Filled with history and brimming with cultural delights, France’s cities and towns range from luxurious seaside retreats to picturesque countryside havens and, of course, the glittering metropolis of Paris.
Nestled along the Seine River in the north, the City of Lights beckons travelers from across the globe with its world-famous art museums, mouthwatering cuisine and vibrant fashion scene. Must-see landmarks include the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and the capital city also is sprinkled with charming cafes, stylish boutiques and historic facades. Paris provides tourists with a range of round-the-clock entertainment, from flashy cabaret productions at the Moulin Rouge to mellow sets in cozy jazz clubs.
Thirty minutes west of the capital, you can tour the grand palace of the Chateau de Versailles, hub of political power in France from the 1680s until the French Revolution in 1789. Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon estate and impeccably landscaped grounds are part of the chateau’s attractions.
For more history, travel farther west to see the monuments, cemeteries and bunkers related to Normandy's D-Day landing beaches. Nearby, you can discover the rocky isle of Mont Saint-Michel and its dramatic 11th-century Benedictine abbey. Cradled in central France is the Loire Valley, worth visiting for its rolling green hills, medieval architecture and more than 1,000 chateaux.
The south lures vacationers with its own spell, starting with the French Riviera. Home to Nice and Cannes, this stunning stretch of coastline is best known for its turquoise Mediterranean waters and glamorous social scene. The Cote d’Azur’s sunny beaches and colorful towns make it an idyllic escape.
To see the south from another perspective, consider cruising the Saone and Rhone rivers in the beautiful Provence and Burgundy regions. Itineraries on intimate river vessels often include opportunities to sample local wines in the twin towns of Tournon and Tain l'Hermitage and to see Avignon, called the City of Popes. Lyon, France’s third-largest city and its gastronomic capital, is another likely stop; sightseeing tours often take in its Old Town, Roman remains and views from Fourviere Hill.