I have absolutely nothing against Paris. It’s the city of l’amour, the birthplace of revolution, the home of the Mona Lisa, and was once the site of the world’s tallest building. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you which one…) But though Paris should be on every new adventurer’s bucket list because, well, it is Paris after all, there are many more vibrant and gorgeous cities that this beautiful and cultured country has to offer beyond its uber-famous capital. And, with the French ETIAS visa waiver in effect, NOW is the time to visit!
Strasbourg is right on the German border and – perhaps suitably – is also currently home to the European parliament. Walking through it is like stepping back in time in some ways, with its incredible gothic architecture, winding streets and old canals. It’s no wonder it’s thought of as being one of the greatest historical cities not only in France but in all of Europe.
Pronounced ‘Neess’ (for the unfamiliar), this Southern city resort sits right between the Mediterranean and the French Riviera, so temperatures can reach a toasty 74 Fahrenheit in the summer months. As you’d expect from a coastal city, its beaches are big tourist draw, particularly the sweeping Baie des Anges, which is right next to the renowned Promenade de Anglais. Farther into the city itself, there are lots of art galleries, museums, the historic ‘old town’ district, and – of course – the famous flower market.
Bordeaux is the place for wine enthusiasts! But as well as its vineyards, it’s also mainly known for its being home to one of the finest theatres of the 18th century, as well as a great collection of 17th – 19th statues and monuments in its ‘old’ center. Situated on the banks of the Gironde, Bordeaux was once a bustling port city in its heydey, and to a certain extent, it still is, as it’s become a popular spot for cruise liners to dock.
If Paris is the city of love, then Lyon is the city of food – packed full of some of the best restaurants in the country. There’s also a fine selection of museums and shops, making it an attractive weekend getaway destination. Nestled between the Saone and Rhone rivers sits its historic center (listed as a UNESCO world heritage site) home to the busy urban piazza: Place Bellecour. The pleasantly contrasting “old quarter” – Fourviere – sits to the west of the Rhone.
You might also know Toulouse as La Vie En Rose (‘The Pink City’) thanks to the terracotta bricks used in most of it buildings. Toulouse is home to both another UNESCO world heritage site: the oldest canal in Europe (Canal du Midi), and also a hugely popular aerospace museum – truly making it a place to suit all holiday-maker’s tastes. The other must-see attractions include the Place du Capitole at the center of the city, the breathtaking St Sernin basilica, and the impressive Jacobins church and cloisters, and because of its Southern location near the Spanish border, it also has a distinctly Mediterranean feel – similar to Nice.