Europe is quite unique with its diverse architecture, culture and food. Of course, it’s not a surprise that people value France as one of the most prominent gems among all the European countries. 

If France is on your list (and if it’s not, it should be!), here are some of the top cities in France you should visit outside of Paris, as there is more to see in this magnificent country!


Preparing for a Trip to France

tourist interacting with local directions france

France is a prime destination for tourists from all over the world, and the reasons are simple. People enjoy French heritage, wines and its unbelievably delicious food. 

French locals are proud of their history and identity, and that’s why they really love it when tourists at least make an attempt to speak French, which we HIGHLY recommend. It goes a long way with the French :).

It’s one of the best ways to win their attention — and respect — while traveling through any city in France. 

Expert Tip: The easiest way for beginners to experience intensive French classes for beginners is to look for French tutors online. Sign up for an express course, so that you can quickly communicate with locals and experience the real France, not just the touristy parts.


Paris Is a Must. Always…

Paris France Eiffel Tower

First and foremost, you MUST see Paris. 

Its architecture, its beauty, its culture, its food… The list goes on. 

Just go there, grab some of the finest wines, visit Le Centre Pompidou (like Lyn’s family) and take a stroll down one of the crowded boulevards to feel the vibe of la Ville Lumière. Eiffel Tower, check! Cruise down the Seine, check! Louvre, check! Delicious meal at a cozy French bistro, check!

Here are 12 Firsthand Tips to Save Money on a Trip to Paris!

Put Paris on your list for sure, but we want to tell you about some other French gems that should ALSO be on your list besides what is quite possibly the most glorious city in the world…


5 Top Cities in France to See Outside of Paris

In selecting our top five cities in France that you should see, we’ve considered attractions, museums, architecture, wine, cuisine and just overall charm and beauty.

Some of them may be hard to navigate if you do not know French (in Paris, you have a much better chance that a local will know English), so a few French lessons before you arrive will help you immensely. 


1. Bordeaux

Bordeaux, France

Beautiful medieval architecture, amazing Saint-Pierre Quarter and unbelievably cozy wine spots for the real wine enthusiasts. Bordeaux is a lovely town that will treat you to the best restaurants, cafes and amazing art galleries. 

Visiting Bordeaux is like jumping into a river full of historic spots and cultural references to the local history. 


2. Marseilles

Marseilles, France

We’re moving to the oldest city in France. Marseilles, located along the Mediterranean Sea in Provence, is a unique destination for history-lovers. Monuments, museums and the tastiest seafood cuisine caught fresh along the coast. 

The list of the must-see spots include: Old Port, Le Panier and Calanques National Park. 

Don’t miss the beaches and stunning sea views in Marseilles. Much less busy than Paris, you’ll be able relax here by the sea and away from the crowded Parisian streets.


3. Nice

Nice, France

Nice is considered a very expensive place to visit (and live), so you may find vacation rentals and hotels are a bit pricey. However, the location of the city and its reputation as the most luxurious resort city in Europe is well worth it.

The weather is warm here; just get to the beach, find something soft to sit on, lay back and enjoy the sea breeze. Oh, and keep an eye out for celebrities who like to enjoy this town’s beautiful coast, high-end resorts and upscale dining here on the French Riviera.


4. Lyon

Lyon France

Lyon is where you MUST go to enjoy traditional French food. Well-known for its cuisine, Lyon offers plentiful iconic French restaurants with prominent local pastries. Look for the restaurants that do not have the “Authentique Bouchon Lyonnais” indicator at the entrance to make sure you’re not in a tourist trap!

Since Lyon was founded by Romans, you’ll see how the local architectural style varies. Don’t miss the city’s beautiful cathedrals, its Roman amphitheatre and lovely covered walkways.


5. Toulouse

Toulouse, France

One of the most popular cities in France, Toulouse, which is close to Spain, is very millennial-friendly with many hipster types making their way to the town. It is also the headquarters for Airbus.

Take a guided tour on a boat through the Toulouse canal, take a walk along the Canal du Midi or grab an authentic lunch in one of the local restaurants to stop for a minute and people-watch. 

People in Toulouse are not in a hurry; it’s about living in the moment and enjoying the history of their hometown, which is known as the “pink city” due to the color of its many structures.


In Summary

We can go on and continue our list of the most lovely cities in France. But to be honest, there are so many that it can quickly become a bit overwhelming… 

Just start slowly, one or two at a time and begin your love affair with France

Take a few online French lessons, grab a notebook to draw and make quick notes, get your camera ready and explore this unbelievably amazing country! 


  • Lyn Mettler

    Lyn Mettler is a longtime travel writer for US News & World Report, USA Today 10Best and The TODAY Show who created Families Fly Free, a program which teaches families her simple system to use travel rewards to fly for free.

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