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See France like a local. Work with a local to plan your trip.

13 Places to Visit in France in 2020 (Local Recs)

ViaHero
Updated May 4, 2020

Places to visit in France range from classic cities to stunning seasides. You'll have so many options that it's hard to narrow down where to go! So we asked from French locals for their advice. Here's what they say about these 13 places to visit in France in 2020. 

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"Linelly helped us beyond anything we could've planned ourselves. Everything she suggested for us was spot-on, and I feel we got the best experience by following a local's guidance."
Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

#1: Paris

Paris | Anthony DELANOIX/Unsplash

Helloooo, it's Paris! Naturally, France's iconic, romantic, beautiful capital city tops the list of places to visit in France. 

Locals tell us you'll find many of the most "French" things to do in France here—from visiting Le Louvre to picnicking near the Eiffel Tower. And that's not all! Locals rave about Paris' winding cobblestone streets, grand stone bridges, enchanting river islands, and, of course, the cozy cafes around every corner. 

It's a city well-loved by locals and tourists alike. But it can be tough to get off the beaten path in Paris. Our trip planners recommend enjoying a mix of touristy activities and exploring more hidden gems—like the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette

Local Tip:

Even though it's a big city, many shops close on Sundays. Go to the Marais—France's historically Jewish district—where more things will be open. 

#2: Versailles

While in Paris, locals say it's worth it to hop on the train to Versailles. Today Versailles a quiet Parisian suburb—albeit one with one of the world's most beautiful castles. French royalty once called Château de Versailles (Versailles Palace) home. 

King Louis XIV (called "the Sun King"), built this stunning Baroque chateau in the 17th-century. Versailles Palace housed kings and queens until the French Revolution hit, at the end of the 18th-century. Today, visitors can wander the château's impressive grounds (the gardens are gorgeous) and visit its spectacular rooms (like the famous Hall of Mirrors). 

Local Tip:

It's easy to get to Versailles from Paris. If you're renting a car, it's a short drive. Or, you can jump on the metro—public transportation in France is pretty easy to use. 

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#3: Lyon

Man in Lyon | Jorge Franganillo/Flickr

If you're hoping for all of Paris' charm (but wary of Paris' infamous crowds) then locals say you should visit Lyon. 

France's 3rd largest city, Lyon is a university town—full of well-priced bars and cafes—and home to spectacular historical sites like the ancient Roman Amphitheater, the gorgeous Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the Fontaine Bartholdi (Bartholdi also sculpted of the Statue of Liberty). 

As if that weren't enough, Lyon is also considered the culinary capital of France. Its excellent restaurants glitter with the highly-coveted Michelin stars (which reward exceptional cuisine).

But, given its student population, locals say you can find fantastic meals for any budget. Eating in Lyon is definitely a place to get some local advice. Our trip planners say to look out for Beaujolais wine and quenelles—basically, a fish dumpling made with pike. 

 

Local Tip:

Lyon's Fête des Lumières (Festival of Light) is a spectacular public festival that takes place in December. You'll find art installations made of light throughout the city.

#4: Dijon

Somewhat off the beaten path, locals tell us that Dijon (the capital of Burgundy) is a fantastic place to visit if you love sparkling wine—and mustard. (Perhaps not at the same time). 

Locals say you'll find both in abundance in Dijon. The Burgundy region is known for sparkling wine—locals remind us that it cannot be called champagne unless the grapes were grown in Champagne—so be sure to raise a glass while in town.

(If you're feeling fancy, our French trip planners recommend opting for a kir royal. Kir is a blackberry liquor with Dijon origins, and a kir royal mixes kir with sparkling wine.)

As for mustard—locals tell us you'll have ample opportunity to enjoy Dijon mustard throughout the city. For mustard on tap (yes, you heard that right) head to Maille Dijon. They've been in the mustard business in Dijon for 270 years.

Local Tip:

Forty minutes from Dijon is Beaune—a delightful walled village surrounded by vineyards. It seems that wine tasting is the village's major pastime. Millésimes à la Carte is an amazing place where you can taste the best wines of Burgundy all year round.

#5: Mont-Saint-Michel

Mont Saint Michel | Norbu Gyachung/Unsplash

At first glance, it looks like a mirage—a castle among the waves off Normandy's coast. Mont-Saint-Michel isn't a castle but an enchanting island abbey, one that the sea nearly swallows up at high tide. 

The island is home to a population of fewer than 50 people—some are monks living in the still-functioning abbey—which means you'll meet mostly other tourists here. Even so, it's an enchanting place to explore.

After crossing the bridge to Mont-Saint-Michel (only at low tide), locals say you can wind your way up—through room after gorgeous room—to its towering peak. You'll be rewarded with a stunning view of the coast. 

Local Tip:

La Mère Poulard restaurant on Mont Saint Michel dates back to the 18th-century. If you go, be sure to order their famous omelet, which is made with cheese and eggs from Normandy.

#6: Normandy

Mont Saint Michel is one of many treasures in Normandy. Locals tell us that the region abounds with fantastic regional food, like Camembert cheese, as well as profound history—Americans will likely recognize the region as the site of the D-Day landings during WWII. 

