What do you think of when you think of places to visit in France? Probably the most obvious is the capital, Paris. Maybe then you’d think of Nice or Saint Tropez. Perhaps even Le Touquet for lunch if you’re lucky enough to know someone with a light aircraft and plenty of Euros…
But there are many, many places to visit in France that are especially beautiful and full of abundance during the summer that are well worth exploring. So if you’re looking for some va va voom and you fancy venturing further than Paris, here’s our list of fabulous French summer fancies…
Antibes is nestled between Nice and Cannes on the French Riviera, otherwise known as the Côte d’Azur, in the South of France. And it’s every bit as glamourous as you’d expect of this region of the world. One of the early French adopters of the State Environment Charter, a promise to take active steps to conserve the natural environment, Antibes is truly stunning.
With 16 miles of gorgeous coastline and 48 beaches, if you’re a fan of sand, then you’ll love it here. But it isn’t just for beach loungers and harbour dwelling lovers, as the Antibes Old Town is perfect for exploring. Especially if you love cute pastel coloured houses, pavement cafés and perusing local gift shops (you simply have to buy fresh herbs here!)
Nearby Cannes and Nice can be viewed from the kilometre long Chemin de Calvaire pathway, so you can plan your trips further afield with panoramic views before you go.
Also on the French Riviera is the town of Menton, a little known place slightly overshadowed by its more famous local cousins, Monte Carlo and Saint-Tropez. If you consider yourself a foodie however, then Menton is the place to be. Home to Mirazur, which happens to be number 28 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, is the jewel in the crown of this French delight.
Menton is also said to have its own microclimate that’s 3 degrees warmer than the rest of France, so if you’re a food loving sunworshipper, then you’ll especially love it here! For culture vultures, the Jean Cocteau Museum is a must visit if you’re a fan of the legendary film director.
Since Menton is so close to Italy, you could choose to cross the border and take in some Italian sights on your travels, too.
Located in the Basque Country region of South West France, Biarritz is known by some as the French California. It’s famed for its surf and as such, attracts water sports enthusiasts from around the world to enjoy its long sandy beaches ideal for catching some waves.
Not only perfect for swimmers and surfers, Biarritz is surrounded by a backdrop of mountains. If you like to explore a little further afield, the nearby Basque Pyrenees with an array of hiking trails are ideal.
Casino goers and lovers of glitz and glam will also love Biarritz with its array of beachfront Art Deco casinos, uber stylish hotels, cafés and bars, which are especially vibrant at sundown.
History buffs rejoice, as the ancient city of Carcassonne is about to become your next travel destination. One of the largest surviving walled cities in Europe, yet tiny by today’s standards, it’s situated just south west of Toulouse. What this UNESCO World Heritage Site might lack in size, it certainly makes up for in history.
At its centre is La Cité, the medieval citadel that sits atop a hill within the ancient city walls. With over 2,500 years’ worth of history contained within these 3km long double walls (complete with 52 towers) its story begins in Roman times.
But venture outside of these old walls, and you’ll find an abundance of characterful architecture that’s relatively ‘new’, as the New Town dates back to the Middle Ages. Coffee shops, boutiques and fine restaurants abound here, so if you’re looking for history with a side of culture, you’ve certainly found it.
Also of note, in nearby Aude, why not visit a sunny vineyard and partake in a wine tour? Go on, you know you want to!
This well-known port city in Southern France has something for everyone, from azure blue seas and sandy white beaches, to cultural museums, a national park and a 19th Century church.
It’s surprising that Marseille isn’t better known for its beaches, since it sits on 24km of Mediterranean coastline. The Prado Seaside Park is manmade but no less stunning than a naturally carved beach and is perfect for relaxing. Museum-wise, choose from the traditional Musée d’Histoire de Marseille or the super modern MuCEM for everything from ancient Greek artefacts at the former to modern day art and photography at the latter.
The Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is a neo-Byzantine church built in the 19th Century situated just south of the Old Port area and is a breathtaking must see. If you’re hungry after all this sightseeing, you simply have to have a bouillabaisse, a fish and seafood stew that originates from Marseille. The rustic bread covered in rouille (a tangy mayonnaise) that will accompany it is just right for dipping in. Enjoy!
The most North West region of France, Brittany, or Bretagne, is famed for its food and wine culture as well as its historic fortified towns and castles.
Perhaps we’d all be forgiven for associating France with wine, but Brittany is actually more famous for its cider, beers and mead (called chouchen, a type of wild honey mead). Also famed for its food, you’ll find crêpes galore here, as well as a variety of traditional pastries and biscuits.
Because of its foodie nature, there are many annual festivals held in Brittany. If you happen across one during your summer travels, you won’t be able to resist taking part in the folk dances and cuisines on offer.
Culture-wise, you have around 4,000 chateaus and manor houses to choose from, as well as multiple military fortresses, maritime fortifications and Neolithic sites to explore.
Now we’ve headed to eastern France, to Besançon, a city close to the French border with Switzerland with its centre on the Doubs river. Think galettes (or crêpes), cheese, charcuteries, coq au vin and all the traditional French wines you can imagine, for here is a gastronomical delight!
As well as the food and wine on offer, Besançon has five museums, countless art galleries and is famous for watchmaking and being the birthplace of Victor Hugo.
This small citadel is a perfect base for exploring Dijon (an hour away by train). Catch an excursion boat along the Doubs, visit the canal region of Ornans (a 45 minute bus ride away) and discover the surrounding forests, caves and trails.
Here’s something that might surprise you – there’s more to Bordeaux than wine! Obviously, if you’re a wine connoisseur and that’s what you’re looking for, then fill your glass, quite literally. But if you’re looking for art, history, culture and gastronomic delights, then you’ll also find them in Bordeaux.
Situated on the Garonne River in South West France, Bordeaux is home to the stunning Bassins de Lumières, which translates to the Ponds of Light, and is the largest digital art museum in the world. You can also channel your inner detective and take part in the Escape Hunt Bordeaux, an escape room experience where you need to solve clues before time runs out.
Further afield, and if you’ve hired a car, you can take a trip outside of Bordeaux and visit the plentiful lakes and vineyards that surround this beautiful area of France. And should you want to visit a wine estate actually within Bordeaux itself, then there is in fact, only one – the Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion.
We hope this list has inspired you to think about all the different areas of France to visit during the summer that you might have overlooked before. Enjoy, have fun, and don’t forget to send us a postcard!