Let me ask you a question: what’s your favourite French region? What’s the first place, town or area that pops into your head when you think of France? For me, it’s obviously Paris! I mean, I guess I’m pretty biased as I used to live there but still… What about other people? Well, I recently asked a couple of fellow travel writers what their favourite French destinations are and why:
Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy: Jurga from Full Suitcase
One of our favourite places to visit in France is the Normandy region. Normandy has such a good mix, the very best of France in one place. You will find the most beautiful coastlines, pristine nature, quaint little towns, and so much history here. And don’t forget the famous apple cider and the Normandy crêpes!
Some of my top suggestions to visit in Normandy include the D-Day Beaches, the cliffs of Etretat, the picturesque town of Honfleur, and probably the most famous landmark – Le Mont-Saint-Michel.
Mont Saint-Michel is a magical island with a medieval abbey on the very top of the rocky mountain in the otherwise flat landscape. Its’ incredible location makes the Mont Saint-Michel a fairytale-like destination that will impress even the most seasoned travelers. Mont St. Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s considered one of France’s most stunning landmarks.
However, the island suffers from its own popularity and it can be difficult to appreciate the beauty and the uniqueness of the place if you have to fight your way through the crowds. We suggest to visit the island in the evening when most day tourists have left, and you can have the whole place to yourself.
Jurga, Full Suitcase, Facebook
The Alsace Wine Route: Rohan from Travels of a Bookpacker
The Alsace Wine Route is a stunning area of France located along the border with Germany. It’s a great area to explore over a few weeks or even just a long weekend. The route can be walked, cycled or driven and there are plenty of places to stay along the way, from campgrounds to fancy hotels. Each small town offers a variety of delicious wines, cobbled streets to walk through and plenty of cafes and restaurants to enjoy. You can take a leisurely stroll through the vineyards or a more adventurous hike between towns or to castles and monasteries along the route. We loved the hike from Eguisheim to the three castles (about 4 hours round trip) which provided amazing views.
Strasbourg is a gorgeous town to start the route and also makes a good base. If you’re starting from the South, Mulhouse is the main transport hub but is not as picturesque. Other towns that are definitely worth stopping in are Colmar, Eguisheim, Ribeauville and Obernai. The roads between are often narrow and winding but the views are worth every minute. Forested hills, row upon row of vines and the terracotta roofs of the small towns. A perfect place to explore and enjoy some of the world’s finest wine.
Rohan, Travels of a Bookpacker, Facebook
Saint-Paul-de-Vence: Liza from Tripsget
One of my favourite destinations in France is a little charming medieval town called Saint-Paul-de-Vence. We discovered it by pure chance: on our last day in French Riviera we were in Monaco and it started raining a lot, so our plans to visit Bologna were ruined. We thought, however, what kind of town could look great even during heavy rain? Determined to find some lovely towns in the mountains not so far away from Nice, we checked a couple of blogs and found an article about Saint-Paul-de-Vence and without hesitating headed there. St. Paul-de-Vence is absolutely amazing: a small French town full of artisan shops with art, medieval buildings, and classy restaurants.
Why should you visit St. Paul-de-Vence? If you want something different than coastal towns in Cote D’Azur, it’s a perfect place for a 3-hour getaway. It’s not so far from Nice or Cannes (if you are based there) and you easily reach it by car. There are enough parking lots, but not enough places in the restaurants, so better plan your visit a bit ahead and call a restaurant for a reservation. In St. Paul-de-Vence, you can also buy art and some cute French souvenirs and of course, take some great photos. It always looks great, even when it rains, so don’t hesitate to visit this town on a rainy day.
Liza, Tripsget, Instagram
Provence: Erin from The World Wanderer
Last spring, I was lucky enough to take a Viking River Cruise through Provence. This was an area of France I had always wanted to see, and suddenly I was able to see a good amount of it over the course of a week. While I truly loved each area we visited, I really fell in love with Avignon. During my time in town, I took a food tour and got to sample the best of French cuisine. We visited the markets and enjoyed fresh cheese, bread, and olives. Then, we made our way to a sweet shop for traditional sweets of the area, including nougat and chocolate olives. As we made our way from shop to shop, we wandered around the streets, soaking in French culture. The walled city had beautiful architecture, and it quickly worked its way into my heart.
We were even able to attend a cooking class at Maison de Fogasses, a unique restaurant and art gallery. There, we made an olive bread and a dessert and while it was baking, we enjoyed a game of pétanque in the backyard. Instead of feeling like a tourist, we were able to feel like locals. Maybe I love Avignon so much because of my experience there, but it truly is a special part of France. A place I think everyone should visit at least once.
