Regions of France
France is currently divided into of 13 large regions but
prior to 2016 it was divided into 22 smaller administrative
regions. For more detailed descriptions, it is easier to
provide information on these smaller regions.
These are as follows:
Major city: Strasbourg
German influence in language, architecture and cuisine
Picturesque half-timbered houses with flower boxes along canals
Wine route with many medieval villages to visit along the way.
Alsace is like a fairy tale; half-timbered houses adorned with flowers, gabled roofs, and chimneys topped with stork nests. The majestic forests and peaceful lakes of the Upper Vosges are perfect for hiking or biking. The famous Wine Road winds its way through 75 miles of storybook villages. Other theme itineraries, such as the Romanesque Road or Rhine Road make exploration easy.
Strasbourg is not only Alsace's capital, but is the heart of United Europe. Yet away from its modern buildings, down canals and pedestrian alleyways is the enchanting medieval section known as "Petite France." Colmar, a lovely Renaissance town is home to the extraordinary Unterlinden Museum. A restored 13th Century nunnery, the Unterlinden's square courtyard is flanked by its former chapel where the Isenheim Altarpiece now hangs. In Mulhouse, visitors find a museum dedicated to the automobile. Five hundred classic cars, including many rare Bugattis, are preserved inside.
Former fortresses like Riquewihr and Kaysersberg have been bypassed by history, survivors of the wrecking ball that has brought progress to larger cities and towns. Their streets and turreted walls once meant to repel invaders now invite children to discover that history is more than just museums.
Major city: Bordeaux
Fortified castles and villages.
Important wine region.
Diverse landscape of Atlantic coastline, beaches, flat forest land, Pyrénées mountains, and the rolling hills and river valleys of the Dordogne.
The region's history began thousands of year's ago when Cro-magnon man lived in the caves of the Périgord and left cave paintings in sites such as Lascaux and Les Eyzies. More recent remnants of Aquitaine's history date from the time of Eléonore of Aquitaine, consort of Louis VII, King of France. When she married Henry Plantagenet, who became King of England in 1154, she began several centuries of conflict between the French and English for control of Aquitaine. Today, the fortified villages and castles built during this time offer charm to the winding countryside and provide interesting stops along the road.
Aquitaine's capital, Bordeaux is a thriving port city on the Garonne River with beautiful 18th-century mansions and architecture, including its Grand Theatre by architect Victor Louis, excellent shopping and numerous cultural events, such as the traditional May Music Festival.
Bordeaux is particularly well known for its surrounding wine-growing region. The vineyards of Bordeaux with their Margaux, Médoc, Sauternes and St. Emilion wines are leaders in their fields in an area where many other excellent wines are produced. Most chateaux open their doors to allow visits to their cellars and wine tastings.
The varied Aquitaine region includes not only the prehistoric caves, villages and rolling river valleys of the Dordogne and the Bordeaux vineyards, but also the rocky Pyrénées mountain chain, the Basque country with its beautiful beaches, excellent surfing and picturesque fishing villages, the flat forest land of the Landes and the medieval castles and villages in Lot-et-Garonne.
Major city: Clermont-Ferrand
Beautiful natural scenery with non-active volcanoes, lakes rivers and forests.
Skiing and hiking Thermal Spas 12th century architecture
Auvergne's exceptional natural setting, with its awe-inspiring non-active volcanoes,
lakes, rivers and forests makes it a wonderful destination for the lover of nature.
The Regional Park of Auvergne Volcanoes, the largest natural park in France is a
protected environment for exceptional flora and fauna. Auvergne's mountains
also provide three classified downhill ski resorts and excellent cross-country
skiing. Its ancient volcanoes have created ten thermal spa areas, five of which
are among the leading thermal resorts in France.
12th-century architecture and sculpture in Auvergne show one of the most
original and important schools of Romanesque art in France. Today, the
capital, Clermont-Ferrand is an important industrial centre, famous for its
Major cities: Rennes, Brest
800 miles of rocky, rugged coastline
Small fishing villages
Celtic influence and history
Distinct Breton language and traditions
The delights of the French way of life can be summed up in one word, Brittany. Brittany offers eight hundred miles of grand rocky coastline with scores of bays and little fishing villages. The enchanting countryside is dotted with giant granite boulders and wild meadows on the moors, thickets and forests in a gently rolling landscape. It is the buildings that give a region its soul, and in Brittany, you can find it in the megaliths, calvaries, castles, manor houses, countless chapels and old villages. All of them bear witness to Brittany's eventful history and wealth of traditions.
