Places To Visit in France
France, in Western Europe, encompasses medieval cities, alpine villages and Mediterranean beaches. Paris, its capital, is famed for its fashion houses, classical art museums including the Louvre and monuments like the Eiffel Tower. The country is also renowned for its wines and sophisticated cuisine. Lascaux’s ancient cave drawings, Lyon’s Roman theater and the vast Palace of Versailles attest to its rich history.Popular destinations are Paris, Avignon, Nice, Marseilles, Lyon, Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Strasbourg & Colmar
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Paris, France's capital, is a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Its 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Beyond such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, the city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
The famed Louvre museum houses da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” The Musée d’Orsay has Impressionist works by Monet, Degas and Renoir. On the Seine’s Right Bank, the Montmartre neighborhood is home to Sacré-Coeur Basilica and sweeping hilltop views. In the Marais, nightclubs sit among restored 17th-century mansions. On the Left Bank are the Latin Quarter, bustling with Sorbonne scholars, and the historically bohemian Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The city’s open-air cafes are an institution for casual eating and people-watching. Fine-dining restaurants, bistros, markets and patisseries reflect other aspects of France's famed culinary heritage
Avignon, a city in southeastern France’s Provence region, is set on the Rhône River. From 1309 to 1377, it was the seat of the Catholic popes. It remained under papal rule until becoming part of France in 1791. This legacy can be seen in the massive Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace) in the city center, which is surrounded by medieval stone ramparts.
Next to the Palais des Papes stands the 12th-century Notre Dame des Doms cathedral, with a 19th-century gilded statue of the Virgin Mary that can be seen from its bell tower. Also in the center are the remains of the Saint-Bénezet bridge, also known as Pont d’Avignon. Avignon's many museums include the Musée du Petit Palais, once the archbishops’ palace and now home to a collection of Renaissance and medieval art. Avignon’s rustic cuisine features typical Provençal dishes and Côtes du Rhône wines. Specialties include olive oil, honey, nougat and papalines, sugar-coated sweets made with chocolate and oregano liqueur
Nice, capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department on the French Riviera, sits on the pebbly shores of the Baie des Anges. Founded by the Greeks and later a retreat for 19th-century European elite, the city has also long attracted artists. Former resident Henri Matisse is honored with a career-spanning collection of paintings at Musée Matisse. Musée Marc Chagall features some of its namesake's major religious works.
The city's Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (or MAMAC) is an imposing modernist structure displaying avant garde works by French and international artists. Vieux Nice, a maze of medieval streets, features baroque churches and the colorful Cours Saleya market, famed for its flowers, fish and produce. The Promenade des Anglais, a boulevard fronting the bay, is lined with grand cafes and hotels such as the wedding-cake Le Negresco. The birthplace of salade niçoise, Nice is known for dishes made with olives and seafood, and for the street-food staple, socca (chickpea pancakes).
Marseille, a port city in southern France, has been a crossroads of immigration and trade since its founding by the Greeks circa 600 B.C. At its heart is the Vieux-Port (Old Port), where fishmongers sell their catch along the boat-lined quay. Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde is a Romanesque-Byzantine church. Modern landmarks include Le Corbusier’s influential Cité Radieuse complex and Zaha Hadid’s CMA CGM Tower.
It’s a place of tranquil squares and stepped alleys, bustling 19th-century avenues and street markets. The mazelike streets of hillside Le Panier, the oldest part of town, hold a heady mix of cultures. The 17th-century poorhouse Vieille Charité is now a cultural center with archaeological and primitive-art museums. The Abbey St. Victor is fortified abbey founded by St. Cassian and built over the 5th-century crypt housing his sarcophagus. Trendy Cours Julien has boutiques, bars, restaurants and galleries. The local culinary specialty is bouillabaisse, an aromatic seafood stew.
