18 Places to Go in France (from someone who lives there)


I say this every January, but can you believe how fast last year flew by? In last year’s post, “17 Fantastic French Experiences to have in 2017,” I recounted some of my favorite things to do in France. This year, I’m giving you 18 places to go in France in 2018. These are all spots that I visited in 2017 and highly recommend. Several, in fact, are easy day trips from Paris. Grab a glass of something good, sit back, and prepare for some French wanderlust. If you’re still wanting more after these 3,000 words and 34 photos, be sure to check out my France Guide.


In the fall, I got a taste of Angers, thanks to my time at the wonderful Chateau de la Mazure. Located in the Loire Valley, along the Maine River, is where you’ll find Angers. Dating to 150 AD, the mid-size city is full of history. The 6th century Château d’Angers is a patchwork of architecture styles and where you can visit the Apocalypse Tapestry. As the oldest set of French tapestries, the massive masterpiece dates to the Middle Ages. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, Saint Maurice Cathedral is a mix of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

Last, but certainly not least, Angers is home to the Cointreau factory. Every single bottle of this famous orange liquor is made in Angers. Take a tour through the factory, which continues to use the original stills and see the brand’s progression since it began in 1875. Don’t miss the hall of shame. There you’ll see a collection of imitators that dared to ignore Cointreau’s copyrights. End the tour with a Cointreau cocktail. Santé!


Thanks to a 16th century building order by Philip II, rows of Flemish-Baroque-style townhouses are the hallmark of the historical center of Arras. Since the Middle Ages, markets have played an important role in the city. This tradition continues every Saturday in Place de la Vacquerie, Place des Héros, and Grand’Place.

As the capital of the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France, Arras played a significant role in WWI, as it was about six miles from the Front Line. The city was 80% destroyed, but the Flemish-Baroque buildings escaped. After the war, other parts of the city were rebuilt in the Art Deco style, which can be seen in the interior of the city’s cathedral, as well as in the Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste. For an outstanding view over Arras, as well as the surrounding area, climb the steps to the top of the Belfry, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005.


What can I tell you about Beaune that I didn’t write about here or here, or speak about here. Beyond the fact that this town of about 25,000 is the epicenter for œnotourisme {that’s tourism for wine lovers} and that it pre-dates Roman history in France, Beaune is just pretty close to perfect. Every corner turned yields gasps of “Oh, my!” And if you need further convincing, the food is among the best I’ve eaten in the country. Try their regional specialties, such as bœuf Bourguignon {beef stew} and escargots à la Bourguignonne {snails with butter and garlic}, but go beyond those classics. With seven Michelin-stared restaurants, you won’t have to look far for delectable food. In short, Beaune is gluttonous.


In 1917, with the Germans retreating and parts of France decimated, Anne Morgan, daughter of J.P. Morgan left New York for the Picardy region, where she created the American Committee for Devastated Regions. The headquarters was at Château de Blérancourt, a heavily damaged 17th century castle located 75 miles northeast of Paris. In 1918, the Great War ended, and in 1919, Morgan bought the ruined château. In 1924, Morgan opened the first version of the Museum of Franco-American Cooperation, a small pavilion housing World War I memorabilia.

That château pavilion evolved into the Franco-American Museum. Closed 10 years for renovations, the museum reopened on July 4, 2017. As the only national French museum to celebrate the friendship with another country, the Franco-American Museum recounts a mutual history spanning more than three centuries. Not only is the American Revolution, World War I, and World War II explored, but also abolition of slavery and the French fascination with Native Americans {there is still a Native American community in Marseilles and Toulon}. The museum is a testament to the countries’ shared ideals shown through the lens of art and historic artifacts.

Chamonix-Mont Blanc

When is the best time to visit Chamonix-Mont Blanc? Anytime! Seriously, winter, spring, summer, or fall, there’s plenty to do in this classic French Alpine village. Watched over by the imposing Mont Blanc, Chamonix Valley is a dream for outdoor lovers. Home to the very first Winter Olympics in 1924, the area appeals to alpinists or those that simply want to enjoy the majestic scenery. Hit the slopes at one of the resort’s five ski areas: Brévent, Flégère, Balme Vallorcine, Grands Montets, and Les Houches. Test your nerves at parasailing over the valley with Les Ailes du Mont-Blanc or keep your feet on the ground by visiting Mer de Glace. Ride the red Montenvers train to 1,913 meters where you’ll see an ice cave and the Temple of Nature. With a guide, it’s possible to even walk on a glacier.


