In addition to the world famous Paris, there are charming cities and places in France. The beauty of the country lies precisely in the fact that each region, and consequently the various cities, have their own specific characteristics that make them diametrically different from each other, even though they belong to the same nation.
Just think of the picturesque medieval villages and the lively holiday resorts of the French Riviera; the poignant landscape of the Normandy coast and the luxuriant Mediterranean coast; the lavender fields of Provence and the “almost German” atmosphere of Alsace. Here are the 10 most beautiful cities in France.
A city in southern France, in the prefecture of the Vaucluse department, of which it is the capital, Avignon is part of the administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and overlooks the left bank of the Rhone.
From 1309 to 1377 Avignon was the seat of the Catholic Popes and remained under their dominion until 1791, when it became part of France. As evidence of this past remains the imposing Palais des Papes in the city center, surrounded by medieval stone fortifications.
In addition to history, it is good to remember that Avignon is also a capital of French wine, to be precise the Côtes du Rhône: absolutely unmissable and super scenic is the tour of the vineyards, which in half a day will take you to Gigondas, Seguret and especially Châteauneuf-du -Pape, to learn about grape varieties and taste some fantastic wines.
But not only that, the city competes with nearby Arles for the primacy of gastronomic capital of Provence. The territory around Avignon is an immense lush garden of fruits and vegetables, the protagonists of the local dishes: ratatouille, bohemienne, tian. Typical Avignonese are also the daube avignonnaise, leg of veal marinated in white wine with local herbs and the berlinguette, hard-boiled eggs with anchovy pie.
Capital of Normandy, in the north of France, Rouen is a port city on the Seine.
Important center in the Roman period and in the Middle Ages, it is famous for being the city where Giovanna D’Arco was killed. But, Rouen is also known as the “city of a hundred bell towers”: it hosts numerous churches, especially Gothic, such as Saint-Maclou and Saint-Quen.
The historic center is pedestrianized and paved, overlooked by the characteristic medieval half-timbered houses, in wood and masonry. Absolutely recommended a guided walking tour, with a local guide who will make you discover the secrets and the musts of the city. The skyline is dominated by the spiers of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, famous for being immortalized by Claude Monet in a series of paintings.
Rouen was built on the Seine. This important river divides it in two: on the right side the ancient part with the historic center, on the left the modern and industrial part. The fact that the Seine is navigable, this represents an attraction.
A short distance from the Italian border, Menton is one of the most visited destinations on the French Riviera.
Rich in sunshine, it enjoys a mild climate which gives its land an incomparable fertility. A city full of gardens, some classified as historical monuments or remarkable gardens, Menton is covered with magnificent Mediterranean vegetation where all kinds of semi-tropical plants flourish, including the lemon, symbol of Menton par excellence.
It may be due to the perennially mild climate or the “hybrid” geographical position, here you can breathe a Ligurian-Provençal atmosphere.
The tall houses with pastel tones, peeling from the salt and decorated with trompe l’oeil motifs, the narrow alleys, lavender, oil and soaps. Perfect for the classic summer holiday, Menton can be pleasantly visited all year round.
The capital of the Alsace region, in the north-east of France, is home to 3 important institutions: the European Parliament, the Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe.
Its position on the German border makes Strasbourg a city subject to the double French and German influence, an evident mixture in several aspects: culture, architecture and gastronomy.
The symbol of the city is the astronomical clock of the gothic Notre-Dame cathedral which offers small shows every day. From the cathedral you can enjoy a wide panoramic view of the Rhine river, although unfortunately it is not possible to climb to the highest point of the church, at 142 m.
Special features of Strasbourg: it is a city built entirely on the water of the Rhine; a boat ride is the best way to discover it from an unusual perspective. If you plan to stay more than a few days, it is better then to purchase the Strasbourg City Pass, with boat tour included.
A maritime city in the south of France, it has been a crossroads of migration and trade for centuries since its foundation by the Greeks in 600 BC. This traffic finds tangible proof in today’s multiculturalism of the city itself.
Capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region and the Bouches-du-Rhône department, Marseille is the largest city in southern France, as well as the first port in France, fourth in the Mediterranean and at European level.
