Colmar by Laure Wanders, craftmanship houses in different colors line the bank of a river
City,  France

30 of the Best Cities to Visit in France

Last Updated: June 6th 2024.

France is a beautiful country, that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime, but preferably several times. When visiting which are the best cities to visit in France? There’s of course Paris, with which we’ll start with, but there are many more best cities in France to visit. I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers what their best cities in France are, and added my own favorites.

Best Cities to Visit in France

We’ve come up with a list of 30 best cities of France, some well-known but also some less well-known. All are perfect to include in road trips.

Paris, Île-de-France

Arc de Triomphe as seen from the Eiffel Tower
Arc de Triomphe as seen from the Eiffel Tower.

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

Paris, the City of Love and the City of Light (La Ville Lumière). To a lot the most beautiful city in the world, others are let down by the city when they visit. Since like any other (large) city, Paris has its share of problems, such as smell, crimes, throngs of tourists and so on. But don’t let this get you down, Paris is still a city that can enchant you and has enough to discover for many weeks and/or return trips.

The first vacation of my husband (boyfriend back then) and I was to Paris, back in 1999. We visited well-known landmarks such as Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Disneyland Paris, Louvre, Champs-Élysées, Musée d’Orsay, Sacré-Cœur and many more. Which all definitely should be on your Paris itinerary.

We vowed to come back every 10 years and have done so, so far. Next to the obvious tourist things, we also did some less obvious things such as a Paris macaron walking tour, which is so much fun. Tasting different macarons and chocolates at superb establishments is a whole different way of discovering the city.

The City of Love, since a boat tour on the Seine is just romantic. Or sitting on the grass with cheese and wine while the Eiffel Tower is lit up. Or having your picture drawn at Montmartre.

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Lyon by LifePart2 & Beyond, an overview of the city with the cathedral in the middle, as seen from further afar between trees
Lyon by LifePart2 & Beyond.

Contributed by Sarah from LifePart2 & Beyond.

Lyon, the culinary capital of France, is an absolute gem of a city to visit. Apart from eating and enjoying some of the best food on offer in France, there is much to see and discover in this beautiful city.

For the visitor to Lyon, there are three main areas of Lyon to explore. Start with Vieux Lyon, the delightful Renaissance part of town. It’s fun to lose yourself in the old town’s narrow winding streets and discover the hidden traboules – a network of passageways that lead to secret courtyards. Be sure to make your way up Fourvière Hill and visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, affectionately known as the upside elephant. Not only is it an impressive church, but there are fantastic views from here over the city.

Next head to Presqu’île, which means almost an island. Here, you will find the central shopping district, incredible squares, art galleries and museums. It’s also a great place to base yourself for your stay in Lyon. 

And don’t forget to visit Croix-Rousse, once the home of a thriving silk industry, but now only a handful of silk factories remain. The area is now becoming the hipster part of Lyon with trendy boutiques, coffee shops and bars. 

Also, as you wander from one district in Lyon to another, don’t forget to keep an eye out for incredible street art and frescos. Be sure to visit the stunning Fresque des Lyonnais; it’s an astonishing mural – you can’t miss it. 

Would I recommend Lyon? Absolutely, Lyon is one of my favorite cities in France. For more information on what to see and do in Lyon, please look here.

Nantes, Pays de la Loire

Carrousel des Mondes Marins
Carrousel des Mondes Marins.

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

Nantes is a beautiful port city in Northwestern France. To learn more about its history, but also because it’s a fun visit, visit the Château des ducs de Bretagne (One of our fairytale castles in France). A castle that was built in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 15th century. The castle is situated in the city center of Nantes and from the top of its walls you’ll have excellent views on the city. Inside the castle is an interesting historical museum, which we loved visiting. Perfect for people wanting to learn more about the history of Nantes.

The other top attraction in the city of Nantes is the Les Machines de L’île. Situated on the Île de Nantes, this is a spectacular visit, which should not be missed. Ride on Le Grant Elephant, make a tour in the Carrousel des Mondes Marins (Marine Worlds) and visit the Galerie des Machines with several working mechanical animals. A real site to see and experience.

Don’t forget to admire the Cathedrale of Nantes or the Lu Tower (from the cookies).

Colmar, Alsace

Colmar by Laure Wanders, craftmanship houses in different colors line the bank of a river
Colmar by Laure Wanders.

Contributed by Laure from Laure Wanders.

With its beautiful canals and half-timbered houses, Colmar is one of France’s most charming cities. It’s located in the Alsace region and surrounded by the Upper Rhine Valley. This area is known for its
vineyards and castles, two things France is famous for.

Colmar offers an abundance of things to see and do. From admiring the city’s medieval buildings and visiting its many churches to trying some local delicacies or cruising the canals, it’s a city that doesn’t
disappoint. On top of that, Colmar’s historical center looks like something straight out of a fairytale.

You can visit Colmar all year round, but if you’re here around December, you’ll find plenty of Christmas markets waiting to be discovered. During this time of the year, the streets will also be decorated with stunning ornaments!

