Bienvenue! Embarking on a journey through France is like stepping into a living canvas of exquisite art, history, and gastronomy. This captivating country, with its charming towns, picturesque landscapes, and cultural treasures, is a dream destination for travelers seeking a blend of sophistication, romance, and adventure. From the glitz and glamour of Paris to the quaint villages nestled in the countryside, France offers an enchanting tapestry of experiences. In this blog post, we will take you on a virtual tour, unveiling some of the best cities to visit in France, where you can immerse yourself in the allure of this remarkable country.
France, with its diverse landscapes, rich history, and unparalleled charm, beckons travelers with a promise of unforgettable experiences. From the vibrant streets of Paris to the culinary delights of Lyon and the medieval grandeur of Avignon, the best cities to visit in France offer a kaleidoscope of cultural, artistic, and gastronomic wonders. So, pack your bags, ignite your wanderlust, and get ready to immerse yourself in the magic that awaits in this enchanting country.
So, join us on a journey through the best cities to visit in France in 2023 and be sure to check out our guide to the best cities in Italy to visit, too!
17 Best Cities in France to Visit 2023
Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region in northeastern France, is a captivating city that seamlessly blends French and German influences. Known for its stunning architecture, picturesque canals, and European institutions, Strasbourg offers visitors a unique cultural experience. Let’s explore some of the top five attractions that make Strasbourg one of the best cities in France to visit:
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg: Start your journey at the iconic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The cathedral’s intricate façade, adorned with elaborate sculptures and gargoyles, is a sight to behold. Step inside to admire the stunning stained glass windows, intricate woodwork, and the famous astronomical clock. For breathtaking views of the city, climb the 332 steps to the cathedral’s observation platform.
- Petite France: Wander through the enchanting district of Petite France, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its timber-framed houses and charming canals. Stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets, cross the quaint footbridges, and admire the colorful buildings reflected in the water. This picturesque neighborhood is a perfect place to relax, enjoy a meal at a traditional Alsatian restaurant, and soak up the romantic atmosphere.
- La Grande Île: Explore La Grande Île, the historic center of Strasbourg and another UNESCO World Heritage site. This island is a treasure trove of architectural wonders, including beautiful medieval buildings, such as the Maison Kammerzell and the Palais Rohan. Marvel at the Place Kléber, the city’s central square, and visit the historic churches, such as the Église Saint-Thomas and the Église Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux. La Grande Île’s charming streets and historic landmarks offer a glimpse into Strasbourg’s rich heritage.
- Palais de l’Europe and European Institutions: Discover the European quarter of Strasbourg, where the European Parliament and other European institutions are located. Take a guided tour of the striking Palais de l’Europe, an architectural marvel that serves as the meeting place for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Learn about the city’s important role in European politics and explore the European Parliament Visitor Centre to gain insights into the European Union.
- Musée Alsacien: Immerse yourself in Alsatian culture and heritage at the Musée Alsacien, housed in a series of historic buildings. This charming museum showcases a collection of artifacts, costumes, and traditional crafts that reflect the region’s unique identity. Wander through the exhibits to learn about Alsatian traditions, folklore, and rural life. The museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Alsace region.
Strasbourg’s blend of architectural beauty, cultural diversity, and European significance make it one of the top cities in france and one that captivates visitors. Whether you’re exploring its historic landmarks, savoring the local cuisine, or immersing yourself in its unique blend of French and German influences, Strasbourg promises an unforgettable experience that embraces both tradition and modernity. Embrace the city’s cosmopolitan charm, navigate its canals, and let Strasbourg’s vibrant atmosphere leave a lasting impression.
Nantes, located on the banks of the Loire River in western France, is one of the top cities in France to visit, seamlessly blending its rich historical past with innovative contemporary culture. With its captivating architecture, thriving arts scene, and unique attractions, Nantes offers visitors a delightful and immersive experience. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Nantes one of the must-see cities in France:
- Château des Ducs de Bretagne: Begin your Nantes journey at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, an impressive castle that stands as a testament to the city’s medieval heritage. Explore the fortified walls, towers, and the beautifully restored interior, which houses the Nantes History Museum. Learn about the region’s history, from its medieval origins to its role in the Atlantic slave trade, and stroll through the scenic gardens surrounding the castle.
- Machines of the Isle of Nantes: Immerse yourself in the whimsical and imaginative world of the Machines of the Isle of Nantes. This unique attraction combines art, engineering, and fantasy, creating a surreal experience. Marvel at the enormous mechanical creatures, such as the iconic Great Elephant, and take a ride on the Carrousel des Mondes Marins, a carousel featuring fantastic underwater creatures. It’s a true testament to Nantes’ creativity and innovation.
- Île de Nantes: Venture to the Île de Nantes, a former industrial area transformed into a hub of urban renewal and artistic expression. Explore the island’s contemporary architectural marvels, including the iconic Hangar à Bananes, a converted warehouse now home to trendy bars and restaurants. Admire the artistic installations and street art that adorn the streets, and don’t miss the unique habitat of Les Machines de l’Île.
- Jardin des Plantes: Find tranquility amidst the city’s bustle at the Jardin des Plantes, one of the oldest botanical gardens in France. This beautiful green oasis offers a peaceful escape with its meticulously manicured gardens, exotic plant collections, and serene pathways. Take a leisurely stroll, admire the diverse flora, and relax in the shade of the majestic trees. The garden also houses a natural history museum, perfect for nature enthusiasts.
- Passage Pommeraye: Step back in time as you wander through the Passage Pommeraye, a stunning 19th-century shopping arcade. This architectural gem features three levels of elegant boutiques, charming cafes, and upscale shops. Admire the ornate decorations, the beautiful glass roof, and the grand staircase that adds to its timeless charm. It’s a perfect place to indulge in some retail therapy or simply soak in the ambiance of this historic site.
