What to see in France: cities, regions, attractions and recommended itineraries

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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France is one of the richest European countries in landscapes and panoramas. From north to south it is possible to discover a series of regions, each with great charm and unique characteristics. Historic monuments and imposing churches meet the beauty of unspoiled nature, and it's easy to feel like climbing a mountain, reaching the Alps, or taking a dip in the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

France is not just Paris, with its indisputable eternal beauties, it is much more: it is culture, history, gastronomy, art and nature, all together in a single territory that deserves to be explored in every hidden corner. Here a small guide on what to see in France: cities, regions, attractions and recommended itineraries.


  1. Travel informed: useful information
  2. Where it is
  3. The main tourist regions
  4. Major cities of France
  5. 10 things to see: the most important places of interest in France
  6. The main routes in France
  7. What to do in France: activities, excursions and tours
  8. User questions and comments

Travel informed: useful information

  • Inhabitants: 66,99 million
  • Capital: Paris
  • Languages: French
  • Local currency: euro (€)
  • Weather: temperate, cooler along the Atlantic coasts (average 14 °), continental in inland areas, in particular the regions bordering Germany (average 16 °), Mediterranean in the south (average 18 °)
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

    Where it is

    France is located in central-western Europe. It borders to the north-east with Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, to the east with Switzerland and Italy, to the west Spain and Andorra and is bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north by the English Channel and to the south by the Mediterranean Sea.
    Finally, the region of Corsica is geographically part of Italy, but politically of France and is located north of Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea

    The main tourist regions

    There are 13 regions of metropolitan France, each of which is divided into districts. Each region has some morphological and cultural characteristics. The most touristic and visited regions they are certainly Île-de-France, Normandy, Alsace, Burgundy, Brittany, New Aquitaine and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.
    Let's find out together in detail:

    1 - Île-de-France

    It is the northern region which includes the French capital, Paris, and other places of interest such as Boulogne-Billancourt, Saint-Denis, Argenteuil and Versailles. Obviously in Paris there are the most famous monuments and buildings, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum, the Notre Dame cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, but in the rest of the region there are small and large jewels to discover.
    One of them is the Palace of Versailles, located in the Parisian suburbs, the sumptuous royal residence dating back to the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King.

    Other lesser-known but equally fascinating castles are the Vincennes Castle, one of the highest fortresses in Europe (up to 50 m), built in 1377, the castle of Fontainebleu, 60 km south-east of the capital, in Renaissance and classical style, also used as a royal residence.
    For those who want to travel through time, they can dedicate themselves to visiting the splendid medieval village of Provins, located in the department of Seine-et-Marne. Finally, in the city of Meaux there are very interesting buildings, such as the museum dedicated to the Great War and the great cathedral of Sainte-Etienne, in Gothic style.

    • Reference airports: Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly, Beauvais Tillé airport, served by numerous low-cost airlines
    • Main towns: Paris (capital), Boulogne-Billancourt, Jouy-en-Josas, Meaux
    • Main attractions: Eiffel Tower in Paris, Louvre Museum in Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Musée d'Orsay in Paris, Palace of Versailles, Castle of Vincennes, Castle of Fontainebleu, Walls of Provins, Cathedral of Sainte-Etienne of Meaux
    • Best time: between the end of spring and summer, then from May to September
    • Getting around: the Paris railway network, the RER, is made up of 256 stations distributed in the neighboring areas that make almost all travel easy.

    2 - Normandy

    Normandy is the French region located in the north-west and overlooking the English Channel.
    The region, from a tourist point of view, yes divides into Upper and Lower Normandy. In the first there are the cities of Rouen and Le Havre crossed by the Seine and with a medieval Gothic appearance, in Lower Normandy, however, we find the cities of Bayeux and Honfleur, and represents the area known for the landing of the Allies in 1944.
    Rouen, since 2002, has had the label of "city of art and history", and can boast a large number of Gothic-style houses and churches, such as Notre-Dame Cathedral and Gros-Horloge, the building that houses one of the oldest astronomical clocks in Europe.

    Un evocative panorama awaits you on the cliffs of Etrat, the town of 1500 inhabitants located in the Seine-Maritime district, overlooking the English Channel and which has become a very popular seaside resort. Equally pretty are the cities of Honfleur, with its wonderful harbor, and Giverny, where you can visit Monet's house, as well as get lost in the iconic places of French Impressionism. Finally, the visit to the places marked by the landing in '44 is very touching, as is the case of Arromanches beach.

