When it comes to picking the best places to visit in France, there are many to choose from. Besides Paris, France is home to many regions to love and well worth exploring.
As a French-American, I have spent most of my life visiting France. I love it there and what I love most is how diverse France is. It is so much more than the big city of Paris (still well worth a visit.). I have a few favorite places that I recommend to everyone to visit in France.
And if I may say one thing — if you go all the way to France, do try to get outside of Paris. There is so much that awaits outside of the capital city.
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When it comes to planning your time in France, you’ll likely fly into Paris’s CDG airport. It’s a great way to kick off a trip exploring the “quartiers” of Paris, and enjoying the food, shopping, and museums. And now after, it’s time to get out and explore.
From countryside escapes to seaside shores, there is so much more to explore besides Paris. Read on to see the best places to visit in France that are beyond Paris. I hope this list gives you a few ideas on just where to go.
Best Places to Visit in France Besides Paris
A Helpful Map for Where to Go in France
I put together a Google Map for all of my favorite places in France to visit. It’s separated by regions first with the orange pins. Then the blue pins are all places you could consider visiting in those regions. Open the maps to be able to fully explore.
Bordeaux is a renowned wine-producing region located in southwestern France, known for its exceptional vineyards and winemaking tradition. It’s literally surrounded by hundreds of vineyards and wineries in the region. What most people think of is the city of Bordeaux itself!
Bordeaux is a historic and beautiful city, with so many fun day trips nearby to places like Saint Emilion. It is the capital of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and is situated along the River Garonne. The city is known for its beautiful 18th-century architecture, including neoclassical buildings, grand boulevards, and picturesque squares.
I’ve had the chance to spend extended time in Bordeaux when we lived there for six weeks last year. I absolutely love how walkable this city in France is and the ease of using the metro line. There are so many fun things to do in Bordeaux, lovely coffee shops, and incredible dining. And don’t miss these best hotels in Bordeaux for a stay.
If you’re coming from Paris, you’re also in luck — there is a super fast train that is directly right into the city center. Bordeaux is one of my first recommendations for those wanting to get out of Paris, no car is needed.
Popular Places to Visit in the Bordeaux Region:
- Bordeaux City
- Saint Emilion
- Soulac Sur Mer
- The Medoc Wine Region
The Alsace region is located in northeastern France, bordering Germany to the east. It is known for its picturesque villages, charming architecture, and distinctive culture, which bears the influence of both French and German traditions. All of this is due to its historical frontier position on the Franco-German border.
This may be one of my top areas of France to explore year-round. Alsace is home to two very well-known cities, both Strasbourg and Colmar. These Alsatian towns, near incredible vineyards, have lovely historic centers to explore. You can also take a direct train to Strasbourg from Paris which I always recommend using as a homebase for this region. (Here are the best hotels in Strasbourg.)
Come late November to December, this whole region is iconic for its Christmas Markets. The Strasbourg Christmas Market is the most famous, followed by the Colmar Christmas Market. It’s a bucket list experience in France!
The rest of the year is equally lovely. You could rent a car as well and get into the smaller towns of Alsace like Riquewihr, Obernai, and Kayserberg. But for ease, the direct to Strasbourg is from Paris.
Popular Places to Visit in the Alsace Region:
The Dordogne and The Lot
The Dordogne, also known as the Périgord, is a picturesque region located in the southwest of France. It is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, historic villages, prehistoric sites, and rich culinary traditions. The Dordogne region boasts diverse landscapes, including rolling countryside, lush river valleys, limestone cliffs, and dense forests.
The Lot is a department in the Occitanie region of southern France, known for its stunning natural landscapes, picturesque medieval villages with timbered houses, and rich history. It borders right next to Dordogne and you can easily visit both on a trip.
I’m partial to this area, my grandmother was raised in The Lot so I’ve spent many trips back visiting this area. But my absolute favorite is being in the heart of the Dordogne Valley near Sarlat-la-Canéda. It is truly one of the most beautiful regions of France that American tourists completely skip over.
The amount of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” (which literally translates to “the most beautiful villages of France”) here is incredible. There are chateaux, incredible dining, and a lot to visit in day trip form like these 7 villages of Dordogne. It honestly feels like a fairy tale.
The caveat with this region is you do need a car to get around. The easiest access is to train directly to Bordeaux and rent a car from there to explore the region.
Popular Places to Visit in the Dordogne Region:
- La Roque-Gageac
Popular Places to Visit in the Lot Region:
Provence, situated in southeastern France, lies in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur department of France. Often when people think of Provence, they’re mostly thinking of areas like the hilltop villages of the Luberon, the French city of Aix-en-Provence, and nearby countryside towns of Avignon and Arles.
