The Ultimate France Bucket List: 50 of the Best Places to Visit
Whether you’re going away for a weekend, want to plan a full road trip, or you’re getting ready to move to here, you’ll want to keep this France bucket list handy. Besides the well-known cities like Paris or Cannes, there are so many beautiful places in France to explore!
50 Places to Add to Your France Bucket List
Marseille is a Mediterranean seaport city in southern France. It’s the second largest city (next to Paris), has the largest port for cruise ships, and is the sunniest place with 30% more sunny days than average. Head to central Marseille (the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th arrondissements) and pay a visit to the archaeological museum in La Vieille Charité, take a look at the Porte D’aix, and shop in the Centre Bourse and adjacent Rue St Ferréol district. Marseille’s most famous dish is Bouillabaisse, a stew made with at least three different kinds of fresh, locally-caught fish.
Lyon is famous for its cuisine, architecture, and historical landmarks. It is the third largest city of France and is comprised of various districts. Grab something to eat at a century-old brasserie, or at a Bouchon (a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant). Take a stroll through the largest renaissance district, Vieux Lyon (5th arrondissement), visit the botanical rose gardens in Parc de la Tête d’Or, and pay a visit to Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste. The city has a humid subtropical climate with nice, warm summers. I have been there multiple times myself, but strangely I have never written anything about it!
Strasbourg is the capital city of the Grand Est region in northeastern France and is located close to the border with Germany. The city center, Grande Ile, is where German and France architecture mash together, creating a gorgeous fairytale-like paradise. There are many shops, cafes, and museums located here, as well as a beautiful Gothic cathedral which houses one of the largest astronomical clocks in the world.
Arles is located along the Rhone river in the southern part of France. It is also the city where Vincent van Gogh lived for a year and created over 300 paintings during his stay here. There are still many remnants of Roman architecture, including a big Roman amphitheater, which is still used for festivals and other special events. Some other Gallo-Roman structures that have survived are the church of Saint Trophime, the classical theater, the Obelisk, and the Cryptoporticus.
Biarritz is a seaside town located on the Bay of Biscay, 35 kilometers from the Spanish border. It offers excellent beaches and swimming and is a major surfing destination for Europe. Connected to the mainland with an old iron bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that one), is the rock formation, Rock of the Blessed Virgin.
The Loire Valley spans 280 kilometers in the middle of the Loire River in central France. Due to the many vineyards and fruit orchards which line the banks of the river, the valley is also known as the Garden of France. The historical architecture in this town is stunning, especially the hundreds of chateaux that have been built over the centuries. It looks like they came straight out of a fairytale!
Bordeaux, famous for its wine-growing region, is a port city in southwestern France, only half an hour away from the Atlantic Ocean, and is known for its cathedral, Saint Andre. It is home to the world’s main wine fair, Vinexpo. Bordeaux has the second highest number of preserved historical buildings in France, with Paris at number one, so get ready to fill your memory card with photos!
Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune located in Normandy, just 600 meters from the mainland. The connection between Mont Saint-Michel and the mainland has changed over the centuries. There used to be a tidal causeway (that was only visible when the tide was low) in order to reach the island, but it can now be reached by using the new bridge that was completed in 2014. The star attraction of the island is the stunning architectural assemble high up on top. And don’t forget to take a look at the buildings on the northern side of the island are known as La Merveille (The Marvel).
Back in the days, Nice was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was the predecessor of today’s Italy. This is why Nice and Italy still have so much in common when it comes to traditions and culture despite Nice being a part of France. Many hotels and fine restaurants serve traditional French cuisine, while local specialties have a more Italian and Mediterranean flavor. The biggest tourist attractions are, of course, the sea, beaches consisting of small pebbles, and the Promenade des Anglais. There are also many museums scattered throughout the city. Pay a visit to Nice’s Old Town, walk through the narrow streets and colorful houses, and eat some les farcis at a local restaurant.
