Tourist places in Auvergne

A place of spectacular natural beauty, the Auvergne region is an off-the-beaten-path destination in rural France. This rugged landscape is distinguished by its impressive volcanic mountains, idyllic valleys, and unspoiled forests. Ideal for outdoor adventurers, Auvergne’s regional parks offer opportunities for fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, skiing, and other active sports.

While Auvergne’s primary draw is nature, cultural attractions abound. The region is dotted with ancient castles, splendid churches, and delightful villages, and several towns are famous for their cheese. Auvergne also boasts the fashionable spa towns of Vichy and Le Mont-Dore, thanks to the area’s thermal springs. The bustling capital of Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand is an elegant city with a heritage dating back to the Crusades. Plan your trip with our list of the top attractions and places to visit in Auvergne

1. Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne

One of the largest regional parks in France, this expansive nature reserve features striking scenery, including volcanoes, crater lakes, forests, rivers, and thermal springs. The most magnificent of the volcanoes, the Puy de Dôme rises up dramatically from the verdant valleys. By hiking up to the peak of the Puy de Dôme, visitors can take in views of the Chaîne des Puys, with their ancient craters now covered by pastures of rolling grass. Another impressive volcano is the Puy de Sancy, the highest peak in the Massif Central at an elevation of 1,886 meters.

Visitors come to the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne for rest and relaxation, to appreciate the vast open space, and to participate in adventure sports. With its well-groomed trails, this nature reserve is a hiker’s paradise. Other outdoor activities include mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, river rafting, kayaking, and canoeing.

2. Clermont-Ferrand

Perched on a hill and protected by ancient walls, Auvergne’s capital is an atmospheric city with an enchanting Old Town. Clermont-Ferrand also has a fascinating history associated with the First Crusades, which was proclaimed here by Pôe Urban II in 1095. In the city’s skyline, you can count 50 towers, which represent the medieval city’s churches. The most magnificent Gothic monument is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, built in the 13th and 14th centuries from dark volcanic stone. The cathedral is renowned for its beautiful stained-glass windows.

Another must-see church is the UNESCO-listed 12th-century Basilique Notre-Dame-du-Port, a stop on the “Way of Saint James” medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The basilica’s crypt contains a copy of a Black Virgin figurine that was venerated by pilgrims in the 13th century.

To switch gears and experience the modern era, tourists should spend time at the Place de Jaude in the heart of Clermont-Ferrand. The monumental buildings of this square are filled with shops, cafés, restaurants, the opera house, and a movie theater. In February, the town hosts the International Short Film Festival.

3. Le Puy-en-Velay

In this one-of-a-kind town, striking volcanic formations provide stunning sites for medieval pilgrimage churches. Standing on top of a steep pillar of lava rock, the Chapelle Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe has an equally dazzling interior with Byzantine-style mosaics. The UNESCO-listed 12th-century Romanesque Cathédral Notre-Dame has a revered Black Virgin, which stands on the Baroque high altar. Every year in mid-August, the Fêtes Morales (Feast of the Assumption) is held to commemorate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. This traditional Catholic celebration features a procession of the famous Black Madonna.

One of the most iconic sites in Le Puy-en-Velay is the statue of the Notre-Dame du Puy (Virgin Mary), which stands on top of the Rocher Corneille a 755-meter-high volcanic chimney above the old town with sweeping views of the valley.

Five kilometers from Le Puy-en-Velay, the Forteresse de Polignac is an even more breathtaking sight. Majestically situated on a volcanic hill, this impregnable fortress inspires visitors with its stunning silhouette. A viewing platform provides sensational panoramas of the surrounding countryside.

4. Vichy

This Belle Epoque town was a fashionable spa resort in the 19th century when visitors came to “take the waters” that were renowned for their health benefits. Thermal baths and spa treatments were popular, as well as leisure activities such as golf and tennis.

Within the city of Vichy is the Thermes des Dômes spa, which was founded in 1903. This spa offers a chance to bathe in the mineral-rich Vichy waters, said to cure illnesses. Other attractions in Vichy are the lush parks and the Opéra de Vichy, a glittering Art Nouveau monument, which hosts opera and music performances.

A pleasant excursion (30-minute drive) from Vichy is the Château du Chareil-Cintrat. This graceful castle exemplifies the spirit of Renaissance art and humanism. The Château du Chareil-Cintrat was built in the 16th century, with splendid sculpted interior decoration, characteristic of the second French Renaissance. The castle is open to the public, and visitors can admire rooms adorned with murals created from 1560 to 1570 depicting mythological and astrological themes.

5. Riom

Riom is a historic capital city with grand boulevards and elegant old mansions. On the main street, the Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, is the 16th-century Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) and the Musée Mandate, a museum of fine arts and decorative arts. Riom also has an excellent museum of folk art and regional culture, the Musée Régional d’Auvergne, which focuses on traditional rural life in Auvergne. Inside the Palais de Justice (Law Courts) is the chapel of the old château, Sainte-Chapelle, illuminated by three splendid 15th-century stained-glass windows.

For those seeking spa and mineral bath treatments, Châtel-Guyon is worth a detour, about five kilometers from Riom. This Belle Epoque spa town now has a modern spa facility with views of the Parc Thermal de Châtel-Guyons. Tourists will also appreciate the town’s cultural events, including a springtime jazz festival, summertime outdoor concerts, and year-round theater performances.

6. Saint-Flour

In an exalted position on a volcanic promontory, the ancient fortified city of Saint-Flour has a unique character and charm all its own. During the medieval era, Saint-Flour flourished as a religious capital; the Musée de la Haute Auvergne displays the region’s archaeological and religious art treasures. Further evidence of the town’s incredible heritage is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Flour, an amazing Gothic cathedral built out of black basalt (lava stone).

Besides taking in the cultural attractions, visitors will enjoy wandering Saint-Flour’s quaint pedestrian streets, which are lined with boutiques, restaurants, and cafés.

A short (20-minute) drive south of Saint-Flour is the ruined 13th-century Château d’Alleuze, once the base for the bishops in the area of Saint-Flour. The castle’s dilapidated yet romantic remains stand on a hilltop, which provides superb views of the surrounding valley.

7. La Chaise-Dieu

This little village is renowned for its Benedictine abbey. The abbey’s celebrated 14th-century Church of Saint-Robert has an awe-inspiring, high-vaulted Gothic interior. The choir contains the tomb of Pope Clement VI, as well as an exquisite set of 16th-century tapestries listed as “Monuments Historiques” (Historic Monuments). Also on display is the three-panel wall painting Danse Macabre (“Dance of Death”), created in the 15th century at a time when plagues and wars had reduced the European population by half. In August, a classical music festival is held at various venues in La Chaise-Dieu, as well as in nearby villages.

8. Orcival

Nestled in a lush landscape, the village of Orcival enjoys a picture-perfect backdrop of the Monts Dômes and the Monts Dore mountain ranges. A must-see sight, the Basilique Notre-Dame d’Orcival was founded by the abbey of La Chaise-Dieu in the 12th century and is considered one of the finest Romanesque churches in Auvergne. The basilica contains relics that have been venerated by pilgrims since the 6th century, and the choir holds a revered 12th-century statue of the Virgin enthroned.

An interesting attraction near Orcival (three kilometers away) is the Château de Cordès, which dates back to the 15th century. This Gothic-style château has a dining room constructed out of Volvic stone and decorated with Aubusson tapestries. The Château de Cordès is especially renowned for its formal French gardens designed in 1695 by André Le Nôtre.

9. Salers

The little medieval hilltop town of Salers has earned the title of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” for being one of the most beautiful villages in France. Tucked away in the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne, the town stands at an altitude of more than 914 meters and is still surrounded by its ancient walls.

The historic town is distinguished by its houses built from dark lava stone and topped with turrets. Top attractions are the town’s central square and the Romanesque and Gothic-style Eglise Saint-Mathieu decorated with 17th-century Aubusson tapestries. Another noteworthy feature is the Holy Sepulchre of 1495.