    • Reference airports: Caen-Carpiquet Airport and Deauville Saint-Gatien Airport, both served by international flights only in certain periods and for a limited number of destinations (alternatively you must arrive in Paris Charles de Gaulle, which is 118 km from Rouen, 2h drive)
    • Main towns: Roune (capital), Le Havre, Bayeux, Honfleur, Caen
    • Main attractions: Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Rouen, Church of Saint Quen of Rouen, Gros-Horloge of Rouen, Cliffs of Etrat, Port of Honfleur, Monet's house and gardens in Giverny, D-Day landings sites, Mont Saint islet -Michel
    • Best time: during the summer, because it is the period when there are many sunny days
    • Getting around: by train in the Upper Normandy area, while it is better to rent a car to enter the rural area of ​​Lower Normandy

    3 - Pays de la Loire

    The Pays de la Loire region is located in the northern part of France and borders to the north west with Brittany, to the north with Normandy and the western coasts are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, it develops in the Loria Valley, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    Its capital is the city of Nantes, located right on the banks of the river. Once a primarily industrial city, today it has transformed factories and warehouses into cultural centers that host exhibitions and events. The beautiful Cathedral, the Château des Duc de Bretagne and Les Machines de l'Ile de Nantes are absolutely worth seeing. In addition, there are many art museums, one more beautiful than the other!

    But this region is not just Nantes. We advise you to rent a car and discover the Loria Valley and its wonderful castles! There are so many, among the most beautiful we can mention the Amboise Castle, the Chenonceau Castle, the Chambord Castle and the Blois Castle.

    • Reference airports: Nantes-Atlantique airport, Aéroport de Tours - Val de Loire
    • Main towns: Nantes (capital), Angers, Laval, Le Mans, La Roche-sur-Yon
    • Main attractions: Loire Valley, Château des Duc de Bretagne in Nantes, Les Machines de l'Ile de Nantes in Nantes, Amboise Castle, Chenonceau Castle, Chambord Castle, Blois Castle, Le Mans, Fortified City of Guérande, Abbey of Fontevraud
    • Best time: late spring, when the gardens of the castles bloom and give their best; generally, the whole period from May to October
    • Getting around: the cities are well served by buses and trains, but to move between the different castles and in the Loria Valley the best solution is to rent a car

    4 - Alsace

    One of the smallest and most disputed regions, Alsace officially became part of France only in 1919, at the end of the First World War. Its position, in fact, makes it a border region, attached to Switzerland and Germany, from which it was strongly influenced, culturally and beyond.
    The capital Strasbourg is geographically the heart of Europe, it is no coincidence that the European Parliament is based here. The city is full of ancient charm and modern innovation, one of the most important buildings is the Cathedral, with its 142 meter high spire built in the Gothic style.

    A must visit, then, is Colmar, the city crossed by the canals on the river Lauch, which reflect the beautiful colored houses with sloping roofs and Gothic churches. Its appearance is fabulous and almost surreal. An atmosphere, however, influenced by the German style, is breathed in Mulhouse, the second most important city in the region where, among the various places of interest, there is also the Automobile Museum, with hundreds of vintage car models.

    • Reference airports: Strasbourg-Entzheim airport, Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport and Colmar - Houssen airport
    • Main towns: Strasbourg (capital), Colmar, Mulhouse, Eguisheim
    • Main attractions: Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg, The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Strasbourg, Colmar, the village of Riquewihr, La Maison des Têtes and the Maison Pfister in Colmar, the village of Turckheim
    • Best time: between May and September
    • Getting around: the regional railway line (TER) connects the various areas of the region with 14 lines, and many villages are also well connected by the services offered by SNCF coaches

    5 - Burgundy

    The Burgundy region does located in the center of France and is known all over the world for its gastronomic specialties and for its wine tradition.
    Not only that, in this region there are places steeped in history and art, just think of Dijon, the capital, where the city's castle stands in Place de la Libération, which once was the ducal residence, while today it houses the Museum of Fine Arts. .
    But the Dukes of Burgundy also undertook to leave a symbol of their greatness: the Philippe-le-Bon Tower is 46 meters high, and the top can be reached by climbing 360 steps, from where you can admire the panorama overlooking the elegant Dijon.

    To immerse yourself, instead, in the wine culture of the area, you can dedicate yourself to one of the itineraries of the wine routes, the Route de Vins, a trip through the vineyards and the French countryside.
    An excursion to get to know the unspoilt and luxuriant nature of the Borgona is a visit to the Morvan Regional Natural Park, an area that covers 281.400 hectares. Lakes, streams, paths and forests: here tourists can rediscover an exclusive relationship with the environment, also visiting cities and castles surrounded by greenery.

