Oui-oui, it’s never a bad time to travel to France at any time of year! Unlike Singapore, where it’s tropical all year long, the country of wine, cheese and love has four seasons with each offering a different glimpse into one of the most beloved tourist destinations in the world.
It’s not hard to see why: as much as people know France for its famous capital, Paris, the vast landscapes beyond the city are rich with life and traditions. During summer especially, hordes of tourists descend upon Paris, but there’s so much more to France.
So let’s forget about the city of love for a second. What else is there to explore when you travel to France? Here’s a list of our favourite chic cities where you can have an unforgettable getaway – with a loved one, with friends, or just by yourself.
1. Nice, the capital of the French Riviera
When it’s summer, there’s always one thing that comes to mind: vast swathes of crystal-clear water. The French Riviera (known locally as Cote d’Azur) brings prime Mediterranean vibes to the city of Nice (pronounced “nees”). The place feels like a dreamy resort, but you’ll discover even more as you explore its grounds further.
Nice’s historic town Old Town is made up of rustic walkways that are lined with tall apartments and little shops you must visit, even if it’s for window shopping. There are also several regular open-air markets in the scenic Cours Saleya square that have become attractions of their own.
Its Flower Market (Le Marché aux fleurs) goes way back to the 1800s, when merchants and florists would meet to trade. You’ll find an astonishing array of flowers – both potted and fresh by the handful – like the bright yellow mimosa, crimson roses, geraniums, fuchsias, dahlias, along with other exotic flowers that would otherwise be difficult to come across.
If it’s food you want (who doesn’t?), it’s food you’ll have: you can find an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with local organic produce to take home or try in your apartment kitchen.
There’s also signature Nice baked goods like pissaladières (a pizza-like flatbread delicacy) and bowls of bouillabaisse (fish stew) to tuck into while meeting new friends among the bustling crowd. Both markets welcome visitors from 6:00am onwards, so it will be the perfect start to your day.
Some time with local arts and culture is always enjoyable , too. The Marc Chagall National Museum – named after the innovative modernist artist – brings you through his history of vivid artistic expression.
At night, you can buy tickets to watch a performance at the grand Opera de Nice, which plays host to a variety of opera and ballet performances, along with modern concerts. Of course, you’d want to tuck into a proper feast: this is where La Route du Miam comes in.
A restaurant promising delightful dishes in an intimate setting – don’t miss the crispy duck and foie gras – La Route du Miam is run by a couple whose attention to detail is matched by their warmth and friendliness.
How to get to Nice from Paris: It’s advisable to take a domestic flight to Nice, as a train ride would require a seven-hour trip. While that may allow you to catch more beautiful sceneries, those on a tight schedule are better off taking a 90-minute flight.
2. Bordeaux, the city of wine
Red is a colour that takes on a very different meaning in Bordeaux.
Being the country’s main exporter of wine, and the second-largest wine exporter in the world, Bordeaux is a city that treasures light pleasures in the daytime, and pure libations at night.
To understand just how crucial wine is to Bordeaux, you can start your journey at La Cité du Vin, a cultural centre and museum dedicated to Bordeaux wine, and wine from all over the world.
You will be able to spot the spectacular building from afar with its bold curves and shape.It has become one of Bordeaux’s most iconic institutions. There’s nothing greater than tasting the wine, though, and you’ll get to do just that at the centre’s rooftop The Belvedere bar.
Even if you’re new to the world of wine, this is the place to ask questions and learn to train your tastebuds for the week ahead. Oh, and to catch a panoramic view of Bordeaux landmarks from the top floor of the museum! It’s why the next destination is a no-brainer: a vineyard. You’ll get all the information you need about the must-visits from La Cité du Vin, so plan wisely (ie. don’t get too drunk!).
With Bordeaux’s long history, you can expect to explore several monuments and buildings – the castle-like Porte Cailhau and the regal and awe-inspiring Bordeaux Cathedral are captivating visits.
But for something more relaxing, you can park yourself at the Esplanade des Quinconces, where you can set up a picnic and admire the towering Monument aux Girondins water fountains.
Bordeaux is also a great place to find hidden food gems. One of the most reputed – and yet less talked-about – is Pizzeria Filippo. Sure, you may not have pizza in mind when it comes to delectable French cuisine, but the visit will be worth it.
Try their special chevre miel pizza, which may seem simple upon first glance – there’s no meat, and you wouldn’t find a wealth of toppings – but its use of ricotta and goat cheese will surprise you.
How to get to Bordeaux from Paris: You can take a high-speed train ride (which can cost anywhere from €32-€72, depending on how far in advance you book). A private drive to Bordeaux will take about six hours, so you might need to hop on one of France’s many world-class trains if you have a packed itinerary. A train ride will only last three hours.
3. Annecy, a peaceful city by the lake
Annecy may not be top of mind for most tourists –so all the more we have to sing its praises here.
It may be nicknamed the “Venice of the Alps”, due to its distinct lakeshore locale, but it’s more than just boats and bodies of water. The city has been declared the best place to live in France, which speaks to the way of life lived by its locals.
Unhurried and breezy – that’s the Annecy way of life, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to relax in this place. That might explain why you will not see a lot of vehicle traffic in the city, as most parts of the town give way to pedestrians or cyclists.
Take it easy on your first visit. Pack up a full picnic basket and head down to see Lake Annecy. You will get a stunning view of its prized lake at the Jardins de l’Europe park, where it is also rich in towering centennial trees.