History buffs will want to visit the town’s Maison des Templiers, which houses the Musée de Salers. This museum is dedicated to the history of Salers, as well as the folk art and traditions of the region. Salers is well known for its farming heritage, as well as its hearty cuisine made from ingredients of the terroir. Local specialties include the high-quality beef from Aubrac-breed cattle raised on nearby ranches and the AOP Salers cheese, labeled “Fromage Appellation d’Origine Protégée Salers” (Cheese of Salers Origin and Protected Appellation).

10. Moulins

The town of Moulins takes its name from the many mills that once lined the Allier River. In the 14th century, Moulins became the capital of the Bourbonnais duchy and the medieval Château des Ducs de Bourbon still stands at the center of town. Also known as the “La Mal Coiffée,” the château now houses a museum devoted to the heritage of the Dukes of Bourbon. From the top of the castle, visitors can take in panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Opposite the château is the 15th-century Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation, designed in the Flamboyant Gothic style with exquisite stained-glass windows. The sacristy displays the “Triptyque due Maître de Moulins,” a well-preserved late-15th- to an early-16th-century triptych. Other attractions are the Musee du Bâtiment de Moulins, a museum dedicated to the history of building construction techniques, and the Maison Mantin, a lavishly decorated 19th-century bourgeois home, which is open to the public.

11. Brioude

The small village of Brioude boasts the largest Romanesque church in Auvergne, which was a medieval pilgrimage destination on the “Way of Saint James” route to Santiago de Compostela. Built-in the 11th to 12th-century using multicolored masonry, the Basilique Saint-Julien features a dazzling interior with 300 richly carved Romanesque capitals. Gothic-style vaulting was added in the 13th century. The nave is adorned with intricate 12th-century frescoes depicting biblical stories, while contemporary stained-glass windows illuminate the space.

Another interesting attraction in Brioude is the Maison du Saumon et de la Rivière (House of Salmon and the River), located in a beautiful setting on the Allier River. Here, a salmon aquarium houses 800 fish of 35 different salmon species. The Maison du Salmon et de la Rivière also educates visitors about the biology of salmon fish and the history of salmon fishermen.

12. Saint-Nectaire

A tour of Romanesque churches continues in Saint-Nectaire. Perched on a bedrock hill, the 12th-century Eglise de Saint-Nectaire features a harmonious interior and a 20-meter high cupola. Inside, more than a hundred capitals depict Old and New Testament scenes. The church also has a rich treasury, including a 12th-century gilded copper bust of Saint-Beaudine.

Besides its church, the town is also known for its Saint-Nectaire cheese, which has a special designation of AOP (Appellation of Origin Protected).

13. Aurillac

Aurillac is the old capital of Auvergne and the current capital of the Cantal département. This attractive town grew up around the Abbaye de Saint-Géraud, founded in the 10th century and rebuilt after its destruction in the mid 17th century. Only the ruins of the abbey remain for visitors to see. The 14th-century Église Notre-Dame-des-Neiges has a fine 17th-century Black Virgin.

In the town’s Château St-Etienne, the wing dating from the 11th century now houses the Maison des Volcans (House of Volcanoes) with a collection of minerals and displays illustrating volcanic activity.

14. Basilique Saint-Austremoine in Issoire

he second-largest Romanesque church in Auvergne after the Basilique Saint-Julien in Brioude is located in Issoire. The Basilique Saint-Austremoine is an awe-inspiring 12th-century monument with an ornately decorated interior. Visitors have the impression of entering a jewelry box because the basilica sparkles with vibrant stained-glass windows, colorful polychrome mosaic patterns, and intricate sculptural decoration.

15. Roquefort Village and Cheese

Registered as one of France’s “Site Remarquable du Goût” (awarded to sites with exceptional food products of the French terroir), Roquefort is a unique village famous for its cheese. In a gorgeous location in the Grands Causses Regional Natural Park, the tiny village clings precariously to the base of the Combalou Rock. Natural caves of Combalou Rock offer the perfect conditions for ripening the Roquefort cheese, which has been crafted in the same way for a thousand years.

16. Village of Bort-Les-Orgues and Château de Val

This picturesque little village is a good starting point to explore the natural landscape of the Dordogne Valley. The town’s most important monument is its church, the Eglise de Bort, which dates back to the 13th century. The village is listed as a “Ville Fleurie” because of its abundance of public spaces and parks that are enhanced with flowers.

Also worth a visit is the Château de Val, a ten-minute drive away in Lanobre on the banks of the Dordogne River. With its six turreted towers, this fairy-tale, 15th-century castle is one of the most well-preserved châteaux in the region. The lavish rooms have been refurbished with outstanding attention to detail. During summertime, the Château de Val hosts music concerts on Wednesday evenings.

17. Arboretum de Blaine

Created in 1804, the Arboretum de Blaine is the oldest botanical garden in France and is classified as a “Jardin Remarquable” (Remarkable Garden). Formerly the grounds of a Bourbonnais castle (still located on the property), the site encompasses around 20 hectares with 3,500 varieties of plants.

The arboretum blends classic English garden style with areas devoted to exotic plants. Highlights are the heirloom rose garden, a vegetable and aromatic plant garden, and untamed woodlands. Visitors discover the plant life by taking a windy walking path that weaves its way through the garden’s shrubs and leafy trees and across streams.

18. Le Mont-Dore

This lovely spa resort town is nestled in a serene environment along the Dordogne River at the foot of the Puy de Sancy mountain. Le Mont-Dore has several upscale spa facilities. The most prestigious establishment, the Spa Thermal du Mont-Dore is a listed Historic Monument. Inspired by the Caracalla Baths in Rome, this spa facility offers a variety of thermal spa treatments, mineral water hydrotherapy, massages, beauty rituals, and a swimming pool.

Le Mont-Dore is part of a protected nature reserve, the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne. During summertime, the area is popular for outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and golfing. Summertime cultural events include a jazz festival and film festival. In wintertime, this regional park is a winter sports destination for alpine skiing and cross-country skiing enthusiasts.

19. Saint-Saturnin

The fortified medieval village of Saint Saturnin (about 20 kilometers from Saint-Nectaire) delights visitors with its country charm and tranquil environment. A must-see sight, the 12th-century Eglise de Saint-Saturnin is considered one of the “major” Romanesque churches of Auvergne. Revealing a marvelous architectural unity, the church has a somber interior, which inspires solemn prayer and spirituality. The town also boasts a 13th-century château, where Catherine de Medici once held court.

20. Viaduc de Garabit

This 565-meter-long viaduct spanning the Truyère gorge to the south of Saint-Flour was designed by Gustave Eiffel and built between 1880 and 1884 before the Eiffel Tower was constructed. Held together by 600,000 rivets, the massive steel structure with its majestic arch is considered among the finest achievements of Gustave Eiffel. A remarkable feat of engineering, the Viaduc de Garabit is listed as a Monument Historique (Historical Monument).

From mid-March through November and during the Christmas holidays, the Viaduc de Garabit is illuminated at night, which draws attention to its poinsettia-red hue. Guided tours are available in English and French. The area around the viaduct has several walking paths to take in the scenery.

21. Vulcania Amusement Park

A short drive away (20 minutes) from Clermont-Ferrand, Vulcania is an innovative amusement park dedicated to the unique landscape of Auvergne, in particular the Chaîne des Puys volcanoes. Those interested in scientific discoveries, and especially families with kids, will appreciate this special tourist attraction. The park features scientific-themed rides, photo exhibits, simulated volcano-eruption experiences, and educational films. There are also exhibits, activities, and play areas for children. Adventurous types will want to hop on the hot-air balloon ride to take in spectacular panoramic views of the Auvergne landscape.

22. Summertime Concerts and Festivals

Auvergne is among the best places to visit in France to enjoy summertime concerts and festivals. Music lovers can choose from many wonderful events. The Festival de Musique en Bourbonnais presents Baroque music performances at the 12th-century Eglise Saint-Pierre de Châteloy in Hérisson and other Romanesque churches nearby.

The Concerts de Vollore series of classical music concerts takes place every July in the village and at the château of Vellore. La Chaise-Dieu Festival de Musique in August presents classical piano, symphony, and sacred music concerts at the Abbey Church of Saint-Robert and in nearby villages.