Nantes, with its blend of history, creativity, and cultural vibrancy, offers a captivating experience for visitors. Whether you’re exploring its historic landmarks, admiring its contemporary art scene, or simply savoring the local cuisine, Nantes promises a delightful adventure that will leave a lasting impression. Embrace the city’s artistic spirit, immerse yourself in its stories, and let Nantes’ unique charm enchant you.
Lyon, nestled in the picturesque Rhône-Alpes region, is one of the best cities to visit in France, effortlessly blending rich history, exquisite cuisine, and a dynamic cultural scene. Known as the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon entices visitors with its culinary delights, architectural treasures, and a welcoming ambiance. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Lyon one of the best French cities:
- Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon): Step back in time as you wander through Vieux Lyon, the city’s atmospheric old town. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, Renaissance-era buildings, and hidden traboules (secret passageways). Admire the stunning Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, explore the charming courtyards, and soak in the ambiance of the lively Place du Change. Don’t forget to indulge in traditional Lyonnais cuisine at one of the many cozy bouchons (local restaurants) that line the streets.
- Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière: Majestically perched atop Fourvière Hill, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a breathtaking sight that offers panoramic views of the city. Marvel at the ornate exterior and the intricate mosaics adorning the interior. Explore the adjacent Esplanade de Fourvière, a lovely park perfect for a leisurely stroll, and don’t miss the nearby ancient Roman ruins at the Théâtres Romains de Fourvière.
- Musée des Confluences: Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of science, history, and anthropology at the Musée des Confluences. This striking museum, situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, boasts a bold architectural design and houses an impressive collection of artifacts. Explore exhibitions that span from prehistoric times to the modern era, and engage with interactive displays that bring history and science to life.
- Parc de la Tête d’Or: Find tranquility amidst the urban bustle at the Parc de la Tête d’Or, Lyon’s largest urban park. This sprawling oasis offers lush green spaces, serene lakes, and beautiful botanical gardens. Take a leisurely stroll, rent a boat to navigate the lake, or visit the enchanting zoo within the park. It’s the perfect place to relax, enjoy a picnic, or escape the city’s hustle and bustle for a while.
- Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse: Embark on a gastronomic adventure at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, a legendary covered food market named after the renowned chef. Indulge in a sensory feast as you explore the market’s stalls, which are brimming with fresh produce, regional specialties, artisanal cheeses, and mouthwatering pastries. Sample local delicacies, mingle with passionate food artisans, and savor the flavors that make Lyon a true culinary destination.
Lyon’s unique blend of history, gastronomy, and cultural vibrancy makes it a city that beckons exploration. Whether you’re wandering through its enchanting old town, savoring the delights of Lyonnais cuisine, or immersing yourself in its rich cultural heritage, Lyon is undoubtedly one of the nicest cities in France to visit. Embrace the city’s warm hospitality, artistic spirit, and gastronomic treasures as you discover the charm of this captivating French gem.
Carcassonne, located in the Languedoc region of southern France, is a captivating city that enchants visitors with its stunning medieval architecture and rich history. It is famous for its well-preserved fortified city, known as the Cité de Carcassonne, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stepping into Carcassonne is like entering a fairytale, where ancient ramparts, picturesque cobblestone streets, and towering turrets create an enchanting atmosphere. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Carcassonne one of the best cities to visit in France:
- Cité de Carcassonne: The crown jewel of the city, the Cité de Carcassonne is a magnificent medieval fortress that dates back to the Gallo-Roman period. Enclosed within double walls and dotted with 52 towers, this citadel stands as a remarkable example of medieval military architecture. Take a leisurely stroll along its fortified walls, wander through its narrow streets, and visit the Château Comtal, a medieval castle that houses a museum showcasing the history of Carcassonne.
- Basilica of Saint-Nazaire: Situated within the Cité de Carcassonne, the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire is a breathtaking masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Its ornate stained glass windows, intricate stone carvings, and majestic rose window captivate visitors. Step inside to admire the stunning interior adorned with exquisite frescoes and sculptures. The basilica also offers panoramic views of Carcassonne from its tower, providing a unique perspective of the city.
- Canal du Midi: Just outside the fortified city, the Canal du Midi meanders through Carcassonne, offering a peaceful and scenic escape. This UNESCO-listed canal, dating back to the 17th century, is a marvel of engineering and is popular for boating, cycling, and leisurely walks along its banks. Take a boat tour or rent a bike to explore the charming countryside, vineyards, and picturesque villages that line the canal.
- Musée de la Torture: For those with a taste for the macabre and a fascination with history, the Musée de la Torture is a unique and intriguing attraction. Housed within the Château Comtal, this museum exhibits a collection of instruments of torture used during the Middle Ages. It offers a chilling insight into the darker aspects of Carcassonne’s history, providing visitors with a sobering but educational experience.
- Bastide Saint-Louis: Beyond the Cité de Carcassonne lies the Bastide Saint-Louis, the lower town of Carcassonne. This area is a stark contrast to the medieval charm of the citadel, with its wide boulevards, elegant squares, and 19th-century architecture. Explore the vibrant markets, boutique shops, and delightful cafes, immersing yourself in the local atmosphere. Place Carnot, the main square, is a hub of activity and an excellent spot to relax and people-watch.
Carcassonne is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in France, managing to effortlessly transport you back in time, where history comes alive amidst its awe-inspiring architecture and scenic surroundings. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply seeking a fairytale-like experience, Carcassonne will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on your heart and mind.
Avignon, a picturesque city nestled in the heart of Provence, France, is a captivating destination steeped in history, art, and culture. Known for its well-preserved medieval architecture and the famous Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), Avignon offers visitors a journey through time. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Avignon one of the coolest cities in France:
- Palais des Papes: Dominating the city’s skyline, the Palais des Papes is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the largest Gothic palaces in the world. Step inside this grand fortress and explore its magnificent rooms, chapels, and courtyards. Learn about the history of the papal residence and immerse yourself in the grandeur of the medieval period. From the top of the palace, enjoy panoramic views of Avignon and the Rhône River.
