For more than two decades, France has reigned as the world’s most popular tourist destination, receiving 82 million foreign tourists annual. People from all over the world are drawn to France’s sophisticated culture, dazzling landmarks, exquisite cuisine, fine wines, romantic chateaux and picturesque countryside. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in France:
Number 10. Marseille
One of Europe’s oldest cities and France’s second largest city, Marseille is a major Mediterranean seaport located off the southeast coast of France.
Boasting an idyllic climate, Roman ruins, and medieval architecture, Marseille is also a working city with several universities and industries. At the core of Marseille is its old port. Dominated by two historic forts, this bustling harbor is lined with waterfront cafes, shops and bars. One of Marseille’s best natural attractions, the Calanques are a series of small inlets with astonishing blue water and majestic limestone cliffs.
Number 9. Lyon
The third largest city in the country, Lyon is located where the Rhone and Saone Rivers join. Its strategic location has enabled it to attract merchants to the city ever since it was founded by the Romans in 43 BC.
An orderly and sophisticated place, renaissance buildings dot its streets. Lyon seamlessly mixes the new with the old, with a rich cultural heritage that encompasses gastronomic delights and fine architecture.
Lyon Cathedral is one of the most impressive sights, and the old town is lovely to walk around. Make sure to try some of the sumptuous cuisine before you continue on your way.
Number 8. Strasbourg
Capital of Alsace, Strasbourg has a stunning historical center and occupies a strategic setting on the west bank of the Rhone.
Consequently, it has been fought over by France and Germany throughout its long history. Now, however, the glassy European Union buildings glitter in the sun and, along with the teeming student body, help to give a modern air to this ancient city. The gothic cathedral is simply stunning to behold, as is the delightful La Petite France that is home to the old part of town.
Number 7. Loire Valley
About a two hours drive south of Paris, the Loire Valley is a region regarded for its spectacular scenery, picturesque vineyards and historic villages. The valley’s biggest attraction is its large number of chateaux scattered throughout the rolling green hills. Ranging from grand country manors to defense fortresses and luxurious palaces, these chateaux were built by French nobility. The valley is also home to many wineries that offer tours and wine tastings.
Number 6. Bordeaux
Straddling the banks of the Garonne River, Bordeaux is a large city with a lot to offer. Its impressive old town is delightful to walk around, and the architecture on show is ravishing.
Surrounding Place de la Bourse, you can find 18th century mansions rubbing shoulders with decadent palaces, as well as a number of great art museums. At night, the view of the city lights from the Napoleonic-era Pont de Pierre is magical.
Home to some of the best wines in the world, make sure to give them a taste before you head off.
Number 5. Cannes
Up until the 19th century, Cannes was just a quiet fishing village, but today it is a glamorous seaside city made world famous by the annual Cannes Film Festival. Every May when Cannes hosts the film festival, hordes of fans flock to see the rich and famous in person as the celebrities walk the red carpet up the steps of the Palais des Festivals where thousands of films are screened.
Leading up to the Palais des Festivals is the beautiful waterfront promenade that is lined with palm trees, upscale hotels, restaurants and designer shops like Gucci, Chanel and Dior.
Number 4. Mont Saint-Michel
Rising up from the midst of vast mud flats is the rocky island of Mont Saint-Michel, located off France’s northwestern coast in Normandy. The medieval structures on the island are built as if stacked upon one another and crowned with the star attraction, the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel.
The awe-inspiring abbey was built by devoted monks in 708 AD after the Bishop of Avranches was allegedly visited by the Archangel Michael. The bay around Mont St-Michel is famed for having Europe’s highest tidal variations.
Number 3. Dordogne
Unless you have weeks or months to spend in the scenic Dordogne region of southwestern France, you’re going to pick and choose the things you want to see.
There is just so much to see and do here, beginning with picture-postcard villages and chateaux, including the well-preserved Chateau de Beynac, a hilltop castle. The scenery is pretty awesome, too, with the Dordogne River running through it. The Dordogne also has some of the best prehistoric cave art in France.
Number 2. Nice
Located on the French Riviera, Nice is constantly bathed in sunshine. As the fifth largest city in France, it has a vibrant mix of cultures. During the day, travelers can enjoy a stroll through its historic center or find a place along Nice’s pebbly beaches to take in the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea. Walking along the famous Promenade des Anglais and gazing out over the turquoise waters is simply heavenly.
A charming place to spend some time, Nice has something for everyone, as it combines city life with a beautiful setting.
Number 1. Paris
Attracting more than 45 million visitors annually, Paris is the world’s most popular tourist destination. Situated on the banks of La Seine, the elegant and stylish capital of France is a romantic place, with lovely boulevards, beautiful buildings, and sights like the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral, rising towards the heavens. From the stunning art collections at the Louvre to the eerie catacombs beneath the streets and the breath taking Notre-Dame Cathedral, you could spend a lifetime getting to know all of Paris´ wonderful sights.