Provence is ever-so-lovely to visit, with each season having a unique experience. The spring through fall months are the best times to visit, where lavender fields bloom and the area becomes very lush. This part of France is known for historical towns, the best farmer’s markets, and historic sights.
When we go, I love to use Saint-Rémy-de-Provence as a home base, there are some lovely hotels here. From there you can easily take a drive to Luberon to visit famous villages like Gordes, Roussillon and more. Having a rental car here is a must to get out to see these areas!
One quintessential part of being in Provence is taking part in famed regional gastronomic dining. So be sure to hunt out a few restaurants beforehand. These charming countryside hotels in Provence all have wonderful stays plus many have restaurants right on the property.
For those wanting to make it out to the Provincial coastline, make your way to the small town of Cassis. Just next to Marseille, Cassis might be my favorite coastal town on the Mediterranean. Super quaint, great beaches and hiking, and lovely restaurants to enjoy here!
Popular Places to Visit in Provence:
- The Luberon (Gordes, Ménerbes, Bonnieux, Lacoste, Roussillon, Oppède, Lourmarin)
Normandy, situated in northwestern France, is a region of profound historical significance and breathtaking natural beauty. Known for its pivotal role in the D-Day landings during World War II, the region’s beaches like Omaha and Utah Beach stand as solemn reminders of the Allied invasion.
Normandy’s landscapes are equally diverse, with rolling green countryside, coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, and picturesque apple orchards. Historic towns such as Rouen, Honfleur, and Bayeux offer glimpses into the region’s rich architectural heritage, featuring medieval and Renaissance buildings and towering Gothic cathedrals.
The iconic Mont Saint-Michel, perched on a rocky island, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a marvel of medieval architecture. Normandy is celebrated for its culinary traditions, including creamy cheeses like Camembert, apple-based products such as cider and Calvados, and fresh seafood from coastal towns.
It has also inspired Impressionist painters like Monet, with Giverny serving as a testament to the region’s artistic allure. Seaside resorts, Calvados and cider routes, festivals, and peaceful countryside make Normandy a captivating destination that seamlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty in the heart of northern France.
Popular Places to Visit in Normandy:
- Mont Saint-Michel
- Le Havre
One of my favorite, often overlooked, regions of France is the Languedoc. Languedoc-Rousillon, also known as Occitanie, is a captivating region in the south of France that boasts a diverse and culturally rich landscape. From its picturesque Mediterranean coastline with sandy beaches to the rugged Pyrenees Mountains in the west and the rolling vineyard-covered hills of its interior.
Steeped in history, the region features medieval treasures like the walled city of Carcassonne, and it played a significant role in the Cathar movement during the Middle Ages. Carcassonne is an absolute treasure to not miss while in this region.
Languedoc is also renowned for its wine production, with vineyards producing a wide array of wines. Its cultural heritage, celebrated through festivals, music, and the Occitan language, adds depth to the region’s charm, making it a captivating destination for history buffs, wine enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and those seeking a taste of Mediterranean culture.
Languedoc sits right next to Provence, so if you’re looking for something a bit more quiet, this is another option to consider. It’s quieter here, more rugged, but very much worth the visit.
Popular Places to Visit in Languedoc:
- Canal du Midi
The Loire Valley
The Loire Valley, nestled in the heart of France, is a region of unparalleled beauty and historical significance. It is renowned for its magnificent châteaux, each a testament to different periods of architecture, and its lush vineyards producing some of the country’s finest wines.
The Loire River stands as France’s final untouched waterway, stretching for 1000 miles and winding through nature’s unspoiled landscapes. Along the way, scenic towns, castles, and wineries are here to enjoy.
My family is from Poitiers just south of the Loire Valley. We’ve spent many day trips visiting up into this fairytale land to explore. So many wonderful fortified towns like Chinon and Amboise which you can also easily visit by way of Paris.
In the Loire Valley, you can’t miss impressive castles like Château de Chambord, Château de Chenonceau, Château de Villandry, Château de Azay-le-Rideau, and Château de Amboise are a must-see.
From Paris, I’d rent a car or train into Tours and grab a car there to start a road trip in this area. Public transport is more limited so a car is needed to explore.
Popular Places to Visit in The Loire Valley:
The French Riviera, also known as the Côte d’Azur, is a captivating stretch of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea in southeastern France. Renowned for its glamour and natural beauty, the French Riviera has stunning azure waters, sun-kissed beaches, and a Mediterranean climate.
The region encompasses glamorous cities like Nice, Cannes, and Monaco, where upscale resorts, world-class restaurants, and vibrant nightlife are well known. The smaller towns of Èze, Saint-Tropez, Antibes, Menton, and Villefranche-Sur-Mer are also well worth a visit.
