Your Favourite Places in France Revealed

Your Favourite Places in France Revealed

To celebrate the 200th edition of France Today magazine we asked readers, contributors and colleagues to share their favourite French places, experiences and cultural icons. Here we present a rich, eclectic selection of your favourite French locations, from classics to lesser-known gems.

Deep in the southwest corner of the département of the Tarn, and in the heart of the Lauragais, we found the lovely village of Sorèze and its ancient abbey. It became a military academy in 1776, and part of it is a fascinating museum to that way of life, with paintings of its most famous graduates, including the explorer Lapérouse, whose own museum is up the road in Albi. But the highlight of the abbey is the gallery of art by Dom Robert, a Benedictine monk until his death in 1997, and an inspirational artist and tapestry designer. – Donald Shiach, subscriber

My husband and I love so many places in France. We always like to return to Fécamp to soak in its stunning falaises, charming promenade and friendly people. We also love Bergheim, in Alsace the perfect place for brisk walks around the well-maintained village walls, or a longer hike through the golden vineyards. – Barbara Clark, subscriber

We spent two weeks in Collioure in 2012 and dream about returning. We spent days searching out the different locations where Matisse and Picasso painted. – Kathleen Wellen, subscriber

The Loire Valley is fabulous to revisit: châteaux, wine and divine countryside. – Christine Peel, subscriber

The Sologne is the setting for what is perhaps the greatest love story ever told © Fotolia

Rue Jean Mermoz for the Green Door and le Club Écosse and long past memories. – Robert Penny, subscriber

My all-time favourite place to visit in France is Monet’s home and gardens at Giverny. As an American, the most hallowed site is the Normandy beaches. In Paris, seeing all the art is what I go back to view again. – George Affeldt, subscriber

Saint-Paul de Vence, Carcassonne and Épernay. – Liette Belanger, subscriber

Collonges-la-Rouge, a medieval village in the Limousin. – Christine Carton, subscriber

Vézelay, with its long history of people who have gone there to worship. – Elizabeth Keesee, subscriber

Giverny Gardens © Selena N. B. H. / Flickr

Anywhere in Brittany, but particularly Dinan, with its combination of riverside sights plus the upper town, shops and historic sites. – John Armstrong, subscriber

For me, Paris is it. And, each marvellous place I explore in France from Nice – to Fort-de-France – just seems to go so smoothly with my #1 love. – Elizabeth Farrar, subscriber

We are especially keen on the Dordogne and Bretagne, so narrowing our answer down to one village would be very difficult. We always go back to Monpazier in the Dordogne, and we love walking the coastal pathways in Bretagne, especially the Côte de Granit Rose. And there is no scenic drive quite like the one along the Gorges de l’Ardèche. We’re also always on the lookout for Neolithic burial chambers and standing stones and prehistoric painted caves. Standing in front of the painted horses in Pech Merle was an unforgettable moment, to be sure. – Judith Blyckert, subscriber

We went up to the top of Mont Ventoux, which we knew from the Tour de France, which we always watch on TV at our home in South Africa. – Tanneke Bosma, subscriber

Saint-Lunaire in Brittany. Such a wonderful beach for family days out. Absolute heaven. – Graham Pidgeon, subscriber

Lavender fields in Les Baronnies, the area to the north and east of Mont Ventoux.

Meung-sur-Loire. We visited after reading many Maigret stories by the Belgian writer Georges Simenon. The fictional detective was to retire to a cottage in Meung. We were intrigued to find it was twinned with Lymm (Cheshire) where I taught chemistry and physics at the grammar school. – Merfyn Jones, subscriber

My in-laws retired to the town in the 1960s and owned a lovely apartment on the Avenue de Verdun. One of their idiosyncrasies was to spot annually a vehicle registration from every one of France’s départements. In August, the population of Biarritz rose from 32,000 to 132,000 which they found intolerable so for the entire month every year they would decamp to Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry in the Pyrenees. – Donald Ruffell, subscriber

I first visited Parc Monceau in Paris with my daughter and was delighted with the variety of features we found there. I especially love the colonnade near the water-lily pond. It is so peaceful and stately looking. The bridge, the carousel, the pyramid and other surprises are just delightful. – Jeanne Cracraft, subscriber

