Insider’s guide: Best places to visit in France • Art de Vivre
Insider’s guide: 10 Best places to visit in France

Insider’s guide: 10 Best places to visit in France

From major cities to small towns and a beautiful countryside, there are so many must-see places to visit in France. Whether it’s your first time visiting or you are a travel aficionado looking for some inspiration for your next trip, here are ten of the best places to visit in France.

1. The City of Love: Paris

This is an obvious, but non negotiable place to visit in France. If you find yourself in Europe, be sure to visit the city of love. Even if you have been before, next time bring your significant other for a lovely stroll along the Seine and candlelit dinners over delicious French cuisine. 

While a perfect destination for couples, this city is also a wonder to explore by yourself. 

There is nothing quite like wandering around a museum taking in all the art on your own. Besides the obvious, including the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay, you can visit the Musee Marmottan-Monet in West Paris. This one is slightly out of the way from the more traditional tourist sights in Paris, but it is perfect if you have a soft spot for impressionist paintings. Musee Marmottan-Monet houses a permanent collection including 100 of Monet’s works.

Monet's Impression, Sunrise
Monet's Impression, Sunrise (1872)

The Notre Dame Cathedral is another iconic Paris landmark. It is currently under renovation, so you can only go check out the gothic facade. Since this will be a short trip, you can spend the rest of your morning at the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop just across the Seine from the cathedral. Here, you can browse the collection of English language books and learn about the history of the shop as a safe haven and meeting point for English language writers travelling through Europe, including writers such as Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and more.  

The Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Paris

2. The Mediterranean Coast: Nice

Next up on the list of best places to visit is the capital of the French Riviera region: Nice. When you’re not swimming or lounging on one of the gorgeous pebble beaches, take a walk along the Promenade des Anglais. This 7km paved walkway takes you along the Mediterranean coast. If you time your trip right, you can stop at the lovely Calade Rooftop Restaurant for dinner at sunset. Here, you can have a view over the Promenade des Anglais and watch the sun go down over the Mediterranean sea and the Côte d’Azur. 

Nice view
View from the Castle Hill of Nice

Aside from soaking up the sun at the beach or on the promenade, the oldest area of Nice, called the Vieille Ville is certainly worth a visit. You can get a feel for the old town of Nice and go for a stroll through the Cours Saleya flower market where you can buy fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. 

On a cooler day, you can hike up to the top of the Castle Hill of Nice to get a view of the whole city from the red roofs of the houses to the clear blue of the ocean off the coast. If it is too warm, or a hike just isn’t for you, don’t worry. You can also take a train or elevator to the top and then walk back down into the old town. There is even a waterfall on the way down that you do not want to miss. 

3. A Medieval Castle: Mont-Saint Michel

History buffs will especially enjoy a visit to this next destination. Mont-Saint Michel is a town on the coast of Normandy. This word heritage site is an iconic spot on the map because the island of Mont-Saint Michel is only sometimes an island. When the tide is high, water covers the sandbanks that typically surround it and the area becomes a proper island, but when the tide goes out, the sandbanks reappear and it becomes possible to walk across the water to the island. 

Mont-Saint Michel in France
Mont-Saint Michel

The top of the island is home to the Abbey of Mont-Saint Michel, built from the 11th to the 13th centuries in an iconic Gothic style. The abbey was fortified in 1256 and which later became a prison under the reign of Napoleon. In mediaeval times, the abbey was an important destination for religious pilgrimages and today is still a site for modern pilgrims. 

4. A wine lover’s paradise: Bordeaux

This historic city is the centre of the wine region in France, so come prepared to tour the vineyards and sample local wines. There are a few vineyards in this part of France that you won’t want to miss. One of the top vineyards in Bordeaux is the Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Although this winery is a 30 minute drive from the city centre, it also houses a hotel, spa and a Michelin-starred restaurant. 

For those who want to learn more about the wine tasting process outside of a winery, The Cité du Vin is the largest wine museum in the world and offers a unique insight into the history of winemaking in France.

Vineyards in Bordeaux
Vineyards in Bordeaux

Aside from exploring wine, the city of Bordeaux also houses a myriad of other attractions. The Place de la Bourse is one of the city's most well known squares and features the world’s largest reflective pool, the Miroir d’Eau. 

city Bordeaux

The Bordeaux Cathedral is also a beautiful spot worth seeing. The bell tower distinguishes the cathedral from the city skyline, standing at 50 metres high. While this Roman Catholic cathedral was originally built in the 11th century, the majority of it was built in the 13th and 14th centuries, and a terrible fire tore through it in the 19th century. It has since been restored with furniture from other churches. 

To wind down after a busy day of sightseeing, simply grab a bottle of wine from a nearby shop like The Wine of Bordeaux and head down to the Garonne river to enjoy the sunset and a glass of wine.

5. An exhilarating ski vacation: Chamonix

The village of Chamonix is on the border of France and Switzerland. It sits in the valley at the base of Mont-Blanc, the most well-known mountain in the French Alps. The mountains in this area provide world-renowned skiing and snowboarding which makes Chamonix the perfect winter destination for those who love the snow. 

Chamonix, France

If skiing isn’t for you, you can slo take a gondola from Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi viewpoint. This gondola ride and vista point offers a full view of the Swiss Alps, a breathtaking sight in the winter or summer. 

