It’s certainly no surprise to us that for the last 20 years and more, France has remained at the top of the list for the world’s most popular tourist destination.
Paris, Provence, the glamour of the French Riviera, the exquisite cuisine, history, culture and traditions, fine wines, romantic chateaux, dazzling landmarks and picturesque villages – what’s not to fall in love with! It can be hard to know where to turn to when you’re trying to sort out your dream visit to France so we asked our expat experts to share their most beautiful places in France to visit – they certainly didn’t disappoint: from well-known and well-loved places to off the beaten track villages you’ll love…
The experts most beautiful places in France to visit
Jill Barth: Aix en Provence. This village knits together the elements of pleasure: the arts, delicious food, history, architecture and natural beauty. Over 300 days of sunshine per year equates to a civilized French lunch at an outdoor café along the Cours Mirabeau six days of the week (with one rainy day to stay inside and write about life, love and what to do next…).
Evelyn Jackson: My favourite little town isn’t particularly glamorous…it’s Cajarc where I go to shop, bank, visit the post office, etc. It has a nice medieval centre and a lovely plane-tree lined ring road ’round the town. I always drive home the ‘long’ way around it, and I always whisper to myself…”I love my little town so much. I’m so lucky to live here!”
Linda Matthieu: I think Paris is my favourite city. In Provence, I love Lourmarin and Nice… and Ile de Re. Chatelaillon and La Rochelle on the Atlantic Coast are also on my list of favourites.
Marilyn Cathchpole-Dossat: I love the historical city of Clermont-Ferrand and its surrounding towns and villages. Spa towns, like Chatel Guyon with healing waters, where people go every year for ‘the cure’. Volvic with its famous spring water from the Volcanic Mountains, and the new train which takes you to the very top of the Puy de Dome – just to mention a few; all situated in the beautiful Auvergne region – where I lived for seven years.
Amanda J Fisher: Wimereux (because I’m definitely in France, but I can still see England)…
Honor Marks: I am very fond of lots of villages in Languedoc-Roussillon, Narbonne intrigues me more and more; Carcassonne is pretty awesome and Lagrasse is very pretty…
Lucy Pitts: Well, perhaps it goes without saying I love the Vendée where I have a home and especially our little corner of it which is just outside a little village called La Tardiere in the Haute Bocage…
Susana Iwase Hanson: Duh. My village of Cotignac in Provence of course – it’s a mini Utopia and gorgeous to boot!
Bob Lyons: Montreuil-sur-Mer (Pas de Calais) and I really like Bourg en Bresse, Rennes, Bordeaux and Perpignon.
Monique Trulove: The Provence countryside and the sound of cicadas. I don’t have a favourite French dish, but more the combinations of flavours of food and wine, plus a full wedding feast is a gastronomic feat to behold.
Sue Aitken: Provence – St Remy, Le Castellet and Avignon (although I have to say I do love Paris!)
Roger St Pierre: Bordeaux… Toulouse… Brittany… did you say one place? Impossible!
Susie Woodhams: Arcachon, in the Southwest. Since living there for a year in 1989, I’ve spent nearly every summer there and watched my children grow up at “beach club,” and taken in countless sunsets over the bassin. The oysters and the nearby Dune du Pyla are treasures!
Margo Lestz: I would have to say Nice, where I live. It has a nice temperate climate, it’s on the sea and it’s within easy reach of the mountains. It’s big enough to have lots of activities but small enough to easily get around. Since it is in the south, life goes a bit slower here and the people are quite friendly.
Heather Tyler: Aix-en-Provence.
Susan Keefe: There is a little village in the Loir-et-Cher district, not too far from us called Lavardin it has a beautiful ruined castle on an escarpment overlooking it and the river Loir, it is absolutely magical – a real step back in time.
Paola Westbeek: Duras. I call that beautiful village in the Lot-et-Garonne ‘my heart’s home’ because it stole my heart from the very first moment I visited. I feel so at home there. Nothing like starting the day with a grand crème at Chez Regine and ending it with a nice dinner at Le Cabri or Don Camillo. Did I mention they have fantastic wines, gorgeous fields of sunflowers and an amazing kitchen?
Donna Faulkner: As we have only been here for about 20 months and haven’t visited all of France yet this is a hard question. But based on the experiences we have had I would say it’s a even 50/50 for best place between Cognac and St Martin de Ré (on Île de Ré)
Alecia Caine: This is not an easy question because every new town/village/city I meet becomes my new favourite but if I have to pick one I will say Cabris in the Alpes-Maritimes. And the reason I love it is how I feel when I’m there. Peaceful and serene. I also love being near the sea but with warm weather and no marine fog. Cabris is an authentic Provençal hilltop village with views of the Mediterranean Sea and the smell of lavender and rosemary in the air and old stone villas with worn blue shutters. It’s not far from Grasse, perfume capital of France, and many of the great noses live in Cabris and take inspiration from the natural aromas and beauty. The locals gather in the square drinking pastis and playing pétanque and allow time to just pass while they enjoy the moment. That’s what I love about life in the South of France, its slower paced and people take time to enjoy simple pleasures in life.
Janine Marsh: I know I posed that question to everyone – I didn’t think about how hard it is! Paris, Le Touquet, Honfleur, Arras, Lille, Sarlat, Rheims, Sedan, Provence… if I HAVE to pick just one place – I can’t… I just can’t… I’ve failed my own question!
Read more about our writers and see lots of lovely photographs on our Pinterest page… all photos were entries in our French Photo Competition Feb 2014)