Best Towns To Visit in France

Best Places to Visit in France

While everyone knows Paris, or about the lavender fields, there are some stunning places, some stunning towns known for France´s charm.

Thus, it does not come as a surprise that road tripping through France is high on many bucket lists (despite the very high toll fees). If you do a road-trip through France or looking for great day trip ideas from popular travel destinations make sure to check out these places in France – 17 cutest towns in France that you should visit.

Best Towns to See in France

Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges

Recommended by Rhonda Albom from Albom Adventures

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The delightful village of St. Bertrand de Comminges sits on a rise at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains overlooking the archaeological site of the Roman Ruins of Lugdunum. Both are worth a visit. From the ruins looking up, it is the St. Bertrand de Comminges Cathedral that will call to you, urging you up the hill either on foot or in the shuttle bus. The walled city hides narrow, cobblestone roads, all leading to the romanesque-gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Inside the cathedral is an eclectic mix of architectural styles. Renaissance stained glass windows light the 16th-century organ, while the 12th-century cloisters add an air of solitude. On an internal wall hangs a taxidermied crocodile. The cathedral is also home to the tomb of Saint Bertrand (canonised in 1671).

We stopped at this charming medieval village en route from Lourdes to Toulouse. It was once a pilgrim stopover on one of the paths to Santiago de Compostela.

St Bertrand de Comminges is listed amongst the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The Most Beautiful Villages of France”). As a side note, prehistoric cave art can be seen inside the nearby Grotte de Gargas.

Chamonix

Recommended by Donovan from Travel Voila

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Chamonix, also commonly know as Chamonix – Mont Blanc is one of the oldest ski resorts in France. It is situated at the junction of France, Italy and Switzerland.

During winter, every inch of Chamonix will be covered in snow. During the summer, you will still find snow at Aiguille Du Midi.

Renowned as one of the most famous ski towns in the world, it is a “must visit” destination for any skier or snowboarder. Apart from that, there are not many places in the world that have glaciers surrounding them, Chamonix has more than one  (Bosson glacier, the famous Mer De Glace glacier, Argentière Glacier)

However, due to global warming, the height of glacier will decrease 4-5 meters every year… Do visit before they are completely gone.

Although Chamonix is considered a winter sports resort town, it is also very popular during the summer. You can take the cable up to 3,842m to Aiguille du Midi one of the highest cable car in the world. From there you can take a Panoramic cable car over to the Italian side – Pointe Helbronner.

That is why Chamonix is a popular holiday destination during all 4 seasons. You can have snow sports activities and hiking activities during summer. Because of this, there any numerous chalets and Airbnbs catered to the demand.

My top 3 must visits in Chamonix are Aiguille du Midi, Mer De Glace and Pointe Helbronner.

Dinan

Recommended by Julie and Steve from 2CheckingOut.

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I have to be honest and say that France did not figure high in our must-visit list. Our heads had been turned by France’s gregarious neighbor Italy. That was until the cute and picturesque town of Dinan took us by surprise.

Situated high above the River Rance, full of narrow cobbled streets, Dinan’s medieval magic transports you back in time. The historic center knows how to switch on the French charm. Half-timbered and stone buildings beg to have their picture taken. Quaint little shops and cafes entice you to step inside.

History buffs will love exploring the ramparts and chateaus. Those strolling the ramparts are rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

After pottering the atmospheric center, sampling a tasty crepe or two, you may like to explore further afield. Saint-Malo and Mont St Michel are an easy day trip away.

Saint-Malo is an equally picturesque port town with a walled center. Tourists flow everywhere, but the city still maintains its charm especially inside the walls.

Mont St Michel looks dramatic from a distance standing proud over the sand. Wandering the alleyways can be interesting if you can avoid the tacky tourist shops and overpriced restaurants.

But Dinan is where you can imagine fairytales coming true. Delighting all those sensible enough to put this cute little town on their must-visit list.

Annecy

Recommended by Arzo from Arzo Travels

Annecy: one of the many bridges
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If I could name only one town I totally fell head over heels in love with it this year it would probably be Annecy, the colorful town close to the Swiss border. Compared to most of the other towns recommended here, Annecy is one of the bigger towns with a very busy old town.

Annecy is not so small to get bored easily but still has the charm of a town – spending a few days in Annecy will allow you to see most important places in Annecy.

