This France bucket list includes the best places to visit in France, so you can plan the perfect road trip in the gorgeous, diverse country.
By any metric, France is one of the most important countries in the world. Given its rich history, unique culture, and diverse landscapes, it’s easy to see why the country attracts millions of visitors each year.
That said, although a trip to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre can be a great experience, France has a lot more to offer.
Planning a trip to France? Let’s get out of the capital and explore some different regions of France that must be added to your France bucket list.
France Bucket List
To kick things off, let’s head to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region. Here, you’ll find the Verdon Gorge, which is one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in France.
This river canyon is renowned for its beautiful turquoise-colored waters and towering cliffs that were shaped over millions of years.
The river gets its name from the French word ‘vert,’ which means green.
The striking color of the water set against the cliffs makes it a paradise for photographers, and the opportunity to swim in Europe’s most beautiful canyon is why it’s widely considered one of the best places to visit before you die.
Beyond swimming and taking photos, there are many reasons to visit Verdon Gorge. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you’ll be thrilled with the chance to raft through rapids, paraglide up in the sky, or climb up rugged cliff faces.
For those who prefer exploring on foot, there are many hiking trails catering to all fitness levels that lead up to stunning viewpoints.
As well as being visually impressive, this site also holds historical significance. When our ancestors lived here many thousands of years ago, they left behind traces of their lives in the form of rock paintings and tools.
These archaeological treasures offer some insights into what prehistoric life in France was like.
One of the most popular destinations in France — and for very good reason — is the rocky island commune of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.
The origins of this destination date back to 708 AD when the Archangel Michael reportedly visited Aubert of Avranches in a vision. It is said that Aubert of Avranches was instructed to build an abbey on this isolated rock, and so he did.
In addition to still standing a thousand years after its creation, the abbey is considered an architectural marvel that showcases styles from different periods.
Architectural styles from the times of the Romans, the Gothic era, as well as hints of the Renaissance era are all on display.
Another reason tourists flock here is that the location has one of the highest tidal variations in all of Europe. The tides can vary as much as 14 meters, meaning that when high tide rolls around, Mont Saint-Michel transforms into an island fortress surrounded by water.
While here, you’ll want to check out the hotel and restaurant La Mère Poulard. Here, you’ll find unique dining experiences featuring regional specialties like pre-salted lamb (agneau de pré-salé) and creamy omelets.
Make sure to also try the traditional La Mère Poulard cookies.
If you’re here at the right time, you might get a chance to see some of the regular events held in the region.
Les Traversées is a music festival that’s held every summer, and the Mont Saint-Michel Bay Marathon is a race that sees runners race between Cancale and Mont-Saint Michel.
Alsace Wine Route
Every year, billions of dollars worth of French wine gets purchased around the world. It’s hugely important to France and is the country’s second-biggest export, so why not take a trip through a part of the country where some of the magic happens?
The Alsace Wine Route is home to one of France’s most renowned wine regions and should be a priority on your travel bucket list.
This picturesque trail spans over 170 kilometers from north to south, and you’ll see many stunning vineyards, as well as charming historic villages nestled at the foot of the Vosges Mountains.
This part of France is home to some unique grape varieties that you may recognize. Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris are all native to Alsace, making this route the perfect spot to sample some new wines.
In terms of the historic villages, both Eguisheim and Riquewihr are worth some attention. The latter dates all the way back to the 9th Century, and the former to the early Middle Ages, both of these medieval villages will take you back in time.
Eguisheim has won awards for its beauty, and thanks to preservation efforts, Riquewihr still looks much like it did in the 16th century.
While you’re drinking wine in this region, you’ll need some food to go with it. Luckily, the French take their food seriously, and Alsatian cuisine is no exception.
Consider trying the thin pizza-like “tarte flambée,” a dish topped with cream cheese, onions, and bacon.
Additionally, the “choucroute garnie” is a hearty sauerkraut served alongside different meats, and both of these meals pair well with the local wines.
The Châteaux of the Loire Valley
Coming in fourth on our list is The Châteaux of the Loire Valley, a must-visit on your French vacation.
Walk amongst castles from the Renaissance era scattered across the banks of the Loire River, serving as timeless reminders of France’s rich history. Each château features incredible architecture, immaculately kept gardens, and captivating stories from the past.
Of these châteaus, a couple of them stand out: Chambord and Chenonceau.
Château de Chambord features distinctive Renaissance architecture that reflects the grandeur of King Francis I.
Château de Chenonceau, on the other hand, is more elegant with its arches spanning across the river Cher.
Even with the impressive architecture and historical importance, the best part of these castles might be the incredible landscaping.
They were designed by famous French gardeners, including André Le Nôtre, who also designed Versailles’ gardens. The layouts are intricate and filled with fountains, sculptures, flower beds, and manicured lawns, and they are very well looked after.
Just like with Mont Saint-Michel earlier in the list, this region has festivals and events worth checking out.
You’ll often find classical music concerts held in the Loire Valley during the summer months, and later on in the year, when things cool down, you’ll find Christmas markets filling up the courtyards.
To make sure you get the most out of this experience, consider opting for a guided tour.
This is the best approach if you’re interested in the historical side of the region.
You’ll learn all about the royal residents who once lived here, as well as the pivotal moments that took place within their walls.
The Calanques of Marseille
Rounding out the list at number five is The Calanques of Marseille, a series of coastal inlets along the Mediterranean Sea. This destination definitely deserves to be on your travel bucket list.
At a length of about 20 kilometers, these limestone formations stretch from the city of Marseille to the small fishing village of Cassis.
Much like the Verdon Gorge, there are a number of different ways to experience The Calanques of Marseille.
Adventure seekers have hiking trails along steep cliffs, and those who want to get out on the water can do so via kayak or by taking a boat tour. Some of the terrain and hiking paths may be challenging at times, but the views looking over the water make it worth it.
If you want some even more adventure, this is also a great spot for diving enthusiasts. The crystal-clear water is home to a lot of diverse marine life like groupers and sea fans, and makes this location one of the best for diving in France.
Back in 2012, most of Calanques was declared a National Park with the aim of protecting the diverse ecosystems while also controlling visitor access during high-risk fire periods in the summer months.
These conservation efforts have played a crucial role in preserving the site, as well as promoting sustainable tourism practices.
Given it’s just minutes away from Marseille — France’s second-largest city — you will have plenty of other options to keep you interested and occupied.
As Marseille is in close proximity to the ocean, it’s a good spot to visit the lively markets selling fresh seafood from nearby harbors.
The city is also home to Notre Dame de la Garde basilica, a very well-known Catholic Basilica and an important symbol of Marseille.
The Old Port in Marseille is where you depart from to reach the Calanques, but it’s also worth exploring in its own right. The Old Port has been the center of trading in Marseille for more than 2500 years, with merchants from all over the Mediterranean passing through.
Beyond the attractions of Paris, France has a lot to offer.
From the natural wonder of Verdon Gorge to the historic charm of Mont Saint-Michel, the diversity of travel experiences on offer is unmatched.
Culture, food, wine, history, and natural beauty are all easily accessible, so why not start planning today?
Most beautiful cities in France
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What to pack
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