Populated with charming small towns, visiting Normandy is an excellent reason to benefit from local know-how. Our trip planners tell us that seaside towns like Granville are beautiful and offer the opportunity to embark on unique day trips. From Granville, you can take a ferry to the island of Jersey (technically, a U.K. territory). 

Local Tip:

Normandy is also known for cidre—alcoholic cider made from local apples or pears. 

#7: Côte d'Azur (the French Riviera)

If Normandy's famously rainy weather doesn't fit your idea of a dream French vacation, then locals suggest turning south. They say you'll find plenty of sun, sand, and surf along the stunning Côte d'Azur (the French Riviera).

Locals tell us there are many charming French towns to explore here, including Menton, Antibes, and the luxe Saint-Tropez. Traveling on a budget? Our trip planners note that Saint-Tropez attracts a wealthy crowd (they suggest splurging on drinks at Dior Des Lices or Nikki Beach). But places like Menton are more affordable—and full of Côte d'Azur's famous charm. 

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#8: Nice

Of course, French locals say you can't talk about the Cote d'Azur without mentioning Nice! The 5th-largest city in France, Nice draws beachgoers and history buffs. Locals say that you must stroll along Nice's famous Promenade des Anglais, a five-mile stretch that curves along Nice's beautiful shore. 

But don't limit yourself to the beach! Immersive yourself in the city with a little local guidance. Our trip planners suggest wandering through the labyrinth of Old Town Nice, admiring the sculptures of Nice's main square, Place Masséna, and stopping in at the Matisse Museum to learn about one of Nice's favorite sons, the painter Henri Matisse. 

Local Tip:

Cannes is only about 45 minutes away. It's more than its famous film festival—the medieval quarter of Cannes (Le Suquet) is interesting to see, as are the 18th-century houses on Rue Meynadier.

#9: Bretagne (Brittany)

Locals tell us that the region of Bretagne (Brittany), which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, has a distinct identity—which makes it a fascinating place to visit. Brittany has Celtic roots and even has its own language (Breton) which is closer to Welsh than French!

Aside from enjoying Brittany's wonderful cuisine—locals recommend eating savory crepes, seafood, and anything with salted butter caramel—our trip planners tell us that you'll find many charming French towns here. Scale the medieval walls of St. Malo, eat oysters in Cancale, and wander the cobblestone streets of Dinan

#10: Loire Valley

Locals say that the Loire Valley is like a scene out of a fairy tale, a place where you're likely to stumble upon magnificent French chateaus from the 15th and 16th-centuries. Together, the castles of the Loire Valley compose France’s largest UNESCO site

If you only visit a few of the many chateaus, locals suggest seeing the Château du Clos Lucé, Château de Chenonceau, and Château d'Ussé—this last one was the inspiration for the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Local Tip:

From the Loire Valley, it's easy to get to Orléans. Here, you'll find monuments to the French hero Joan d'Arc (Joan of Arc), who saved the city in 1429. 

#11: Strasbourg

Strasbourg | Patrick Robert Doyle/Unsplash

Locals tell us that Strasbourg feels different from the rest of the country. Snug against the German border, Strasbourg has strong German roots—you'll see this in the colorful architecture, as well as the Alsatian cuisine. (Our trip planners recommend trying tarte flambeé!)

Wander back and forth over Strasbourg's scenic canals, take in the awe-inspiring Strasbourg Cathedral, and pop into a winstubs (wine bar) or two to enjoy some Alsatian drinks.

Local Tip:

At Christmas, visiting Strasbourg is one of the best things to do in France. The city is famous for its incredible Christmas markets. 

#12: Bordeaux

If your trip to France is inspired by a love affair with French wines, then locals suggest starting your adventure in Bordeaux. Both a region and a city, Bordeaux is famous for its sweeping vineyards and excellent wines. Locals note that there are lots of big wineries that offer tours—but plenty of small, family-run ones as well. If you're looking to get off the beaten path, our trip planners can suggest one of these smaller vignobles

Locals tell us that Bordeaux is also a wonderful place to stay in France. The city grew along the Garonne River, and locals say that the lovely, riverside Quais de Bordeaux offers a picturesque place for a picnic or stroll. You'll also find excellent cultural sites here, like the Gothic Cathedral of Saint-André and the Museum of Fine Arts. And—of course—plenty of local wine!

#13: Corsica

Corsica | 471743/Pixabay

There’s a raw and rugged beauty about Corsica with its dramatic coastal landscapes, unspoiled forests, and snow-capped mountains. If you couple this with its amazing beaches, ancient inland villages, and vibrant seaside cities, Corsica is simply a fabulous spot to spend some time—and the crystal-clear waters make it a heaven for sunning, swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

Local Tip:

Corsica was Napoleon’s childhood home. Check out the Bonaparte Museum for a glimpse into his life.  

Where should you go based on your travel style?

Woman in France | ANGELA FRANKLIN/Unsplash

These places to visit in France are all excellent—but only the tip of the iceberg! France is full of other fascinating spots to explore and enjoy—like the cities of Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence, the gorgeous town of Reims (and its famous cathedral), Mount Blanc (and the rest of the French Alps), and more. 

Why not get some personalized advice? Our trip planners are French locals who can suggest places to visit—and what to do once you get there. 

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