When most people think of France they think of fine wine and cuisine, exceptional scenery and a laid-back lifestyle which is the envy of the rest of the world. The gorgeously diverse landscape – which has inspired centuries of influential writers, artists and poets – includes huge mountain ranges, acres of green countryside and long stretches of sparkling coastline. Paris aside and in no particular order, here our choices for 20 of the most beautiful places to visit in France…
Côte d’Azur – the famously glitzy beautiful Mediterranean coastal resort
The sun-soaked Mediterranean coastline of southeast France is also known as the French Riviera and is one of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in France. The glamorous region has transfixed many famous visitors over the decades (including royalty, writers and artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse) and its miles of gorgeous coastline and azure waters make one of the best places to holiday in the world. One here make sure you visit the stylish coastal cities of Nice, Cannes and St-Tropez – they still remain exclusive holiday resorts where the beautiful people beautiful reside even today! Check out our very own visit to the gorgeous Côte d’Azur in BIG Pictures.
See the beauty of this stunning region captured on film and find out more about our spectacular “Magic of France” July 2020 trip…
- Find out more about our ‘Magic of France’ Provence and Côte d’Azur 2020 trip!
Provence – endless lavender fields, gorgeous vineyards and ancient hilltop villages
A region in southeastern France bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, the spectacular Provence countryside definitely deserves a mention of its own. If you head for the Luberon area (located at the heart of the Provence region) you’ll find the most stereotypical scenery of rural Provence – beautiful landscapes filled with seemingly endless lavender fields, lush olive groves, undulating vineyards and pretty ancient hilltop villages dotted with shutter-board houses. Make sure you also include trips to the picturesque villages of Gordes, Baux-de-Provence and St. Rémy, and the dazzling walled city of Avignon. Long lazy days and alfresco lunches washed down with plenty of wine await you in this rural chic paradise!
- Find out more about our ‘Magic of France’ Provence and Côte d’Azur July 2020 trip!
Loire Valley – a beautiful and romantic river valley region dotted with magnificent Châteaux
An area of outstanding natural beauty in Europe, the Loire Valley is also affectionately known as the garden of France. The valley spans over 280km and is located in the beautiful middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. It’s filled with so much culturally and historically important architecture it has earned itself a world heritage site status. One of the most visited places in France, it’s known for its large collection of fairytale-esque chateaus and mansions, exceptionally beautiful landscapes and one of the most striking rivers in Europe. A tranquil bourgeois paradise that you probably won’t want to leave!
Colmar – a stunning town filled with cobblestone streets, half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings
Colmar is a picturesque town in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, close to the border with Germany. It is a remarkable town because of its picturesque architecture and rich culture. There are many beautiful places to visit in Colmar but one of the prettiest locations is Little Venice – this is where the scenic Lauch River flows right through the town. Stunning half-timbered houses line both sides of the river and I’d recommend taking a boat ride through this section of the town for a wonderful treat. The architecture in the town is both historic and post-card pretty and highlights of visiting Colmar include the Old Town, the Pfister House, Route des Vins, Koighus, the Dominican Church, and Saint Martin Church. It is a very romantic little place which is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in France.
Champagne-Ardenne – one of the great historic provinces of France filled with incredible champagne vineyards
The birthplace of champagne is also one of the most beautiful regions in France and unsurprisingly it’s a very popular destination in France with wine trail tourists. Champagne-Ardenne, located northeast of the country, has miles of Champagne trail routes, pristine and scenic countryside, medieval chateaus and vineyards which stretech as far as the eye can see. Make sure you visit the region’s capital Troyes for impressive art and architecture and Reims for its famous cathedral and vast network of underground wine cellars. We also have a post on our very own visit to the Champagne-Ardenne region on our dog-friendly road trip.