All in all, Colmar is a colorful city that has something to offer to almost anyone, and it cannot be missed on a trip to France.

Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Bordeaux, with the river Garonne on the right, statues lining the boulevard and a large building on the left

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

Bordeaux is a city in Southwestern France. A city many people pass by on their way South, but worth a longer stop. Bordeaux is world renown for the wines in the area. Bordeaux is a perfect base for exploring the surrounding wine region. There’s also a wine museum, Musée du Vin, in the city center and the Cité du Vin with expositions about wine.

Wine isn’t the only food that Bordeaux is known for, canelés is what Bordeaux is also famous for. Small pastries in the shape of a turband. The outside is crunchy with caramelized sugar, the inside is soft. It can have different flavors, such as rum or vanilla.

Tour the city with a (self-)guided tour. Don’t miss the Place des Quinconces, Porte Cailhau, Grosse cloche des Bordeaux and stroll along the Garonne. Porte Cailhau and the Grosse cloche des Bordeaux are beautiful gates you can admire. Place des Quinconces is a square with a beautiful fountain (Monument aux Girondins) and a Ferris wheel. It’s the largest square in France and one of the largest in Europe. The Garonne is the river crossing through Bordeaux. Along it is a boulevard and lots of monuments. Don’t miss the bronze statues of Chat de Geluck, which are really funny. We loved checking them out.

Dijon, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

Dijon by Planes Trains and Buggies, a street with craftmanship houses in black
Dijon by Planes Trains and Buggies.

Contributed by Becky from Planes Trains and Buggies.

Dijon is the Capital City of the Burgundy Region of France and is reached within an hour and a half from Paris. It’s a small City with a population of just 150,000 which adds to its wonderful charm. Famed for being in the midst of one of the most famous wine regions in the World, as well as its globally renowned mustard, it’s a stunning little City that should not be missed. 

Designated as a World Heritage Site since 2015, the medieval center of Dijon is really very impressive. With many streets shadowed with over-hanging medieval houses it’s like stepping back in time. You can climb to the top of the Tour Philippe Le Bon to get an aerial view of the City. 

Dijon is also reputed as one of the major culinary centres in France, hosting the 6th largest food festival in the Country each year. In the hot summer months, the Place de la Libération and the Ducal Palace is buzzing with people dining outside cafes and restaurants and children playing in the refreshing water fountains.  

Biarritz, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

The view from Olatua. Coffee places in Europe
The view from Olatua.

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

Biarritz is a city situated on the Atlantic coast, in Southwestern France and is part of French Basque Country. Just 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from the border with Spain. In the Middle Ages it was a fishing town, now it’s known as a luxurious seaside town destination, the casinos in front of the ocean and it’s surfing culture.

From Olatua Biarritz, one of our favorite coffee places in Europe, you’ll have a perfect view on Rocher de la Vierge. Which is the emblem of the city. A rock in the Bay of Biscay with a perfect view and a statue of the virgin Mary.

Close by is the Musée de la Mer, museum about the sea and with an aquarium. It’s housed in a beautiful art-deco building. Further don’t miss the Cité de L’Océan. A fun, modern museum about everything to do with the ocean, with interactive exhibits, such as several attractions with a VR headset. Such as surfing with a VR headset.

Further you come to Biarritz to surf, swim in the ocean and lay on the beach.  

Mulhouse, Alsace

Mulhouse by Ukeveryday, a square with colorful houses around it and some cars and terraces
Mulhouse by Ukeveryday.

Contributed by Paulina from Ukeveryday.

If you are looking for a nice day trip from Germany or Switzerland there is no better place to visit in France than Mulhouse. This industrial town is located very close to the borders of those countries. Known as “the French Manchester” with the world’s largest automobile and railway museums such as Cité du Train and Cité de l’Automobile it is definitely worth visiting.

The beautiful Temple Saint-Étienne and pink town hall look really impressive in the city center. You should definitely visit Cafe Mozart to admire the amazing architecture in the heart of Mulhouse. There are plenty of other cafes in French style such as Le Charlie’s Bar or La Vinoteca Gaia. However, if you would like to try something different, visit an Italian coffee shop – Engel’s Coffee.

Don’t miss out on the uniqueness of this region. Convenient location and good connection to the airport makes it a great option for a weekend getaway. This charming city with renaissance-style buildings and interesting museums will make you fall in love with France.

Grasse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

To show that you could also smell authentic smells. Cosette and Yuri are smelling pink roses each on a bush. Gorges du Verdon with kids.
Cosette and Yuri smelling roses at Musee International de la Parfumerie.

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

This city in Southwestern France is mostly known as the perfume city. Grasse is the center of the perfume industry in France. Three large perfume houses call the city home: Galimard, Molinard and Fragonard.

Several of these perfume houses can be visited. To learn more about the history of the perfume industry, visit the Musée International de la Parfumerie. Which is a hands on museum that lets you experience different scents.

The historical city center has lots of terraces, perfect to sit down at and perfume shops to nose around at.

