France at Your Fingertips
Aix en Provence
With a sensibility as chic as the left bank of Paris, this southern city with its Mediterranean climate is filled with tree-lined boulevards and public squares surrounded by 17th- and 18th-century mansions. With imposing stone lions guarding its most magnificent avenue, cours Mirabeau, the city has been a center of culture since the early 15th century.
The Chaîne des Alpilles is a small mountain range in the southern region of Provence, southern France. Its landscapes were captured in numerous works of art by Vincent van Gogh. During World War II the Alpilles were where the French Resistance was first established.
Lying on the banks of the Loire River not far from Tours, Amboise is small market town that was once home of the French royal court. Notable sights include the Clos Lucé manor house where Leonardo da Vinci lived. The town is dominated by the Château d’Amboise, home of King Francis I.
For centuries the historical capital of Anjou served as a military stronghold in northwestern France. During the 15th century it was considered one of the intellectual centers of Europe.
Having first gained prominence as a religious and cultural center during the latter days of the Roman Empire, visitors to Arles will find several examples of Roman architecture still standing throughout the town. For two years in the latter part of the 19th century, Arles was home to famed Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh who produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there.
Centered in the coastal area where the Normandy landings took place on D-Day in 1944, Arromanches was one of the sites where two Mulberry Harbours were built. Today, sections of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches remain as huge concrete blocks sitting on the sand, while other sections can be seen further out at sea.
Just along the Rhone River in southern France, Avignon rose to prominence as the papal seat of power from 1309 to 1423. The city’s center is dominated by the imposing and architecturally fascinating Palace of the Popes and is today known as a showcase of arts and culture which includes its annual theatre festival, known as the Festival d’Avignon.
The first city liberated by the Allies during the Battle of Normandy in June 1944, Bayeux is a major tourist attraction, best known for the Bayeux tapestry, which commemorate events of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Thought to have been created by Reine Mathilde, wife of William the Conqueror, the tapestry is now displayed in a museum in the town center.
Known throughout the world for its centuries-long tradition of winemaking, in recent years its fame has spread as a result of its popular Beaujolais nouveau wines.
Beaune (Hospices de Beaune)
One of France’s primary wine centers in France and home to the annual wine auction known as the Hospices de Beaune, the town is surrounded by some of the world’s most famous wine villages. With a rich historical and architectural heritage, Beaune is considered the capital of Burgundy wines.
Known as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Beynac is home to the medieval Château de Beynac.
A city built on a pair of steep hills filled with intricately winding pathways, Blois is known for its Château de Blois, the Renaissance castle once occupied by King Louis XII and its 18th-century stone bridge spanning the Loire River.
By any measure Bordeaux is best known as the world’s major wine industry capital. Bordeaux wine has been produced since the 8th century, and the historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of the 18th century.
The northwest peninsula of continental Europe in northwest France, Brittany is bordered by the English Channel to the north, the Celtic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Bay of Biscay to the south. Inhabited by humans since the Lower Paleolithic Era.
A regional capital of the Resistance during World War II. Today its medieval center is a commercial district filled with a variety of retail shops. Just outside the inner city is the Pont Cardinal, a bridge that once served as a crossing point for travelers from Paris to Toulouse.
The center of the famous AOC ‘black’ wine known since the Middle Ages, the town is also symbolized by the Valentré Bridge, the building of which began in 1308 and was completed in 1378 and features the recently discovered remains of a Roman amphitheater.
Located on the French Riviera, this bustling tourist destination is host to the annual Cannes Film Festival and is famous for its luxury shops, restaurants and hotels, and the palm-lined Promenade de la Croisette, the waterfront boulevard across from the beaches of the Mediterranean.
A fortified French town, Carcassonne was founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century, though the Romans had fortified the settlement earlier. The fortress, which was thoroughly restored in 1853 by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.
Chalon in the 19th century is best known as the birthplace of photography. St. Vincent’s Cathedral on the Place Saint-Vincent, which has some elements dating from the eighth century and a neo-gothic nineteenth century façade. The city square also has a number of cafés and a busy market on Fridays and Sundays.
