Top 10 French Travel Destinations | Part 1

Top 10 French Travel Destinations | Part 1

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If somebody asks you to name the most romantic destination in Europe, you are most likely to recall France first as the country has confidently headed the list of the best places to go for a romantic holiday with your beloved ones.

It is unquestionable that France has it all: rare cultural heritage, outstanding mountain landscapes of the snow-white Alps, flowering valleys and vineyards, majestic medieval castles, and magnificent palaces. So, in this piece, we want to introduce you to the first half of the top 10 places you would love to include to your France itinerary! Ready for alluring French charms? Let’s get it started!

France is a dream destination for thousands of travelers, having so many paradise corners and exciting sights that are impossible to explore during only one trip. For your convenience, we’ve conditionally divided France into northern and central vs southern parts in order to show the contrast between different regions of the country and highlight more places worth visiting. We would love to start our discovery from the attractions of the northern and central regions as they include most of the French classics.

Enchanting Paris

It is no surprise that the greatest artists and poets of all time have been searching for inspiration here, in the charming French capital, so it’s quite difficult to count all the books and romantic movies about magical Paris.

Well, it is fair enough, and you’ll definitely feel that vibe from the very first minute of your stay in the heart of French charm and romance. So why Paris should be the starting point of your France trip?

The answer is pretty simple - the city is the goldmine of all true French classics at once!

Well, can you imagine a better way to experience authentic French spirit than starting your day by sipping a cup of coffee with a croissant in a tiny cafe with the views over the Eiffel Tower?

Enchanting Paris with Eiffel Tower

Then you set off on an exploration of the legendary masterpiece of Gothic architecture, Notre Dame de Paris, preceded by a picturesque walk along the most famous street of Paris, the Champs Elysees, and paying a visit to the most famous and largest museum in the world, iconic Louvre. As French, as it can possibly be, isn’t it?

Moreover, apart from the undeniable symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the left bank of the River Seine houses some more treasures like spectacular Pantheon with the tombs of Voltaire, Curie, Hugo, and other great Frenchmen as well as world-famous Paris-Sorbonne University. It is also impossible to forget about another outstanding symbol of French culture, Montmartre or the Mount of Martyrs, housing the magnificent Basilica of Sacre-Coeur. Now you see? Paris keeps marvels on almost every corner and there’s no chance you won’t fall in love with it! Consider expanding your Paris itinerary with a scenic train ride from Paris to London, which allows you to explore even more of Europe's captivating locations.

Quick Paris Facts

  • Founded: 259 BC
  • Population: 2,1 million (2019)
  • Must-visit sights: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame de Paris

Refined Palace of Versailles

It goes without saying that Paris suburbs deserve a special mention as they house one of the calling cards of France and a beloved destination among tourists - Chateau de Versailles. Interesting to know that until 1632 a small settlement of Versailles was quite an unremarkable village near Paris but it all changed when the place attracted the attention of His Majesty Louis XIII of France.

Being a passionate hunter, the king decided to build a hunting lodge in this town, thus giving Versailles a chance for a bright future and worldwide fame.

Refined Palace of Versailles

However, Versailles gained true royal grandeur only thanks to the son of the king, Louis XIV, who was very fond of the hunting lodge during his childhood and later decided to build a grand residence to embody the idea of the absolute power of the absolute monarchy in architecture.

The Sun King turned Versailles into a royal residence with a fantastic grand palace, surrounded by magnificent parks and cascades of fountains, which astound the imagination of people from all over the globe. So if you are one of those, desiring to feel the exquisite royal touch of France as well, you should include Versailles in your travel plans! No excuses!

Quick Versailles Facts

  • Opened: 1634
  • Architecture style: French Baroque architecture
  • Address: Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France

The Valley of Castles

Loire Valley has been the geographical and aristocratic center of France for several centuries as the proximity to Paris contributed to the prestige for building homes and castles in this area. Nowadays the region is a real mecca for travelers as the whole area of the Valley with the nearby cities was listed as one huge UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Can you imagine that the territory of Loire Valley nests more than 70 fancy castles of different epochs and styles?

The Valley of Castles

We bet that the memories of childhood fairy tales about brave knights and impressive castles won’t let you get away with missing at least one of the marvelous Loire Valley castles. Not to mention that the choice is incredibly rich!

