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Places to explore in France
Everyone who visits Paris for the first time probably has the same punchlist of major attractions to hit: The Louvre, Notre Dame, The Eiffel Tower, etc. Just make sure you leave some time to wander the city’s grand boulevards and eat in as many cafes, bistros and brasseries as possible. And don’t forget the shopping—whether your tastes run to Louis Vuitton or Les Puces (the flea market), you can find it here.
Nice has a cosmpolitan Riviera vibe, and you'll enjoy exploring its fashionable boutiques and restaurants and sunning yourself on its popular beaches. (Just don't expect soft sand—these beaches have pebbles.) Walk up to Castle Hill for a beautiful view of the city, the Bay of Angels and of course, the bright blue water that gave the Cote d'Azur its name.
Travellers visit the port city of Marseille, the third largest city in France, for the meeting of style and history. The bay, flanked by Fort Saint-Nicolas, and Fort Saint-Jean shelters the Castle of If, from Count of Monte Cristo fame. Watched over by the basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the city's pedestrian zones and shopping areas (including the colorful French-African quarter) mix with historical sites.Travellers looking for a fun time go to the OK Corral, a cowboy theme amusement park.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Lyon has 2000 years of history imprinted on its streets. Originating as Lugdunum under the Roman Empire, it evolved into a centre of silk production and later a Haussman-style industrial city. Travel through the ages with stops at the Roman theatres and Temple of Cybele on Fourvière Hill, the 19th-century Basilica of Fourvière and the cathedral Primatiale St-Jean. With notable sausage, poultry and other specialties, Lyon makes a delicious base for exploring the Rhone region.
After many years of hard work, the "Sleeping Beauty" has awoken from its slumber. The city is beautifully restored and has an ultra-modern public transport system. The “Port of the Moon” is also now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Stone Bridge, with its 17 arches, crosses the Garonne, offering pedestrians a lovely view over the docks and harbour. Take a stroll through old Bordeaux in the Triangle d'Or and stop at Place des Quinconces, France’s largest public square. The city of Bordeaux is an ideal base for exploring the greater wine region’s unforgettable sights and tastes.
Ajaccio, Corsica's main city, is fun to visit at any time of year. But if you're a secret (or not-so-secret) Napoleon Bonaparte groupie, plan to be there on August 15 and join the celebration of the birthday of Ajaccio's most famous son. Casa Buonaparte, Napoleon's family home and birthplace, is worth a visit, as is the town cathedral. Or just enjoy the Corsican sun.
The southern France city of Toulouse is a study in contrasts. Visit the Academie des Jeux Floraux, the oldest literary society in the western world, as well as the Galerie du Chateau d'eau, the world's first photography museum. Stroll the Garonne, before visiting France's most beautiful pipe organ at the Saint-Sernin Basilica. Yet for all its medieval architecture, Toulouse is a modern city, home to the European aerospace industry, as well as bars and restaurants in bustling Place du Capitole.
Getting sick on holiday is a major drag, but if you have to be under the weather, Montpellier is an ideal place to do it. People have studied medicine here for centuries—the Moors established medical schools in the 9th century, and the Université Montpellier’s school of medicine was founded in 1220. Once the local docs give you a clean bill of health, explore the cathedral, mansions and opera house.