France is one of the most visited countries in the world, and a lot of that is because of Paris. The “City of Lights” is widely acknowledged to be one of the most striking and romantic cities in the world, and everyone wants to see it at some point in their life. But Paris is far from the only place that draws people to France. In fact, I really wasn’t crazy about Paris when I visited (see here). It is pretty amazing, but there’s more to France than just Paris.
The South of France, however, I LOVED. The people are way friendlier than Parisians, and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s full of beaches and towns that can make for the vacation of a lifetime. You can tour the whole area, pick a town to spend a week in, or venture south after a trip to Paris to catch all of the country’s highlights. Whatever you decide, here are some of the best places to visit in this part of the country.
Even though I’ve only spent a day in Nice, I was absolutely stunned by how gorge it was. I figured it didn’t actually look like how it looks in movies, but it definitely does. Nice personifies the famous French Riviera atmosphere along the Mediterranean coastline. It was founded by the Greeks around 350 BC, which gives you an idea of how it almost fits as well with famous Greek and Italian island atmosphere as it does with the rest of France. Some of the greatest thrills are exploring, walking around Old Town and along the Promenade des Anglais (a pebble-strewn shoreline along the beach) and trekking up Castle Hill, where the ruins of an old castle welcome you to a terrific view of the city. If I would’ve had more time, I would’ve gone to Musée Matisse and the Chagall Museum, which are both worth checking out! The Chagall Museum it’s a work of art in itself in terms of architecture. And of course, no trip to Nice is complete without a little dip in the sea! The beach is always packed during the summer, and it was no different when I was there, but the water was so crisp and fresh and it was an all-around great atmosphere.
Cannes is among the most famous destinations in France, largely because of the famous annual film festival. If you’ve never heard of the famous Cannes Film Festival, you’ve basically been living under a rock. This festival showcases some of the best movies of the year and tends to bring many of the biggest names in Hollywood flocking to the South of France. But you don’t have to be involved in the film festival to enjoy a vacation in Cannes! It might actually be the most versatile destination of the bunch for tourists. There are beaches and seaside promenades, nearby camping destinations, islands just offshore, and plenty of museums and restaurants to enjoy. There’s a little bit of everything in Cannes—not to mention it’s very close to Nice to the east and St. Tropez to the west. While I was staying in Cannes, I went to Nice for the day and the journey only took 45 minutes. That makes it an ideal base if you want to explore a few different places in this region over the course of one trip.
St. Tropez is another French Riviera paradise, recognizable by its clay-colored seaside rooftops and stunningly blue waters. Strolling around the Old Port and Old Town areas is about as good as it gets in a coastal European vacation. And as you explore you can find all kinds of different views of the waters and surrounding country. But perhaps more than at any other destination in the South of France, it’s the actual beaches that serve as the main attractions. The Plage des Graniers, Plage de la Bouillabaisse, and Plage des Canoubiers are a few of the public options that tourists frequently enjoy (though the area is also home to some private beaches that are known to be frequented by celebrities). I mean, I know I wouldn’t be opposed to getting my tan on alongside like, J.Lo or something.
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Technically an independent city-state near the French-Italian border, Monaco is still considered to be part of the appeal of the South of France. It’s known for extravagant attractions, a postcard-image harbor filled with expensive celeb yachts, and the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix. You’ll definitely want to spend some time wandering around the harbor and dining at a #fancy beachside restaurant. But it’s main attraction, and an absolute must-see in Monaco, is the famous Monte Carlo Casino. Even though there are now online casinos hosted by professional dealers where players can have the excitement of a real casino without even needing to leave their house, it’s easy to see why the Monte Carlo still welcomes thousands, even millions, of visitors every year. Not only is it known for being one of the best casinos in the world, but’s it’s absolutely stunning both inside and out. It’s elegant, extravagant, and steeped in history. I went to the Monte Carlo on my short trip to Monaco, and I felt like an actual celebrity when I was there. But then I would be brought STRAIGHT back to reality pretty harshly when I saw the prices to play, versus my actual funds (or lack thereof). Ah well, even though I’m not really a gambler it was fun to experience and to say I went! It’s fun for high rollers and average tourists alike.
Aix-en-Provence unique to the other destinations on this list because it’s not situated directly on the sea. It’s just slightly inland, north of Marseille and to the west of the other spots listed here. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful and relaxing place to visit, and still captures the atmosphere of the South of France, just without the beach aspect. This place is basically the epitome of what you picture when you think of the French countryside – markets and cafés, picturesque villas and retreats, chateaus galore, and amazing winery and vinyard tours. Sights like the Cours Mirabeau, a beautiful tree-lined street with lots of cafes, the Aix Cathedral, museums, and the medieval-style old town is more than enough to keep you occupied for an amazing Provençal vacation.
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Ugh, can you tell I need a summer vacation? I don’t have any more beach days left this year so for now, all I can do is reminisce of beach days past and dream of returning to the South of France.
Have you ever been to the South of France? What was your favorite place?