Paris has many nicknames, but the “City of Lights” is its most well-known moniker.
The city’s multitude of street lights or the brightly lit Eiffel Tower may come to mind as an explanation for this title, but it actually stems from the city’s contribution to the Age of Enlightenment: During the 18th century, Paris became the center of learning and reason, when this cultural movement in Europe sought to make reforms in society through intellectual discourse.
Fast forward to the future, modern-day Paris is still setting trends – but now, it does so most particularly in fashion. The extravaganza that is Fashion Week is a revered event in the industry; this is when top designers showcase their fearless forecasts in haute couture.
The city is an overwhelming maze of streets divided into districts, or arrondissements, served by 400 different metro stations.
Areas that stand out in Paris include the Bastille, Montmartre, Opera de Paris, and a plethora of museums. The River Seine, winding its way through the metropolis, adds to the charm of the city.
To make your sightseeing more productive, stick to the Right Bank, where most of the city landmarks are located, such as Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre and Place de la Concorde.
The city’s premier airport, Charles de Gaulle, is a short 14-mile drive to the north.
A municipality of Paris, Versailles offers a more quiet pace approximately 10 miles (17 kilometers) from the capital.
It is famous for its stately palace, the Palace of Versailles, which is a vivid reminder of the country’s history under a monarchy.
The Palace of Versailles was a laborious architectural feat that took 50 years to complete. Along with its resplendent gardens, the palace was commissioned by King Louis XIV, who in 1682 transferred his court to this small town half an hour away from Paris.
The palace became the absolute symbol of power and elegance in France until the French Revolution in 1789 swept away the last vestiges of the monarchy’s stronghold.
But there is more to Versailles than its majestic palace. Its markets provide an interesting look into slices of life in this former royal town.
Many antique dealers hold court at the market square’s northwest corner. You can thumb through rare finds such as artworks and period furniture and perhaps unearth a piece of jewelry that once adorned Marie Antoinette’s wrists or neck.
Definitely one of the best-known cities on the French Riviera, Cannes is a major gateway to several popular destinations like Monaco, Provence, French Alps and Italy.
Cannes rolls out the red carpet once a year to welcome superstars and movie moguls to the annual film festival held in the city since 1946. The event bestows prestige to this city situated on the southeastern coast of France.
The city further captures the essence of a fascinating coastal retreat with its sightseeing and shopping options. You can choose to look for your own spot on the beach and laze around marveling at the blue skies and azure waters.
Load up on treats or snacks from Forville Market. Take in some shopping from the stores filling up La Croissette, one of the shopping streets in Cannes.
When evening comes, hit any of the bars and clubs to partake of the renowned nightlife of the city.
Avignon once served as the seat of Christendom during the Middle Ages. With 33 years spent under seven Popes who took up residence in this city, Avignon earned its popular pseudonym, the “City of Popes.”
Located in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, Avignon has cherished its papal legacy through several artifacts that have stood the test of modern times.
The Palace of the Popes is a significant example of Gothic architecture in Europe and never fails to impress people with its sheer size and grand appearance.
Close by are other Avignon landmarks such as Rocher des Doms Park and Pont d’Avignon.
With Paris less than three hours from this medieval city, Avignon would make an engaging daytrip from the capital, particularly during summer.
The city shifts to thespian mode during the Festival d’Avignon, the oldest theater festival in France. One of the quintessential summer events in France’s cultural life, the festival turns Avignon’s cultural centers into venues for performances, ranging from musical theater to dance.
Bordeaux earns praise for its winemaking heritage, one that has reigned supreme for 2,000 years. Wines produced in Bordeaux are regarded with high esteem.
The whole region accounts for 700 million bottles produced every year.
Bordeaux is the largest wine-producing region in the world, covering 284,320 acres of land, which is shared by 13,000 wine growers and 9,000 winemaking chateaux.
The city of Bordeaux in southwestern France is one of the most picturesque cities in France. Its scenic waterfront is a major attraction of the city, containing a portion of the city’s classical center.
Some of the famous monuments and buildings in Bordeaux include Place de la Bourse, the National Opera House and its wonderful bell tower.
Cathedrale Saint Andre and Basilique et Fleche Saint Michel are Bordeaux’s churches of great importance. The cathedral’s bell tower is a listed national monument while the basilica dates as far back as the 14th century.
Prepare your feet for a jaunt to the shopping streets of Bordeaux. Rue St. Catherine is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare littered with different kinds of affordable shops.
Luxury brand names, on the other hand, are found in the area known as Golden Triangle that is composed of Allées de Tourny, Cours de l’Intendance and Cours Clemenceau.
Lyon is located 431 kilometers (268 miles) southeast of Paris, tucked between hills and the rivers Rhône and Saône.
