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
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
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.
Paris, Ile de France and Normandy
The Loire Valley, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, Pyrenees,
and Côte d'Azur
Burgundy, Alsace and the Rhône-Alpes
Generally cool winters and mild summers in the north and central sections, but
mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean.
Names in Teal are regions
of the country.
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.
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
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.
website of the chateau
for details on visiting.
- About thirty minutes from Chateau Chenonceau (on the A85 autoroute) you
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
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]
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
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.
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:
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
Be sure to budget some time to wander through the Quartier
Mazarin to see some delightful architecture in the historic heart of
Click here for the official tourism website of
Aix en Provence.
- 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
- 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
This is a city filled with narrow lanes, soaring spires and beautiful,
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
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
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
The Place des Arenes, a large, Roman amphitheater, is one
of the best preserved in the world and in remains in use today for
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.
for the official tourism website for Nimes.
Best Places to Visit in Côte
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
Monaco, which is an independent state encapsulated by France and the
Mediterranean Sea, sits almost in the middle of the area.
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
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
Best Places to Visit in Languedoc- Roussillon, France
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
Click for the official tourism website for
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 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.
official website of the Sanctuary Notre Dame de Lourdes for details on
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Palace of the Popes in Avignon at night.
The port of Cannes at night
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