To immerse yourself completely in the world of perfume visit Musée Fragonard, Villa Fragonard, le Musée du Parfum and participate at a workshop and fabric tour at Molinard.

Honfleur, Normandie

Honfleur by Karpiak Caravan, a harbor with yacht ships (small), on the dock terraces with colorful buildings/houses behind it
Honfleur by Karpiak Caravan.

Contributed by Casandra from Savoteur.

Honfleur is a small port city in the north of France, 190 kilometers (118 miles) away from Paris, in the department of Calvados, in Normandy.

Its historic harbor was one of the most important ones in France and had some famous painters, such as Claude Monet and Eugène Boudin (who painted some masterpieces there) who made Honfleur their home.

Today Honfleur is definitely a must-see for anyone visiting France. Honfleur has kept its historical look, and you can enjoy walking around looking at all the colorful wooden houses, shopping in the little streets and having lunch of moules frîtes on a terrace overlooking the harbor basin.

The Normandy Bridge is a spectacular sight to see as you enter Honfleur from the North. Saint Catherine’s Church is the largest church made of wood in all of France. You can walk through the public gardens on your way to the beach. Everywhere you look is stunning in Honfleur.

Honfleur is one of the most beautiful places in France, so it’s not something you should miss out on if you’re visiting Normandy or just passing by. However, it does get quite crowded with tourists during the high season, so be sure to plan ahead. A perfect stop on a Northern France road trip.

Besançon, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

Contributed by Caroline from Veggie Wayfarer.

France has many starlets when it comes to tourist spots yet somehow Besançon has not made it to the wall of fame. This city in Eastern France is at the epicentre of outdoor activitities, miles of vineyards and some of the country’s most beautiful nature, welcome to the Jura Region.

Besançon though small in size – a mere 116.000 inhabitants – has held a historic importance throughout the centuries, evidence of which can be found in the sheer size of the Besançon citadelle as well as the various Roman ruins dotted around the city. Some of the cities most illustrious inhabitants include Victor Hugo and the Lumières brothers (the inventors of the modern day cinema).

When visiting Besançon make sure to count in enough time for a wine tasting. The wines from the Jura come in red, white and yellow – though in all honestly the yellow wine is a very acquired taste. Additionally the region is known for cremantVin de Paille and the digestif Macvin.

Reims, Grand Est

Reims Cathedral by Salut from Paris, the cathedral as seen from the front a bit on the side
Reims Cathedral by Salut from Paris.

Contributed by Lena from Salut from Paris.

Reims is certainly a city that shouldn’t be missing on any France bucket list. Situated in the East of France, within the Champagne region, Reims can easily be visited as a day trip from Paris, but also be integrated in any France road trip.

Reims is an important location for French history. Originally founded by Celtic settlers and conquered by the Romans, Reims was a strategical site in their empire. Some remains of their sovereignty are still present today. For example, the Mars Gate, the oldest landmark of Reims. 

In the Middle Ages, Reims became the bishopric and all French kings received their coronation in the beautiful Gothic Cathedral that still stands today and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

However, besides its historical importance, Reims is nothing less than the capital of the most exquisite drink: Champagne! Today, many sparkling wines are commonly called Champagne, but legally, only the wines made from local grapes and that are produced in the region can be labelled Champagne. 

Not surprising, most big Champagne Houses chose Reims as their headquarters: Veuve Cliquot, G.H.Mumm, and Pommery, just to name a few. If you look into stocking up your Champagne cellar or just getting a bubbly souvenir, Reims is the best place for it. 

Metz, Grand Est

Metz @ Jürgen Reichenpfader PlacesofJuma, a river that is split by an island with a cathedral on it and trees
Metz @ Jürgen Reichenpfader PlacesofJuma.

Contributed by Martina & Jürgen from PlacesofJuma.

The beautiful city of Metz is definitely one of the most worth visiting places to visit in France. It is located in the Northeast of the country, near the borders with Luxembourg and Germany. When traveling there, you can expect several highlights that make this city very special. There is a historic old town right on the river, picturesque gardens with blooming flowers, the many delicious French restaurants and noble boutiques that invite you into the store. In addition, the small town has a charm all on its own, which should not be missed on any trip to France.

The best time to visit Metz is undoubtedly Spring and Summer! On warm days, locals but also tourists like to stroll along the riverbank or take a boat ride. Metz is located directly on the Moselle River, which is connected by bridges to the tiny island of Saulcy. This district is particularly charming, because many buildings date back to the 18th century.

The most important sight in the city is the Cathedral of Metz – Saint-Étienne. It is one of the most beautiful and largest Gothic church buildings in France. But also worth seeing is the Opéra-Théatre de Metz Métropole (Opera House), which is one of the oldest opera houses in Europe.

All in all, Metz is an absolute highlight in France. It inspires with a lot of historical charm and many wonderful attractions!

Grimaud, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Grimaud by Ronja Goes Abroad, an old stone bridge crossing a river with trees and a hill behind it
Grimaud by Ronja Goes Abroad.

Contributed by Ronja from Ronja Goes Abroad.

