France is one of the biggest countries in Europe by both land mass and population, and is also the second biggest country in the European Union. It is also the most visited country in the world by tourists, mainly thanks to its capital Paris and the stunning south coast known as the 'French Riviera'.
Why Visit France?
France is not just the most visited country by international tourists for any reason, "La France" is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, exquisite cuisine, and world-class wine industry.
You probably won't need reminding, but the country has given birth to some of the most celebrated artists, writers, and philosophers in history, and its iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre Museum attract millions of tourists every year. The country is widely regarded as the world's home of fashion and luxury goods, and is also the birthplace of some of the world's top universities and research institutions.
Your experience of France will ultimately come down to which area you visit, and specifically which city. We want you to leave France after your trip with the best, positive feelings about the country which is why we have broken down our top 5 favourite cities to visit in France.
What you will also notice is that we have put number 1 at the top of the list as we believe you deserve to read the best first, and if your mind is made up, well, then your mind is made up. If you choose to read on further, that is ultimately your choice and who knows maybe you will end up feeling that our number 2/3/4 or 5 is actually where you decide to go.
Best Cities in France
It only makes sense for a city named "Nice" to be top of the list right? Okay, yes that was a little cheesy, but there are plenty of actual reasons why the city is my favourite and why you should visit.
Nice is certainly more than a 'nice' city located in the south of France, along the Mediterranean coast. Known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant markets, and colorful Old Town, Nice is a popular tourist destination that offers a mix of history, culture, and relaxation.
The city's most famous attraction is the Promenade des Anglais, a long seaside promenade that runs along the city's coastline. Here, visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk soak up the sun on the beach, or take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean sea. Whilst it literally translates to "Walkways of the English", I must reiterate that there is absolutely nothing English about it - although you may find some fish and chips nearby!
Nice is also home to a number of historic landmarks, including the amazing Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the Notre-Dame de Nice. The city's Old Town is also worth visiting and is a nice break from the seaside.
The microstate that is Monaco is just a short train journey away from Nice (approximately 20 mins). This mode of transport is probably the most convenient as trains run all day and only cost a couple of euros. There are several alternative options, however, visitors can also take a bus or hire a car to travel to Monaco. Buses run regularly between the two cities, and car hire is widely available in Nice.
Montpellier is certainly a hidden gem of not just the south of France, but the entire country! "La Ville de Montpellier" is a great destination for anyone looking for a taste of authentic French culture. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant food and art scenes, Montpellier has something for everyone.
Despite being lesser-known than some of France's more popular tourist destinations, Montpellier is definitely worth a visit, especially if you're looking for an authentic French experience. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your visit to Montpellier:
Firstly, explore the historic center of the city. Montpellier's old town is filled with narrow streets, charming squares, and impressive buildings, many of which date back to the Middle Ages. Highlights include the Place de la Comédie, the heart of the city, and the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre.
Next, head to the city's many museums and art galleries, visiting these are a great way to learn more about the city's history and art scene. Some of the most popular museums include the Musée d'Anatomie, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of medicine.
Checking out the local food scene is definitely something you cannot miss. The city has many excellent restaurants and cafés to showcase, serving up everything from traditional French dishes to excellent international cuisine.
The last thing to do is to take some time to explore the city's parks and gardens. Montpellier is surrounded by enchanting green spaces, including the Jardin des Plantes and the Parc Zoologique de Montpellier. These parks offer a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and are perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic.
If this was a list of the most picturesque cities in France it would be very hard not to put Strasbourg at top spot. The capital of the Alsace region and the official seat of the European Parliament is a remarkable city and a popular stop for adventurers exploring Western Europe, with nearby Germany and Switzerland just a short drive away.
The city has a rich history and is well-known for its unique blend of French and German cultures, which is reflected in its architecture, food, and traditions. The old town, known as the "Grande Île," is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to the stunning gothic-style Strasbourg Cathedral.
Strasbourg is mostly famous for its captivating canals and waterways, which flow through the old town, and the pleasant Petite France district, with its charming half-timbered houses and narrow streets. This particular area of the Strasbourg is very popular online and has become very much an "Instagrammable" location for photo opportunities. Christmas markets are a big hit in the city too and whilst Strasbourg is breathtaking in the summer, don't underestimate the winter beauty it beholds!
It may shock people massively to think that the world's most visited city isn't at number 1 on my list. For me, Paris just isn't as good as everyone makes it out to be. Don't get me wrong, I still think the place is amazing and for sure I will return again but there are plenty of reasons for why I don't have it at top spot. In my experiences, it has been super over-crowded, dirty and I have found the people not to have been the friendliest. However, I am more than happy for the city to prove me wrong and perhaps, one day, I will have a better experience than before.
Aside from the negatives of the capital lets look at the positives - Paris is greatly historic, has an amazing art and cultural scene and has some of the world's greatest architecture on display all around the city, from the Sacré-Cœur and the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Champs-Elysées.
My favourite thing to do is to visit the iconic Louvre museum and see the wonderful pieces of artwork on display from world-renowned artists such as Monet, Leonardo Da Vinci, Eugène Delacroix and Van Gogh. The last time I visited Paris, I actually booked a ticket to the Louvre, which came with a cruise on the River Seine. This allowed me to see the city in a completely different way to normal and was a great addition to the Louvre trip.
The "City of Love" is a truly romantic place and whilst not everyone's cup of tea, it is certainly somewhere you must visit once in your life.
Lyon has a charming old town, known as Vieux Lyon, with narrow cobbled streets, Renaissance buildings, and hidden courtyards. It is also home to many famous landmarks such as the Fourvière Basilica, the Roman amphitheater, and the Place Bellecour, which is one of the largest public squares in Europe.
Lyon is famous for its gastronomy (which if you didn't know is the study of the relationship between food and culture) and is considered the culinary capital of France. To put it simply, you will struggle to find a bad meal in the city. In fact, Lyon has what can only be referred to as a vibrant food scene, with numerous bouchons, traditional Lyonese restaurants, offering local dishes such as quenelles and coq au vin. The local markets, such as Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, are also a must-visit for foodies.
Lyon also has a thriving arts and music scene, with multiple museums, galleries, and festivals throughout the year. The city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site (since 1998), with its historic architecture and urban landscape being recognized for their exceptional value to humanity.