Best known for the sparkling white wine that bears the region’s name, Champagne is located at the northern edge of the wine growing world. It first earned it its reputation in the early Middle Ages and began production of sparkling wine with the growth of the great Champagne house of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Épernay is the self-proclaimed capital of champagne and home to many of the world’s most celebrated Champagne houses. It offers many opportunities touring cellars and sampling sparkling wine.
Chartres is best known for its Cathedral of Chartres, considered among the finest Gothic cathedrals in France and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its construction, begun in 1205 took 66 years.
The 13th century abbey church of St. Pierre, features fine stained glass and twelve enamel representations of the apostles
Château de Clos-Lucé
This small château in the city of Amboise was the official residence of Leonardo da Vinci between 1516 and 1519. At the Clos Lucé is a Leonardo da Vinci museum featuring historical artifacts of the region forty models of da Vinci-designed machines designed by Leonardo.
Chateau de Langeais
This medieval château, built on a promontory near the opening to the Loire Valley was founded in 992. The castle’s now-ruined stone keep is one of the earliest datable stone examples of a keep.
Chateauneuf du Pape
Its history closely associated with the 70-year papal history of nearby Avignon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is where the 14th century popes promoted the viticulture of the town and its surrounding area.
Château de Chambord
Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley was built as a hunting lodge for King François I. Its distinct architecture is a blend of both the Renaissance and medieval eras.
Château de Chenonceau
The most visited château in France, built in the 11th century was built on the site of an old mill on the River Cher, sometime before its first mention in writing in the 11th century. It was designed by the French Renaissance architect Philibert de l’Orme.
An architectural mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance, Château de Chenonceau and its gardens are open to the public. Other than the Royal Palace of Versailles, it is the most visited château in France. The château is classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. Today, Chenonceau is a major tourist attraction and in 2007 received around 800,000 visitors.
Château de Villandry
One of the great chateaux built on the banks of the Loire during the Renaissance. It has the distinctive feature of being the residence of neither a king nor a courtesan, but of Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for François I.
Considered the capital of Alsatian wine, is renowned for its well preserved old town, architectural landmarks and museums, reflecting its Franco-Germanic heritage. An area of the city that’s crossed by the canals of the Lauch River is known as “Little Venice
This is one of, if not the top, wine-growing regions of France where many of the world’s finest, and most expensive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines are produced. The region is also famous for its Dijon mustard.
Cote de Blancs
An area of Champagne vineyards known for its “blanc de blancs” sparkling wines, renowned for their aromas, finesse and elegance. The Côtes des Blancs is the source of Chardonnay for many vintage Champagnes and prestige cuvées from the large Champagne houses.
Known as the Parisian Riviera, Deauville is one of the top seaside resorts in all of France. Since the 19th century it has held special appeal to international high society whose grand seaside homes dot the beaches. It is believed that Deauville was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale.”
Famous for the distinct mustard that originated here, Dijon is host to the annual International and Gastronomic Fair, which attracts 200,000 visitors every year. The city is replete with a variety of architectural styles of the past thousand years, including Capetian, Gothic and Renaissance.
Within its old town quarter the streets are narrow and irregular. Its most famous street is the Avenue de Champagne home of many leading Champagne manufacturers.
Perched like an eagle’s nest high above the Mediterranean is one of the renowned tourist sites on the Riviera with its incomparable views of the land and sea below.
Known for its large, scenic forest, Fontainebleau is a favorite weekend getaway for Parisians and home of the Château de Fontainebleau, which once belonged to the kings of France and where many of the thoughts and ideas that spawned the Renaissance were spawned.
Gardens of Eyrignac
This 500-acre-forestry estate contains seven gardens filled with fine examples of topiary art.
The location of French Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s garden and home. Fully restored and open to the public since 1980, the home features a fabulous collection of Japanese engravings. Its gardens have been replanted just as they originally were by Monet himself.
Originally occupied by the Roman Empire, the area is filled with remnants of the era. During World War II, Gordes was an active resistance village that later became home to such artists as like Marc Chagall and Serge Poliakoff.
Graves is the only Bordeaux sub-region known for all three of Bordeaux’ three main wine types – reds, dry whites and sweet.