My 2 top recommendations for Annecy are: spending time around Lake Annecy and doing a boat tour on Lake Annecy (that water is so clear you will not believe it), and getting lost in the old town of Annecy.

Lake Annecy is, supposedly, the cleanest lake in Europe and with the Alps in the background the scenery is stunning. While it is very tempting to just sit at the lake and soak in the sun (at least in summer) I recommend walking around the lake and enjoy an 1-hour boat tour.

There is a reason why Annecy is called the Venice of France – with its colorful houses, narrow streets and many canals it actually reminds pretty much of Venice. The many flower posts hanging everywhere give Annecy a friendly look – though I have not found a restaurant that convinced me with amazing food, I recommend having a break and enjoy the pretty houses of this fairy-tale town.

Click here to read more about how to spend 2 days in Annecy.

Beaune

Recommended by Maegan from Wanderlust Dietitian

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During our three-week stent through France, we stopped for a long weekend in the Burgundy region. Our apartment was in Ladoix-Serrigny, about 10 minutes between Beaune and Dijon. We wanted a relaxing weekend before we ventured to Paris, the city of light.

Beaune was our focus and is a cute town situated on the Côte de Beaune, complete with its own archway and weekend markets. I highly recommend a visit to these markets. We sampled some food until we were stuffed.

There is plenty to do in this region during a relaxing weekend. The top things to do here are to visit the Hospices de Beaune or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune which is a former charitable almshouse, get cultured at the Musée des beaux-arts de Beaune, see the Chateau de Savigny-les-Beaune, take a day trip to Dijon, enjoy market day in Beaune and Dijon, take a stroll through the many vineyards at sunset or with an organized tour, bring back some Dijon mustard (of course), and buy lots of red wine!

The Côte de Beaune area is the southern part of the Côte d’Or, and is home to the best Burgundy wine ever to pass through my lips!

Avignon

Recommend Laura from Travel Addicts

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Perched along the Rhone River, Avignon, France, is the perfect combination of a city and a town—it has lots of attractions and things to do while being manageable and feeling completely friendly all at the same time. Even better: Avignon is easy to reach by air or train, so it’s a no-brainer to visit on a trip to Provence. The high-speed TGV train from Paris will deposit you right outside Avignon’s city walls in just over three hours, or it’s less than an hour by train from the Marseille airport.

Avignon’s center is compact, surrounded by walls whose origins date from the 14th century. As a result, the city is easily walkable and bustling at most hours of the day, which made it feel quite comfortable for me traveling on my own.

Everywhere you go, there are locals enjoying wine in the sidewalk cafes and squares or hanging out on trendy, cobblestoned Rue des Teinturiers. Those looking for something beyond the amazing wine and food of Avignon should head to Parc Rocher des Doms, a lovely sprawling park that provides great views of the surrounding area on a clear day.

Avignon is full of history, culture, and fun things to do. Its Marche les Halles (the city market) is a local hangout, but it’s also great for tourists, especially if you’ve rented an apartment and are cooking (as I did). Other must-visit spots include a distillery making pear brandy with the pears grown in the bottles and the Palace of the Popes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was home to seven Popes in the 1300s when controversy caused the papacy to leave Rome.

Yvoire

Recommended by Rashmi & Chalukya from Go Beyond Bounds

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France has no dearth of touristic places and neither of small pretty villages which are great for some laid-back experience away from the crowd. Yvoire is one of such pretty medieval villages located in southern France on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Based out of Geneva in Switzerland the trip to Yvoire was easy with a traveling time of less than an hour. One can drive to Yvoire or take a ferry from Nyon to Yvoire (Geneva to Nyon is 15 minutes by train).

The panoramic vistas of the small town of Nyon as you leave the Nyon port is amazing. You will find several surfers along the way and the view of the medieval town of Yvoire as you get closer is even more stunning, the Yvoire castle and the stone houses of the village rise high above the boats and yachts lining the village shore.

The pretty village of Yvoire is packed with well-preserved stone houses which are sure to transport you into the bygone era with its old world charm. The windows and balconies of these houses adorned with bright colorful flowers is a delightful sight to behold. And while you are there do not miss a visit to the 11th-century church of St Pancras, the Garden of the Five Senses and indulge in several scoops of yummy gelatos.

