The Most Beautiful Places In France To Visit – Part One
France is arguably one of the most popular destinations to visit in Europe. Paris top attractions boasts some of the most famous places in France; the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Seine River and Notre Dame will always bring a crowd. France oozes great culture, famous for its art and galleries, the castles or chateaux are marvelled from countries afar.
For food lovers, the gastronomy of France is enviable to the rest of the word. Vineyards are a popular touring route, locals flock to France’s remarkable seaside cities and villages in Summer and the French Alps in winter to ski incredible world class runs is high on everyone’s to-do list.
Some would contest that some of the best places to visit in France, are those that not so many people know so much about. Keep reading to discover some of the most beautiful places in France to visit, as recommended by avid travellers from around the globe!
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Beautiful Places In France To Visit
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, more well known as Chamonix, home of Mont Blanc (4810m). Located in the south east, Haute-Savoie region of France, Chamonix is a world class skiing destination and in the Summer months, known for its fabulous mountaineering and outdoor activities in France.
The Chamonix village is surrounded by exquisite mountains which border Italy and Switzerland. One would argue the most impressive location in the French Alps, with snow capped mountains towering above in every direction.
People flock to Chamonix in the winter months for epic skiing, featuring some of the best runs in the country. In Summer, you can experience some fantastic adventurous activities including mountain hiking, canyoning, glacier walking, mountain biking, white water rafting and so much more – opportunities are endless.
Chamonix is also known for its great apres ski and is a remarkable spot to sit with a local wine in hand in Summer as the sun goes down. There are lots of great accommodation options in Chamonix and hotels that range in budget to suit all travellers.
If you’re planning a trip to France, be sure to add Chamonix-Mont-Blanc to the list, it is one of the best places to visit in France.
Recommended by Australian Mountains To Sea
Bayeux, in the North West of France, is one of the most historical places to visit in France.
The town is most famous for the Bayeux Tapestry (also known as “Queen Mathilde’s tapestry”), which is a piece of embroidered cloth nearly 70m (230ft!) long.
The 11th century tapestry tells the story of the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. It’s housed in a museum in the town and is definitely worth a visit.
Whilst you’re in Bayeux, be sure to visit the botanical gardens- known as “one of the most remarkable 19th century landscaped parks in Normandy”. These incredibly lush gardens have trails and paths throughout, allowing you to explore and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Another must see is the cathedral in Bayeux. This Gothic building was consecrated in 1077- it’s nearly 1000 years old!
There is also a path along the side of the River Aure which offers pedestrians and cyclists a fantastic way to explore the area and get a closer look at old restored mills and wash houses.
If you’re looking for accommodation ideas, try the Chateau de Bellefontaine. The rooms are beautifully appointed and you’re only a 10 minute drive from the cathedral or the museum.
Recommended by Wandering Bird
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is just a short 30-minute drive from Avignon, making it an easy destination to visit.
Hotel du Soleil is one of my favourite spots to stay in town. They have beautiful rooms, a lovely pool, a garden, and even a spa. It’s about a two-minute walk from the centre of the city, making it a simple choice.
Although St. Remy is a bit off the beaten path it’s got plenty of culture and beautiful scenery. This tiny village is the place where Vincent van Gogh painted many of his famous works of art, including Starry Night.
If you’re into art history, you can even visit The Saint Paul Monastery where Van Gogh was a patient. You’ll see the room he lived in during his time in this mental institution. Plus, visit the small museum that’s dedicated to his time there.
I highly encourage you to stroll through the colorful cobblestone streets, browsing markets, and indulging in their delicious food and wine offerings.
While you’re wandering around the village, you’ll also see plaques with images of his famous works, that point out references to that specific area in the village in the artwork.
I also recommend renting a car to cruise around the countryside, especially during the sunflower and lavender seasons. You can plan and stock up on picnic items, and find the perfect picturesque spot in the country for a picnic.
St. Remy will truly charm you and have you wanting to continue to return to explore more.
Recommended by Ally Travels
Villefranche sur Mer
Villefranche sur Mer is a lovely small town just on the outskirts of Nice. It’s a popular getaway for many Nice residents, since Villefranche has much nicer beaches. It only takes about 15 minus on a scooter, 10 minutes by train or bus, or an hour long walk from Nice to get there.
Apart from Villefranche’s charming pebble beaches, the historical part of the town shouldn’t be missed. It’s small and consists of a labyrinth of narrow streets. The church of St. Michael belongs to top landmarks, so does the chapel of St. Elisabeth with its unique façade.
Villefranche’s gastronomy is excellent too and you can savor a delicious meal with freshly caught seafood and using locally made olive oil, all with the view of the Mediterranean Sea.
