In 2020, my goal for my blog was pretty clear – I was going to travel as much as I possibly could and change the direction of my blog completely. With a clear focus on travel, UK and abroad, I was beyond excited to see what the year would bring. We started the year with a gorgeous trip to Porto – a city we’d never been to before but no doubt will be going to once again – and in early March we also managed a trip back to Malta, the homeland, where I treated Richard to all of my childhood hangs. Then the world seemed to fall in on itself and COVID became a thing. With the hope that 2021 will see the introduction of the vaccine and fewer restrictions on travel, I’m hoping that 2021 will become the year that we get to reinvigorate the travel industry, safely and respectably. 5 cities to visit in France! Here we go!
Why visit France as a whole?
If you asked me for my favourite country to visit, France is up there – in fact, it’s probably my joint-favourite country, along with Germany. I spent 12 months of my life in France in 2014/15 – and countless weeks over the year’s prior and following this period – on my year abroad. I haven’t ever written a specific post about my year abroad because it would be far too gushy and ridiculous, but the entire experience was incredible and one I’d do again in a heartbeat. France has everything I could desire in a country – it has more than enough culture for the average person and all of the art, architecture and civilisation that I could ask for. France is an enormously diverse country – the North of France is completely different from the South and each region has its own culture, cuisine and incredible personalities. Of course, I have my favourite cities to visit but my reasons for loving these places are incredibly different.
5 Cities in France you NEED to Visit in 2021 (and beyond)
Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin, Alsace – Grand Est Region of France
Strasbourg is the city I chose when I was arranging my year abroad and I was fortunate enough to be granted this wish. Strasbourg (and also the neighbouring city of Colmar), is arguably the most beautiful place I have ever been to in my life. With Germanic culture at its core, despite having been part of France since the close of the 2nd World War, Strasbourg is a must-visit city in Europe that is full of tranquillity and the bustle of a gothic French city.
Things to see: Grande île – the historic centre of Strasbourg and home to all those incredibly photogenic houses and restaurants you see on Pinterest. It’s a UNESCO world heritage Site and my goodness, don’t you know it. Twisting streets, stunning buildings and the most beautiful views.
Pont Couvert – three ‘covered’ bridges surrounded by stunning towers. You can climb up the tower for a stunning view of the city.
European Parliament building – whilst the most renowned EU building is in Brussels, Strasbourg also has it’s own European Parliament building, which is technically the EU headquarters.
Unmissable: Cathèdrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg – the 6th tallest Cathedral in all of Europe and one of the most spectacular. Gothic in structure, it truly is a remarkable place to visit – you can even climb the spire if you have the courage!
Nearby day trips? Colmar and it’s stunning La Petite Venise is out of this world. Nearby Kaysersberg is also worth a visit – it was voted Village préféré des Français in 2017 and is truly delightful. If you’re in Strasbourg for a longer period of time, a day trip to Basil in Switzerland can be reached in an hour – as can a trip to Stuttgart in Germany in just over 2.
Avignon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
I visited Avignon for a 3-day trip whilst I was interrailing back in 2017 and it was a spectacular place to visit. Avignon is incredibly different from Strasbourg – but definitely not in a bad way. Whilst Strasbourg is full of gothic-inspired architecture and incredibly reflective of its Germanic roots, Avignon is based around a medieval fortress. Whilst not entirely fortified now, you can walk around the outside of the fort itself and enjoy what it would have been like to live in Medieval times. It was also home to the Papal palace during the crusades as well!
Things to See: Pont d’Avignon – a stunning bridge that crosses halfway across the Rhone. It was knocked down during the Crusades and is a great site to see.
University of Avignon buildings – whilst not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, as an architecture lover it was amazing to see the beautiful University buildings.
Unmissable: The Papal Palace – Believe it or not, the Papal palace used to be in France and not in Rome as it is now, in the Vatican. The Papal palace where these Popes resided in the 14th century is still standing today – it’s an enormous building that is well worth a visit!
Nearby Day trips? Avignon is situated between a number of amazing day trip locations – Marseille, Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence to name a few! If you’re looking for something a little further afield, why not give Nice or Monaco a try? When else might you have the chance?
Lourdes, Hautes-Pyrénées region of France
Lourdes is probably one of the most tranquil and beautiful places I’ve visited in France – I dragged my friend there on an interrail trip as I felt compelled to visit at least once in my life. I’m sure she was absolutely thrilled to be there.
Unmissable: Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. Take the time to reflect on your life and your privileges at the beautiful Sanctuary. I’m not religious at all and yet I still really enjoyed how peaceful and calming the whole environment was. It was a lovely and essential trip fo
Nearby Day Trips – Lourdes is probably THE day trip you take rather than doing day trips from Lourdes itself as it is a very quaint and charming place – but outside of the pilgrimage and religious aspects, there’s not all that much to do. If you’re staying in Lourdes, trips to Pau and Toulouse should almost definitely be on the agenda.
Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region
I’ve been to Bordeaux twice now and both times I’ve absolutely adored the place – Bordeaux is a much more traditional French city compared with my other favourites – tall buildings, elegant architecture and lots of bridges, springs to mind!
Things to see: Monument aux Girondins – located in the Quinconces, the Monument aux Girondins is a spectacular fountain. One of my favourite things about this was that during the Second World War, the Nazi’s confiscated a few of the houses from around the fountain – not the full fountain, just the horses. Very bizarre but very intriguing.
Statue of Jeanne D’Arc – I came across this without really looking for it at night with a friend. I’m not sure what Jeanne’s link to Bordeaux is exactly as she neither was born nor died there, but it’s an interesting statue none the less.
The Garonne – the river that runs through Bordeaux is the Garonne, with the name coming from the Aquitaine for ‘stony river.’ Lots of rocks, lots of rivers so it makes sense!
Unmissable: Place de la Bourse. Particularly at night. Place de la Bourse is a gorgeous square surrounded by stunning buildings, including Hôtel des Fermes. What’s truly spectacular about la Bourse is the Miroir d’eau, the world’s largest reflective pool that glistens against the building’s lights. It’s a must-see in the evening, for sure.
Nearby Day Trips? La Rochelle isn’t all that far from Bordeaux so if you have a little time for travel, it may well be worth a visit. Alternatively, the nearest major city is Toulouse and of course, considering my next recommendation, this is well worth a visit.
Toulouse, Haute-Garonne Region
I’ve only visited Toulouse once – whilst I was on my year abroad, a few of my friends lived out there so I went to stay with them. As my friend was working at the time, as her holidays were on a different week to mine, I had quite a bit of free time to explore Toulouse by myself – my favourite kind of exploring. I really liked the vibrancy of this city and the gorgeous weather was an absolute plus too!
Things to see: Le Capitole – Le Capitole is the city’s ‘main square’ and is filled to the brim with boutiques, restaurants and bars. Grab a jug of wine, relax and enjoy the gorgeous weather.
Unmissable: Jardin Japonais – pack a picnic and a French baguette and relax in the jardin Japonais. You’ll have an absolute ball.
Nearby Day Trips: Pau is a great day trip location and is absolutely stunning and Toulouse isn’t too far away from Carcassonne either. If you’re looking for something a little more extravagant then make your way over the border and into Spain – I’ve taken a trip from Toulouse to Barcelona in the past and it was a great experience!
So there you have it… 5 cities to visit in France! How many have you crossed off your list so far?