10 Best holiday destinations in France

France, officially the French Republic, is a country with which almost every traveller has a relationship. Many dream of its joie de vivre shown by the countless restaurants, picturesque villages and world-famous gastronomy. Some come to follow the trail of France’s great philosophers, writers and artists, or to immerse in the beautiful language it gave the world. And others still are drawn to the country’s geographical diversity with its long coastlines, massive mountain ranges and breathtaking farmland vistas.

France has been the world’s most popular tourist destination for quite some time. It received 83.7 million visitors in 2014, although these figures are highly skewed by the number of people who frequent the country for the weekend, particularly to visit Disneyland Paris, Europe’s most popular visitor attraction. France is one of the most geographically diverse countries in Europe, containing areas as different from each other as urban chic Paris, the sunny French Riviera, long Atlantic beaches, the winter sports resorts of the French Alps, the castles of the Loire Valley, rugged Celtic Brittany and the historian’s dream that is Normandy.

France is a country of rich emotions and turbulent politics but also a place of rational thinking and Enlightenment treasures. Above all, it is renowned for its cuisine, culture and history

 

1. Paris : "City of Light", romance and the Eiffel Tower

Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is one Europe’s largest cities, with 2.2 million people living in the dense, central city and almost 12 million people living in the whole metropolitan area. Located in the north of France on the river Seine, Paris has the well deserved reputation of being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with historic associations and remaining vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design. Dubbed the City of Light (la Ville Lumière) and Capital of Fashion, it is home to the world’s finest and most luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Louis VuittonChanelDiorYves Saint-LaurentGuerlainLancômeL’OréalClarins, etc. A large part of the city, including the River Seine, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has the second highest number of Michelin restaurants in the world (after Tokyo) and contains numerous iconic landmarks, such as the world’s most visited tourist site the Eiffel Towerthe Arc de Triomphethe Notre-Dame Cathedralthe Louvre MuseumMoulin Rouge, and Lido, making it the most popular tourist destination in the world with 45 million tourists annually.

2. Bordeaux : city of wine, traditional stone mansions and smart terraces

You’ll be raising your glass many times in Bordeaux, which is renowned for its wines, considered amongst the best in the world. As the capital of the department Gironde in the region Aquitaine, it has one million inhabitants in its metropolitan area at a 2008 estimate. After years of neglect, the former wet docks are the country’s new hot spot, with a number of cafés, gardens, and museums springing up all the time. A lively university community of over 60,000, (Bordeaux Campus is the largest in France) establishes that Bordeaux is about more than just wine

Bordeaux is considered a very tolerant and relaxed place – no one will bother you about your political beliefs, religion, or sexual orientation. The cultural, artistic, and music scenes are very vibrant.

3. Bourges

Bourges is a city in Centre region of France.

The cathedral of Saint Etienne, a UNESCO heritage site, dates from about 1200-1255. It’s an exceptionally fine and most original work of French Gothic architecture, with double aisles and an immensely high nave. It has preserved almost all the original stained glass of its ambulatory, and some of the high windows of the choir. There are also some lovely later windows in the side chapels. The crypt and towers can be visited for an extra charge.

The Palais de Jacques Coeur was built from 1443-1450 by Jacques Coeur, the richest man in France and banker to Charles VII. It’s a flamboyant work, highly decorated and punctuated by stair turrets and towers just like the castles in the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry – another Bourges inhabitant. The interior can only be visited on a guided tour, for which a charge is made.

4. Lille

Lille is a medium-sized city in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of northern France with a very large student population. This city has a strong industrial background, but, after some difficult years, it is now known throughout France for its handsome city centre and its very active cultural life

Lille is France’s fifth largest metropolitan area and fourth urban area. It is located to the country’s north, on the Deûle River, near the border with Belgium.The whole metropolitan area of Lille, both on French and Belgian territory (Courtray, Tournai) was estimated in 2007 at around 1,885,000 inhabitants, ranking as one of the major metropolitan areas of Europe.

5. Lyon

Lyon also written Lyons in English, is the third largest city in France and centre of the second largest metropolitan area in the country. It is the capital of the Rhone-Alpesregion and the Rhône département. It is known as a gastronomic and historical city with a vibrant cultural scene. It is also the birthplace of cinema.

Founded by the Romans, with many preserved historical areas, Lyon is the archetype of the heritage city, as recognised by UNESCO. Lyon is a vibrant metropolis which makes the most out of its unique architectural, cultural and gastronomic heritage, its dynamic demographics and economy and its strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe.

6. Marseille

Lyon also written Lyons in English, is the third largest city in France and centre of the second largest metropolitan area in the country. It is the capital of the Rhone-Alpesregion and the Rhône département. It is known as a gastronomic and historical city with a vibrant cultural scene. It is also the birthplace of cinema.

Founded by the Romans, with many preserved historical areas, Lyon is the archetype of the heritage city, as recognised by UNESCO. Lyon is a vibrant metropolis which makes the most out of its unique architectural, cultural and gastronomic heritage, its dynamic demographics and economy and its strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe.

7. Nantes

Nantes is the capital of the north-western French region of Pays de la Loire. That said, Nantes has strong historical connections with the adjoining region of Brittany, and is the historical capital of the region (though not its official capital since the days of Napoleon).

Nantes, a city on the Loire River in the Upper Brittany region of western France, has a long history as a port and industrial center. It’s home to the restored, medieval Château des Ducs de Bretagne, where the Dukes of Brittany once lived. The castle is now a local history museum with multimedia exhibits, as well as a walkway atop its fortified ramparts.

8. Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region of France and is most widely known for hosting a number of important European institutions. It is also famous for its beautiful historical centre – the Grande Île – which was the first city centre to be classified entirely as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Strasbourg is the capital city of the Grand Est region, formerly Alsace, in northeastern France. It’s also the formal seat of the European Parliament and sits near the German border, with culture and architecture blending German and French influences. Its Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame features daily shows from its astronomical clock and sweeping views of the Rhine River from partway up its 142m spire

9. Toulouse

Toulouse is a city in southwestern France, near the Pyrenees, in the Midi-Pyrenees region, half way between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon and is renown as a city of rugby and violets

Toulouse, capital of France’s southern Occitanie region, is bisected by the Garonne River and sits near the Spanish border. It’s known as La Ville Rose (‘The Pink City’) due to the terra-cotta bricks used in many of its buildings. Its 17th-century Canal du Midi links the Garonne to the Mediterranean Sea, and can be traveled by boat, bike or on foot

10. Loire Valley

The Loire Valley (French: Val de Loire) is a major tourist destination within France.

The Loire Valley, spanning 280 kilometres, is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France, in both the administrative regions Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire. The area of the Loire Valley comprises about 800 square kilometres