    • Reference airports: Dole airport, Lyon airport and Clermont-Ferrand airport
    • Main towns: Dijon (capital), Autun, Auxerre, Macon
    • Main attractions: Dijon Castle and Museum of Fine Arts, Dijon Philippe-le-Bon Tower, Route de Vins, Morvan Natural Park, Hôtel-Dieu, Fontenay Abbey, Guédelon Castle
    • Best time: the climate is continental, so winters are harsh. Spring and summer are the best seasons
    • Getting around: the cities are well served by buses, but to move around the countryside in the area it is preferable to rent a car

    6 - Brittany

    Located in the westernmost part of France, Brittany is the region famous for its jagged coastline close to the Atlantic Ocean.
    The name is due to the Breton population, who settled in these areas moving from Great Britain. The capital, Rennes is an ancient city with a Celtic charm, as well as very active and lively given the high number of university students.
    In the city there are numerous interesting buildings, such as the Town Hall, built in the th century, the Opera, the elegant and majestic Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Champs Libres, the huge building that houses the Museum of Brittany and the Library, from which top it is possible to have a magnificent view of the entire city.

    On the Breton coast there are truly fascinating places, where the natural movement of the sea and the activity of the winds harmoniously shaped rocks and rocks. This is the case of the Pink Granite Coast, which is filled with tourists in summer, or Côte des Ajoncs, the Quiberon peninsula. And for lovers of greenery there is also the Brocéliande forest, the one from which the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table was born.

    • Reference airports: Brest airport and Lorient Bretagne Sud airport.
    • Main towns: Rennes (capital), Brest, Quimper, Saint-Malo.
    • Main attractions: Town Hall of Rennes, Opera of Rennes, Cathédrale Saint-Pierre of Rennes, Champs Libres of Rennes, Pink granite coast in Trégor, Côte des Ajoncs, Forest of Brocéliande, Port of Douarnenez.
    • Best time: summer therefore from June to August, since during the year the influence of the Atlantic Ocean causes numerous precipitations.
    • Getting around: the trains that move in Brittany are served by the TGV and TER railway companies, and represent the most comfortable and fastest way to move between the various cities.

    7 - New Aquitaine

    The extensive region of New Aquitaine is located in the southwestern part of France.
    Its origin is very ancient, in fact the name suggests that it was founded by the Romans, and its capital is Bordeaux, which rises on the Goronna river and is known throughout the world for its winemaking tradition.
    In Bordeaux there are buildings of remarkable beauty, such as the Cathedral of Saint Andrew and the church of Saint Michel, 114 meters high and in which the chapel of Saint James is located, the destination of the Santiago de Compostela journey. In the city there is also the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the most important in France.

    Very popular with tourists from all over the world are the coasts of Aquitaine, which extend for 250 km, consisting of fine sand and numerous enchanting-looking ports. For surf lovers there are the resorts of Biarritz and Biscarrosse. Other places of interest can be found in Saint-Émilion, where there are a monolithic and a Romanesque church, and in Montignac, where it is possible to visit a reproduction of the Lascaux cave, closed to the public for restoration work, and containing important cave paintings.

    • Reference airports: Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport, Pau-Pyrénées Airport, Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport
    • Main towns: Bordeaux (capital), Agen, Bayonne, Biarritz
    • Main attractions: Cathedral of Saint Andrew of Bordeaux, Church of Saint Michel of Bordeaux, Museum of Fine Arts of Bordeaux, Grotto of Lascaux, Dune of Pilat, Palace of Gallienus, Saint-Émilion
    • Best time: from May to October
    • Getting around: the region is well served by the tram and bus transport network, managed by the TBC company

    8 - Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

    The Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region is located in the southern part of France. In the mountainous area, given the altitude, the climate is decidedly cold, while along the coast bathed by the Mediterranean Sea the climate is temperate. Considering the natural variety of the territory, in this region it is possible choose from a wide range of activities: winter spots in the mountains, walks and excursions along the Calanques of Cassis or on La Meije, swimming and diving on the beach on the Cote d'Azur, a nice picnic near Lake Oronaye.

    Sport and relaxation, therefore, but not only. Provence gives beautiful natural landscapes, with infinite fields of lavender and flowery meadows, it is no coincidence that it is the most artistic place in France: Van Gogh stayed in Arles for more than a year, during which he painted his most famous works. And then there is to discover Marseille, the very lively capital of the region, with its always chaotic Old Port and the nerve center of the city.
    In Avignon, moreover, it is possible to visit a building that has marked history: the Palace of the Popes, the majestic papal residence that has forged all the aesthetics of the city.

