The best cities in France are usually not the ones you would expect. From the North to the South, all foreigners ever talk about is Paris and Marseille. And I should know, I’m French. When people talk about the best cities to visit in France, all I hear are Champs-Élysées and Eiffel Tower. Yet, there’s so much more to visit in my country! For instance, cities in Normandy France attract people from all over the world. Other regions, like the North, feature German-like architectures.
There is just so much to see when it comes to the best cities in France. I have put up this complete guide of the best cities to visit in France for you. In case you’re wondering what your next trip should be, this should help out immensely. Cities in Normandy France or the French Riviera will hold no more secrets from you!
If someone tells you that Colmar is not one of the best cities to visit in France, there will be a problem here. Even now that I live in Rome Italy, Italians themselves show me pictures of Colmar on their phone. It seems to be one of the hit destinations right now.
Colmar is not one of the most famous cities in France. Still, the French themselves call the city the most of Alsatian city of Alsace. Even before Strasbourg! The city features something almost magical. When you see pictures of Colmar, the Quai de la Poissonnerie, or in English ‘Fishmonger’s District’ is one super Instagrammable place you will want to stop by.
There are only 70.000 inhabitants there, so Colmar is a true city with a country town feel. So many local products can be shopped there, like food, textiles, accessories, and wines. It is just so beautiful and complete that I think Colmar is one of the best cities to visit in France. The flowers, the 16th, and 17-century houses, everything looks romantic, old, straight from a children’s book. One of the most beautiful cities in France, no doubt about it.
One of the major cities in France, Strasbourg is the largest city in the Grand Est region. It’s located in the same area as Colmar and it also takes from German Renaissance architecture. One of the best cities to visit in France, Strasbourg enjoys tremendous historical and artistic baggage. The city was bombed and destroyed during the Second World War, however, most churches and beautiful houses are still standing.
There are more than 20 museums in the city, including fine arts like the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Other museums are part of the University of Strasbourg, and those are truly interested in their difference. For instance, you can find medical artifacts at the Musée Pasteur and countless minerals at the Musée de Minéralogie.
Architecturally speaking, Strasbourg is one of the best cities in France. The astronomical clock on the Gothic Cathedral and the Petite France district are both stunning. Since the city has been around since the Middle Ages, you’ll find plenty of areas with exquisite architecture from that time.
When people talk about visiting a city in Northern France, the recurring name is Paris. One of the major cities in France, Paris has been my home for four years before I moved away. It was important for me to choose a city with even more hustle and bustle, and I chose London.
Paris is one of the largest cities in France, if not the largest. When you visit it, you just want to move there and never leave. I remember ordering countless French breakfasts at Les Marronniers in Le Marais. That’s definitely your top spot for a Parisian breakfast in one of the best cities in France.
I love the architecture of the Haussmannian buildings. Indeed, I think the specific architecture makes Paris one of the most beautiful cities in France. That’s why I think there’s so much more to do than visiting the Eiffel Tower. If you take a look at Time Out Paris, you can stay up-to-date with all the cool events happening around. One of the best cities to visit in France, Paris is full of amazing foods and countless museums. I mean, it can’t be one of the most famous cities in France for no reason, now can it?
If Annecy is nicknamed the ‘jewel of the Alps’, it’s because it is one of the most beautiful cities in France. Built right on a lake, it is also considered the ‘Little Venice’ of France. The Old Town area, above all, will catch your heart and never let it go. It’s easy to name the best cities to visit in France, but when it comes to classifying them, it gets a bit trickier.
One of the most famous cities in France, Annecy is a perfect town to do quite anything. If you love hiking, that’s your spot. The Tour du Mont Blanc, anyone? If you love spending long hours in pastry shops and coffee shops, that’s also what you want. Still, the Annecy Castle and the Lake Annecy are elements that make the city one of the best cities to visit in France. Don’t forget to visit the Église Saint-Maurice, a 15th-Century church that reminds you of bygone French history.
Troyes is not one of the biggest cities in France, but it has all the charm a tourist could be looking for. Troyes is also my hometown. Growing up in one of the major cities in France could have been amazing, I won’t hide it. However, this town from the Middle Ages has provided the background for me to become a writer and enjoy history and geography.
There is so much for a tourist to do in Troyes that I wouldn’t even know where to start. If you love architecture, that’s your go-to. The medieval buildings are colorful and super Instagrammable. Although Troyes is not one of the largest cities in France, there’s still plenty to do for a few days. Check out the countless churches and cathedrals disseminated throughout the city center. The museums are also very interesting. From the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology to one of the oldest apothecaries in France, you’ll love what you see.
If you’re a Foodista, then our specialties will get you head over heels. Cider, champagne, wine, andouillette, fresh apples, and grapes,… A box of chocolates from Pascal Caffet, in the old part of the town, will make you happier than you’ve ever been. I’d also strongly suggest going to get some macarons from the Gérard bakery, in the center. You can spend hours in coffee shops, and even shopping for clothes and makeup is a pleasure in my hometown. Welcome in advance!
