Although there are literally hundreds of wonderful places to see in France, here are 7 places in France you must visit. These are world-renowned for a good reason! Find a few here to add to your Must-See Places in France List!
- Le Mont St. Michel (with a side trip to Dinan)
On the border of Brittany and Normandy, there is a gleaming (by night) city that rises like a giant crown out of the English Chanel. You may have seen photos of this amazing place. It is Le Mont Saint Michel, one of the most sought-after destinations for tourists. It started as a fortress in the 6th century and later became an abbey in the 8thth century, and has also been used as a prison. From the 10th century, it has officially belonged to Normandy.
The town was built like a snail, with roads and terraces winding upward until you reach the top. Along the way, you’ll find shops, hotels, loads of tourists, and plenty of medieval charm. At low tide, it’s on the mainland and with the new bridge, you can get there even at high tide. If you’re in Normandy, you shouldn’t miss it. While you’re in that corner of France, make a side trip to DINAN, in Brittany.
- The Loire Valley
For your next trip to Paris, you’ll want to include several extra days to indulge in a nearby treasure: The Loire Valley. In just over an hour by train you find yourself
planted in the midst of Renaissance France. You’ll be surrounded by châteaux spanning 1,000 years. Vineyards are scattered throughout since it’s France’s second most important wine region. Here and there are lovely mid-sized towns, surrounded by green, rolling hills as far as the eye can see. It’s a haven for hikers and bicyclists. For a deeper look, see the post on TOURS and on AMBOISE as well as my book A French Garden: The Loire Valley.
This Provençal city will beckon you with sun-swept streets and plenty of activity. It’s located in the southeast corner of France near the Italian border. My favorite thing
to do here is to wander the medieval streets and finish off along the C-shaped shoreline. When you’ve done that, you can easily take a bus or rent a car to visit Monaco, Menton, Cannes, and a number of smaller villages and towns that have made history with picturesque charm. Visit this post for more on NICE
Carcassonne is a hilltop town in the Languedoc region of southern France. Its origins are prehistoric. Today, you can
visit the medieval city and its walled citadel as well. (The citadel is called the Cité de Carcassonne and is distinct, though nearby, from the town.) Both are beautiful and worth your time. It’s about an hour east of Toulouse.
Cassis is a lovely and popular town on the Mediterranean coast about a 30-minute drive southeast from Marseille. You can enjoy good seafood along the waterfront, as you stroll past the pastel buildings on historic streets. Or, for more adventure, take a boat ride to the Calanques, which are like fjords carved into limestone cliffs. Nearby, you have La Ciotat, Aix-en-Provence, and of course, Marseilles.
Avignon is a must-see city in the Luberon area of Provence. (See LUBERON post.) You’ll love the medieval, winding streets, town squares filled with tables topped with umbrellas, and the main attraction, the Palace of the Popes. The huge
palace was the seat of the papacy for nearly 100 years, back when there were two of them. Within an easy drive of Avignon, you’ll find several memorable hilltop Provencal villages.
Chamonix, nestled in the French Alps, is often thought of as only a skiing destination. It is that, but it’s also a lovely alpine town and resort area worth a visit. Chamonix lies near the border of Switzerland, France, and Italy just north of Le Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in France Whether you’re a skier or not, you may want to take a year-round gondola up to see some of the most impressive mountains and glacier fields in France. The view is panoramic . . . and stunning. (For more great ideas in the French Alps, click HERE.)
All over France, you’ll find wonders and memories. I hope this survey of 7 of France’s top sites inspires you for your next trip (or bucket list!)