From the gardens of Giverny to the rolling lavender fields of Provence, France is full of emblematic sites and fascinating things to see, so much that it can be hard to decide where to start.
To help you plan your next trip to l’Hexagone, we’ve rounded up a list of 10 must-see places in France to use as a travel guide. Check it out below!
The vineyards of Champagne
Rising to the top of our list (quite like festive bubbles!), the beautiful, sloping vineyards of the Champagne region are among the most interesting of France’s must-see places. From touring the imposing castles that are home to some of the most well-known Champagne Maisons, to intimate tastings at the smaller family-owned domaines, it is a destination with no shortage of must-see places. For everything to do there, get your copy of our Nov/Dec 21 issue, which features an entire “Discovering Guide” dedicated to the sparkling area!
The castles of the Loire Valley
The hundreds of castles that line the shores of the Loire river and its surrounding valley are strong on our list of France’s must-see places. Built largely between the 15th and 17th centuries as secondary homes for Paris’ nobility, the region’s sheer quantity of charming châteaux, uniform in their emblematic beige stone from the area, but varied in architectural styles that reflect the they were built, is enchanting, to say the least. These elegant homes, along with dozens of vineyards, the Loire Valley makes for a very worthwhile trip. Be sure to check our March 2020 issue for a detailed guide to the area, complete with our full list of places to eat, sleep, wine taste and more!
The Calanques of Cassis
Further west, on the shores, is one of France’s most famous must-see places: the beaches of Cassis. A port city situated just outside of Marseille, these sandy stretches boast coves that are a favorite of locals, each of who have a favorite path to navigate the abrupt cliffs that lead to the sea, and visitors alike – ideal places to observe typical Mediterranean beaches in all their glory, including the famous site nicknamed le doigt de Dieu (the finger of God). Clear, turquoise-blue waters; soft, pale sand and jagged, craggy rocks that plunge straight into the sea, Cassis is home to by far the most iconic of les plages Marseillaises!
Provence’s lavender fields
Softly rolling rows of purple blooms as far as the eye can see, with a gentle warm breeze carrying their fragrance even further… The lavender fields of Provence are truly indissociable from the region’s aesthetic and are deservedly part of France’s list of must-see places. Exposed to warm, changing daylight throughout the day, the fields are ever-evolving sites that are a feast for all the senses. A truly special seasonal experience, experience the wonderful colors through our virtual tour of the Provençal lavender fields.
The gardens of Giverny
Closer to home for MFCH are the world-famous gardens of Giverny, a living testimony to the talent of the master of Impressionism: Claude Monet. Follow in his footsteps as you plunge into the very nature that inspired Claude’s most revered paintings, from jardins teeming with flowers, boxed plants and savage trees to whimsical, flower-covered ponds to the artist’s own former home – today the home of his namesake-foundation. A memorable stroll down a lane of historical and bucolic beauty (check out Hotel Baudy for some delicious comfort food if you run into some typically wet Norman weather)!
Toulouse’s Canal du Midi
We believe that the town of Toulouse deserves a place on any list of must-see places in France, but you can judge for yourself from our “Discovering Guide” to La Ville Rose (The Pink City), published in our May/June 21 issue. But, if we have to choose just one of Toulouse’s features to highlight, it would be the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that flows from the city to the Mediterranean. One of the oldest canals in Europe, it is also an outstanding path for cycling, long walks and boat rides – great activities for working up an appetite before indulging in all of Toulouse’s lavish food and wine offerings. Don’t miss out on our complete guide to the city if you want to learn about and make the most of an upcoming trip!
The island of Porquerolles
Just a short boat ride from the sandy beaches of Southern France lies the beautiful and unique island of Porquerolles; of the three îles gracing the coast of Toulon, it is undeniably the most sought-after. Listed as a natural reserve since 2012, Porquerolles’ access is actively restricted: tourists are only welcome until 6:00pm, when the last boat departs, and the island becomes the exclusive refuge of its lucky 200-some inhabitants. However, with several beautiful rental properties and hotels to choose from, the elite club can be yours to join on your next trip to the Mediterranean!
Palace of Versailles
Very few things symbolize so effectively the splendor and decadence of French decorative arts as the Palace of Versailles, with its sumptuous gilded architecture and lavish gardens. Trace the paths of Marie-Antoinette and the Sun King as you stroll the sprawling château grounds from one incredible site to the next, each seeming to outdo the next in wealth of ornate detail. If, sadly, you do not have a trip to Paris planned, you can get an aperçu of Versailles and its gardens in our virtual tour.
L’Île de Ré
L’Île de Ré is an island that lies off the coast of La Rochelle: a beach city dotted with charming, white houses with green and grey shutters and traversed by winding streets made narrower by blooming vine and wisteria flowers. If you haven’t yet discovered l’Île de Ré, you would best be off planning a trip! This natural seaside haven is best explored by bicycle –the best way to purvey and choose one of the island’s many restaurants, which most often feature the area’s seafood specialties. Help is on-hand to make the best of a future visit, thanks to our July/August 20 issue “Discovering Guide” dedicated to this unforgettable island.
The village of Mougins
To close out our list of must-see places in France, we return to the South of France for the village of Mougins – a true postcard of a town, complete with narrow, stone-paved streets; ivy-covered buildings and charming squares filled with the sound of beautiful, bubbling fountains. As an added bonus, the village enjoys a stunning view of the Mediterranean coast, which explodes into stunning pastel tones each evening. A truly authentic must-see slice of life on the Riviera!