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Best Places to Visit in France

France is home to some of the most beautiful cities, towns and countrysides on the globe. U.S. News considered factors like variety of attractions, lodging, weather and culinary scenes to create this ranking of the best places to visit in France. Whether you're seeking an action-packed sightseeing adventure or a relaxing wine retreat, you'll find a fun French vacation here. To influence next year's ranking, vote below for your favorite destinations in France.


Best Places to Visit in France

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    #1 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Paris is one of the world's best places to visit, so it's no surprise it tops this list. France's capital city attracts visitors year-round with iconic attractions like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, incredible architecture and unparalleled dining and shopping scenes. Keep in mind, Paris is often flooded with tourists and room rates can be pricey. If you're looking for a deal, travel in winter or early spring.

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    Loire Valley

    #2 in Best Places to Visit in France

    For a romantic escape, visit the Loire Valley in central France. Situated along the Loire River, the area is peppered with châteaux, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, farms and wineries. The region itself is even a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its beauty and historical villages. Plan to spend some time in a few of the valley's laid-back cities and towns, such as Orléans, Tours and Saumur.

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    #3 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Since shedding its seedy reputation, France's oldest and second-largest city has become an exciting, up-and-coming tourist destination. The former European Capital of Culture has a number sights to see, including the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde and the Cathédrale de la Major. When the weather is nice, the rocky cliffs and secluded beaches of the Calanques are excellent for swimming, boating and hiking. No trip to Marseille would be complete without a stop by the Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée (Mucem). Its rooftop terrace makes the perfect vantage point to admire the city.

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    #4 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Glamorous Nice occupies a picturesque spot along the French Riviera. Beach bums and culture hounds alike will enjoy the city's pebbly shores, engaging museums, boutique shops and Baroque-style palaces. You'll likely spend a pretty penny on lodging and beach access, but experiencing Nice is worth it. To save some coin, travel between mid-March and April or from September to October, the area's shoulder seasons.

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    #5 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Despite its war-filled past, this region in northern France is also a place of great beauty. Renowned impressionist Claude Monet certainly thought so. The artist was inspired by Normandy's landscapes, so much so that he created some of his most famous paintings here. Etretat's white cliffs are a great place to take in the area's natural scenery. Visitors can also admire works of art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen or see some of the remnants of Normandy's heavy history at the D-Day Beaches and La Tapisserie de Bayeux.

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    #6 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Another popular wine region, Burgundy is home to rolling hills, superior cuisine and an array of vineyards. Those visiting Burgundy must spend time exploring the medieval villages, historical abbeys and museums that call this area home. And, of course, you can't leave without trying the region's vino, which mainly uses the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, and dining on some of its rich cuisine.

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    #7 in Best Places to Visit in France

    This wine-growing hub woos travelers with its riverbank location and surrounding countryside. With more than 100,000 vineyards, Bordeaux offers ample choices for those looking to sip some of the best wines in the world. In the city center, marvel at the Gothic-style Basilique Saint-Michel, walk across the Pont de Pierre (a beautiful stone bridge), snap a photo of the iconic Place de la Bourse and enjoy the Jardin Public's pathways and flora.

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    #8 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Quaint, charming Aix-en-Provence is a university town known for its tree-lined boulevards, cute cafes and lively markets. Life moves at a more leisurely pace here than in other French cities, meaning it's the perfect place for travelers to get to know the locals and get lost in the scenic streets. Make sure to add Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur and Le Grand Marché – two of the city's top attractions – to your itinerary.

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    St. Tropez

    #9 in Best Places to Visit in France

    After Brigitte Bardot filmed "And God Created Woman" here in 1956, St. Tropez transformed from an unknown fishing village to a symbol of glamour and hedonism. But there is more to this French Riviera hot spot than partying and yacht-hopping. After a day on one of the destination's famous beaches, travelers can stroll through the Vieux Port, check out its museums or visit La Tarte Tropézienne to taste the eponymous dessert. St. Tropez's many boutiques also make it easy to keep up with the town's fashionable, and sometimes famous, guests.

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    #10 in Best Places to Visit in France

    The French Riviera's second-largest city is packed with great beaches, gorgeous art and gigantic yachts. Antibes was beloved by many notable figures like Pablo Picasso, whose works can be found in his former studio that is now the Musée Picasso. The museum is located in Antibes' Old Town, a picturesque district full of local shops, markets and some of the city's best restaurants. The scenic, 3-mile Chemin des Douaniers takes visitors from Old Town to the chic Cap d'Antibes area.

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    #11 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Famous for its annual film festival in May, Cannes is just as impressive (and much less congested) other times of the year. Cannes is another French Riviera hot spot that welcomes travelers looking for a little relaxation. Visitors can sightsee as they stroll along La Croisette, the city's mile-long promenade, or sit down for an exquisite meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Feeling lucky? Stop by one of the city's casinos.

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    #12 in Best Places to Visit in France

    While it may not be as well known as big-name cities like Paris, Lyon competes with the best of them. Despite being the third-largest city in France, Lyon is much calmer and less touristy than other similarly sized destinations. The streets are filled with public art, including the city's famous trompe l'oeil murals, and there are museums that focus on everything from movies to history. Plus, it's home to hundreds of wineries and 2,000-plus restaurants, several of which boast Michelin stars, making it especially appealing to oenophiles and foodies.

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    French Alps

    #13 in Best Places to Visit in France

    If your ideal French vacation involves a little more nature and a little less city, head to the French Alps. Here, you'll find some of the best ski slopes in Europe, as well as beautiful scenery that rivals any work of art or architecture. In summer, the typically snow-covered mountains thaw just enough to create perfect conditions for hiking and biking. Charming villages sit at the base of the range, offering several places to unwind when you've had enough fun on the slopes or trails.

