Are you planning a trip to France? You’re in for a treat!
France was one of my favorite countries to visit. The beautiful French Riviera. The amazing food. The stunning architecture. The incredible food. The fascinating history. Did I mention the food?
Because there are so many wonderful places in France, it can be difficult to narrow down the list of places to visit. To help you plan your trip, I’ve listed my favorite places to visit in France.
From beach to basilica, these places made me fall in love with France and want to visit it again and again. I hope you have as wonderful of an experience as I did.
1. The French Riviera at Antibes
If I had to pick one place that I would go back to again and again, that place would be Antibes. I loved this seaside town. People were happy and friendly. The food was on point. And they had amazing beach restaurants and lounges.
When you arrive at one of these beach restaurants and lounges, someone will greet you and find you a comfortable lounge chair, where you’ll also find a towel, umbrella, and a small table. Wait staff will come around regularly to take your drink and food orders. Nearby bathrooms and showers are clean. And you have an incredible view of the sea.
All this combines into what feels like a luxurious experience. While the cost is not cheap, I found it less expensive than many of the beaches I’ve visited in the U.S.
I recommend walking along Boulevard du Littoral until you find a place that looks appealing to you. If you’re staying at a hotel, you can also ask the front desk for recommendations and have them call ahead to reserve a spot for you.
Plan on spending a full day at the beach. The experience is so wonderful that you won’t want to leave!
BONUS: Check out the Pam-Pam in Antibes! Sadly, it’s not named after me (and I’m not named after it), but it was a lot of fun to experience! When we asked the locals where they liked to hang out, the Pam-Pam was always one of the top choices. This Brazilian restaurant and bar serves its drinks in fun, animal-shaped containers and features Brazilian dance performances.
2. Catacombs in Paris
If you’re feeling adventurous (and I hope you are!), you need to visit the catacombs in Paris.
The winding, dark tunnels of the catacombs are lined with the skeletal remains of Paris’ deceased. This underground labyrinth serves as the burial ground for six million people.
While you may find this experience a little eerie, it’s a unique and amazing way to experience Paris’ history.
I recommend buying advance tickets through the Paris museum website. (If you open the site in Chrome, Google will ask you if you want to translate the site from French.) With your ticket, you get to skip the line (which can be very lengthy) and will get an audio guide.
While you can take a guided tour, I would not recommend it. We took a guided tour of the catacombs but only realized while on the tour that guided tours aren’t allowed in the catacombs. Our tour guide told us to act like we weren’t part of a group whenever someone official passed. It really took away from the overall experience.
TIP: Keep in mind that this is a burial site, so you’ll want to be extra vigilant about being respectful of your surroundings and adhering to any rules.
3. Restaurants in Southern France
The cheese. The wine. The beef bourguignon.
I love me some French food. Even if you don’t love French food, you’ll still love the culinary experience in southern France.
Side salads are filled with succulent, savory lettuce and tomatoes. Cheese is close-your-eyes-in-ecstasy delicious. Main dishes are worthy of poetry. And you don’t skip dessert. You just don’t.
While I enjoyed all my culinary experiences in France, I especially loved my experiences in Nice and Antibes in southern France.
Many of the restaurants we went to were small restaurants with only a few tables. The handful of restaurant employees were friendly and took great pride in their work. This created a cozy, family-like experience where you felt connected to the people who were playing both your host and your chef.
One thing you should always indulge in while in France: the fruits and veggies. I have never tasted fruits and veggies like those I tasted in southern France. Here in Washington, DC, I hunt the groceries stores for a single strawberry that is half as good as those I ate in Nice and Antibes. No success. And so I dream of France.
My all-time favorite restaurants in Nice and Antibes:
- La Cave du Fromager. A restaurant devoted to cheese. In a cave. You need this in your life.
- Café Milano. It may be France, but this Italian restaurant is a necessary part of your visit.
4. Sacré-Coeur in Paris
The Sacré-Coeur is a basilica that sits on top of the highest hill in Paris. In addition to its amazing architecture, its hilltop location offers great views of Paris.
If you’re feeling up to it, you can climb the 300 stairs to the top of the basilica for a 360-degree view of Paris. It’s a spectacular view and I think it’s worth the climb. But know that these are narrow, winding staircases. Even very fit people may find them challenging.
At the base of the staircase, you’ll also find a beautiful carousel. Riding a carousel in Paris? Yes, please!
TIP: Watch out for the “string men.” These men stand at the bottom of the stairs on the way to the carousel. As you walk by, they will try to grab you and wrap a string around your wrist. Once the string is wrapped around your wrist, they’ll demand payment to release the string. They were very aggressive with my friends and me when we walked by them. Be on the lookout!
5. Lavender fields at the Sénanque Abbey near Gordes
The Sénanque Abbey was built in 1178 and is a beautiful testament to times gone by in the French countryside.
To make the area even more inviting, the Sénanque Abbey monks grow lavender in the fields surrounding the abbey. The effect is calming and picturesque.
As an added bonus, head to the nearby village of Gordes. Stop outside the village to absorb the beautiful hilltop setting before heading into the village for a relaxing dinner.
6. River cruise on the Seine in Paris
A river cruise is a wonderful way to experience Paris. The river views of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower are stunning.
My first visit to Paris was on Bastille Day. We took a river cruise that anchored near the Eiffel Tower, where we had a great view of the fireworks that night. I’ve been lucky enough to see many firework shows over the years. The fireworks by the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day are some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen.
Even if you’re not in Paris on Bastille Day, you should take a river cruise. Aim for a sunset dinner cruise where you can enjoy the setting sun on Paris’ beautiful landmarks.
In My Suitcase: What to Pack for a Trip to France
- Stylish, comfortable clothing: You won’t find many people in very casual clothes in France. Aim for business casual clothes that are also comfortable, like a pair of knit pants and a blouse.
- Comfortable shoes: You’ll be walking a lot in France. You’ll need comfortable shoes.
- Umbrella: It rained on us several times when we were in France. We had to buy incredibly expensive, poorly made umbrellas. Plan on bringing your own umbrella from home.
- Layers: While Southern France and Provence can be quite warm during the summer, Paris and Northern France can be on the chilly side. Pack layers to add or shed throughout your trip. I find a raincoat useful for warmth in chilly areas and protection from the rain in rainy, warm areas.