Monday, December 10, 2012

10 of the most beautiful places to visit in France


10 of the most beautiful places to visit in France



Champagne Ardenne on GlobalGrasshopper.com
One of the most visited countries in the world, France conjures up an image of long hot summer days and probably the desire not to come home again. When we think of France we usually think of fine wine and cuisine, exceptional scenery and a laid back lifestyle which is the envy of the world. The diverse landscape – which has inspired centuries of influential writers, artists and poets – include huge mountain ranges, acres of green countryside and miles of gorgeous coastline. Paris aside, here are ten of the most beautiful places to visit in France (in no particular order):

1. Loire Valley

Loire Valley on GlobalGrasshopper.com
An area of outstanding natural beauty, the Loire Valley is also affectionately known as the garden of France. The valley is filled with culturally and historically important architecture which has earned it a world heritage site status- unsurprisingly it’s one of the most visited places in the country. Renowned for its large collection of fairytale-esque chateaux and mansions, exceptionally beautiful landscapes and one of the most striking rivers in Europe the Loire Valley is a gentle but most definitely bourgeois paradise.

2. Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel on GlobalGrasshopper.com
Second only to the Eiffel Tower as France’s best-loved landmark, Mont St-Michel is rocky, peaked island which is connected by a causeway to northwest France. An imposing sight sitting amid sandbanks and powerful tides, the heritage site is most celebrated for its Gothic-style Benedictine abbey. Directly below the grand monastery is a medieval village complete with winding streets, small houses and souvenir shops. The island is accessible at all times except when the tide is very high.

3. Côte d’Azur

Côte d'Azur on GlobalGrasshopper.com
The Mediterranean coastline of southeast France is otherwise known as the French Riviera. Although expensive and over-developed to some, with its miles of gorgeous coastline and azure waters it’s still one of the most beautiful places in France. The area has attracted and transfixed many visitors over the years including royalty, celebrities, writers and artists such as Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse. The Côte d’Azur is also famed for it’s stylish coastal cities such as Nice, Cannes and St-Tropez, which still remain exclusive holiday resorts even today.

4. Giverny

Giverny on GlobalGrasshopper.com
Giverny is a riverside rural idyll located on the borders of Normandy which is most famous for being the birthplace of impressionism. The small village was once Claude Monet’s cherished country retreat and now both his pink shutterboard house and highly photogenic country gardens are open to the public. Planted byMonet himself, the walled water garden (which inspired so many of his famous paintings) features white and purple wisterias, water lilies, weeping willows, bamboo and the iconic green Japanese bridge.

5. Versailles

Versailles on GlobalGrasshopper.com
A wealthy suburb of Paris, Versailles is an important administrative centre and a proud tourist attraction in its own right. It’s most famous for its chateau – the grand and ornate Palace of Versailles which once housed the kings of France, (including the ill-fated Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette). Both the beautifully preserved palace and manicured gardens are extraordinary and they also offer an interesting insight into the lives of 18th century French royalty before the start of the legendary Revolution.

6. Annecy, The Alps

Annecy on GlobalGrasshopper.com
The French Alps are best known for its prestigious ski resorts, although the region is also home to many pretty towns which are great to visit, summer or winter. One of the most attractive is Annecy which has a medieval picture-postcard quality. The centre is built around a 14th century Chateau and the whole town is interspersed with small canals which is why some locals refer to it as the ‘Venice of Savoie.’ With its canals and backdrop of snowy mountains, Annecy is easily one of the most photogenic towns in France.

7. Champagne-Ardenne

Champagne Ardenne on GlobalGrasshopper.com
The birthplace of champagne is also one of the most beautiful regions in France and of course it’s very popular with wine trail tourists. In addition to the miles of Champagne Routes, the region has exceptionally scenic countryside, medieval chateaux and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Make sure you visit the region’s capital Troyes for impressive art and architecture and Reims for its famous cathedral and acres of underground wine cellars.

8. Strasbourg

Strasbourg on GlobalGrasshopper.com
Located right on the border of Germany and France this heritage city has distinct characteristics of both countries. It’s a picturesque, almost twee town radiating an old world charm which really draws the visitors. Famous for its riverfront half-timbered houses, beautiful gothic cathedral and fondness for flowers, it also makes a great base for those wishing to visit the nearby Black Forest or the River Rhine.

9. Provence

Provence Lavander Fields - most beautiful places to visit in France on GlobalGrasshopper.com
Although this region encompasses other places on this list, Provence deserves a mention of its own. It has a very diverse geography but Provence is best known for its irresistible countryside landscapes filled with endless lavender fields, lush olive groves and ancient hilltop villages. Long lazy days and alfresco lunches await you in this rural chic paradise. Make sure you include a trip to the impossibly picturesque villages of Baux-de-Provence and St. Rémy and also the spectacular walled city of Avignon.

10. The Gorges du Verdon

The Gorges du Verdon on GlobalGrasshopper.com
Europe’s answer to the grand canyon, this deep cliff gorge located in the Provence region is a visitor hot spot. Here you’ll find bright turquoise green waters, outstanding scenery and an abundance of wildlife – it’s not difficult to see why this gorge is so popular. Easily accessible from the French Riviera, the national park is a great spot to climb, hike, kayak or just go for a scenic drive.