Francophiles and travelers will always debate enthusiastically about the best holiday destinations in France. Some will argue for the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), whilst others will cite the lush green Loire Valley. There will be concrete cases to present Brittany as having some of the best holiday destinations in France and there will be strong arguments for the Alps in both summer and winter. With fabulous cities, gorgeous countryside and beautiful coastlines to choose from here’s my pick of the 10 best holiday destinations in France:
I’m going to be really obvious and choose Paris as the first pick. If you are only going to go visit France once in a lifetime, you can do nothing but choose Paris. The fabulous City of Light is exceptional. It is packed with iconic landmarks and attractions. Monuments, squares, buildings, museums, galleries and gardens are plenty enough to fill your days. Add in the superlative restaurants and the fabulous shopping and you really do have the ultimate, not just the best holiday destination in France.
On the side of a deep cliff valley cut by a tributary of the River Dordogne, stands the architectural beauty that is Rocamadour. The town is a major pilgrimage center, with visitors coming to pay homage to the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin. The historic town’s buildings seem precariously perched under the monastery and churches overlooking the gorge, but they’ve stood for hundreds of years, so they’ll stand for a good time yet. This is a stunningly gorgeous rural part of France and the perfect place to base yourself for a driving tour. This is wine country and Bordeaux is a 2 hour drive away.
3 Ile De Re
Not many people think of the Atlantic coast when they consider the best holiday destinations in France. It’s a shame, because rugged cliffs give way to lovely sweeping swathes of golden sand. Off the coast, opposite and connected by bridge to the popular resort of La Rochelle, is Ile de Re (Island of the King). The island enjoys the same number of hours of sunshine as the Riviera so there’s no reason to not head here for the sandy beaches. The markets are fun, and if you’ve ever heard of the TV show, Fort Boyard, it is filmed here.
4 Cruising Alsace-Lorraine
Boating through Alsace-Lorraine is definitely one of the best holidays in France. This unique corner of France just begs to be explored on a cruise along its rivers and canals, or book your own boat, and navigate yourself, soaking up the blend of French and German culture. The beautiful Gallic-Tuetonic mix is evident in the language, architecture, customs, cuisine and wines and the countryside is pretty stunning too.
The beaches of Normandy are associated with the D-Day landings of WWII, but they have long recovered and are today, as stunning as they were before conflict churned the sand and sea of the northern coast of France. The beaches were chosen because they are wide sweeping and flat and from some of the cliffs of the Normandy coast you can see miles and miles. I’ve chosen Bayeux as one of the best places in France for a holiday because it adds a little something you won’t get elsewhere in this area because it is home to that legendary tapestry. But, Bayeux is also a beautiful old city. Wander its lovely old streets, visit its cathedral and churches, and do some shopping – don’t forget to pick up a Normandie tarte-aux-pommes (apple tart).
All of the towns along the Cote d’Azur claim to be the best holiday destinations in France. Although almost running into Antibes, there’s a distinct vibe to Juan-les-Pins its neighbor can’t equal. Juan-les-Pins is one of the playgrounds of the rich and famous but its beautiful bay, pristine beach and swanky marina are accessible to us mere mortals. Hire a Vespa to tour the coast road, walk among the luxury art deco streets, dine in fabulous restaurants, sit on the marina and enjoy the view (if you can see past the luxury yachts), have a flutter in the casino and shop in designer boutiques.
With her streets straddling the River Rhone, the grand old dame of Avignon is a sight to behold from wherever you look at it. The St. Benezet Bridge, yes you can dance on it if you wish, one of the most recognizable in Europe, is a treat especially when illuminated at night. The medieval buildings almost whisper their ancient secrets as you pass them by and history literally seeps out of the city’s pores. This was a one-time home of popes and the Papal Palace and the Dome church are still the major attractions of Avignon. What also makes Avignon one of the best holiday destinations in France is that it is Provence.
For a taste of France with an exotic feel, choose Corsica. This Mediterranean island is resplendent with beaches, traditional fishing villages, luxury resorts, Napoleonic history, a fierce patriotism and some of the most unique scenery in Europe. It is home to the GR20 walking trail – one of the most rigorous hikes but also one of the most rewarding. Even if you choose to drive, your routes will take you through mountains and valleys, sweet pastures, pine and chestnut forests and past glassy lakes and frothy rivers. Or, you can find a secluded patch of sand, throw down your towel and simply enjoy one of the best places for a holiday in France for beach lovers.
There are wine growing areas all over France, but the Champagne region has to be the most indulgent of destinations for a French holiday for wine lovers. Stay in a majestic chateau hotel among the vineyards, or base yourself in one of the 3 Champagne cities – Reims, Troyes and Epernay. A city base means you have the added bonus of all the history and the culture surrounding the production of champagne as well as being able to get out and tour the vineyards.
10 The Alps
It wouldn’t be right to leave the alpine region out of these picks. The Alps are called the backbone of Europe and the tallest peak is Mont Blanc in France, close to the Swiss border. There are many resorts in the French Alps that are brilliant destinations for winter holidays in France, that easily make the transition to summer resorts for outdoor activities. Chamonix, Grenoble, Albertville, Meribel and Val d’Isere are some of the biggest names, but tons of small towns and villages offer chalets and hotels from where to enjoy all manner of snow sports and fabulous après-ski in winter, and walking, hiking, biking, golf, fishing, tennis and swimming in summer.
I’m going to leave it to you, dear readers, to decide from these best destinations for a holiday in France. No doubt, I will also hear from you if you have other suggestions too.