For more than two decades, France has reigned as the world’s most popular tourist destination, welcoming nearly 90 million foreign tourists in 2018.
Brimming with rich culture, exquisite food and wine, romantic scenes of cobbled streets and sweeping vistas over the countryside and sea – its attraction is obvious.
Undoubtedly the most famous city in France, Paris is the commercial and cultural heart of the country.
New data from Google has revealed the top five most-searched destinations in France, and shockingly, Paris didn’t make the list. While the beautiful South of France came in first, a few lesser-known hotspots are on the rise:
1. South of France
Recognised as one of Europe’s most glamorous and star-studded holiday destinations, the South of France is brimming with beautiful beaches, quaint medieval villages and authentic, gourmet food. Stroll through iconic lavender fields and wineries in Provence, party through the night in celeb-filled Saint-Tropez, visit Marseille’s bustling Old Port, or wander the streets of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Arles.
Explore the capital of perfume in Grasse, surf the waves at La Côte des Basques in Biarritz, or head to Cannes to witness the legendary film festival. Whether you come to relax, party or soak up the culture, the South of France has something for everyone.
While it’s located in the South of France, Nice received enough online searches to warrant its own place on the list. From its fashionable boutiques and pebble-lined beaches to its rich culinary and arts scene, the vibrant capital occupies prime position overlooking the azure Mediterranean Sea.
The seven-kilometre beach that stretches along the famous Promenade des Anglais is one of the longest and most famous beaches on the French Riviera. While foodies indulge in local specialities from the Cours Saleya market, art enthusiasts can feast their eyes on the Chagall and Matisse collections as well as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Pastel-coloured houses, cobblestone lanes, flower-laden windowsills and romantic canals make Colmar look like something straight out of a medieval fairytale.
The biggest drawcards include the Unterlinden Museum, which houses works from Monet, Picasso and Léger; the magical Christmas markets; and the charming village of Little Venice, which is best explored via boat.
Colmar also forms part of the Alsace Wine Route, so there’s plenty of vineyards where you can sample the local vino. Meanwhile, food lovers should head to the Munster Valley to taste the famous strong-smelling soft cheese.
Defined by its dramatic coastline, medieval towns and thick forests, Brittany is well worth the detour if you’re looking for a stylish and adventurous weekend getaway.
See the world’s greatest concentration of megalithic sites in Carnac, explore the walled medieval citadels of Dinan, Vitré and Saint-Malo, indulge in the Hamptons-like holiday town of Dinard, and lounge on the shores of Brittany’s 2,000 kilometres of stunning coastline.
If you have access to a boat or yacht, unmissable surrounding islands include Ouessant, Sein, Belle-Île and Bréhat, which each offer a range of water-based activities, panoramic hiking and biking tracks, and spectacular turquoise waters.
Perched on the border of France and Germany, ancient Strasbourg is a mixing pot of Latin, French and German culture. Not only is it home to the European Parliament, but also the country’s second-largest student population, which injects a youthful energy into the historic district.
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Grand Ile and the Gothic Strasbourg Cathedral, and spend hours meandering through the city’s range of impressive art galleries and museums.
Among foodies, Strasbourg is known as the birthplace of foie gras. Other local dishes worth trying include tarte flambée (similar to pizza), braided pretzels, Alsatian choucroute and kougelhopf (pudding cake).
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