You will find cyclists passing by, paragliders venturing out into the open sky, and wakeboarders working out their sea legs. To get in on the adventure, you can also hire a pedal boat at only €30 for a half-hour trip. No licence required! If you’re visiting in August, the Annecy Lake Festival, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors alone, is a must-see – a cavalcade of fireworks and food awaits.
Feeling like a little sight-seeing from the top? There are plenty of hiking spots in the city to explore. Mont Veyrier is the most popular choice, but if you’re up for a challenge, La Tournette will serve you well with an incredible view of the wintry Mont Blanc.
L’Auberge de Savoie is a restaurant in Annecy with a sprawling menu that will spoil you with choice. As expected, you will find plenty of cheese dishes – look out for the tartiflette, a scrumptious potato dish – but the restaurant specialises in seafood if you’re hankering for some lobster delights.
How to get to Annecy from Paris: Be prepared for some breath-takingst sceneries to occupy your time. While travelling to Annecy via train isn’t as long as Nice, the total length of a ride falls under four hours. The fastest way, as always, will be to take a plane to Annecy – a ride that only lasts an hour.
4. Provence, a region with wide lavender fields
Some of the cities we’ve explored fall under the Provence region. But you’ll have to venture out of the city to find its true gem: its iconic lavender fields, where you can bask in its purple-hued glow, an experience not to be found anywhere else in the world.
Best to plan your visit though – these fields are best seen at peak bloom during summer. This period is sometime between June to August. So while the area is worth visiting all year round, you might want to tweak your itinerary if capturing the blooms is your priority.
These fields can be found at multiple spots in Provence. The Valensole Plateau, located in the village of Gordes, is where you can also find crystal-clear lakes for a perfect backdrop, while the Luberon Valley, in central Provence, has rustic monasteries and hilltop villages to explore.
If you’re up for a different museum experience, you must check out the Carrières de Lumières, a former quarry turned multimedia centre. It may be cavernous, but you’ll find art pieces and stunning visuals projected onto its limestone walls.
For an unrivalled view of the city, try their cable-car, which goes to and fro their natural wonder, Mont Faron.
In Gordes, you’ll also find a Michelin-endorsed wonder: La Bartavelle, a family business with a small menu and big ideas. Its dishes are meticulously prepared and include special seasonal ingredients.
How to get to Provence from Paris: Similar to Nice, getting to Provence via train will require a long-haul ride, this time at just over five hours. Luckily, flights from Paris, which will last just under two hours, will get you to Provence’s lavender fields in no time.
5. Biarritz, a seaside town full of culture
Biarritz may be known for being a cosy town, but it’s also surrounded by amazing natural sights. Located at France’s southwestern coast, Biarritz is famous for its Basque heritage as it is located just 18km away from the border with Spain.
Just outside of the city, there are two lakes, Lac Mouriscot and Lac Marion, where you can find locals out for a jog – this includes dogs!
If you think you’ve had your fill of local culture, Biarritz is where you realise what you’ve been missing. Its annual arts festival Exposition Brouillarta takes place every October, and it’s a perennial highlight for artists from all over the world.
La Côte des Basques is also a beach with plenty of sights and sand. It’s the little sibling to the city’s primary beach attraction La Grande Plage, which is why it should be on your list – no bustling crowds to disrupt your mid-day rest under the sun.
If the beach feels a little too peaceful, you can interact with Biarritz’s natural habitat at the Aquarium Biarritz, where you can see glorious breeds of whales, seals and sharks at only 15€ per entry.
Food-wise, there are two big highlights in two very different spots. For a fine-dining experience that feels like stepping through time, La Goulue offers local cuisine in a restaurant that’s endearingly elegant.
For those who can’t decide on a full-fledged dish, the Les Halles market is replete with tasting bars, charcuterie stalls and bakeries to try out. Right at the heart of the town’s most vibrant district, visiting the market will allow you to have a look at the lives of locals - this is exactly the place where they shop and eat. While exploring the food haven, feel free to ask the shop owners about their products and they will be happy to share their passion and work that has gone into the snacks, wine, fresh produce and more on display.
How to get to Biarritz from Paris: Just like some of the French destinations on this list, travelling to Biarritz from Paris is most advisable via plane, resulting in only a 90-minute trip to get to this homely city.
While Europe offers countless cities to visit and dine in, there’s truly no other country like France. We hope this gives you a good idea about the various cities, towns, and villages that are awaiting your arrival. Vive La France!
Things to note while travelling to France
Travel restrictions and Covid-19 safety measures to France have been lifted since 1 August 2022. We recommend you check the latest Covid-19 restrictions when travelling to France before you depart.
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Best time to visit
Late spring and fall is one of the best periods to visit France, with the weather being warm and breezy during spring, and cool and comforting during fall. To really enjoy France in its quintessential element, summer is also one of the best times to go.
France has one of the most sophisticated transportation systems in Europe – so you can imagine that it’s easy to get around the country by train, bus, or metro. A metro train is an efficient vehicle to help get you around the city, while a high-speed train takes you from one scenic city to another.
The most popular cities for travellers to rent a car for a self-drive trip include Paris, Marseille and Nice. You will need an International Driving Permit to rent a car and drive in France.
The official currency of France is the Euro (€), which currently measures up to the Singapore dollar as 1:1.4 (€:S$). You can buy currencies at real-time exchange rates and collect your currencies at Changi Airport using Changi Recommends FX.
Most French cities require one transit stop if you were to fly from Singapore. Flying to Paris, however, is a smooth non-stop flight. It could be the perfect starting point for your French adventure.