Come on, I know you’ve heard of Chantilly {but are probably mispronouncing it} in one form or another. There’s the vanilla-spiked whipped goodness known as crème Chantilly and black silk Chantilly lace, which was a favorite of nobles, including Marie Antoinette. These were both named after Château de Chantilly, located about an hour’s drive from Paris in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France.

The original Château de Chantilly dates to the 1400s, but was destroyed during the French Revolution. It was then rebuilt by Henri d’Orléans, son of King Louis-Philippe in the 1870s. Housed in the château is Musée Condé, one of the most impressive collections of art in France. In fact, it is the second largest collection of antique paintings in France, behind the Louvre. Mostly French and Italian art, Musée Condé even has three pieces by Raphaël. After you’ve gotten your fill of culture, wander the estate’s classic French garden, also designed by André Le Nôtre {of Versailles fame}. Visit the Anglo-Chinese garden, which inspired Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet in the Petit Trianon at Versailles, and see the Temple of Venus in the English garden.


Despite visiting Normandy multiple times over the past five years, I’d never been to the American Cemetery or any of the landing beaches. I’m passionate about Franco-American history, and visiting the area is something I’ve wanted to do as long as I can remember. Though, going to the American Cemetery and landing beaches feels more like a pilgrimage than simply a visit. The emotions evoked are overwhelming at times and extremely humbling.

Just consider the following: More than 2,000 Americans died on the shores of Normandy on June 6th, 1944, otherwise known as D-Day. There are 9,386 graves in the American Cemetery. The 172.50-acre cemetery is United States territory. The cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach and each grave faces west to the United States. There are 307 graves with the remains of unknown soldiers. There are 38 sets of brothers buried next to one another. The open arc of the memorial facing the graves is a 22-foot bronze statue entitled “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.” In the Garden of the Missing, there are 1,557 names listed who were never found.

Just below the American Cemetery is Omaha Beach. Here, there are several memorials, including Les Braves. The massive memorial represents three elements: Wings of Hope, Rise Freedom, and the Wings Of Fraternity, and was commissioned by the French government to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Operation Overlord, the code name given for the Battle of Normandy, included Allied forces from Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, with additional troops from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Poland.


Deauville wasn’t always a ritzy seaside resort. The former marshland was transformed in the 1850s, which was inspired by Paris’ redevelopment by Baron Haussmann. Thanks to a direct rail line from Paris, Deauville evolved in a matter of a few years, and swanky hotels and beach clubs catered to the well-to-do Parisians. In fact, Coco Channel opened her second boutique in Deauville. During World War II, the hotels served as hospitals, bringing much-needed aid to the decimated Normandy region.

Today, Deauville is still a seaside escape for wealthy Parisians. Stroll through Norman-style downtown and you’ll see shops from top designers like Hermès and Ralph Lauren. There’s also a strong horse culture. Deauville is home to several important horse races and auctions. Deauville also has a couple of nice casinos ready to take your euros, if you’re the gambling sort. The high season is in July and August, so be prepared for the crowds. Plus in September, Deauville hosts the American Film Festival. See the names of the famous actors who’ve attended the festival along the beach boardwalk.


The Mayenne department in the Loire Valley isn’t the most known areas in France, but it’s worth a look. On the doorstep of Brittany, Anjou, and Normandy, Laval is the capital of Mayenne. While I was staying in the nearby village of Forcé at Chateau de la Mazure, I spent the day in Leval. The city was founded in the 11th century and later became known for its textiles. Linen was the primary industry until the 1900s, when milk processing took over. Laval is home to Lactalis, Europe’s largest dairy products group and a family-owned company. Visit La Cité du Lait {Museum of Milk}, nearly 55,000 square feet of space devoted to milk and its bi-products. Even if you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll enjoy seeing the collection of 4,000+ dairy objects collected from around the world, as well as learning about the history of two of France’s most famous products:  butter and cheese.

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage

Simply referred to as Le Touquet, this seaside town near Calais was only founded in the early 1900s, a baby by French standards. Also known as ‘Paris by the Sea’ and ‘Pearl of the Opal Coast’, Le Touquet was built as a gambling and golf resort by wealthy British. For a century, the town has attracted both Parisians and British to its sandy beaches. Even President Macron has a home here.

The patchwork of architectural styles is charming, and despite its moneyed history, Le Touquet has a laid-back vibe, especially compared to other internationally known coastal towns of France.


As the capital of the Hauts-de-France region, Lille feels more like Belgium than France. Given that France’s fifth largest metropolitan area is only about a 30-minute drive from the Belgian border, it’s really no surprise. Between the Flemish architecture, beer culture, belfries, and friteries {French fry stands}, Lille is a lovely deviation from stereotypical France.