    • Reference airports: Nice Côte d'Azur airport, Cannes Mandelieu airport, Marseille Provence airport
    • Main towns: Marseille (capital), Arles, Avignon, Cannes, Nice
    • Main attractions: Old Port of Marseille, Côte d'Azur, the Palace of the Popes of Avignon, Luberon National Natural Park, Calanques of Cassis, Ancient Theater of Orange, Lavender Fields in Sainte-Croix and Manosque, Gorges du Verdon
    • Best time: from May to October, between June and July it is possible to admire the lavender fields in the Valensole area
    • Getting around: the cities are well connected by high-speed trains that travel from Marseille and by regional trains to the rest of the other locations. The best way to move freely is by car, as the roads are well structured

    Major cities of France

    1. Paris: unmissable capital, where museums and eternal monuments are located, from the Notre-Dame cathedral to the Louvre, passing from the Champs-Élysées to the splendid Montmartre district
    2. Lyon: about 2h by train from Paris, this is the city where the Old Town stands, the oldest Renaissance quarter in Europe
    3. Nice: here is the third most important French airport after those of the capital. Located on the French Riviera, the city is the perfect destination for relaxing on the beach
    4. Bordeaux : known for its wine tradition, the city is embellished with splendid buildings in Gothic and Baroque style
    5. Strasbourg: on the border with Germany, it is the city seat of important buildings of the European Union, as well as known for its numerous canals
    6. Avignon: an elegant medieval village that was the papal seat in 1300. The city's bridge has been included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites
    7. Marseille: the most eccentric city in France, where the nation's most important port is located
    8. Arles: small city rich in history and culture, as well as landscapes that inspired the masterpieces of the painter Van Gogh
    9. Biarritz: overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it is the capital of surfing and cliffs smoothed by the natural action of the sea and wind
    10. La Havre: the city center has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, one of the few Europeans built in the post-war period, extending over 133 hectares

    10 things to see: the most important places of interest in France

    1. Paris, the Eiffel Tower and its Museums: a trip to the capital must necessarily include a photograph from the top of the Eiffel Tower and at least one visit to the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay
    2. Disneyland Paris: 32 km from Paris, this is the most famous amusement park complex in the world
    3. Palace of Versailles: not far from Paris, it is the nation's most majestic 1600th century royal complex, commissioned by the Sun King, Louis XIV
    4. The beaches of Nice: beaches where you can find the sun almost all year round, with fine sand and crystal clear sea
    5. Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg: one of the most important and impressive churches in France, 142 meters high and built in Romanesque and Gothic style
    6. Turckheim village: one of the most characteristic places in Alsace, with half-timbered houses and colored in pastel shades, a fairytale and almost surreal place
    7. Cliffs of Etrat in Normandy: blue roofs that sprout on the white chalk cliffs, in Etrat the show can be enjoyed along the paths overlooking the sea
    8. Gorges du Verdon, the canyon of Provence: spectacular gorges created naturally by the Verdon river, surrounded by lush vegetation
    9. The Gulf of Marseille and the Château d'If: the Castle made famous by Dumas' novel, The Count of Monte Cristo
    10. Ussé Castle and Loire Castles: Renaissance and Gothic style castle located on the banks of the Ildre river, in the Loire region. This is the place where the tale of Sleeping Beauty was written and set. In the same region you can admire many other ancient and suggestive castles.

    The main routes in France

    Art, culture, nature, gastronomy, excursions: in France you can really do and see everything, you just need to arm yourself with lots of curiosity and desire for small and big adventures. No matter how you travel, whether alone, as a couple, as a family or in a group, you can create the perfect itinerary for you!
    Here are the main itineraries in France:

    1. A weekend in Paris: for a weekend in France, the perfect destination is Paris, the capital of art. From the Lovure Museum to the Orsay Museum, from the Grand Palais to the Orangerie Museum, maybe one day you can also spend it at Disneyland Paris
    2. Journey into the gastronomy and wine tradition of Aquitaine: After eating and drinking in the best restaurants in Bordeaux, it becomes impossible to resist an exploration of the medieval villages that cover the region, such as La Rochelle, La Île de Ré and Saint-Émilion. For a trip of this type, you must dedicate at least 5 days to it
    3. Lavender route: a week to spend between late May and July in the landscapes of the lavender fields in Provence, visiting Aix en Provence, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, the village of Roussillon and Valensole.
    4. The Alsace wine route: during the Route des Vins you stop in 6 days in small villages with half-timbered houses and a thousand colors, tasting the fine local wines. It starts from Strasbourg, proceeds to Molsheim, Rosheim, Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr and ends in Colmar
    5. Brittany and Normandy: a trip of at least 10 days to discover the coastal landscapes of these two regions, between beaches and large cliffs, moving by car. Stop in Giverny, Rouen, the Alabaster Coast, the port town of Treville, Caen, the Normandy landing beach, Mont Saint Michael

    What to do in France: activities, excursions and tours

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