One of the most memorable things to do in Auvergne is attending a cultural festival. On the third weekend of September, the Roi de l’Oiseau Renaissance Festival in Puy-en-Velay entertains crowds with its “Tir de l’Oiseau” archery competition, circus performances, and an authentic Renaissance market.

In mid-July, Issoire hosts the highly acclaimed Festival International de Folklore, which brings together musicians, dancers, and singers from all over the world. In August, Aurillac transforms its streets and squares into entertainment venues for the International Street Theater Festival. The town of Gannat (near Vichy) holds a Festival of World Cultures for 10 days in July.

23. Parc Naturel Régional du Livradois-Forez

About a one-hour drive from the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne is another wonderful nature reserve, the Parc Naturel Régional du Livradois-Forez. This regional park is known for its contrasting landscapes: mountains, woodlands, heather moors, plains, and wetlands. The forests are home to amazing bird species, including grouse and owls. The diverse scenery and abundance of birdlife make this natural park a great place for hiking and bird watching.

24. Musée des Manufactures de Dentelles (Lace Museum)

In the small country village of Retournac, this museum allows visitors to discover the fabulous world of lace, through its extensive collection of around 450,000 pieces (representing 100,000 different lace designs). The exhibits are organized into five categories: metered lace ribbon; lace accents for clothing, handkerchiefs, and baby items; artistic lace designs (the assortment includes 3,500 distinct designs); liturgical ornaments; and house linens. The museum also explains the history of lace manufacturing in the region.

Tourist Places in Angoumois

No French holiday can be complete without checking out the country’s incredibly charming tourist attractions. These beautiful places to visit in France have been the muse to many poets and artists, and continue to be awe-inspiring cities and hubs from tourists from all over the world.

France is a beautiful country that boasts spectacular cities with picturesque topography, colorful culture, free-spirited people and delectable cuisine. Tick off some of the most popular European attractions first and then stay to explore the true vibe of the local towns and villages.

27 Best Places To Visit In France

To experience gorgeous France in its most authentic essence, it’s important to visit these cities and spend some time there. Scroll down to know what all awaits you in this scenic land that has it all!

1. Paris

Eiffel Tower in Paris is the most famous tourist place in France. Paris is a significant hub of art, culture, architecture, food, and fashion. It is also the capital city and one of the most charming tourist places in France. As one of the most beautiful European cities, Paris boasts of its splendid cityscape reflecting old world charm, intersected by expansive boulevards with River Seine flowing by its side. The amazing historic monuments, museums, bustling riverbank, and vibrant people pull tourists from all over the world and have made Paris one of the immensely famous places in France.

Key attractions: Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Palace of Versailles, Arc de Triomphe, and Montmartre

2. Bordeaux

Bordeaux in France at its charming best during a stunning sunset. A 5 and half hours drive from Paris, this picturesque city of Bordeaux is perfect to unwind and rejuvenate. Famed as a wine-growing region, Bordeaux is one of the lively cities and among the important places to visit in France. Half of this port city is declared as one of the largest World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Known for its amazing museums, churches, cathedrals, and vintage mansions, Bordeaux attracts numerous tourists and students every year. Its amazing dining scene, spectacular coffee shops, enthralling food trucks, and incredibly good wine make Bordeaux one of the top tourist attractions in France.

Key attractions: Cathédrale Saint-André, Le Grand Théâtre, Place de la Bourse, Basilique Saint-Michel, and Basilique Saint-Seurin

3. Mont Saint-Michel

The beautiful island commune of Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most popular tourist places in France. Located in Normandy France, Mont Saint-Michel is a beautiful island commune and one of the most popular tourist places in France. Snuggled at the mouth of Couesnon River, it offers breath-taking scenic views to tourists and travelers. Enclosed by natural fortification, this island houses an age-old monastery, from where its name has been derived.

Key attractions: The Abbey, Tidal Island, Eglise Saint Pierre, The Parish Church and Museums of History, and Maritime and Ecology

4. French Riviera

Situated on the Mediterranean Coast of France, French Riviera is one of the famous tourist places in France. It is known for charming scenic beauty, mesmerizing shoreline, vacation retreats, and health resorts.

This glamorous French destination is a popular name in the world tourism map and is best known for Cannes Film Festival, quaint perched villages, amazing perfumeries, glass blowers, and potters.

Key attractions: Eze, Grasse, Monaco, Menton, and La Colline du Chateau

5. Arles

One of the must-see places to visit in France, Arles is now counted as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is a vintage city perched on a hillock where River Rhône bifurcates to meet the sea. This ancient city has an awesome cityscape that comprises vibrant sun-baked houses, lanes, and roads.

Dotted with shops and restaurants, the city reflects old world charm in every sense. Also, the ancient city of Arles had been an inspiration for eminent painter Vincent van Gogh and many of his famous works are about the town.

Key attractions: Arles Amphitheatre, Alyscamps, Montmajour Abbey, Church of St. Trophime, Cloître Saint-Trophime, Musée Départemental de l’Arles Antique, and Fondation Vincent van Gogh

6. Biarritz

Biarritz is a perfect seaside city and an idyllic summer resort on the Basque coast of France. This crowded and popular destination is one of the top tourist attractions in France. Key attractions here are surfing activities and sizzling nightlife with happening pubs, clubs, and Barrière – the marvelous beachfront Casino. The city also houses many surfing training schools and is the venue for an annual surfing competition.

Key attractions: Musee Bonnat, Herri Urrats, Uhabia, Grande Plage, Musée de la Mer, Phare de Biarritz, and Rocher de la Vierge.

7. Strasbourg

Strasbourg, located near the border of Germany, houses the European parliament and is the capital city of the Alsace region in northeastern France. The cityscape reflects both French and German-style architecture and structures. The famous and century-old Gothic cathedral has made it one of the not-to-miss places to visit in France.

Key attractions: Strasbourg cathedral, Strasbourg Museum of Modern Art, Palais Rohan Strasbourg, Quartier des Tanneurs, Maison Kammerzell, and Eglise de Saint-Thomas. Also, do not miss the daily shows at Cathedral about the astronomical clock and sweeping views of the Rhine River from partway up to its 142 m spires.

8. Fontainebleau

Located at 55.5 km from Paris, this marvelous town of Fontainebleau is a popular holiday retreat and one of the famous places in France. The city is surrounded by lush green forests and offers ample opportunities for trekking and rock climbing. The world-famous Chateau is the most fascinating attraction of this place.

Key attractions: Chateau de Fontainebleau, Foret de Fontainebleau, and Entrance to Chateau de Fontainebleau Grounds

9. Lourdes

Lourdes is a very significant and awe-inspiring pilgrimage site, known for Our Lady shrine. Located at the foothills of Pyrenees, this market town is a must-see among all the places to visit in France.

Key attractions: Rosary Basilica, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, Ossau Valley, Jardin Massey, and Chateau fort de Lourdes

10. Lyon

Located at the confluence of Rhone and Saone Rivers, Lyon is the third-largest city and one of the popular tourist places in France. The city houses astonishing museums and palaces and has some happening pubs and clubs too. Fantastic shopping experiences and delectable cuisine are a delight for travelers.

Key attractions: Museum of Fine Arts, Vieux, Lyon Cathedral, Parc de la Tete d’Or, Palace Bellecour, Fourviere, and Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere

11. Chambord

The city of Chambord has grown around the world-famous Chateau, a spectacular construction of the Renaissance era. As one of the highly famous places in France, Chambord is reputed for marvelous architecture, vintage structural design, artwork, vibrant style, and interior décor of the chateau. The first floor has the main chambers of the King and his Queen. The double-helix staircase in the center takes to the rooftop, where you can enjoy a breath-taking view of the surroundings.

Key attractions: Château de Chambord, Eglise Saint Louis de Chambord, Domaine national de Chambord, and Maison des Vinas a Chambord

12. Burgundy

The erstwhile territory of east-central France, Burgundy is one of the most picturesque and famous tourist places in France. Burgundy is characterized by plenty of crisscrossing winding canals, wine, palaces, museums, lush pastures, medieval villages and rolling green hill slopes. This stunning French countryside offering amazing and mesmerizing view is one of the popular choices for complete serenity and relaxation.

