The Best France Bucket List for First-Time Visitors

Mouth-watering cuisine, incredible architecture, famous art, stunning water views, and charming castles are just a few of the things that France has to offer. This beautiful country is wonderfully diverse, with everything from lively cities to tiny seaside villages.

While that diversity is so fun to discover, it can make it overwhelming to plan your first trip to France. Where do you even begin?

To make planning easy, we’ve curated the best bucket list of places to see in France and things to do so you don’t miss a thing!

1. Tour Iconic Paris

It’s practically inconceivable to plan a trip to France that doesn’t include Paris! You can spend days wandering this old city, taking in the architecture, tasting some of the finest food in the world, and spying the Eiffel Tower from every angle.

While you’re there, be sure to:

  • Visit Sainte-Chapelle and its stained glass windows

  • Watch the sunset from the Eiffel Tower

  • Spend a day wandering around the Palace of Versailles

  • Shop at the famous Galleries Lafayette

  • Take a tour of the Basilica

2. Visit the Mont Saint-Michel

One of the most unique abbeys in all of France is the Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. This stunning commune sits on a lonely island in the middle of the bay and is only accessible by foot during low tide.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this picturesque island has a lot of history to take in, from the abbey’s gorgeous Gothic architecture to the dozens of medieval buildings surrounding it. Must-do activities include a tour of the chapel, shopping along the Grand Rue, and—if you dare—a guided pilgrimage across the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel on foot.

3. Explore the Gorges du Verdon

France is home to the “Grand Canyon of Europe,” the Gorges du Verdon. This stunning, 15-mile gorge cuts all the way from Haute-Provence to the French Alps and reaches nearly 2300 feet high! With bright green waters and sheer cliff drops, the views from here are simply unparalleled, as are the opportunities to see griffon vultures.

4. Wander around Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is a classic provincial town offering both elegance and sunny weather. Its main boulevard, Cours Mirabeau, is the perfect place to shop or enjoy a quiet café. The Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence is one of France’s most famous churches, with its fantastic architecture and collection of interior art.

For art lovers, the Musée Estienne de Saint Jean is also a must-see. It’s located inside a 17th-century mansion and displays art and many examples of aristocratic life back in the day. Finally, don’t skip the opportunity to shop at one of the local open-air markets. You’ll find everything from flowers and food to antiques and clothing.

5. Drive along the French Riviera

The French Riviera has a little bit of everything: breathtaking views, delicious food, quaint villages, and history to spare. You can see it all with an easy 50-mile road trip from Cannes to Cap Ferrat. With just an hour and a half of drive time, you’ll have the day to explore the best of the French Riviera and see just why this stretch of coastline is so famous!

Don’t miss:

  • Dipping your toes in the Mediterranean Sea

  • Eating a meal in Nice

  • Climbing the Colline du Chateaux

  • Stopping by at least one seaside village

  • Looking for movie stars in Cannes

6. Ski the French Alps

Whether or not you’re a skier, you don’t want to miss a chance to hit the slopes of the world-famous French Alps. You’ll have your choice of resorts or rustic villages to stay at and explore, not to mention Alpine views everywhere you turn!

After giving the slopes at least one try, spend your free time exploring the best locales. Chamonix offers exceptional views of Mont Blanc, not to mention vibrant nightlife and top-notch views from the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Alternatively, villages like Meribel and Morzine provide easy access to the mountains and quieter escapes into nature.

7. Enjoy nature in Provence

Provence in southern France is a wonderland of scenery and color, with everything from soaring mountain peaks to purple lavender fields. Take your time exploring the hills and valleys, stopping to explore the best that each tiny village has to offer.

Some highlights include:

  • Picking lavender and cherries in Luberon

  • Seeing the impressive Mont Ventoux in Vaucluse

  • Hiking in the Parc National des Calanques

  • Touring vineyards in Coteaux Varois

8. Go castle-hopping in Bordeaux

A trip to France would be incomplete without a tour of some of its finest chateaus and fortresses! The Bordeaux region contains many gorgeous castles from various eras, allowing you to get a taste of the old life. Castles like the Chateaus de Montaigne and Cadillac show the finer side of French royal life, while the 14th-century Chateau de Roquetaillade is much more rustic.

Some of the top castles and fortresses in the region include:

  • Chateau de la Brede

  • Chateau du Roi Tower

  • Chateau de Montaigne

  • Chateau de Cadillac

  • Citadel of Blaye

  • Chateau de Roquetaillade

France has a near-endless list of places to explore, but these gems are the best of the best.

Where will you start your French adventure now that the country is open to vaccinated U.S. visitors?

Start your countdown to France with the Vacation Countdown App and count the days until your trip!

Available at the App Store or Google Play Store.

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