If you are looking for the most beautiful cities in France that you want to visit, you will be spoilt with choices. One of the most beautiful countries in the world, France is home to many stunning cities, fairytale villages and medieval towns from the Alps to the Mediterranean.
The French cities symbolise glamour, fashion, rich history, renaissance, plenty of the best museums in history, arts of all ages, architecture and culture. While the France cities are all about these, smaller France small towns are home to vineyards, producing some of the best wines in the world.
Whatever you are looking for, this post will give you an idea of the most beautiful cities in France, and things to do and enjoy in these cities. These are perfect cities to pick if you are travelling in France for the first time.
Let’s explore beautiful France virtually now, shall we?
MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES IN FRANCE
Let’s begin the list with most beautiful French cities that are popular among the tourists around the world.
Nice, located in the French Riviera, on the south-east coast on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Alps, is one of the most beautiful cities in France. Nice is the second-largest city on the Mediterranean coast that was founded by the Greeks.
Sitting on the shores of the Baie des Anges, it used to be the summer retreat for the European elite during the 19th-century. Today, home to a second-most number of hotels in France, Nice is also one of the most visited cities of France receiving over five million tourists a year.
So it is certainly a touristy town, but Nice is worth visiting on your France trip for all that it has to offer – the mild weather makes it an excellent destination for being outdoors throughout the year.
It has the perfect mix of many things ancient and modern, from the charming old town to shopping districts to beaches to landscape gardens – offering something for everyone. These are the many reasons why it is one of the beautiful cities of France.
Things to do in Nice
If you are here in February, don’t miss the Nice Carnival, one of the biggest festivals in France. In May, you can attend the renowned Cannes Film Festival in nearby Cannes.
The most popular place to visit in Nice is the beachside Promenade des Anglais, a lovely promenade stretching for over 5 miles.
You can people-watch or witness stunning views of sunrise and sunset, dine at one of the many restaurants for delicious French cuisine and wine, visit one of the boutique shops or cafes, and go on a shopping spree. You can rent a bike and cycle around the promenade too.
For a dose of history, architecture and magnificent views of the Mediterranean and the skyline of Nice along the shores, head to Castle Hill, which houses the Castle of Nice, a hilltop park.
Enjoy swimming or surfing in the beaches Plage Cros Dei Pin, Baie des Anges and Plage des Marinieres.
Stroll in the local market Cours Salaya, and also spend time at the popular landmark in Nice, Massena with a lovely medieval fountain at the centre.
If you love museums, you shouldn’t miss the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, for its extensive collections of modern art, The Palais Lascaris, a musical instrument museum housed in the 17th-century Baroque style Palace and Masséna Museum for French Riveria art.
There are plenty of fascinating coastal and hilltop villages around the French Riviera that you can explore as day trips from Nice.
Where to stay in Nice?
Another city in France known for its university community is Toulouse, which is the fourth-largest city, and definitely one of the most beautiful towns in France. Bordering Spain and divided by the beautiful Garonne River, Toulouse is the capital of Occitanie region in the south of the country.
Toulouse is nicknamed La Villa Rose or The Pink City because of plenty of beautiful buildings in hues of pink and red terracotta bricks. It is one of the best cities to visit in France for its French history, architecture, stunning canals and museums.
Things to do in Toulouse
There are many things to do in Toulouse, but the top one is checking out the historic French buildings.
Walk to the old town passing through cobbled alleys lined with terrace cafes, boutique stores, restaurants and bars to reach the centre at the Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, the majestic 11th-century Romanesque Cathedral.
Close to it is the city Hall Place du Capitole. Check out the striking medieval Saint Stephen’s Cathedral or Toulouse Church and the red sandstone ornate Gothic Couvent des Jacobins Church.
If you enjoy museums, visit the Museum of the fine arts – Musée des Augustins, the art gallery at The Hôtel d’Assézat, a renaissance building. Enjoy the views of the city from the 16th-century bridge Pont Neuf.
Sign up for a romantic cruise along the Garonne River or Canal du Midi in the evenings for stunning views of the lit city. You can also enjoy dinner and drinks on the cruise.
Where to stay in Toulouse?
If you are planning to explore the Alsatian region of France, Strasbourg should be at the top of your list. Strasbourg is one of the most beautiful cities in France that’s also an underrated destination among foreign travellers.