Key attractions: Dijon, Nevers, Beaune, Macon, Autun, Auxerre, Vezelay, Avallon and Cluny

13. Nice

Nice is a famous mesmerizing city that tops the list of must-see tourist places in France. This awesome seaside retreat is popular for its superb sunny climate, breathtaking scenery, and perfect blend of contemporary and medieval styling in the city’s profile. The beach dotted with superb eating joints and shacks, bustling market, and marvelous architecture has made it one of the famous tourist places in France. It is the reason people flock here in large numbers, all round the year.

Key attractions: Promenade des Anglais, Vieille Ville, Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Opera de Nice, Colline du Château, Musée Matisse, Monastère Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez, Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, and Jardin Albert I

14. Annecy

Annecy is a river town snuggled at the confluence of River Thiou and Lac d’Annecy. As one of the most famous places in France, this alpine city reflects heritage and glories of ancient days, especially in its buildings, streets, meandering canals, and vibrant houses of the old town. The city museum displays alpine furniture, various art, and sculptures of the medieval period.

Key attractions: Palais de L’isle, Chateau d’Annecy, Semnoz, Basilique de la Visitation, Thiou, La Tournette, and Pont des Amours

15. Noumea

Noumea is the capital of the French territory of New Caledonia, located on the mainland of Grande Terre. This is sunny and stunning beach destination that showcases a perfect blend of French and Kanak style in its architecture. The coastal destination is famous for a bustling square called Place des Cocotiers, landscaped gardens, vibrant bustling shoreline, and cheerful local people.

Key attractions: Noumea Cathedral, Aquarium de Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie, Amedee Lighthouse Island, Tjibaou Cultural Centre and beaches like Anse Vata, and Plage de la Baie des Citrons

16. Lascaux Cave Paintings

The Dordogne region of France has incredible prehistoric sites which are just perfect attractions for history buffs and historians to explore the pages of their history textbooks in person. A part of the UNESCO world heritage site, this place contains beautiful prehistoric paintings which are some of the greatest examples of Paleolithic art in the world. Although the cave has been closed to visitors to prevent damage, there is an exact replica of the cave which can be viewed at the near Lascaux II site. Apart from this, you can also visit the Grotte de Rouffignac, which is situated in the Vézère Valley and is full of paintings of cows, horses, deer, bison, goats and the most noteworthy of all- Mammoths. There’s also the Grotte du Mas d’Azil and Grotte De Niaux which has rock paintings that date from 14,000 to 10,000 BC.

Key attractions: Explore the town of Tarascon-sur-Ariège to see more sites, like the Grotte de Lombrives, Grotte de Bédeilhac, and the Grotte de la Vache.

17. Rocamadour: A Medieval Pilgrimage Destination

Situated on a sheer cliff in the Dordogne region, Rocamadour is a site which looks like it is trying to ascend to heaven. An important Christian pilgrimage site in the 11th century, only third to Jerusalem and Rome. It was an important stop on the way of Saint James route to Santiago de la Compostela, which is situated in Spain. The village has seven sanctuaries which dare back to the medieval era. The most famous of them all is the Chapelle Notre-Dame that has the figure of the ‘Black Virgin’, carved out of walnut wood, and is said to make miracles.

Key attractions: Visit the UNESCO-listed Basilique Saint-Sauveur, which is Rocamadour’s biggest church. A little drive will take you to Limoges which is a “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” (“City of Art and History”) and Périgueux. It is a historic town and dates back to the Roman era.

18. Louvre Museum

Once a residence of France’s Kings, Lourve currently is a beautiful museum dedicated to the fine arts. You will enter the venue through the courtyard of the former palace. The glass pyramid there was designed in 1917 by Ieoh Ming Pei. Visitors can feast their eyes on more than 30,000 works of fine arts which range from the antiquities to the medieval one along with European paintings dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It is honestly, impossible to see it all in just one visit. So it is advisable to just focus on one of the galleries like Italian Renaissance, classical sculpture, French paintings of the 17th century and more. Sign up for a three-hour walking tour to skip the lines and gain easy access to the arts.

Key Attractions: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the Venus de Milo sculpture, the Wedding Feast at Cana painting by Veronese, Botticelli’s frescoes and Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix.

19. Jardin des Tuileries

Located just beside the Louvre, is one of the loveliest and beautiful parks in Paris. It was designed by French architect André Le Nôtre who also designed the park over at Versailles. He constructed the Tuileries Gardens in a very formal and classic French style. There’s also a quaint cafe restaurant there with outdoor seating.
Key attractions: Check out the decorative pools, manicured trees, and park benches.

20. Avenue des Champs-Élysées

What is now a monumental Boulevard, was a desolate marshland till the 16th century. The Champs-Élysée is divided into two sections and there is the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées at its intersection. The lower part of this venue borders the Place du Concorde, Petit Palais fine arts museum and the Jardin des Champs-Élysées. The upper part which extends out to the Arc de Triomphe is filled with restaurants, cafes, hotels shops, theatres, and cinemas. Check out the designer boutiques like Tiffany and Co, Louis-Vuitton and Cartier. There are also top restaurants here like the brasserie du luxe restaurant.

Key attractions: Check out Maison Ladurée, which is a patisserie shop and the L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon which is a gastronomic restaurant.

21. Palais Garnier Opera House

Music breathes in France and the biggest proponent of it is this venue. The Palais Garnier Opera is a notable Neo-Baroque theatre and was constructed by Charles Garnier. The venue features sculptures of the muses- Poetry, Idyll, Music, Song, Recitation, Drama and Dance. The loggia here depicts busts of renowned composers like Meyerbeer, Halévy, Beethoven, Spontini, Mozart and more. The floor plan of Garnier is a whopping 11,000 square meters and the seating holds 2,200 people.

Key attractions: Notice that at the top of the building are four gilded groups which glorify fame and poetry. See the grand foyer, marble staircases, and the lavishly gilded lamps. The opulent gold and red auditorium have a painting on its ceiling by Chagall.

22. The Bibliotèchque-Musée de l’Opera

No talks about opera can be complete without visiting the Bibliotèchque-Musée de l’Opera, whose name means the Library-Museum of the Opera House. The said library and museum carry three centuries of carefully documented archives which pertain to the art of the opera. The venue hosts thematic exhibits like a presentation of Ballets Suédois which is an avant-garde dance.

Key attractions: Check out the scenery and costume drawings, paintings of the opera houses and the scale models. If possible attend a ballet or opera performance here. Taste some classic French dishes at their bookstore- boutique.

23. Place de la Concorde

Constructed between 1755 and 1775, this octagonal square was once the throbbing heart of Paris in the 18th century. It also witnessed too many key historical moments which include the execution of King Louis XVI. From here, visitors can see scenic views of the route going towards the Arc de Triomphe and the Défense; they can also see the sensational path which heads to the Louvre along with the Madeleine and Palais Bourbon. At the very center of it all is a curious Egyptian Obelisk which was a gift from the Viceroy of Egypt to Charles X.

Key attractions: The Egyptian Obelisk, the panoramic 360°visions of the city’s major attractions.

24. Sacré-Coeur

Looking like a sensational ornamental decoration and sitting right at the highest mark in Paris; the Basilique Sacré-Coeur has an alabaster facade which is a blend of Byzantine and Romanesque styles. Inside is a mosaic of Christ with a flaming heart that gives this venue its emotional purity. The Place is a vision to behold when it is illuminated with candles as then it acts as a contrast to the somber and dark ambiance. Visitors here can spend their time on the terrace to see some splendid views of Paris. There’s even a tower for getting some higher perspectives.

Key attractions: The architecture, mosaic and the panoramic views which this sanctuary offers.

25. Quartier Montmartre

What was once a quaint medieval village, is now a modern avant-garde venue which retains its old charm. The Bohemian spirit of the Montmartre can still be seen in its cobblestone streets and the charming squares, especially around the Carré Roland Dorgelès and Place du Tertre. Once the home of artists like Edgar Degas and Toulouse Lautrec during the Belle Epoque it now represents the spirit of a new age France.

Key attractions: The Espace Dali and the Musée de Montmartre. Stroll around this place to discover many unseen treasures.

