France is best known for two things: Paris and the French countryside. But the country is home to some great urban centers that are worth a visit to get a feel for France’s various regional cultures. From north to south, east to west, here is my list of the 8 best cities to visit in France:
The former seat of the Popes, Avignon is best known today for its famous medieval bridge, which is only partly intact. It also has a stunning medieval walled city with a pretty maze of streets to explore. There are also great markets, cafes, and restaurants, as well as the historic Avignon Cathedral and Palais des Papes.
Located in the north of France and known for being a stop on the Eurostar train between London and Paris, Lille is worth a visit in its own right. The beautiful city center exudes historic charm, and there is no shortage of patisseries and cafes to tempt the tastebuds.
The capital of the French Riviera needs no introduction. One of the largest cities in France, Nice still manages to maintain a laid-back beach vibe. But there’s also plenty to see and do away from the water, including the great markets in Old Nice, the famous Matisse and Chagall museums, and the hilltop castle. Nice also makes a great jumping-off point for day trips to other destinations along the Cote d’Azur.
Home to the most famous cathedral in France, Chartres attracts visitors from all over the world. An easy day trip from Paris, the city can be reached by train, and its compact center is easily explored on foot. While Chartres Cathedral is the main attraction, the area around it is worth a wander as well.
Another famous cathedral city, Reims also makes a great day trip from Paris. But it is best known for another of France’s famous goods: champagne. The capital of the Champagne region, Reims is home to many tasting rooms and wineries where visitors can take tours and learn all about how champagne is made.
Speaking of wine, Bordeaux is another of the best cities to visit in France. Wine lovers can enjoy tastings and tours, as well as day trips into the vineyards in places like Medoc. But even those that aren’t wine enthusiasts can enjoy Bordeaux’s historic streets, great shopping, and excellent cafes.
The gastronomic capital of France, Lyon is the perfect city for foodies. Known for its abundance of great restaurants and food markets, the city is a virtual heaven for those of the culinary persuasion. Beyond food, Lyon has a rich historic city center with beautiful architecture, a number of hills with great views over the city, pristine parks, and more shopping than one could possibly imagine.
No list of the best cities to visit in France would be complete without the French capital. The heart of the country and seat of its government, Paris is home to some of the world’s most famous artworks, cafes, and monuments. No trip to France would be complete without a stop in Paris.