Lyon, a city in France’s historical Rhône-Alpes region, sits at the junction of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Its center reflects 2,000 years of history, with the Roman Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, medieval and Renaissance architecture in Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), and the modern Confluence district on the Presqu'île peninsula. Traboules, covered passageways between buildings, connect Vieux Lyon and La Croix-Rousse hill.
Lyon’s Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste is built in Flamboyant Gothic style, and the ornate hilltop basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière has sweeping views. The Musée des Beaux-Arts, in a 17th-century convent, holds significant French paintings and decorative arts. The art nouveau Musée Lumière stakes Lyon’s claim as the birthplace of cinema. Place Bellecour is a vast pedestrian square lined with cafes and shops. The city is renowned across France for its gastronomy and traditional “bouchon” restaurants.
Bordeaux, hub of the famed wine-growing region, is a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France. It’s known for its Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, 18th- to 19th-century mansions and notable art museums such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. Public gardens line the curving river quays. The grand Place de la Bourse, centered on the Three Graces fountain, overlooks the Miroir d’Eau reflecting pool.
The massive Place des Quinconces is a public square lined with trees, towering columns and white-marble statues. Chartrons, Bordeaux’s old wine merchants’ quarter, is now home to galleries and antiques shops. Its pedestrianized shopping street Rue Sainte-Catherine features fashion boutiques and cafes. Sophisticated restaurants offer local specialties including wine, oysters, lamb, beef and truffles. Nightlife buzzes in the medieval Saint-Pierre district and the north’s revamped wet docks, the Bassins à Flot.
Carcassonne, a hilltop town in southern France’s Languedoc area, is famous for its medieval citadel, La Cité, with numerous watchtowers and double-walled fortifications. The first walls were built in Gallo-Roman times, with major additions made in the 13th and 14th centuries. Château Comtal, a 12th-century castle within the Cité, offers archaeological exhibits and a tour of the inner ramparts.
The Basilique St-Nazaire-et-St-Celse, dating from the 11th–14th centuries, has rose medallion stained-glass windows and a 17th-century organ. Outside Cité’s walls, the Musée des Beaux-Arts exhibits European art from the 17th century on, while the Musée-Trésor de Notre-Dame de L’Abbaye presents illuminated manuscripts in a 12th-century abbey. Ville Basse is the lower town, with shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. Cruises on the scenic Canal du Midi pass nearby, and the vineyards of the Cité de Carcassonne wine region spread out beyond the city walls.
Strasbourg is the capital city of the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region in northeastern France. It's also the formal seat of the European Parliament and sits near the German border, with culture and architecture blending German and French influences. Its Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame features daily shows from its astronomical clock and sweeping views of the Rhine River from partway up its 142m spire.
The city’s heart is Grande Île, which encompasses an island surrounded by the Ill River. Its Petite France quarter includes medieval bridges and canals lined with 16th-century half-timbered houses. At the grand Palais de Rohan, rising over the river, the Musée des Beaux-Arts displays works by Peter Paul Rubens and other Old Masters. One of the city’s oldest squares, Place Gutenberg, is home to the Neubau, the former town hall, completed in 1585 in Renaissance style. Traditional ‘winstubs’ (wine rooms) serve local specialties such as choucroute garnie, sauerkraut with sausages and preserved meats.
Colmar is a town in the Alsace region of northeastern France, near the border with Germany. Its old town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. The 13th-century, Gothic Eglise Saint-Martin church stands on central Place de la Cathédrale. The city is on the Alsace Wine Route, and local vineyards specialize in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines.
The area of canals along Colmar's Lauch River is known as La Petite Venise (Little Venice). It's lined with colorful houses, passes through the old Fishermen's District and can be explored by boat. The Unterlinden Museum, a former convent, houses Matthias Grünewald's 16th-century Isenheim Altarpiece alongside works by Fernand Léger and Picasso. The former Eglise des Dominicains church has medieval stained glass and contains Martin Schongauer's 1473 triptych, "The Madonna of the Rose Bower." The Musée Bartholdi celebrates the creator of the Statue of Liberty, who was born in Colmar.