The heart of the center is the Vieux Port, where fishmongers sell fresh fish along the jetties crowded with boats. The Notre Dame de la Garde dominates from above and is distinguished by its Romanesque-Byzantine architecture. Among churches, forts and characteristic neighborhoods such as Le Panier, more modern buildings stand out: from the MUCEM museum to the Cité Radieuse by Le Corbusier to the CMA CGM tower by Zaha Hadid.
The capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées region in Southern France, Toulouse is crossed by the Garonne River and is close to the Spanish border.
The city is also known as “La Ville Rose” (The Pink City) for the terracotta bricks used in the construction of many of its buildings. Still on the subject of colors, Toulouse is also known as the “City of violets” due to the massive presence of this flower in the countryside and the use made of it in cooking, pastry and perfumery.
The symbol of Toulouse is the Canal du Midi, an example of 17th century engineering, which connects the Garonne to the Mediterranean. Unesco World Heritage Site since 1996, it can be traveled by boat, bicycle or on foot.
The city also hosts particular attractions such as the Japanese garden and, last but not least, various interactive space-themed museums since the city is the most important aerospace center in Europe where Airbuses are produced.
At the heart of the famous wine region, Bordeaux is a port city located on the banks of the Garonne River in southwestern France. The metropolitan area is the sixth most populous in the country.
The city is part of Gascony and is known throughout the world for the wine of the same name, Bordeaux. There are therefore numerous activities related to wine: absolutely to visit the Cité du Vin, where you can taste the best wines of the region.
In addition to vintage wines, Bordeaux and its surroundings offer many attractions: historical sites, walks along the Sainte-Catherine street, surfing, and the remarkable art museums. In 2007, UNESCO defined the historic center of the city as a World Heritage Site, for a total of 347 buildings.
Do not miss the Gothic cathedral of Saint André, the villas of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the gardens that line the quays on the bends of the river, the large piazza della Borsa with the fountain of the Three Graces in the center.
Capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department, Nice sits on the pebble beaches of the Bay of Angels on the French Riviera.
Founded by the Greeks and frequented by the European elite during the 19th century, the city has always been a meeting place for artists. Henri Matisse’s career, to name one, is retraced by the collection of paintings of the Musée Matisse dedicated to him, while the Musée Marc Chagall showcases some of the artist’s most important religious paintings.
Nice is a city with a strong tourist vocation: it has the second largest hotel capacity in France and has about 4 million tourists a year.
Do not miss the promenade des Anglais, the elegant promenade, a meeting and walking place for tourists and locals which overlooks the famous Hôtel Négresco. Typical are its blue chairs (chaises bleues), where you can sit and enjoy the sea breeze.
World Heritage Site, Lyon, in the Rhône Valley, is famous for the Festival of Lights, fine wines and French cuisine.
Its size makes it one of the largest metropolises in the country, but still pleasant and liveable. La Vieux Lyon is enchanting, at the foot of the Fourvière hill on the bank of the Saône: a very charming medieval area to explore on foot.
Getting lost in the cobbled alleys is truly suggestive and there is a lot to see, from the Cathedral of Saint Jean to the traboules, a maze of “secret” passages that connect different buildings together, to the many museums that can be visited in this area.
Do not miss Bellecour, the largest square in Europe, the “park of the golden head” which with its 117 hectares is one of the largest urban parks in France, and an evening in the lively Saint-Jean district.
At least a lunch break in a bouchon, one of the characteristic bistros, is recommended.
It is absolutely impossible to make a list of the 10 most beautiful cities in France without having its capital at the top.
Paris, the romantic city par excellence, is the queen of French cities, as well as an essential stop. World center of art, fashion, gastronomy and culture, a whole week would not be enough to visit Paris, just as an article would not be enough just to talk about it. Surely it is an extremely versatile city with a thousand faces.
Various types of activities to be undertaken, such as a cruise on the Seine or a visit to the Eiffel Tower, it is impossible to leave someone unsatisfied. The perfect city for anyone: from the family with children, who will surely dedicate a day to Disneyland Paris, to the romantic couple who choose the city of love for their fateful marriage proposal.
The urban architecture dates back to the 19th century and is characterized by wide boulevards and the Seine, there are symbolic monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, characteristic neighborhoods (Latino, Montmrtre, Belleville), manicured gardens and a riot of extremely famous museums.
In addition to the attractions, the beauty of Paris is to experience its atmosphere: the city is in fact renowned for its traditional cafés, characteristic bistros and high-fashion shops.
Discover more other countries and destination HERE.