17 Best Cities to Visit in France

Martina Rosado
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Map of cities in France

Here is a density map of the scores taken from travel reviews submitted on TripAdvisor. Overall, Paris as the top scorer with 80 red flags for this criteria. It's followed by Nantes in the northwest, Lyon in the south, Nice in the southeast, and Bordeaux in the southwest.

The bottom half of the map contains cities that aren’t so well known. Some of these cities were in inland or less populated areas. So take that into consideration if you’re thinking about traveling in France.

Top 5 best cities to visit in France ranking:

  • Paris – 80 red flags
  • Lyon – 63 red flags
  • Nantes – 56 red flags
  • Nice – 55 red flags
  • Bordeaux – 47 red flags
  • Marseille – 43 red flags
  • Strasbourg – 38 red flags
  • Toulouse – 38 red flags
  • Arles – 37 red flags
  • Strasbourg – 36 red flags
  • Bordeaux – 34 red flags
  • Lyon – 34 red flags
  • Avignon – 33 red flags
  • Reims – 32 red flags
  • Lille – 32 red flags
  • St tropez – 32 red flags

Dijon

Situated on the historical city of Dijon in France is the Museum of the Marquis de Sade. The city is filled with French art galleries and museums and the carillon tower where bells of all sizes are played by a large team of people.

The city is relatively quiet and low on pollution making it one of the best places to live for those who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, or any respiratory illnesses. The town has something for everyone is located in the Burgundy wine-growing region with the Parc du Morvan as well as the Jardin et Chateaudriere Gardens.

Lille

Lille is a city in north from France’s capital, Paris. Lille is in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France. It is a grand city in the French-speaking world. With a population of 348,000 residents, it is the sixth-largest city in France. It is also considered the centre of northern France.

Lille has a rich history. The oldest evidence of habitation dates back to prehistoric times. The name of Lille has been attested since the 12th century. Lille comes from the Latin word for lily. Ancient Roman sources referred to it as Arelate, Lugdunum, or Lugudunum. The Celtic name for the city was Lugdunon. It was not biblical Lille.

The city was the capital of the ancient County of Flanders. Lille is now a major industrial and commercial centre in northern France, located at the junction of France’s north-south and east-west railway lines.

Once the pre-eminent textile city of Europe, Lille suffered an absolute decline for many years. Lille was the second most devastated city in France during World War I. As Germany was totally collapsing in the later stages of WWII, the Germans’ resistance slowly began to unravel in Lille.

Lille is one of the biggest cities in Europe that is growing very fast.

Toulouse

Rouen

France.

Rouen is a great city to visit when you want to see a little bit of France’s history. The Gothic-era cathedral here is just magnificent and a must-see. Be sure to visit the cathedral museum and the cemetery that surrounds it. This city is also home to many museums and churches.

Practical Information

Rouen is located in the department of Seine-Maritime in the Normandy region of northeastern France. The closest airports offering international flights are Le Havre and Cognac. La Rochelle, in the Vendee region, is about two hours northeast of Rouen on the opposite bank of the river Charente.

The city was the capital of Upper Brittany from the 12th to the 15th centuries. It contains one of the best examples in France of the medieval city.

Rouen’s Gothic cathedral was begun in 1345 but was not completed until 1411. At that time, an apartment was built above the south facade for Queen Joan II of Navarre, the wife of Charles VII. She established the first modern public library in Europe in 1418. The cathedral is decorated with Gothic sculptures by Claus Sluter, the brother and successor of Dirk Bouts.

Ajaccio

The capital of Corsica is one of the best cities in France to visit, especially in the spring. Ajaccio can really be a gem, particularly because of its beautiful pink limestone cityscape, great restaurants, and solid cultural offering. The city has evolved throughout its history, ever since it was founded in 859 BC, and it has retained its unique feel despite its placement in the Mediterranean region. In fact, Ajaccio is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and it shows.

When thinking of this city, what comes to mind? Pink stone walls, white orchards, and a pleasant climate are certainly among them. Some would also mention Napoleon, or at least the interesting museum made in his honor.

Discover the Best Wines in Ajaccio

The wine industry in Ajaccio is also thriving, and many vineyards are located near the capital. People appreciate the mild Mediterranean climate and the mountainous terrain of the city. The vineyards that thrive here are easily transported by truck, and that has made Ajaccio a prime location for winemakers.

This heart of Corsica has always been a great place to visit. It was developed by the Knights Templar who decided to establish a stronghold on the island, and they built a port along the coast. This port was later named as Coroni, and it is now Ajaccio.

La Rochelle

Colmar

Alsace.

Colmar is a beautiful city in the Alsace region that is located in the eastern part of France. Whether you are there for a romantic weekend or just want to sample the local cuisine, there will be something for you at Colmar. What makes this place even more appealing as a vacation spot is the fact that it is also perfect for those with a special interest. The most famous architect in the world Vincent Van Gogh was born here and he spent his entire life in the area.

The city is so proud of this fact that people all over the world are able to visit the Van Gogh museum free of charge. This is the best way to learn about the famous artists life and work. The most beautiful and popular site that you can visit in Colmar is the Cathedral of Saint-Étienne. It is worth stopping at this stunning structure during your time here because it is one of the best gothic churches in the world. The most impressive part of the cathedral is the central tower. It is said to be the tallest church steeple in the world. The tower is also where the bells can be heard ringing.