Concarneau

Recommended by Marie-Carmen from Orient Excess

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Along the coast of Brittany, in Finistere (literally translated as the end of the earth) in the West of France is the little town of Concarneau. A fishing port still in use, the place sees quite a few visitors come spring and summer for the many festivals happening locally, and for the old town and its ancient walls, still intact to this day.

Try to visit in the morning and you’ll find many old shops selling local delicacies like the butter cake called Kouign Amann, or stop for a coffee in the old city center to appreciate the architecture of the historic houses before visiting the maritime museum which is in a boat docked on the city walls. You could also walk along the walls to get a perfect view of the nearby beaches or to see the town from above.

From Concarneau, you can easily get to the nearby islands or get on a day trip on the many boats that leave everyday, time your visit well and you could eat some fresh mussels or crabs while visiting the morning market. Life is slow in town and Concarneau is probably one of the best examples of the region of Brittany and how it differs from the others.

Sarlat

Recommended by Gillian from The Little Eden

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The medieval town of Sarlat is the jewel in the Dordogne’s crown. You can’t help but fall under the charm of this town with its winding, cobbled streets and gorgeous square.

After 5 years of living in the Dordogne, we never get bored of visiting this enchanting place. You will feel as though you’ve stepped into a film set – in fact more films have been shot there than anywhere in France apart from Paris and Nice.

The wonderful weekly market takes place on a Saturday (and a Wednesday in summertime) where you’ll be able to sample local producers’ delicious fayre.

Sarlat is also a great place to base yourself to explore the beautiful surrounding Dordogne countryside and must-visit attractions. Closeby, you’ll find the hilltop village of Domme with its sweeping views of the Dordogne Valley, the famous chateaux of Beynac and Castelnaud, one of the most beautiful villages of France ‘La Roque-Gageac’ carved into the rock face. Sarlat really is a must on your French itinerary!

If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, check out La Liberté Studio – you can’t get any more central than this apartment with its postcard view over the main square. The best time of year to visit is during the shoulder season as it gets overrun with tourists during July and August.

Aix-en-Provence

Recommended by Nadine from Le Long Weekend

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If you’re looking for the one town that epitomizes Provençal charm, look no further than Aix-en-Provence. From the golden hues of the grand façades to the iconic fountains sprouting up on every corner, to the relaxed and unpretentious vibe – Aix (as the locals call it) could be the perfect French town.

Stroll the old streets with their boutiques and flower stalls, browse the markets that spread down through Cours Mirabeau and onto the pavements surrounding the famous Fontaine de la Rotonde, sip the regions finest Rosé in a corner-side café and relax in the secret sculptured gardens. The town center is petite, so everything can be explored on foot fairly easily.

Aix is a cultural hub and there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in the arts. Pop into Musée Granet to see the works of famous local artists such as Picasso, Léger, Matisse, Monet, Klee, Van Gogh and Cézanne.

Watch live performances during the annual Festival d’Aix-en-Provence or discover the life of Cézanne at the late artist’s former studio.

With its ideal location between the azure blue Mediterranean and the rustic landscape of the Luberon valley, Aix is the perfect base to discover the other delights of the Provence. Head to the old portside town of Cassis, discover the fiery red canyons at Roussillon, or watch pink flamingoes in the Camargue!

St.Emilion

Recommended by Margherita by The Crowded Planet

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If you’re visiting Bordeaux, I highly recommend taking the time to do a day trip to St.Emilion. Most people visit St.Emilion for the wine – and the wine is incredible, with a winemaking tradition that stretches back hundreds of years and countless chateaux producing quality reds. However, even if you don’t drink wine, St.Emilion is still worth a visit. Some of the chateaux are very historic places, and touring the buildings and learning about the history of the

Most people visit St.Emilion for the wine – and the wine is incredible, with a winemaking tradition that stretches back hundreds of years and countless chateaux producing quality reds. However, even if you don’t drink wine, St.Emilion is still worth a visit. Some of the chateaux are very historic places, and touring the buildings and learning about the history of the wine making in the area is really interesting. We even visited a tiny biodynamic winery, and the vineyard was only steps away from the city center!

