifications completely intact. These ancient walls conceal an atmospheric warren of narrow streets, steeped in the ambiance of the Middle Ages.

Salt marshes surround the town of Aigues-Mortes and less than two kilometers away is the Salin d'Aigues-Mortes , where the prized Fleur de Sel de Camargue sea salt is harvested by artisans in the centuries-old manner. At the Salin d'Aigues-Mortes site, you can take a guided or self-guided walking tour of the salt marshes. During July and August, watch workers harvest the Fleur de Sel salt.

The area around the Camargue Natural Regional Park boasts seaside vacation destinations: Le Grau-du-Roi (seven kilometers from Aigues-Mortes), an old fishing village that has been transformed into a modern resort; and Port Camargue (12 kilometers from Aigues-Mortes), which has sandy beaches.

Plage de l'Espiguette

The Plage de l'Espiguette ranks as one of the best beaches in France because of its pristine environment and calm deep-blue seas. This dreamy stretch of white-sand shoreline is a favorite summertime destination in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (a 45-minute drive from Montpellier).

At this wild unspoiled beach, outdoor activities are the main draw. Things to do include swimming, nature walks, horseback riding, kitesurfing, and fishing.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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Other Highlights of France : Many travelers begin a vacation in France by visiting the capital city of Paris . The TGV high-speed train takes just over 2.5 hours from Paris to Avignon, a good starting point to explore Provence. For more trip-planning inspiration, read about the best places to visit in France . Other top tourist destinations include Normandy and the Loire Valley.

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Garden tours, plants sales and more ways to spend time among flowers

Visit Maine's botanical gardens or get a sneak peek of what your neighbors are growing in their back yards.

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One of the loveliest ways to ease yourself fully out of the post-winter blahs and into springtime is to quit being a wallflower and instead surround yourself with living, blooming plants.

From botanical gardens to plant sales and garden tours, it’s time to make like the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” and while away the hours, conferring with flowers.

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The waterfall at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. Photo by Tory Paxson, Courtesy of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

TOTALLY BOTANICAL

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay is open for the season, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Maine Days are May 31 to June 2, when anyone with a Maine driver’s license or state ID gets in for free. Ditto for dads/father figures on Father’s Day (June 16). Advance registration is required. With more than 300 acres of gardens and natural spaces, including a waterfall, there will be plenty to see, smell and bask in the scenery.

Here are more things to do in Boothbay

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A tour group walks on the boardwalk at Viles Arboretum in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Viles Arboretum is a botanical garden in Augusta with 6 miles of trails and more than 20 botanical collections. It’s open daily from sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. There are 224 acres with all sorts of flora and fauna to discover. Leashed dogs are welcome, and the visitor center is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Viles Arboretum offers medicinal plant walks, and although the May 18 session is full, you can still register for the June 15 and Sept. 14 events, lead by herbalist, homeopath and flower essence practitioner Debra Bluth. Tickets are $25. Advertisement

The Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve has four areas to explore on its property in Northeast Harbor: the Asticou Azelea Garden (dawn to dusk daily), the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden (noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday from July 9 to Sept. 8, reservations required), Thuya Garden (dawn to dusk daily, June 15 to Oct. 14) and Little Long Pond Natural Lands (hiking trails and carriage roads open dawn to dusk daily). On June 26, at the Wildflowers of Little Long Pond event, participants can wander around the garden’s fields and forest, spotting wildflowers along the way while practicing how to identify them.

tourist spots french

Joyce Saltman, right, and Beth Anisbeck embrace a tree for 60 seconds during a tree hugging event sponsored by Portland Parks and Recreation, at Deering Oaks Park last year. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

TOURS AND MORE

2nd Annual Tree Hugging 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Deering Oaks Park, Portland. portlandmaine.gov The tree hugging is a family-friendly community gathering to celebrate Portland’s many trees. Park ranger Liz Collado will lead a sensory awakening and forest bathing session. Along with tree hugging, there will be a storytime, and you can touch a forestry truck and meet naturalist Noah Querido and Portland city arborist Mark Reiland. Just down the road, you’ll find Fessenden Park, on the corner of Brighton and Deering Avenues. The tulips have arrived, and it’s worth a visit to see them.

McLaughlin Garden Lilac Festival 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 24. McLaughlin Garden and Homestead, 97 Main St., South Paris, $5. mclaughlingardens.org You’ll find more than 125 varieties of lilacs at the McLaughlin Garden Lilac Festival. Explore on your own or take a guided tour led by a horticulturist. There will also be family-friendly activities, and you can shop for native and unusual plants.

4th annual Woodfords Community Garden Tour 1-4 p.m. June 8. Woodfords Corner Community in Back Cove, Deering Highlands, Oakdale and Deering Center, $20 suggested donation. woodfordscorner.org Presented by Friends of Woodfords Corner, this self-guided tour features at least 10 gardens. As you make your way down the list, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by all of the hidden havens bursting with flowers, plants and impressive yardscaping elements.

Peony Society of Maine 23rd annual Garden Tour 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 8 and 15. Both tours start at 1348 Ohio St., Bangor, $5 donation. peonysocietyofmaine.net You’ll visit multiple gardens in Bangor, Winterport, Ripley and St. Albans, and your senses will be filled with countless peonies. A peony plant will be raffled off at the end of each tour. Advertisement

Hidden Gardens of Historic Bath 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 22. Sagadahoc Preservation Inc., 880 Washington St., Bath, $40. sagadahocpreservation.org The Hidden Gardens of Historic Bath house and garden tour features several homes in North Bath. Every stop on the tour will be a treat for your senses and may motivate you to make some of your own magic when you get back home.