Check out our visit to the beautiful Champagne region (with drone footage)…
Giverny – a pretty village in Normandy which is home to the famous impressionist Claude Monet’s much-cherished garden
Easily one of the most stunning places to visit in France, Giverny is a riverside rural idyll located on the borders of Normandy in Northern France (only an hour’s drive from Paris) which is most famous for being the birthplace of impressionism. The small village was once Claude Monet’s cherished country retreat and now both his postcard-pretty pink shutter-board house and beautiful country gardens are open to the public. Planted by Monet himself, the walled water garden (which inspired so many of his famous paintings) features white and purple wisterias, water lilies, weeping willows, bamboo and the iconic green Japanese bridge!
The Dordogne – a glorious rural idyll known for its stunning scenery and prehistoric cave paintings
The Dordogne (which lies to the south-west of the country) is an exceptionally picturesque place to visit in France which seems to please even the most discerning of travellers. The region’s long roads and rivers wind through unspoiled pastures, spectacular gorges, charming medieval towns and villages of rich historical heritage. It’s also very famous for its prehistoric cave paintings in the Vézère Valley, like those in Lascaux Cave. Include a visit to the sacred pilgrim’s monuments en route to Santiago de Compostela, sample the local wines still produced by many of the chateaus and explore the ancient fortified towns such as the visually striking Beynac-et-Cazenac.
Burgundy – a picturesque and tranquil region famous for its Burgundy wines
Located in east-central France, Burgundy is a popular tourist destination in France with a reputation for making some of the world’s best wines. It is also a very beautiful and tranquil location with a pristine natural environment and dozens of picturesque villages to explore. Burgundy is a historical area that is home to many of Europe’s most impressive Romanesque structures including the Fontenay Abbey and Basilica of Vezelay. There are also many gorgeous castles to explore including our favourites, the magnificent Chateau d’Ancy le Franc and Chateau de Cormatin. One of the region’s most impressive natural assets is the Morvan National Park, which is located in the heart of Burgundy. It consists of more than 1,000 square miles of pristine wilderness and is an excellent location for camping or hiking. Check out our very own riverboat journey in beautiful Burgundy.
Strasbourg – a stunning medieval half-timbered town with both French and German influences
Located right on the border of Germany and France this popular and scenic heritage city has the charming characteristics and cultural flavours of both countries. It’s a picturesque and romantic place with an energic buzz and famous for its riverfront half-timbered houses, gothic cathedral and obvious fondness for flowers! It also makes a great base for those wishing to visit the nearby Black Forest or the River Rhine.
Corsica – a gorgeous mountainous Mediterranean island home to stylish coastal towns and stunning beaches
Corsica is stunning island located in the Mediterranean just off the coast of southern France. It is a popular tourist destination that is known for its many pristine beaches, incredible scenery, and harbour town resorts. There is more than 1,000 km of coastline surrounding Corsica, which provides visitors with plenty of opportunities for fishing, boating, or swimming. The Mediterranean climate is a major drawcard, with the weather being warm enough to enjoy the water all year round. The most beautiful spots to visit in Corsica include the beaches of Désert des Agriates (white sand and crystal clear blue water), the Perched villages of la Balagne, Scandola Nature Reserve, the Gorges of Restonica & Tavignano, and the Fortress town of Bonifacio. The Lavezzi Islands, which are located between Corsica and Sardinia, are also worth visiting.
Palace of Versailles – one of the largest and most opulent castles in the world
A wealthy suburb of Paris, Versailles is an important administrative centre and a proud tourist attraction in its own right. It’s most famous for its chateau – the hugely grand and ornate Palace of Versailles which once housed the kings of France (including the ill-fated Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette). Both the immaculate palace and manicured gardens are extraordinary and the palace offers a beautifully preserved insight into the lives of 18th-century French royalty before the start of the legendary French Revolution.