In mid June, for the best part of 25 years, my late wife, Helen, and I would drive to Provence and the Côte d’Azur, staying in lovely places and sightseeing en route. Our goal was to spend a week to ten days in Antibes, walk around its walls and the narrow streets in the old town, visit its shops and eat and drink in its cafés and restaurants and stroll to the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour to gaze at the super yachts. – Robert Marks, subscriber

Paris. On the bridge where Rue de Crimée crosses the Canal de l’Ourcq, look southwest to watch pleasure boaters, pétanque players and picnickers. Turn northeast to see Paris’s cheapest Sunday food market, a lively barge pub, world-class street art and, if you’re lucky, the resident heron. It’s all happening. – Stephen Clarke, author and France Today columnist

Serre-Ponçon reservoir lake in Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur © shutterstock

Every morning, we are treated to one of the most impressive sights anywhere on the planet: a panoramic view of Carcassonne’s medieval cité. Tilted Roman vestiges are flanked by medieval brickwork, and the 52 turrets beautifully restored by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the late 19th century. – Dominic Rippon, contributor

How can I not choose our olive farm overlooking the palm-fringed French Riviera? We found this rundown farm 37 years ago. The land was a jungle; we had no idea there were centenarian olive trees here producing the finest organic olive oil. We now have 350 olive trees. This magical place changed my life. – Carol Drinkwater, actress, author and France Today columnist

Cirque de Troumouse. This site, off-the- beaten-track in the Pyrenees National Park, offers breathtaking scenery and superb hikes whatever the season. But it’s at its best in the spring/early summer, or autumn. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot an emblematic isard (Pyrenean chamois) or maybe even a cute little marmot. – Steve Turnbull, contributor

As a teenager I spent many viciously hot Provençal summer days swimming in the gorgeous Lac de Sainte-Croix, a reservoir at the outlet of the Verdon. Gorge, formed when a huge dam was built there in the 1970s. I can still hear the noisy cicadas and smell the rich pine forests surrounding the lake. – Dominic Bliss, contributor

Once, I came across a deserted château, like something out of Alain Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes. Turrets cloaked in ivy, doorless and stripped of anything of value, Le Château de Couët, in Menetou-Râtel, was strangely beautiful. A farmer told me the Couëts were landed gentry, but with no hard cash they’d abandoned their home to the bats and pigeons. – Deborah Nash, contributor

Carcassonne © G. Deschamps

My favourite place in France is the little- known winemaking region of the Corbières, where the tiny villages are surrounded by tumbling vines and medieval Cathar castles. I first discovered this hidden gem the summer I moved here, 16 years ago, and I have been returning ever since. – Emily Monaco, contributor

Belle-Île-en-Mer. This aptly-named 32 sq mile island eight miles off the coast of Brittany seduced Monet, who came here to paint the Plage du Donnant, Sarah Bernhardt, who built a villa here, and, well, me, on a hot summer day 30 years ago when I needed a weekend of iodine-rich sea air to recover from the lonesomeness of being stuck at my desk job in Paris in August. With its spectacular wave-sculpted western coast and shaggy green interior of rolling fields and copses, it really is one of most beautiful places in France. – Alec Lobrano, author and France Today columnist

Aptly named Bouzy (pronounced Boozy), at the foot of Montagne de Reims is a Premier Cru village in the heart of Champagne. It’s extraordinary for its still red wine in an area dominated by fizz. The hillside view over the village is not dramatic, but I love it, and return often. – Caroline Mills, contributor

It took me five hours of hiking over Corsica’s rough mountain terrains to get there, but the view from the ridge near the summit of Monte Cinto proves why this island is worthy of its French nickname of Île de Beauté, Oh how I wish I could simply stay and admire her beauty. – Amy McPherson, contributor

The Saint-Paul metro station in Paris because from there I have the Marais at my feet. It’s a short hop to history at the Carnavalet, the elegance of Place des Vosges and the falafel shops in Rue des Rosiers. Sometimes I linger awhile and take in all three. – Marion Jones, contributor