Garden Conservancy Open Garden Days 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 29. Beckett Castle Rose Garden, Singles Road, Cape Elizabeth, $10. gardenconservancy.org You’ll see plenty of roses as well as ocean views at Beckett Castle, which sits right on the water, with views of five lighthouses. The castle was built in 1871, and its rose garden features more than 70 varieties of heirloom roses. A 50-foot stone tower doubles as the rose arbor entrance to the castle.

PICK A PLANT SALE

Tate House Museum’s Annual Plant and Herb Sale 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 18. Tate House Museum, 1267 Westbrook St., Portland, 207-774-6177.  tatehouse.org The wide selection includes perennials divided from the museum’s 18th century reproduction garden. Visitors can also make their own “seed bombs” and get a sneak peak at a new installation by artist Ashley Page from 10 a.m. to noon.

Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland Spring Plant S ale 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. May 18, Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, 217 Landing Road, Westbrook, 207-854-9771.  arlgp.org   Perennials, house plants and more will be on sale, and plants that don’t have specific pricing are “name your own fee.” Anyone interested in donating plants or pots to the sale should send a message to [email protected] .

Taking Root Plant Sale 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 1, Tom Settlemire Community Garden, Maurice Drive, Brunswick, 207-729-7694.  btlt.org This annual sale is organized by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Proceeds benefit the Common Good Garden, which provides food and gardening education for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. Master gardeners will be on hand to help shoppers choose their best options.

Scarborough Land Trust Native Plant Sale and Spring Festival 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 1, Broadturn Farm, 388 Broadturn Road, Scarborough, 207-289-1199.  scarboroughlandtrust.org Visitors will find native plants, food vendors, local artisans, guided nature walks and activities for kids. To preorder plants, visit the Scarborough Land Trust website.

Maine Audubon Society Native Plants Sale and Festival 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 8, Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, 20 Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth, 207-781-2330.  maineaudubon.org More than 75 species of native wildflowers, shrubs and tree seedlings will be available, along with workshops, info tables and experts.

Staff writer Megan Gray contributed to this report.

Related Headlines

Headed to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens? Here’s what else to check out in Boothbay

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  1. 25 Best Places to Visit in France

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    29. 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.

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    Pompidou Centre (National Museum of Modern Art, NMMA), Paris. Taylor McIntyre. 3.8 million visitors. The Centre Georges Pompidou stands in its own huge space in Beaubourg. It's a magnificent building designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano and opened in 1977.

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    Best Things to Do in Northern France 1. Be Moved by Mont Saint-Michel. Be moved by Mont Saint-Michel, the wonder of the Western World and one of the best places to visit in Northern France.This superb Benedictine abbey and renowned center of pilgrimage is set on a rocky island at the mouth of the Couesnon River, where the regions of Normandy and Brittany meet.

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    2. Take a Seine River Cruise River cruise along the Seine . Cruising the Seine River is a delightful way to see all of Paris' top sights while enjoying a relaxing experience. The Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches offers scenic boat tours, sailing past the Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, the Musée D'Orsay, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and other landmarks along the way.

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    6. Cité de Carcassonne. Moving to the south of France, one of the most popular tourist attractions in France has to be the in town of Carcassonne. La Cité de Carcassonne and its Château Comtal, with its enormous walls, look and feel like they belong in another time.

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    12. Normandy. Along the northwest coast of France, Normandy is synonymous with modern history. The coast's lengthy beaches have become famous thanks to D-Day. And while the rugged coast harbors rich WWII history, it's just the beginning. Beyond the vast shores is a region steeped in literary history.

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    12. La Rochelle. Nicknamed the ´White City,´ due to its limestone edifices that are so beautifully illuminated at night, La Rochelle is a charming place to visit. Once an important seaport in centuries gone by, the old port, historic center and picturesque waterfront are reason enough to visit La Rochelle.

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    These are simple things like saying "pardon me," "hello," and "goodbye," as well as "please" and "thank you." Steves suggests that you'll get better treatment if you use these phrases while visiting France. Even a good-faith attempt goes a long way. In addition, we have a few more words and phrases that you can add to this list if you have more ...

  23. Shop For A Scenic Picnic Like A Local At Rick Steves' Favorite ...

    It would be an understatement to say that the French love cheese. Thus, it's fundamental to include it on your Rue Cler picnic shopping list. Rick Steves recommends a visit to La Fromagerie, known ...

  24. 31 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Paris

    Address: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris (Métro: Cité or Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station) 7. Place de la Concorde. The Place de la Concorde stands at the heart of Paris both literally and figuratively. The square was created in 1772 by the architect of King Louis XV.

  25. Amazon.com: TAHITI TRAVEL GUIDE 2024/2025: Your Ultimate Travel

    TAHITI TRAVEL GUIDE 2024/2025: Your Ultimate Travel Companion to the Enchanting Islands of French Polynesia - Explore Pristine Beaches, Must see Attractions and Cultural Experiences. Kindle Edition by Anastasia B. Montez (Author) Format: Kindle Edition

  26. 20 Best Places to Visit in the South of France

    The Camargue. 20. Plage de l'Espiguette. Map of Places to Visit in the South of France. 1. French Riviera Seaside Resorts. Beach in Cannes. The sunny weather, mesmerizing deep-blue sea, and leafy palm trees give the French Riviera a dreamy quality. Also known as the "Côte d'Azur," the French Riviera delivers fabulous beach holidays with a ...

  27. Garden tours, plants sales and more ways to spend time among flowers

    Maine Audubon Society Native Plants Sale and Festival. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 8, Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, 20 Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth, 207-781-2330. maineaudubon.org. More than 75 species ...