St.Emilion is a really small town with backstreets crowded on a hillside, and all houses and buildings are constructed with the same golden sandstone. The tallest building in St.Emilion, dominating the skyline, is the tower of the famous monolithic church, a truly remarkable building dug onto the hillside. There are also many sweet shops, selling ‘

There are also many sweet shops, selling ‘caneles’, a dessert typical of the Bordeaux region that was originally invented to use the surplus of egg yolks after the whites were used to filter wine. I would also recommend walking around the town into the vineyards – sadly I was there in winter when the vines are only stumps, but I’d love to return later in the year to take some nice landscape pictures!

Gordes

Recommended by Arzo from Arzo Travels

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Gordes is the cutest town/village I have ever been to – probably ever. Standing on the edge of the plateau of Vaucluse, Gorges is absolutely stunning and charming, and should be on your France itinerary. Gordes is surely one of the most beautiful places in France.

While the main purpose of my Provence trip was to actually see the lavender fields, I admit that visiting Gordes was the real highlight of this trip.

If you visit in summer, I recommend exploring the lavender fields of the area around Gordes first, before heading to the very unique town that defines “cobbled street” at its best.

If you get to Gordes by car, you will see the town long before you arrive, as it sits enthroned upon the hill, and you´ll already see how charming it is. From far away, you have a great view, and I advise not passing it without taking a few pictures first.

While I do not recommend wearing stiletto heels, as you most likely will be stuck every few meters, I do recommend taking your time and getting wonderfully lost in Gordes. Small shops and beautiful houses will charm you – and as a flower lover, I took pictures at each building that had many flowers around.

Gordes is a very small town, and if you are a fast traveler, you can see everything easily within two hours. I recommend to plan at least half a day – ideally, one full day, so that you can make sure to see every corner. Also, I really liked the friendly people and the numerous choices of restaurants (compared to its small size), where you can choose between many types of cuisines.

Arles

Recommended by Clemens from Travellers Archive

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Arles, the ancient Roman city on the edge of Provence, is best known for two things: Roman amphitheater and Van Gogh.

However, the cute town has much more to offer. A city tour through Arles begins by passing the old city walls and an old city gate, where only the towers are partially present. A narrow road leads directly to the Roman amphitheatre that was built around 90 AD and once had room for about 21,000 visitors. Today, it mainly serves as a bullfighting arena. In addition to the that, there is still the ancient theatre from Roman times.

But it is not only the antique that plays an important role in the history of Arles but also a great painter: Vincent van Gogh. He lived here for some time. Known motifs were the Le Café de nuit and the Langlois Bridge at Arles, south of Arles. In fact, in this tiny old city, you feel a little bit like walking through one of Van Gogh’s paintings. “The town is silent,” he once said, “the night boils with eleven stars. Oh, starry starry night! This is how I want to die.”

One should stroll through this city with this awareness, in the thought that Van Gogh once walked on these same paths. That he set up his squadron on the banks of the Rhône and watched the flow of water, that he was in the hospital in a hospital room, looking out over the garden or up to the starry night sky and capturing his perceptions in such an incomparable way, which still amaze us again and again.

Rocamadour

Recommended by Daniela from Ipanema Travels

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Driving down the D36 in Southern France at one point you will see it: the small town of Rocamadour clung to the cliffs – an absolute wow-effect. Pull out and try to capture the beauty of this place on your digital memory. The best views are from L’Hospitalet.

Rocamadour is a must-see on your route in the Dordogne Valley. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Most beautiful villages in France. And there’s reason for that: medieval houses, winding streets, dramatic views, legends of dead bodies and miracles.

The story goes that Saint Amadour (thought to be the Biblical character Zacchaeus) became a hermit in the rocks, where now the town is, and built there the shrine of Our Lady in Rocamadour. This legend flourished after a body was found in a tomb in 1162. True or not, this legend gave the name of the place: The Rock of Amadour. Today, the town is on the Way of Saint James (Camino de Santiago) and a major religious and pilgrimage site.

When visiting Rocamadour you can’t miss the religious complex of six chapels, the crypt of Saint Amadour and the basilica Saint Saveur, but be prepared to climb the 216 steps of the Grand Stairway (Grand Escalier). In the past, the pilgrims would do that on their knees. From the top of the hill, where the ramparts of a 14-c. fortress lie, you will have one of the most breathtaking views ever: the Alzou River cuts a deep limestone canyon through the Massif Central.

I will not advise you to stay in Rocamadour, as it is a bit touristy. However, it makes it a perfect day trip from any place in the Dordogne Valley, or from one of the big cities Brive-la-Gaillarde, Cahors or Bergerac.

