18 Very Best Cities In France To Visit – Hand Luggage Only

Alma L. Figueroa

France is a beautiful country to explore! With gorgeous areas like the picture-perfect Dordogne Valley, its stunning villages like Gordes and the impressive national parks in France. It’s the perfect country to visit, and that’s even before we start discussing the very best cities in France to visit.

Now, when thinking of the cities in France, it’s easy to just think of the big-hitting cities like Paris, right? 

But don’t be fooled, France has a totally diverse and historic list of cities all across the country. From historic Roman settlements to coastal hideaways.

France has it all! 

So, to help make your trip easier, we wanted to share some of the very best cities in France to visit. Have fun on your trip! 

1.) Nimes

The Most Beautiful City In France You Haven't Heard Of - Nimes (57)

Probably one of my favourite, and sometimes underrated, French cities to visit in Nimes. Perched in the glorious countryside of the South of France, Nimes is a historic Roman city that’s perfect for a long weekend break. 

Once here, make sure to check out the Roman Amphitheatre and explore the beautiful city streets that house one of the few standing Roman Temple that is right in the centre of Nimes. 


Oh, and don’t forget to take a trip towards Pont du Gard. It’s the Roman aqueduct that’s almost two thousand years old!

It’s really easy to visit by booking this tour from Nimes on a half-day tour. It includes a visit to Uzes, and Nimes and includes entrance fees, too!

Plus, whilst you’re here, you can head onto the river with a kayak or stroll the trails around this beautiful area. It’s totally stunning.

Just be sure to book these tickets before arriving in the South of France. Places can fill up fast at peak times. 


Read more: Best things to do in Nimes

2.) Carcassonne

Photos And Postcards From Carcassonne In The South Of France... (10)

Another historical gem, Carcassonne is one of the very best cities in France to visit if you love history.

It’s the kind of city that’s just oozing with charm and a spot you can’t miss if you want to see a quintessential French city. 

Of course, once you arrive, you have to check out Cité de Carcassonne – or commonly referred to as Carcassonne Castle. It’s a UNESCO-protected citadel that’s one of the most iconic in all of Europe.

Best of all, book these queue-jump castle tickets to miss those pesky lines for entry.

This way, you can save the faff or queuing and maximise your precious time on exploring this incredible city. 

Afterwards, head over to the beautiful Church of Saints Nazaire and Celse or take a day trip to Château de Quéribus. The latter is a ruined castle that sits high overlooking this area of France.

It’s beautiful.

3.) Bordeaux 

The Beautiful City of Bordeaux, France (24)

Bordeaux… it’s a city so delicious and a totally lovely spot to visit as you explore some of the best places in the west of France.

Before arriving, be sure to book these La Cité du Vin tickets to go inside and explore all about the wine of the region.

Best of all, with this ticket, you’ll even get to have a good tipple of them! 

After arriving, make sure to spot the historic city gate of Porte Cailhau (which looks like something out of a fairytale), and check out the local cafes and shops around Calle Santa Catalina. 

24 Hours In Bordeaux, France (10)

We spent around 5 days exploring Bordeaux, and the surrounding countryside… and it was perfect. 

Read more: Best things to do in Bordeaux

4.) Lille

A Weekend In The Quaint French City Of Lille... Part 1 of 2 (43)

Lille is easily one of the very best cities in France to visit if you’re travelling in the north. 

It’s small enough to visit for 2-3 days, but not too big to have an exhausting trip. If that make sense? Ha! 

Best explored by foot, be sure to head over to the vintage market stands in Place du Général de Gaulle. We found so many little gems to take back home. 

Oh, and don’t forget to have some of the delicious cakes, waffles and hot chocolate at Pâtisserie Méert. It’s something on an institution in Lille and can’t be missed. 

Finally, to make your trip nice and easy, book this Lille guided walking tour. It’s a great way to see the iconic places in Lille – which saves in planning walking routes and researching information on the fly.  

5.) Montpellier

The Absolutely Beautiful City Of Montpellier In The South Of France (10)

Perched on the southern tip of France, Montpellier is a city that’s totally beautiful to visit.

Steeped in history, it’s got that perfect mix of history, cool little bars and gorgeous scenery that just make it perfect for a city break. 

After arriving, make sure to visit the gothic cathedral of Montpellier Cathedral. It’s so imposing and one spot you can’t miss in Montpellier.

Oh, and on a nice sunny day (which, you get lots in Montpellier), take a stroll around Promenade du Peyrou.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a different vibe, pop over to Marché du Lez for their food trucks and pretty cool events. We love it. 

Read more: Exploring Montpellier for the first time

6.) Aix-en-Provence

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

Not too far from the city of Marseille, Aix-en-Provence is a city that’s not only historically pretty but also has a young and vibrant feel to it.

Once home to the likes of Paul Cézanne, the world-renowned Impressionist painter. You can even explore Cézanne’s studio and it’s well worth visiting if you want to learn more about his role, influences and his studio itself. 

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

If art isn’t typically your thing, check out Pavillon Vendôme with its incredible grounds and stunning collections inside. We love it. 

