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What are the Best Cities to Visit in France (Besides Paris)?

Looking for the best cities to visit in France besides Paris? Explore this curated list to inform your France itinerary and plan your French vacation.

Planning a vacation in France? Perhaps you've been to Paris and are wondering what are the best cities to visit in France beyond the capital?

In this guide to France's cities (beyond Paris), I'll provide a snapshot of each destination to provide some inspiration for your French itinerary. 

Look at this post as your launchpad to an amazing city-focused trip to France with curated summaries of must-visit French cities including some hidden gems you may not have heard of. 

Each section of the guide links out to more detailed information about that destination to help you dive deeper as you plan your trip. Let's go!

Half-timbered building and carousel in Angers, France

Lyon

The third-largest city in France, Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Lyon is located on the Rhône River, where visitors can enjoy a relaxing dinner cruise. 

The city is known for its ancient Roman ruins. Lyon also boasts some of the best food in France. Prepare to eat well here!

The Lyon Riverfront with the city reflected in the water

✨ Discover the best things to do in Lyon

Strasbourg

This city features a blend of French and German cultures, evident in its architecture, food, and Christmas markets. Travelers can explore the picturesque Petite France area. 

Strasbourg offers a variety of ornate gargoyles so photographers should be on the look out in Strasbourg's various nooks and crannies. Visitors can also enjoy the half-timbered architecture and the historic covered bridges.

Strasbourg is also home to the parliament of the European Union giving the city modern day relevance in addition to historic charm.

Half timbered buildings along the river in Stasbourg

✨ Find out what it's like to spend Christmas in Strasbourg

Bordeaux

This charming city is a popular destination for wine lovers. Travelers can take day trips from the city to the surrounding wine regions, including Médoc and St. Emilion

Bordeaux features the Cité du Vin, an extensive museum dedicated to the region's amazing wine.

Church spires in Bordeaux, France

✨ Plan a 3 day weekend in Bordeaux

Nice

Located on the French Riviera, Nice is a sophisticated city. Nice is famous for its festivals, including Nice Carnaval. 

Travelers can also spot celebrities at the nearby Cannes Film Festival if they visit at the right time of year. 

Visitors can stroll along the Promenade des Anglais or relax on the beach.

Fountain in Nice, France

✨ Celebrate Nice Carnaval

Menton

Menton is located near the Italian border and is a short train ride from Nice. Menton is known for its annual Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival), which takes place at the end of February. 

Combining Nice and Menton during the festival season makes for a fun itinerary.

Huge display fashioned from citrus fruit in Menton France

✨ Explore Menton during the citrus festival

Montpellier

This city in southern France serves as a gateway to the Languedoc region. From Montpellier, travelers can embark on road trips to explore Languedoc by car. 

One of the main attractions near Montpellier is the Camargue wetlands, home to thousands of pink flamingos. Montpellier is also a great base for visiting nearby towns like Sète, Nîmes, and Aigues-Mortes.

Montpellier in the rain

✨ Plan a Languedoc road trip from a home base in Montpellier

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is renowned for its well-preserved medieval citadel. The Cité de Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a fortified city with ramparts, towers, and a castle.

Travelers can enjoy exploring the cobblestone streets, shops, restaurants, and historical attractions in the shadow of the fortress.

The fortress in Carcassonne

Toulouse

Toulouse is located on the Garonne River. Visitors can enjoy the city's architecture or stop by the Musée des Abattoirs, a modern art museum housed in a former slaughterhouse. A must-see in Toulouse is the Pont Neuf, a picturesque bridge over the Garonne River. 

Toulouse has a fabulous food market that is worth the trip in and of itself. It features an array of culinary delights, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, bacon, cheese, tripe, sweets, and bread. 

In addition to the food market, Toulouse also boasts the Capitolium, an impressive government building full of artistic treasures. While the outside appears ordinary, the inside features soaring, richly painted ceilings, romantic paintings, and busts of famous French thinkers.

Inside the Capitolium in Toulouse

✨ Spend a weekend in Carcassonne and Toulouse

Reims

Located in the Champagne region, Reims is famous for being the OG of sparkling wine. Travelers can visit wine houses like G.H. Mumm and sip champagne at the source. 

Reims is also where the Nazis surrendered to end World War II and you can explore this rich 20th century history in the city. Reims is easily accessible by train from Paris, making it an ideal day trip or add-on to a Paris itinerary.

G.H. Mumm Champagne House in Reims, France

✨ Take a day trip from Paris to Reims 

Annecy

Nestled in the French Alps, Annecy is famous for its lake and stunning scenery. The city hosts an annual fireworks show in August, considered one of the largest pyrotechnic displays in Europe. 

Visitors can wander through the charming old town, admire the canals, and photograph the Palais de l'Isle, a spectacular and highly Instagrammable Medieval castle.

Medieval buildings along the canal in Annecy, France

✨ Head to Annecy for their summer fireworks spectacular 

Angers

Situated in the Loire Valley, Angers is known for its imposing castle and charming old town. The Château d'Angers is a medieval fortress with a rich history, home to the famous Apocalypse Tapestry. 

Travelers can explore the cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses of Angers' historic center. Angers is also a great base for exploring the surrounding Loire Valley, known for its chateaux, vineyards, and picturesque landscapes.

Chateaux in Angers, France

✨ Stop in Angers on a Loire Valley road trip 

Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is worth a visit during the winter holidays: The town is less crowded than in other seasons, and it offers a unique Christmas atmosphere. 

Aix-en-Provence has a Christmas market on the Cours Mirabeau, with vendors selling traditional Provençal gifts and treats like calissons (candied fruit and almond candies) and santons (figurines for nativity scenes). 

Aix-en-Provence is home to numerous fountains which makes this French city ideal for photographers.

Hôtel de Ville in Aix-en-Provence, France

✨ Spend Christmas in Provence 

***

There you have it: my curated list of the best cities to visit in France besides Paris. Which places will you choose to add to your French itinerary? 

I invite you to use this compilation of 110 pictures of France from my travels to find further inspiration for your French vacation itinerary. Mix and match different experiences to plan the perfect trip.

Did you enjoy this post about the best cities in France that I've encountered on my travels? Sharing is caring...

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: What are the Best Cities to Visit in France (Besides Paris)?
What are the Best Cities to Visit in France (Besides Paris)?
Looking for the best cities to visit in France besides Paris? Explore this curated list to inform your France itinerary and plan your French vacation.
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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