Planning a trip to France? Here are our top 5 best places to visit! We tell you why they’re great, what to do, and of course, what to eat!
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Our Top 5 Favorite Places in France
- Loire Valley – Central France
- Brittany and Normandy
- Southern France
- It’s not a one trip only type of place. Plan on visiting France and making sure to add a couple of days on one end to do Paris. Keep visiting, because you can never see it all.
- You can take bus tours around Paris that will do all the hard work for you.
- Our favorite restaurants: La Fregate (1 Rue du Bac – Angle, Quai Voltaire, 75007 Paris, France), Le Soufflé (36 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris, France), and Le Comptoir de Relais (9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006 Paris, France).
- Go to the Moulin Rouge, but don’t buy dinner.
- On one of your first visits, visit the top ten sights that include: Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Dorsay Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, etc.
- Be careful of scammers and thieves.
- Visit some out of the way Paris sight and places like: La Pere Cimitiere, Desrolles Taxidermy Shop, and Musée des Arts Forains.
Loire Valley Tips
We spent nine days in the Loire Valley, which is rich in castles, wine, historic towns, and has so much to offer. Close to Paris, I would recommend that even on your very first trip to France, along with Paris, you could do this trip and be very, very happy.
- Rent a car, it’s crucial!
- Find a central place to stay and use it as a hub.
- Visit one of the many world heritage sites of the Loire Valley in the mornings and early afternoon.
- Find a country restaurant with a 3-plate menu of the day, and sit and enjoy your lunch/dinner for a couple of hours with some wine.
- Check out the wineries and markets in the beautiful towns, enough for a quick supper and maybe to take home. Make the mushroom soup we mentioned on the podcast.
Alsace in the Grand Est – Tips
One of our favorite parts of France, while we lived in Germany, we’d make the pilgrimage over to Alsace a minimum of twice a year, and sometimes more. We highly recommend this region as a place to spend at least one week. At least. You can also add Champagne to the itinerary and sip some more amazing wines. If you do, add a couple of days as well.
- The area on the far, far east of France from Colmar to Strasbourg, is the absolute most beautiful, charming part of France. It’s about 70 or so kilometers of small medieval towns, vineyards, and excellent restaurants. If you don’t stop, it will only take about an hour to drive.
- Pick one place, any place and use it as your hub. With your car, take your time to explore all the small towns, sip the wines, and suss out the best places to eat. We have a few recommendations.
- Everyone has their favorite towns, ours are Kaysersberg, Kientzheim, and Ribeauville. Don’t miss them. Promise.
- If you get a place with a kitchen and you want a great place to shop, go to Cora in Colmar. (Actually just go no matter what!)
- Our favorite place to stay and have at least one dinner is the Schwendi in Kientzheim. We’ve also stayed in Ribeauville, Kaysersberg, all up and down the Route des Vins (Wine Route). It’s all super charming, so you can’t go wrong.
- While there, hop across the border and have a German lunch or something as well. Why not? You are right there.
Brittany and Normandy – Tips
This trip was once again about ten days. Getting up to Brittany from Paris is pretty easy, so rent a car and book your central place to stay. We did cover a few more miles on this trip but the scenery, the cities, the sights, and the food were all beautiful.
- Some things to include on your trip in northern France are the World War II sights like the cemeteries and beaches, as well as gorgeous towns and cities to stop by and sightsee for a day such as: Bayeux, Quimper, St. Malo, Fougeres, and Dinan.
- Take a drive around Cap Frehel and visit the tower and castle nearby.
- One of the most important and unmissable sights is the world heritage site of Mont St. Michel.
- Thanks to Anthony Bourdain we made a special tip out to Belon for some oysters and loved it.
- Normandy is a foodie’s destination with apple cider and cheese routes to get your taste buds glowing. Make time for at least a few tastings. We loved the calvados!
- Don’t schedule yourself to be too busy for spontaneity. One very French meal is moules frites or mussels and fries. On our trip, we happened on a town having a moules festival. We pulled up and had one of the best meals of our lives, surrounded only by locals who enjoyed the mussels as much as we did.
A Trip to Occitanie – Formerly Known as Languedoc- Roussillon
There’s so much to do in the southern region of France that one trip probably won’t be enough, but this one will whet your appetite for more. There’s no doubt about that. We took a mere ten days on this trip, but in hindsight should have opted for no less than 15 days. There’s that much to do.
- This region is ripe with world heritage spots like the Canal du Midi and the Pont de Gard. Make sure they are on your list.
- This region is so close to Andorra (the 6th smallest country in Europe) that it’s almost a sin not to take advantage. Go! It’s also close to Spain, and you can definitely dip your toe there as well, but hey, Spain and her beautiful cities really requires a bunch of trips on her own.
- Here are some of the places we found in this region that were well worth a good day’s worth of sight-seeing: Nimes, Carcassonne, Aigues Marques, and Uzes, and many little towns in between.
- Being so close to Spain, and even speaking Catalan, the summer is filled with feria (festivals) so read all the small signs and make sure to hit one or two. They’re a blast.
- Some foods you need to try in this region are the cassoulet (a bean stew), crème Catalane (dessert to die for), find and eat as many olives as you can, and of course the king of cheese’s Roquefort is made in this region.
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