Grimaud, is a smaller city close to the well-known port city of Saint Tropez. But that doesn’t make Grimaud any less worth visiting! 

Grimaud is a place for anyone who loves cities close to the sea. Port Grimaud is a well-known sight to see. The port is also known by the name ”the Venice of the French Riviera” and they are not lying. The restaurants by the sea, houses built ”on” the sea with their boat parking and so much more!

If you don’t like the sea and want to explore old towns, Grimaud is also for you! The old town is very gorgeous during every season! If you like hiking take the short hike from old town Grimaud to The Fairy Bridge. This beautiful old bridge is a hidden gem in the city. 

There are also many smaller towns close to Grimaud which are great day trip destinations.

When to visit? Definitely during the Spring/Summer season. If the sights are open during the off-season too, but for example, not a single restaurant or boat tour was open by the port in November. So if you want to fully experience the magic of Grimaud, visit during the travel season.

Rouen, Normandie

Rouen Cathedral by RJOnTour, the cathedral as seen from the front
Rouen Cathedral by RJOnTour.

Contributed by Richard from RJOnTour.

The city of Rouen is in the Normandy region of France. It is a beautiful and interesting place to visit. There are lots of tourist attractions in Rouen, including the impressive cathedral and some linked to the legendary Joan of Arc. Rouen Cathedral is a fascinating place to visit year round, however in the summer they have a free nightly light show to watch, which is splendid.

The town has many historic buildings throughout, including some very flamboyant churches and timber-framed buildings. Le Gros-Horloge is an astronomical clock and tower and is a popular thing to see. Exploring the side streets of the city center is wonderful with all the historic buildings in it. If you want to find out about the local hero Joan of Arc, the Historical Jeanne d’Arc is a fantastic place to visit. This is an immersive museum that tells the story of Joan up to her being burned at the stake in Rouen.

Rouen is also on the River Seine, which is a lovely place to go for a walk or enjoy a meal out admiring the views. Rouen, as with many cities in France, has a fantastic culinary scene and has many top cafes and restaurants to dine out.

Overall Rouen is a great destination for a city break with countless things to see and experience.

Caen, Normandie

Abbey Saint-Etienne by She Goes the Distance, the abbey in the back with a park in front of it
Abbey Saint-Etienne by She Goes the Distance.

Contributed by Michela from She Goes the Distance.

Caen is situated in Northwestern France in the region of Normandy, well-known for the significant events that took place there during World War II. It’s a must-stop for travelers who love learning about the history of the places they visit!

In Caen, its history is on display everywhere you turn. The modern city center is constructed around thousand-year old structures built by William the Conqueror. The first stop on your itinerary should be Château de Caen, the castle of William the Conqueror in which today you can walk around and frequent the museums housed inside. The structure is huge (one of the largest of its kind in Western Europe) and in pristine condition, making exploring every part of the military fort, and now museums housed inside, worthwhile. Don’t miss the view at the top of the turrets! 

Another must stop is the Abbey of Saint-ètienne, whose construction was also ordered by William the Conqueror. The sheer size of the monastery impresses, but it’s the details in the architecture that take your breath away. Meanwhile, to experience Caen’s most recent history, head to the interactive Caen Memorial Museum dedicated to the city’s experience during World War II and other 20th century events. 

A small, modern, and bustling city with its history at center stage: Caen is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Normandy.

Amboise, Centre-Val de Loire

Amboise by Pack Your Bags, the castle as seen from further away with the large beautiful gardens in front of it
Amboise by Pack Your Bags.

Contributed by Bea from PackYourBags.

On the banks of the river Loire, lies the picturesque town of Amboise. If you love castles, history, wine and breathtaking landscapes, Amboise is your place. Many royals and famous people have called Amboise their home. But the most famous resident was none other than the polymath Leonardo da Vinci. And that is why this town lives and breathes the spirit of this Italian master.

If all you have is one day in Amboise then you must visit the Château du Clos Luce and the Château Royal d’Amboise. Château du Clos Luce was home to Leonardo daVinci for the last three years of his life. This castle houses an extensive exhibition of his life and work. But the most impressive are the gardens which are filled with replicas of daVinci’s engineering feats. 

The other equally impressive structure in Amboise is Château Royal d’Amboise, a 15th century royal castle and the location of the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci. The château rests upon the banks of the river Loire. Magnificent views of the surrounding town and countryside can be admired from the ramparts and gardens of this castle.

If you have more than one day in Amboise and the Loire Valley, you will have plenty of things to see and do. The Loire Valley is filled with many other famous and important castles including the Château Chenonceau. 

The town center of Amboise is walkable and filled with picturesque timber-framed houses. And you can enjoy all the trappings of a good French life. The Loire Valley is an important wine region and wine tours and tastings are a great way to spend the time. Another great way to enjoy this area is through hiking and bike tours.

Avignon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Avignon by Into the Bold, an overview from the city as seen from a higher viewpoint
Avignon by Into the Bold.

Contributed by Annie from Into the Bold.