Major city: Dijon
Capital of the Dukes of Burgundy with a rich history and former palaces
Distinctive architecture with colourful tiled roofs
Famous wine region
The centre for wine making in Burgundy is the medieval jewel of Beaune with its distinctive Flemish polychrome roofs, checkerboard patterns of gold and colours woven into a terra cotta tapestry. The huge duchy of Burgundy once included most of Holland and Belgium, so the Flemish influence is striking in the architecture of the city's Hôtel-Dieu (Hospices). Each November, the Trois Glorieuses wine auction inside sells wines to raise money for charity, and in so doing sets prices for the year's vintage.
Those who want to know the intimate details of Burgundy's wines can soak up the facts in the nearby Wine Museum, or even better - get a taste of them in the villages where they are produced. Vacationers can also visit open-air markets where the bounty of Burgundy's tables is spread out for sale.
Chablis is now practically synonymous with white wine itself, but the town of Chablis is the northwest quadrant of the region that has given the wine its name is only one of many towns where Burgundy whites are the raison d'être, including Pouilly-sur-Loire and the medieval jewel called Auxerre.
Burgundy is not all eating and drinking, and its rich history stretches back to Roman Gaul. When most of Europe was still a collection of petty towns and knights, Burgundy was synonymous with splendour, power and grace. Dijon may be more well-known now for its spicy mustards, but it was once the capital of the Dukes of Burgundy. The Ducal palace that sprawls over the better part of a mile housed Europe's most powerful princes, including Charles the Bold. The Palace has been transformed into a magnificent art museum that houses not only the treasures of the dukes's past but a splendid collection of paintings and statues.
Dijon is just under an hour and a half from Paris on the TGV, and within easy reach are other jewels of burgundy's glorious past, including the Romanesque Basilica of Sainte-Madeleine in Vézelay, Fontenay's Cistercian Abbey, and the remains of Cluny near Mâcon. The Morvan Massif's lakes and hills have also become a mecca for hikers, boaters and mountain bikers.
Major city: Reims
Region known for Champagne production.
Picturesque rolling hills and vineyards.
90 minutes from Paris, making it an easy day trip or overnight from Paris.
Historical gothic cathedral where France's kings were crowned
Champagne, the very symbol of sophistication, graceful living and celebration, is produced nowhere else in the world. All champagnes are made within a few miles of each other outside Reims and Epernay, near the Abbey of Saint-Pierre where the legendary Benedictine monk, Dom Pérignon, supposedly invented the bubbly by accident in the early 18th Century (some would say by divine inspiration). Just as still wines have different characteristics and tastes, so do champagnes, and the great houses of Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon, among more than 100 others, want to prove this with guided tours (in English) of their cellars and tasting of the current vintage.
Sightseeing centres around Reims and its Notre-Dame Cathedral, the heart of France's royal history where twenty-five kings were crowned. This Gothic structure is one of France's most magnificent churches, and some would place its rose windows among the best in the world.
South of the Champagne vineyards is Troyes, once one of Europe's most magnificent cities. This capital of the Counts of Champagne, who ruled the region before there was a France, is lined with beautifully-preserved half-timbered houses built during the 16th Century. North of Reims are the French Ardennes where Europe's sometimes bloody history has been decided on the fields of Sedan, Argonne and Châlons-sur-Marne, along the rivers Meuse and Marne. The Champagne region is only a 90-minute drive from Paris, making it an easy day trip.
Major cities: Ajaccio, Bastia
Untouched mountains, forests and coastline
Unique traditions and history
Corsica, known to the Ancient Greeks as Kallisto - "the most beautiful" - well deserves the name Island of Beauty. This island is one of the three largest islands in the Mediterranean. Half of its population is concentrated in the two main towns of Ajaccio and Bastia while the rest is scattered throughout the island leaving wide stretches of uninhabited terrain and large open spaces among the mountains, the forest and along the coastal area. Trees cover nearly half the countryside where mountain peaks reach to the height of 8,900 feet - all encircled by 600 miles of an enchanting coastline. Apart from wonderful sunshine, the quality that makes Corsica so special is its rich variety of people, scenery, traditions and dialects.