26. Place des Vosges

In the beautiful Marais district, lies the Place de Vosges. It is Paris’s oldest public square and is laid out in a very uniform style. This square was the original model for other squares like Place de la Concorde and Place Vendôme. In days of old, it was the site for weddings, festive occasions and even for duels. Built between 1605 and 1612, the Place des Vosges was actually called Place Royale because it was filled up with aristocratic residences. The square has a harmonical symmetrical form and is lined with red houses full of beautiful stone detailing and pitched slate roofs.

Key attractions: Check out the Picasso Museum, the Mariage Frères (a tea salon) and L’As 2

27. Place Vendome

Originally called the Place Louis le Grand, the facades of the residences here were built between 1686 and 1701. Its original purpose was to house the Royal academics, the Royal Library, the mint as well as a hotel for the foreign envoys. But financial issues made that certainty a dream and it was sold to new wealthy owners who built beautiful mansions complete with gardens and courtyards. It was in the Ritz Hotel itself where Ernest Hemingway resided once.

Key attractions: Check out the jewelry shops here like Chanel, Boucheron, Arpels, Van Cleef, Cartier and more. At the center is a 44-meter bronze column called Colonne de la Grande.

Tourist Places in Languedoc

Slightly off-the-beaten-path, the region of Languedoc-Roussillon captures tourists’ hearts with its distinctive Mediterranean charm. Sunny, mild weather and beautiful seaside scenery combined with cultured cities and ancient Roman ruins make for an interesting holiday experience. The region extends along the Mediterranean coast of France between the mouth of the Rhône River and the Pyrenees Mountains. The landscape is one of the wild rocky gorges, vibrant orchard groves, and colorful market gardens. The ancient hilltop villages and ruined castles on mountain crags add an element of romance.

Must-see sights include the fairy-tale fortified city of Carcassonne and closer to the sea, the bustling city of Montpellier and the balmy town of Perpignan. The favorite seaside resorts of Cap d’Agde and Port-Camargue offer sandy beaches and fewer crowds than the French Riviera. A special festival called “Les Troubadours” celebrates the unique cultural heritage of Languedoc-Roussillon. The festival presents the music of the medieval troubadours in concerts held at splendid historic venues throughout the region.

1 Carcassonne

Carcassonne surprises visitors with the real-life image of a fairy-tale scene. From far away, the rows of turreted towers and crenelated ancient defense walls create a stunning impression. This incredibly well-preserved medieval fortified city, known as the Cité, offers a fascinating tourist experience. The hilltop town stands at a height of 148 meters, a location that was advantageous during the Middle Ages. Carcassonne is elliptical in plan, surrounded by a double circuit of thick protective walls with 54 towers. The fortifications, dating in part from the Visigoth period, were strengthened by King Louis IX in 1250 and by Philip the Bold in 1280. The walls remained entirely unscathed until the French Revolution. Within the walled Carcassonne Cité is a totally enclosed world of narrow cobblestone streets that transports visitors back to the Middle Ages. All the buildings, squares, and alleyways have retained their medieval character. There are amazing historic landmarks such as the former Cathedral of Saint-Nazaire, built between the 11th and 14th centuries. The 13th- to 14th-century Gothic choir contains 22 statues, spectacular 14th- to 15th-century stained-glass windows, and a number of important tombs, including that of Simon de Montfort. For those visiting during July, keep in mind that Carcassonne is one of the best places in France to see Bastille Day fireworks.

2 Montpellier

With its elegant buildings, grand public squares, and balmy weather, Montpellier is a top tourist destination of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. This lively university town belonged to the Kings of Aragon in the 13th century, was a headquarters of the Huguenots in the 16th century, and is still a center of culture. The city boasts a wealth of art galleries and museums. The Musée Fabre (39 Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle) has an exceptional collection of paintings by Italian, Dutch, and French masters from the Renaissance era up to the 19th century.

The town itself is like an open-air museum. Tourists will delight in wandering the narrow medieval streets and discovering private mansions. From the Place de la Comédie, stroll the Rue de la Loge pedestrian area and the Rue Foch, lined with handsome 19th-century buildings. This route leads to the Promenade du Peyrou, an elevated park with an exceptional view as far as the sea. An organic food market is held nearby at the Boulevard des Arceaux on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. At the eastern edge of Montpellier’s old town is the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, a wonderful area for a leisurely walk.

3 Perpignan

About 15 kilometers away from the sea, Perpignan is a sunny Mediterranean town with characteristic red-tile roofed buildings and squares shaded by leafy trees. There is a distinct Spanish influence because of the proximity to the Pyrenees Mountains that border Spain’s Catalonia region. In the historic center is the Place de la République, the location of the Théâtre Municipal. On the north side of the old town is the Castillet, a 14th-century fortified gate tower resembling a castle, which is Perpignan’s principal landmark. The Castillet houses the Casa Pairal, a museum of Catalan folk art. From the top of the Castillet tower, visitors can take in sweeping views of the landscape.

Another must-see attraction is the 14th- to 15th-century Cathedral of Saint-Jean, with an ornately decorated interior. The most notable features are the 16th- and 17th-century reredos and white marble high altar. Outside the cathedral, the Chapelle du Dévot Christ features an expressively carved crucifix. To the south of the old town, inside the massive star-shaped citadel, the Palace of the Kings of Mallorca offers a stellar example of medieval architecture. Built-in 1276, this palace was the residence of King Jaime I, who created the Kingdom of Mallorca in 1229.

4 Nîmes

In the foothills of the Cévennes Mountains, Nîmes has the greatest wealth of ancient buildings in France. The most important monument in Nîmes is the Roman Amphitheater in the town center. One of the best preserved of all the 70 known Roman amphitheaters, this 1st-century AD monument measures 133 meters by 101 meters with a seating capacity of 21,000 spectators. The amphitheater features a richly decorated main entrance and 124 exits. The 60 arches of the exterior facade are embellished with pilasters and Doric half-columns. Cultural events are still held at the amphitheater throughout the year. Another incredible Roman monument is the Maison Carrée on the Place de la Comédie. Standing on a podium, this perfectly maintained Roman temple was erected at the time of Augustus between 20 and 12 BC. At the end of the Avenue J. Jaurès lies the tranquil Jardins de la Fontaine (Gardens of the Source). The gardens were laid out in the 18th century and include the ruins of an ancient sanctuary at a sacred spring. The Musée Archéologique has an exceptional collection of Gallo-Roman archaeological finds. Near Nîmes is the Pont du Gard, an impressive Roman aqueduct

5 Narbonne

Once an important Roman port, Narbonne is now a laid-back seaside town. The central feature of Narbonne is the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, which is lined with stately buildings. The 13th- to 14th-century Palais des Archevêques (Archbishop’s Palace) houses the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire with a superb collection of 19th- and 20th-century paintings, enamels, furniture, and faïence ceramics; and the Musée Archéologique with prehistoric, classical, and medieval antiquities. The Passage de l’Ancre, a street running between the Tour Saint-Martial and the Tour de la Madeleine, links the 12th-century Vieux Palais (Old Palace) with the Palais Neuf (New Palace), although it was built in the 14th-century). The Cour de la Madeleine, in the Vieux Palais, is particularly impressive. The Cathedral of Saint-Just was built between 1272 and 1332 in a bold North French Gothic style. The cathedral has a magnificent choir and exquisite 14th-century stained glass. In the southwest of the town is the Early Gothic (12th- to 13th-century) Church of Saint-Paul-Serge. About 30 kilometers away from Narbonne in a peaceful valley is the Cistercian Abbey of Fontfroide. The abbey’s simple 13th-century Romanesque church and serene cloister blend into the tranquil natural environment.

6 Uzès

The historic town of Uzès lies beyond the boundaries of Provence about 40 kilometers west of Avignon in a pleasant setting above the wooded Alzon valley. Visitors will appreciate the alluring ambiance of Uzès, with its narrow streets, quiet alleys, and shaded boulevards. The main square, the Place aux Herbes, is shaded by leafy plane trees, lined with arcades and outdoor café terraces, and has an old fountain at the center. On Saturday mornings, a market takes place at this atmospheric medieval square. Other attractions are the Château Ducal, which was built in various stages from the 11th to the 17th centuries, and the Musée Georges Borias, a museum of art, archaeology, and history, housed in the Ancien Evêché (former Bishop’s Palace).