Paris the capital city of France, needs very little introduction. It is the center of fashion, culture, gastronomy, and art both in the country and the world. Spend a whole day looking at historical masterpieces at the Louvre, buy some delicious macarons at Ladurée, and get a painting from one of the street artists near Montmartre (and don’t forget to pay a visit to Sacré Coeur when you do). With so many architectural beauties, you can spend days exploring this city and not even see it all! Other highlights include the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Catacombs. I return to Paris almost every year, and it never bores me!
Versailles, a town made by King Louis XIV, is known for its palace and gardens. It’s also known as the ultimate symbol of absolute monarchy. Nowadays, it’s a wealthy suburb of Paris. Take in the beauty of the palace, awe at the hall of mirrors, and take a stroll through the palace gardens.
Fontainebleau is a town located southeast of Paris. It is known for its opulent palace that’s home to Marie Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir, the Napoleon Museum, and a grand theater. The town and chateau are surrounded by the Fontainebleau Forest that houses le Grand Parquet, a horse riding stadium. This forest is a favorite getaway for Parisians escaping the city.
Lourdes is located in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains and is best known for Chateau fort de Lourdes. The city used to be one of the world’s most important sites for pilgrimage and religious tourism. Because of the big streams of pilgrims, Lourdes has transformed from a quiet city into a blooming one and has become, next to Paris, the second most important city for tourists.
Aix-en-Provence is a university city in the southern part of France. Ever since Louis II of Anjou granted a royal charter for a university in 1409, the city has been an important educational center, with many teaching and research institutes. The Cours Mirabeau is a wide thoroughfare planted with double rows of trees and a beautiful place to take a stroll and relax.
Tours lies between the Cher river and the Loire river and was once a Gallic-Roman settlement. The town is also known as “Le Jardin de la France” (the garden of France) because of its many parks and gardens. The city is also famous for the many bridges that cross the Loire. One of them collapsed in 1978, but it was rebuilt to look exactly as it did before. There are many great attractions to visit, such as the Tours Cathedral, Jardin Botanique de Tours (the municipal botanic garden), and Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours, where you can see a huge cedar tree planted by Napolean.
Orleans is also built on the Loire river, located in north-central France. Joan of Arc saved the city from an English siege in 1429 and ever since then, a festival in her honor is held every year. The house where she stayed during the battle has been re-created and features exhibits on her life. The town itself has many places for sightseeing, including museums, parks, and historical monuments.
Find the best hotels in Orleans here,
Gorges du Verdon
The Gorges du Verdon is a river canyon that has been renowned as one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe. Because of its beauty, it attracts many tourists each summer. There are many minerals of rock flour suspended in the water so it has a gorgeous turquoise color. The canyon itself is around 25 kilometers long and about 700 meters deep. The best part lies between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Here the river has cut a 700 meters deep ravine through the limestone.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (also known as Chamonix) is a resort area, mostly known for its winter sports resorts. It is the fourth largest commune in the mainland and is also one of the oldest ski resorts in France. Because it is based at the base of the highest European mountain west of Russia, the commune is loved by skiers and mountaineers alike.
Toulouse is known as La Ville Rose (the Pink city) due to the pink bricks used in many buildings. The city is split in two by the Garonne River and is located near the Spanish border. Toulouse used to be one of the richest cities in France during the middle ages. Even though it’s very big, the historical center is quite small and is best experienced on foot. Take a boat tour down the Garonne River, party until you drop at St. Pierre Place, visit Basilica of Saint-Sernin, and take a stroll through the Musée des Augustins.
Avignon is a city that is set on the Rhone River and was the papal seat from 1309 to 1377, when popes fled Rome due to corruption. Le Palais des Papes (constructed in 1252), is the largest Gothic edifice in the world. There is a small tourist train that takes you from the palace to the gardens, which are popular for both tourists and locals. Take in the beauty of the famous medieval bridge, Pont Saint-Bénézet, which spans over the Rhone river, and seek refreshment under the trees in the gardens during the summer.