Annecy – the postcard-pretty alpine town which sits on the beautiful and sprawling Lake Annecy
The French Alps are probably best known for their up-market ski resorts, but the region is also home to some very attractive towns which make lovely places to visit in both summer and winter. One that really stands out is Annecy, also known as the ‘Venice of Savoie’ the gorgeous and romantic city is interspersed with small canals with a postcard-pretty 14th-century Chateau sitting in its centre. With its unique central focal point and backdrop of beautiful mountains, as well as a stunning Old Town home to cobbled streets, winding canals and pastel-colored houses, Annecy is easily one of the most photogenic towns in France!
Mont Saint-Michel and the rest Normandy region – a unique and striking tidal island and surrouding gorgeous coastline
Second only to the Eiffel Tower as France’s best-loved landmark, Mont St-Michel is rocky, peaked island connected by a causeway to northwest France. It’s an imposing sight sitting amid sprawling sandbanks and powerful tides but the heritage site is mostly celebrated for its unique Gothic-style Benedictine abbey. Directly below the grand monastery is a medieval village complete with winding streets dotted with small houses and souvenir shops.
You should also spend a few days exploring the rest of the Normandy region. Filled with history and lush green landscapes expect dry-stone farmhouses, chalk-white cliffs, half-timbered buildings and picturesque chateaus. The historically important site of the Normandy Landing beaches and the famous Bayeux tapestry is also located here.
Brittany – a stunning region known for its wild, dramatic coastline, medieval towns and thick forests
A very popular place to holiday in France Brittany is a coastal region filled with jagged coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, quaint coastal fishing villages, majestic chateaux, and dozens of medieval towns just waiting to be explored. It is a popular destination in France with visitors who come to the area to enjoy the authentic culture, wonderful scenery, delicious food, and a relaxing laid back atmosphere. There are dozens of beautiful places to visit along the coastline of Brittany including the steep cliffs of Pointe du Raz, Cap Fréhel and the Crozon peninsula. The beaches are also a major drawcard, with Ploumanac’h, Morgat, and Quiberon being the most popular. If you head inland, you can visit Brocéliande forest, parish closes (enclos paroissiaux), or the amazing megalithic standing stones at Carnac.
Lyon – France’s elegant and historic second city
Lyon is France’s second-most important city after Paris. It is a historic city with a rich culture and beautiful architecture. The city is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list and is home to some of the world’s most precious ancient ruins, Roman structures, and medieval buildings. Lyon is located at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône Rivers. This is a scenic location and one of the reasons why Lyon is such a romantic location. The romance of the city is enhanced by the many narrow winding streets and ancient buildings it contains.
There are dozens of beautiful places within Lyon, but we loved the atmospheric Quartier Saint-Jean, because of its medieval buildings and cobblestone lanes. The Place Neuve Saint-Jean is also a must-see. It is a picturesque square will many shops and traditional restaurants — the perfect location for a romantic dinner. Other beautiful places in Lyon include Colline de la Croix-Rousse (a historic neighbourhood built on sloping streets), Presqu’ile District (stunning architecture and town squares), and Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourviere.
Rhône-Alpes – a beautiful unspoilt region popular with outdoor leisure enthusiasts
Rhône-Alpes is a beautiful region located in the southeast of France. It has a very diverse landscape which includes mountain ranges (including the famous Mont Blanc), winding canyons, and gentle valleys dotted with hundreds of farms and vineyards and its very own dormant volcano the Puy-de-Dôme. It is difficult to describe the incredible and tranquil beauty of the natural environment in this part of France and it’s a place that has to be experienced first hand to really be appreciated! There are dozens of spectacular locations to visit, including Gorges de l’Ardeche — a series of winding gorges located in Ardèche. Lake Geneva is another must-see location if you are visiting the region. It is a huge natural lake shared between Switzerland and France. It’s the perfect location for boating, fishing, swimming and water skiing in the warmer months.