Due to its proximity to the German border, you will see a lot of its influence on the culture, cuisines and traditions in Strasbourg. Strasbourg is also the formal centre of the European Union.
Did you know? Strasbourg is also known for having one of the most enchanting Christmas markets in Europe.
Things to do in Strasbourg
One of the most beautiful things in Strasbourg is the timber-framed homes adorning the streets, including those cobblestone alleys, which feels like you have traveled back in time.
Walk along the streets of Le Petite France, over the many pretty bridges across the canal for experiencing the magic of this city. Take a boat tour to admire the attractions.
Check out some of the medieval monuments including Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg, the stone bridge and Kleper Square.
If you are interested in museums, check out The Palais Rohan, and Alsatian Museum to know about the culture and history of the Alsace region. Visit The Grande Île island home to many medieval remains.
Where to stay in Strasbourg?
Colmar, located in north-eastern part in Alsace region is surely one of the prettiest cities in France. Situated on the Alsatian Wine Route, Colmar is called the capital of Alsatian wine, but there is more than wine that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
Colmar is known for its rich historic old town home to architectural landmarks, traditional wooden houses, canals and museums.
Things to do in Colmar
Many people plan a day trip to Colmar from neighbouring Strasbourg, but it is better to plan a few days to explore the many things to do and see in this lovely city.
Check out the medieval old town crowned with St Martin’s Church and the Dominican church. To taste delicious French food, check out the closed market in Colmar. Join one of the many wine-tasting tours in one of the vineyards, which is a must-do experience when in Colmar.
Unterlinden Museum is the most popular museum in Colmar, which houses the Isenheim Altarpiece. This 13th-century museum is the most visited in Alsace.
La Petite Venise or Little Venice is an Italian neighbourhood lined with pretty wooden buildings, including Maison Pfister, the House of Heads, Customs House and also a street market that is set up on occasion. It is the prettiest area in Colmar.
Outside Colmar is the beautiful hilltop Castle Château de Saint-Ulrich that offers stunning views, and also the other famous castle The three castles of Eguisheim, both worth visiting.
Where to stay in Colmar?
The list of most beautiful cities in France is incomplete without the inclusion of the capital city and one of the most stunning cities in the world, Paris. Paris needs no introduction.
Drawing millions of tourists every year, Paris is the most visited city in France and also the largest in the country.
Summer is the most most popular time to visit Paris, but so is the spring when the annual Paris Carnival happens in February or the winter when many stunning Christmas markets spring up in the city.
Things to do in Paris
Whether you are here for a day or a week, there are tons of activities, tours and attractions to keep you hooked.
The iconic Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre Museum, the beautiful streets with canals and stylish French restaurants, bars and cafes – these are just the highlights of the city that every traveler should visit.
Admire the blissful views across Pont Alexandre III bridge. Shop for the best souvenirs, enjoy the city of lights at night when it transforms into a magical land full of glitz and glamour, get lost in the streets of Paris soaking in the dreamy vibes the city exudes.
There are also plenty of day trips from Paris, including a trip to the majestic Palace of Versailles.
Where to stay in Paris?
Aix-en-province or Ax, located in southern Provence region, is undeniably one of the most beautiful cities in France, renowned for its charming medieval monuments and culture of Provence.
Its stunning beauty has been the source of inspiration for many thinkers, writers and artists, and it is also the birthplace of the artist Paul Cézanne.
Aix-en-province bustles with the student population, thanks to plenty of renowned universities and art schools.
It is one of the popular destinations for travelers visiting France and it should undoubtedly be on your bucket list.
Things to do in Aix-en-province
Aix-en-province is one of the popular days trips from Paris as you can reach easily by train. But if you have time, I’d recommend you to spend at least two days as there are plenty of things to do in Ax.
Check out the centre of the compact old town, which is best explored by foot, admiring the cafes, markets and boutiques. The top attraction of this old quarter is the 14th-century tower at the northwest corner.
You will find many beautiful medieval marble fountains from the 17th-century adorning the squares, which are intricately sculpted. The most popular one is the Fontaine de la Rotonde.
Don’t miss visiting the Cours Mirabeau, a gorgeous tree-lined avenue famous for the terrace cafes. If you love books like me, you will be treated with a lot of pretty bookstores and cute Instagram locations on this boulevard.
