8 Best Cities to Visit in France

Clock Tower in Avignon

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.

Afternoon Tea in Paris

Afternoon Tea Cakes
Afternoon Tea

When it comes to afternoon tea, London may be the most famous place to indulge, but the trend has caught on in Paris and the French capital is starting to rival its British counterpart. After all, there’s no place like France for patisserie, and the cakes and pastries in Paris show it. If you want to sample the goods yourself, here are a few of the best places for afternoon tea in Paris.

Mariages Freres
Address: 30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Paris 75004

Tea and Mariage Freres are synonymous in Paris, what with the famous French tea house being established way back in 1854. There’s no better tea to be found in Paris, and the tearoom in the Marais is the perfect place to indulge. I love the colonial ambiance and signature teapots (for sale in the shop if you want to take one home afterwards), and the tea menu is as extensive as you’ll find anywhere. Their afternoon tea selection consists of sandwiches filled with duck foie gras and Empereur Chen Nung flavored smoked chicken, as well as sweets like millefeuilles, creme cakes, crumbles, fresh fruit tarts, and macarons.

Four Seasons George V
Address: 31 avenue George V, Paris 75008

If you’re looking for the most luxurious afternoon tea in Paris, the Four Seasons George V is the place to go. The hotel offers several different options to choose from, all of which include fine teas, an assortment of savories like foie gras and smoked salmon, homemade scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and pastries like canneles from Bordeaux, Madeleines, and Financiers. All of it can be enjoyed with a glass of champagne in the beautiful setting of La Galerie, which has stunning Flemish tapestries and 19th century paintings and furniture. As an added bonus, a pianist plays every day from 3:00pm.

Hotel Daniel
Address: 226 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 75001

Hotel Daniel is one of the most popular places for traditional afternoon tea in Paris. A Relais & Chateaux property, the hotel exudes elegance and and offers a luxurious place to indulge in tea and pastries. The menu features exotic teas from all over the world served with an assortment of finger sandwiches, traditional scones, and a selection of pastries. Champagne is optional, but encouraged. This is Paris, after all.

Things to Do in Courchevel besides Skiing

Hot Air Balloon in Courchevel

Courchevel is known for being one of the best places for skiing in France. But if you’re not a skier (or a snowboarder, for that matter), there are still plenty of things to do in Courchevel. Here is my list of the top activities:

Hot Air Ballooning in Courchevel

Hot air balloon rides are one of the best ways to see Courchevel at its best. All winter long, hot air balloon rides are offered at the resort, and they are a great alternative to a day on the pistes. Rides tend to last an hour or more, and depart in the morning at sunrise from the altiport in Courchevel.

Shopping in Courchevel

Courchevel (formerly known as Courchevel 1850, but still commonly referred to as such) has some of the best luxury shopping in the French Alps. Dior, Chanel, Prada, and other luxury goods shops line the streets near the ski slopes, allowing those that don’t want to partake in the skiing to get their adrenaline rush another way.

Apres Ski in Courchevel

The apres ski in Courchevel is both varied and lively. In Courchevel Moriond (formerly known as Courchevel 1650), there are great bars and clubs to keep the ski-shy occupied all day and night. The Fire & Ice bar at Le Portetta hotel in Courchevel is a great place to spend the afternoon looking out onto the slopes. They have great shots for apres ski hour, too. Beyond Fire & Ice, Le Bubble and the Funky Fox are good bars (the latter having great live music), and La Klinik is popular for late night clubbing in Courchevel.

Sledding in Courchevel

For those that don’t want to ski but also don’t want to stray far from the slopes, there is a great sledding run from the top of Courchevel 1850 down to Courchevel 1550. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is fun for those brave enough to try it. Sleds can be rented from the local ski shops in Courchevel 1850, and when you are finished with the sledding course, you can take the gondola back up to Courchevel 1850 to return them.