A guide to
the most interesting towns and cities to visit in France
In order to establish a "top fifty" of the "best places to see in
France", we have taken into account a number of criteria, notably urban
environment and cityscape, museums, historic monuments and other
attractions, accessibility, and things to see and do in the immediate
vicinity. Yet like any "best of", the classification is by nature
an opinion of the
reviewers. Every traveller will have his or her own best places in
France, depending on what they have actually seen, and what they are
In choosing our top fifty best
cities, About-France.com has not taken into account criteria such as
hotels, restaurants, and shopping, as these are part of the fabric of
big cities in France ,
ranked in "must see" order
is in a category of its own, and in any competition for "best cities in
France", it has to be top. There is just so much to see and do in
Paris; world class museums, monuments and other attractions. From the
Eiffel Tower to the Louvre or Disneyland, Paris has it all, and lying
at the hub of France's national and international communications
networks, it is by far the most accessible of French cities.
on the French Riviera between rugged hills and the azure waters of the
Mediterranean, the city of Nice has a great deal to offer the visitor,
from its beaches and its renowned flower market, to its old
its several art galleries
old port. The long sweep of the Baie des Anges is a magnificent beach,
bordered by the Promenade des Anglais - named after the first tourists
who, in the late 18th century, began to transform a sleepy fishing port
into the Mediterranean's premier resort. The area round Nice is
breathtaking, and Nice
airport is well served by international carriers.
seat of the European parliament, Strasbourg is one of the great
historic cities of Europe. The old city, with its magnificent gothic
cathedral, narrow streets, half-timbered houses and canals, is one of
the finest old city centres in France. Strasbourg is accessible by TGV
from Paris, and easily accessible from Germany and Benelux.
here for our hand-picked selection of hotels in the
centre of Strasbourg.
has an historic centre, between the rivers Saône and
Rhône. The Place
Bellecour is a fine urban piazza. To the west of the Rhone the old
quarter of Fourvière rises steeply up from the quais of the
urban ensemble, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, is
attractive and historic but not breathtaking. Lyon is great for a
weekend break, and the city has a good selection of museums, lots of
shops, and is particularly
famous for its many good restaurants, making it the gourmet capital of France.
great old port city, on the banks of Gironde estuary in southwest
France, has a large old centre, much of it dating from the
to 19th centuries with some fine monuments. and a good art gallery. The
18th century theatre is the finest theatre of its period in France. The
area round Bordeaux is famous for its vineyards. Cruise liners tie up on the embankment right in the heart of the old city.
"pink city" has an attractive and quite distinctive old centre with a
distinct Mediterranean flavour. Worth visiting are the magnificent St
Sernin basilica, the Jacobins church and cloisters, and the Place du
Capitole, a very fine city square. Beside the city centre is the Canal
du Midi, the oldest canal in Europe and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Toulouse also has a popular aerospace museum.
ancient Mediterranean port has a vibrant city centre, with its main
thoroughfare La Canebière. Worth seeing are the city's
the mediaeval St. Laurent church. The old port area is very attractive,
and boat trips can be taken to the historic fortress on the Ile d'If,
lying in the middle of the bay.
old city centre of Lille is famous for its Flemish squares and
belfries. See also the 17th century Citadel, and the Lille art gallery,
reputed to be the second best in France after the Louvre. Lille also
a good modern art gallery, and there is another must-see gallery, La
Piscine, in the suburb of Roubaix. The Lille zoo is a popular place
and tourists alike.
old city centre has narrow pedestrian streets, with an almost Parisian
feel. The city's two main monuments are the St. Pierre cathedral and
the Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany. Boat trips can be taken up the
Erdre river, flanked by a succession of old mansion houses.
naval port city with an industrial heritage, Toulon has an attractive
old quarter near the old port; but it is the city's beautiful
hinterland and the fine coast to the east and the west that are
generally more visited than the city itself.
Most interesting smaller
cities in France :
While France's ten biggest cities have plenty to
offer, for many visitors the
best and most interesting places to see in France are the smaller
cities, places that are
not necessarily on the main tourist routes. More French, less
cosmopolitan, easier to take in, all of these smaller regional centres
are very much worth
of the cities in this second table - like Grenoble, Rennes or
Montpellier, are large cities, with up to half a million inhabitants;
others like Annecy, Albi or Vichy are much smaller.
(In red bold
type: cities that are or contain UNESCO world heritage sites)
Colmar, La Rochelle,
Angers, Cannes, Carcassonne,
Chambéry, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Le
Puy en Velay,
Orleans, Pau, Rennes, Reims,
Rouen, Tours Troyes,
Arras, Beauvais, Biarritz, Blois, Bourges, Chartres,
Laon, Le Mans, Limoges, Narbonne,
Périgueux, Quimper, Vichy
Small towns and villages in France
for those whose idea of a holiday is to escape the metropolis or the
urban environment, France has thousands of small towns and villages
– not to mention its châteaux, remarkable
and other sites worth visiting. For further details, explore
About-France.com, and in particular:
There are Accor hotels - F1, Ibis, Mercure, Novotel, and more - in most
French cities. Exterior or central locations.