Étretat is one of the main cities in Normandy France. That’s a tremendously beautiful place where old towns and untouched nature come together. For a city in Northern France, it does boast some pretty amazing wonders. For instance, Les Jardins d’Étretat makes it one of the most famous cities in France.
In this garden designed by landscape architect Alexandre Grivko in 2017, you will find magnificent flora. The plants are cut and shaped in such a way as to put emphasis on the biodiversity of the gardens. Sculptures of huge faces have been added to the perfectly polished gardens.
However, it is the Alabaster Coast cliffs that steal the spotlight. The cliffs are listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO – you’ll understand when you’re there. The Belle Époque villas, like that built for famous French writer Guy de Maupassant, are very much worth a visit as well.
If you tell me you’ve never heard of Rouen as one of the major cities in France, I would answer: go visit it. As soon as possible. Rouen is a city in Northern France, on the same coast as Étretat. It is also the capital of Normandy. The clock tower (pictured above) is one of the main attractions of the city. Isn’t it absolutely magical, straight from a children’s book? Surely one of the most interesting and biggest cities in France to visit.
Rouen enjoys a very religious history. As one of the biggest cities of France, it has seen many an event take place. Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc, the Cathedral of Notre Dame are all landmarks and elements that make Rouen what is today. The city is also built on endless culture, and the museums and art galleries are all more beautiful than the next. Check out the Jeanne d’Arc Museum, the Museum of Antiquities, and the Fine Arts Museum when you’re in need of some strong inspiration.
Honfleur is another one of the cities in Normandy France that you should visit on your trip. The reflection of the buildings on the water reminds me of both Amsterdam and Florence. Funnily enough, even if it is one of the most beautiful cities in France, I don’t hear it mentioned that often. People would rather tell you to go to Paris or Lyon. Still, Normandy has some of the cutest spots, like Étretat I’ve just talked about.
When you visit a city in Northern France, you can see a similar kind of architecture in all the cities. Still, since we’re on the seaside, Honfleur is much less about German Renaissance architecture than it is port-like. If you like water and culture, you’re right where you should be. The Vieux-Bassin, at the heart of the city, is what will remind you of Amsterdam the most.
However, Honfleur is also one of the most famous cities in France thanks to its chapels, churches, and museums. the Church of Saint Catherine is a symbol of the city – entirely made of wood. The Pont de Normandie is also a place you’ll love to go. It is a simple bridge, but it does lead all the way to Le Havre, another important French city. It also leads to Étretat, which means you could do three cities in one go. Even Deauville, a beautiful seaside resort, is reachable easily from Honfleur. And don’t we all love efficiency when we’re traveling?
If you like visiting major cities in France, Lille is your new go-to. With its beautiful buildings and lively center, this city in Northern France will feed your wildest expectations. Whenever I hear about Lille, people talk about this huge used market that takes place in September. There, people sell their used and secondhand objects – much like a super huge garage sale. Just this makes Lille one of the best cities to visit in France. Who doesn’t love looking for amazing gems, antiques, and books with an old-school smell?
There are many squares to take a stroll and relax in, like the Place des Oignons, the Grand Place, and the Vieille Bourse. In the afternoon, you can find in the Vieille Bourse a secondhand book market. Yes, I am obsessed with secondhand books. But when you find a title you’ve been after for some time, and have been refusing to buy it full price for some reason you can’t explain, a secondhand book is a true wonder.
One of the largest cities in France, Lille extends over kilometers. It was awarded the title of World Design Capital in 2020, along with Seoul, Cape Town, Taipei, and Helsinki. Among the biggest cities in France, Lille is ranked 4th. It is such an honor to be selected among some of the greatest capitals, is it not? The street art, architecture, and historical background make it one of the best cities in France. Period.
French Riviera. Do those words ring a bell? Menton, one of the best cities to visit in France, belongs to that amazing area. I must say I did keep this one for last because I am crazy about Italy. And doesn’t this landscape resemble the stunning Amalfi Coast?
If you want to enjoy a true beachy feel, then the Promenade de Mer is a long walk where you can rent sunbeds to chill for the day. Culturally speaking, Menton is also one of the best cities in France. If you like museums, you can visit the Jean Cocteau Museum or the Prehistory Museum. Villas, gardens, beaches – when you’re there, you know you’re in France. Still, you feel like you’ve got a foot in the Amalfi Coast.
I would strongly suggest a visit to Belle Epoque palaces and rich gardens. It all smells like chic and luxury, and honestly when you’re on holiday, why not give in to elegance?
And there we have them: the 10 best cities to visit in France. I didn’t lie, did I? I tried to put together a list that included the biggest cities in France. Strasbourg, Lille, Paris – you’ve had your share. Still, to make matters more interesting, I decided to give in to the charm of the smaller famous cities in France.
Whether you’re attracted by culture, architecture, arts, or nature, the best cities in France – especially cities in Normandy France, I might add – will fulfill your wildest touristic dreams. There’s nothing you can do about it. The French dream is and will remain the French dream. Markdown the most beautiful cities in France, and let us know when you’ve gotten a taste of that dream!
And you know what? Since traveling is much more fun when you get out of the country, here are the most beautiful villages in… England for you to check out. You are not ready for so much beauty!