You may start with the Chateau de Chambord, the masterpiece of French Renaissance, which was initially built under the direction of the famous Leonardo da Vinci, or you can go the gloomy citadels of Langeais or Chinon, or pay a visit to the majestic royal Castle of Blois, the largest of the Castles of Loire Valley.

The number of the castles is so impressive that you can easily choose your own fairytale!

Quick Loire Valley Facts

  • Founded: 52 BC
  • Location: Central France, by the middle stretch of Loure river
  • Must-see castles: Château d'Angers, Château de Loches, Château de Montrésor, Château de Goulaine

Fascinating Strasbourg

If you plan an extensive trip around Western Europe which would combine France and Germany (and maybe even something else?), you are likely to have Strasbourg on your agenda.

Strasbourg is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in eastern France, looking as if it has walked off the pages of some fantasy book.

A major gem of Strasbourg is the Old Town, Grand Ile, which was among the first ones in entire Europe to be inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Fascinating Strasbourg

In general, Strasbourg successfully combines its modern present with a wonderful medieval past, making the walk around the town pretty scenic and exciting.

The city is all about colorful narrow streets, an incredible Gothic cathedral, half-timbered houses, canals, and amazing cuisine. In addition, Strasbourg is the parliamentary capital of Europe, serving as the seat for the European Parliament, as well as one of the largest university centers of France.

Quick Strasbourg Facts

  • Founded: 1262
  • Population: 277,270 (2015)
  • Must-visit sights: Strasbourg Cathedral, The Grande Île & The Ponts Couverts

The Charms of Rouen

To complete the whole picture of northern France, we advise you to include the capital of Normandy, Rouen, in your travel plans. This lovely port city on the river Seine is an amazing cradle of architectural and religious heritage.

As for the most visited attractions of the city, you should certainly see the famous Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame of the 16th century. It is interesting to know that the cathedral was even considered to be the tallest building on the planet until 1880.

The facade of the cathedral was also perpetuated in the works of the famous artist Monet.

The Charms of Rouen

But, of course, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is far from being the only famous building preserved from the times of the dark Middle Ages.

Among other must-sees, you can find the Church of Saint-Ouen, built in the 14th century, the majestic Palace of Justice and the famous tower of Joan of Arc, the only part of Rouen Castle that survived.

Quick Rouen Facts

  • Founded: 1150
  • Population:111 360 (2018)
  • Must-visit sights: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, St. Maclou Catholic Church, Musée Le Secq des Tournelles

Glorious Le Havre

Welcome to Le Havre - a city in the north of France in the Normandy region. It is located on the right bank of the Seine near the mouth of the river and the shores of the English Channel. Le Havre is the largest French port and a dynamic modern city with many modern architectural structures. It was almost destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in the 60s of the 20th century from iron and concrete. The complex of monumental reinforced concrete buildings has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. One of the most famous sights of Le Havre is Notre Dame - the Cathedral of the 16th century, one of the oldest buildings in Le Havre. This Baroque church survived during the Second World War and is known for its organs, which Cardinal Richelieu donated.

Le Havre

The Cathedral has a small height due to the difficult ground. Graville Abbey is a medieval monastery founded in the 11th century. It is known for Gothic architecture and a large collection of religious art. In general, Le Havre embodies the desire for development and expanding horizons and inspires many tourists to explore France. A trip to Le Havre will show you France from a non-standard angle, and will allow you to feel the fleur of the Middle Ages and the heritage of the Celtic tribes.

Quick Le Havre Facts

  • Founded: 1517
  • Population:169 733 (2018)
  • Must-visit sights: Museum of Modern Art André Malraux, St Joseph's Church, Abbey Museum Graville

Historical Caen

Caen is the capital and largest city of the Lower Normandy region in northeastern France, a 2—hour drive from Paris. Caen is often considered the archetypal city of Normandy. The city of William the Conqueror, Caen, has a long and rich history. One of the main battles during the Normandy Landings during World War II occurred here when most of the city was destroyed. The city of William the Conqueror and the capital of the Duchy of Normandy, along with Rouen, the city inherited a wealthy architectural heritage, partially destroyed during the Battle of Caen. The city has preserved the memory of this key moment of the Second World War by building, in particular, a Peace Memorial, known throughout the world for the commemorative ceremonies that take place here.