Philosophers like Camus frequented this street. One walk through the street and you will know why!
If you are here in summer, add the vibrant flower market to your itinerary.
There are many museums if you enjoying visiting them. Art lovers will want to visit Paul Cezanne’s art studio and the Musée Granet, which has an extensive collection of Cezanne’s works.
If you are looking for a unique museum, head to Fondation Vasarely, dedicated to the works of Victor Vasarely.
Take a trip to the scenic Montagne Sainte-Victoire, an imposing mountain featured in many of Cezanne’s paintings, from where you can witness stunning views of the city.
Where to stay in Aix-en-province?
Marseille, located on the Mediterranean coast near the mouth of the Rhône River is one of the most beautiful cities in France overlooking the Mediterranean. It is the second-largest city and the third-largest in population.
It is known for the stunning rocky cliffs, coastal line blessed with turquoise beaches in the reserved areas, historic old town and beautiful castles.
Tourism was only introduced recently in the city, and if you are looking for a relaxed city to enjoy the Mediterranean vibes – whether beaches or food or the views served with a dose of French, then the pretty town of Marseille is where you should go.
Things to do in Marseille
Visit Cathédrale La Major, one of the largest landmarks in the city from the 19th-century and Château d’If – the island fortress, which was previously a prison.
If you enjoy gardens and museums, explore The Palais Longchamp – a landscape garden and medieval monument housing the Museum of arts and the Museum of History.
Also check out MuCEM – Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, one of the largest in France.
Climb the Old Port of Marseille, Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde the landmark hilltop Bascilla of Marseille renowned for its stunning views.
Take a boat trip to the Frioul archipelago, a group of four islands off the Mediterranean coast home to castles and beaches.
Plan a trip to the Massif des Calanques National Park, a wild and rugged terrain consisting of rocky cliffs, viewpoints, beaches and trails for hiking.
Another protected reserve close to Marseille is Calanques National Park for hiking trails leading to surreal viewpoints.
Where to stay in Marseille?
Lyon might be the second-largest city in the country, but it is certainly underrated when it comes to being a tourist destination which is a shame because it is one of the most beautiful cities in France.
Many people visit Lyon as a day trip from Paris, thanks to the high-speed railway that lands you here in under 2 hours, but Lyon needs more than a day if you have time.
Lyon was one of the major cities during Roman times. It also has the elements of Parisian life combined with the rich historic medieval past, and not to forget, Lyon is one of the best places in France for trying the country’s delicacies.
Things to do in Lyon
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, a hilltop church with a museum is one of the top attractions in Lyon. You can enjoy stunning views of the city from there.
Another gem Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, at the centre of the old town is one of the architectural medieval remains in the lovely old quarters.
Wander the cobbled streets lined with cafes, restaurants and many cute shops selling books and souvenirs to reach Place Bellecour, the main plaza which is crowded with locals and tourists, and is surrounded by many bars and cafes.
Museum-lovers should check out the Roman remains at Lugdunum, the Museum of Confluence and Cinema Museum.
Enjoy a walk in one of the best parks in the city Parc de la Tête d’Or, consisting of a lake and a botanical garden.
Where to stay in Lyon?
Bordeaux, the wine capital, is one of the most beautiful places in France, located on the Garonne River in southwestern France.
Apart from the lovely Vineyards, this Unesco World Heritage city Bordeaux is known for its massive medieval Palaces, Public gardens, great gastronomic scenes and more, making it one of the top 10 cities in France you shouldn’t miss.
Things to do in Bordeaux
The top attraction in Bordeaux is the majestic Palace Place de la Bourse, an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble as described by the UNESCO World Heritage list, it is one of the iconic landmarks in France.
This massive palatial building is decorated with the beautiful Three Graces fountain, overlooking the Miroir d’Eau, the world’s largest reflecting pool.
The vibrant waterfront quay Les Qais, close to this is the hangout place for locals and tourists thanks to the series of restaurants, bars, skate parks and cafes.
Also check out the central attraction of the old quarter, the stunning Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, the opera house The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux.
Witness the stunning views of the city from the Pey Berland Bell Tower. Admire the views also from the historic stone bridge Pont de pierre.
Visit the largest city square in Europe, The Place des Quinconces, which is crowded with people in the evenings and on the weekends.
Head to La Rue Sainte Catherine for shopping, which is also Europe’s longest shopping street.
