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France Travel Guide

   Best Places to Visit in France (2)

Loire Valley, Provence, Côte d'Azur

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                                                         Overview   Best Places to Visit    Detailed Map             

  



  

 

Overview of  the Loire Valley, Provence, Côte d'Azur and Languedoc-Roussillon    

Villandry Chateau and its gardens are beautiful

The Loire Valley, Provence, Côte d'Azur and Languedoc-Roussillon are unique regions of France that provide exposure to numerous outstanding attractions. These regions are distant  from Paris, in both a cultural and geographical sense and are typified by a lifestyle that is rich, slow and in tune with the beauty of the countryside. 

During your explorations of these popular sections of France you will discover charming villages that are populated with  scenes and characters seemingly plucked from French novels.  These are areas to be savored and you should plan on a leisurely exploration if you want to understand the intoxicating travel opportunities that they offer.

 

By the way, Languedoc is gaining popularity as a summer vacation hotspot with many Europeans.  It offers pleasant landscapes, a high quality of life and lower prices than other areas of France.

You are currently reading the section our France Guide that covers the Loire Valley, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, the Côte d'Azur, and the Pyrenees regions of the country.  Our France Guide also includes two sections  describing our other choices for the Best Places to Visit in France, which can be explored by clicking the blue links immediately below.

  1. Paris, Ile de France and Normandy
  2. The Loire Valley, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, Pyrenees, and Côte d'Azur
  3. Burgundy, Alsace and the Rhône-Alpes 
 

 
France Climate

Generally cool winters and mild summers in the north and central sections, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean.

 

Best Places to Visit in France

Section 2 (This page)
Loire Valley Chateaus
Provence
Cote d'Azur
Languedoc-Roussillon
Pyrenees

Section 3
Burgundy
Alsace
Rhône-Alpes  

Section 1
Paris
Ile de France
Normandy

 

Best Places to Visit in France Top of Page  

Names in Teal are regions of the country.


 

 






















 

 

Best Places to visit in the Loire Valley, France

  • Château Chambord    Click here for a photo tour of Chateau Chambord. 

    • The Château Chambord is another of France's magnificent royal hunting lodges.  Best known for its whimsical roofline, numerous turrets, and beautiful setting, Chambord  is one of the most well-known of the chateaux of the  Loire Valley and one that should be on your list of places to see. 

    • Click on our Photo Guide for more information about this delightful château.


  • Château Chenonceau  Click here for a photo tour of Chenonceau       

    • Constructed over the River Cher and resting on a series of graceful arches, Chenonceau appears a magical place.  The grounds are beautiful and the Château takes advantage of the setting. 

    • Click on our Photo Guide for more information on this spectacular château.


  • Amboise 

    • Amboise is a charming, small town snuggled along the south bank of the Loire River, mid-way between the larger towns of Tours and Blois.

      • There are many attractions in Blois, besides the two listed below.  See the town's official website  for other attractions that might be of interest.

       

    • The Château Royal D'Amboise, a royal castle built during the 15th and 16th centuries, has a design deeply influenced by architectural styles popular in Italy during this period of history. Be sure to tour the Château's beautiful gardens, which also offer a fine view of the Loire Valley. For more information, see this link.

      • Francis I, King of France in the early 15th century, became Leonardo da Vinci's patron and convinced him to move to Amboise where Leonardo spent the last years of his life.

      • The Château's St. Hulbert Chapel contains the "official" grave of Leonardo da Vinci, but there is some mystery about the real location of his remains.

       

    • Be sure to see the Clos-Lucé where Leonardo da Vinci lived out his last days.  The Lower Floor of  Clos-Lucé has recreations of many of Leonardo's inventions, but it is the simple warmth of his rooms  that seem to impart something of this nature of this beloved genius.  It is said that he carried the painting of the Mona Lisa in his belongings when  he rode his donkey to Amboise from Italy.

    • See the website of the chateau for details on visiting.

  • Chateau Villandry 

    • About thirty minutes from Chateau Chenonceau (on the A85 autoroute) you will find Chateau Villandry, a gorgeous mid-fifteenth century creation that was  built in the Loire Valley during the Renaissance.  The chateau is known for its beautiful gardens, of which there are several, as well as a small maze.