Avignon is one of the most interesting towns in Southern France. There’s something for everyone to love! You’ll find historical sites, art galleries, gorgeous parks, incredible food, and plenty of museums scattered throughout.

Most visitors come to see the Palais des Papes, a palatial residence dating back to the 1300s. It was built for the popes when the papacy was moved to Avignon for sixty-seven years. History lovers will also enjoy walking along the 14th-century ramparts and a visit to the Pont d’Avignon, ruins of a 12th-century bridge.

Situated on the banks of the Rhone River, you can enjoy beautiful green spaces like the Jardin des Doms where you can take in views of the river and countryside from one of the cafes. There are pedestrian walkways along the waterfront, making it the perfect place for a leisurely stroll.

Avignon is home to a wide variety of museums and art galleries. You’ll find works by Renaissance masters like Boticelli in the Musée Calvet and contemporary pieces in the Musée Angladon by artists including Van Gogh. The town also hosts “Off”, Frances’s largest festival in July. During the weeks-long festival, there are more than a thousand performances, spanning all areas of art and entertainment. 

You can visit Avignon as a day trip from Marseille or spend a few days exploring all this lovely town has to offer. For those who would like to plan their own trip through Europe, this planning guide has everything you need

Limoges, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Limoges Market by Nouvelle Aquitaine Travel, the market with stalls lined up
Limoges Market by Nouvelle Aquitaine Travel.

Contributed by Hannah from Nouvelle Aquitane Travel.

Limoges is situated in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France. Rich in Gallo-Roman history, it also has a fascinating place in the chronicle of French Porcelain production. The grand Limoges Cathedral sits atop a hill near the Vienne River, a beautiful example of Gothic detailing and Limousin architecture.

Limoges is a very pedestrian-friendly city, with many squares and shopping streets, and a conveniently compact old town. Visit the restaurants in the Butchery Quarter for a sample of French food elevated to modern tastes.

The National Adrien Dubouché Museum tells the story of the history of porcelain in the area and has over 12,000 pieces in its collection. The Museum of Fine Arts shows the history of enamel production during medieval times – the decorative arts are abundant in Limoges. You will also see examples of Roman history throughout the city, alongside many medieval half-timber framed houses.  

Limoges is only 3.5 hours from Paris by train, and also has a regional airport. With easy access from Paris, Lyon, and the UK, Limoges is a great place to visit on your tour of France.

Aix-en-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Fontaine de la rotonde by The Unknown Enthusiast, the fountain seen half of it on the left and back behind a couple in front of the fountain
Fontaine de la Rotonde by The Unknown Enthusiast.

Contributed by Stephanie from France Adventurer.

Aix-en-Provence is a university town in the region of Provence, located less than an hour North of Marseilles. It is a charming, mid-sized town, but what really makes it special is it is known as the City of a Thousand Fountains. Taking advantage of the many springs in the area, the Romans built hundreds of fountains and there are still over 40 fountains functioning around the city, some big, grand, and serving as focal points in the middle of squares, others small and tucked away. 

The biggest and most famous fountain in Aix-en-Provence is Fontaine de la Rotonde, which is 100 feet in diameter and features animal sculptures, feminine figures depicting Justice, Agriculture, and Fine Arts, and has many streams of water shooting inward. 

This fountain is found at the end of the Cours Mirabeau, a long, pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard, featuring shops, chocolateries, and cafés. It’s really a beautiful location!

Another famous fountain in Aix is at Place d’Albertas, a small enclosed square in the old town. 

Beyond the fountains and the Cours Mirabeau, a cathedral, Cezanne’s workshop and house (the famous painter lived in Aix for many years of his life), five different outdoor markets, a charming old town, and plenty of boutique shopping. 

The city also serves as a great base city to plan day trips to the lavender fields, Arles, Avignon, and so many others. When planning your France itinerary add Aix-en-Provence to your list. It truly has so much to offer!

Annecy, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Annecy by Our Escape Clause, river in the middle lined by buildings/houses on both sides
Annecy by Our Escape Clause.

Contributed by Kate from Our Escape Clause.

Tucked into the northeastern corner of France, just south of Geneva, sits the stunningly beautiful Alpine city of Annecy.

Known for its picturesque canals, delicious Alpine cuisine (featuring lots of local cheese), and for its local lake, Lake Annecy, being the cleanest lake in all of Europe, Annecy is one of the best cities to visit in France.

The best things to do in Annecy include visiting the famous view of Palais de I’Isle, wandering through the colorful Vieille Ville, checking out the Chateau d’Annecy, enjoying the canals, and shopping at the many local outdoor markets.

Plus, of course, there is a seemingly endless number of options for enjoying Lake Annecy: whether you want to rent a paddleboat, go swimming in the summer, or just stroll around and enjoy the beautiful views, Lake Annecy is bound to delight.

Be sure to also stroll across Lover’s Bridge for a beautiful view of Lake Annecy with a side of romance!

Head a bit further out of town, and all the charm of the Alps–whether on the French or Swiss side of the border–await.