Explore Vieux Lille {Old Lille} for its perfectly restored 17th century architecture and eat a Welsh at one of the many cafés. Don’t miss the original Meert shop for a vanilla waffle or Notre-Dame de la Treill, Lille’s cathedral.


Only about a fifteen-minute drive from Beaune, Meursault is a commune in Burgundy most famous for its wine. Meursault is an AOC wine found in the Côte de Beaune sub-region, primarily making white wines from Chardonnay grapes. Beyond the vin, Meursault was built on a former Gallo-Roman camp, with the remains of the fort still seen on the hillside. So, why is this tiny commune one of my 18 places to go in France in 2018? Well, it’s just so dang cute. Plus, there’s the wine.


Metz is 331 km away from Paris
and located at the convergence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers. It’s a city rich with history dating to the days when it was a Celtic settlement. Visit Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, said to be the oldest church in France or the Cathedral of Saint Stephen of Metz. With 69,920 square feet of stained glass by artists such as Marc Chagall and Hermann von Münster, it’s the largest expanse in the world.

The Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole dates to 1752 and is the oldest working opera house in France. The main train station, Gare de Metz-Ville, has been voted as one of the most beautiful in Europe. Don’t miss the views of the Seille River at Porte des Allemands. The military fort dates to the 13th century and is the most preserved of Metz’s ramparts. For something from this century, look to Centre Pompidou-Metz, a branch of Paris’ modern and contemporary art museum.


For those who can’t get enough of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in Paris and Versailles, I give you Rambouillet. The town between Versailles and Chartres is most well known for Château de Rambouillet, a former medieval fortress. Located on the edge of the forest, the château was Louis XVI’s hunting lodge. It’s also where King François I died, where King Charles abdicated the throne, and where Napoleon I stayed before being exiled to Saint Helena. Until recent years, Château de Rambouillet served as the summer residence of French presidents. As a result, the château has hosted international leaders, royalty, as well as the first G6 Summit in 1975.

Located near the château are many points of interest, including the Bergerie Nationale, which housed Louis XVI’s Merino sheep. Nearby is the Laiterie de la Reine {Queen’s Dairy} that was built by Louis XVI for Marie-Antoinette. Also in the forest is Chaumiére aux Coquillages {Shell Cottage}. Built in 1779 by Queen Marie-Antoinette for her friend, the Princes of Lamballe, the seashell cottage is a startling contrast between the rustic exterior and ornate interior, which is made of shells, chips of marble, and mother-of-pearl.


Just about six miles south of Paris lies Parc de Sceaux. André Le Nôtre, the same landscape architect who created the Tuileries and Versailles, designed this expansive park. At approximately two-square kilometers, the park is filled with walking and running trails, fountains, a cherry tree grove, and symmetry that will please even the most OCD person {me!}.

The main feature is Château de Sceaux, which is home to Musée d’Ile-de-France. Find the history of Paris from the 17th century to the middle of the 20th century, as well as one of the largest collections from the School of Paris. Wander down the Plaine des Quatre Statues {Plain of Four Statues} behind the château; meander along the Grand Canal; enjoy Les Cascades {the Waterfalls}; and in the springtime, don’t miss the spring cherry blossoms at Plaine de Chatenay.


Located in the Calvados department of Normandy, Trouville may border Deauville, but it feels worlds apart. As one of France’s first seaside resorts, Trouville initially attracted artists and writers. In the mid-19th century, the wealthy also started vacationing there and building ostentatious homes. Unlike its glitzy neighbor Deauville, Trouville still has a fishing village vibe. Visit Marché aux Poissons located on the waterfront for freshly caught seafood. Take away the purchases or have them prepared and delivered to the high-top tables at the market. Try your luck at Casino Barrière for machine and table games.


Verdun is located in the Meuse department of northeast France. Dating to the 4th century, Verdun was founded by the Gauls and played a significant historical role throughout the centuries, but it’s now most known for part during World War I. Memorials and museums dot the area, including Fort Vaux, Mémorial de Verdun, Voie Sacrée, Verdun Memorial, Verdun Underground Fortress, World Center for Peace, Liberty and Human Rights – Verdun Episcopal Palace, Monument for Victory and the soldiers of Verdun, and the Ossuary.

During the Great War, the Battle of Verdun lasted 300 days and is said to be one of the deadliest in history, with 230,000 dead {700,000 casualties}. The Ossuary is a memorial to those lost during the ‘Hell of Verdun’. Inside the Ossuary are the skeletal remains of approximately 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers, which can seen from small windows on the back of the building. The inside of the building is engraved with some of the names of the deceased French combatants.

