Best regions of France: 8 scenic destinations for gourmets and wine travellers
France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. More than 82 million people a year head here to see its natural and historic sights, sample fine food and wine, visit popular romantic destinations and enjoy iconic art. The best regions in France have a combination of several exciting reasons to visit from historical and natural attractions to wine and food tours. Our list of the best and most versatile places in France to visit for nature, wine and food lovers can help you plan the perfect vacation.
1. Paris and Ile-de-France
Paris and the surrounding area is one of the most visited regions in France. It is known for its rich history and is surrounded by an atmosphere of cultural grandeur.
Paris' most famous landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Champs Elysees, have achieved iconic status long ago. A dizzying variety of entertainment awaits visitors to this city: the most famous museums led by the Louvre, the eclectic Versailles, Disneyland Paris, famous night bars, galleries and art centers. There are countless interesting things to see in Paris from champagne tasting at the top of the Eiffel Tower to a sunset cruise on the Seine. In addition, Paris is a recognized city of gourmets. It has developed its food culture from fine patisseries and carefree dining on outdoor terraces to wine cellars and beer bars. No other European city has as many Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris. Finally, there is also a plethora of diverse and equally delicious street food options.
Once you've explored the capital city, there are many more things to see around it. There are many great golf courses located around Paris. Fontainebleau (with its magnificent Renaissance palace and ancient parks) and the picturesque landscapes of Auvers-sur-Oise showcase another charming side of the region.
2. Loire Valley
One of the most famous tourist regions of France the Loire Valley is situated in the centre of the city, it is 170 miles long. It takes less than two hours by train from Paris. This region is primarily known for its many castles and country noble estates. There are about 300 such magnificent buildings here. All castles have unique architecture and many of them are surrounded by lush old landscaped gardens, which have become a separate attraction.
One of the most interesting ways to explore the Loire Valley is to follow the La Loire à Vélo bicycle route. It's 560 miles long during which you'll enjoy charming countryside scenery, cute villages and interesting towns. For example, one of the towns along the route is Tours, the gateway to the valley, considered one of the greenest in all of France thanks to several excellent parks. Its main attraction is the magnificent cathedral, which took five centuries to build. Visit the Place Jean Jaurès in the city center with its fountains and beautiful old wooden buildings, the arched bridge over the river and the city's botanical garden, the pride of Tours. In each of the following cities you will see beautiful sights: Orleans will surprise you with its medieval architecture and the history of Joan of Arc, while Angers will surprise you with its impressive castle with 17 towers.
The Loire Valley is also one of the regions in France to visit for wine travellers. It is the second-largest producer of sparkling wine in the country.
3. Côte d'Azur
This region is commonly known as the French Riviera and is one of the most popular places to visit for a seaside vacation in France. It is famous for its rich culture, glamorous history, trendy cities and gorgeous beaches on the rocky coastline. It is one of the country's top summer destinations.
The main city of the Côte d'Azur is Nice, enveloped in an atmosphere of grandeur and elegance. Charming buildings with reddish-brown roofs on winding streets flank the golden beaches and azure waters. Nice is located between the sea and the French Alps, so you can spend one day at the beach and the second day hiking in the mountains. This city hosts a wide variety of events, including an annual festival in February, art exhibitions and concerts.
Two other cities in the region, Cannes and Saint-Tropez, attract movie fans and celebrities with their world-class film festivals. No less memorable is a trip to smaller towns with idyllic landscapes, such as Menton and Villefranche-sur-Mer, which confirm the French Riviera's fame as one of the most beautiful regions in France. Wherever you stay on the Côte d'Azur, you will easily find exceptional restaurants with generous wine lists and culinary delights. You should also look for hotels surrounded by vineyards that offer tours to private wineries and tastings.
A list of the most beautiful regions of France might be topped by Provence thanks to its enchanting lavender fields. But it is also notable for its lively towns with historic sites, picturesque countryside and rosé wine production.
Provence's main attraction is the city of Marseille. There are beautiful beaches Plage des Catalans and Le Prophète, which are popular places for seaside relaxation, windsurfing and sailing; interesting cultural centers like the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. Marseille's old neighborhood Le Panier with narrow streets and small squares with picturesque houses is also worth a visit. You can continue your acquaintance with unique architecture in Avignon by walking along its medieval streets and visiting the Palais des Papes on the banks of the Rhone.
The most beautiful region in France will delight travellers with a variety of picturesque places. The most beautiful lavender fields can be seen in the areas around Soues and Luberon. The best time to visit them is in July when the fields are in full bloom. Le Colorado Provençal de Rustrel will surprise you with orange deserts similar to the American ones. Beautiful hiking trails for walking and swimming in the wilderness are offered by the Verdon Gorge and Cascade de Sillans waterfall areas.