Beyond the coastal towns, the French Riviera offers picturesque vineyards and scenic hikes in the Alpes-Maritimes. Bucketlist towns like Saint Paul de Vence should not be overlooked when down in this area.
With its combination of cultural richness, breathtaking landscapes, and a touch of luxury, the French Riviera remains a timeless destination. This is probably the most visited area of France after Paris, so try to time your travels for late spring or early fall to skip the crowds!
If you’re coming from Paris, one recommendation is to consider flying to Nice Airport. It’s much quicker and from there you can access most of the coastline by train.
Popular Places to Visit in The French Riviera:
- Saint Paul de Vence
The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in southeastern France is a blend of incredible landscapes, historical cities, and gastronomy. It encompasses a wide array of landscapes, from the majestic French Alps with world-class ski resorts to the idyllic vineyards of the Rhône Valley. The region’s cities, including Lyon (the largest city in this area), Grenoble, and Annecy, offer a vibrant mix of art, culture, and gastronomy, with Lyon being particularly renowned for its culinary excellence.
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes also boasts historic towns, such as Vichy and Chambéry, along with numerous outdoor recreational opportunities, making it really great for both adventure seekers and those looking to immerse themselves in the heart of French culture. This area is home to many of the alp destinations of France, like Mont Blanc.
I’m a big fan of this region, mostly because one of my favorite places to visit outside of Paris is here. Annecy, France, in the Haute-Savoie part of this region. It’s one of the most magical places in France to visit, where cobbled streets and winding canals lead to the turquoise-colored lake. With so many things to do in Annecy, I always recommend booking at least 3 nights in a local hotel.
The food here is incredible, very rich, with dishes like raclette and tartiflette. It’s also not very far from Lyon, so you could easily visit both at the same time.
Popular Places to Visit in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region:
- Rhone Alps
- Côtes du Rhône
Burgundy, situated in east-central France, is a region that has cultural and gastronomic significance. It is internationally acclaimed for its exceptional wines, with vineyards gracing its picturesque landscapes. The region’s historic treasures include magnificent châteaux and abbeys, such as the Hospices de Beaune and Château de Vougeot, offering glimpses into Burgundy’s rich past.
The cities of Dijon and Beaune showcase well-preserved medieval and Renaissance architecture, while the capital, Dijon, has a vibrant cultural scene. Iconic French dishes like coq au vin and escargot all originate from this region!
You can really visit this region in a few different ways, but most visitors start in Dijon. From there, you can do several day trips depending on how much time you have.
Popular Places to Visit in the Burgundy Region:
- Canal de Bourgogne
- The Morvan
- Pays d’Auxois
Champagne in northeastern France, is the birthplace of the world’s most iconic sparkling wine, Champagne. The cities of Reims and Epernay serve as gateways to this wine lover’s paradise, housing renowned Champagne houses where visitors can explore historic cellars and savor the effervescent nectar.
The region is steeped in history, with the impressive Cathedral of Reims as a symbol of its past significance. Picturesque vineyards, charming villages like Hautvillers and Aÿ, and scenic routes offer glimpses of its countryside charm. Beyond its wine culture, Champagne’s natural beauty, from the Marne River to the Montagne de Reims Natural Park, adds to the region’s allure.
If you’re in Paris, taking the train to Reims is one of the easiest trips to make. The direct train is around 1.5 hours, and Reims itself is a vibrant city to visit. Reims serves as a great base for day trips to other charming towns and villages in the Champagne region, including Epernay, Châlons-en-Champagne, and the vineyard-covered hillsides of the region.
Popular Places to Visit in the Champagne Region:
French Basque Country
French Basque Country is one of my favorite parts of France. We grew up going as kids to Biarritz to see family, and I have some of my fondest memories here. In the southwestern corner of France, it’s a captivating region renowned for its distinct cultural identity and traditions.
Here, Basque culture is vibrantly celebrated, from the use of the Basque language, Euskara, to lively music, dances, and traditional sports like pelota. Coastal gems like Biarritz, with its beautiful beaches and surf culture, and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, known for its charming bay and seafood cuisine. The historic city of Bayonne has incredibly well-preserved architecture and annual Fetes de Bayonne festivities.
Inland, Espelette’s red peppers are an icon to the region’s cuisine, while those who want to be outdoors can explore the Pyrenees mountains and the Atlantic coast. This region truly has it all.
I think a proper week or two would do to visit this area if you want to explore all corners of it. For sans a car, I’d take the train from Paris into Biarritz and enjoy one of my favorite Atlantic beach towns in France.
Popular Places to Visit in the French Basque Country:
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