In lieu of skiing, you can also check out one of Chamonix’s many spas, including Le Refuge Des Aiglons where you can relax and enjoy your vacation while the rest of your group braves the weather and the mountains. 

While the winter offers a great time to visit, you also shouldn’t miss out on Chamonix if you plan to visit during the summer. Once the snow clears, there are hiking trails all over the mountains for all to enjoy. 

6. A picturesque village: Annecy

Not far from Chamonix is another of the best places to visit in France: Annecy. A beautiful village situated on the Lac d’Annecy, its picturesque location between the Swiss Alps and Annecy Lake provides a wonderful city with countless attractions to explore. 


A picturesque village: Annecy

During the summers, visitors can boat on the lake and enjoy the sunshine, picnic at the Jardins L’Europe, wander through the farmer’s markets, and walk across Pont des Amours, or Lover’s Bridge located on the edge of the lake.  

The old town of Annecy and the Annecy Castle are two other must-sees in this village. The old town is often compared to Venice because of the quaint canals running through the neighbourhood. The castle of Annecy sits on a hill just above the city and now houses a museum as well as a beautiful view of the town below. 

If you happen to be visiting on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday, then be sure to visit the old town market where you can find delicious local gourmet foods.

Lastly on the list of attractions in Annecy is the Palais de I’Île. This building is a cross between a house and a castle and is in the middle of the Thou River.  You can also step inside for another museum. 

7. A cultural hub: Strasbourg

Strasbourg is a village close to the German border and the main city of the Alsace region. It is a great place to visit in France because of its cultural history. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it also houses the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights. This makes it a hub of politics and culture and an important city in international affairs.

A cultural hub: Strasbourg

For visitors who are curious about art, architecture and history, you can learn about all of these topics and more at over ten museums in Strasbourg. 

The Strasbourg Cathedral also offers another beautiful sight for visitors. This cathedral has a Gothic style exterior and stained glass windows from the 13th century. 

You should also check out the oldest park in Strasbourg, called the Orangerie, a perfect spot for an early morning stroll with a coffee in hand. 

One more area of this village that you do not want to skip over is an area called Le Petite France. This part of Strasbourg has buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. It practically allows you to look back in time!

8. An art lover’s dream: Lyon

Lyon is one of the best places to visit in France for those tourists who love spending their days wandering around museums. Just a few of the museums that are worth visiting are the archaeological museum, museum of fine arts, printing and banking museum, and the textile museum. These museums could take up the entirety of your visit and you wouldn’t regret a thing!

Lyon city view. Image 1
An art lover’s dream: Lyon. Image 2

If you do decide you want to take a break from being indoors, the old town of Lyon offers tourists a peek into mediaeval and Renaissance Lyon. Visitors can wander around this area of the town and through the alley ways to catch Renaissance style architecture. 

Today, Lyon is one of the most significant educational cities, second only to Paris. It houses a large student population and is a perfect city for tourists who are excited to learn. 

When you have had enough of the museums here, you can wander around The Traboules, a hidden network of passageways. These go throughout the whole city and you can traverse the courtyards and buildings in Lyon through these passages. 

9. A charming seaside resort: Deauville

This resort was built along the coast of Normandy. Dr. Joseph Olliffe and emperor Napoleon III’s half brother were the two behind the creation of this city. They drained the marshland in the area along the ocean and built hotels and resorts immediately afterward to create the ideal tourist attraction. 

The white-sand beach along this seaside resort is its most popular attraction and gives visitors the perfect place to relax and enjoy the summer sun. 

A charming seaside resort: Deauville

After World War II, Deauville became even more popular among international tourists, with the erection of more hotels and the beginning of the American Film Festival. This film festival continues to draw tourists every year and is a wonderful cultural event. 

Another must-see in Deauville is the Hippodrome Deauville-la-Touques. This is the oldest horse racing course in the city where you can catch a race or a polo game. 

If you want a more relaxing afternoon, grab a fresh baguette and some cheese from Chez Madeleine and head down to the beach.

10. A romantic getaway: Biarritz

This coastal city is both a popular place for affluent French retirees and a great surfing destination. It is home to gorgeous family friendly beaches surrounded by cliffs, waves for beginner surfers, and wine shops. 

© Art de Vivre

The Côte de Basques is a perfect destination for surfers. French surfing began at this very beach in 1956! If you are a beginner, be sure to check the tide tables and schedule your surf session for low tide. The low tide conditions are more suitable for beginners while high tide will be for the most experienced surfers. Even if you do not surf, this beach is absolutely stunning and was even voted as the most beautiful beach in France. If you just want to embrace the surfer vibe of summer and feel carefree, this beach is the one for you. 

Biarritz is also home to an annual art fair that is worth checking out. La Brouillarta takes place every year along the seafront and showcases Biarritz’s newfound claim as a centre for contemporary art. If you’re not in Biarritz in time for la Brouillarta, you can also take a walk to check out the parcours d'oeuvres d’art, a pathway that showcases outdoor sculptures and other works of art. 

To get away from the high rise hotels that make up the majority of the waterfront, you can spend a few hours at the Port des Pêcheurs. This quaint old harbour was built by Napoleon III for Biarritz’s fisherman and now houses restaurants where you can get fresh seafood for a lovely dinner along the water. 

For more travel inspiration, check out these five glorious destinations for this Autumn.

Photo credits: © Unsplash, Shutterstock

Credits for the Main photo: © Adobe Stock

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