Ajaccio is Corsica's largest city as well as cultural centre. It is also the birthplace of Napoléon. One can see on the Place de Gaulle the famous equestrian statue of Napoléon surrounded by his four brothers.
Bastia, the second largest city has a host of attractions such as the old port that overlooks the old town, the 17th century church of St. Jean Baptiste and the Chapel of the Conception which were magnificently decorated in the 18th century and the Museum of Corsican Ethnography in the Genovese Governor's Palace.
A stunning sight in Calvi is the Citadel or upper town with 13th-16th century ramparts which stand on a rocky promontory that juts out to the sea. The Gulf of Porto surrounded by red granite cliffs, is also beautiful, especially at sunset.
Major city: Besançon
Beautiful natural scenery including forests, lakes and rivers, and mountains
Excellent region for outdoor sports such as fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing
Charming local wine villages
Medieval fortifications by Vauban
Geographically, Franche-Comté is really two regions: the high valley of the Saône is wide, gently rolling country with a certain rustic simplicity, while the Jura Mountains are more rugged with dense forests, sheer cliffs, deep gorges and torrents of water.
In winter this means cross-country skiing over 2,000 kilometres of marked trails and in summer rafting along the gentle Lison and Loue Rivers or the more challenging Saône or Doubs. Nature lovers can climb, bike and hike the mountains or explore the hills are that are honeycombed with over 4,000 caves. The streams and lakes provide world-class fishing.
Visitors can seek refuge from nature in one of many charming wine villages such as Arbois, where Louis Pasteur spent his youth, Chateau-Chalon where the Jura wines are produced, or Ornans with its riverside houses. Ronchamps is the site of Le Corbusier's concrete Chapelle Notre-Dame and Besançon, the birthplace of Victor Hugo is famous for its watchmaking.
ILE DE FRANCE
Major cities: Versailles, Ivry, Melun, Nanterre, Bobigny, Creteil, Pontoise
Region surrounding Paris, accessible by public transportation
The history, customs and language of the Ile-de-France region have merged with those of Paris, and spread throughout the whole country. The destiny of France was played out in the Ile-de-France, in the magnificent castles of Fontainebleau, Compiègne, Provins, Saint-Germain and Versailles. This "garden of kings" is in fact made up of many smaller regions whose names - Valois, Beauvaisis, Vexin, Brie, Gatinais, Hurepoix - irresistibly evoke royal banners and the pageantry of past years.
Square bell towers in gentle valleys, white silos on endless plains of wheat: subtle and harmonious landscapes painted and praise by Racine, La Fontaine, Corot and all the landscape painters. The region is a living museum: Gothic art was born here and there are hundreds of beautiful churches and cathedrals. The magnificent castles of Fontainebleau and Versailles with its magnificent royal apartments and gardens, bring the history of France to life again.
Paris is surrounded by forests: Fontainebleau, Compiègne, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which attract Parisians in their thousands every weekend. There are interesting walks and hundreds of little paths where lovers of all ages stroll down leafy avenues and breathe in the freshness of these green retreats from the big city.
Major city: Montpellier, Perpignan, Nîmes, Carcassone
Gallo Roman history and monuments
Mediterranean beaches, dry, sunny climate with quaint coastal towns and ports
Rugged mountains and vineyards
Ruins of Cathare castles
A wealth of history lies in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Roman monuments,
Greek ruins, medieval castles and ancient villages are set amidst a patchwork of
vineyards, farmlands, mountains and plateaus.
The walled city of Carcassonne encompasses towers, dungeons, moats and
drawbridges and serves as one of the most impressive examples of medieval
France. Many of the citadels and fortresses are perched high atop cliffs and
rocky mountains. The Chateau de Peyrepertuse provides a breathtaking
panoramic view from dizzying heights. Ruins of the former Cathare castles
can be seen throughout the region.