Provence also ranks first in the world in the production of rose wine. Lovers of this drink will not be disappointed: there are over 600 local producers, so wine tours are a must on the itinerary.
5. French Alps
The French part of the Alps is the most important ski resort in Europe. It is the best region to visit in France for winter sports enthusiasts. It offers a huge range of resorts to suit all budgets, thousands of miles of first-class ski runs and dozens of atmospheric mountain towns and villages.
One of the most famous resorts in the Alps is Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. This town has a long history of winter tourism and was rebuilt in 1924 when it hosted the first Winter Olympics in history. It boasts mighty mountain slopes with the best skiing and other sports and numerous Michelin-starred restaurants.
Another French Alps resort Val d'Isère is not only famous for its great skiing, excellent hotels and fun off-piste activities but is also a popular destination for gourmets. Mountain and resort restaurants offer travellers fine French cuisine, including rare cheeses and wines.
The ideal place for winter sports fans with the best snow conditions is in the high mountain resort of Courchevel. It is one of the world's most famous resorts with the largest ski area. These cities and areas in France are worth visiting in summer as well to appreciate their chic places for walking and mountain tourism.
6. Rhone and the Rhone Valley
The Rhône is France's fullest river. It originates in the Mediterranean Sea near the city of Arles and extends into the Swiss Alps to Lake Geneva. The river valley is one of the famous wine regions in France, which is worth visiting for lovers of good wines. There are more than 6 thousand producers of this drink here. Therefore, one of the main tourist destinations here is wine tours. You can see as many cities and interesting areas as possible during a river cruise.
The main city of the valley is Lyon, the third largest in the country. It impresses with its authentic architecture combining Romanesque, Gothic and 19th-century styles. Lyon has an amazing atmosphere: there is street art and modern art galleries next to the Gothic gargoyles on the cathedral and amphitheaters of the Roman era. Lyon's gastronomic specialty is the modest and lively bouchon restaurants that can be found throughout the city. They date back to the 1930s when the economic crisis forced wealthy landlords to lay off their chefs, and they responded by opening private establishments for less affluent citizens. These restaurants are still thriving today, serving rustic cuisine inspired by the flavors and combinations of Provence, Beaujolais, the Alps and Burgundy. Although France is generally considered a mecca for wine lovers, these regions in France are noteworthy for beer lovers. There are about 350 breweries here, so you can visit many of them with a tour, buy good craft beer or even learn brewing.
7. Southwest and Basque Country
One of the most extraordinary regions to visit in France is the French Basque Country, bordering Spain. It is famous for its several main towns, which are strikingly different from each other.
The historic seaside town of Biarritz is known for its wonderful surfing and beach activities. Its long sandy beaches are called the French California for a reason. It's also home to a vibrant nightlife and trendy art centers.
Another historic city Bayonne is full of monuments, castles and ancient churches and it is famous for its regional Basque cuisine. The city also has two ancient fortresses and rich museums, but it is also one of the few parts of France where you can attend bullfighting.
Bordeaux is the most important wine region in the country, having some of the best vineyards in the country. But Bordeaux is also an interesting city and has been called the wine capital of the world. A wine tour to Bordeaux will allow you to visit vineyards and numerous cellars and wineries, tasting the most exquisite varieties. It is also an interesting region for gourmets, as there are many Michelin-starred restaurants here. Bordeaux is full of other attractions: museums, markets, clubs and stunning architecture.
"The Pink City" or Toulouse surprises with its terracotta architecture and rich history. It's also worth taking a gastronomic tour through the Victor Hugo market to sample local cuisine and interesting varieties of wine, cheese and French bread, or exploring the wine routes, which include several wine bars in the southwestern region of France.
Alsace is a region in northern France where the German cultural influence is quite vivid from architecture and local dialects to cuisine and wine. The capital of the region and its main attraction is the city of Strasbourg. Its canals run throughout its territory, with flower-strewn bridges connecting its banks. Stroll along its cobbled streets and admire the architecture of the medieval half-timbered houses lining the canals to see why Lorraine is one of the most beautiful regions of France.
Another attractive city to travel to is Colmar, which has a rustic vibe. It is often compared to Venice due to its extensive waterway system. This city has a unique history: it changed hands between the Germans and the French for almost 1000 years. This is why the German cultural influence is particularly palpable here. Feel this during gastronomic tours and excursions.
Alsace is known for its exceptional white wine selection. The local Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines have a special subtle flavor and are the perfect accompaniment to seafood and cheese. This is why Alsace has become one of the best areas of France to visit for vineyards. The Alsace Wine Route or Route des Vins is 105 miles through some of the region's best vineyards, with tours to wineries, cellars and charming villages and towns along the way.