The centuries-old history has endowed the city with many historical monuments, the main of which (two abbeys and a castle) were built under William the Conqueror in the XI century. The historical center is located west of the city, which was rebuilt after the Second World War. Caen was nicknamed "the city of a hundred bell towers" (like Rouen, Dijon, or Poitiers): there are about forty churches here, of which sometimes only part of the wall has been preserved. 86 buildings in the capital of Lower Normandy are protected as historical monuments, which is quite remarkable, given the disasters caused by the bombing in the summer of 1944.

Of course, as in the rest of Normandy, seafood, cider and calvados, pancakes, and local cheeses (such as the world-famous Camembert) are among the traditional dishes here. Tergoule (Norman rice pudding) and caramel are among the desserts. But the signature dish of Caen is Trips à la mode de Caen.

Quick Caen Facts

  • Founded: 1517
  • Population: 105 512 (2018)
  • Must-visit sights:  Mémorial de Caen, Caen Castle, Caen Castle

Magnificent Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is the most popular tourist attraction in the country, an important tourist center. About 3 million people visit the island every year. Historical and architectural monuments attract someone. Picturesque views and unique tides attract someone. In addition, the abbey located on the island is one of the most famous religious buildings and a place of pilgrimage. The abbey's history began in the early years of the VIII century when the first chapel was built on a gloomy and majestic rock. The construction of the monastery's main church began in the XI century.

Mont Saint-Michel

By the XIII century, the abbey had become one of the centers of attraction for pilgrims from France and throughout Europe. No wonder the monastery was nicknamed La Mervey - "miracle". The fortress island of Mont Saint-Michel is considered impregnable: it has survived several long sieges and has never been captured by the enemy. Tolkien's admirers can recognize the features of a cinematic fortress in the film adaptation of the writer's main book.

Quick Mont Saint-Michel Facts

  • Founded: 709
  • Population: 30 (2018)
  • Must-visit sights:  Église Saint-Pierre - Le Mont-Saint-Michel, La Tour Gabriel, Tombelaine

Lovely Brest

Brest is a city in the northwest of France in the Brittany region. It is an important port and the location of one of the largest naval bases in the country. Brest is not the most beautiful city in France. Most of its historic center was destroyed during the Second World War. The most remarkable feature of the city is the picturesque harbor, considered one of the most beautiful on the Atlantic coast. The name Brest probably comes from the Celtic word "hill".

Lovely Brest

Nothing is known about the settlement here until the 13th century. The first written mention of it dates back to 1240. Brest became important in the 17th century under Cardinal Richelieu. A large port was built here, soon becoming the French fleet's base. In the 17th century, Brest was fortified by the famous military engineer Vauban. In 1940, the city was occupied by German troops and in 1944 was almost completely destroyed by bombing. Among the attractions are the Brest Castle - the oldest monument in Brest, founded in the 17th century and survived the Second World War. This citadel "guards" the entrance to the bay and is a maritime museum.

Quick Brest Facts

  • Founded: 1631
  • Population: 139 926 (2018)
  • Must-visit sights:  Oceanopolis, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Brest, Musée National de la Marine

Petite Paimpont

Paimpont is a town located in central Brittany, approximately 40 kilometers west of Rennes and surrounded by the Paimpont Forest. Located in the Forest of Broceliande, one of the last remaining remnants of the ancient forests which once covered Brittany, this forest is part of this ancient forest. In terms of size, Paimpont is a small town which has developed around an abbey and is surrounded by forest. Located on a lake surrounded by the Brocéliande forest, the village of Paimpont and its abbey have a lovely setting.

Petite Paimpont

Although built on the site of a benedictine monastery that had already existed here for several centuries, the medieval Abbey is a lovely roman style building dating from the 13th century. The Abbey of Paimpont is surrounded by a square with wooden and granite buildings. Several restaurants and shops line the commercial street that leads from here. A two-kilometer walk leads to the Grotte de Notre Dame from the abbey through a park and forest.

Quick Paimpont Facts

  • Founded: 9th century
  • Population: 1 772 (2018)
  • Must-visit sights:  Siège de Merlin, Forêt de Paimpont, Château de Comper - Arthurian Centre

Summing up, all we mentioned above is just the smaller part of everything that France has in store and you’ll need a lot more than a one-week trip to dive into the unparalleled atmosphere of French cities. But how about surprises that the south of France conserves? In our next post, we’ll introduce you to the less classic but sunnier part of the country in the second part of our “Top 10 French Dream Destinations | Part 2”.