France is a country rich in culture, historic architecture, and beautiful scenery.
This guide takes a look at some of the most beautiful cities in France to visit, whether you are looking for the best cuisine, the most stunning views, or you simply want to tour its magnificent buildings.
Any list of the top cities in France must, of course, begin with its beautiful capital.
Perhaps one of the most romantic destinations in the world, the city of love is famous for its iconic attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre.
But many of the joys of Paris are far more understated, from strolling along its tree-lined boulevards to taking a leisurely picnic on the banks of the River Seine.
This is truly a city that has it all, with both modern department stores offering some of the best shopping in the world, and ancient cobblestoned streets concealing indie boutiques and quaint eateries.
If you’re new to Paris, make sure to check out this first timer’s guide to Paris!
Located in southwest France on the Garonne River, Bordeaux is – without a doubt – one of the most beautiful cities in France.
It is best known as the country’s wine capital – and there are plenty of wine-tasting opportunities for visitors to enjoy! But this elegant city also has one of Europe’s most outstanding riverscapes.
The banks of the Garonne feature a mixture of lively bars, cafes, and shops, along with beautifully tended gardens in which you can sit and watch the world go by.
For the best views, visit the gothic Saint-Michel church, the tallest building in Bordeaux with a freestanding spire overlooking the city.
Picturesque Nice on the Côte d’Azur can be found in one of the most beautiful areas in France, on the Baie des Anges at the foothills of the Maritime Alps.
Well-known as a playground of the rich and famous, Nice offers a fascinating mixture of French and Italian culture.
Its main attraction, however, is the Promenade des Anglais (English Promenade) – so named because it used to be a favored destination of English tourists during the winter.
Nearly 4.5 miles long, this is best enjoyed using the many Segway tours available.
Not to be missed is the Old Town, with its pretty Mediterranean shutters and brightly colored buildings. Nice also has some of France’s very best pebble beaches.
Toulouse is a vibrant university city, filled with impressive and lively squares packed with students. The majestic Place Du Capitole is its most well-known attraction and its rooms are open for visitors to explore.
Toulouse is known as La Ville Rose (The Pink City), thanks to the red bricks used throughout its construction, which seem to change hue as the light alters throughout the day.
Home to ‘cassoulet’ – its most famous dish – the city is a food-lovers paradise and there are more than 100 local specialties to try.
Want to get FREE accommodation in exchange for work? If you’re traveling on a budget or want to save and extend your trip, this could be exactly what you’re looking for. Worldpackers is a platform that connects travelers like you with hosts. It’s just like volunteer work –exchange your skills for free accommodation. SAVE $10 and get 3 extra months added to your plan using my discount code. Learn more about how it works here.
But there are also countless opportunities to get away from the hustle and bustle, with many tranquil parks and gardens in which to relax.
Outside of Paris, one of the best cities in France for romance is Annecy.
It is often referred to as the Venice of the Alps because of the network of canals that criss-cross the old town, surrounded by scenic buildings with pastel-colored facades.
Want to connect with fellow long-term travelers? Join our exclusive Facebook group and take part in the conversation.
PSSST. Your travel medical insurance can now cover COVID-19! If you grab SafetyWing‘s Nomad Insurance, it’ll be covered just like other illnesses. I’ve been using it since 2019 and I can assure you it’s the perfect solution for nomads like you and me.
One of the chief attractions of this charming city is the Chateau d’Annecy – a castle perched on top of the hill overlooking the old town which dates back to the 1100s.
Bordering the city is one of France’s most beautiful lakes – Lake Annecy – which provides an opportunity for a stunning photograph at every turn!
Another popular sight for photographers is the rather less romantic Palais de l’Île, which looks like a castle from a fairytale but which has been used as a prison.
If you are looking for a mixture of cultural and natural attractions, one of the best cities in France to visit is Marseille.
Located in the south of France on the Mediterranean coast, its most popular area is Vieux-Port (Old Port). Here you can see street dancers, admire the art exhibitions and watch performances by local musicians as you sample a variety of delicious cuisines.
But jump on a catamaran in the city and you will soon be cruising along the creeks and archipelagos of the beautiful Calanques National Park, where there are numerous opportunities for swimming and snorkeling.
There are so many lovely sights to admire in this historic city, located in the Alsace region near the German border.
The medieval architecture is charming, as are the tall, quaint burgher’s houses, whilst the ancient quarters on the Grande Île are filled with twisting lanes and scenic canals.
Not to be missed is the pretty neighborhood of La Petite France, whilst the symbol of the city is Strasbourg’s majestic cathedral, made from pink sandstone from the Vosges Mountains.
But perhaps Strasbourg’s most popular attraction is its Christmas market, which is considered to be the most beautiful of its kind in France.
If you are a history buff, one of the best cities in France to visit is Avignon. It is home to the Palace of the Popes – Europe’s largest gothic palace and the pontiff’s official residence in the 14th century.
Next to the Palace sits the magnificent Cathedral Notre Dame des Doms, built in Romanesque style, and you can take the steps from there up to the Rocher des Domes – the cradle of the city.
Here you can watch the ducks on the pond and the peacocks that strut around amongst the many visitors.
The highlight of your visit will be a stroll along the esplanade, which gives you awesome views across the winding streets of this walled city and all its surrounding areas.
Considered one of the wine capitals of France, Dijon – in the Burgundy region – also happens to be one of the best cities in France to visit for gourmet cuisine and home to the world-famous mustard.
The city’s center is UNESCO listed and features a beautiful combination of Renaissance and medieval architecture, with the most impressive building being The Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.
The city even has its own lake – Lac Kir – which covers 37 hectares and offers a variety of watersports. For panoramic views across Dijon, be sure to climb to the top of the Tour Philippe Le Bon.
It may not be the most well-known, but Metz – located on the east side of the Moselle River between Luxembourg and Nancy – is one of the most beautiful cities in France.
It is also one of its greenest, with numerous flowerbeds, trees, and green streets, plus twisting riverside paths along the banks of the Moselle and Seille Rivers.
The are many lovely restaurants and cafes throughout the city, most of which have outdoor terraces to enjoy the views.
Metz is home to the gothic St Etienne Cathedral, nicknamed the ‘Lantern of God’ and France’s most luminous cathedral.
I hope that this list of the most beautiful cities in France has helped you see just how many other fascinating places there are to visit in this romantic and historic part of the world.