An area of outstanding natural beauty, the Loire Valley is also affectionately known as the garden of France. The valley spans over 280km and is located in the beautiful middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. It’s filled with so much culturally and historically important architecture it has earned itself a world heritage site status. One of the most visited places in France, it’s known for its large collection of fairytale-esque chateaus 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.
Mont Saint-Michel & Normandy
Second only to the Eiffel Tower as France’s best-loved landmark, Mont St-Michel is rocky, peaked island connected by a causeway to northwest France. It’s an imposing sight sitting amid sprawling sandbanks and powerful tides but 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 dotted with small houses and souvenir shops.
You should also spend a few days exploring the rest of the Normandy region. Filled with history and lush green landscapes expect dry-stone farmhouses, chalk-white cliffs, half-timbered buildings and picturesque chateaus. The historically important site of the Normandy Landing beaches and the famous Bayeux tapestry is also located here.
The sun soaked Mediterranean coastline of southeast France is also known as the French Riviera. The glamorous region has transfixed many famous visitors over the decades (including royalty, writers and artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse) and its miles of gorgeous coastline and azure waters easily make it one of most beautiful places to visit in France. Also pay a visit to the stylish coastal cities of Nice, Cannes and St-Tropez all located here – they still remain exclusive holiday resorts even today.
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 postcard-pretty pink shutter-board house and beautiful country gardens are open to the public. Planted by Monet 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.
The Palace of Versailles
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 hugely 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 immaculate palace and manicured gardens are extraordinary and the palace offers a beautifully preserved insight into the lives of 18th century French royalty before the start of the legendary French Revolution.
The Dordogne (which lies to the south west of the country) is an exceptionally beautiful place to visit in France which seems to please even the most discerning of travellers. The region’s long roads and rivers wind through unspoiled pastures, spectacular gorges, charming medieval towns and villages of rich historical heritage. Include a visit to the sacred pilgrim’s monuments en route to Santiago de Compostela, sample the local wines still produced by many of the chateaus and explore the ancient fortified towns such as the visually striking Beynac-et-Cazenac.