Montpelier is a lively and radiant university town with squares, gardens
and majestic mansions. The town of Nîmes is built around a Roman
amphitheatre and Perpignan offers the unmistakable characteristics of Catalan.
Major cities: Limoges, Brive-la-Gaillarde
Untouched countryside of hills, gorges and lush green meadows
Ancient villages Famous for Limoges porcelain and enamel
The Limousin region, on the western slopes of the Massif Central attracts visitors in search of unspoiled countryside.
The Corrèze, Creuse and Haute Vienne contain hills and gorges, and lush green meadows. Numerous ancient village churches dot the landscape as well as more imposing abbey churches and fortresses.
The Corrèze, Creuse and Haute Vienne contain hills and gorges, and lush green meadows. Numerous ancient village churches dot the landscape as well as more imposing abbey churches and fortresses. Its moorlands have made the Limousin a region of horse-breeders. The Anglo-Arab horse originated from the famous studs at Pompadour, and this region is today an ideal place for an equestrian holiday.
The many lakes and rivers of the Limousin provide endless possibilities for canoeing, sailing, wind-surfing and other water sports. Fishermen will also appreciate the abundant trout in the regions streams and brooks. Limousin is also well-known for the famous Limoges enamel and porcelain, and tapestries from Aubusson.
Major cities: Orleans, Tours
Lush Loire river valley
Historical castles of the French royalty
Perfect landscape for biking, barging or ballooning
The Loire Valley is rich with meandering streams, majestic oaks, quiet roads, and lush green countryside. Its royal châteaux and pastoral villages grace its overwhelming natural beauty.
Easy access from Paris, breathtaking architectural masterpieces, tiny discoveries hidden in the gentle folds of the landscape, accommodations from delightful to sumptuous, the excitement of great food and wine, sports and leisure activities make this an ideal spot for an unforgettable holiday. Visitors can delight in the hotels and inns on picturesque cobblestone streets and take day tours to the many points of interest just minutes from every major Loire Valley town.
The patchwork fields, cool forests and lazy rivers of the Loire Valley invite the active vacationers to walk, cycle, windsurf, sail and canoe in the gentle countryside. Tennis players and golfers will find first rate facilities throughout the region. Visitors can drift leisurely over the châteaux and countryside in a hot air balloon or enjoy the spectacular sights from while floating along on a houseboat or barge.
Fairs, festivals, pageants and concerts fill the Loire calendar from spring to autumn. Sound and light productions at Amboise, Chenonceau, Blois, Valençay and Azay-le-Rideau bring royal chateau history and tradition to life.
Major cities: Metz, Nancy
World War I and II sites
Beautiful medieval architecture and palaces of the Dukes of Lorraine and Burgundy
Famous for its crystal houses
Excellent fine arts and "art nouveau" museums
Lorraine's history is synonymous with the struggles of Europe's many peoples to live in peace and harmony. Verdun is perhaps more of a pilgrimage than an excursion, yet the simple power of its name is more than matched by the vestiges of war's destruction preserved in a huge outdoor museum surrounding Fort Douaumont with a massive ossuary containing the bones of 400,000 unknown soldiers. The luxuriant greenery of its gently sloping hills revives the eye and the heart.
After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, artists streamed into Nancy to escape the German occupation, incidentally producing the first flowering of the style known as art nouveau. A by-product of that bloom was the refinement of crystal ware that continues today in firms such as Baccarat and Daum.
Resident in Nancy's ducal palace, the Dukes of Lorraine and Burgundy fashioned one of Medieval Europe's most beautiful cities from what had been a wide spot in the road. Behind the elaborate wrought-iron gates to the Place Stanislas stands the ornate Hôtel de Ville (city hall), but far more impressive are the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Musée Historique Lorrain displaying the region's past glories. Further north is another enormous fortified city: Metz. Once the capital of the Carolingian Kings during the Middle Ages, Metz's massive German Gate opens onto the old city and the great cathedral of Saint-Étienne, whose magnificent stained glass windows stretch from the 13th Century when the church was begun, to those designed by Marc Chagall in 1960.
Major city: Toulouse
Beautiful landscape of hills, river valleys, and red stone.