Cannes is a resort town located on the French Riviera and is well known for its international film festival, luxury hotels and restaurants, sandy beaches, and several other conferences. It has a Mediterranean climate, with lots of sunshine in the summer, and mild winters. The Promenade de La Croisette is lined with palm trees and is famous for its charming beaches, restaurants, cafés, and boutiques. The chapel of St Anne houses the Musée de la Castre.
La Rochelle is a seaport city on the Bay of Biscay, located in southwestern France. The city is connected by a 2.9-kilometer bridge to the Ile de Ré. On the cliffs that border the sea, you can see layers of limestone that were traditionally used for building homes. La Pointe du Chay is a gorgeous cape made out of limestone and is popular with people interested in geology. The best part of La Rochelle is the Old Harbor, at the heart of the city, lined with some of the best seafood restaurants.
Ile de Ré
Ile de Ré is an easily accessible island near La Rochelle. The two are connected by a long bridge. A typical image of this island are the white houses with green paneling and orange rooftops, artisan salt, local viticulture, and fisheries. Go play some golf, surf, sail, or horseback riding. Rent a boat, enjoy the sunshine and float away.
Find the best hotels in Ile de Ré here,
Languedoc-Roussillon (now part of Occitanie) is a historical coastal region located in southern France, ranging from Provence to the Pyrenees Mountains along the Spanish border. In 2016, the Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon merged and is now known as Occitanie. Languedoc-Roussillon is a major wine producer, with three times the combined area of the vineyards in Bordeaux. Its best-known wine varieties are Vin de Pays d’Oc and sparkling Crémant de Limoux.
Montpellier is the fastest growing city in France over the past 25 years. It is located in southern France, ten kilometers from the Mediterranean coast. The main focus of this city is Palace de la Comédie. There’s also the oldest botanical garden of France, Jardin des Plantes de Montpelier, and Musée Fabre, which houses a lot of ceramics from Greece and a large collection of paintings from the 17th-19th centuries.
Nantes is a city built on the Loire river. Château des ducs de Bretagne is now a local history museum and one of the top sites to visit. Nantes used to be called Venice of the West, due to the many quays and river channel running through the old town. In the Bouffay area you there are many bars and nightclubs to be found. The Pass Nantes is a pass that you can use for all sorts of public transport for a fixed price and get free entry to 25 attractions. You also have to see and ride the giant mechanical elephant. But watch out! The people on top of the elephant can spray water on people who are standing nearby. You can book a ride here: www.lesmachines-nantes.fr
Champagne is a province known for its distinctive wine — champagne, of course! Chalons-en-Champagne is a city located in this province. The wine was transported via the river, so the city used to be a busy river port. Take a boat trip on the Nau and Mau river to enjoy the beautiful architecture from all sides. Don’t forget to visit the Saint-Etienne cathedral, the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology, and the Notre-Dame-en-Vaux church museum.
Reims is a city located in the historical Champagne-Ardenne region of France. The city is also seen as the unofficial capital city of the Champagne region. For good food, you will need to go to the city center, at Place Drouet d’Erlon. Reims had a big role during the French monarchy There have been many kings once crowned in the Norte-Dame of Reims. There’s always a free event or festival that you can attend.
Chalon Sur Saône
Chalon Sur Saône is a bubbly city located on the Saône river. It is marked as Ville d’Art et Histoire. Visit Cathedral St. Vincent, or for the photographers, go to Musée Nicéphore to learn all about the history of photography. Take the bateau-mouche for a sightseeing tour along the river, and visit the market in the city center (held on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday morning).
Find the best hotels in Chalon Sur Saône here.