Haut Koenigsbourg Castle
Strategically location on a rocky spur overlooking the Alsatian plain, the castle was used by successive powers from the Middle Ages until the Thirty Years’ War. It was restored more than a hundred years ago and today is a major tourist attraction on the Alsace wine route.
The Abbey of St. Peter which was located here until the French Revolution was the home of the famous Dom Pérignon, the Benedictine monk whose wine-making techniques contributed to the development of champagne.
Located in northwestern France across from Le Havre, Honfleur is renowned for its picturesque port and its slate-covered houses, the subject of paintings by Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind. The Sainte-Catherine church is the largest church made out of wood in France.
La Roque Gageac
Perched above the Dordogne River, the village is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”) association.
Noted for its large and historic château built in the latter part of the 15th century, its park contains the ruins of a late 10th century keep.
The southernmost region of mainland France, the area is also a major tourist destination in which are located the historic cities of Carcassonne, Toulouse and Montpellier. The area is filled with Roman monuments like the Roman arenas in Nîmes, as well as medieval abbeys, Romanesque churches, and old castles.
This complex of caves in southwestern France is famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings estimated to be 17,300 years old. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac and contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic art.
Les Baux de Provence
Les Baux is a popular tourist town known as one of the most picturesque villages in France. Many of its buildings, particularly the castle, are picturesque ruins.
Home to the Musée national de Préhistoire (National Museum of Prehistory), the area contains a number of important archaeological sites. It was in 1868 that the first five skeletons of Cro-Magnons were discovered.
Limoges is known for its medieval enamels (Limoges enamels) on copper; its 19th-century porcelain (Limoges porcelain) and its oak barrels which are used for the production of Cognac production.
Located in central France, the Loire Valley is often called the Cradle of the French Language and the Garden of France with its abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke and asparagus fields. The area has been inhabited since the Middle Paleolithic period and the central part of valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are more than 300 châteaux in the region including Château d’Amboise, Château de Chambord, Château de Chinon, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau.
With its picturesque towns and villages, Luberon has acquired fame in the English-speaking world especially through a series of books by Peter Mayle, the British author of “A Year in Provence.” Rich in its biological diversity, it accounts for 30% of the flora and fauna in France and nearly 40% of species living in France.
The second-largest city in France, Lyon is famous for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known at one time as an important area for the production and weaving of silk, modern Lyon has earned a reputation as the capital of gastronomy in France.
A village located in the Haut Médoc wine making region, the 1855 classification contained more wines from Margaux than from any other appellation. Its best-known vineyard, Château Margaux, was one of only four wines to be awarded the Premier Cru status.
Home to about 1,500 vineyards, this region is known the production of red wine.
Monaco (Monte Carlo)
Situated on a prominent ridge at the base of the Maritime Alps along the French Riviera, Monte Carlo is where the rich and famous lavishly display their wealth. Its scenic beauty has attracted numerous films and television series
Montagne de Reims
Located in the Champagne-Ardenne region, the Montagne de Reims is wooded range of hills covered by vineyards that produce the region’s sparkling wine, Champagne.
Although its fortifications have been replaced by boulevards that extend to numerous suburbs, on the left bank of the Tarn River is the suburb of Villebourbon which is connected to the town by a remarkable bridge of the early 14th century. This bridge is known as Pont Vieux (i.e. “Old Bridge”). King Philip the Fair of France officially launched the building of the bridge in 1303.
Val-de-Marne is, together with Seine-Saint-Denis and Hauts-de-Seine, one of three small departments in Île-de-France that form a ring around Paris, known as the Petite Couronne (i.e. “inner ring”).
An island commune in Normandy, France. It is located approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles) off the country’s northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. 247 acres (100 ha) in size, the island has a population of 44 (2009).
The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times, and since the eighth century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it. On top God, the abbey and monastery, below this the Great halls, then stores and housing, and at the bottom, outside the walls, fishermen and farmers’ housing.
One of France’s most recognizable landmarks, Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and more than 3 million people visit it each year.
