When it comes to the best cities to visit in France, there probably could be multiple lists with different cities on each one. France is such a diverse country that the best cities to visit in France are really personal to any seasoned traveler.
Here is a great article on a few of the best cities to visit in France and some really detailed information on the country as a whole.
France. Just the single word conjures images of stunning works of art, iconic architecture. Your mouth waters in anticipation of the delectable gastronomy and luscious wines.
A Brief History of France
France is a country steeped in history and, lying at the very heart of Europe, has been the sight of untold significant, world-shaping battles.
Evidence of human inhabitants reaches back as far as 40,000 B.C. in the area we now call France. Fast-forward to 6,000 B.C. and now there are scattered farmers living on the land.
Around 1,000 B.C., the Celts arrived and brought craftsmen, druids, ad warriors to add to the local population. France was originally called Gaul, or Gallia, and originally encompassed the countries of Belgium and Switzerland. In 51 B.C., the territory was conquered in the Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar.
The Franks, a Germanic civilization headed by King Clovis, overtook the Romans in the 5th Century and named the western part of the lands Francia.
King Francien became the first French-speaking king in approximately 1000 A.D. and he demanded that the ruling class use French. In the Middle Ages, Eleanor of Aquitaine sponsored poets, musicians, and artists into her courts and France grew and prospered until the Black Death affected the population.
During the Renaissance, France thrived culturally and economically and attracted artists from Italy and the Netherlands.
In the 18th century, France entered the Enlightenment and Louis XIV was crowned king. The French Revolution brought about the end of the monarchy, the death of Marie Antoinette, and Louis XVI.
Napoleon Bonaparte became emperor of France in 1800 and conquered most of western Europe. Constitutions and fair laws were created under Bonaparte and French law is still based on Napoleon’s Civil Code. Napoleon also expanded France’s territories and colonized many of the West Indian Islands as well as Guyana and parts of Senegal.
The early 1900s brought about a new renaissance and embraced theater, modern art, and music. The arts attracted the wealthy elite to France, who also enjoyed the bawdy cabarets and delightful cafes.
France persevered through two World Wars which led to Charles deGaulle becoming head of the French government in 1945.
In addition to wine, art, and cuisine, France contributed many great inventions including the Concorde, the stethoscope, Braille, pasteurization, the stapler, blueprints, rechargeable batteries, aspirin and the Concorde.
French Cities to Visit
Every corner of France is extraordinary, and you could spend a lifetime exploring the delightful and charming towns, cities and countryside. Read on for what to see and experience in four enchanting French cities.
Any visit to France would be lacking without touring the City of Lights, nicknamed so because it was one of the first European cities to adopt street lighting. Paris has numerous sights and it would take months to tour them all. Following are highlights of some of the marvels of France’s capital city.
The Eiffel Tower was conceived by Gustave Eiffel and constructed in 1889 for the Universal Exposition. The tower was not meant to be permanent and many Parisians despised the tower originally.
The tower was saved and became a permanent, and beloved, icon of the Parisian landscape for its usefulness in astronomy and physiology experiments as well as its efficacy as a radio antenna tower.
Every year, nearly seven million visitors ascend to the top of the tower.
The Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle and at the western end of the famous Champs Elysees.
The Arc de Triomphe honors the soldiers who fought and perished in the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies beneath the arch. Stroll down the nearly two-kilometer length of the Champs Elysees, often described as the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Avenue.’
Window shop at such stores as Guerlain, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and more affordable shops such as Zara, the Gap, and Nike.
Notre Dame Cathedral is a medieval Catholic cathedral located on Ile de la Cité. It has been hailed as the best example of classic gothic architecture. It has been immortalized in countless films.
Because of the recent fire which burned a large part of the celebrated cathedral, Notre Dame is not open for tourists to enter, however visitors may still walk around the building.
Reconstruction of the symbolic heart of the city should start in the near-future.
No visit to Paris would be complete without touring the Louvre. Gaze upon the mysterious Mona Lisa or contemplate the David.
Even without the priceless works of art, the Louvre is an architecturally stunning and awe-inspiring display of opulence and design. If you have time, Paris has many other notable museums to view paintings and sculpture, such as the Musée d’Orsay – a converted, former railroad station – and the Pompidou Center – a masterpiece of modern construction.
Sacre-Coeur Basilica is located at the top of Montmartre, a district primarily known for its artistic history. Sacre Coeur is a Roman Catholic basilica. The top of the dome is open to the public and is the second highest point in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower.