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    #14 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Catch some waves in Biarritz, France's surfing capital. This once sleepy fishing village became a playground for Europe's royalty in the 1850s thanks to Louis Napoleon and his wife, Eugénie. Today, their former palace, which is now the luxurious Hôtel du Palais Biarritz, is more likely to be inhabited by surfers looking to take advantage of Biarritz's fantastic waves. After a day at the beach, visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the town's streets or test Lady Luck at one of France's largest casinos.

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    #15 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Located on France's Mediterranean coast, Toulon is the country's primary naval base. It may not initially seem like a tourist destination, but Toulon offers all kinds of attractions and activities. Those interested in learning about the city's military history should check out the Musée National de la Marine and the Mémorial du Débarquement et de la Libération de Provence. Meanwhile, sports fans can tour the Stade Mayol rugby arena or catch a match in fall, winter or spring. For the best view of Toulon, visitors can ride the cable car to the top of Mont Faron.

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    Mont Saint-Michel

    #16 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Rising above the sea like a castle in a fairy tale, Mont Saint-Michel is one of France's most-visited sights. Legend says the archangel Michael, the island's namesake, repeatedly appeared to Bishop Aubert of Avranches in dreams, telling him to build a church on top of the island in A.D. 709. Since its completion, it has become an important religious and educational site for Christian pilgrims and European intellectuals. Visitors can tour the picturesque abbey and admire its incredible medieval architecture or wander its surrounding streets, which are lined with tiny shops and quaint cafes.

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    #17 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Often called "France's Isle of Beauty," Corsica features diverse landscapes and a unique culture that make it seem like a miniature continent. The Mediterranean island's clear blue water and white sand beaches are ideal for sunbathing, snorkeling and kayaking, while its mountainous terrain and dense forests provide ample opportunities to hike trails like the highly regarded (albeit challenging) GR20. What's more, Corsica offers a one-of-a-kind food scene that showcases various local delicacies, such as prisuttu (dry-cured ham) and brocciu (cheese).

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    #18 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Northwestern France's Brittany region stands out from the rest of the country in more ways than one. Locals are proud and protective of their Celtic heritage, including their unique language, traditions and festivals. As a result, visitors will find many well-preserved historical sites throughout the area, including prehistoric megaliths and medieval towns. Brittany also features breathtaking coastlines with fantastic beaches that are known for their phenomenal surf, dive spots and dolphin-spotting opportunities.

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    #19 in Best Places to Visit in France

    Strasbourg offers the perfect mix of French and German culture thanks to its location on the France-Germany border. While here, travelers should see the city's Gothic-style cathedral and stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Petite France neighborhood. Plus, those with an interest in politics can tour several important European institutions during their visits, including the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. For an extra dose of charm, arrive in December to see one of Europe's oldest Christmas markets.

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    #20 in Best Places to Visit in France

    This tiny village about 45 miles northwest of Paris is best known for its ties to Claude Monet. The world-renowned impressionist painter spent the last 43 years of his life here, and his house – including its iconic water lily pond and bridge – is open to the public. There are no paintings on display inside the house, but art lovers can head to the nearby Giverny Museum of Impressionism to see an excellent collection of impressionist art. Just be sure to visit during the warmer months since both of these can't-miss attractions close annually from November to late March.

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    #21 in Best Places to Visit in France

    To see some of France's most spectacular art and architecture, head to Avignon. This city in southeastern France is full of stunning Gothic buildings, including the 14th-century Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace in the world. A number of can't-miss museums are spread throughout Avignon as well, such as the Musée Angladon, which houses works by highly regarded artists like Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. Visit in July to attend the Festival d'Avignon, one of the world's largest performing arts festivals.

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    #22 in Best Places to Visit in France

    If you love to ski, chances are you'll enjoy shredding powder at Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. In Chamonix (the main place to stay if you want to ski at Mont Blanc), you'll have easy access to the longest run in Europe (Vallée Blanche) and rugged, challenging slopes. But this destination, which hosted the 1924 Winter Olympics, offers more than just top-notch skiing. Chamonix is also a great place to go hiking, mountain biking and whitewater rafting. For some family-friendly fun, visit the town's adventure park to zip down its Alpine coaster and various slides.

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    #23 in Best Places to Visit in France

    As the capital of France's Champagne region, Reims is a must-visit destination for wine lovers and history buffs. The city offers many Champagne cellars where visitors can learn about how the popular wine is produced before tasting it. Additionally, Reims features breathtaking Gothic architecture at attractions like Reims Cathedral, where 25 French monarchs were crowned between 1223 and 1825, and the adjacent Palace of Tau, the former residence of France's archbishops. No visit would be complete without perusing the exhibits in one of Reims' museums.

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    #24 in Best Places to Visit in France

    You'll feel as if you've stepped back in time during a stroll within the fortified walls of Carcassonne. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed city was restored to its former medieval glory in the 1800s. In the upper, older part of town known as La Cité, you can tour storybook streets and magnificent cathedrals. And in the lower and newer (but equally historic) Bastide St. Louis area, you'll find various shops and cafes. Before you leave, check out the statue of Lady Carcas, the city's namesake, according to local legend.

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    #25 in Best Places to Visit in France

    It's easy to see why Colmar, the Alsace region's wine capital, is considered one of France's most beautiful cities. Colorful houses that look as if they belong in a fairy tale line the Little Venice district, where you can take a boat tour through Colmar's canals or reach boutiques and eateries on foot. The setting is picturesque regardless of when you vacation here, but for even more charm, visit Colmar at night when lights illuminate the city during annual events like the Colmar International Festival, Alsace's wine fair and Colmar's Christmas market.

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