- Pont Saint-Bénézet (Pont d’Avignon): Walk across the iconic Pont Saint-Bénézet, also known as Pont d’Avignon, which stretches halfway across the Rhône River. This medieval bridge, famous for the folk song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon,” offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history. Explore the bridge’s remaining arches and visit the small chapel dedicated to Saint Bénézet. The bridge and its surroundings provide a scenic setting for a leisurely stroll.
- Avignon’s Historic Center: Take a leisurely wander through Avignon’s historic center, enclosed within medieval ramparts. Lose yourself in its charming labyrinth of narrow streets, lined with centuries-old buildings, shops, and cafés. Explore the Place de l’Horloge, the city’s main square, and admire its ornate clock tower. Discover hidden squares, vibrant markets, and bustling squares, such as the Place du Palais, which offers a delightful ambiance.
- Musée du Petit Palais: Immerse yourself in art at the Musée du Petit Palais, located adjacent to the Palais des Papes. This museum showcases an impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance art, including masterpieces by Italian and Provençal painters. Marvel at the intricate sculptures, religious artifacts, and stunning frescoes that adorn the museum’s walls. The peaceful courtyard adds to the museum’s charm.
- Les Halles d’Avignon: Indulge in the flavors of Provence at Les Halles d’Avignon, a vibrant covered market brimming with local produce, artisanal products, and delicious treats. Stroll through the market’s stalls, sample regional specialties, and pick up fresh ingredients for a picnic or a culinary adventure. Immerse yourself in the sights, smells, and tastes of Provence as you navigate this food lover’s paradise.
Avignon, with its rich history, architectural marvels, and artistic heritage is one of the top cities in France to visit, offering a delightful blend of the past and the present. Whether you’re exploring its medieval treasures, immersing yourself in its cultural offerings, or savoring the local cuisine, Avignon promises an enchanting experience that will transport you to a bygone era. Embrace the city’s charm, wander its historic streets, and let Avignon’s timeless beauty captivate your senses.
Looking for somewhere to stay in this beautiful French city? Go ahead and check out our guide to the best Avignon hotels.
Nice, located on the stunning French Riviera, is a vibrant coastal city renowned for its Mediterranean charm, sunny climate, and breathtaking natural beauty. With its mix of sandy beaches, historic architecture, and vibrant culture, Nice by far one of the most beautiful cities in France. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Nice one of the best French cities to visit:
- Promenade des Anglais: Start your journey along the iconic Promenade des Anglais, a picturesque promenade that stretches along the azure waters of the Baie des Anges. Take a leisurely stroll or rent a bicycle to enjoy the stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. Admire the beautiful Belle Époque buildings that line the promenade, relax on the pebbly beach, or simply soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this lively waterfront.
- Vieille Ville (Old Town): Explore the charming narrow streets of Vieille Ville, the historic heart of Nice. Lose yourself in the maze-like alleys lined with colorful buildings, boutique shops, and bustling markets. Visit the iconic Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market), where the vibrant colors and fragrant aromas create a sensory delight. Discover hidden squares, quaint cafes, and the majestic Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate as you immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere of the old town.
- Colline du Château (Castle Hill): Climb up to Colline du Château, a hilltop park that offers panoramic views of Nice and the surrounding coastline. While the castle itself is in ruins, the park provides a tranquil escape from the city’s bustle. Take a leisurely walk through the lush gardens, enjoy a picnic with a view, and marvel at the cascading waterfall. The vistas from the top are truly spectacular and provide an excellent photo opportunity.
- Musée Matisse: Delve into the world of art at the Musée Matisse, dedicated to the renowned artist Henri Matisse, who spent a significant portion of his life in Nice. The museum showcases an extensive collection of Matisse’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, and personal belongings. Immerse yourself in his vibrant colors and distinctive style as you appreciate the evolution of his artistic journey.
- Cours Saleya: Experience the vibrant energy of Cours Saleya, a bustling square that hosts the famous Marché aux Fleurs as well as a lively food market. Explore the colorful stalls brimming with fresh produce, flowers, and local delicacies. Sample delicious Nicoise specialties, such as socca and pissaladière, and soak in the lively ambiance. On Mondays, the market transforms into a vibrant antique market, offering a unique shopping experience.
Nice’s combination of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and seaside charm make it a destination that captivates visitors. Whether you’re relaxing on the beach, exploring the old town’s winding streets, or immersing yourself in the vibrant markets, Nice promises an unforgettable experience that embodies the essence of the French Riviera. Embrace the city’s joie de vivre, savor the Mediterranean lifestyle, and let Nice’s enchanting atmosphere leave a lasting impression.
Colmar, nestled in the heart of the Alsace region in northeastern France, is a fairytale-like town renowned for its enchanting beauty, colorful half-timbered houses, and romantic canals. With its well-preserved medieval architecture, picturesque streets, and rich cultural heritage, Colmar offers visitors a captivating journey back in time. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Colmar one of the top cities in France to visit:
- La Petite Venise: Begin your exploration in the iconic district of La Petite Venise, a charming neighborhood reminiscent of Venice with its narrow canals and charming bridges. Take a leisurely boat ride or simply stroll along the canals to admire the beautifully preserved half-timbered houses reflected in the water. Explore the cobblestone streets, discover artisan shops, and savor traditional Alsatian cuisine at the waterside restaurants. La Petite Venise is a true gem that captures the essence of Colmar’s romantic allure.
- Musée Unterlinden: Immerse yourself in art and history at the Musée Unterlinden, housed in a former Dominican convent. This renowned museum is home to an impressive collection of artworks, including the famous Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald. Admire the museum’s stunning architecture, explore the extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and archaeological artifacts, and delve into the rich cultural heritage of the Alsace region.