Take a short train ride outside of Paris to visit the Palace of Versailles. Explore the vast rooms and gardens and contemplate the life of the French royalty.
Versailles was the main royal residence from 1682 through 1789 and has 55 historic fountains. Be sure not to miss the Hall of Mirrors, the State Apartments, the Royal Chapel, and the King’s Bedchamber.
While in Paris, be sure to feast upon at least one baguette – the crunchy exterior and fluffy interior will almost make you feel like a Parisian. Steak frites (literally steak and French fries) are ubiquitous in nearly every café.
Sample pastries and delicious macarons while sipping chocolat chaud or hot chocolate that is thick, rich, and creamy.
If you’re looking for street food, indulge in both savory and sweet crepes. Your gastronomical tour would not be complete without crème brulée, French chocolates, croissants, canard or duck, and the profiteroles.
There is also coq au vin, meringues, foie gras, and another famous street food – croque monsieur or madame (the madame sports an egg).
Bordeaux is the famed hub of the wine-growing region in France. It is a port city on the Garonne River in the southwest of France that is known for its gothic architecture, art, and wine.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts is one of the largest art museums in France outside of Paris. It has many Old Masters paintings and extraordinary animal paintings by Bordeaux artist Rosa Bonheur.
If you prefer modern art, you will enjoy the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art.
No visit to Bordeaux would be complete without a visit to Cité du Vin – the world’s best wine museum.
Explore six stories and learn about wines of the world, art, culture, civilization, and transport. Enjoy wine tastings and a picture-perfect panoramic restaurant, too.
The Gothic St. Michel Church has a free-standing spire which makes it the tallest and most elegant building in Bordeaux. There’s a Sunday morning flea market in the square by the church.
It was built between the 14th and 16th centuries and its pulpit depicts Saint Michael slaying the dragon.
Shoppers will enjoy the Triangle d’Or at the heart of Bordeaux. It is bordered by three reminiscent boulevards and lined with top-end shops.
The architecture dates from the 18th century and is indicative of the Age of Enlightenment.
Explore the Esplanade des Quinconces, the largest city plaza in France and one of the biggest in Europe. It is home to the Girondins monomer which was erected to honor those killed during the French Revolution. The square is home to various fairs and major events.
While in Bordeaux, you will want to take some wine excursions out of town. Bordeaux is world-famous for its scrumptious red wines. Most of the wine produced in Bordeaux utilizes the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. These grapes originated in Bordeaux. Red Bordeaux wines are medium- to bull-bodies with a nose of black currant, plums, and earthy notes.
While in Bordeaux, save the local oysters, milk-fed lamb, and arguably the best mushrooms in France. Ducks for the magret de canard are also local, and the produce is always fresh.
Relax and discover Giverny. Giverny is a small village in Normandy. Visit Giverny experience the sensation of stepping into a Monet painting. Claude Monet spent from 1883 until his death in 1926 in Giverny and painted some of his most famous masterpieces in his elaborate gardens. Here he produced the famous water lily series. The Claude Monet Foundation is now located in his former house.
Explore the Musée des Impressionnismes and learn about the history of Impressionism and post-Impressionism and their influence on 20th century art.
Stroll through the town and discover modern-day Impressionist artists at galleries located near the Claude Monet Foundation.
Giverny is a captivating place for a ramble. The surrounding hillsides are dotted with wildflowers and the perfect setting for a nature walk.
The foods of Normandy are legendary and be sure to savor the following:
Marmite Dieppoise – a creamy stew loaded with seafood
Meadow-salted lamb from the Bay of Saint Michel
Trou Normand – Calvados poured over tart, apple sorbet
Normandy cheeses – Camembert, Neufachatel, Pont-l’Eveque, and Livarot
Andouille de Vire – beech-smoked pork
Paris, Bordeaux, and Giverny are only three of the enchanting destinations to explore in France.
If you prefer a more German flavor to your French towns, visit Strasbourg. The Cote d’Azur on the French Riviera is always a spectacle of sparkling beaches, high fashion, and fascinating people-watching.
Wherever you go, you will be certain to delight in the experience and savor your trip forever. Challenge to develop your own personal list of the best cities to visit in France. Feel free to explore all of France’s delightful towns, cities, and regions and when you are done, write in and share your top list of the best cities to visit in France.
You never know which one might become your favorite!