As European travel destinations go, the country of France has to be one of the most iconic. France has been at the top of the go-to list for rookie adventurers and seasoned seafarers alike. Here are ten bucket list destinations to inspire your own travels…
Ah, Paris! The world-renowned City of Lights holds a special place in the heart of every travelling romantic, and with good reason – there are very few places on this planet that is as easy on the eye. Not to mention its bevy of iconic attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Sacré-Coeur, Avenue des Champs-Elysées and more. To walk in Paris is to walk in the footsteps of a thousand painters, writers and philosophers who were moved to greatness by her singular beauty – what could be more inspiring?
If it is the gorgeous French countryside you’re after, Burgundy is the place to be – think unspoiled green hills, interspersed with quaint medieval villages and sun-drenched mustard fields. The region’s charming capital, Dijon, and its many beautiful towns display a wonderful array of architectural styles that range from Celtic antiquity to Gallo-Roman and sweeping Renaissance treasures. Oh, and of course there’s the wine – Burgundy’s centuries-old vineyards have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its pivotal role in the world-wide development of viticulture, so wine lovers are in for a treat to say the very least.
Right at the heart of central Europe, where the Atlantic, Rhineland and Mediterranean meet, lies Lyon – the third-largest city in France and its culinary capital. Here, small bistros on cobblestone streets rub shoulders with majestic Roman ruins and fearless modern architectural marvels. Just north of Lyon lies the famous Beaujolais wine region, and the postcard-pretty town of Pérouges that is so quintessentially French that barely a day goes by without a film crew setting up shop along its streets. Add a visit to the Côtes du Rhône vineyards, early morning vistas over dew-dappled orchards, the smell of lavender fields in summer and the dramatic backdrop of the Alps in the distance, and you’ve got yourself a travel destination worth dreaming about.
Nice (French Riviera)
Situated on the spellbinding French Riviera, Nice offers a singular combination of opulent old-world glamour, bronze seaside destinations and a never-ending throng of some of the most colourful characters to be found anywhere in France. The city has attracted high-rollers and wealthy sunseekers since the 1800s and epitomises the very essence of the Riviera with its glorious markets, Michelin-awarded restaurants and beguiling old town destinations.
Probably best-known as the setting of a great many pivotal historical occurrences, there is much more to Normandy than a vivid past. Solemn pilgrimages to D-Day beaches aside, there are stunningly beautiful coastal landscapes, picturesque villages, charming medieval cities and striking post-war destinations to explore to your heart’s content. Throw in some exceptional seafood-based cuisine and you can see why Normandy is on the radar of some of the world’s most discerning travellers.
Mont St Michel
Everyone’s idea of a fairy tale island castle, Mont St-Michel is one of the most breathtaking medieval monasteries to be found in France. As unforgettable as it is mesmerising, this iconic French attraction is located at the confluence of Normandy and Brittany and an age-old Christian pilgrimage destination to boot. In fact, the story goes that the bishop of the nearby hill town of Avranches was pressured into building this gravity-defying architectural marvel by the Archangel Michael himself in the 8th century.
No matter how great your expectations of the Loire Valley may be, this gorgeous destination is sure to blow you right out of the water. Situated at the joining of southern and northern France, and just a quick drive from Paris, Loire is the setting of countless important medieval strongholds and sumptuous pleasure palaces. Think vast banquet halls, soaring towers and awe-inspiring cupolas surrounded by lush, verdant vineyards and picture-perfect villages. After all, there’s a good reason by the entire Valley has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site!
Bordeaux numbers among some of the most dynamic, bustling cities in all of France. Think sleek pedestrian walkways, beautifully restored neoclassical architecture, a user-friendly public transport system and a high-spirited student contingency that demands up-to-the-minute cuisine and entertainment, and you can understand why this city welcomes more than 5 million visitors each year. The region is also home to an exciting new wave of winemakers create terroir-specific vintages that have been making waves worldwide, so make a point of including a wine tasting or two on your itinerary!
Overlooking the mighty Rhône River, the city of Avignon is perhaps best known for the awe-inspiring 14th-century palace that dominates its picturesque skyline. But there’s more to this French destination than meets the eye. Wander its leafy streets and cobbled squares and you’ll come across exceptional antiques shopping; head outside of town and you’ll stumble head first into a Cezanne painting filled with world-renowned wineries (can you say Châteauneuf-du-Pape?!), impeccably preserved Roman ruins and the scenic River Sorgue.
Lourdes has been one of the most important Roman-Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world since 1858, when the now-beatified Bernadette Soubirous was visited no less than 18 times by the Virgin Mary in a rocky grotto that has subsequently been named the Sanctuaires Notre Dame de Lourdes. Join the 6 million+ visitors who flock here each year to pay homage, take healing waters and explore the intriguing sites around the city.
And that’s just the tip of the tantalising French iceberg folks – there are so many beautiful towns, cities and regions in France that are just waiting to be explored. So, strap on that beret, practice a haughty pout and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! Bon vacances!