Annecy is a place in the French Alps and is located nicely between the mountains and Lake Annecy, with its beautifully clear water. It is also known as Venice of the Alps (just like any other place with a river, I think), because of the beautiful canals running through the city. Make a stop at Pont des Amours, which is said to be a magical place for couples. It is said that when two lovers kiss each other while standing on the bridge, they will be together forever. But, don’t worry, even if you are single, this place is peaceful and relaxing to walk through.
Remoulins is a commune in Gard. From here you can easily get to the Pont de Gard (an old Roman aqueduct in Gard). This aqueduct was used to get water to Nimes, which didn’t have its own water supplies. You can go for a swim or rent a canoe to enjoy the scenery from the river. The surroundings are beautiful and are thus loved by both tourists and hikers.
Find the best hotels in Remoulins here,
Sigean has two big tourist attractions: the Regional Nature Park and the Africa Reserve. The Regional Nature Park has seven different kinds of surroundings. It is one of the rarest natural reserves surrounding the Mediterranean sea. The best way to fully enjoy this park is to go by foot, bike, or horse. There are more than 2,000 different kinds of plant species that can be found here as well as 300 different kinds of bird species. The Africa Reserve has more than 3,800 different animal species. It also has a route that you can cover in an hour by car or in three hours by foot.
Find the best hotels in Sigean here.
Grotte des Demoiselles
Grotte des Demoiselles, in the Hérault Valley, is known as the Grotte des Fées. There are many legends about this cave. One of the legends is that a shepherd who lost his lamb. He heard the lamb calling from within the cave, so he entered. Sadly, he fell down a cliff, hit his head, and fainted. But just before fully losing his consciousness, he saw a group of maidens dancing around him. When he woke up, he and his lamb were safely back at the entrance of the cave!
Visit this cave and take a tour. There are often event and workshop held, as well as concerts and special tours.
Find the best hotels in the Hérault Valley here.
La Baule-Escoublac, also known as La Baule, is a seaside resort in Pay de la Loire. With a 12 kilometer long beach, there is enough space to find the perfect place for sunbathing. If you want to swim, make sure you check the tide because there is a chance you won’t be able to see much water for the next few hours. The sand is less fine and the waves are higher on the west part of the beach. Alongside the beach, there are many fish and crepe restaurants.
Find the best hotels in La Baule-Escoublac here.
Rennes is the capital city of Brittany, the northwestern part of France. One of the main attractions of Rennes is the Parc du Thabor. This is a public garden with a mix of different kinds of areas, such as the French garden, English garden, and Maison a Colombage, a botanical garden. Something that really stands out in this city is the half-timbered houses, a style dating back to the Middle Ages.
The Bamboo Cevennes
Located in Générargues, the Bamboo Cevennes is a private botanical garden that is specialized in bamboo. The garden has one of the oldest bamboo collections of Europe. These days it has approximately 300 different kinds of bamboo species. There are also other Asian plants and trees, a replica of a Laotian village, and around 5 kilometers of streams that gush through the garden.
Hyères is the oldest resort city on the French Riviera. It is about 4 kilometers from the city to the ocean. Located in the city center is a city park, Parc Olbius Riquier, considered one of the most exceptional gardens of France. Not far from Hyères lies a beautiful island called Ile d’Hyères, also known as Porquerolles. Francois Joseph Fournier bought the whole island in 1912 as a wedding gift to his wife. The French state bought 80% of the island in 1971, and it’s now a part of Port Cros Parc National and the Conservatoire Botanique National Méditerranéen de Porquerolles.
Find the best hotels in Hyères here.
Amiens is a city located in the north of France and is divided by the Somme river. There are all sorts of museums, historical monuments, and buildings to be found, including a zoo! It’s known for the Gothic Amiens Cathedral, the medieval bell towers, and the Hortillonnages or floating gardens. Visit the Saturday markets in the Saint-Leu district to see all the different products they sell here.
Nimes is a city in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France, located between the Mediterranean sea and the Cévennes mountains. It used to be an important outpost of the Roman empire, so you can find a number of ruins around the city. Visit Maison Carrée (the best preserved Roman temple), the Arena of Nimes (one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters), and Temple de Diane.