Life for Lyon started in 43 BC when the Romans created a fort-settlement in Fourvière Hill and called it Lugdunum, which meant “Hill of Lights.”
The remaining vestiges of Roman occupation in Lyon were unearthed from past archaeological digs in and around Lyon. Ruins of the Roman theater, Odeum and Temple of Cybele still stand today in modern-day Fourvière Hill. In the historic quarter or Vieux Lyon, many Romanesque and medieval buildings such as Hotel du Chamarier and St-Jean cathedral are living evidences of the region’s 2,000-year-old history.
Not only is the city deeply entrenched in Roman traditions, it is also a gastronome’s heaven. Lyon is recognized as the culinary capital of France, boasting thousands of restaurants, a majority of which have earned their Michelin stars.
To have a taste of soulful Lyonnaise cuisine, feast on culinary delights served in a modest bouchon.
These traditional establishments are mostly run by families who are descendants of famous female master chefs dubbed as Les Meres Lyonnaises who spearheaded the food revolution in Lyon in the 19th century.
Nice sparkles like a precious diamond along the Mediterranean coastline in the southeastern tip of France.
The coastal city is the capital of Côte d-Azur, or what is known as the French Riviera in English. It remains a popular tourist destination due to its direct links to Paris by rail or plane.
Because of its blue waters and the wide shorelines, Nice becomes crowded during summer. Apart from relaxing in the beach, locals and visitors alike enjoy a walk or jog along the Promenade des Anglais to indulge in the breathtaking views of the coast.
If you want a change of pace from the hectic crowds, visit the neighborhood of Cimiez, a hill town rich with Roman influences. There are points of interest such as the ruins of the Roman amphitheater and the baths.
Even the olive groves provide a delightful sight to anyone who rarely sees such natural beauty.
Cimiez is also home to the final resting place of Henry Matisse who lived in Nice. An extensive collection of his works is on display at the Matisse Museum.
Marseille is an outstanding port city with an alluring Mediterranean coastline and a busy harbor.
With a land area measuring 240.62 square kilometer (93 square miles), Marseille is the second largest city in the country, next to Paris.
Vieux Port (Old Port) is the main hub of this vast coastal metropolis. Offering views of the harbor immersed in a lively bustle, the area shares historical insights about Marseille through its landmarks such as St. Victor’s Abbey, one of the oldest religious structures in France, and the lighthouse called Phare de Sainte Marie.
Two of the most popular beaches in Marseille are La Corniche and La Plage du Prado, which give beachcombers clean sandy playgrounds drenched in the warm Mediterranean sunshine.
Museum lovers may get a sampling of culture and history from Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne and Musée du Vieux Marseille.
Visiting Marseille for an extended period of time brings a chance for day trip to nearby towns and cities. Plan a few more days to see Aix-en-Provence, Cassis and Aubagne, which are all worthwhile stops to your journey across Provence.
Toulouse is a prominent destination in southwestern France. Here is one city in which the French phrase joie de vivre, or joy of living, is a daily practice among the people and their undertakings.
The dynamic attitude comes from the city’s charm as a university town. The University of Toulouse has fueled the city’s passion for learning and innovation since its founding in 13th century.
Toulouse Space Center is just one of the ways the city sets the standard in the aerospace industry in Europe.
The city is also proud of its main square, Place du Capitole and Toulouse’s City Hall, an iconic landmark with its imposing façade. It also houses the city’s opera house.
The churches of Cathédrale St. Etienne and Basilique St. Sernin are included in the tourist trail as well.
After sightseeing, there’s nothing better than taking in a meal at a Toulouse restaurant. The city is one of the major food capitals in France.
Sit back and indulge in a cassoulet at a traditional bistro or head for the more fashionable Michelin-rated establishments.
Saint Tropez has everything a vacationer could ever want – heavenly beaches, lavish restaurants and fantastic shopping.
Situated on the French Riviera, this resort city has long been hailed as the ultimate leisure hotspot for the rich and famous. Since the 1960s, the mere mention of “the South of France” immediately refers to the stunning Saint Tropez.
Beach life in Saint Tropez revolves around its distinguished range of sandy shores. Plage de Tahiti is the beach of choice among nudist sun-worshippers and those who pursue water sports. This beach was made famous by the French movie goddess from the ’60s, Brigitte Bardot, from the classic movie “And God Created Woman.”
Other notable beaches in Saint Tropez include Plage de Pampelonne, Plage de la Moutte and Nikki Beach.
The more family-friendly beaches are found in La Bouillabaisse.
If it’s culture you’re after, the city has fine suggestions to offer. Visit Chateau Suffren, one of the oldest buildings in Saint Tropez with a history stretching back to the 10th century. For exhibitions, museums such as the Art Museum of Saint Tropez, or Annonciade, and the naval museum are two of the major cultural centers in the city.
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