There are an almost exhausting number of choices for city breaks in France, from stunning southern centres like Marseille and Nice, to the historical super-metropolis that is Paris. A seductive, charming country, France attracts visitors from across the globe with beautiful architecture, gastronomic marvels and a culture like no other.
Simply put, Paris is one of the world’s greatest cities, rivalled only by other big names such as London, New York and Tokyo. An ideal destination for both family breaks and romantic getaways, Paris has enough to occupy you for a lifetime. The Eiffel Tower is as stunning as it is iconic, the Arc de Triomphe is an awe-inspiring monument to Napoleon’s victory in Austerlitz in 1805, and the Notre Dame Cathedral is a must-see sight for anyone visiting the city. If you’re looking for museums and galleries you have the Louvre Museum and the Pompidou Centre, along with smaller centres such as the National Museum of the Middle Ages and the Musée Marmottan Monet. If you’re looking to shop you have everything from the Shakespeare & Company bookshop to the master patisserie L'Éclair de Génie. When it comes to nightlife, the city is teeming with cafés, wine bars, and nightclubs such as the legendary Moulin Rouge.
The port city of Marseille has a history reaching back to the Ancient Greeks, and is today France’s second-largest city. At le Vieux Port you can sip wine and watch the fishermen sell their wares; at Cours Julien you can shop for flowers and antique books in the markets, before settling down to read in one of the surrounding cafés. You can explore the network of streets that make up hip Le Panier, and you can take a ferry across the water to the 16th-century Château d'If, immortalised in Alexander Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo. If you’re looking for culture there is the Musée des Beaux Arts, the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, and the impressive glass building of Villa Méditerranée.
Set in the Rhone Valley is Lyon, one of the most popular cities in France to visit, with a rich heritage and a vibrant modern culture. For a glimpse into Lyon’s Roman past head to Théâtre Romain, an amphitheatre built around 15BC. The Cathédrale St-Jean is a gorgeous Romanesque cathedral built between the 11th and 16th centuries – a great place to visit for elaborate Gothic architecture. No trip to Lyon is complete without seeing the city’s famed Traboules, covered passageways running between buildings that are a lot of fun to explore. For culture vultures, the Musée des Beaux-Arts has a spectacular collection of work by artists, including Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet. The Maison des Canuts offers an interesting look into the evolution of the weaving industry that Lyon is famed for.
Amongst the many other fantastic city destinations in France are Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, all of which boast gorgeous architecture, an array of bistros and cafés, and plenty of museums and galleries to explore. There are also a number of excellent smaller cities to visit, including Cannes, Limoges, Reims and Brest.