In our “Top 10 French Dream Destinations | Part 1” we’ve introduced you to the major destinations of the northern and central regions of France which are worth visiting. Now, let’s turn to the sunnier part of the country to see France from a different angle - with nice sandy beaches, azure bays, top-class resorts and colorful seaside towns with cozy winding streets.
The French south is one of the most charming corners of Europe that offers almost inexhaustible touristic opportunities and definitely can compete with Italy and Spain for the title of the best destination for spending an unforgettable summer holiday. So what are the must-sees of southern France?
Glamorous French Riviera
The French Riviera, often referred to as Cote d'Azur, is a famous region in the south of France which stretches along the Mediterranean coast from Marseille right to the borders of Italy. This region has gained world popularity primarily due to the glamour of the resorts, the beauty of its beaches, the quality of service as well as the exceptional atmosphere of pomp and chic.
Though the region has no official administrative division, the French Riviera traditionally includes such renowned resort cities as Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Saint-Tropez, Toulon, and others.
It is no surprise that pleasant the subtropical climate, warm sea, and scenic surroundings make Cote d'Azur an ideal spot for a fully packed elite summer vacation.
However, not only the sea and relaxing beach vibe but also some magnificent cultural sights make the French Riviera a magnet for travelers from around the world.
Thus, while in Nice, take a peaceful stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, a gorgeous pedestrian street graced by such impressive buildings like the Palais de la Méditerranée theater, the Villa Masséna, and other exquisite highlights.
The other remarkable resort, stylish Cannes, apart from being home to outstanding beaches, is famous for the international film festival and the picturesque Old Town, Le Suquet, dating back to the Roman Times and dominated by the Musée de la Castre.
Charming Port-City Marseille
This lovely port-city is often associated with the French Riviera, but we’ve decided that Marseille deserves giving a closer look. Being founded by Greeks about 6 centuries ago, Marseille has become the second largest city in France after Paris and houses an impressive number of gems to explore. Marseille is the city that intertwines cultures, different mentalities and customs, noisy fairs and markets full of exotic fruits and overseas trinkets.
It is advisable to start the walking tour from visiting the best-known hallmark of Marseille, the gorgeous Catholic basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, majestically towering the city and providing simply fantastic views of the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Then you may proceed to the Abbey of Saint Victor, the most ancient structure in the whole city which preserves catacombs and sarcophagus.
If you plan to explore Marseille surroundings, you just have to catch the opportunity to get to the Chateau d'If.
This medieval fortress is located on a small island Frioul and was described by Alexandre Dumas in his famous novel “the Count of Monte Cristo”.
During the French Revolution, it served as a prison, and several cameras have even survived till modern days. The castle has an observation deck which reveals a fascinating panorama of Marseille.
Treasures of Avignon
Is lazy sunbathing on one of French Riviera beaches not enough for you? Not satisfied when your holiday lacks extensive historic sightseeing? Don’t worry!
You may be surprised but the French south boasts quite a wide choice of historical sights to broaden your horizons.
One of them, without a doubt, is Avignon which has played an important role in the history of Europe.
Located in one of the most picturesque regions of France, breathtaking Provence, the city of Avignon is a small but culturally saturated place so you’ll need a couple of days to explore it without much rush.
It is interesting that of the old part of Avignon is surrounded by a 5 km (3 miles) long City Wall, built in 14-15th centuries.
This medieval fortification still keeps the spirit of the ancient times and creates the sense of cohesion and unity of the Old Town.
Diving into the history, it turns out that during the Middle Ages, Avignon served as the residence of the Popes for almost a century.
So that explains the fact that the main attraction of Avignon is the majestic Fr. Palais des Papes d’Avignon, constructed in the 14th century and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some people say that the palace is a simplified version of the pompous Vatican. But it is all up to you to decide!
Still curious? Then you may also visit the Saint-Benezet Bridge or the “bridge that leads to nowhere” because only 4 of the 22 spans have survived safe and sound so the bridge just ends abruptly in the middle of the Rhone River.
Or you can go to the 12th-century Avignon Cathedral, decorated with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary.
Aristocratic essence of Bordeaux
Did you know that southern France has its own “Paris”? If the answer is “no”, we are glad to introduce you to Bordeaux, the capital of one of the world's most famous wine regions. The city has collected all the best of French classics, its grandeur and elegance, so no one would dispute why its whole Old Town was recognized by UNESCO and listed among the World Heritage Sites.
Elegant and aristocratic streets and squares of Bordeaux attract thousands of tourists every year.
We offer to start your acquaintance with the Old Town from the Saint-Michel Quarter, set around the Basilica of Saint-Michel and the bell tower with an impressive spire that’s 114 meters (374 ft) high.
You may also refine your Bordeaux itinerary with such exquisite sights as the Place de la Bourse, Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, and the gorgeous Cathedral of Saint Andrew of Bordeaux. We promise that you won’t be disappointed.
Of course, apart from architectural gems, the region of Bordeaux has one more distinctive feature we can’t forget to mention.
Bordeaux is widely known for its gastronomic traditions. Who hasn’t heard of the great local wines? The region boasts ancient wine-making traditions, originating all the way from the first century A.D., and produces around 660 million bottles of wine per year! So, being in Bordeaux, you just can’t miss the opportunity to set off on a local wine degustation. In any case, what can be better than sipping a glass of excellent wine with a slice of delicate cheese in France?
The Gem of the Mediterranean
Those, who have already seen the major attractions of the mainland, can spice up their France journey by traveling to Corsica. This sun-kissed island, washed by the waters of the Mediterranean, is the quintessence of French and Italian spirits.
By the way, marvelous Corsica is known worldwide as the birthplace of the commander and emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, who grew up in the island’s capital, Ajaccio.
Travelers, coming to the island, enthusiastically praise the magnificent local resorts, beautiful beaches, and natural wonders Corsica abounds in. Inspiring mountain ranges and craggy peaks, roaring mountain rivers and crystal lakes, picturesque bays and all shades of blue of the Mediterranean Sea are all here to amaze you.
If you are not interested in lazy recreation, you should know that Corsica is a true paradise for fans of outdoor activities. You can do mountain sports, ride bikes, go parasailing or surfing, ride a horse, and take long walks along the sea. History lovers may also explore amazing local resort towns, including Ajaccio, Bastia, and Calvi.
To conclude, France is the country of everlasting love and unfaded beauty, praised and perpetuated by lots of famous writers, artists, and singers. Of course, it is difficult to feel the whole gamma of emotions that France can raise, visiting only one city or region. That’s why, for planning your upcoming tour to France, we encourage you to combine destinations in different parts of the country to get a more saturated experience. And we’ll help you to create your ideal French “recipe” with pleasure!