Best things to do in France
Find out more about those top places in France
Much like the former industrial cities of northern Britain, Marseille has long suffered from poor investment and an even worse reputation. Traditionally infamous in France for its port side seediness and high crime rates, Marseille has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. While the city has retained its urban grit, it has become one of Europe’s most vibrant metropolises where modern multiculturalism meets the Mediterranean. Indeed, the city’s transformation appears to be complete, as it was awarded the title of 2013 European Capital of Culture. Beyond Marseille’s regeneration, history abounds. The city was founded by the ancient Greeks and developed into a thriving medieval city, whose core, named Le Panier, remains Marseille’s evocative center. While the city has now firmly claimed the title of France’s second-city, it remains a diamond in the rough and one of the France’s hidden gems.
Notre-Dame de la Garde remains the most popular symbol in the city of Marseille. This 19th-century neo-Byzanthine basilica also remains the site that receives the highest number of visitors in Marseille every year. The Notre-Dame de la Garde also serves as a popular Assumption Day pilgrimage in recent times.
Le Panier which is a popular place in Marseille dates back to 600BC and has had occupants since that time. It can be found just north of the Old Port and is easy to locate. Le Panier is popular for serving as the site of the Greek colony of Massalia.
Since its inauguration on the 7th of June 2013 as a part of the Marseille-Provence 2013, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) has played host to a huge number of visitors. This museum serves to commemorate the year when Marseille was designated as the European Capital of Culture.
Les Calanques which is located just outside of Marseille is a natural wonder that no tourist should ever visit Marseille without checking out. The beautiful beaches, breathtaking views, and cool sea breeze are only a tip as what visitors would be able to enjoy whilst on a visit to the Les Calanques National Park.
France is home to a variety of both local and international delicacies which are all very accessible. Apart from these, Marseille is well-known for some local food specifically including pastis and a very great abundance of fresh seafood.
Montpellier often gets lumped in with the more glamorous resort cities of France’s Cote d’Azur but the capital city of the fiercely autonomous Languedoc region has a character all of its own. While the Montpellier is one of France’s most graceful cities, it is also an unapologetically vibrant place with one of the country’s most diverse populations, mostly owing to the resettlement of French Algerians in the city during the 1960s, and buzzing student nightlife. The city is dominated by the 15th century gothic cathedral, which was built to replace the original cathedral that was destroyed during the Albigensian Crusade against heresy. Beyond the history, Montpellier is also one of France’s most sun-kissed cities with an average 300 days of sunshine per year, which makes a day trip to the nearby white sand beaches irresistible.
This Roman Catholic church is very close to the hearts of the residents of Montpellier especially the Christian. The Montpellier cathedral serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Montpellier and is held in high regard as a national monument.
Located in Montpellier in South of France, the Fabre Museum serves as the capital of the Hérault département. Since its establishment in 1825 by a Montpellier painter who went by the name François-Xavier Fabre, the Fabre Museum has become somewhat of a shrine for both ancient and modern art.
The Porte du Peyrou has its home in the Eastern end of the Jardin de Peyrou which is a park very close to the center of Montpellier. The Porte du Peyrou is a triumphal arc and is one of the most frequented sites in Montpellier.
The Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier can be found at Boulevard Henri IV, Montpellier and does not require any fee for granting access. This arboretum and historic botanical garden opens every afternoon except on Mondays. It is exclusively taken care of by the Université Montpellier.
The sights that the contemporary aquarium has to offer are the type that would leave you awestruck. Planet Ocean World boasts of high-tech exhibits such as 3D ocean simulator rides that are educational yet entertaining and relaxing.
Located in the rolling landscape just east of the rugged Massif Central, Lyon boasts one of the most spectacular – and strategic – locations in France. Hugging the banks of the rivers Rhone and Saone at their confluence, Lyon’s central location combines the hi-tech modernity of northern France with the laid back attitude of the country’s Mediterranean coast. As France’s third largest city, Lyon unsurprisingly offers a raft of cultural and historical attractions. The Basilique Notre Dame is likely France’s most dazzling cathedral beyond Paris while the Musée Gallo-Romain showcases Lyon’s importance as the capital of the Roman province of Gaul. While Lyon has a reputation as a city of business, scratch the surface and it reveals itself as a city defined by vibrant street life, unrivaled history and spectacular geography.