After a good meal, climb to the hill just next to the Old Town – it’s where Villefranche Citadel, a stone fortress from the 16th century, is located. You can admire the City Hall, several museums and, above all, the elevated views of the Villefranche Bay, where often even large cruise ships are anchored.
You can easily visit Villefranche on a day trip from Nice, but if you’d rather stay overnight, you will experience a beautifully quiet town with just a few locals and cats. Stay e.g. at the mid-range Hotel De La Darse, which has great reviews and is a good value for money.
Recommended by Travel Geekery
At the very end of the legendary French Riviera (aka Côte d’Azur) and brushing the border with northern Italy, you’ll find the charming town of Menton, a colorful pearl overlooking the turquoise of the Mediterranean.
If you manage to pluck yourself away from the beautiful shingle beach and the lively promenade, you’ll quickly reach the Old Town. The first thing you’ll notice here is the strong Italian influence in the architecture, a leftover from Italian occupation in the 40s. Colorful buildings with their pastel wooden shutters tower over quiet alleyways where you can get lost snapping a never-ending stream of Instagrammable pictures.
Keep strolling up the hilly streets and past the stately Basilica Saint-Michel-Archange and you’ll find Cimetiere du Trabuquet, where you’ll be treated to an astounding view over the city and the marina.
When you’re done exploring the streets and trying the many restaurants on offer, you’ll have a plethora of activities waiting for you, from exploring the Val Rahmeh-Menton Botanical Garden, to trying your luck at a casino, and even engaging in some intense hiking to the top of Pic de Baudon. If you visit Menton during the second half of February (post pandemic) you’ll even get an extra treat: the Lemon Festival, during which impressive sculptures made out of lemons line the streets and are paraded around the city on floats!
Between hotels and apartment rentals, accommodation in Menton abounds for multiple price points. Alternatively, you can stay in Nice, just 39km/18mi away, where you’ll have an even greater and slightly more affordable selection. There are over 40 daily trains connecting the two (USD $6/trip), with Monaco sitting roughly in the middle. This makes Menton a great option for both weekend trips and longer stays. Unlikely though it is you’ll get tired of this Mediterranean gem, if you do you’ll have a myriad of places to explore within a 30-minute train trip!
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Bayonne is the gateway to France’s Basque country, and its Basque History Museum is an excellent way to learn about this unusual culture, which has no similarities with any other on earth.
Bayonne is also famous for its annual fair, which celebrates Basque culture. The fair is reminiscent of the running of the bulls in Pamplona (although no bulls are actually run), and plenty of music and food are involved in this week-long event, where participants all dress in traditional white with red bandannas.
Basque chefs are famous around the world so it’s no surprise the city has a gastronomic vocation. It is known as the capital of chocolate, because this is the city through which chocolate entered France – and the tradition continues, with chocolate shops dotting the streets. The other main food claim to fame is ‘jambon de Bayonne’, a prosciutto-like product.
Bayonne has always been a fortified town of sorts but major defensive works were undertaken in the 17th century by Vauban, the genius engineer who worked under Louis XIV. These are still in existence.
The metropolis of Bordeaux is not too far from Bayonne, less than a two-hour drive. While reaching Bayonne is relatively simple by train or plane, Bayonne is the perfect jumping off point for a French Basque country road trip.
Le Port Neuf is a cute little hotel in the old quarter of Bayonne, perfect to experience a traditional Basque house.
Recommended by Offbeat France
Escape to the beautiful village of Gassin, close to the popular beach destination of Saint Tropez. This tiny village is perched high up on a rock, only a few kilometres from the sea. It offers the most incredible coastline views of the Gulf de St. Tropez in one direction and mountain views in the other. It’s no wonder it is known as Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, or one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
Gassin became a fortified village at the end of the 15th century. Some of the significant landmarks include chapels from the 11th and 16th centuries, a 16th century Town Hall and a botanical garden. It also holds the record for having the smallest street in the world measuring at only 29 centimetres at its narrowest point. Wander and get lost in the scenic winding pedestrian-only streets. The ancient houses, all brimming with delightful flowers, are a kaleidoscope of pretty pastel colours.
Follow along the terraced wall, the Promenade Dei Barri, where you will find the village’s restaurants. Each of them features large outdoor terraces all for the reason to gaze out onto the most incredible panoramic views. A recommended stay at La Maison de Village Gassin is a must. This highly stylized property is a modern loft with the most incredible terrace views.
Recommended by Dream Plan Experience
Les Gets in the French Alps is a wonderful town to visit in France. Located just over an hour from Geneva in Switzerland, this alpine village is a snowy playground during the winter and packed full of outdoor adventures in the summer.
Les Gets (pronounced ‘les jeh’) forms part of the Franco-Swiss Portes du Soleil region. Numerous villages dot the area including purpose-built resorts and those such as Les Gets that started life as traditional farming villages.
