Planning a getaway that will make you forget about work and stress? Enjoy new places while not having to worry about looking for them: Swide takes charge with a pocket guide of top 5 places to see in…France.
Second largest city in France after Paris, Marseille is the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region. As not many know, Marseille was founded in 600 BC by the Greeks as a trading port, with the name Massalia, one of the first Greek ports. Today Marseille is often overlooked for other cities, especially Aix-en-Provence that’s in the same region, but it offers a lot to tourists: an important opera house, historical and maritime museums, art galleries and much more. Don’t miss le Vieux Port, Notre Dame de la Garde, the church that overlooks the city and where usually fishermen had their boats blessed, le Cours Julien and la Plaine: a hangout area with bookstores, cafés, fountains, and a playground for the little ones. It is the trendy area of Marseille. La Plaine is the local name for Place Jean Jaurès close to Cours Julien. In October the Fiesta des Suds offers many concerts of world music.
Capital of the Alsace Region it is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, Strasbourg is fused into Franco-German culture and although violently disputed as a territory during history, it has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, and the cross-road between Catholic and Protestant culture. Don’t miss the Strasbourg Cathedral, in gothic architecture, La Petite France, Strasbourg’s enchanting neighbourhood, and don’t forget to try the local “eau de vie”, delicious fruit liquor. The University of Strasbourg, the largest in France, makes the city young and vibrant.
Historically a Roman colony, the city is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Well known among foodies as the centre of gastronomy in France, two of France's best known wine-growing regions are located near Lyon: the Beaujolais to the North, and the Côtes du Rhône to the South. A must-see is the Festival 'Fete des Lumieres' that takes place every 8 December and lasts for four days and which gave Lyon the title of 'Capital of Lights'. The legend says that the Virgin Mary saved the city from the plague, and in order to thank her, a statue was built and people would light candles in their windows. Visit the district of Old Lyon, especially St. Jean Cathedral and the Traboules, a typical architectural feature of Lyon's historical buildings.
A French commune in the department of Vaucluse, it is often referred to as the City of Popes because of the presence of the popes from 1309 to 1423 during the Catholic Schism. Definitely stay and visit the part of the city within the walls, the old one. Visit the buildings along the main street, Rue de la République, that dates from the Second Empire (1852-70), with its Haussman buildings. The Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) is stunning and almost shadows the Notre Dame des Doms, the cathedral. Foodies shouldn't miss Les Halles, Avignon’s gourmet food market. A perfect place to stroll is the Rue des Teinturiers, which name comes from the old origins of the neighbourhood in the printing industry. In the summer, a very important theatre Festival takes place.
It is the capital and principal city of the Franche-Comté Region (and birthplace of Victor Hugo). Definitely one of the lesser-known cities in France, it makes it even more fun to discover because it is not haunted by tourists at all. Its origins date back to 58 BC, when was recorded as the “Vesontio” in Julius Caesar Commentarii de Bello Gallico. The most common explanation is that the name is of Celtic origin, derived from wes, meaning 'mountain', as it lies on a big hill. Charming, a must-see is the Musee des Beaux Arts, which probably has one of the best permanent collections of any French gallery (outside Paris, of course). Stroll in the historic centre and enjoy the sloping rooftops and 18th-century facades of the Place de la Révolution and don’t forget a tour in the family-run Cave aux Fromages on rue Gustave Courbet, where you will taste delicious local cheeses.
Written by: Elisa della Barba
Cover image: Strasbourg