France is more than just Paris! If you’re wondering where to go when you’re in the country, we’ve got you covered with this guide.
When you think of France, Paris is definitely at the top of the list. However, there’s more to the country than the City of Love! While the French capital oozes architecture, history, and culture, plenty of other cities are worth exploring too. Not sure where to go? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this travel guide: from the countryside to the coastline, these are the best places to visit in France.
Pro tip: the best time for a vacay in France is during its shoulder season, which happens from April to June and September to November. It’s not crowded with tourists, and flight and accommodation prices are not too steep. The more you know!
France travel guide: Best cities you should visit
Located on the chic French Riviera, Nice is the fifth largest city in France and is often considered a popular destination for many travellers. Why? Because it has gorgeous beaches, plenty of sunshine, and an illustrious history. What can we say – it’s nice to be here. (Sorry, we can’t help it!)
The first thing you should do is walk along the famous Promenade de Anglais, where you can gaze out over the Mediterranean Sea. If you need a breather, stop and relax on one of the blue chairs. Be sure to climb to Colline du Chateau, Nice’s highest point, where you’ll find the former Chateau de Nice.
Now, no trip to Nice is complete without spending some time at the beach! Pack a towel and sunscreen before heading to Castle Plage, where you can work on your tan and grab a bite. When you’re done, venture into Vielle Ville, where cathedrals and historical monuments await. If you’re an art lover, you must go to the Musee National Marc Chagall. FYI: his works inspired many famous artists, including Picasso.
To all the wine connoisseurs, this is the city you should visit in France. Bordeaux straddles the banks of the river Garonne, which is a sight to behold in itself. Book a wine tasting at Medoc, Margaux, or St Emilion. Don’t get too tipsy – you still want to be sober enough to explore the city!
If you plan to spend time outdoors, make a day of it at the Jardin Public. Created in 1746, this expansive park is considered Bordeaux’s soul. Pack a picnic basket, a good read, and of course, don’t forget the booze. Make your way to the Grand Theater de Bordeaux or Pont de Pierre before the day ends to watch the sun go down.
When evening descends, talk a walk down the Rue Sainte Catherine. Spanning 1.2 kilometres, here’s where you can do some shopping. You should also cross the bridge to Darwin, a neighbourhood filled with street art and boutique restaurants.
Are you intending to eat your way through France? Then you must drop by Lyon. The city’s often dubbed the gastronomic capital of the world, and it’s easy to see why. When you’re here, sample Lyonnaise cuisines such as la quenelle (dumplings made with breadcrumbs, veal fat, and pike fish), le tablier de sapeur (beef tripe marinated in white wine and cooked in court bouillon), and more.
Besides a buzzing food scene, Lyon is also regarded as one of France’s most beautiful cities. The Rhone and Saone rivers converge here, and both riverbanks are littered with fancy cafes and restaurants. You can even consider having your meal along the river. Don’t miss the Fresque des Lyonnais, a beloved life-like public art mural.
Parc de la Tete d’Or is another place to add to your itinerary. This sprawling urban park covers 117 hectares and contains four rose gardens, greenhouses, and a botanical garden. There’s even a small zoo in the middle of the park! If you end up in the city centre, head to Place Bellecour and ride the 60m-high Ferris wheel.
As the country’s oldest and third most populated city, Marseille has seen it all. It had to shake off its negative reputation to become what it is today: a cosmopolitan city which was conferred the Cultural City of Europe award in 2013. This bustling port city is one locale people flock to whenever they travel to the south of France.
But what’s there to do here? Plenty! Take the train to the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, which sits at the city’s highest point. Step inside and admire the beautiful murals, coloured marble statues, and mosaics. Here’s also where you can drink in the stunning views of Marseille and the port. Be sure to arrive early, as this is one famous attraction.
If you’re a history buff, there are many other places worth seeing. Drop by Chateau d’If, which was a fortress before being used as a prison. It’s also the setting for French author Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. The Abbaye Saint-Victor is said to be the oldest church in France and filled with religious history. You’ll tour the Basilica and the crypts, ending with magnificent views of the Vieux Port.
Now, a France travel guide ain’t complete without mentioning its capital. We can wax lyrical about Paris all day, but you probably already know loads about the City of Lights. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, the Sacre Coeur Basilica… these are a few iconic landmarks you’ll primarily spot when you’re there. But what if we told you there are hidden gems you shouldn’t miss?
Those with nerves of steel should check out Les Catacombes de Paris, where the bones of millions of Parisians were transferred in the 18th century. It’s 20 metres underground and stretches almost two kilometres, roughly taking an hour to walk through. Wear comfy shoes! Speaking of underground, you can also visit Musee des Egouts de Paris and learn more about the city’s drainage system.
One lesser-known attraction that’s a must-see is the sinking house in Montmartre. Is it really going down? (Do we have to yell “timber”?) Or are your eyes just playing tricks on you? Remember to snap some photos and put them on the ‘gram.
Et voila, our travel guide to France. Which city are you most excited about?