16 of our much-loved towns and cities in France
We are not finished yet.
If there is one country that Gary and I bore people to death about it is probably France. We’ve lost count of the number of road trips we have taken through this wonderful country.
Touring through tiny villages, driving amongst stair banked vineyards and along the twisting mountain side passes of the Col de Turini…..and don’t get us started on the La Corniche d'Or along the French Riviera.
It was quite tricky narrowing this list down, as anyone that has visited France will understand that there are so many beautiful places.
Well, here they are, in no particular order.
A helpful guide
I love nothing more than planning a trip through France and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our French road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
Whenever I think of Avignon, I think of lavender. It’s wonderful that a smell can transport you back somewhere, with sunshine pouring down on to the banks of Rhône River.
Avignon is in the Vaucluse region of southern France and in the heart of Provence, you’ll undoubtedly recognise it by its famous bridge Pont d'Avignon.
It's a great base to discover nearby Nîmes, Arles & don't forget the Pont du Gard
Now with Lyon, the memories are of food, which is handy really as it is often known as “the belly of France”.
There's some wonderful food, and great restaurants to try. Although make sure you have your gastronomy dictionary to hand. Gary loved his quenelles de brochet which were pike quenelles, but my Tablier de sapeur (tripe in breadcrumbs) was not my finest choice.
However, Lyon is a delightful city and brimming with so much ancient history dating from the Romans.
Did you know?
We are now in the region of Alsace and Strasbourg is a beautiful city to visit any time of year.
However, I would highly recommend you visit it on the lead up to Christmas.
The illuminations and little Christmas cabins enhance this city even further.
The are some wonderfully preserved examples of half-timbered buildings around the cathedral and Petit France that are amazing.
Try and grab a tarte flambée you won’t be disappointed.
There is no way that Paris was going to be left off the list, Gary and I have visited Paris a few times, and we discover more and more about the city every time we go. It’s always good to try and find something a little less obvious to do.
You’d struggle to beat some of Paris’s iconic views but to rejuvenate those tired feet after a long day strolling through the cobbled streets of Montmartre, and along the tree-lined boulevard of Champs Elysees, why not take a boat trip along the Canal Saint-Martin.
For us, a croque monsieur and a vin rouge at a café on the left bank of the Seine is a great way to watch the world go by.
Why not check out our 'Paris Gallery', 'Paris, whatever the weather, or 'Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris'?
Yes, I know another town in Provence, but this such a beautiful area of France.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a fairly small town, and it was such a lovely place to stay.
It makes a great base for a few nights to tour the region. It had plenty of restaurants to choose from, and for the history buffs amongst us, it is also home to the ruins of the Roman city of Glanum.
We are now in the southern end of the Champagne region. We've stopped at Troyes more than once. Around 250miles/400km from Calais it makes an ideal stopover for those venturing to the south, or a great base for a tour of the Champagne region.
Troyes has a lot of history amongst its cobbled streets; there are some beautiful examples of 16th-century half-timbered homes that have survived the test of time.
However, what we loved about Troyes is that it was such pleasant town to stroll around, particularly around the quayside that runs along the Canal du Trevois. Also, enjoy sitting amongst the dancing water features and the attractive sculptures.
Word of warning, beware of Andouillette de Troyes (local sausage) it's not for the faint-hearted.
Start creating your own French adventure and discover some of these enchanting places yourself, by flying easyJet or British Airways which are just a couple of options.
We are back south again and this time to the beautiful Riviera town of Villefranche-sur-mer.
Admittedly it is relatively small, but it makes up for that with its charm, take a wander along some of the little lanes that pass underneath the houses, it’ll feel like you are in a maze.
Head up above the town to capture the stunning view of the harbour and across the rooftops.
You can even pop along to Nice from here, or head the other way towards Monaco. There is a wonderful train route that you can pick up in the bay, but for Gary the roads heading towards Eze & La Turbie are to be driven.
An extremely historic city that we discovered last year, it’s in the Normandy region of France, so plenty of apples and cider.
Not only was Rouen the place where Joan of Arc met her untimely end, but the impressive Gothic Cathedral that was consecrated by William the Conqueror also houses in a tomb the heart of Richard the Lionheart.
Rouen is also a great city to use a base to discover other parts of Normandy, Claude Monet lived close by in Giverny, you’ll see the iconic lily pond or yourself.
When you are back for a bite in the evening head to Rue Eau de Robec, for some great restaurants.
You're in the north of France here, in French Flanders. A short hop from the UK either by road (70 miles/115km from Calais). Or you can take the Eurostar from London (St Pancras), and be there in as little has 1 hour 22 minutes - yep, that's right.
Picture postcard perfect - that's Colmar. In it's very Alsace way. You'll notice the local wine is different too, and who cannot love those green stemmed wine glasses.
It's another 'Little Venice', and you really should take a trip on the canals.
Oh, and make sure you try the regional dish of Tarte Flambée
Now we're in the Lorraine region of France, yes of the quiche variety. Head to the Place Stanislas, a UNESCO world heritage site and a great place to relax and watch the world go by.