Colmar

Recommended by Brigitta from Get Lost in the World

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Colmar is a city in the Alsace region of France, located halfway through Strasbourg and Basel (Switzerland). The Alsace region in the northeast of France is best known for the world-famous wine route.

Colmar is one of those towns that you’ve been dreaming of as a little kid: it’s colorful, half-timbered houses, floral displays, canals and charming boutiques look like a real-life fairytale. No wonder it was one of the towns that inspired Belle’s hometown in the Beauty and the Beast!

The cutest part of Colmar is undoubtedly Little Venice (La petite Venise- as the locals call it). It’s a postcard-worthy place with brightly colored houses among the canals of Colmar. For a perfect view, you can get on a boat ride along the canals of Colmar!

Another part of Colmar that will make you fall in love with it, is the fishmonger’s district: this is where the fisherman and boatmen of Colmar used to live. Have a coffee in this beautiful part of the city in one of the French café’s, or visit the local market for an authentic experience.

You can easily discover the landmarks of Colmar during a day trip, as everything in the city is at a walkable distance. The famous houses of the city are: House of heads (decorated with grotesque masks), Adolph house (the oldest on in Colmar),  Koifhus and the Pfister house (beautiful medieval houses).

I recommend exploring the whole region of Alsace- it’s a region with rich history, charming towns, good food and even better wines!

Kaysersberg

Recommended by Jordan from Wayfaring With Wagner

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“Located along the Alsace Wine Trail, Kaysersberg is a quaint town on the German/French border. Due to the colorful architecture, delicious wines, friendly locals, and walkable streets, Kaysersberg was named France’s Favorite Village of 2017.

Founded over 800 years ago by Emperor Frederick II, the town was a strategic location in the region for the Holy Roman Empire (and came with the added bonus of an already built castle!). In its lively and controversial history, the town has been a Free Imperial City as well as under French and German rule. While the town might be part of present-day France, its German heritage is still evident through its name (originally “Kaisersberg”), architecture, and cuisine.

Kaysersberg is an easy day trip from Colmar and should definitely not be missed along the Alsace Wine Trail! For an extra special wine experience, make sure to stop by Domaine Weinbach and sample some of the local wines (brought to the region from Hungary in the 1600s). For a typical Alsatian meal, pair your white wine with a tarte flambée (also known as Flammkuchen or Flammekuechle) – the local cuisine of the region.

In terms of sightseeing, make sure to climb to the top of Château de Kaysersberg, the famed castle of Kaysersberg. As a prominent landmark, the castle not only holds historical significance but also provides gorgeous views of the entire town. End your day by taking an evening stroll through the charming and colorful streets of Kaysersberg.”

Chartres

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The town of Chartres is about 50 miles from Paris and home to the Chartres Cathedral and a great day trip from Paris.

The Chartres Cathedral is a 12th century gothic cathedral that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be one of the most beautiful with its mismatched spires (one dates back to the 12th century and the other to the 16th century) and stained glass windows and it demonstrates all of the gothic features.  The stained glass was removed during the Second World War as a precaution against the destruction of war.

But don’t only come to Chartres for the Cathedral it is also worth a walk around the town and the preservation zone.

It’s a really cute village and the buildings and streets date back to the 1800s.  You can go to the visitor center and rent an audio guide and learn about the history of the city.  I enjoyed walking along the pebbled pathways and crossing the quaint bridge there and stopping for coffee and an éclair at Au Bon Croissant de Chartres.  C’est tres bon!

Saint Paul de Vence

Recommended by Shoba from Just Go Places

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Saint Paul de Vence is a small medieval village set in the hills above the city of Nice in the South of France.

It’s very easy to reach by car or by public transport from Nice. If you have any stereotypes of cute little Provencal towns, you can bet that Saint Paul de Vence will fulfill it. Think sun-bleached buildings and cobblestoned back streets that you can wander around.

The town has an artsy feel thanks to its numerous art galleries. It has had many former famous artist residents, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall who is actually buried in the town cemetery.

From the south end of town, you also have fabulous views over Nice and the Mediterranean which attracts the tourist hordes during the height of the summer season.

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What do you think? Are not that good recommendations for the best places to visit in France? Have we missed another gorgeous town? Let us know and also which of the towns has made it on your bucket list!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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Safe Travels, Arzo

 
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