- Colmar Old Town: Discover the captivating beauty of Colmar’s Old Town, a well-preserved medieval district with a plethora of architectural treasures. Wander through the maze-like streets lined with colorful half-timbered houses, ornate façades, and flower-filled balconies. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit landmarks such as the Maison des Têtes, a 17th-century building adorned with intricate sculptures, and the gothic Saint-Martin Church. The Old Town’s timeless charm and romantic atmosphere make it a delight to explore.
- Bartholdi Museum: Pay homage to the famous French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi at the Bartholdi Museum. Located in the birthplace of the renowned artist, this museum showcases a collection of his sculptures, drawings, and personal artifacts. Discover the fascinating life and work of the creator of the Statue of Liberty, and gain insights into the artistic legacy of this talented sculptor.
- Koïfhus (Old Customs House): Visit the Koïfhus, the Old Customs House, which is a testament to Colmar’s historical importance as a prosperous trading hub. This striking Gothic building once served as a marketplace and administrative center. Marvel at the architectural details, such as the ornate façade and the distinctive corner tower. Today, the Koïfhus is home to shops and restaurants, offering a glimpse into the city’s commercial past.
Colmar’s blend of architectural beauty, cultural richness, and fairy tale-like ambiance make it one of the must see cities in France in 2023. Whether you’re strolling along the romantic canals of La Petite Venise, exploring the art collections of the Musée Unterlinden, or simply getting lost in the charm of the Old Town, Colmar promises an unforgettable experience that captures the essence of the Alsace region. Embrace the city’s medieval allure, savor its culinary delights, and let Colmar’s timeless enchantment leave a lasting impression.
Bordeaux, nestled in the heart of southwestern France, is a city that captivates visitors with its rich cultural heritage, world-renowned wine, and architectural splendor. Known as the wine capital of the world, Bordeaux boasts a harmonious blend of historic charm and modern vitality. Let’s delve into the top five attractions that make Bordeaux one of the best cities to visit in France:
- Bordeaux’s Historic Center: The historic center of Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a true architectural gem. Stroll through its picturesque streets lined with elegant 18th-century buildings, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a living museum. The Place de la Bourse, with its iconic water mirror reflecting the majestic neoclassical facade, is a must-see. The Grand Théâtre, an opulent 18th-century theater, and the Cathédrale Saint-André, a stunning Gothic cathedral, are also highlights worth exploring.
- Cité du Vin: Bordeaux is synonymous with wine, and the Cité du Vin is a testament to its viticultural heritage. This unique wine museum offers an immersive and interactive journey through the world of wine. Discover the history, culture, and traditions of winemaking through multimedia exhibits, workshops, and tastings. The highlight of the museum is the Belvedere, where you can savor panoramic views of Bordeaux while enjoying a glass of wine from around the globe.
- Bordeaux Wine Tours: No visit to Bordeaux would be complete without indulging in wine tasting and vineyard visits. Bordeaux is surrounded by world-class vineyards, producing some of the finest wines in the world. Embark on a wine tour and explore the prestigious appellations of Médoc, Saint-Émilion, or Pessac-Léognan, where you can sample exquisite wines, learn about the winemaking process, and soak in the idyllic landscapes of rolling vineyards.
- Musée d’Aquitaine: Immerse yourself in the fascinating history of Bordeaux and the Aquitaine region at the Musée d’Aquitaine. This museum showcases an extensive collection of artifacts, artwork, and historical exhibits, tracing the region’s rich heritage from prehistoric times to the present. From Gallo-Roman artifacts to medieval treasures and colonial-era displays, the museum offers a comprehensive insight into Bordeaux’s past.
- Place des Quinconces and Jardin Public: For a tranquil escape in the heart of the city, head to the expansive Place des Quinconces and the nearby Jardin Public. The Place des Quinconces is one of Europe’s largest squares, adorned with statues, fountains, and a column commemorating the French Revolution. Just a short stroll away, the Jardin Public is a beautifully manicured park, ideal for a leisurely walk or a picnic. Its serene atmosphere, charming lakes, and botanical gardens provide a welcome respite from the bustling city streets.
As one of the coolest cities in France, Bordeaux beckons visitors with its exquisite architecture, world-class wines, and vibrant cultural scene. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast, an admirer of history and art, or simply seeking to savor the French joie de vivre, Bordeaux promises a delightful journey through its picturesque streets, vineyards, and captivating attractions.
Aix-en-Provence, nestled in the picturesque region of Provence in southern France, is a captivating city renowned for its artistic heritage, charming streets, and vibrant cultural scene. Known as the birthplace of post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence exudes a timeless beauty that has inspired artists and visitors for centuries. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Aix-en-Provence one of the best French cities to visit:
- Cours Mirabeau: The heart and soul of Aix-en-Provence, Cours Mirabeau is a tree-lined boulevard brimming with life and charm. Take a leisurely stroll along this elegant avenue, lined with beautiful 17th and 18th-century buildings, charming cafes, and boutique shops. Admire the grand architecture, indulge in delicious pastries at one of the patisseries, or relax at an outdoor terrace to soak up the vibrant ambiance of this bustling promenade.
- Vieil Aix (Old Town): Step into history as you explore Vieil Aix, the historic Old Town of Aix-en-Provence. Lose yourself in the labyrinth of narrow, winding streets, adorned with colorful facades, fountains, and picturesque squares. Visit the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur, a stunning medieval cathedral with a mixture of architectural styles, and explore the vibrant markets, including the famous Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market) and Marché Forain (Food Market). Don’t miss the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, a charming square lined with cafes and the majestic Town Hall.