Marseille, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Marseille by Le Long Weekend, the harbor with lots of yacht ships and the city in the back
Marseille by Le Long Weekend.

Contributed by Nadine from Le Long Weekend.

The second-largest city in France, Marseille hasn’t always had a stellar reputation. But a recent regeneration, and the advantage of a sunny Mediterranean climate, is helping put this underrated city back on the map. It’s a place to seek out a different side of France, one that’s very different from the more refined cities of Paris, Bordeaux, or Lyon, but one which is very dynamic, multicultural, and fun! One of the best places to stay in Marseille is near the Vieux Port. From here, you’re close to all that Marseille has to offer, and you can explore it on foot, or with the help of ferries.

Discover the modern MuCEM museum, the charming Le Panier district, and the bustling fish markets that take place right in the port. Take a walk along the waterfront promenade and visit any of the stunning beaches lining the shore. And climb up to the Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde to take in the views of this sprawling city.

Nature isn’t ever far away when you’re in Marseille either, with the stunning Calanques National Park rubbing shoulders with the city’s outer suburbs, and the tranquility of the Frioul Islands just a short ferry ride away.

Versailles, Île-de-France

Versailles by Volumes and Voyages, the elaborately decorated walls and ceiling of a room of the palace
Versailles by Volumes and Voyages.

Contributed by Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages.

Easily one of the best cities to visit in France is none other than Versailles. It’s easily one of the best near Paris Instagram spots, as it’s located just outside of the city.

Most people will visit Versailles to visit the Palace of Versailles, which is famous for how over-the-top it is. Versailles is also one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. Visiting the Palace allows visitors to step back in time to when those who ruled the country were so far removed by what the country was going through, in the time leading up to the French Revolution.

When visiting the Palace of Versailles, if you have time, be sure to go inside. It’s recommended that you purchase your ticket online ahead of time and get there early because you do have to wait in line. If you’d rather visit for free, then explore the gardens; they’re totally underrated, and you can rent a bike to explore the grounds.

Most of the places to stay in Versailles are fairly expensive but consider booking a night at Waldorf Astoria Versailles – Trianon Palace. It’s centrally located and the price isn’t as high as some other hotels in the area.

Antibes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Fort Carre by Chef Denise, the fort is seen in the back on a hill, in front the harbor with pleasure yachts
Fort Carre by Chef Denise.

Contributed by Denise from Chef Denise.

Steeped in history with gorgeous coastal vistas, Antibes offers the best of the French Riviera and should not be missed when visiting France. 

Every picturesque alleyway and flowered square in Antibes provides an Instagrammable moment. Stroll through the cobbled stone streets of Old Town Antibes, known as Vieille Ville, and you’ll quickly realize why this coastal resort captured the hearts of so many—from the Kennedys to Picasso. 

Picasso lived in Antibes in 1946 and left behind a wealth of paintings and drawings which are now in the treasured Picasso Museum. Nearby, the national monument, the Church of the Immaculate Conception commands attention with its colorful facade. Although its history dates back to 63 AD, because of multiple destructions, the most current church was rebuilt in the 1700’s.

Walk the 16th century ramparts for views of the yacht-filled Port Vauban, the hilltop Fort Carré, and the gigantic white sculpture of Le Nomade. Continue on the ramparts from the Plage de la Gravette to Plage de la Salis for a gander at the stunning Cap d’Antibes.

Discover the local foods at the covered Provençal market in the heart of the city. You’ll find fresh flowers, produce, and vegetables, as well as, delicious ready-made specialties of the Côte d’Azur, Provence, and cuisine Nissarde. If you prefer fine dining, try Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit or one of the other Michelin recognized restaurants in the seaside city of Antibes.

Nice, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Nice by Travel with Co, an overview of the city with the beach and sea on the left
Nice by Travel with Co.

Contributed by Jacoba from Op reis met Co.

The city of Nice is located in the South of France, in the Côte d’Azur. It’s a great place for a relaxing vacation because it has a long beach and many sun hours all year round. Nice is a gorgeous city with a historical city center. Besides that, there are also several modern art installations, that give the city an interesting vibe. 

For the best views, make sure to climb Colline de Chateau (also known as Castle Hill) right next to the historical city center. From here, you’ll have a great view of the (long) beach, the boulevard, and the Marina. 

Another great way to get the best sights is to walk over the Promenade des Angles, a long boulevard along the beach. Along this boulevard, you’ll find several interesting buildings and the views are gorgeous. Pro tip: it’s even better during sunset. 

Nice is also great to use as a base for visiting other fun destinations nearby, like Cannes, Monaco, and Ventimiglia in Italy. These places are only a short (train)ride away!

Marciac, Occitanie

Magical Marciac Slicing Pork Noir JGo Restaurant by Food Travelist
Magical Marciac Slicing Pork Noir JGo Restaurant by Food Travelist.

Contributed by Sue from Food Travelist.

Sometimes the smallest towns you visit make the biggest impressions. This is Marciac, France. Located in the Southwest of France with a population of just over 1,300 this is a place you should not miss.

