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Best city breaks in France

France's top tourist cities

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See also Best museums in France Best Roman sites Beautiful villages
Best smaller towns Best heritage cities  Coasts of France
 France's top ten tourist cities have been ranked not by size, nor by the number of tourists who actually visit them, but by what they have to offer and their general tourism-friendliness. The ranking takes 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 subjective, 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 interested in.
  As for hotels, restaurants, and shopping, as these are part of the fabric of any city, and have not been used as a ranking factor.

The ten big tourist cities in France , ranked in "must see" order    This page is a starter page, a very compact guide to the best that France has to offer in ten different categories. From each of the categories below, you can follow links to more detailed thematic listings, and dedicated pages full of useful information about the most interesting and often fascinating places to visit in France.

1 Paris  ★★★★★

2 Nice  ★★★★

3 Strasbourg ★★★

4 Lyon ★★★

5 Toulouse ★★★

6 Marseille ★★★

7 Bordeaux ★★★

8 Lille ★★

9 Nantes ★★

10 Toulon ★


More cities to visit 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 arevery much worth the visit.
  There is no technical definition in France of what constitutes a "city"; indeed the term generally used for cities in French is grande ville, which means, litterally, a large town. The word "cité" has several different meanintgs, but city is not one of them. Some 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 – upwards of 25,000 inhabitants.

  For more interesting smaller cities or towns with less than 25,000 inhabitants, see attractive small towns in France.
  For a list and map of interesting French cities both large and small, see heritage cities

Key for smaller cities:

In red bold type: cities that are or contain UNESCO world heritage sites
Underlined cities : click for city guide.
🛧  Cities with airports that have direct flights to/from the UK (mostly seasonal). For details see French airport guide

Smaller cities in France that are well worth the visit: 

Star rating
Towns and cities
Aix-en-Provence, Albi,   Annecy,  ArlesAvignon 🛧, Besançon,  Carcassonne 🛧,  Dijon, La Rochelle🛧, Nancy, Nimes🛧, St. Malo
 ** Angers,  Bourges, Cannes, Chambéry 🛧, Clermont-Ferrand 🛧, Colmar, Fréjus/Saint-Raphaël,  Grenoble 🛧, Le Puy en Velay, Metz, Montpellier 🛧, Poitiers🛧, Orleans, Pau🛧, Rennes🛧, Reims, Rodez🛧, Rouen, Tours 🛧, Troyes,
 * Angoulême, Arras, Beauvais, Biarritz 🛧, Blois, Chartres, Laon, Le Mans,  les Sables d'Olonne, Limoges 🛧, Narbonne, Périgueux, Quimper 🛧, Vannes, Vichy

Even smaller : Small towns and villages in France

And 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 landscapes, coasts, forests and other sites worth visiting. For further details, explore About-France.com, and in particular:

Other "bests" pages on About-France.com

Click here for an interactive map of France, which you can scroll and zoom in on any area.

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Cities to visit in France. Paris and the rest – the big cities and the smaller ones that are well worth seeing
The old port at Nice
Nice - the old port
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Old Strasbourg

photo by Edwin.11  
Old Lyon - or Lyons


Remarkably preserved  Roman temple in the heart of old Nimes

Carcassonne - worth a visit at any time of year

Le Puy
Small city off the beaten track - Le Puy en Velay  in Auvergne

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