- Atelier Cézanne: Discover the artistic legacy of Paul Cézanne at the Atelier Cézanne, the artist’s former studio turned museum. Located in the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence, this intimate museum provides a glimpse into Cézanne’s life and artistic process. Explore the rooms where the artist worked, admire the collection of his personal belongings and artworks, and enjoy the serene surroundings of the beautiful garden. The Atelier Cézanne offers a unique insight into the life and works of one of the greatest painters of the 19th century.
- Le Musée Granet: Immerse yourself in the world of art at Le Musée Granet, a renowned art museum located in Aix-en-Provence. The museum houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and archaeological artifacts, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. Admire works by artists such as Cézanne, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet, among others. The museum also hosts rotating exhibitions, making it a dynamic cultural hub that offers a diverse and enriching experience.
- Les Deux Garçons: No visit to Aix-en-Provence would be complete without a visit to Les Deux Garçons, a legendary café that has been a gathering place for artists, intellectuals, and locals since 1792. Located on the Cours Mirabeau, this historic café exudes an old-world charm and offers a delightful ambiance to relax and enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine. Sit back, soak in the atmosphere, and let the spirit of Aix-en-Provence envelop you.
Aix-en-Provence, with its blend of art, history, and Provençal charm, provides a delightful escape into the heart of the Provence region. Whether you’re exploring its charming streets, immersing yourself in its artistic heritage, or savoring the local cuisine, Aix-en-Provence is undeniably one of the top cities in France to visit. Embrace the city’s artistic and cultural heritage as you discover the allure of this Provençal gem.
Lille, located in the northernmost part of France near the border with Belgium, is a charming city that seamlessly blends old-world charm with a vibrant contemporary atmosphere. As the capital of the Hauts-de-France region, Lille entices visitors with its captivating architecture, rich cultural heritage, and delectable cuisine. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Lille one of the most popular cities in France:
- Vieux Lille (Old Lille): Begin your exploration in the historic heart of the city, Vieux Lille. This well-preserved district is a picturesque labyrinth of cobblestone streets, elegant townhouses, and charming squares. Admire the Flemish-style architecture, stroll along the bustling Rue de la Monnaie, and browse the boutique shops offering a wide range of fashion, antiques, and local crafts. Don’t miss the beautiful Grand Place, where you can relax at a café terrace and soak in the lively atmosphere.
- Palais des Beaux-Arts: Known as one of the finest art museums in France, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille houses an impressive collection of European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. Marvel at masterpieces by renowned artists such as Rubens, Van Dyck, and Delacroix. The museum also showcases an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian and Greek artifacts. With its grand architecture and diverse art collections, the Palais des Beaux-Arts is a must-visit for art enthusiasts.
- La Grande Place: Lille’s central square, La Grande Place, is a vibrant hub that showcases the city’s architectural splendor. The square is lined with beautifully ornate buildings, including the impressive Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange), a 17th-century masterpiece adorned with arcades and a courtyard. The Vieille Bourse hosts a book market where you can browse through stacks of old and new books. The square is also a popular gathering place for locals and visitors, especially during festive events and markets.
- Citadelle de Lille: Embark on a journey to the Citadelle de Lille, a sprawling fortress that dates back to the 17th century. This star-shaped citadel, surrounded by lush green spaces and moats, offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Take a leisurely walk along the ramparts, visit the zoo within the citadel, or simply enjoy a picnic amidst the beautiful gardens. The Citadelle also provides a panoramic view of the city skyline.
- La Piscine Museum: Housed in a former Art Deco swimming pool, La Piscine Museum in nearby Roubaix (a short trip from Lille) is a unique and captivating cultural experience. This museum showcases a diverse collection of fine arts, textiles, and ceramics, as well as sculptures and decorative objects. The stunning architecture of the museum, with its preserved pool and mosaic tiling, adds to the ambiance of the exhibits. It’s a must-visit destination for art and design enthusiasts.
Lille, with its blend of historical charm, vibrant culture, and artistic treasures, offers a delightful experience for visitors. Whether you’re exploring the narrow streets of Vieux Lille, immersing yourself in the city’s art scene, or indulging in local gastronomy, Lille’s distinct character will leave a lasting impression. Come and discover the warm hospitality and joie de vivre that make Lille one of the nicest cities in France.
Montpellier, nestled in the heart of the sunny Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France, is a vibrant city that combines a rich historical heritage with a youthful and energetic atmosphere. Known for its prestigious universities, medieval architecture, and Mediterranean charm, Montpellier offers a delightful mix of old-world charm and contemporary allure. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Montpellier one of the most beautiful French cities:
- Place de la Comédie: The beating heart of Montpellier, Place de la Comédie is a lively square brimming with energy and activity. This spacious pedestrianized square is adorned with beautiful 19th-century buildings, bustling cafes, and shops. Sit back at one of the outdoor terraces, soak up the vibrant ambiance, and marvel at the stunning Opera House. From here, you can explore the charming streets that lead to other notable landmarks in the city.
- Montpellier’s Old Town: Step into the past as you wander through Montpellier’s Old Town, known as “l’Écusson.” Lose yourself in its narrow, winding streets, lined with impressive mansions, charming boutiques, and local eateries. Don’t miss the magnificent Saint Peter’s Cathedral with its distinctive Gothic architecture. Visit the Place de la Canourgue, a delightful square surrounded by beautiful townhouses, or explore the tranquil Jardin des Plantes, one of France’s oldest botanical gardens.
- Musée Fabre: Art enthusiasts should not miss the Musée Fabre, one of the most important fine art museums in southern France. Housed in a neoclassical building, the museum showcases a vast collection of artworks spanning from the Renaissance to the contemporary period. Admire masterpieces by renowned artists such as Delacroix, Courbet, and Rubens, as well as a significant collection of sculptures and decorative arts. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, offering a dynamic cultural experience.
- Promenade du Peyrou: Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and head to the Promenade du Peyrou, a vast park situated on a hilltop. This beautifully landscaped park offers panoramic views of Montpellier and is dominated by the impressive Triumphal Arch, known as the Arc de Triomphe. Take a leisurely stroll, relax on one of the benches, and enjoy the peaceful ambiance while marveling at the city’s skyline.