Bonifacio in Corsica © Hendrik Cornelissen on Unsplash

Paris is the place. It’s a big city full of history, a wide variety of architecture, museum shows that expand knowledge and make you think, a wide assortment of citizens showing off traditional or current fashion and places to watch it all happen with a great drink of choice. – Martha Sessums, contributor and France Today ambassador

Everyone has one picture-perfect village which captures their heart-mine is Cordes-sur-Ciel. The aesthetically-stunning hilltop haven is close to Toulouse and Albi, yet is still apart from the crowds. It’s often overlooked in favour of touristy Provençal villages, but for those in the know, it’s Cordes that steals the show. – Chloe Govan, contributor

There’s nothing flashy about this agricultural village in the Var, but Correns is one of those rare rural hamlets that wine- lovers shouldn’t miss. Why? The mayor is a vintner, the town created the first organic vineyards before it was in vogue and it’s also the home of Château de Miraval, owned by Brad Pitt. – Lanie Goodman, contributor

A recent rainy day in Rouen found me awed by the seemingly endless collection of 19th-century art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Perhaps the best art gallery outside of Paris, Rouen’s museum includes the champions of Impressionism, Sisley, Renoir and Monet, who famously painted the façade of the nearby Rouen Cathedral more than 30 times. – Hazel Smith, contributor

Last resting place of three Plantagenet monarchs, the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud includes a modern art museum and a hotel. with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Stay over for after-hours access to the abbey church and stand in lamplight beside painted effigies of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart. – Gillian Thornton, contributor

Cordes sur Ciel © Shutterstock

Parc du Mugel in La Ciotat is breathtakingly beautiful, featuring an ochre cliff framing a dazzling inlet. Turquoise-blue waters beckon observers to plunge in, while offshore, playful dolphins dart around L’ile Verte, adding an enchanting touch to this picturesque coastal haven in France. – Kristin Espinasse, contributor

I’ve taken my family to the Drôme Provençale around Nyons year after year. Driving in the mountain ranges, hiking through the lavender fields to Rémuzat, where giant vultures soar, exploring the tiny perched villages up hairpin curves, hiking in the ancient Forêt de Saou, discovering the fresh products in local markets… I especially love Nyons’ Thursday morning market and Buis-les- Baronnies’ marché de producteurs, which takes place on Saturdays. – Jennifer Ladonne, contributor

A blissful weekend was spent in the seaside surfers’ resort of Hossegor, bare feet happily planted in the sand at laid-back seasonal eatery La Cabane des Estagnots. Sweet dreams followed at boutique hotel Les Hortensias du Lac-both part of Les Domaines de Fontenille. Moonlit views overlooking the lake lulled us to sleep. – Kasia Dietz, contributor

A beach in Corsica named Palombaggia: white sand, turquoise water, sunny weather and small Corsican restaurants along the beach. A true paradise. – Isabelle Leroux, President, Federation of Alliances Françaises USA

Île Sainte-Marguerite, just off the coast of Cannes. It’s the most amazing island – no cars, just peaceful woods filled with eucalyptus and pine trees. The whole island smells amazing. You can go for a walk amongst the trees, then have a swim and a picnic. At every turn, there’s another amazing view of the coast and the boats bobbing in the sea. – Melissa Saura, National Programme Manager, Federation of Alliances Françaises USA

Île Sainte-Marguerite © Shutterstock

Dinner at Bistrot Victoire is everything that you look for in a bistro in Paris: great food at excellent prices with a very decent wine list. It still has some Art Deco designs on the walls and around the old, large mirrors, and cafe curtains halfway up the tall windows. They set up a very small table with two chairs in front of one of the closed doors. It’s full of locals and students who seek out a wonderful meal for less than €20.. Continuous service from 9am to midnight. All that was missing was cigarette smoke that surely once filled the rooms. – Josette Marsh, President, Alliance Française Reno

La Grande Cave is a tiny wine bar located in a narrow, ancient alleyway, with a view to the harbour in Villefranche-sur-Mer. The place is frequented by locals and visitors alike, and has a uniquely welcoming ambience. It makes for a great way to relax and enjoy a memorable experience. – Linda Witt, Vice President, Federation of Alliances Françaises USA

