Is it finally time to take your dream vacation? Allow us to suggest France. It is a country of splendid landscapes, stately chateaus, glittering coastlines, and pinch-me-I’m-dreaming cuisine. But for all its cultural and visual wonders, many people look no further than Paris. Sure, the Eiffel Tower and L’Arc de Triomphe are certainly worth a visit—but France has so much more to see!
Of course, we know not everyone takes the same approach to vacation, which is why we’re doing something a little different. Below you’ll find suggestions for where to go depending on your unique travel style. Are you the outdoorsy type? A total romantic? Do you enjoy stepping off the beaten path or living like a local? We’ve got you covered with this list of the best places to visit in France.
For those of you who love a good sand-and-surf scene but still want to kick the adrenaline up a few notches, you can’t do better than Urville-Nacqueville. This classic beach destination sits on the English Channel and is a major hot-spot for lovers of the surf scene. It’s also perfect for those who love sailing, diving and windsurfing. Basically, this is the place to come for water sports in France. You can bike here for the day from Cherbourg, or drive from Paris in about four hours. If you want to avoid having to protect against the chill with a wetsuit, come in the summer.
The Alps are an amazing destination any time of year: in fall when the leaves change, in winter when snow lies heavy on the ground, in spring when the trees unfurl their greenery, and in summer when the whole country is drenched in radiant sunlight. You really can’t go wrong in the Alps. Check out winter events such as Megavalanche and truffle hunting, or come in fall for the pressing of the grapes.
The Off-the-Beaten-Path Tourist
Retro Trailer Park
If you want to go back in time and experience some good old-fashioned Americana in the south of France, you can’t go wrong with the Retro Trailer Park. Situated among decade-appropriate landscaping, each of 10 trailers is designed in a theme from the ’40s though the ’70s. The nearby medieval town of Mirepoix is a great place to discover breathtaking architecture and indulge in traditional French fare. Come in spring, summer or fall for spectacular views of the Pyrenees.
Want to go where no car has gone before? Okay, that’s probably not true, but you do have a bit more freedom on a bike. If you’re interested in seeing more remote parts of the French countryside, you can find a huge range of bike tours that leave from almost every major city in France. When it comes to cycling, the sky really is the limit. Stop in old taverns, see medieval architecture, and enjoy shimmering fields of grain and rows of grapes. Try to avoid rainy times of year (mostly summer and winter), which might spoil the sweeping views—and your ability to stay dry.
Ever visited a town that was sometimes an island? We thought not. Mont-St-Michel will meet and exceed your expectations for romance, located about a kilometer off the Normandy coast and completely surrounded by water at high tide. This medieval village features impressive towers and ramparts, gardens, restaurants, and gloriously views. Driving from Paris to Rennes takes roughly 3.5 hours, then you’ve got another 60 miles to Mont-St-Michel. You can also take a train from Paris to Rennes and a bus the rest of the way. This destination can really be enjoyed any time of year, and is glorious in the snow, if you’re lucky enough to get some. Candlelit dinners, neo-Gothic architecture, and rambling walks complete the romance.
The region after which almost every French bakery ever has been modeled, Provence is a stunning destination for the romantic at heart. The music (heavy on the accordion), floral prints, delicious baked goods, and well-maintained gardens and walking paths all make Provence ideal for a fairytale getaway. Check out the Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseilles, seven hours by car from Paris, or lie on sandy beaches along the Mediterranean. Gather bunches of lavender by hand in early fall or head out on a wine tour.
The When-in-Rome Traveler
This region is where the locals head when they’re looking for a break. Champagne (the drink) just isn’t Champagne unless it’s produced in this unfathomably beautiful corner of France. Try visiting one of the classic wineries, such as Dom Perignon or Moët & Chandon, which have ruled the Champagne industry for centuries. When you visit, you can sample the product, visit ancient cellars, eat amuse-bouches, and maybe even splurge on a bottle of your own. Champagne is a brief 90 miles from Paris—an easy drive or train ride.
The Three Corniches
This is the ultimate “do as the French do” destination. The Three Corniches are the three coastal roads that meet up along this scenic corner of France. These roads twist along cliffs between Nice and the city-state of Monaco, both famous for their roles in countless movies as well as the luxurious accommodations and restaurants that abound along the Mediterranean. This is a great destination for a winter getaway, since it’s still fairly balmy, though you’ll want a coat at night. The drive from Paris takes more than eight hours, so make sure you’ve got plenty of time to spend on vacation.