Another one of our favourite locations is Les Pertes de le Valserine — a tranquil river walk in Bellegarde sur Valserine. It really showcases the natural beauty of the region, including its varied flora and fauna. Rhône-Alpes is also home to many charming towns and cities. They include Lyon (Rhône), Grenoble (Isère), Saint-Étienne (Loire), Valence (Drôme), and Chambéry (Savoie). They are all scenic locations with incredible architecture and wonderful green spaces to enjoy. The best time to visit Rhone-Alpes is during the summer months (July to August) and ski season (December to March). Check out our dog-friendly road trip to the Rhone Alpes.
Auvergne – vast forests, natural hot springs unspoilt countryside and dormant volcanos
Auvergne is a unique region located in central France. Now part of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, the landscape in Auvergne has been shaped by ancient volcanoes into a series of mountain ridges, craters and valleys, called the Chaîne des Puys. The landscape is dramatic, impressive, and very tranquil. It’s a slow-paced part of France that is home to many ski resorts, farms, and country towns. Because this area is mostly rural, there are multiple areas of pristine natural beauty to enjoy.
The volcanic past of Auvergne is very obvious, with huge craggy outcrops of rock and an abundance of natural hot springs. The region’s largest city, Clermont-Ferrand, also showcases the volcanic history of the region well. The paving stones, statues, and shop fronts are all carved from the volcanic rock that is plentiful in the area. Clermont-Ferrand’s Gothic cathedral is also constructed using local volcanic stone. The best option for viewing the region’s spectacular mountains is the Panoramique des Dômes — the youngest volcano in the Chaîne des Puys. It has a high viewing platform that offers visitors incredible views. I personally stayed at the wonderful Volca Lodges which offers eco-friendly glamping style accommodation with hot tubs on the balconies overlooking the spectacular countryside (pictured above).
Midi-Pyrénées – magnificent mountain scenery and unspoilt wilderness
The south of France has a well-deserved reputation for being a beautiful location. The Midi-Pyrénées showcases the incredible beauty of this part of France perfectly. The region encompasses the French Pyrenees including the stunning Pic du Midi de Bigorre, Cirque de Gavarnie, and Néouvielle Massif. The scale of the mountains in this part of France has to be seen to believe. Moving away from the mountains, there are many valleys and foothills to explore, along with wonderful bodies of water including Lake Gaube, Lac de Genos, and Bethmale Lake. The lakes in Midi-Pyrénées are a fantastic spot for camping and hiking. There are countless charming villages to visit in the south of France, including Conques, Rocamadour, and St-Bertrand-de-comminges. Toulon is the largest city in the region. It is another beautiful French city that is packed with art, culture and incredible architecture.
Languedoc – sometimes know as the ‘Real South of France’ with sunbaked vineyards and gorgeous beaches
Languedoc is a historical coastal region in southern France. It stretches from Provence to the Pyrenees Mountains and the border with Spain. This part of France benefits from a warm Mediterranean climate and has a pristine natural environment.
It is one of the most geographically diverse regions in the country, with wetlands, mountains, sandy beaches, and arid stretches of land near the southern border. The coastline is home to many incredible beaches, along with the bustling cities of Montpellier and Nîmes. Venturing inland, you will find the wild country of the Grands Causses and Cévennes. Heading south, the landscape becomes drier and the Spanish influence is more obvious. There are dozens of beautiful locations to visit, including Pont du Gard (a Roman aqueduct), the Cap d’Agde seaside resort, Cité de Carcassonne (a medieval citadel), Gorges du Tarn, and Château de Quéribus (a ruined castle in the commune of Cucugnan).
Gorge du Verdon – sometimes known as the Grand Canyon of Europe with white-water rapids and stunning cliffs
The Gorges du Verdon is one of the most spectacular sights in Europe. Sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of Europe, it is a 25-kilometer long and 700 metre-deep natural canyon located in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in southeastern France. Gorges du Verdon is named after the wonderful green water of the Verdon river (“vert” is French for green). This incredible natural gorge has been attracting tourists to the region since the mid-19th century and is still extremely popular. Most visitors to the gorge come to the location to swim, go white water rafting, hike the rim of the canyon, or kayak along the river.