Erin, The World Wanderer, Instagram
Lorraine / Alsace: Tamara from Girls Wanderlust
My favourite French region is the Alsace / Lorraine. It may not surprise you that’s the reason why I’ve lived here for five months to do an internship for my study Tourism Management four years ago. Lorraine and the Alsace are located in the north of France, at the border of Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium.
I did my internship at Center Parcs, located close to the little town Hattigny and in the middle of a forest. It’s a real paradise for the nature lovers. The location is very beautiful and serene. The closest city from my house during those five months was Sarrebourg: a typical French little city with cozy streets, friendly people and nice places to eat or drink something.
If you would like to go to some bigger cities, you should definitely pay a visit to Nancy and Strasbourg. Especially Strasbourg is a city I’ve fell in love with. It’s very versatile and I’ve visited it twice during my time in France. One of those two times there was a Christmas market. If you love this time of the year, it’s really worth the visit. It’s very extensive and it brings you immediately into the Christmas ambiance. Strasbourg also has a really pretty and cozy neighbourhood called La Petit France. Going here is an absolute must! Get in love with the typical French houses, the canals, and the cosy places.
Tamara, Girls Wanderlust, Facebook
Languedoc: Danielle from World-Smith
In the south of France, Provence gets all the love. Get off the beaten path to go to Languedoc-Roussillon and you’ll be richly rewarded. I first learned about the Languedoc – a huge region on the Mediterranean close to the Pyrenees mountains – when I was in college, looking for cheap flights between the UK and France. RyanAir had a route to Beziers and off I flew. Beziers is a charming Mediterranean town where practically no one speaks English. In fact, the city is so close to the Spanish border, locals are more likely to understand Spanish than English. There are loads of wineries in the area, and the beautifully preserved medieval fortress Carcassonne is within an hour train ride.
I revisited the area on my RTW trip with a two-day Couchsurfing stay in Montpellier, ostensibly the regional capital. The iconic Les Trois Graces sculpture looks over the Place de la Comedie and its classic 18th-century architecture. There’s a strong modern design culture in Montpellier as well. World-renowned architects like Jean Nouvel have taken to designing new buildings in the city, such as the Hotel de Ville town hall and Le Nuage fitness center. Even the colorful trams are in on the fun!
So, wine, history, architecture. Still gonna turn your nose up at the Languedoc?
Danielle, World-Smith, Facebook
Dordogne: Tracy from Tracys Travels in Time
My favourite French region is the Dordogne. The Dordogne is a department in southwestern France with lots to offer visitors.
The medieval town of Sarlat-le-Caneda with its pedestrianized streets, markets, and beautiful sandstone coloured buildings is a must-visit in the region. Wander the narrow cobbled lanes of Sarlat and feast on local produce in the town’s many restaurants.
Once you have appreciated all that Sarlat has to offer a short car journey will lead you to the picturesque villages of Domme, Beynac, Castlenaud-la-Chappelle and Laroque Gageac. Sit by the Dordogne River with a picnic of fresh bread, local cheeses and perhaps a cheeky glass of French wine. Other attractions in the area include world famous caves and prehistoric cave paintings in and around Les Ezyies and the Vezere valley.
If you are feeling a little more active rent a canoe and spend hours lazily drifting down the Dordogne. Appreciate the beautiful chateau and gorgeous scenery as you wind your way along the river. So an area full of beautiful old towns and villages. Local produce including walnuts, nougat, and truffles. And a wonderful river to spend lazy summer days besides.
See why I love the Dordogne!
Tracy, Tracy’s Travels in Time, Facebook
Nice/ Côte d’Azur: Naomi from Probe Around the Globe
As a kid, my family would always go to the area below Bordeaux in France, so this year was the first time I went to the Côte d’Azur! I booked a weekend trip to Nice and I was amazed how beautiful and diverse the region is. Of course, I knew about the attractive sights of the Côte d’Azur, like beautiful weather, jet set lifestyle and secluded villages where the rich and famous may or may not have a villa.
But what people never told me was the amazing history that lies beneath it. Being part of Italy and the house of Savoy for centuries, this part of France is the youngest region of the country! I indulged in the great food of the region with a food tour of Nice and stuffed my face with gelato. To explore more, I took several day trips by train and discovered ancient villages, secluded monasteries, and medieval castles. I loved it so much; I went back with my mom a month later!
Besides the sunshine and luxurious lifestyle of the rich and famous, Nice, the Côte d’Azur and the hinterland have so much more to offer for people who look food culture, history, and beautiful landscapes. You can lay on the beach, hike in the mountains, go to the casino and wine and dine in style and all this in 1 day! I think I might go back again soon!
Naomi, Probe Around the Globe, Facebook
Cover Photo: Jurga from Full Suitcase