Who hasn’t heard the famous Audrey Hepburn quote, ‘Paris is always a good idea’? Well, let’s go a bit further with this and say France, as a whole, is a very good idea. The country is brimming with incredible destinations to discover, from the Flemish Lille in the north to the sulfurous Marseille on the Mediterranean coast. So, if you plan on traveling to France this summer, indulge your wanderlust by checking out our list for insights and the best tips about what to discover.
Bordeaux is the capital of wine and therefore, the ideal place if you wish to experience a delicious wine-tasting experience. Located in the Aquitaine region, in southwestern France, the city is full of bars à vin, especially Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre where you can treat yourself to the different varieties of this national beverage. But before that, take a stroll on the banks of the Garonne river, dip your feet in the Miroir d’Eau at Place de la Bourse, and make way your way up the Pey-Berland Tower where you can overlook the city’s little houses that are reminiscent of Legos before stopping by Baillardran to have delicious canelés.
Pey-Berland Tower, , +33 5 56 81 26 25
Very close to the Belgian border, Lille is an enchanting city in northern France. Famous for the Grande Braderie de Lille that takes place in September when street markets line the city for 48 hours. Lille is the best city to visit if you are fond of delicacies such as waffles, mussels and French fries. After a hearty meal, roam about the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, one of France’s largest fine arts museum, and get lost among the masterpieces.
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, , +33 3 20 06 78 00
Strasbourg is located near the German border, which explains why its Christmas market is said to be so genuine and among the most traditional ones. But you won’t have to wait until December to enjoy this city where there is plenty to do. Enjoy a picnic when the sun is out in spring at the Parc de l’Orangerie, savoring some copious choucroute (fermented cabbage) in winter, visiting European institutions and rushing to the top of the cathedral to enjoy one of the most awe-inspiring views of the city.
Parc de l’Orangerie, Strasbourg, France, +33 3 88 60 90 90
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, , +33 3 88 21 43 34
Nice, located on the Côte d’Azur, is home to the uber-famous Promenade des Anglais and has some of the best pebble beaches in France, where you can enjoy the sun before taking a dip in the sea. Also, when in Nice, do not miss the charming St Jean Cap Ferrat where you can hang at the beach as well as visit historical monuments.
Also known as the Ville rose (the pink city), Toulouse is a city popular with students. You’ll find them gathered on one of the many squares the city has, having a drink and laughing. The Place du Capitole is the city’s most famous and impressive square, located at the heart of the city. From there, you can take one of the many streets that jut out from the place and keep on exploring the city. To add an exotic touch to your stay, you could visit the relaxing Japanese Garden close to the Congress center.
Japanese Garden, , Toulouse, France
Located in Brittany, the fortress city was first built upon a rocky island. There, you’ll have to chance to taste Breton delicacies (butter cakes) such as sweet or savory crêpes or kouign-amanns, which are round crusty cakes made with bread dough containing sugary layers of butter. Once in St. Malo, don’t miss the opportunity to take a ship shuttle to Dinard, a neighborhood city where the atmosphere is quite different. Also, the view of St. Malo from the boat is the best you could have to understand the city structure better.
No wonder why this destination is also called ‘pearl of French Alps’ or ‘Venice of the Alps‘ (yes, there are canals that criss-cross the town) Annecy may not be the first city you think of when you think of France, but this hidden gem will not disappoint you. Mostly famous for its lake that is full of posh tourists in the summertime, this idyllic town has plenty of attractions to keep you busy; for instance, do not miss out on the Château d’Annecy that towers over the town.
Who can resist such a charming village squeezed in the east of France. They say it’s the very village that inspired the setting for Beauty and the Beast. Wander down the many alleys among the half-timbered houses from the 15th and 18th centuries, and let your eyes be amazed by the colors surrounding you. Legend has it that in the past, shops in Riquewihr had to be painted differently according to your profession (baker, seamstress, butcher, and so on).
Only seven miles away from Riquewihr, you’ll find the lovely Colmar. One of the best times to visit this little town is in December, for its Christmastime vibes. Its Christmas market is, like Strasbourg’s, very traditional and authentic. However, if you’re not fond of cold weather, spending spring or summer in this fairy-tale village can also be very magical. Don’t forget to stop by the Maison des Têtes (House of Heads), a very peculiar creation built in German Renaissance style.
The Maison des Têtes, , +33 3 89 24 43 43 , Colmar, France
It’s hot chocolate and cozy jumpers season, so you immediately think of chalets, snow, and skiing. Well, this is just the destination you need, Chamonix, the skiers’ haven. Located in the heart of the Rhônes Alpes region, its town is bustling with life, and you’ll be very happy to have some fondue and vin chaud (mulled wine) after a tiring day on the slopes.
If you don’t instantly dream of running in lavender fields because you are more of a urban person (who would like to avoid mosquitoes), you should head to Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. This sweet town is speckled with fountains and little squares full of restaurants happy to welcome you to quench your thirst of the hottest summer days.
Marseille, located on the Mediterranean coast, knows how to be cool and casual. The city is full of monuments and museums to see and activities to do, but if you were to visit only one thing, its harbor, the Vieux-Port (Old Port), is definitely where you should be. There, you can enjoy street musicians, dance performers or artistic exhibitions. If you ever get tired of the bustling city, you can always escape to the calanques, idyllic steep-sided valleys that have been partially submerged by a rise in sea level.
Would you believe it if you were told you can go on a ride on an elephant’s back when in Nantes. If not, you should because the Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is definitely not the only surprising and fascinating thing to see. Actually, the Voyage à Nantes is the best way to discover this city under different aspects, whether it’s a cultural or a playful one, only follow the green line painted on the ground. To end the day, take a beer at Le Nid, a rooftop bar where you can enjoy the most amazing views over Nantes.
Château des ducs de Bretagne, , +33 811 46 46 44
Le Nid, Place de Bretagne, Nantes, France, +33 2 40 35 36 49
Did you know that Montpellier had the most stylish trams in France. Line ‘3’ has been decorated by Christian Lacroix whereas lines ‘1’ and ‘2’ are the masterpieces of Garouste and Bonetti. But that’s not all, this city in southern France also features many beautiful squares, some very vibrant and elegant such as the Place de la Comédie or others more peaceful and enchanting such as the Place de la Canourgue. Stop by Lo Monaco, crowned best pâtisserie of Montpellier and located on the very same street Jean-Jacques Rousseau himself lived.
Lo Monaco, 8 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montpellier, France, +33 4 67 60 76 07