- Antigone District: Discover the modern side of Montpellier in the Antigone district, an architectural marvel designed by renowned architect Ricardo Bofill. This contemporary neighborhood showcases grand squares, neoclassical buildings, and geometrically aligned streets. Admire the impressive Place de l’Europe, adorned with fountains and sculptures, and stroll along the vibrant streets lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. The Antigone district is a testament to Montpellier’s forward-thinking approach to urban planning.
Montpellier’s unique blend of history, youthful energy, and Mediterranean charm make it one of the top cities to visit in France. Whether you’re exploring the winding streets of the Old Town, admiring world-class artworks, or savoring the local cuisine, Montpellier offers a vibrant and culturally rich experience. Embrace the city’s vibrant atmosphere and warm hospitality as you immerse yourself in the delights of this enchanting southern French gem.
No list of the best cities in France to visit would be complete without a mention of the infamous capital. Paris, the City of Light, is a timeless metropolis that needs no introduction. Renowned for its iconic landmarks, romantic ambiance, and cultural treasures, Paris captivates visitors from around the globe. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Paris one the of the top must see cities in France:
- Eiffel Tower: A symbol of Paris and an iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower stands tall and proud. Ascend to its dizzying heights for panoramic views of the city or simply admire its beauty from the Champ de Mars. Whether you visit during the day or at night when it sparkles with lights, the Eiffel Tower is an absolute must-see that will leave you in awe.
- Louvre Museum: Immerse yourself in the world’s largest art museum, the Louvre. Home to thousands of masterpieces, including the enigmatic Mona Lisa, the Louvre houses art and artifacts spanning over 9,000 years of human history. Explore its grand galleries, marvel at works by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt, and get lost in its captivating exhibitions.
- Notre-Dame Cathedral: A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, Notre-Dame Cathedral is a beloved symbol of Paris. Admire its intricate facade, explore its majestic interior, and climb to the top for breathtaking views of the city. While the cathedral is currently undergoing restoration, its timeless beauty still shines through, and it remains a symbol of resilience and hope.
- Montmartre: Wander through the bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre, a haven for artists, writers, and dreamers. Explore the charming streets lined with cafes, art studios, and boutiques. Visit the iconic Sacré-Cœur Basilica, perched on top of the hill, and soak in the artistic atmosphere of Place du Tertre, where artists display their works. Montmartre’s enchanting ambiance and its artistic legacy make it a must-visit destination in Paris.
- Seine River and its Bridges: Experience the romantic allure of Paris with a leisurely cruise along the Seine River. Admire the city’s iconic landmarks, including the Louvre, Notre-Dame, and the Eiffel Tower, as you glide beneath the beautiful bridges that span the river. Whether by boat or strolling along the riverbanks, the Seine offers a picturesque backdrop and a unique perspective of the city’s beauty.
Paris, with its grand boulevards, world-class museums, and timeless charm, is a city that never fails to enchant. Whether you’re exploring its iconic landmarks, indulging in French cuisine, or simply immersing yourself in its vibrant atmosphere, Paris is undoubtedly the must visit city in France. Embrace the joie de vivre and embrace the magic of the City of Light.
Marseille, a vibrant port city on the Mediterranean coast of France, beckons travelers with its rich history, colorful culture, and stunning seaside setting. As the country’s second-largest city, Marseille offers a captivating blend of old-world charm, diverse neighborhoods, and a bustling cosmopolitan atmosphere. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Marseille one of the top French cities to visit:
- Vieux-Port (Old Port): Begin your Marseille adventure at the iconic Vieux-Port, the historic heart of the city. This bustling harbor is lined with picturesque fishing boats, vibrant cafés, and lively markets. Stroll along the promenade, take in the views of the glittering Mediterranean Sea, and savor fresh seafood at one of the waterfront restaurants. From here, you can also embark on a boat tour to explore the stunning Calanques, the breathtaking limestone cliffs that dot the coastline.
- Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde: Standing proudly atop a hill, the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde offers panoramic views of Marseille and its surrounding areas. This magnificent basilica, with its ornate interior and stunning golden statue of the Virgin Mary, is a symbol of Marseille and a place of pilgrimage for locals and visitors alike. Climb to the top for breathtaking vistas of the city, the sea, and the distant mountains.
- Le Panier: Lose yourself in the charm of Le Panier, Marseille’s oldest neighborhood. This lively district, with its narrow, winding streets, colorful facades, and artistic flair, is a delight to explore. Discover quaint shops, trendy galleries, and cozy cafés tucked away in its maze-like alleys. Visit the Vieille Charité, a stunning architectural complex that now houses museums and cultural institutions, and soak in the bohemian atmosphere of this vibrant quarter.
- MuCEM: Delve into Marseille’s cultural scene at the MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations). Located at the entrance of the Vieux-Port, this modern architectural masterpiece is dedicated to exploring the diverse cultures of the Mediterranean region. Wander through its thought-provoking exhibitions, admire the panoramic views from its rooftop terrace, and learn about the history, art, and traditions that shape the Mediterranean world.
- Calanques National Park: Just a short drive or boat ride from Marseille lies the breathtaking Calanques National Park, a natural wonderland of rugged cliffs, turquoise waters, and hidden coves. Hike along scenic trails, go rock climbing, or simply relax on the secluded beaches. The Calanques offer a perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, allowing you to immerse yourself in pristine nature and witness some of the most awe-inspiring coastal landscapes in France.
Marseille’s unique blend of history, cultural diversity, and natural beauty make it a city that entices and fascinates. Whether you’re exploring its charming old port, savoring the flavors of Provençal cuisine, or immersing yourself in its vibrant arts scene, Marseille promises you one of the most beautiful cities in France. Embrace the city’s Mediterranean spirit, embrace the warmth of its people, and let Marseille’s magnetic charm captivate your senses.