Montagne de Reims
A protected area in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. It is organized around the Montagne de Reims, a wooded range of hills covered by vineyards that produce the region’s eponymous sparkling wine, Champagne.
The area was officially designated as a regional natural park in 1976 with a total land area of 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres).
The capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, as well as the Hérault department. Montpellier is the 8th largest city of France, and is also the fastest growing city in the country over the past 25 years. Located on the south coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, it is the third-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille and Nice.
This island in Normandy has held strategic importance since ancient times, but since the eighth century AD it has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. The structures of the town typifies the feudal society that constructed it. One of France’s most recognizable landmarks, Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited by more than 3 million people each year.
Developed by the British in World War II to facilitate rapid offloading of cargo onto the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy, a Mulberry harbour was a portable temporary harbour, two of which were taken in sections across the English Channel from Britain, then assembled off the coast of Normandy as the D-Day invasion of France in 1944 was readied.
Nice is the second most popular French city among tourists after Paris. Its Promenade des Anglais (“Promenade of the English”) runs along the Baie des Anges (“Bay of the Angels”)
Nimes (Maison carree)
The Maison Carrée is an ancient building in Nîmes. It is considered one of the best preserved Roman temples to be found anywhere in the territory of the former Roman Empire.
Nuits Saint Georges
Although wine has been produced in Nuits-St-Georges since Roman times, the town is also the heart of currant country. Currants contain the ingredient known as cassis, which is the signature taste of the famous Kir cocktail.
It was the invasion of Normandy, secretly launched on June 6, 1944 by the U.S., Britain and Canada, that turned the tide of war against the German army that occupied the region and ultimately led to the restoration of the French Republic.
One of the five sectors of the June 1944 Allied invasion of German-occupied France, landings here were linked the British landings to the east at Gold with the American landing to the west at Utah enabling a full siege of the coastline.
Once the capital of a wide area of northern Provence, Orange was carved into parcels Roman colonists. Two thousand years ago Orange was a miniature Rome, replete with many public buildings that would have been familiar to any citizen of the Roman Empire. Its Roman theatre, the Théâtre antique d’Orange, is among the most impressive still existing in Europe. The fine Triumphal Arch of Orange, as well as the theatre and surroundings are designated as a UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
This 325-foot-deep chasm is the starting point of a 25-mile-long cave system.
Palace of the Popes
One of the largest and most significant medieval Gothic buildings in Europe, this fortress and palace became the papal residence and seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Six papal conclaves were held in the Palais.
During the 14th and 15th centuries this was one of the main battlegrounds of Hundred Years’ War between the French and English.
With a long wine-making history, Pessac-Léognan has a long wine-making history marked by its production of the wine favored by the English as claret, especially during the 300 years that the area.
Avignon’s popular covered market sells fresh produce, cheeses, wines, and produits du pays.
Its international fame derived from the wine produced in the region, the wine estates in the area include Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Latour and Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and many others where one may enjoy tasting the local wines and visiting the chateaux.
With many small estates producing wines primarily from Merlot Pomerol’s wines are held in high esteem.
Pont du Gard
An ancient Roman aqueduct bridge that crosses the Gardon River in southern France, Pont du Gard is part of the Nîmes aqueduct, a 31-mile long structure built by the Romans to carry water from a spring at Uzès to what was the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes). Built in the 1st century AD, the Pont du Gard is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Reims is best known for its prominent role in French monarchical history as it was the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France. The Cathedral of Reims (damaged by the Germans during the First World War but restored since) played much the same role in France as Westminster Abbey has in the United Kingdom.
This medium-sized town of 200,000 is home to about 60,000 are students, giving it a vibrant nightlife, especially on Thursday nights when students pack the bars that line “Rue Saint Michel,” often referred to as “la rue de la soif,” which translates as “the street of thirst.”
One of the loveliest of Alsatian towns is also marked by three ruined castles in the mountains above. Ribeauvillé is also known for its annual festival of the pipers the first weekend in September.
A medieval Alsatian town, Riquewirh is a popular tourist attraction located in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards known for its historical architecture as well as its Riesling and other great wines produced in the village. Its homes represent the pinnacle of the architecture native to the region.
