Where to travel in France: the country's most beautiful places

Think of France and images of Paris, the sun-kissed southern coast, and rocky Pyrenees pop into view, but the country offers much more beauty than these tourist-packed places. Our favourite bloggers and travel experts share their choice of the most beautiful places in France, which you should add to your holiday itinerary
Seillans in France. Photo: Shutterstock
Seillans in France. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

“We are lucky enough to have travelled to a number of beautiful destinations in France, and perhaps the most magical place for us has been Mont Saint-Michel,” reveals Jessica Norah, blogger behind independenttravelcats.com. “The grand abbey perched upon a small rocky tidal island makes for a breathtaking sight. Not only is this UNESCO World Heritage Site one of the most beautiful sights in France, but it is also one of the most historically and culturally significant places in the country too. Visitors can walk around the island for free, although there is a fee to access and tour the inside of the abbey, which we would definitely recommend taking the time to do. There are restaurants, shops, and even lodging available on the small island."

Travel on Insight Guides’ Northern France: City to Coast holiday for an in-depth tour of this incredible site. Want to know how to avoid the crowds? Jessica adds: “Those who stay overnight on the island or nearby will be rewarded with having it mostly to themselves in the early morning and evening." Perfect for capturing those incredible sunsets!

2. The Combe Laval, Auvergne-Rhone-Alps

“Often labelled as the most magnificent route in the French Alps, the inspired road through Combe Laval was constructed in the late 1800s,” explains road trip expert Meghan Donavan of autoeurope.com. “The most spectacular stretch of the Combe Laval cuts into the side of a cliff, running through a series of short, narrow tunnels carved into the rock. You’ll find gorgeous scenery and a really fun road to drive.”

Grab four wheels, or if you’re adventurous opt for two, and take to the road on this beautiful stretch of the French countryside. Insight Guides can cover the details: submit a trip itinerary today to begin planning your adventure. 

3. Fort of Socoa, Ciboure, Basque Country

“My favourite place in France? It has to be the Fort of Socoa in Ciboure. How can you not succumb to this view?” questions Marine Barbier, avid European traveller. “Take your time to walk towards the fort and enjoy the stunning view over the mountains and Ciboure's mansions.” 

“Next to the fort, you'll find a tiny stretch of sand facing the beautiful city of Saint-Jean-de-Luz,” she adds. “Have a sit, open a bottle of rosé wine and wait until sunset comes. Yes, because the simple pleasures are always the best!”

4. Seillans, Provence

Lia and Jeremy, bloggers at practicalwanderlust.com, have just ended a two-week tour of France, “No doubt, our favourite town was Seillans. It's an ancient medieval settlement built into a hillside, and it's absolutely charming. You can get completely lost wandering the tiny cobblestone streets by foot (no cars can fit inside, of course). 

“Visit when it's warm for pleasant places to dine on classic French food. Stop by La Gloire de mon Pere, in the heart of Seillans, to sip wine under a tree-covered terrace next to a charming old fountain.” 

5. Montparnasse Tower, Paris

As the photographer behind findingtheuniverse.com, Laurence Norah is always looking for ways to capture iconic shots of his favourite places, “In the case of Paris, I have to say that the top of the Montparnasse tower is my favourite location.” While the building itself might not be a beauty, it’s the cityscapes below that are the big draw. 

“From here you get unrivalled views of the city, which stretch out across the Seine, Montmartre and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. It's best experienced at sunset, as the city fades into night and starts to light up.”

Experience this unforgettable cityscape for yourself on Insight Guides' Luxury Paris holiday; review the full itinerary online now. 

6. Le Dramont, Côte d’Azur

"The French Riviera is notorious for its romantic beauty. Thanks to the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books and Matisse’s paintings, the Riviera has something magical and mysterious about it. The stunning thing about this is actually that all their representations of the south are true,” explains Catriona Megabit of Omio.

“Cannes, St Tropez and Antibes can be visited during a day trip, but if you want to relax, avoid the crowds, costs and experience the real South stay in the smaller towns. My favourite is Le Dramont. Spend a day on the beach, enjoying activities such as diving, and end the day with dinner at Tiki Plage beside the sea front."

7. The north’s pretty coastal villages

French bloggers from lebigtrip.fr/en, Karim and Rafika, are experts on where to travel around the country. Their suggestions? 

“The south of France is stunning but many people miss the beauty of the north. La Picardie has a lot of cute villages and beaches, which are easy to drive by if you don’t know where to stop. We love going to Le Crotoy, Le Bois de Cise and Berck-Plage to enjoy relaxing walks on the long, quiet beaches. The sky and clouds often put on a spectacular light show before the sun sets.”

“The little beach huts and coloured houses of Mers-les-Bains are also very impressive and not to be missed. The historical Befroy of Rue, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see as well. And, while you're there, enjoy a nice walk around Saint-Valery-Sur-Somme, the picture-postcard village. For nature lovers, go on a walking tour across the Baie-de-Somme at low tide if you feel like discovering more about the fauna and flora.”

Explore the highlights of this little-visited region on Insight Guides' Northern France: City to Coast trip


8. Beaulieu-sur-Mer, French Riviera

Elizabeth Avery, solo traveller and publisher of www.solotrekker4U.com, has travelled the world but knows exactly where in France is her favourite spot: “Nestled on the French Riviera but still a small seaside village, Beaulieu-sur-Mer lacks the hectic heavy traffic in better-known places in the South of France. The destination not to miss is La Reserve. Home to a seemingly endless infinity pool, which overlooks a tranquil harbour, it makes for the perfect place to watch super-slick yachts glide by. It is an easy walk over to St. Jean Cap Ferrat with the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild filled with antiques and Old Masters, too.”

9. Promenade des Anglais, Nice

“For me, despite last year's unforgettable and horrendous events, the most beautiful place in France is the incredible stretch of beach running along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice,” shares Anne Maxfield, of Accidental Locavore. “I love to start out down near the Negresco Hotel and the shore towards the old town. The sound of the pebbles rolling in the surf and the cool water always makes me happy. 

"Once I reach the old town, I take a trip through the market and dine on pizza with a glass of rosé for lunch; it makes for a pretty perfect day.” 

10. Paris’ theatre scene 

“Other experts might lead to you to lavender fields in the south or the snow-topped mountains in Grenoble, but Paris is the country's most popular travel destination for a reason,” suggests Jessica Gillian of Theatre in Paris. “It combines both beauty and history, but most of all, soul.”

“What very few non-French people know is that Paris has a theatre culture to rival that of the West End. However, it's nearly impossible to find a theatre district because all districts have numerous theatres, most of which are often full every weekend, and weeknights too, with people enjoying a bit of entertainment, be it classic or contemporary, or in recent years, musicals.”

"And not only does each theatre have its own unique beauty, but they all have their own history, too. The Salle Gaveau is perhaps one of the most opulent venues, which was almost demolished and turned into a parking lot. The venue's true beauty? It comes from the love and passion the couple who saved and restored it to its former glory, over the course of nearly two decades, has for music and theatre."

Where's your favourite part of France? Have we missed your most beautiful spot? Share your travel secrets in the comments below. 

Don't forget, Insight Guides can plan, organise and book your entire French itinerary for you. Simply tell us where or when you want to travel and our experts will do the rest