 

  • Blois  

    • Besides being a great gateway location for visiting Chambord and Chenonceau, Blois offers its own interesting attractions. Be sure to see the Château (le Château de Blois), the Apartments of François I and the Musée des Beaux-Arts.  Blois is a pleasant town with quality restaurants and numerous hotels.

    • For more details on visiting Blois, see the city's official tourism website .


  • Bourges [Saint-Etienne Cathedral]  Photograph of Bourges Cathedral St. Etienne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
    • The massive Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Bourges (a UNESCO World Heritage building) is incredibly impressive and worth a quick visit if you are in this area.  The cathedral is regarded as one the masterpieces of Gothic Art.  Be sure to take the tour of the Crypt, if available during your visit.

    • See the official tourism website of Bourges for more details on visiting.

Best Places to Visit  in Provence, France 

The French administrative region Provence-Alpes-Côte D'Azur blends the beauty of Provence, with the southern French Alps and the glorious coastal areas of the Côte D'Azur.  Surrounded by the Alps on the north, Italy on the east, the Rhone river on the west and the Mediterranean Sea on the south, this region has something to offer every traveler.


Provence is an area that invites you to rent a house and spend some quality time experiencing the lifestyle and tempo of living in Provence.  Provence offers many superlatives but the real reasons to vacation here are the atmosphere, environment, and food. Among the best tourist towns are:


  • Aix-en-Provence A photograph of a colorful doorway in Aix-en-Provence
    • Known for its numerous fountains, you will find that history, art, thermal baths and interesting museums blend in Aix to produce a welcome respite.  Be sure to see Cezanne's Studio (Lauves Studio).

    • For many travelers, the focus of Aix is the Cours Mirabeau, the city's central tree-lined boulevard, that is filled with cafes and interesting shops.

    • Be sure to budget some  time to wander through the Quartier Mazarin to see some delightful architecture in the historic heart of Aix.

    • Click here for the official tourism website of Aix en Provence.


  • Arles  A photograph of Les Arenes, the best preserved Roman building in France. 
    • Arles is rife with Roman monuments and is a noted UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to visit the Roman monuments, especially the  Arena (amphitheater) and the Baths of Constantine. You might also want to visit the  Musée départemental Arles antique if you are interested in the city's antiquities.
    • For art lovers, follow the Van Gogh walk to relive the time that the great artist spent here creating some of his most impressive works. The town has marked a route that follows in the footsteps of Van Gogh Picasso was also a visitor and donated some of his work to the Musee Reattu Arles.
    • In addition, Arles is the Gateway to the Camargue (a large and beautiful salt marsh formed in the delta created by the distributaries of the Rhone River) that is a noted area for wildlife.
    • Click here for the official tourism website for Arles.


  • Avignon Looking towards the cathedral from the Palace of the Popes 
    • This is a city filled with narrow lanes, soaring spires and beautiful, historic buildings.  Avignon is famous for its historic center that was once the seat of the Catholic papacy. 

    • Now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the historic center includes the Gothic-style, fortress-like Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), the Petit Palais and the Romanesque Cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Dom.  In addition, make time to see the Pont d'Avignon (the St. Benezet Bridge). These buildings and structures are stunning and reveal an interesting period in the history when the Catholic Church ruled from Avignon, instead of Rome, marking it as  a time of great expectations for France.

    • The town is known as a regional cultural capital with many fine museums and galleries.  It is, also, reputed for its gastronomy specializing in Provençal cuisine.

    • The official tourism website for the town of Avignon can be found here.


  • Nîmes  Photograph of the Pont du Gard aqueduct in Nimes 
    • Nimes has been a cultural crossroads for over 2000 years and is an intriguing town.  Its Pont du Gard, an impressive  three-tiered Roman Aqueduct located to the northeast of the city, is a World Heritage site.  The city is a living museum with art and history on display at almost every corner.

    • Nimes importance to the Roman Empire is shown by several spectacular monuments.

      • The Place des Arenes, a  large, Roman amphitheater, is one of the best preserved in the world and in remains in use today for theatrical events.

      • See also the Temple of Diana (another unique building from Roman times), the city's extensive Roman Walls (with many surviving gates (look for the word "porte" on your map to find these gates)) and the Maison Carée, a Roman temple that has had many subsequent uses.