Just on the River Saône quayside sits the Vieux Lyon which is a popular spot for tourists as well. The Vieux Lyon is overlooked by Renaissance-era mansions that sport hidden courtyards and have terracotta-tiled roofs.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière took only 12 years to reach completion, built between 1872 and 1884. Apart from this, one profound feature of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is that it was constructed with the use of private funds. It is recognized as one of the minor Basilicas in Lyon.
The Ancient Theatre of Fourvière was built in Roman style and can be found on the hill of Fourvière in the center of the Roman City. It presents an opportunity to have an in-depth look at a Roman-designed edifice.
The Lyon Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Lyon. This Roman Catholic church which can be found around Place Saint-Jean was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and is visited by many tourists due to its historical and contemporary significance.
Toulon is southern France’s most overlooked city. While it lacks the urban grit of neighboring Marseille or the glamour of Cannes and Nice, Toulon is the hidden gem of the Provence region with an intoxicating mix of natural beauty, naval history and gastronomic delights. Tucked between two rugged headlands, the sheltered cove that forms the nucleus of Toulon is lined by promenades and quays, which offer a glimpse into the workings of France’s second largest naval base. Beyond the city center, impressive 16th century naval fortifications remain daunting until now while a cable car ride up Mount Faron offers awe-inspiring views of the Mediterranean coast. What is more, while the restaurants of the glitzy cities of the Cote d’Azur cater to tourists, those of Toulon serve the best of Provencal cuisine with seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood and excellent wine.
The cable car ride up to the Mount Faron is one of the major attractions in Toulon. Since it began operation in July 1959, it has become one of the main reason for which tourists troop to Toulon. Tens of thousands of visitors ride the cars up the 584 meters altitude if the Mount Faron every year and enjoy a mind-blowing view of Toulon and the Mediterranean Sea when they finally get to the top.
The Toulon harbor is usually buzzing with activity most of the time and plays host to a lot of yachts and fishing boats which are docked there. While taking a walk along the harbor, ensure that you visit some of the restaurants and boutiques that line the pleasant waterfront sidewalks. As a plus, they have outdoor terraces where you can relax in the midst of the activity.
One of the best features of the Musée Mémorial du Débarquement is an outstanding and extraordinary view that it offers. This unique monument is one of the historical monuments specifically dedicated to the landing of Provence during the 2nd World War and is one that you shouldn't pass up on seeing.
The Toulon Navy has played a very key role and has a place in the history of Toulon. This one of the reasons for the establishment of the Musée National de la Marine. This museum with its beautifully crafted and designed exterior plays a key role in the preservation of the Toulon maritime history and the Navy's impact as well.
The best way to actually drink in the awesome beauty of the amazing city of Toulon is to go on a hike through this beautiful location. On your way, the area's 'Mediterranean Jungle' and the stunning blue lagoon are some places that you should totally check out.
Paris needs no introductions; it is a city that is considered one of the best places in the World to visit. Known to be the European capital of fashion and arts, there are millions of visitors trooping in yearly to see all that Paris has to offer.
One thing that encourages the tourism in the city, is the fact that it has some of the most recognizable attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower, Musée Du Louvre and Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris.
Known all over the world, The Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous structures ever built - its significance does not just cut across Paris and France alone, but the entire Europe. Named after famous French Civil Engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower stands at a staggering 324 meters and was built as an icon for the 1889 World’s fair. It main highlight is its observation deck at 276 m, which is also the highest available to the public in the European Union.
In a beautiful city like Paris, this is considered one of the most beautiful places in the city and that goes to show how amazing it is. Established in 1793, it is situated in the Louvre Palace, which began as a fortress by Philip II in the 12th century. The Museum is the world’s largest art museum and the most visited as well, receiving over 10 million visitors in 2018. It features over 38,000 objects dating from prehistoric to modern times, some of its exhibitions include collections of ancient Greek and roman sculptures and several paintings from notable artists (including the Mona Lisa by Da Vinci).
If you are familiar with cathedrals, you would know that there a several Notre Dames around the world but this one in Paris is considered “the main Notre Dame”. The hard to miss cathedral was built in 1345 using French Gothic style designs, with its interior and exterior displaying great artistry. Recognized as the spiritual center in France – it home to the Crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ and a nail from the true cross.