Blois is located between Tours and Orléans in central France on the Loire river. If you want to get a good picture of the city, I recommend looking at the Loire from Place du Chateau. You’ll be able to see the different colors of the houses as well as the two biggest churches. Chateau de Blois used to be occupied by King Louis XII and Francis I and has a high historical value. Nearby is the Maison de la Magie, a museum with collections and exhibitions about magic.
Cassis is a city in Provence in southern France on the Mediterranean coast. It is a small village so you can easily walk around it in a day. The beaches are like a hidden piece of paradise. The water is clear and there are many great places here for scuba diving, snorkeling, stand up paddling, and canoeing. Don’t forget to bring you bathing suit!
Metz is a city in the northeastern Lorraine region, just below Luxembourg. Because of its German influences, Metz isn’t necessarily a typical French city but instead has its own charm. Centre Pompidou is a museum for modern art and has a big collection of modern art from Europe. If the weather is nice, you should definitely rent a bicycle near the train station and cycle along the river.
While you’re visiting Metz, don’t miss a stopover in Nancy.
Find the best hotels in Metz here.
Toulon is a port city in southern part of the French Mediterranean coast, surrounded by beaches and bays. It is an important naval base, so the Musée National de la Marine has many naval exhibitions and artifacts. You can go up the Faron mountain by using the funicular. The Toulon cathedral is also highly recommended. Also don’t forget to pay a visit to the Mont Faron Zoo (on top of the mountain), where they specialize in the breeding of felines.
Beaune is, with its annual auction, the capital city of Burgundy when it comes to wine. Visit here on a nice day trip to go wine-tasting in its local vineyards. Even though it can be a bit busy, the markets on Saturday can be fun to walk around.
Dijon is the capital city of Cote-d’Or. It used to be a major Gallic-Roman city, so you can still find many monuments from this time period. Place François-Rude is a beautiful plaza with many historical buildings, a fountain, and lots of restaurants to sit and relax. De Ducal Palace is a beautifully preserved building, where you can look at the art that dates from the Roman era. Most museums in this city are free to enter. There are also two gardens located in this city, Jardin Darcy and Arquebuse.
Also, don’t miss the owl figure carved in the stone wall of the Notre-Dame. When you pass this figure from the left side and touch the owl with your left hand, your wish will be fulfilled. However, if you do this the from the right side, the dragon that sleeps deep within the Notre-Dame will come and eat you.
Grenoble is an old Gallic city located in the Rhône-Alpes region, at the foot of the mountain. This place is perfect for skiing and mountaineering but is also a great place for relaxing and sightseeing. Les Bulles (circular funicular carts) will take you up the La Bastille Hill, where there are incredible views overlooking the city. Walk along the Drac en Isère river and enjoy the beautiful view from the mountains.
Find the best hotels in Grenoble here.
Narbonne is located in southern France on the Canal de la Robine, that flows through the city, and is known for its seaside resort, Narbonne Plage. There are a number of other beautiful places to visit such as the unfinished Saint-Just et Saint-Pasteur, a Gothic cathedral from the 13th century, Palais des Archeveques, now an archaeology museum, and the Roman Horreum, an underground tunnel system once used for stalling shops and houses.
Find the best hotels in Narbonne here.
Cévennes is a region in the Massif Central in the Cévennes mountains. It has been registered as a World Heritage by UNESCO since 2011, and the most important part is the Cévennes National Park. Here you can find many caves and geological formations. It’s the perfect place to go on an adventure and see more of France’s nature.
Find the best hotels near Cévennes here.
Étretat is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in Normandy. It is a small farming town that attracts a lot of tourists. Close to the town are many dramatic cliffs and rock formations with a stunning view. Walk around the town, enjoy a great meal at a local restaurant, and play some golf on top of the cliffs.
What destinations would you add to your France bucket list?
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