8.) Paris

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

It is no question that Paris is one of the very best cities in France to visit. In fact, I’d go as far as saying you can’t miss it – it’s world-renowned, and for good reason. 

Of course, when you’re in Paris, you will not forget to visit the Eiffel Tower, especially at sunset, when the views are incredible.

To make things easier, book this skip-the-line Eiffel Tower ticket that’ll get you right to the top in no time at all. 

Oh, and don’t forget to check out the unique spots in Paris – like the Statue of Liberty (yes, you read that correctly). It’s so fun to see.

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

Afterwards, take a wander around some of Paris’ best markets and explore some of the free things to do across the city. 

Alternatively, take the short, 20-minute train over to Disneyland Paris. You can book these one-day Disney tickets that make so much sense if you’re only in Paris for a few days.

Finally, book these tickets to take a river cruise through Paris. It’s a stunning French city to see by waterways and totally beautiful at sunset.

Read more: Free things to do in Paris

9.) Lyon

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

Once known by its Roman name of Lugdunum, Lyon holds a very rich history and past within its walls. This all makes it a perfect Roman city to explore, just like Nimes (which we mentioned, before).

You see, Romans arrived in Lyon over two thousand years ago and, over time, helped set the foundations for some of the cities landmarks you see today.

After getting your feet on the ground, don’t forget to visit the famous Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere, the Traboules passageways, Vieux Lyon and Lyon’s Cathedral. They are totally stunning and really are iconic buildings you can’t miss in the city. 

Also, for a really relaxing and beautiful trip, book this guided Lyon cruise that’s so great.  It’s the perfect way to meander the city, especially on a hot day! 

10.) Marseille

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

Deemed as one of southern France’s best places, Marseille is booming with soul and character that’s totally great to explore. 

Now, it does have a little more of a bustling vibe than the likes of Carcassone or Nimes, so be prepared for a busier city feel.

When you arrive in Marseille, book this 5-hour cruise across the gorgeous Mediterranean coastline around Calanques National Park. Plus, you’ll be treated to a tasty lunch, too. 

Afterwards, don’t forget to visit Le Panier, the Palace of Pharo with its garden and the Old Port. It’s totally beautiful.

11.) Nantes

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

In lots of ways, Nantes is an underrated city in France.

Yes, it’s the beating heart of Frances’ biggest shipyards but it’s totally great to visit.

Once in the city, check out the iconic Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany and the Jules Verne Museum, too. Both are incredible to visit and well worth setting aside a few hours from your trip.

Also, if you get caught out in one of those pesky showers, pop inside the Natural History Museum of Nantes which houses thousands of artefacts, dating from the present to millennia ago! 

12.) Avignon

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

Known as the Catholic Church’s capital for some time during the Middle Ages, Avignon is one of the very best cities in France to visit due to its long rich history.

The shops, structures and the colossal palace the popes built during the 14th century are a must-see when in Avignon. Especially if you’re interested in the development of the city.

24 Hours Visiting Avignon, Provence (10)

Now, in my opinion, Summer is the best time to visit.

That being said, you will experience bustling crowds in July, especially with the different events and art festivals that happen throughout the season. 

Read more: Best places to explore in Avignon

14.) Nice

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

If you’re looking for pretty and nice beaches, head to the best spots in Nice.

It’s one of the very best cities in France to visit that has a mix of coastal walks, cute cafes, historic fishing harbours and the old town, especially around Vieille Ville. 

Oh, and be sure to see the iconic Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas de Nice. It’s totally unique in the city and is a monument that’s well protected in Nice itself. 

Read more: Best things to do in Nice

15.) Toulouse

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

A young-feeling city, Toulouse is a great place to explore in France. This is especially true if you’re travelling the southwest fringes of France. 

When you’re in Toulouse, do not forget to visit the Basilique Saint-Sernin and the Couvent des Jacobins which are easy to find and smack bang in the city itself.

The impressive Place du Capitole is also a favourite of ours, so you might want to see this part of Toulouse before heading to the Japanese Garden.

Finally, you can easily partner a trip from Toulouse to Carcossne for a day trip and combine two of the very best cities in France to visit.

Book this day trip to Carcasoone, right from the heart of Toulouse itself. It’s totally worth it, especially because of how quaint and beautiful both cities are. 

18.) Rouen

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

Being the capital of Normandy, it’s likely you won’t miss Rouen when road tripping along the best spots in the north of France. 

Now, it can seem quieter than some of the other big-hitting cities like Paris, but don’t let that put you off – this might be a good thing. Much fewer crowds and bustle making for a more chilled and relaxing exploration.

Well, in my opinion at least. 

Very Best Cities In France To Visit

As you wander around Rouen, make sure to spot the iconic clock of Le Gros-Horloge. It’s right in the heart of the city and can’t be missed. 

Also, be sure to visit the Botanical Garden of Rouen. Not only is it one of Frances’ best, but it’s also totally free to enter. 

Have the best time exploring Rouen! We love it and it’s easily one of the very best cities in France to visit. 


Read more: Best places to visit in the South of France

10 Amazing Places To Visit In The South Of France

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