On the slope, in front of the memorial, are 16,142 graves, which is the largest French WWI cemetery. When looking at the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim headstones covering the lawn, it’s impossible to imagine the horrific events that unfolded in this area. Villages were wiped from the map, constant shelling altered the landscape, and families were changed forever. Verdun isn’t just about World War I, but there’s no escaping its impact on the area. Read my article, “The Great War: Honoring America’s Sacrifice in France’s Meuse Department” for more.


Often overshadowed by Château de Versailles, the town of Versailles has much more to offer than the palace. Of course, you can’t go to Versailles without seeing one of the most popular attractions in all of Europe. Built by Louis XIV in 1623, Château de Versailles was the epicenter for French political power. Almost as impressive as the palace are the Gardens of Versailles. The nearly 2,000 acres were designed by André Le Nôtre and boost 200,000 trees, 210,000 annually planted flowers, 50 fountains, and 620 water jets.

When in Versailles, save time to visit the Grand Trianon {built by Louis XVI} and Petit Trianon {a refuge for Marie Antoinette}. Perhaps stop at Marché Notre-Dame or Marché Les Halles, both exceptional food markets, for picnic lunch supplies. Before leaving the city, wander Quartier Saint-Louis, located to the south of the palace, and Quartier Notre-Dame, located to the north. This is where those who served the king and worked inside the palace led their lives. These areas are also filled with beauty and history that shouldn’t be missed.

There you have it…18 places to go in France in 2018. I’ve already started my France travel wish list for the next 12 months. Don’t wait a year to find out where I’ve traveled. Follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Instagram Stories. For more articles about France, as well as my recommendations for places to stay, check out my France Guide.

Bonne année and here’s to lots more French discoveries!

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  • Bradley
    January 4, 2018

    Excellent and inspiring. You manage to include at least one thing (and usually more) about each of these destinations that intrigues me. And looking at the accompanying map, it looks like you have to head south for 2018!

    • Leah Walker
      January 5, 2018

      I’ve had quite a bit of travel to the south in the two previous years, leaving the north unexplored. I’m going to try to mix things up a bit more this year. 🙂

  • Tamsin Grainger
    January 5, 2018

    Thanks. I shared on my Travel Blog page. TLG

  • Natasha Hecher
    January 6, 2018

    Wow! What a fabulous summary. Your pictures capture each place in their essence. Such diversity in that beautiful land!

    You have given me a serious case of wanderlust!

    • Leah Walker
      January 7, 2018

      This is just the tip of the iceberg and where I traveled in 2017. The previous three years are even more diverse.

  • Libbie
    January 6, 2018

    Beautiful pictures of a beautiful country. A suggestion: it would be very helpful if you would give us some direction about how to pronounce the names of the towns. It’s info that’s not in dictionaries, is often needed and is most embarassing when you mis-pronounce the name to a French person when asking for directions.

    • Leah Walker
      January 7, 2018

      I agree! And the problem is that even when I think I’m pronouncing them correctly sometimes French don’t understand me. Thus, I’m not sure that I’m the best person to ask for pronunciation advice. Usually I find that Googling “How to pronounce XXXXXX in French” will yield videos of a native French person saying the names correctly.

  • Danila Caputo
    January 6, 2018

    This article is perfect! We’re planning a trip with my mom and sister before she gets married and I’m sure she’d love to see Deauville, especially if there are shops from French top designers that she can explore!

    • Leah Walker
      January 7, 2018

      There are several other great towns around Deauville such as Hornfleur and Cabourg. And you’ve got to walk across the bridge to Trouville.

  • Gabriela
    January 7, 2018

    Nice! I also have a list for France and while living there I tried to take advantage of the most of them and travel around as time allowed me. I wonder which one is your favourite and I wonder why you haven’t included Loire Valley? But all the others are really cool as well.
    By the way, my favourite was Deauville! 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      January 7, 2018

      I’d say from this list that Beaune is my favorite. Angers is actually in the Loire Valley, so I didn’t leave out that region. Plus, there are a few choices from the Loire in my 2017 list. Deauville is great, but I actually prefer Trouville. 😉

  • Janine Thomas
    January 8, 2018

    Nice selection! I have visited most of these places over the years and the yare all charming. I have never heard of the Château de Sceaux though. I love history so this would be a fabulous place for me to visit. The park looks really pretty with all the trees in blossom as well. I have made a note of the chateau details for my next visit. Thanks so much!