If you want to the history of wine check out the Wine Museum Cité du Vin, also known for its unique contemporary architecture.
The other museum that you should visit is the art Museum Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. In the summer and fall, take a stroll in Jardin a landscaped public park.
Where to stay in Bordeaux?
MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES IN FRANCE – OFFBEAT
Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, a famous wine region, is one of the most beautiful cities in France to visit if you are looking for a summer or fall destination in France. Dijon is also known for mustard production.
But apart from wine or mustard, Dijon is one of the most beautiful towns in France that you should visit for fairytale castles, enchanting old town and excellent French delicacies that go perfectly well with wine.
Things to do in Dijon
If you are here during the summer or fall seasons, you can take part in the wine tours and see the making of wine from ripe grapes plucked.
Visit the Mulot & Petitjean Gingerbread Factory to know the history and making of gingerbread, for also which Dijon is famous.
Since it was the home of the Dukes of Burgundy, who ruled independently of the French kings for centuries, Dijon boasts of plenty of majestic Castles and Palatian buildings along with the richly adorned old town.
Start with the old quarter to admire the middle-age monuments belonging to Burgandy empire, including Saint-Bénigne de Dijon cathedral.
Take a tour of the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy or the Ducal Palace, which was the symbol of grandeur and power of Burgandy rulers that you can notice in the rooms, richly decorated with intricate paintings and gold covering.
For splendid views of the city and the surrounding landscapes climb the Philippe de Bon tower.
Where to stay in Dijon?
Nestled at the foot of the Alps in southeastern France, where Lake Annecy meets the Thiou River, Annecy is one of the most beautiful cities in France, hands down.
Bordering Switzerland, which is just an hour away, you will feel as if you are in one of those beautiful Switzerland cities – thanks to the crisp air and stunning landscapes decorated with the snow-peaked Alps surrounding the town, which is home to a maze of cobbled ways lined with medieval houses, lovely canals and the smell of baked delicacies.
Things to do in Annecy
One of the best ways to explore the beauty of Annecy is to wander on foot, walking along the cobblestone streets leading to winding canals, which are dotted with pastel-coloured houses, many Instagram-worthy cafes, restaurants and boutique shops.
Wander the streets of Vieille Ville or the old town, tour the beautiful Chateau d’Annecy, the former residence of the Counts of Geneva which now houses a museum of Alpine arts and craftwork.
If you are here on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday mornings, don’t miss checking out the beautiful outdoor market in the old town.
Stroll around Lake Annecy or take a boat trip. Witness stunning views from the Palais d’Isle. Savour the delicious Alpine cheese, gingerbread, wine and other delicacies.
Where to stay in Annecy?
Orleans is one of the most underrated cities in France. Located on the banks of the Loire River in north-central France, and it’s the capital of the Centre-Val de Loire region.
Orleans was one of the cities to suffer a lot of destruction during WW II. But it has emerged to be one of the most beautiful cities in France rich in historic buildings, museums, universities and Cathedrals. It is famous as one of the cities visited by Joan of Arc.
Things to do in Orleans
History and museum lovers will have tons of things to enjoy in Orleans. Orléans Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in the centre of the old town is one of the top attractions that you shouldn’t miss.
Visit the main square Place du Martroi, which houses the famous statue of Joan of Arc, the beautiful medieval City Hall and other lovely structures.
Visit the House of Joan of Arc, a museum containing the history of events, and FRAC centre – one of the uniquely designed contemporary art and architectural museum.
Check out the renaissance designed Hotel Groslot, one of the nicest buildings in Orleans.
Take a walk in the beautiful botanical gardens like the French garden The Parc Floral de la Source or the public park of Orleans.
Where to stay in Orleans?
If you are looking for one of the most beautiful cities in France that you can visit without large crowds, then Nantes is the place for you.
Nantes, located on the Loire River in the Upper Brittany region of western France has been an important port and the centre for industrialization for many centuries and is one of the best places to visit in Loire valley.
It is also a city of Universities and known for the medieval structures belonging to the Dukes of Brittany who inhabited this city for many centuries.
Things to do in Nantes
Check out the beautiful Royal Castle of the Dukes of Brittany with its cathedral that houses the beautiful 1502 tomb of Francois II. It is also home to a gorgeous botanical garden.