Skiing and snowboarding are the main attractions in winter months and there are slopes to suit all abilities plus great ski school options. Visit during the summer and you’ll discover that there are lots of things to do in Les Gets. The most popular activity is downhill mountain biking and the village is one of the best places to do this in Europe. The resort is home to 128 km of marked trails, 13 downhill tracks, 1 Freeride track plus a jump park and a kids’ zone. They also boast Enduro tracks – and an 80km Enduro tour through the Portes du Soleil – as well as electric mountain biking tracks.
Other popular summertime activities include hiking, swimming in the mountain lakes and visits to the newly opened Alta Lumina, a magical light trail through the forest.
Recommended by Globetotting
Albi is a beautiful city located in southern France. Although well worth visiting in its own right, it is also one of the best day trips from Toulouse, as it is just an hour away by train.
The Episcopal City has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status owing to the medieval architecture which characterises it. Reminiscent of something you’d see on a postcard, this is undoubtedly one of France’s prettiest cities.
No trip to Albi is complete without a visit to the Saint Cecilia Cathedral which is the largest brick-built cathedral in the world. Whilst the outside of the cathedral is intimidating, the inside is a welcome haven from the beating sun and boasts some stunning intricate carvings. As well as the cathedral, there are a number of walking routes around the city which showcase more world-class architecture and picturesque street corners.
One of the best things about the city is the local gastronomy. There are several incredible restaurants to choose from, many of which offer set lunch menus which offer great value for money. Don’t miss the opportunity to try French Onion soup!
When it comes to accommodation, there are numerous options around the city. To stay in the heart of the action, check out Hotel Les Pasterliers. This hotel is a great budget-friendly option for couples, offering ensuite rooms.
Recommended by Winging The World
Situated on the banks of the Loire River, Amboise is a charming French town with a lot to offer. The town is home to the Royal Château d’Amboise, Château du Clos Luce, and Château Gaillard.
The Royal Château d’Amboise was formerly lodging for French kings as they traveled throughout the country. Today it serves as a museum and offers spectacular views of the Loire River.
Château du Clos Luce is where Leonardo da Vinci lived up until his death in 1519. In the Château is his workshop, where you have the opportunity to learn about his life as an artist, inventor, and innovative engineer. His final resting place is also located in Amboise, at Chappelle Hubert.
At Château Gaillard, you can visit the impressive orangerie and explore the sprawling gardens.
Amboise is one of the only towns in the Loire River Valley that is accessible from Paris by public transportation. So, if you want to visit some castles during your trip to the French capital, Amboise is the perfect day trip from Paris.
The town itself is filled with half-timbered houses, cafes and restaurants, and the remnants of French royalty. This quintessential French town is by far one of the best to visit in France!
Recommended by The Migrant Yogi
France’s second city is often overlooked by visitors on their way inland to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, yet it has so much to offer the curious traveller. Located on a dazzling coastline, it’s less famous than the Côte d’Azur, and its beaches have a distinctly rustic feel, but that’s all the more reason to love this wonderfully authentic French city.
Venture into the Vieux Port at the heart of the city and you’ll find a bustling fish market, where the local restauranteurs select their catch for the daily menu. Climb the steep stairs to the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde that stands tall above the city, and take a visit to the modern MuCEM (museum of civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean) that’s located right on the waterfront.
Don’t miss Marseille’s oldest district, Le Panier, where you can witness the true character of the city, and don’t be afraid to venture up to the Marché des Capucins where you’ll find a colourful display of spices, fruits and vegetables on offer among the raucous atmosphere of vendors peddling their wares. End your days with a drink on a rooftop terrace and you’ll soon understand why so many choose this noisy & sometimes gritty city as their home.
Airbnbs in Marseille are surprisingly affordable for a large city. Or you could choose to stay in the comfort of the iconic Intercontinental Hotel Dieu which benefits from some of the finest views in town. To get to Marseille, take the TGV or a short flight from Paris.
Recommended by Le Long Weekend
Ribeauville is one of the small picturesque French villages that lie on the Alsace Wine Route. Ribeauville has a population of just under 5,000 people and is highly popular with travellers exploring the Alsace.
Located just 16 kilometres from Colmar and an easy day trip from Strasbourg, the town is surrounded by fields of Vineyards. The main street is lined with restaurants, bakeries, cellar doors and medieval cobblestones. At Christmas time the town holds a very popular Christmas mark in December. You should definitely try the local wine from the Ribeauville Wine Co-Op.
On the hill directly behind the town, you will find Castle Saint-Ulrich, Castle Girsberg and Haut-Ribeaupierre. There is a popular walking trail from the centre of town that takes in historical sites. If you want experience Ribeauville like a local head off the main streets and find some local establishments such as Gorman Drinks where the locals drink and eat. A visit to Ribeauville is a must.
Recommended by Wyld Family Travel