    • Leah Walker
      January 8, 2018

      Château de Sceaux is also really easy to get to from Paris. The surrounding park really is lovely.

  • Nisha
    January 8, 2018

    One of the best curated lists. And some awesome photos too. In France I have been to Paris and Lille and that’s that. Would like to do the wine country at some point and Versailles too.

    • Leah Walker
      January 9, 2018

      Those are two great places to start in France, but there’s so much more. I really love the villages and out-of-the-way places.

  • Veronika Tomanova
    January 8, 2018

    Hey! I guess I should add France to my list for 2018. Man, so many great places…I guess I would like to go to Sceaux first, those gardens are pretty amazing!

    • Leah Walker
      January 9, 2018

      It’s beautiful in the fall as well, but spring is my favorite at Sceaux.

  • Rhonda Albom
    January 8, 2018

    I’ve always wanted to visit Chamonix-Mont Blanc, and I know my snow-sport teens are just as eager. Is there snow in the summer or is it possible to hike on Mount Blanc?

    • Leah Walker
      January 9, 2018

      At a certain altitude there is snow in the summer. I’ve seen people hiking from Aiguille du Midi with crampons. I’m not sure about hiking on Mont Blanc itself. I do know that you must have a guide to hike certain parts.

  • Suruchi
    January 9, 2018

    France is just so beautiful and we want to visit it in 2018. Your list has the nice compilation of places. Château de Sceaux and Versailles have attracted me the most. Quick question- How many days we need in total to check out all these places.

  • Anita Dykstra
    January 11, 2018

    I just came from Paris and it’s for sure one of my favourite cities in the world, however I haven’t explored any other places in France. These all look like great places to visit. I would love to explore Versailles

  • Medha Verma
    January 11, 2018

    I was counting on my fingers how many places I’ve been to out of the ones you’ve listed and sad to say, I’ve only been to Chamonix and Versailles out of this list! But then I travelled to France 7 years ago and I wasn’t much of an explorer then as I am now. I’d love to visit Chantilly, it looks amazing. I already have several other places in France on my list for the next visit and it seems like I’m going to have to add some of these to that list too! I’ve seen pictures of Colmar and that looks very cute too!

    • Leah Walker
      January 23, 2018

      Well, it’s high-time you get back to France. I discover something new weekly, so don’t feel badly about only having visited two of these. Just more reason to return.

  • Agness of Fit Travelling
    January 23, 2018

    France has so much to offer and these places are the proof for that, Leah! Each one of these places seems so charming and worth exploring. I especially loved Meursault! 😉

  • John
    March 1, 2018

    Leah, thanks for the suggestions. We’ re traveling to Europe this summer with our teen age sons, We’re flying to Paris, then after France we’re going to Switzerland and then to Italy. While in France, we’re going to go to Normandy. Is renting a car best or is public transportation possible?
    By the way, I saw in another post that you’re from Houston and that’s where we live.

    • Leah Walker
      March 2, 2018

      I’d highly suggest getting a car for Normandy. You can take the train to places like Deauville and Caen, but to get around Normandy, it’s best to have your own set of wheels.

      Yes, I lived in Houston for 13 years! What part of Houston do you live? I’ve been in Sugar Land and Westchase.

  • John
    March 3, 2018

    Thanks for the info on Normandy.
    We live in the Copperfield/Hearthstone area of Houston, 290 and Highway 6. Our son goes to St. Thomas High School and has the commute down 290, so we’re all pretty familiar with wild driving on highways. Maybe that’ll prepare us for driving in Italy as well!

  • Marilee
    December 29, 2018

    Leah, Thank you for this well written article. We own The Inn at Weathersfield, a boutique farm-to-table inn and restaurant on 21 acres in central Vermont. I’m turning 60 in February. We’re planning a trip to France to celebrate in April when we close for a month. I’d like to visit the Cook’s Atelier in Beaune as we have a hands-on cooking classroom in our old barn loft where we have regular classes. We’ll be bringing our adult children and their spouses. We also host wine dinners each month. We want to spend a week there. Do you think Beaune would be a good place to base ourselves out of? We’ve been to Paris and Normandy and the various iconic travel sites. I want a surreal setting that will slow down time. Thank you again and if you get to the states, please come visit.

    • Leah Walker
      January 9, 2019

      Hello Marilee. I think the Beaune area would be an outstanding place to base your trip. That’s what I did!

  • Eva Kisgyorgy
    January 20, 2019

    Wow, so many wonderful places! I want to do an in-depth France trip this summer, this post is a great help!

    • Leah Walker
      January 22, 2019

      There’s so much to see in France! I’m happy this post helped.


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