7 Aigues-Mortes

Famous for its medieval fortifications, the historic town of Aigues-Mortes lies 47 kilometers west of Arles on the edge of the Camargue Nature Reserve. The massive town walls took more than 30 years to build; they form a rectangle, which is still complete and surrounds the town. The ring of walls has 15 towers and ten gates, some with towers. A broad path inside the wall enabled the defenders of the town to get quickly from one place to another to repulse invaders. The best way to discover Aigues-Mortes is by walking around the walls beginning at the Porte de la Gardette and then through the narrow streets of the old town to soak up the Old World ambiance. Aigues-Mortes dates back to the time of Saint Louis (King Louis IX) who purchased the region in 1240 from the monks of Psalmody.

Less than 10 kilometers away from Aigues-Mortes is Le-Grau-du-Roi, an old fishing village that is now a modern seaside resort. Continue four kilometers farther south to the popular holiday resort of Port Camargue, with its wide sandy beaches and pretty vacation homes. Another favorite resort town by the sea is Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer located about 30 kilometers from Aigues-Mortes within the Parc Ornithologique du Pont De Gau, a fantastic place for birdwatching.

8 Saint-Gilles

Saint-Gilles is surrounded by a lush pastoral landscape near the Haut-Vaucluse countryside in Provence, about 16 kilometers from Arles. The highlight of a visit is the 12th-century church, the Eglise Saint-Gilles, one of the most exquisite Romanesque buildings in Southern France. The church facade features a wealth of decorative figures, including the first detailed representation of the Passion in Western sculpture. In front of the church, at the Place de la République, a narrow lane leads to the town square, the Place de love. The most noteworthy building on the square is the Maison Romane (Romanesque House), which has capitals decorated with detailed figures. Inside is a museum with an early Christian sarcophagus, fine relief fragments, and a natural history collection. From the hall on the second floor, there is a sensational view across the roofs of Saint-Gilles and the surrounding countryside. Saint-Gilles is also a good starting point for trips into the nearby Camargue nature reserve, an easy day trip from Arles and only a short drive (16 kilometers) away from Saint-Gilles.

9 Béziers

During ancient times, Béziers was a busy Roman military colony. The town enjoys a dignified position on a hillside overlooking the Canal du Midi. Béziers has two interesting historic churches: the Church of the Madeleine, originally Romanesque but later altered in Gothic and then Baroque style, and the Church of Saint-Aphrodite, which contains a 3rd-century sarcophagus. In the center of the old town is the 18th-century Hôtel de Ville (town hall). Standing on higher ground a few minutes’ walks away is the former Cathedral of Saint-Nazaire, a rare fortified church of the 12th to 14th centuries, with massive towers and a large rose window on the west front. Continuing north to the Rue du Campus is the Musée des Beaux-Arts housed in the Hôtel Fayet, a historic mansion that dates to the medieval era but was reconstructed in the 17th and 18th centuries. This superb museum of fine arts is renowned for its extensive collection of paintings spanning from the Middle Ages through the contemporary era. At the south end of town, the Church of Saint-Jacques dates in part from the 12th century. Further afield, four kilometers west of town, the Oppidum d’Ensérune archaeological site reveals the remains of an Ibero-Greek settlement of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

10 Villefranche-de-Conflent

At the junction of the Cady and Têt rivers, the historic village of Villefranche-de-Conflent is listed as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages of France). The medieval fortified town was once an important stop on the pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Above the town is a massive UNESCO-listed citadel with fortifications rebuilt by Vauban in the 17th century. Within the ramparts are atmospheric narrow lanes; elegant 15th-, 16th-, and 17th-century houses; artisan boutiques and other inviting shops. Another highlight of the village is the Eglise Saint-Jacques, built between the 12th and 13th centuries. The church features an exquisite sanctuary with noteworthy paintings of Saint Pierre and Saint Antoine.

Villefranche-de-Conflent lies 50 kilometers west of Perpignan in the Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes (Regional Natural Park of the Catalan Pyrenees Mountains). The town is a good base for visiting the high-mountain Cerdagne Valley with its varied scenery. Continue south of Villefranche-de-Conflent to discover the village of Corneille-de-Conflent at the foot of Le Canigou mountain. The tiny village has an ancient church, the Eglise Notre-Dame de Corneille, which dates back to the early 11th century and was later incorporated into a monastery. The church’s doorway features a finely carved tympanum, and the interior is richly decorated.

11 Sète

At the foot of Mont Saint-Clair, the atmospheric town of Sète is traversed by many canals. After Narbonne and Aigues-Mortes were cut off from the sea by the accumulation of sand, Sète became the principal port for trade with North Africa. It is now an important fishing and commercial port. The Vieux Port (Old Port) dates from the time of Louis XIV. From the Môle St-Louis, there are gorgeous views of the town and Mont Saint-Clair. Sète is also renowned for its Jazz Festival that takes place every year in July. The high-caliber festival features a varied program of performances. Musical concerts range in style from classical to contemporary jazz.

12 Céret

Céret is a lovely artists’ town about 32 kilometers southwest of Perpignan in a delightful countryside setting. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Catalan sculptor Manolo and the composer Déodat de Sévérac inspired many celebrated artists to come to Céret, turning the town into an artists’ colony. The Musée d’Art Moderne now possesses many works of modern art including pieces by Matisse, Chagall, Maillol, Dalí, Manolo, Picasso, and Tapiès. The museum’s war memorial was designed by Maillol.

13 Amélie Les Bains

Nestled in the idyllic Tech Valley (12 kilometers from Ceret), the spa town of Amélie Les Bains was named after Louis-Philippe’s wife. The mineral waters from the natural springs have been praised for their health value since Roman times. The remains of ancient Roman baths can be seen in the modern spa establishment. The town also has a historic church that dates back to the 10th century. A big tourist draw of Amélie-Les-Bains is the lively International Folk Festival. This annual week-long festival in August showcases folkloric dance and music from around the world. Amélie Les Bains is also a good base for a trip into the Monday Valley, about eight kilometers southeast, which has a hiking route at Roc de France near Montalba at 1,450 meters. This advanced climb takes about three hours and offers rewarding views.

14 Arles-sur-Tech

With the Puig de l’Estelle mountain peak providing a picturesque backdrop, the little town of Arles-sur-Tech is blessed with a lovely natural setting (three kilometers southwest of Amélie-Les-Bains). The town grew up around a Carolingian abbey, the Abbaye Sainte-Marie, that was founded in the 8th century. The abbey’s church is well preserved and contains ancient sarcophagi, one of which dates from the 4th century. The church’s 13th-century Early Gothic cloister is magnificent. (To find the cloister, enter from the north aisle of the church.) Near the abbey is the town’s parish church, the Eglise Saint-Sauveur, with a majestic tower and an ornate interior decor.

For those with time to explore beyond Arles-sur-Tech, one of the most interesting things to do is visit the Gorges de la Fou. This dramatic canyon is nestled within steep rock walls that tower 200 meters in height at the deepest point of the ravine. The Gorges de la Fou is a unique tourist attraction (an entrance fee is required) with a 1,500-meter-long walkway that traverses the canyon, allowing visitors to admire the remarkable scenery.

15 Saint Martin-du-Canigou

Soaring to 2,785 meters, Le Canigou is one of the highest peaks in the Eastern Pyrénées, commanding extensive views over the landscape. This mountain is seen in the background of Saint Martin-du-Canigou, a small village eight kilometers from Villefranche-de-Conflent. Visitors will be delighted by the town’s stunning scenery and its historic church. The 11th-century Romanesque abbey of Saint-Martin-du-Canigou has an exquisite cloister that provides a quiet space for contemplation. Nearby is the little village of Casteil, on a crag at an altitude of 1,094 meters.