Cannes, located on the glamorous French Riviera, is a renowned city synonymous with luxury, beauty, and the world-famous Cannes Film Festival. With its stunning beaches, upscale shopping, and vibrant atmosphere, Cannes offers a delightful blend of natural splendour and high-end glamour. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Cannes one of the must visit cities in France.
- La Croisette: Begin your journey along the iconic La Croisette, a palm-lined boulevard that stretches along the Mediterranean Sea. This famous promenade is known for its luxury hotels, chic boutiques, and exclusive beach clubs. Take a leisurely stroll, enjoy the scenic views, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this glamorous strip. Don’t miss the chance to relax on the pristine sandy beaches or indulge in a delicious meal at one of the waterfront restaurants.
- Le Suquet: Explore the historic district of Le Suquet, Cannes’ charming old town. Climb the winding streets to reach the top of the hill where the 12th-century Tour du Suquet stands. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of Cannes and the surrounding area. Explore the narrow streets lined with colorful houses, visit the Eglise Notre-Dame d’Espérance, and discover quaint shops, art galleries, and traditional restaurants serving authentic Provençal cuisine.
- Palais des Festivals et des Congrès: Marvel at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the iconic building that hosts the Cannes Film Festival each year. Pose on the famous red carpet, and imagine the excitement and glamour of the world’s most prestigious film festival. Visit the exhibition hall to learn more about the festival’s history and enjoy the stunning views of the harbor from the rooftop terrace.
- Île Sainte-Marguerite: Embark on a short boat trip to Île Sainte-Marguerite, one of the beautiful islands located just off the coast of Cannes. Explore the island’s natural beauty, stroll along the scenic trails, and discover the Fort Royal, which once served as a prison and is now home to the Musée de la Mer (Museum of the Sea). Enjoy a picnic on the tranquil beaches or indulge in fresh seafood at one of the island’s charming restaurants.
- Le Vieux Port: Experience the lively ambiance of Le Vieux Port, the old port of Cannes. Watch as glamorous yachts and fishing boats come and go, and soak up the maritime atmosphere. Explore the colorful fish market, browse the local shops, and indulge in some of the finest seafood at the waterfront restaurants. This vibrant area is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing drink while enjoying the picturesque views.
Cannes’ combination of natural beauty, glitz, and cultural richness make it a city that leaves a lasting impression on visitors. Whether you’re soaking up the sun on La Croisette, exploring the historic charm of Le Suquet, or immersing yourself in the world of cinema at the Palais des Festivals, Cannes promises an unforgettable experience that embodies the essence of the French Riviera. Embrace one of the most beautiful cities in France and indulge in its luxury, and let Cannes’ enchanting atmosphere captivate you.
Toulouse, the “Pink City” of France, is a dynamic and vibrant city located in the southwest of the country. Renowned for its rich history, architectural beauty, and lively cultural scene, Toulouse offers a captivating blend of old-world charm and modern innovation. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Toulouse one of the best cities in France to visit:
- Place du Capitole: Begin your Toulouse journey at the heart of the city, the Place du Capitole. This grand square is dominated by the impressive Capitole de Toulouse, an iconic building that houses the city hall and the Théâtre du Capitole. Admire the neoclassical façade, stroll through the square’s arcades, and take in the lively atmosphere of this central gathering place. The square is also a hub for cafés, shops, and cultural events.
- Basilica of Saint-Sernin: Discover the architectural masterpiece of the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the largest Romanesque churches in Europe. This ancient pilgrimage site is renowned for its impressive architecture, intricate stone carvings, and stunning crypt. Step inside to admire the grandeur of the nave, the ornate chapels, and the remarkable Romanesque sculptures. The serene atmosphere and historical significance make it a must-visit for history and architecture enthusiasts.
- Canal du Midi: Take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage site that meanders through the city. This 17th-century waterway offers a tranquil escape from the bustling streets of Toulouse. Enjoy a peaceful walk or bike ride along the tree-lined banks, and take in the charming views of the canal and its picturesque bridges. You can also opt for a boat tour to experience the beauty of this historic canal.
- Musée des Augustins: Immerse yourself in art and history at the Musée des Augustins, housed in a former 14th-century convent. This museum showcases an extensive collection of sculptures and paintings from the medieval period to the early 20th century. Admire masterpieces by renowned artists such as Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Rubens. The museum’s stunning architecture, tranquil cloister, and diverse art collections make it a cultural gem in Toulouse.
- Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden): Find serenity in the beautiful Jardin Japonais, a peaceful oasis inspired by Japanese aesthetics. This meticulously designed garden features traditional Japanese elements, including ponds, bridges, stone lanterns, and bonsai trees. Take a meditative stroll along the paths, appreciate the harmonious balance of nature, and relax in the tranquil ambiance. It’s an ideal spot to escape the city’s hustle and bustle.
Toulouse’s blend of history, culture, and relaxed atmosphere make it one of the top cities to visit in France in 2023. Whether you’re exploring its historic landmarks, savoring the local cuisine, or enjoying its vibrant cultural scene, Toulouse promises a memorable experience that showcases the essence of southern France. Embrace the city’s warm hospitality, immerse yourself in its rich heritage, and let Toulouse’s unique charm enchant you.
Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy in France, is one of the top cities in France to visit, brimming with medieval charm, rich history, and artistic heritage. Known for its picturesque streets, Gothic architecture, and association with the iconic painter Claude Monet, Rouen offers visitors a captivating journey through time. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Rouen one of the coolest cities in France:
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen: Begin your exploration at the magnificent Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, one of the most remarkable Gothic cathedrals in France. Admire the intricate façade adorned with ornate sculptures and the stunning stained glass windows that illuminate the interior. Marvel at the Tour de Beurre and the Tour Saint-Romain, which offer panoramic views of the city. The cathedral’s impressive architecture and historical significance make it a true gem.
