I re-watched the final two episodes of Sex in the City over the weekend and, as always, felt the immediate need to pack my shit and run away to Paris, have my multi-millionaire lover chase me and declare his love for me on a bridge while I’m impeccably dressed in Haute Couture. Unrealistic? Definitely. My current idea of couture is a $3 skirt from an op shop and a pair of sandals that are two different sizes (true story – one’s a size 6 and the other’s a size 8, I have no idea how it happened). Don’t judge me.
Truth is, Paris is probably the first place that pops into most peoples minds when they think of France. Paris is great! It’s amazing! But if Paris is so wonderful, that probably means there are loads of other places worthy of your time too, right? Oui Oui! If you’ve got a serious case of wanderlust and want to immerse yourself in everything French, then these places are an absolute must-visit.
Marseille is a large port city that looks like it’s straight out of your European fairytale dreams. It’s easy to lose entire days walking through the streets, discovering art and history around every corner. The city is alive with art and literature, it’s the ultimate haven for creative types, who imagine losing themselves in a world of French art culture. The must-try food in Marseille, being a port city, is Bouillabaisse, a fish soup that will change your life forever. You should also visit as many gorgeous little cafes as possible while you’re there and be sure to visit Notre-Dame de la Garde.
This stunning hilltop town is located in the south of France (that just sounds magical, doesn’t it). It’s famous for Citè de Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage listed and, honestly, it’s straight out of your childhood story books. The stunning, gothic castle is a photographers dream and a place you could easily spend hours wandering around, exploring, like a medieval Prince or Princess.
If you love food, you’re going to absolutely love Lyon. This beautiful place is a food-lovers paradise, even the French agree, which is telling you something. The Eurostar runs a service from London to Lyon, so it’s easier than ever to get there. Once you arrive, lose yourself exploring local farmers markets, stocking up on cheese, wine and bread for a picnic or visit one of the famed brasseries, like L’Auberge du Pont de Colognes. You’ll find this large city full of vibrant people, fascinating history and a relaxed vibe. If you can, try visiting during the annual Lyon Festival of Lights.
Bordeaux is all about the wine, so strap yourself into your big girl pants and get ready to sample some of the best wine you’ll ever have! They’ve been making wine here for years and years, all the way back to the 8th Century, so there’s no doubt they know what they’re doing. Be sure to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Port de la Lune and take in The Bordeaux Wine Festival if you find yourself there at precisely the right time of year.
If you’re feeling like a bit of luxury and opulence, head directly to Cannes. Famous for its annual film-festival, Cannes is home to high-rollers, casinos, luxury yachts and hotels that will have your bank account quivering in its boots. If you’re broke, like me, the better option might be to pass through Cannes, stopping for a lunch you can’t afford and photograph the beautiful people and their beautiful yachts. Seriously though, it is a great spot for photographs, the afternoon sky lights up something pretty special.
This gorgeous walled city sits in the north of France, along the English Channel. Funnily enough, the walls were built to keep visitors out, but now they make for a beautiful sight that draws tourists. This is the place to get your hands on incredibly fresh seafood and watch yacht races and all that other fancy French stuff that your travel dreams are made of. The tides here are crazy, too, so expect to get some pretty dramatic photos as the surrounding water changes during the day.
France isn’t just big cities and quaint towns, you’ll also find some pretty breathtaking scenery. If hiking and outdoor pursuits are more your thing, you’ll want to visit the region of Auvergne. It’s home to hot springs, mountains, incredible walking and hiking tracks, views you won’t believe and lovely little spa towns, like Vichy.
This divine seaside town may look picture-perfect, and it is, but it’s also home to a pretty bangin’ nightlife as well. It’s a major surf destination, so you’ll find yourself surrounded by cute boys and year-round tans. There are still museums and churches to explore, but nabbing a spot near the water to watch the waves with a cold drink is really where you want to be.
Yep, this region of France is where our beloved Champagne comes from. It’s no joke, either, only sparkling wine which comes from this specific region can be referred to as Champagne. Visit Eperney for wine-tastings you won’t soon forget and wander through the vineyards for amazing photographs. Prepare to eat a lot of heavenly soft cheese, drink yourself silly and feel relaxed in this earthy part of the world.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Saint-Tropez before and, really, it’s not surprising. This area is known for its picturesque beaches and wild nightlife, set among luxury yachts and cobblestone streets. You’ll find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches and the weather makes it the perfect spot for your European summer getaway. If you find it a bit too pricey, stay for a few nights then skip town.
11. Chamonix Mont-Blanc
Near the place where Italy, Switzerland and France meet, you’ll find Chamonix Mont-Blanc. France isn’t just seaside towns and quaint towns, it’s also home to mountains and ski resorts that will take your breath away. This area is renowned for its Alpine skiing and a hot spot for visitors. Even if you can’t ski that well (me) you’ll lose your mind when you see how beautiful it is, so be sure to pack lots of warm clothes and extra memory cards for your camera.
Useful travel resources for your trip to France
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Agoda – for booking hotels
Airbnb – for booking apartments
Booking.com – for booking hotels
Motorhome Republic – for booking RVs
RentalCars.com – for car rentals
SCTI – for travel insurance
Skyscanner – for booking flights
Surfshark – for online security and VPN
TourRadar – for booking tours
Uber – for ground transport