16 Cap d’Agde

This popular beach resort, less than 30 kilometers away from Béziers, is well designed to welcome visitors during the vacation season. There are many modern seaside hotels, and sandy beaches have excellent public facilities. The old town of Vieux Agde lies four kilometers away from the beach scene. The quaint town has narrow cobblestone streets and three churches, including the 12th-century Cathedral of Saint-Etienne, a fortified church with thick walls of black volcanic stone. The Musée Agathois Jules Baudou has an excellent collection of paintings, including folk art and religious art, and also displays items recovered by underwater archaeology.

17 Prades

The picturesque village of Prades stands at the foot of Le Canigou mountain in the Têt Valley. About 44 kilometers from Perpignan, Prades is part of the Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes (Regional Natural Park of the Catalan Pyrenees Mountains) and is culturally tied with the neighboring Catalonia region of Spain. The town boasts an interesting Gothic church, the Eglise Saint-Pierre, with a Romanesque tower and fine 17th-century paintings by Catalan artist Léo Polge.

The famous cellist Pablo Casals (1876-1973) lived in exile in Prades. As a tribute to Casals, the town hosts an annual chamber music festival, the Festival Pablo Casals Prades. Held in July and August, the festival presents more than 30 concerts of classical chamber music and some contemporary pieces. Most of the concerts are held in the nearby community of Codalet (eight kilometers away from Prades) at the Abbaye Saint Michel de Cuxà, a beautiful Romanesque church with exceptional acoustics.

18 Cerbère

This laid-back seaside village lies near France’s border with Spain. Cerbère is only six kilometers away from the Catalan town of Portbou and shares some of the traditions of Catalonia. The main tourist attraction of Cerbère is its small protected beach. Vacationers will also enjoy the pleasant town square and a scenic waterfront lined with cafés and restaurants. To take in the beauty of the landscape, travel southwest of town to the Cap Cerbère, a rugged promontory with exceptional views of the Spanish coastline. Cerbère is easily accessible by train, and it’s also possible to take a train from Cerbère to Barcelona in Spain, which takes less than three hours

Tourist Places in Champagne

The Champagne region is a dreamy countryside of vine-covered rolling hills, idyllic valleys, and pristine woodlands. Steeped in history, the landscape is graced with ancient towns, castles, and serene abbeys. The impressive cultural heritage comes, in part, from the legacy of the Counts of Champagne and the region’s prosperous trade during the Middle Ages.

Champagne boasts six cities listed as “Villes d’Art et Histoire” (Cities of Art and History), as well as five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Champagne region also has links to the famous French leaders Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles de Gaulle. Find the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Champagne

1. Reims

The historic city of Reims is famed for its glorious 13th-century cathedral, once used for the coronation of French Kings. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is a masterpiece of High Gothic architecture with rich sculptural decoration. The immensely proportioned interior has a harmonious unity of form and an atmosphere of solemnity. Most of the original stained-glass windows have been lost, however, there are six stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall.

Reims has been awarded the title of “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” (City of Art and History), because of its magnificent cathedral and other cultural sites: the UNESCO-listed Palais du Tau, former palace of archbishops (now a museum of the cathedral’s treasury items); the Musée Saint-Remi collection of archaeology in the UNESCO-listed former Abbey of Saint-Remi; the Musée des Beaux-Arts collection of European art from the Renaissance era through the Art Deco period; and the Porte de Mars, a 3rd-century Roman triumphal arch found at the Place de la République. Reims is one of the top day trips from Paris, an easy 45-minute trip by high-speed train.

2. Troyes

The historic capital of the Champagne region, Troyes has a charming old town (Vieux Troyes), which reveals its rich heritage. Perfectly preserved half-timbered houses (from the medieval and Renaissance periods) are found throughout the town. Wonderful examples of half-timbered houses are on the Rue Klébert, the Rue Emile Zola, and the Ruelle des Chats.

As a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire, Troyes has many outstanding monuments, such as the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, founded in 1208. This marvelous Gothic cathedral is adorned with an exquisite rose window and a richly decorated “Beau Portail” doorway.

After visiting the cathedral, tourists can explore two nearby museums. The Musée Saint-Loup (museum of archeology and fine arts) displays masterpieces of European painting from the 14th to 19th centuries, while the Musée d’Art Moderne has an excellent collection of modern art from 1850 to 1960 including works by Bonnard, Degas, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, Seurat, and Vuillard.

Other must-see sites include the 12th- to 13th-century Eglise Sainte-Madeleine, which is renowned for its precious rood screen, and the Eglise Saint-Urbain, which has a dazzling Gothic interior illuminated by colorful stained-glass windows.

3. Châlons-en-Champagne

Full of old-world character, Châlons-en-Champagne is a delightful mix of historic churches, half-timbered houses, and lush gardens. This Ville d’Art et d’Histoire boasts remarkable monuments. The 12th- to 13th-century Collégiale Notre-Dame-en-Vaux is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site with the largest set of bells in Europe and stunning 16th-century stained-glass windows. Also not-to-be-missed, the 13th-century Cathédrale Saint-Etienne has an awe-inspiring Gothic interior, which offers a sense of grandeur and harmony. Châlons-en-Champagne’s oldest church is the Eglise Saint-Jean, which dates to the 11th century.

The museums of Châlons-en-Champagne also give a sense of the city’s rich cultural heritage. The Musée du Cloître de Notre-Dame-en-Vaux has a collection of sculptures, columns, and capitals from the cloister. The Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie has a fabulous collection of 15th- to 20th-century paintings, while the Musée Garnet presents decorative arts in one of the oldest houses in the town.

A worthwhile detour (eight kilometers away) is the UNESCO-listed Basilique de Notre-Dame de l’Epine, a marvel of Gothic architecture with an amazing variety of gargoyles on the exterior.

4. Langres

Another “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire,” this walled medieval town stands on the edge of a plateau overlooking a verdant landscape. Langres’ well-preserved fortifications extend for more than three kilometers, with soaring towers that create a formidable impression from afar. The city’s history dates back to antiquity, and the Gallo-Roman gate within the old walls is a testimony to this heritage. Tourists can walk along the ramparts to admire views of the Marne Valley and the foothills of the Vosges Mountains.

Other discoveries awaiting tourists include the town’s historic churches, elegant Renaissance houses, winding medieval lanes, and atmospheric passageways (covered porches). The Cathédrale Saint-Mamma, dating to the 12th century, has retained many Romanesque elements within its Gothic sanctuary. An overview of the town’s heritage can be seen at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Langres, which has an exceptional collection of archaeology and fine arts, including paintings by Charles Brun and Eugène Delacroix.

Langres also appeals to nature lovers, with its beautiful countryside of woodlands and lakes. There are many things to do in the area, such as fishing, boating, and hiking.

5. Sedan

The largest fortified medieval castle in Europe is found in Sedan, a “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” in the foothills of the Ardennes Mountains. Built-in the 14th and 15th centuries, the enormous Château Fort de Sedan features bastions, ramparts, and towers that defended the fortress from invasions. Open to tourists year-round, the site has a museum, boutique, café, and restaurant.

In May, the Château Fort de Sedan hosts a medieval festival. Other memorable things to do include watching the equestrian arts during the summertime Chivalry Tournament and following a costumed guide on a nighttime “Torchlight Tour.”

In the early 17th century, the Princes of Sedan found the ancient fortress to be too austere and uncomfortable. The more refined Palais des Princes, built-in 1614, became the new residence of the Princes of Sedan. The Palais des Princes is not open to the public, but tourists may admire the Classical-style facade.

The town also has two interesting religious buildings: the Eglise Saint-Charles, originally a Protestant church and converted to a Catholic church in 1685 when the Edict of Nantes was revoked, and the Synagogue de Sedan, built from local stone with a delicate rose window.

6. Mémorial Charles de Gaulle in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises

The Mémorial Charles de Gaulle is dedicated to the remembrance of the revered French statesman. Through educational documents and explanatory notes, the permanent exhibit tells the story of Charles de Gaulle’s life and highlights the most important historical events, such as the Second World War and the establishment of France’s 5th Republic. The memorial features the Croix de Lorraine (Cross of Lorraine), a monumental cross more than 44 meters high, built out of pink granite stone from Brittany. The memorial also has a boutique and a café.

The memorial is in Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises, the village where Charles de Gaulle lived with his family. His private home, called La Boisserie, is a charming house surrounded by a leafy park. Tourists can visit the house and take a walk through the park.

