Find out what the best destinations in France are as awarded by millions of real travelers.
Everyone wants to see the major sights of Paris—and it's true, it'd be criminal to leave town without visiting the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc. But to truly appreciate this city, you need to get away from the tourist sights. Plunk yourself down at a table in a small café, enjoy a glass of wine and watch le monde go by.
As host of the first Winter Olympics in 1924, Chamonix will always have a place in the history books. Its main attractions are Mont-Blanc (Western Europe's tallest mountain) and the many ski areas that face the Chamonix Valley. Steep slopes and extreme weather conditions suit advanced skiers best, but there are also runs for beginners. Just make sure everyone in your party knows a green circle from a black diamond. Oh, and another note for the history books—Pierce Brosnan was here (filming a James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough).
Nice has a cosmpolitan Riviera vibe, and you'll enjoy exploring its fashionable boutiques and restaurants and sunning yourself on its popular beaches. (Just don't expect soft sand—these beaches have pebbles.) Walk up to Castle Hill for a beautiful view of the city, the Bay of Angels and of course, the bright blue water that gave the Cote d'Azur its name.
Galas, regattas, the Film Festival and an outrageously attractive and affluent set characterize Cannes. Vast yachts obscure the view and the town lives up to its motto, "Life is a festival." People-watching is the activity that brings most visitors to Cannes, and hotel-lined La Croisette provides a fine promenade. First popularized by Coco Chanel, Cannes beaches are a huge draw. Get expensive seaside food and drinks service on hotel sand or opt for the free public beaches, Plages du Midi and de la Boca.
You view great wine as the essence of a good vacation. Your travel companion, however, is a beer aficionado. Will it be Paris or Munich? Stop arguing and go to Strasbourg, where you can have the best of French and German cuisine, including the booze. The entire central island is a World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the 12th-century cathedral or the storybook "la Petite France" neighborhood.
A stylish beach town on France’s southwestern coast, Biarritz was once the vacation spot for nobility and is now Europe’s surfing capital. It’s experienced a tourist renaissance—summers are busy. Biarritz lacks the Riviera’s glitz, but you’ll see affluent vacationers in designer gear and surfers in flip-flops, and hear French, Spanish and Basque. The Grande Plage is the center of the action. Behind it, visit the restored, Art Deco casino and wander the streets down to the old port to the west.
Controlled by the British for 300 years, Bordeaux is one of the most un-French cities in France (a good or bad thing, depending on your tastes). What was once a sleepy city (literally nicknamed "Sleeping Beauty" in French) is now a thriving tourist destination and mecca for wine enthusiasts. The city's boundless energy is supplemented by the spirited university population. Unless you've been wine-tasting all day... then you'll probably sleep quite well.
Avignon charms visitors with its ancient streets, restored medieval ramparts and the immense Gothic architecture of the Palais des Papes (Palace of Popes—the papacy was based here in the 14th century). The annual Festival d'Avignon, a major arts festival, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors for theater, dance, film and street performances.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon has 2,000 years of history imprinted on its streets (yes, the cobblestone kind). Explore this history in Vieux Lyon (one of Europe's most extensive Renaissance neighborhoods) and Lyon's two Roman amphitheatres, which still stage rock concerts today. It's no wonder Lyon is a popular area for travelers, with its dynamic university, first-class shopping, antique markets, vibrant theatre and music festivals, and a range of interesting museums, such as the International Puppet Museum and the Museum of Miniatures and Film Sets. (When we say "interesting," we mean it.)
Saint-Malo, originally built as a walled citadel guarding the mouth of the Rance river, was for centuries home to feared pirates. They’ve all gone to Davy Jones’ Locker, though, and now it’s Brittany’s most-visited city. Walk the bustling streets of the reconstructed old city and the vast beaches, making sure to stop at the Grande Porte, Porte St-Vincent, the town’s castle with its Musée de la Ville and the Grand Aquarium.