Ah, France… just hearing the word evokes pleasant thoughts of baguettes, lovely cuisine and pastries, the Eiffel tower, and the sweetest romance. However, there is truly far more to France than what they are most known for worldwide. In fact, France is so incredibly popular amongst tourists throughout the world. For over two decades now, France has remained at the top of the list of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The European country receives upwards of 82 million tourists (foreign tourists, that is) annually. That’s a lot of people! If you’re looking to join the 82 million yearly visitors to France, then you should certainly learn the top 10 places to visit in France.
Indeed, France has plenty of foreign tourists annually. Travelers come to visit from all over the world in order to see France’s exquisite and practically sinful cuisine, their sophisticated culture, the fine wines, the picturesque landscapes of the country sides, and all the romantic chateaux. However, most of the tourists that come to this country likely think of Paris first. And while Paris is certainly an amazing place to visit, there are also so many other places in France that you can check out.
In today’s article, we’ll be looking at the top 10 places to visit in France (outside of Paris!). The end goal is to give you a great idea of places that you can go so that you can plan your own vacation itinerary.
Planning Your Itinerary: Top 10 Places to Visit in France
Before we get started, we want to let you know that this list is not put together in any particular order. We’ve simply put together ten of the best. Feel free to include or exclude any of these places according to your preferences. With that said, let’s get started!
Marseille is actually the next most popular city in France – well known enough that most people also know about it. This city is France’s 2nd largest – and it also holds the title of being one of Europe’s oldest. No wonder so many also dream of visiting Marseille; after all, it is incredibly rich in history and culture.
Marseille is actually a seaport in the Mediterranean. But not only that, it is actually also one of the major ones, located just off France’s southeast coast. If you’re looking for an amazing and idyllic climate, you’ll find it here. You’ll also see things such as medieval architecture and even Roman ruins. History aficionados will find this city a joy to visit. Culture seekers will also find plenty of distinguished venues of culture here.
Aside from the history and culture, Marseille also has more to offer. Plenty of industries have a foothold in this working city. There are also many universities.
Likely one of the biggest attractions here is the old port, which is dominated by 2 historic forts. The harbor, bustling as it is, is lined by bars, shops, and waterfront cafes.
Truly, you should check out Marseilles – once you do, you’ll definitely see why it’s often put on lists of the top 10 places to visit in France.
The next place we’ve incuded is Strasbourg, the capital city of a region called Alsace. This beautiful city is located on the border between Germany and France. Strasbourg is most known for serving as the European Parliament’s seat. It’s also used by other important institutions in Europe such as the Court of Human Rights as well as the Europe Council.
Of course, most tourists wouldn’t really be interested in visiting these institutions. But fortunately, Strasbourg does have plenty of other things to offer.
The center of this city, Grande Île, is a lovely historic place. It’s also one of the reasons behind Strasbourg being included on this list of the top 10 places to visit in France. Here you will find a blend of German and French architecture. There are a myriad shops, museums, cafes, and more. And, of course, you will find striking attractions here like the awe-inspiring Gothic cathedral.
Lyon is a city located in the east-central area of France. It’s the capital of the region of Rhone-Alpes – well, of the Rhone department, that is. Lyon boasts a long and storied history, and today it is actually the third biggest city in France. It’s known for many things, including historical architecture and vibrant culture. Of course, if you’re a food lover in search of gastronomic adventures, you’ll find that Lyon has plenty to offer.
This city is made up of various districts, each of them offering their own interesting treasures. Croix-Rousse, for example, is known for having hundreds and hundreds of hidden/secret passageways. Then, you have Presqu’île, which is the heart of Lyon. There you will find tons of bars and restaurants. Visiting Fourvière will bring you Roman ruins as well as Gothic churches. Finally, you’ll the amazingly beautiful Tete d’Or park in the wealthy district of Brotteaux.
Another destination we can absolutely say is one of the top 10 places to visit in France is Loire Valley. Although not as popular as Paris or Marseille, Loire Valley is actually also quite popular amongst tourists. This Valley is basically a region that is found in France’s center. It’s often known for the spectacular scenery found here. In Loire Valley, you will find picturesque vineyards and splendid chateaux. On top of that, you’ll also find charming historic villages here.
This region is named Loire because it stretches 175 miles or 280 kilometers along the river of the same name. the valley twists and turns through some of the most beautiful and most charming chateaux in France, so here you truly will find some of the best views in the country. We’ll name some of the most popular famous chateaux found here: the Amboise, the Chambord, the Rivau, the Chenonceau, and the Chinon.
Another thing you’ll likely also really like about Loire Valley is the fact that it is home to a ton of wineries. These wineries offer tourists wine tastings and tours, so if this is something you are interested in, you’ll find it right here.