The former ship-building quarter, now known as The Machines of the Isle of Nantes(Les Machines de l’Ile), is the best attraction in Nantes.
It is an artistic, touristic and cultural project where innovative structures are on display for visitors to view, including models of mammoth and other animals.
The Art Museum of Nantes has some interesting collections. Take a walk in two notable gardens in the city – the Japanese gardens and the Botanical garden.
Located in the northern part of the country bordering Belgium, Lille is one of the offbeat destinations that are not on many tourist’s lists. This university town is a cultural hub and one of the prettiest towns in France.
You can find heavy Belgian influence from food to architecture, and Lille is also known as the capital of French Flanders. So don’t be surprised if you will feel like being in Belgium more than France.
Things to do in Lille
Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts, one of the largest museums in Europe for fine arts, modern arts and antiquities.
Walk in the scenic market square Place Charles de Gaulle, where you can try some of the delicious Flemish cuisines and drinks.
The most notable among the medieval buildings is the central landmark The Vieille Bourse, the former building of the Lille Chamber of Commerce and Industry, located between the Grand Place and the Place du Théâtre.
It consists of many small houses adorned with plaques and a porticoed courtyard. There is also a book market here.
Visit the beautiful the Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral, which is known for its Gothic and contemporary architectural styles.
Where to stay in Lille?
If you want to experience a bit of Spanish twist in France, head to the south of the country near the Mediterranean coast to visit Perpignan, one of the most beautiful cities in France. As it was the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca in Spain, the Catalan influence is evident everywhere in the city.
Pastel-coloured tiled houses, rich historic Gothic-Romanesque medieval structures, vibrant beaches and cliffs surrounding them offering stunning views and plenty of things to eat and drink are some of the reasons why travelers head to this French city.
Things to do in Perpignan
Explore the old town which is surrounded by the Castillet, an ancient fortification and city door an iconic landmark of the town, which has more than four gates and also houses the Arts Museum. At the centre of the old quarter is Perpignan Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church.
Check out one of the top attractions Palace of the Kings of Majorca, a palace and a fortress with gardens overlooking the city of Perpignan, which was the former Royal residence of Majorca Kings.
Visit the baroque and modern art Museum Hyacinthe Rigaud. Walk along the beautiful canals over The Têt where sidewalks are decorated with vibrant flowers in front of beautiful French buildings.
Where to stay in Perpignan?
Montpellier is a city in southern France close to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is renowned for the charming old town, universities and Museums. If you want to experience the country without mainstream crowds or expensive costs, Montpellier is one of the best cities to visit in France.
Things to do in Montpellier
Visit the old town’s majestic 13th-century Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Pierre with its imposing conical towers, The Porte du Peyrou gate and the beautiful Castle of Flaugergues.
Head to Antigone district to enjoy art. Museum-lovers should visit the Musée Fabre Museum.
Where to stay in Montpellier?
So that’s the list of the most beautiful cities in France for you. Hope you picked the cities for your trip to France.
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PIN MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES IN FRANCE
TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Jet Radar, Kiwi, or 12go.Asia (for Asia planning). Book and fly mid-week, taking red-eyes flights or those in the early mornings for better deals and lower prices. Avoid check-in bags on a budget airline.
Booking Trains: The best websites for booking trains anywhere in Europe are Rail Europe and TrainLine. Both are easy to manage online and track your journeys.
Booking Cars: For the best prices and easy handling of renting a car for road trips and day trips, I’d recommend Discover Cars or Rental Cars, available throughout the world.
Accommodations: I typically use HotelsCombined or Booking.com to book hotels. There are special getaway deals with amazing discounts(over 50%!) for this year on Booking.com, and you can find them here.
I use Hostelworld and Agoda to book hostels as the deposit is low, easy change/cancellation is available and reviews are excellent on both. Depending on the destination, I love staying in VRBOs/homestays.
Travel Insurance: No matter whether it is a short trip or longer trips abroad, I strongly recommend buying travel insurance for international trips. I recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance.
Tours: Being a solo traveler, one of the best ways to optimize my time, budget, and super importantly, meet amazing people from all over the world is by joining tours, especially food tours, walking tours, day trips, culture, and history tours.
You will get a local’s perspective, the best opportunities to experience places and people closely. I book using GetYourGuide, Klook, Viator, and Voyagin.
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