Actor Audrey Hepburn once said: “Paris is always a good idea.” We’ll go further and say that France as a whole is a good idea. The country brims with incredible destinations, from Flemish Lille in the north to cool and casual Marseille on the Med. Indulge your wanderlust by checking out our list of the best places to visit.
Close to the Belgian border, enchanting Lille is famous for its Grande Braderie each September, when street markets take over the city for 48 hours. Lille is the best place to try delicacies such as waffles, mussels and french fries. After a hearty meal, view the masterpieces in the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, one of the largest art galleries in France.
This fortress city in Brittany is today a port with ferries to and from the UK. Taste Breton delicacies such as sweet or savoury crêpes or kouign-amanns (crusty cakes made with bread dough and sugary butter). Take a short boat trip to Dinard, where the atmosphere is decidedly different. Look back at Saint-Malo while you are on the ferry to best appreciate the city skyline.
This destination is known as “the pearl of French Alps” or “Venice of the Alps” because of the canals that criss-cross the town. Annecy is a gem that most visitors find charming. The banks of its lake are filled with tourists and there are plenty of attractions to keep you busy. Do not miss the Château d’Annecy which dates to the 1100s and was restored after the Second World War.
Who can resist this charming village in the northeast, said to have inspired the settings in Beauty and the Beast (1991), the Disney animated fantasy? Wander down alleys among half-timbered houses and be amazed by the colours. Legend has it that shops in Riquewihr were painted according to the occupiers’ professions (baker, seamstress, butcher and so on).
Visit this northeastern town in December for its Christmas vibes. Like Strasbourg, its market is traditional and authentic. Spring and summer in this fairytale community can also be magical. Look for the Maison des Têtes (House of Heads), which was built in German renaissance style and has eaves full of curlicues.
If when you think of hot chocolate and cosy jumpers, your mind leaps to chalets, snow and skiing, this is the destination for you. Chamonix, a haven for winter sports, is located in the heart of the Rhônes Alpes region. Spend a day on the slopes then enjoy fondue and vin chaud (mulled wine) in the evening.
The Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is not the only surprising and fascinating place to see. The Voyage à Nantes is the best way to discover this city — pick a theme and follow the green line painted on the ground. To end the day, have a beer at Le Nid, a rooftop bar where you can enjoy amazing views.
For more inspiration, see beautiful towns and cities in France.