Just a two-hour drive from Toulouse, you will be enchanted by the town square which includes the historic bell tower of 15th century Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption. Local shops, cafes and restaurants make it easy to relax the day away with a delicious French meal accompanied by local wines. Cap it off with a taste of Armagnac brandy from the region. Be sure to check out J’Go in Marciac for the freshest farm to table food in the region. They feature the purveyors of everything that they serve proudly on the walls. Taste the purebred lean Jambon Noir de Bigorre – or black pork. It’s a rival to the jamon Ibérico bellota in Spain and just as delicious.

What really makes Marciac shine is its love of jazz. The French love for jazz started during the World Wars. The locals wanted to do something to show their appreciation and started the annual Jazz in Marciac Festival. For almost three weeks during the summer the town is transformed into a haven for jazz enthusiasts. Jazz great, Wynton Marsalis is one of Marciac’s biggest supporters. Legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, B.B. King have all played there as well as more contemporary artists such as Diana Krall, and Herbie Hancock.

Don’t miss a visit to the Museum of the Territoires du Jazz. Be sure to take the audio tour as you walk through and listen to the history of jazz through Dixieland, blues, big band, and modern jazz.

Toulouse, Occitanie

Toulouse by Gallivanting Laura, a street with red colored houses
Toulouse by Gallivanting Laura.

Contributed by Laura from Gallivanting Laura.

Nicknamed ‘La Ville Rose’ (the pink city), Toulouse is the beating heart of the Occitanie region in Southwest France. Conveniently located between the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and the Pyrenees mountain range, France’s fourth-largest city has a lot to offer visitors.

The city boasts many significant historical monuments, museums, leading sports teams and a high portion of French gastronomy leaders. The surrounding countryside has some of the most beautiful villages and towns in France, making them a perfect day trip idea from Toulouse.

Begin by strolling through the historical center. A great starting point is the city hall named Place du Capitole. Soak in the pink-hued terracotta architecture, rich history, cobbled streets and thriving outdoor cafe culture. Visit one of the many food markets, a must-do in any French city. A highlight is the Marche Victor Hugo, famed for its high-quality food and drinks. Book a food tour or grab a picnic and sit by the River Garonne or the UNESCO listed Canal du Midi. An ideal spot for people-watching and enjoying the Southern French weather.

For history lovers, the UNESCO listed Saint-Sernin Basilica, Covent des Jacobins, Hôtel d’Assézat and Pont Neuf are must-see sights. On the first Sunday of every month, it is free to enter the museums. Alternatively, a Toulouse tourist card may offer better value.

Toulouse is also an aerospace, science and space technology hub in Europe. Tourists have a unique opportunity to visit the Musée Aeroscopia, an Airbus museum showcasing interactive aircraft exhibitions by the airport. Space enthusiasts can also visit the Cité de l’Espace (City of Space) to learn about space flight, weather observations and the universe.

Strasbourg, Alsace

Strasbourg by Wyld Family Travel, a river with on the left a house on the right a boulevard and further houses
Strasbourg by Wyld Family Travel.

Contributed by Mark from Wyld Family Travel.

Located in the Alsace, nestled along the border with Germany is Strasbourg the capital of France’s Alsace region. The old town of Strasbourg is the historic center of the city and is situated on a unique location where two rivers, the Rhine and the Ill, are close to each other. Some of the oldest buildings in the city are located in the heart of the old town, including the Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was built in 1176, and Strasbourg Cathedral.

The town is also home to many iconic statues, including the “Lion of Strasbourg” statue that stands tall at 27 feet. Strasbourg, France is an old town with a rich history. It has been around for nearly 2,000 years and it is said to be the oldest city in Europe. The old town’s narrow medieval streets are lined with picturesque buildings with interesting architecture while at Christmas it is filled with one of the world’s oldest Christmas markets.

La Petite France is the most famous neighborhood in Strasbourg. It is also known as the “quartier des Alsaciens” (Alsatian quarter) and is most famous for its half-timbered homes and narrow lanes. Popular activities in Strasbourg include taking a boat ride around the cities canals. Visiting the European Parliament and exploring the Rohan Palace. Strasbourg is a city with many green areas where walking and bike riding are popular activities for locals and visitors alike. The Alsace food and wine is heavily influenced by both France and Germany with popular dishes including Tarte Flambee, a wide variety of sausage, Choucroute Garnie and amazing world famous Alsace wine. Strasbourg is great to visit with kids or as a couples weekend away.

Castellane, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Below in the picture is Castellane in the valley. Surrounded by green mountains. A hazy sky above.
View on Castellane from the path.

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

Castellane is a small city that is close to the Gorges du Verdon, in the Southeast of France. This town still has beautiful medieval streets with cozy terraces and shops to browse through.

Highlight of Castellane however is the Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Roc, which stands high above the city on a rock. You can see this from afar. The chapel and the accompanying beautiful views are reachable through a 25 minute hike up the mountain. The walkway leads you along the stations of the Cross and has mesmerizing views on Castellane and the surrounding nature.