This town has some amazing Art Nouveau architecture, great restaurants and bars. It's well worth checking out.
Let us know
What your favourite French town or city is, as we’d love to add them to our list.
You're in Burgundy country here, and this place takes it's wine seriously. You'll notice that by the shops dedicated to all things of the grape.
It's a great base to go out an explore the local vineyards, but if you want to stick to the town check out the Hospices de Beaune. Once a charitable almshouse, now home to a museum and the annual wine auction held in November.
Oh, and this is the place to try the boeuf bourguignon.
We've jumped to the south, and the Spanish border. You are now in Basque country and the Red, White & Green colours of the regional flag appear frequently.
In our time here we found the welcome so warm. Lovely people (not that any other regions are not, of course). You're a short hop from Biarritz and Bayonne.
On the food front you can't leave here without trying the Piperade, a regional dish of onions, tomatoes & green peppers (bell) - The colours of the Basque region. For once we recommend a dish all can enjoy - no meat.
Doesn't the name just conjure up something special. It sounds like it should a location in a romantic French film (I'm sure it has been)
This historic part of France is riddled with many stories of the Knights Templar, the Huguenots and the Romans to name but a few. But stroll along the water's edge and it's just a romantic little town with some amazing restaurants.
It'll come as no surprise, given its proximity to the bay of Biscay that seafood is the order of the day, all washed down with a local white wine.
The city of Kings. This City was where Kings of France were crowned. Now it's the King of the Champagne region, (Okay, it may share that title with Epernay & Ay), so you drink of choice is sorted.
It's a great place to explore the history of Champagne, why not visit a Champagne house? We did.
And for the petrol heads, and that includes Gary, there's the Circuit Reims-Gueux. Just on the outskirts of the city is the remains of a classic race circuit.
Interested in more? Have a look at 'Where Kings were crowned, Reims, France', 'A tour of a Champagne cellar' and 'A piece of history – Circuit Reims-Gueux'
We'll finish with the iconic. Mont Saint-Michel is a joy, and a tourist trap. It gets really busy, and the prices are a little higher than nearby, but should you avoid it - hell no. Plan to arrive early, or better still stay close by and make your trek to the top. It's well worth it.
Toured France and discovered your own gems? Have you got a favourite memory from your own travels through France?
Inspired to visit France?
Tempted in your own road trip, or just a mini-break?
Is there anything on our list that takes inspires you?
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This is a fabulous selection, Janis. We loved Honfleur in Normandy too as it was utterly charming. I love how you’ve selected towns and cities from all over France. The Provencal towns are all pretty special. Top on my list to visit is Saint Jean de Luz – I’d love to explore more of the Basque region. Wonderful share for #FarawayFiles
Thanks Clare, we spent 10 days around Normandy last year and there some lovely little towns dotted about, particularly along the Route de Cidre.If you are touring around the Basque region try and visit Espelette, it’s well known for its dried red peppers, they are hung everywhere around the town. Ohh and the dish Piperade is very nice too.
I’m sad to say I only really started to appreciate France as of 5 years ago and we have a lot of catching up to do! Already we have seen quite a lot but amazingly only 3 places on your listed that we’ve visited – that just goes to show how many beautiful places there are in France though. The one that caught my eye was st Remy as my daughter is called Remy and I noticed it was pretty close to Avignon which you can sometimes get cheap flights too so I am now pondering about a little 5 day break for our anniversary in October to this little region – thanks for the inspiration! #farawayflies
It was the month of October that we were there, and the weather was beautiful. It is a lovely region of France, what we particularly liked about St Remy was that not only was it an interesting town to discover, it was also great to come back to each evening for the selection of restaurants.We are the same with Spain, we only really started to visit about 4 or 5 years ago and now we have completed two road trips from north to south.Happy Travels
I love this post! France has really been on my radar recently…like you say and show, there are so many beautiful towns and cities in France. I’m thinking sometime in the next year I’ll make a visit, but the problem is I can’t decide where…French Riviera or Normandy? Your post has made it all the more confusing for me, but in a very good way! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles
Thanks very much Corey, we really enjoyed writing it, it brought back so many memories.We are really lucky that it is just a short hop for us through the Channel Tunnel. With Normandy there is a lot of history, rugged coastline and floral villages, oh and of course crepes and cider.However with the South of France you have the iconic Provencal countryside of Cypress trees, lavender and hilltop villages and the Corniche coastline.For us Normandy would be late spring or summer, and the south of France towards the autumn/fall. However, you’re right it is a difficult choice, which ever one you choose you’ll have some wonderful memories.
So many charming and beautiful options! I would love to do Colmar, it’s been on my radar for awhile. Your images are really stunning – welcome to the Faraway Files community – we’re happy to have your insights! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin
Thanks Erin, we’re enjoying the community.Colmar is a lovely town, also a great place to base yourself from to discover the little villages along the Alsace wine route.Last year on our way down to Croatia we stayed overnight in Obernai, another very picturesque Alsace town, there are just so many places to visit.Thanks again Janis & Gary