- Rue du Gros-Horloge: Take a stroll along the charming Rue du Gros-Horloge, a pedestrian street lined with half-timbered houses, quaint shops, and inviting cafés. The street is named after the Gros-Horloge, a beautiful astronomical clock that dates back to the 14th century. Admire the intricate details of the clock’s mechanism and climb up to the belfry for stunning views of Rouen’s rooftops.
- Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen: Immerse yourself in art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, one of France’s most impressive fine art museums. Housed in a former archbishop’s palace, the museum showcases a vast collection spanning from the Renaissance to the present day. Admire works by renowned artists such as Monet, Renoir, and Delacroix. The museum’s elegant galleries and diverse art collections make it a must-visit for art enthusiasts.
- Place du Vieux-Marché: Visit the historic Place du Vieux-Marché, known for its connection to Joan of Arc. This bustling square is where the iconic French heroine was burned at the stake in 1431. At the center of the square stands the modern Church of Saint Joan of Arc, designed by the renowned architect Philippe Robert. Explore the nearby Joan of Arc Museum, which retraces her life and the events leading to her trial and execution.
- Aître Saint-Maclou: Discover the unique Aître Saint-Maclou, a courtyard surrounded by charming half-timbered buildings. This former cemetery, known for its macabre charm, features intricate wood carvings and a tranquil atmosphere. Take a leisurely walk through the courtyard, admire the ancient ossuary, and appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the buildings. It’s a hidden gem that offers a glimpse into Rouen’s medieval past.
Rouen’s blend of historical landmarks, artistic treasures, and medieval ambiance make it a city that enchants visitors. Whether you’re exploring its architectural wonders, savoring the local cuisine, or immersing yourself in its artistic legacy, Rouen promises an unforgettable experience that captures the essence of Normandy. Embrace the city’s timeless beauty, wander its cobblestone streets, and let Rouen’s captivating charm leave a lasting impression.
Menton, nestled on the French Riviera near the Italian border, is a hidden gem that captivates visitors with its picturesque charm, serene beaches, and delightful Mediterranean climate. Known as the “Pearl of France,” Menton offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, rich history, and a vibrant cultural scene. Let’s explore the top five attractions that make Menton one of the must see cities in France:
- Old Town (Vieille Ville): Begin your journey in Menton’s charming Old Town, a maze of narrow streets filled with colorful buildings adorned with vibrant shutters and flower-filled balconies. Explore the picturesque squares, such as Place aux Herbes, and discover historic landmarks like the Saint-Michel Basilica and the beautiful Chapel of the Conception. Immerse yourself in the laid-back atmosphere, visit local shops, and savor the flavors of the region at traditional cafes and restaurants.
- Jean Cocteau Museum: Delve into the artistic world of renowned French artist and writer Jean Cocteau at the Jean Cocteau Museum. Housed in the historic Bastion building, this museum showcases an extensive collection of Cocteau’s paintings, drawings, ceramics, and other works. Admire the museum’s unique architecture and explore the temporary exhibitions that highlight the artist’s influence on various artistic disciplines.
- Promenade du Soleil: Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beautiful Promenade du Soleil, a palm-lined esplanade that stretches along the coastline. Take in the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and the picturesque coastline of Menton. Relax on the inviting beaches, or find a cozy spot on the promenade to soak up the sun while enjoying the refreshing sea breeze.
- Serre de la Madone Garden: Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Serre de la Madone Garden, a stunning botanical garden that showcases a diverse range of plant species. Created by Lawrence Johnston, the same landscape architect behind the renowned Hidcote Manor Garden in England, this tranquil oasis features lush greenery, terraced gardens, and beautiful water features. Take a leisurely stroll through the garden’s winding paths, and discover rare and exotic plants from around the world.
- Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival): If you happen to visit Menton in late winter or early spring, don’t miss the vibrant Fête du Citron, or Lemon Festival. This unique event showcases elaborate citrus-themed sculptures, parades, and lively performances that celebrate Menton’s rich lemon-growing heritage. Marvel at the intricate floats adorned with citrus fruits and enjoy the festive atmosphere that fills the streets of Menton during this colorful event.
Menton’s blend of natural beauty, artistic heritage, and Mediterranean charm make it a city that leaves a lasting impression on visitors. Whether you’re exploring the winding streets of the Old Town, immersing yourself in the art at the Jean Cocteau Museum, or simply relaxing on the sunny promenade, Menton promises an unforgettable experience that embodies the essence of the French Riviera. Embrace this beautiful French city’s tranquil ambiance, indulge in its culinary delights, and let Menton’s captivating allure sweep you away.
France is a country brimming with an incredible array of cities that offer unique and captivating experiences. From the historic streets of Carcassonne to the glamorous shores of Cannes, each city has its own distinct charm and attractions that make it a worthwhile destination to explore. Whether you’re seeking rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, culinary delights, or natural beauty, France has it all.
The cities highlighted in this article, including Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence, Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Avignon, Nice, Toulouse, Rouen, Strasbourg, Colmar, Menton, and many others, showcase the diverse offerings of France. From vibrant urban centers to picturesque towns, there’s something for every type of traveler.
As you plan your next adventure, consider visiting these remarkable cities and immersing yourself in their unique atmospheres. Whether you’re exploring the historic landmarks, indulging in local cuisine, wandering through charming streets, or basking in the natural beauty, each city promises to leave you with unforgettable memories.
France’s cities are not only a testament to the country’s rich history and culture, but they also provide a glimpse into the country’s vibrant present and promising future. So, pack your bags, embark on a journey through France, and let yourself be enchanted by the beauty and charm of its best cities. Bon voyage!
Now you’ve discovered the best cities in France to visit, be sure to check out our guide to the best European city breaks, too!