Best cities in France
- Paris: Home to famous sites like the Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Catacombs, the Sacre Coeur and, of course, the Eiffel Tower, Paris is one of those cities that should be on every traveller’s bucket list.
- Nice: Nice is an eclectic mix of styles – beachside resort town, Parisian opulence and Mediterranean terracotta. Not to mention its fantastic markets, hilly old town, superb restaurants, and the blue expanse of the sea, making it one of the best places to visit in the south of France.
- Bordeaux: While famous for its wines, Bordeaux truly is a hidden gem of France with its pedestrian boulevards, UNESCO-listed neoclassical architecture, and exciting night life.
- Toulouse: Known as the ‘Pink City,' much of the ancient buildings in this city are built with coral-coloured stone. Home to one of the largest universities in France outside Paris, this city is home to students with all the cafes, jazz and techno spots to prove it.
- Lyon: Colonised by the Romans in 43 BC, Lyon is a commercial, industrial and banking powerhouse and France’s third largest city. But it isn’t just business – enjoy museums, culture, shopping and clubbing while indulging in the rich food.
- Dijon: Dijon is home to more than just the mustard. Filled with medieval and Renaissance buildings, and right in the centre of the Burgundy wine region, there is plenty to see if you love food, wine and shopping.
The Eiffel Tower
A trip to France would be incomplete without visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The 320m spire was erected as a temporary exhibit for the 1889 World’s Fair, and its popularity ensured that it became a permanent fixture of the city and the world’s most-visited landmark.
You can take the lift up through the tower’s three floors where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city, or dine at the restaurants 58 Tour Eiffel or Le Jules Verne. If you’d prefer to climb, be prepared for the 704 steps via the south pillar.
Lose yourself in the Louvre
Housing more than 35,000 exhibits, it’s easy to get lost in this cavernous museum. With paintings and tapestries, sculptures and archaeological finds, even jewellery and sarcophaguses, there’s enough to keep you occupied for a month if you try to see it all.
Insider’s tip: The first Sunday of the month is free (though expect to fight the crowds), and travellers under 26 can visit for free on Friday’s from 6pm.
And if you want more, the Musee D’Orsay is right across the river.
Tour the Loire Valley Chateaux
In the 1500s, the royal families of France lived in the Loire Valley. However, they didn’t restrict themselves to a single dwelling – no, every couple of months they would move from chateau to chateau down the river, bringing their servants and all of their belongings with them – even their furnishings!
When you consider that each family had multiple residences, and then consider the various nobles along with the royalty themselves, and you have over 80 chateaux in the region, many of which have beautiful gardens to explore, exhibitions about the region’s history, or are surrounded by picturesque towns where you can stop for lunch.
Ancient Cave Art
If you’re curious to see hundreds of Paleolithic cave paintings, where would you look? Egypt? Jordan? Cambodia?
Believe it or not, you can see these cave paintings in the Lascaux Caves in Southwestern France. Discovered by four boys back in 1940 who were looking for their dog, what they ended up discovering was a complex underground system full of cave paintings. Although the original cave is no longer open to the public, you can see a replica of the original version just a short distance away.
Indulge in French food
The home of the Micheline guides, France is renowned for its food. Indulge in delicious pastries, crêpes, and hearty soups to taste the local cuisine, which differs from one region to the next.
Here are some dishes to try:
- Tarte flambée: From the Alsace region, this is a rectangular or circular flat bread topped with fresh cream, cheese, onions, and bacon.
- Boeuf bourguignon: Beef burgundy is a traditional French stew from the Burgundy wine region, featuring beef braised in red wine.
- Frog’s legs: Found in the Dombes region, this a dish that the locals savour. The meat tastes quite like chicken and flavoured heavily with garlic.
- Escargot: French for snails, and that isn’t a euphemism! Snails are cooked with butter, garlic, and parsley and served in their shells with small tongs and forks you can use to extract the meat.
- Bouillabaisse: Bouillabaisse is a fish stew fit for a king, and is popular along the coast.
Enjoy champagne in Champagne
Taste champagne in its birthplace – the Route du Champagne. Here in the Champagne region you can visit premium champagne chateaus dotted across the region, enjoying incredible views and excellent champagne.
The Champagne Route is divided into three main drives – the Montagne de Reims and Côte de Blanc are home to chateaus offering high-end fizz while Vallée de la Marne offers better value and fruitier beverages.