The destination of thousands of pilgrims for a thousand years, the Notre Dame de Rocamadour, known for its miracles, ranks as the third Christian pilgrims’ site in the world, after Jerusalem and Rome.
The capital of the French region of Upper Normandy, it was in Rouen is that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. The city’s gorgeous cathedral inspired Monet to paint over 30 canvases. Rouen was also the home of the author, Gustave Flaubert.
Containing over 250 engravings and cave paintings dating back to the Upper Paleolithic Era, the Rouffignac cave and the Villars cave possess the most extensive cave system of the Périgord
This ochre-red village, known as one of the “most beautiful villages in France is studded with red rocks, red stone buildings and red tile roofs.
Saint Remy de Provence
The birthplace of Nostradamus, the town was where the famed, “The Starry Night” was painted by van Gogh.
Saint Sernin Church
The largest Romanesque church in Europe, the Basilica of Saint Sernin in Toulouse is known for its massive size and its medieval sculptures and frescoes.
With a history dating back to prehistoric times, this UNESCO World Heritage site is filled with fascinating Romanesque churches and ruins that stretch along steep and narrow streets. Vineyards were planted here by the Romans as early as the 2nd century. The town was named after the monk Émilion, whose followers began the area’s commercial wine production.
Saint-Laurent American Cemetery
Overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel, this cemetery is managed by the American government and contains the remains of 9,387 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the June 1944 invasion of Normandy the military operations that followed it.
With its notorious past as a center of piracy, today’s Saint-Malo is a major tourist destination, with many ancient and attractive buildings. It has one of the highest concentration of bite restaurants in Europe and is famous for its bite oysters from the nearby village of Cancale bite.
Saint Paul de Vence
One of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera, it is well known for its modern and contemporary art museums and galleries. A simple Provençal village… A café nestles on the square, shaded by plane trees. A game of boules is underway. You stroll along the ramparts, wander from art gallery to craft shop, linger by the village fountain, sample the local wine, and take it all in.
This well-preserved town is noted as a perfect representation of 14th century France. The center of the old town consists of impeccably restored stone buildings and is largely free of automotive traffic..
Saumur is unique in its architecture as most buildings were constructed of the beautiful, but fragile, Tuffeau stone. Among the town’s most important monuments the Château de Saumur and the Château de Beaulieu.
Located in southwestern France, this wine region in the Graves portion of Bordeaux produces sweet white dessert wines, named “Sauternes,” as well as some dry white wines.
A Cistercian abbey near the village of Gordes. The monks who reside at Sénanque grow and tend honey bees for their livelihood.
Strasbourg (la petite France)
The capital and principal city of Alsace, Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking, explaining the city’s Germanic name.
The center of the European aerospace industry, Toulouse has two historic UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Canal Du Midi and the Basilica of St. Sernin. Toulouse is also home to the Galerie du Château d’eau, one of the world’s oldest sites dedicated to photography; the Académie des Jeux floraux, the oldest literary society of the Western World that many historians consider to be one of the places where capitalism was invented.
Tours (historic center)
The city’s old town is home to beautiful medieval architecture, including its famous Cathedral. The city was the birthplace of novelist Honoré de Balzac, and it’s said that in Tours, one can hear the purest French spoken language.
The Triumphal Arch, located in the town of Orange in southeast France was built during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – AD 14) to honor the veterans of the Gallic Wars and Legio II Augusta. It was later reconstructed by Emperor Tiberius to celebrate the victories of Germanicus over the German tribes in Rhineland.
This hill town is famous for the Vézelay Abbey, the starting point of one of the most important of all medieval pilgrimage centers. The town and its 11th century Romanesque Basilica of St Magdelene are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The present-day city retains the trace of its walls as a circuit of boulevards. A Capuchin chapel, built in 1635, occupies the site of a 1st-century AD temple dedicated to the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. Uzes is famous its Saturday market where both local produce and cloths of the region are sold.
Verdun was the site of one of the major and costliest battles of the First World War. Many French and German cemeteries dot the battlefield. The largest is the French National Cemetery and Douaumont ossuary, which holds the remains of 130,000 unidentified soldiers.