Charles de Gaulle had a particular fondness for this area of the French countryside. The gravesite of Charles de Gaulle is found in the cemetery of the Eglise Notre-Dame (parish church) in Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises.

7. Chaumont

Spectacularly built on a rocky outcrop surrounded by forests, this historic town offers sensational views of the valleys below. Chaumont was the former residence of the Counts of Champagne; the lower rooms of the Château des Comtes de Champagne now house the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire de Chaumont, with a collection of archeology, history, and fine arts.

Further evidence of Chaumont’s prestigious past are the 13th-century Basilique Saint-Jean-Baptiste; the Chapelle des Jésuites, built-in 1617; and the Renaissance houses with towers (30 in total) that punctuate the cityscape of Vieux Chaumont (Old Chaumont).

During Christmastime, the town has a tradition of decorating with nativity scenes. The Musée de la Crèche (Museum of the Nativity) has a wonderful collection of 18th-century Neapolitan nativity scenes. Each unique work of art depicts the Holy Family with many tiny figures, sumptuous details, and vibrant colors. The Nativity Museum is one of the best places to visit in France to admire traditional nativity scenes.

8. Charleville-Mézières

Charleville-Mézières is a dual town that straddles the Meuse River. Charleville was founded in the 17th century, with the Place Ducale at the center of the town, while Mézières is more modern. The archaeological and historical collection at the Musée de l’Ardenne (at the Place Ducale) tells the story of the town and the region, from the Roman era through the Merovingian period. Because of its rich cultural heritage, Charleville-Mézières is listed as a “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire.

Charleville was the birthplace of the poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), who is buried in the town’s cemetery. The Musée Rimbaud (at Quai Rimbaud) is devoted to the life and work of the celebrated French poet. Charleville-Mézières is also famous for its puppet theater and has an Institut International de la Marionnette (Institute of Puppet Theater) at the Place Winston Churchill) with a puppet collection. It also offers workshops. In September, the town hosts the Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes (Puppet Theater Festival).

9. Château la Motte Tilly

n an enchanting natural environment, the Château de la Motte Tilly is an expansive estate with a beautifully manicured 60-hectare park, classified as a “Jardin Remarquable” (Remarkable Garden). The vast and tranquil grounds have been restored to resemble their original design, featuring formal French gardens; English-style gardens; and an Orangery, where exotic plants such as orange and pomegranate trees were grown in the 18th century. Built-in 1754, the château perfectly exemplifies the Neoclassical architecture of the 18th century. Visitors may take a guided tour of the château to see the exquisitely decorated interior and then take a walk through the gardens.

10. Abbaye d’Auberive

Founded in 1135 by twelve Cistercian monks, the Abbaye d’Auberive endured both the Hundred Years’ War and the Thirty Years War. Seemingly undisturbed by the outside world, the abbey is enclosed by a 6.5-hectare park filled with shady trees and fragrant roses.

The most unique feature of the park is the Conservatoire de la Pomme (Apple Conservatory), three orchards of heirloom fruit trees. Many rare apple varieties are found here, such as the Caville Aromatique and the Belle Fille de Bourgogne. The abbey is open to the public for self-guided visits and also hosts music concerts and temporary art exhibitions.

11. Château de Cirey

The famous French author Voltaire spent 15 years here (from 1734 to 1749), during which time he wrote several comedies and tragedies. The château served as a place of refuge when Voltaire was threatened with imprisonment for publishing the “Lettres Philosophiques” (“Philosophical Letters”). His friend, the Marquise du Châtelet, one of the great female intellectuals of the time, offered shelter to Voltaire at this lovely château in the peaceful Blaise Valley.

The château is now listed as a historical monument and is open to the public from May through September for guided tours of the interior to see the library, dining room, chapel, salons, and kitchen. Especially interesting is the “Petit Théâtre” (Little Theater), where Voltaire staged his dramatic productions. The park surrounding the château is also an inviting place to wander at leisure.

12. Hinges

Perched on a hilltop in a landscape of woodlands, Hinges is one of the region’s prettiest medieval villages. Many artists have fallen in love with the village’s charm, found in its cobblestone streets and quiet pastoral surroundings.

Tourists are sure to be enchanted by the village’s fairy-tale castle, a Renaissance château with turreted towers visible from a distance. The Château de Hierges is open for guided tours from June through September. The castle tours depart from the village church, the 16th-century Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste which has noteworthy Renaissance-era stained-glass windows and paintings.

13. Abbaye de Clairvaux

Built more than eight centuries ago, the Abbaye de Clairvaux offers a tranquil retreat in an area of peaceful valleys and dense forests. The former Cistercian abbey was operational until the French Revolution when parts of it were confiscated. The abbey has been renovated and is open to the public for guided tours. Visitors will appreciate the architectural splendor and natural beauty of the surroundings. Music concerts are occasionally held in the abbey’s chapel. Twice a year (in June or July and in November), the abbey hosts a market of artisanal products made by monastic communities.

14. Musée de Napoleon in Brienne-le-Château

The town of Brienne-le-Château is most well-known for its association with Napoleon Bonaparte. The illustrious French general spent five years here when he attended the Ecole Militaire (military academy) from May 1779 to October 1784. Housed in the former military school, the Musée de Napoleon now displays memorabilia from Napoleon’s school years. In addition, the museum documents the battles of the “Circuit Napoléon 1814” (the French Campaign of 1814) with an extensive exhibition of maps and engravings. A statue of Napoleon stands in front of the building.

15. Château de Chacenay

Entered through a drawbridge, this majestic medieval château is surrounded by ancient ramparts. Guided visits (daily except Tuesdays in June, July, and August) allow tourists to see the château’s interior, which has been restored with authenticity and attention to detail. The château also has a Manuscripts Museum, which includes a collection of historical documents from great thinkers and heads of state, including Einstein, Poincaré, De Gaulle, Nixon, and J.F. Kennedy. The château’s extensive grounds feature pleasant gardens and include the 12th-century chapel.

16. Château du Grand Jardin

Built during the Renaissance, the Château du Grand Jardin exemplifies classic 16th-century French architecture. The château, listed as a historical monument, is renowned for its formal gardens, which are adorned with sculptures and filled with fragrant flowers. Music concerts and other cultural events are held at the château throughout the year. During summertime, the château offers thematic tours of the gardens.

17. Château de Montaubois

Set on a gorgeous property including four hectares of parkland, the Château de Montaubois takes visitors into the privileged world of a French castle. The château has been converted to a luxury hotel (open May through October) with plush guest rooms featuring traditional decor. Accommodations include a “petit déjeuner” (breakfast) served in a lovely salon. It’s also possible to take a guided tour to see the interior of the château; the medieval garden; and a Baroque chapel, which has been fully restored. The guided visit also includes a video about the restoration of the château.

18. Château de Reynel

This quintessential medieval château is nestled in a romantic setting on a wooded hillside. The location provided an advantageous position during the Middle Ages in defending against the Holy Roman Empire. Renovated in the 18th century, the château (listed as a historical monument) is open to the public for guided tours from June through September. Visitors enjoy seeing the elegant interior, which displays a superb collection of paintings.

The scenic grounds, with expansive lawns and shady trees, are also a joy to explore. Terraces in the garden provide views of the valley below, with a few lakes visible in the distance.

19. Saint-Amand-sur-Fion

Saint-Amand-sur-Fion is a typically medieval village with quaint half-timbered houses and an important historic church. The Eglise Saint-Amand (open to visitors by appointment only) is a fine accomplishment of 12th-century Romanesque architecture. There are also later Gothic additions, including the 13th-century Gothic choir known as “la Merveille de Saint-Amand” (the Marvel of Saint Amand). The bright, spacious sanctuary is illuminated by stained-glass windows.

20. Beaulieu-en-Argonne

Beaulieu-en-Argonne sits on a plateau with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The name of the village translates to “beautiful place,” fitting of its bucolic setting in the heart of the Argonne Forest. Beaulieu-en-Argonne is listed as one of France’s four-star (the highest distinction) “Villages Fleuris” (Flowering Villages) because of the colorful potted flowers that decorate the town.