    • If you have some spare time, take a walk in the beautiful and historic Jardins de la Fontaine (near the Temple of Diana and slightly to the northwest of the historic core)) for its gardens, fountains and links to the past.

    • Click here for the official tourism website for Nimes.



  • Best Places to Visit in Côte d'Azur, France

    The Côte D'Azur, also known as the French Riviera, is comprised of the southern section of the Provence-Alpes/Côte D'Azur regions of France.  Running between Marseille on the west and Menton on the border with Italy, this is the section of France for fun in the sun. 

    While many tourists want to visit this area because it is where the rich and famous vacation, you should remember that those who live the luxe life chose the French Riviera because of its delightful climate, beautiful seascapes and wonderful cuisine.

    Another reason to visit this delightful strip of coastline is that Monaco, which is an independent state encapsulated by France and the Mediterranean Sea, sits almost in the middle of the area.

     

    • Cannes 
      • Touristy and expensive, Cannes is, nevertheless, a place most tourists want to say they have visited on the French Riviera.  Its has posh hotels, excellent restaurants and numerous shops. Cannes has an "luxe" atmosphere about it that is richly deserved.  Curiously, Cannes has become something of an attraction to conventions of many types.

      • Fantastic weather beckons in most seasons. but April to October are best the best times to visit.

      • Reserve time for a walk along the Croisette,  a colorful promenade lined with palm trees that runs along the waterfront, allows one to take in the scenery and bathe in the ambiance of the luxury hotels and exotic boutiques.

      • For more information on visiting, see the city's official website.


    • St-Tropez
      • The seaside village and its surrounding bay present a delightful setting.  The area is filled with numerous shops and its beaches, nightlife and restaurants are excellent.   Staying here can be expensive and difficult to book during the high season. 

      • Art lovers will be attracted to the Musée de l'Annonciade  with its modern collection of regional art by well known masters, many of whom painted in St. Tropez.

      • The English language version of city's official website is sparse, but can be found here.

     

Best Places to Visit  in Languedoc- Roussillon, France 

  • Carcassonne  Photographs and information about Carcassonne  
    • The walled City of Carcassonne is one of  the world's premier examples of a medieval walled and fortified town.  The fortifications (over 50 towers and a mile and half of ramparts), and the Count's Castle (the Château Comtal) date from the 13th century and are great fun to explore.

    • Be sure to walk the medieval passages of La Cité (the medieval section of the town). Also make time for a tour of the 13th century Basilica of Saint Nazaire and St. Celse which has a  internally- supported, architecture (no flying buttresses) and some amazing stained glass in the apse and transepts

    • Venture into the Ville Basse ( the portion of the town outside of the fortification) to see the Bastide Saint Louis, the  lower city's historic town center

    • Although many are tempted to see  Walls and fast forward through the town, we think you would enjoy spending a night in Carcassonne, as it takes on a special ambiance after the tour buses have left and life returns to normal.

    • Click for the official tourism website for Carcassonne

The Pyrenees

The Pyrenees are a mountainous area along France's border with Spain known for fine hiking, skiing and a variety of outdoor activities.  However, one location in the foothills of the Pyrenees attracts the majority of those who visit this area.

Lourdes

   The Santuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Lourdes is a small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains that is famous for the eighteen apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.  The location has become one of the most famous modern shrines of the Catholic faith and is reputed for its miraculous healings based on a mountain spring  (at the grotto - Massabielle) created during the Miracle at Lourdes.

Lourdes is one of the most visited sites in France, as approximately five million pilgrims travel here each year to see the site of the apparitions, as well as the numerous basilicas, water taps, the Way of the Cross and the Museum of St. Bernadette. 

See the official website of the Sanctuary Notre Dame de Lourdes for details on visiting.

 

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Chateau Chambord is spectacular

 

 

Chateau Chenonceau on the River Cher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Close-Luce where Leornardo da Vinci spent his last days.

 

 

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Night enhances the austere look of the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France

Palace of the Popes in Avignon at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The port of Cannes at night

The port of Cannes at night

 

St. Tropez

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Best Places to Visit in France

Section 2 (This page)
Loire Valley Chateaus
Provence
Cote d'Azur
Languedoc-Roussillon
Pyrenees

Section 3
Burgundy
Alsace
Rhône-Alpes  

Section 1
Paris
Ile de France
Normandy

    

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