Colmar is also a special place for people of the Earth religion. There are many of these sites in the city center. The most important of these is the Gourmet Ghetto which displays a temple devoted to Oko Tvakko. This was a building that he built to represent his beliefs.

Annecy

Avignon

Avignon may be a compact city, but what it lacks in size is made up in its vitality and charm.

This medieval city sits near the Rhône river and is just three hours from the Campanile of Mont-Blanc, its only tourist attraction.

The Paris of Provence, Avignon is a town of many water ways. The river Sorgue and its many tributaries, such as the Teste, Petanque, Rose, L'Aube, and Aeschille flow through the city, adding to its splendor.

Avignon is also famous for its vineyards, most of which are sited around the town of Avignon.

Grape growers like the temperatures to be between 16 degrees to 24 degrees Celsius.

The evening temperatures do not dip below 15 degrees and rarely exceed 30 degrees. This allows the grapes to achieve a good sweetness and a rich body that suits the local wines.

This is a history-laden city of palaces and churches. The main draw of Avignon is its architecture. There are tall towers and large entrances, all guarded by imposing castles.

The Palais des Papes, the Papal Palace, is now a museum. The Palace of the Popes used to be the meeting place for cardinals who would gather in Avignon to elect a new pope.

Biarritz

The second biggest town in French Basque country, Biarritz is a gateway into the beautiful region where people come to surf, learn to speak Basque, explore the countryside and do much, much more.

Besides surfing (it’s famous for some great waves), the town has a great cultural scene, with wine tastings, literary festivals, a large music festival and lots of funky little shops and restaurants to wander around in.

Here are some other reasons this is a great place to visit for your bucket list:

Cultural Experiences: The bay area of Biarritz is a great place to learn French. You can visit a local Basque restaurant and speak in their native tongue without feeling like you’re in a strange place.

Art Galleries: Museums and galleries are a great way to see and experience new art, and of course, get some great ideas for you next vacation. Hence, the great variety of art galleries around Biarritz.

Narrow-Gauge Train: You can take a steam-powered narrow-gauge railway to cross over the Canal du Midi. From here, you can visit the Pays Basque, eminently picturesque countryside.

Strasbourg

This city is the capital of the region of Alsace and is located in France. It is located in the center of France, which makes it a great place to go when you want to start exploring the rest of France. Strasbourg is listed in the UNESCO‛s World Heritage site, and that’s for a reason. It is one of the best cities in Europe to visit for the food. The food in this city is amazing. You can taste a good variety of French food too. For the culture in this city, make sure you go visit the city’s museums, castles, and monuments. Strasbourg has an abundance of beautiful architecture, and you should definitely visit the Palais Rohan and the Grande Ile. The main language in Strasbourg is French, but there are also some people who speak German and English. Also, make sure you check out the Strasbourg Cathedral that can be found in the city center. The cathedral is a Gothic basilica that is one of the most important monuments in Alsace and France. If you’re looking for some Strasbourg souvenirs, make sure you check out the “Rendez-Vous des Arts & Products” artisanal local shops.

Nantes

Enjoy a week-long trip to Nantes, the capital of the Loire Valley and France’s second largest city. Whether swinging back and forth from Paris or planning a road trip, you’ll quickly become accustomed to the city’s centripetal charm.

Nantes boasts an active and photogenic downtown that weaves its way alongside the banks of the Loire River and a vast array of jetties that line the outlet river mouth – the Port of Nantes – that features this city’s main gate.

It’s easy to see why visitors and locals alike can’t resist the cycle-centric appeal of this waterfront city. Since you’re already in this coastal region, be sure to visit the mythic…l… Aquarium of Nantes.

Marseille

Lyon

France.

Lyon is a city in France located in southeastern France in the Rhéne-Alpes region at the confluence of the Saæne and Rhéne rivers on the east bank of the Rhéne. It is the sixth-largest city in France and a leading financial center (ranked 2nd out of 43 worldwide in 2016). The population of Lyon is 1.9 million (2013).

Location

Lyon can be defined as a crossroads of different regions and cultures. It lies within the Rhénan region of eastern France, north-east of Paris.

The city is the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, and it is an administrative and cultural centre of France. Lyon is located at the east end of the Alps, southwest of the confluence of the Rhéne and the Saæne, about 400 km (250 miles) from Paris. The city is known for its cuisine, its annual opera festival, and the architectural landmarks of its Roman-inspired Old Town.

Bordeaux

Is one of the oldest cities in France, with a history that dates back at least three thousand years to the Romans. It is one of the most touristed cities in all of France, with over two million tourists visiting every year. Consequently there is an incredible amount of great food and wine available.

If you’re visiting Bordeaux, make sure to sample several types of local chateaux and bistros. Many of the great wine regions have small village squares which are full of terrific tasting food. As you travel around the south of France, you will quickly learn that the Basque are a great source of tasty cuisine.

St. Nectaire Cheese

If you are unfamiliar with France the cheese might seem a bit strange at first. However, you will quickly realize it is very similar to cheese that you would find in Wisconsin. Nectarine, Blue and Comte are three of the most common varieties that many cheese purists might consider to be better than Blue Cheese.

Be sure to read up on some of the schools of European cheesemaking, and try to choose a favorite. If you just need to sample a few, pick up a few Nectarine or Blue. If you’re looking for a true experience in European cheese, try pushing your palate a little further.

Nice

Paris