We’ve talked about many of the areas/regions of France, but we haven’t yet mentioned the South. So now, we are! Luberon is located in the southern area of France, where a ton of French society also resides. This place is certainly considered a haven for the French society – but it’s also a place where British and American visitors flock. Foreign tourists come to this area in order to experience charming little villages during the summer.
Luberon, located in Central Provence, actually became a hugely popular tourist destination after books were published by Peter Mayle. These books offered detailed stories of life experienced in Provence. In this area there are plenty of lush forests. You’ll find gorgeous lavender fields, with colorful painted houses further adding to the charm. Here you will also find plenty of farmers markets if this is something you are interested in.
Truly, once you visit Luberon, you will see why exactly it’s considered one of the top 10 places to visit in France. It’s certainly a magnet for tourists. You can even get a souvenir from the Oppede le Vieux village – from here you can get some pottery to take home. You’ll also love the ambiance of Oppede le Vieux; it actually still has a bit of that Middle Ages feel.
Ah, Bordeaux. This port city is actually one of the famous ones in France – in fact, it has a wine named after it. Bordeaux is found just a half hour inland from the Atlantic Ocean, built by the Garonne river. It’s considered another major port, just like Marseille.
In Bordeaux you will find a ton of things to see. This city is stuffed to the brim with historical sites, fine architecture, world-class culture and arts, and even amazing shopping options. The city center here features over three hundred and fifty historical landmarks and structures, such as charming old medieval churches and amazing old bridges (like the bridge of Ponte de Pierre).
If plazas are your thing, you’ll find several gorgeous ones here. The most popular and beautiful among them is Place de la Bourse, with its gorgeous mirror-like effect, which stuns many visitors and viewers.
And of course, you cannot visit Bordeaux without also making a stop in the wine country surrounding it. Here, you can visit vineyards and do wine tastings (oh Bordeaux wine, we love you!). You can also come to admire the many chateaux and beautifully picturesque villages.
Yes – that Normandy. This place in France is fiercely independent. They have a ton of weighted history, along which comes this rugged charm. This region is beautiful and verdant. It takes its name from its conquerors; the Vikings that came to settle during the 9th Century. Normandy as a word actually comes from Old Norse for “north men”, so there you go!
Normans have indeed kept their relatively fearsome reputation, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t welcome you warmly when you visit. In Normandy you will find beautiful beaches, including the beach. You’ll also find some of the best seafood in France. If architecture is your love, you’ll be happy to know that there is plenty of beautifully stunning architecture here.
In terms of history, whew! Normandy truly has a lot. it has plenty of history, from picturing in some of the earliest raids of the Vikings, to being England’s conquest in 1066. And, of course, Normandy pictures in some of the darkest moments during World War 2.
Today, you will find that there are many places to/of pilgrimage in Normandy. These places were preserved as memorials to those who have lost lives in 1944’s infamously tragic D-Day landings.
If you’re interested in more scenic views, you may want to check out the picturesque Dordogne region, found in the southwest of France. Here, there are so many beautiful places to visit and so many things to do. You’ll find postcard perfect villages and chateaux, one of them the Chateau de Baynac. This well-preserved Chateau is actually a castle on a hilltop. Can it get more picturesque than that? This place is teeming with history and with amazingly beautiful scenery, through which the river Dordogne runs. If you want prehistoric cave art, some of the best in France exists in the Dordogne. Most of them feature animals. However, for the purposes of preservation, these cave drawings can no longer be visited by the general public. It’s unfortunate, but you can at least check out some replicas, which we would say are a must see!
The French Riviera
Another well-known place in France, the French Riviera is located on the Mediterannean Sea’s French coast. The Riviera, also known as the Cote d’ Azur, is most known for being the playground of those who are rich and famous. Indeed, here you’ll find hordes of famous and rich tourists from all over the world.
Famed for hosting the Cannes Film Festival, the Cote d’ Azur is also well known for Monaco and St. Tropez. But of course, these places are not the only ones you’ll find here. In this area you’ll also find the Eze village and the Saint-Paul de Vence village. Grasse, on the other hand, has many perfumeries for you to visit.
If you’re looking for a place to visit that has a mild or maybe even warm climate all throughout the year, drop by here and simply fall in love.
Okay, so maybe it’s kind of cheating to include Paris on the list of top 10 places to visit in France. But we just…had to. After all, Paris is most known for France, which attracts upwards of 45 million annual visitors. Paris has plenty of nicknames – the city of Love, the city of Lights, the world’s capitol of fashion… you name it. This romantic city is home to a ton of iconic landmarks like the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel tower. The Notre Dame Cathedral resides here too.
Museum lovers will love the Louvre, and even the Musee d’Orsay.
France is an amazing country steeped in history and culture. Here there are simply so many beautiful things to see and do that you cannot even explore all of it in a month. We hope that we’ve given you a great selection of some of the top 10 places to visit in France, enough to get you started with planning your itinerary. Have an amazing vacation in France!