Best city breaks in France
Picking our five best city breaks in France is tricky, but it’s a lovely problem to have. You’re spoilt for choice, from the delights of wine country to the warm south coast and the unending charm of the capital. Here are our top five cities in France, but check again tomorrow and we might have five totally different ones.
Naturally, wine is what makes Bordeaux one the best cities to visit in France, but there’s much more to it than the chance to sample your way through a few fine vintages. St Pierre, the historic heart, is a beautiful warren of winding streets, the Chartrons neighbourhood is the place to go for antiques, cafes and classic brasseries and Sunday markets line the riverside quays. The view from the top of Pey Berland tower is worth gritting your teeth up 230 steps for and the Miroir d’eau, a giant granite slab covered in 2cm of water is great for cooling your feet after a long day sightseeing. Out of town you can take cruises down the Garonne and the Dordogne and even head out to the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s largest sand dune, if climbing the tower hasn’t done for your calves.
If you’re bored of Bordeaux, consider Mâcon as your alternative wine destination. The area’s most famous export is Pouilly Fuissé but the Saint Véran and Viré Clessé offer wonderful variety and there are plenty more to discover. It’s smaller than some of the more famous destination city breaks in France, so less about nightlife, galleries and museums, and more for the casual stroller and connoisseur who also fancies seeing a bit of the countryside. The Green Path, which runs for 21km through the Lamartine valley past Solutré, Vergisson rocks and numerous vineyards, offers beautiful and untaxing walking, cycling or riding so you can dive into the hills for the day and still be back in town for dinner.
There’s no need to wait for your Palme d’Or nomination in order to drop down and stroll the chic streets of Cannes, one of our favourite places to take a city break in France. Even outside of festival time it’s a bright, breezy and classy place to spend a few days. The sweeping promenade of La Croisette is a stunning place for an evening stroll, there are shops and galleries everywhere, the food market at Forville and the charm of Le Suquet and the old city. Plus the red carpet lines the steps of the Palais des Festivals all year round, so you can always stop to try out your best superstar flounce. Beyond the glamour, Cannes is a genuinely beautiful spot on the coast, surrounded by natural beauty. Visit the Esterel massif, Saint Cassien lake and the island of Saint-Honorat, where you can wander the woods and visit the monks that still live in the ancient abbey.
Avignon will be one of the best city breaks in France for its sheer romanticism and the sight of the Pont d’Avignon lit up and reflected in the water at sunset. It’s a place that’ll have all your senses tingling, with magnificent views from the top of La Chapelle St Belvezet in the Fort St-André, the fragrance of the region’s famous lavender always in the air and food tours that’ll fill you with the flavours of the city’s artisan bakers, master chocolatiers, wine sellers and cooks steeped in centuries of Pronvencal tradition. Avignon is also at the heart of an incedibly active area culturally, with something going on any time of year, from the lavish nativity celebrations in January to traditional Roman games in Nîmes in April and the world´s biggest international theatre festival in July, which fills the city streets and venues with magic for four weeks.
On any list of the best city breaks in France, as Bogart would say, “we’ll always have Paris.” The city’s more famous attractions need no introduction but the joy of the French capital is that there‘s always something new and another corner to explore around. One of our owners recommends the Luxembourg Gardens and surrounding restaurants La Ferrandaise, Bouillon Racine, Le Prince Racine and Au Pere Louis, another suggests hanging out with the artists of Montmartre’s Place du Tertre and even visiting Pigalle, the red light district next door. A third likes taking the metro to Censier-Daubenton and strolling the shops of the charming, narrow Rue Mouffetard, then pulling up a chair at La Place Georges-Moustaki for an aperitif and watching the world go by. If you’ve squeezed into the Louvre too many times to count, then try the Musée du Quai Branly in the 7th arrondissement for a fabulous collection of global indigenous art or the extraordinary Musée Gustave Moreau, the artist’s home and studio.
This article was written as part of our Re-bonjour campaign. See more here.
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