Castellane is perfect as a base for an active vacation. Explore the Gorges du Verdon, be it through hiking or on the water. There are numerous hiking trails in the vicinity of Castellane. Kayaking, swimming and so on is all a possibility, there are plenty of things to do in the Gorges du Verdon with kids.

The history of this old fortified city dates back to Roman times. Sadly there’s only one tower and a little bit of the walls leftover from the city’s fortifications. The town used to be on the rock, but it went down bit by bit, since that was more practical for trade and farming. This is how the present small city came to be.

Beynac-sur-Cazenac, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

View on Beynac from the river while on the gabarre. Castle on top and walls and houses along the mountain.
Beynac as seen from the river.

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

Beynac is a beautiful, small city in Southwestern France. The town is built on a cliff near the river Dordogne. Because of its location, Beynac captures and mesmerizes you immediately. The town with the castle high above, towers over the river. It’s not hard to understand that Beynac is one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.

Beynac is a small city, and still has the streets and buildings it had in the Middle Ages. Wandering these medieval streets is a perfect thing to do, you’ll have excellent views on the river and surroundings throughout the whole town. The castle can be visited, for a fee. There are cute (touristic) shops to browse through.

When feeling active kayaking is a possibility on the Dordogne river, with Beynac as a starting point. Another fantastic thing to do on the river is to go for a tour with a Gabarre de Beynac. These are freight ships from the 18th and 19th centuries. You’ll have perfect views on Beynac from the river. It’s one of the top things to do in the Dordogne with kids.

After touring Beynac have lunch or dinner at Hostellerie Maleville at Beynac. They have a divine terrace on the river Dordogne and serve French cuisine. One of the great places to eat with kids in the Dordogne. Stay close by at campground Moulin de la Pique.

Bonus City: Carcassonne, Occitanie

Contributed by Zoe from Zoe Amy.

If you are fascinated with medieval history or just love castles in general, then you will absolutely fall in love with the town of Carcassonne. The city of Carcassonne is home to the famous Cité de Carcassonne, which is a real-life fairytale medieval castle.

Located in the South of France, just 1 hour and fifteen minutes from Toulouse, Le Cité de Carcassonne is a UNESCO world heritage site, and features stunning architecture. Walking around Cité de Carcassonne feels like you have stepped back in time. There are cobblestone streets, turrets and even medieval displays.

If the castle isn’t enough of a reason for you to visit Carcassonne, you can also consider it’s other UNESCO world heritage listed spot, the Canal Du Midi. The Canal stretches between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean. This structure is recognized as one of the keys of the industrial revolution, as it facilitated trade between the Med and the Atlantic. You can take a cruise on the canal and you can spot the Cité De Carcassonne and see some of the engineering feats of the canal, including the locks and bridges, as well as vineyards and agricultural areas.

Within a half an hour drive of Carcassonne you can find magnificent natural attractions, such as Gouffre Geant of Cabrespine, considered one of the most beautiful caves in Europe. It is nicknamed the “Crystal Cathedral”. You can view the cave from a glass walkway or try out Cabrespine’s Accro Cave where you can experience ‘Hell’s Zipline’, and the Hall of Wonders.

While the city of Carcassonne is a lovely, quaint Southern French town, the medieval castle and historical attractions make it an unmissable experience.

So That’s a Wrap on Our Best Cities to Visit in France

Hope this has given plenty of inspiration for a city trip or even a road trip in France!

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  • Eloise

    Oh! I’m so happy to see Dijon on the list of the best cities to visit in France. I’m going there next summer to meet with family and I’ll make sure to allow some time exploring the city. I really wish I had time to see them all.

  • Krista

    I love these tips! I’ve only been to Paris but I hope to head back to France this year and do a road trip, so I’ll definitely be adding some of these to my list.

  • Travel A-Broads

    Wow! This is eye-opening. I have so much more of France yet to see. I’ve really only visited Paris and Versailles so far. I’ll definitely be referring back to this whenever I’m able to plan another European adventure. Thanks for sharing! Xx Sara

  • Anja

    I love that wherever you go in France, there will be somewhere worthwhile to visit! I have been to less than 10% of these cities and look forward to visit over the years. Anotehr one I would definitely add is Albi, delightfully under the radar and extremely nice, with plenty sights to keep you occupied for a day or two and one of the most beautiful cathedral interiors I have seen.

  • Laureen Lund

    We are considering spending a month in the Bordeaux area next spring. This post gives me some great ideas for other places to vist though out the region during our stay. I love France! I mean – who doesn’t? 🙂

  • Kelly

    From your list we have visited Paris and Colmar. But we also went to Ribeauville which is an absolutely gorgeous little town. I would like to explore many more from your list.

  • Sonia

    Nantes and Colmar are two of our favorites. There are quite a few others that we haven’t made it to though. Looking forward to visiting more of your top 30.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    It has been far too long since our last visit to France. Your post provides a great selection of cities to visit in all different regions. Each has its own special charms. You have definitely given me some ideas for planning a return itinerary.

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