Not a place for the faint at heart, the Les Catacombs popularly known to tourists as the Catacombs of Paris are a group of ossuarries which hold the remains of over six million people. Built in from 1810 when the city was trying to solve its problem of overflowing cemeteries, leading to the exhuming of bones and storing them in disused quarry tunnels. In recent times the Catacombs have been renovated and the bones arranged into more aesthetically pleasing patterns. It also serves as a resting place of casualties of some of France’s notable events such as the riots of Place de Greve and that of the French Resistance.
The Arc de Triomphe de l’ Ètoile which when translated is “Triumphal Arch of the Star”, it is one of France’s symbolic structures built to celebrate the victories of the French Wars and as a memorial for those that died during the battles. The monumental arch presents a Neoclassical architectural style and stands at a height of 50 meters with almost 660 names inscribed inside its walls, most of which are French generals of the first French Empire. Beneath the arch is the tomb of an Unknown Soldier, which has an eternal flame.
With several gardens spread across the city, it can be a daunting task to pick the one to visit - however, the Jardin du Luxembourg can be said to be one of the top and most visited gardens in France. Built for the Marie de’Medici the garden is located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris - spanning over 23 hectares of flowerbeds, lawns, trees and more than a hundred statues. Its major attraction is the Medici Fountain built in 1960.
Designed by the famous Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the Place de la Concorde is one of the sites that played its part in the history of France. Built in 1772 it features two fountains named “the fontaines de la Concorde”, a 3,500-year-old obelisk at its center and several other statues. It was known as the Palace de la Revolution during the French revolution era and the site where the prominent figures in France’s history faced guillotine.
Considered a must visit by most tourists, the stunning Palace of Versailles is another example of the beauty of French architecture. Situated about 20 km off the center of Paris, the palace was once the official residence of the Royal family of France from originally being a hunting lodge. A tour of the Palace of Versailles would have you visiting the Royal apartments, hall of mirrors, Royal Opera House and so much more.
While the Loire Valley is popularly known as ‘the garden of France’, it is also the country’s enchanting heart with an array of majestic chateaux, picturesque medieval towns and breathtaking cathedrals set against a backdrop of rolling vineyards. The Loire Valley follows the course of the River Loire from the lush hills of the Sancerre wine producing region to the lively university city of Angers. Undoubtedly the region’s main draws are the regal castles that pepper the countryside, including the world-famous Chateaux de Chenonceau, which gracefully spans the Cher River, and the idyllic Chateaux de Chambord. Beyond the castles, the main cities of the Loire Valley include Orléans, Blois and Tours, which offer urban vibrancy and an old world atmosphere in equal measure.
The Château de Chambord can be found standing majestically on the left bank of the Loire River and poses an awe-striking sight. As the most emblematic Renaissance monument in France, the Château de Chambord is highly valued by the French people. This castle also served as the source of inspiration for the construction of the Château de Versailles.
The Château de Chenonceau is a French château that is located close to Chenonceaux which is a small village in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France. This structure spans the River Cher and is a very magnificent edifice. Among other chateaux of the Loire valley, the Château de Chenonceau is the best known.
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres used to be a very important destination for pilgrims during the middle age and is still accorded that importance today. This landmark structure can be found standing in the laid-back town of Chartres and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres is UNESCO-listed as well.
To have a feel of some ancient French culture and lifestyle, a visit to the Bourges is in order. The Bourges is home to a host of old palaces as well as burgher's houses. A picturesque view of the Yèvre and Aveyron Rivers that are located in the province of Berry with a lot its history is also very visible from here.
The exquisite furnishings and strategically placed decorations of the Château de Cheverny does not begin to describe this magnificent Château. It is even rumored to be the best looking among every other châteaux in terms of furnishing and decoration. Located at Cheverny within the department of Loir-et-Cher in the Loir valley, the Château de Cheverny remains one site in France that records thousands of visits by tourists.
The Azay-le-Rideau is well-known for its splendid and glorious Renaissance château which is almost like a fairy tale world. This building was constructed on the orders of King Francis the First and can be found on an island in the Indre River. Azay-le-Rideau is surrounded by beautiful gardens and a moat.
The city of Orléans can be found in north-central France right on the banks of the Loire River. It also serves as the capital of the Centre-Val de Loire region. Orleans is famous for being the city that Joan of Arc saved from the siege of the Englishmen in 1429 and this occasion is celebrated by a festival that takes place annually.