Mimizan, which is a small village overlooking the ocean in the heart of the Landes. Between dunes and pine forests, it’s a relaxing place and also full of life, where families gather and spend time together. When the market is in full swing in the village square, you can find all kinds of local products, which are well worth the detour. – Julie Vervaet, Zapptax

Bonifacio in Corsica is by far the place that seduced me most in France, an incredible place where the magic of the seasons offers light and perspectives that fill you with wonder every time. – Emilie Rochat, Saint-Germain-en-Laye tourist office

So many on the shortlist but perhaps the Côte d’Azur wins. From driving the Corniche to people-watching in Saint-Tropez, it’s all like being on a film set. Also, the gorgeous little islands – Île d’Oléron, which is beautifully unspoilt, and Île de Ré, where parts are full of bustling, chic shops but there’s total tranquillity if wanted. – Joanna Leggett, Marketing Director, Leggett Immobiler

Wintery sun over Saint Tropez © shutterstock

For sure it’s Bordeaux, which is a terrific example of town planning at its best. From the pedestrianised shopping streets, to the busy cycle lanes and modern tram system, it’s a joy to explore. The local plonk isn’t bad either! – Graham Downie, Director of Special Projects, Leggett Immobiler

The beaches of Normandy of course, in most ways a sad site because of the many young soldiers dying on those beaches. But in the last 15 years, I have walked along the beaches with many WWII veterans. I’ve become friends with French historians who carry on the stories and traditions. I’ve seen French school children learning complete reverence for what happened there. I’ve talked with German visitors who’ve come to pay their respects as well. Its past and present encapsulate humanity at its worst and its best. – Aimee Pellet, Aimee’s French Market

One place in France that particularly appeals to me is the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. Paradoxical, since this place steeped in history and emotion is now American territory. Between the sea it overlooks and the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs, the lawns cut so precisely and so green, it emanates a terrifying beauty and takes us back to the darkest pages of our history. An emotional moment in America on Normandy soil. – Sandrine La Neele, Project Leader and Communications Manager, Sorbonne

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is my favourite spot in New York City, so it would only make sense that the Louvre Museum is my favourite spot in Paris. Being surrounded by beautiful art, architecture, fashion and people is pure bliss. – Kristina Wakefield, Brand Marketing Specialist for the US Commercial team, Air France and KLM

My childhood memories always take me back to the Breton coast, the most beautiful and varied of the French coasts. The smells, the lights and the promise of travel to the rest of the world are everything to me. My last city trip allowed me to rediscover Lille, and I was impressed by the Villa Cavrois, a magnificently restored architectural gem. – Xavier Theret, Head of International Promotion & Relations, Le Voyage à Nantes

The picturesque town of Dinan, in Brittany © shutterstock

A place I never grow tired of is Le Crotoy in the Baie de Somme. It truly is a timeless village, with a nostalgic vibe to it and a relaxing atmosphere. Walking on the sand, surrounded by the beautiful endless bay, feels like being at the edge of the world, so far from the hustle and bustle. – Ben Collier, Marketing Manager for Englishspeaking markets, Normandy Tourism

The attractive village of Giverny, home to Monet’s gardens and water lilies. The vibrant colours and tranquillity are captivating, offering an escape into the heart of French artistic inspiration. – Rachel Reditt, Marketing Manager UK & Ireland, Le Boat

Île d’Aix in Charente-Maritime, for a day (boat from La Rochelle) or a few days’ stay. A charming island (only 3km long), beautiful beaches and Napoleonic Fortifications (he spent his last three days in France on this island after Waterloo and before he surrendered to the British Army). – Albéric Marville, Head of Tourism, Troyes Champagne Métropole

There are so many but what comes to mind is driving from Roquebrune-Sur-Argens to Les Issambres (district of Roquebrunesur-Argens) in the Var, Provence. I spent all my summers there growing up and the view from the top of the hill toward Les Issambres, called Col du Bougnon, is breathtaking and brings back sweet memories. It is fantastic to drive or to cycle. – Audrey Labarthe, Tourism CEO based in Paris

From France Today magazine

Lead photo credit : © Shutterstock

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  •  Roger Bloom
    2024-06-06 01:23:55
    Roger Bloom
    So much, it’s hard to choose but after 20 years in the town of Aups and surrounding regions from St Tropez to eze to verdone, we love it.