Fortified villages with narrow streets and cobblestones.
For inquisitive editors and writers, who have already said all there is to say about Paris and the Riviera, Provence and Brittany, Midi-Pyrénées offers a new facet of France. Exciting and provocative, it is the French discovery destination of the ’90s. Its unique history, landscape, culture, and cuisine set it apart from the well-travelled paths tourists already know. It is a land full of promise and rewards.
As it sweeps north from the rugged snow-capped peaks of the Pyrénées at the Basque borderland of Spain to the foothills of the Massif Central, Midi-Pyrénées luxuriates in the gentle climate of Southwestern France. It glides over peaceful rolling farmland and then shifts into dramatic landscapes scored by spectacular gorges, rocky outcroppings, and extended plateaus. It encompasses places with vaguely familiar, yet still evocative names—like Gascony, Quercy, and Aveyron—that have for centuries rewarded the visitor with their unique treasures.
From its fertile farms and forests Midi-Pyrénées has developed a special cuisine. It is the home of authentic Roquefort cheese, foie gras, truffles, and the best cassoulet and duck dishes in the world. Its Cahors wines are reasonably priced, high quality products that have earned their recent increased presence on the world market. The incomparable delights of Armagnac, the golden coloured brandy, is prized by connoisseurs. The region’s many fine restaurants prepare the freshest ingredients using time-honoured techniques.
Midi-Pyrénées has a landscape dotted with romantic medieval villages on rocky cliffs. It has been birthplace and inspiration to such artists as Toulouse-Lautrec and Ingres. It boasts fine art museums as well as superb examples of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture and even prehistoric, painted caves like Pech Merle.
Major city: Lille
Located near Belgium and easy access to the Channel tunnel to England
Diverse landscape includes coastline, cliffs and gentle rolling hills
Regional cuisine often includes locally-brewed beer
Just over the border from Belgium and a hop or a tunnel across the Channel from England lies the Nord/Pas-de-Calais region. This picturesque land consists of contrasting forests, gentle meadows, and rolling hills dotted with windmills. Sandy beaches and imposing cliffs make up the 150-mile stretch of coastline. Visitors can cruise the network of canals and rivers and explore the expansive countryside and nature reserve parks. Many battlefields including Flanders Fields are in the region.
In Nord/Pas-de-Calais history and traditions are a significant part of daily life. There is almost always a fair, fete or festival going on; some dating back to the Middle Ages. The people of this region, eager to share their traditions, are warm and hospitable. The Flemish influence in this region is evident in its architecture, cuisine and the names of its towns.
Golf is the most popular sport followed by horseback riding, mountain biking and water sports.
Major cities: Caen, Rouen
Short trip from Paris, and just across the channel from England
Famous WWII landing beaches, museum and memorials
Historical region of William the Conqueror
The famous Mt. Saint Michel Abbey
Seaside resorts and casinos
Just across the Channel from London, and not far from Paris, you will find the welcoming region of Normandy with its varied coastline and rich countryside. Normandy probably has more significance to North American visitors than any other part of France.
Normandy gets its name from the 10th-century Norman Vikings that settled the country. In 1066 the famous Norman Duke William defeated the Saxon King Harold in the Battle of Hastings, was crowned King of England and became known as William the Conqueror. For many centuries after the descendants of his Norman army governed England, creating much of the Anglo-Saxon heritage.
In June, 1944 Normandy again came under the world spotlight when Allied Forces landed on the Normandy coast. Numerous museums, exhibitions, sites, and monuments including the Caen Memorial Museum, commemorate operations that took place between June 6th and August of 1944.
Upper Normandy with its highly industrialized and historical capital, Rouen has been linked to many famous names such as Thomas and Pierre Corneille, Gustave Flaubert and Joan of Arc. Caen, the capital of Lower Normandy, is known as the home to William the Conqueror and has some of the best "high-tech" businesses in France.
The pretty harbour of Honfleur, the Bayeux Tapestry which chronicles the exploits of William the Conqueror, Claude Monet's gardens in Giverny and the world-famous Mont Saint-Michel with its breathtaking views from the ramparts are just a few of the sites of Normandy.
PAYS DE LA LOIRE
Major cities: Angers, Nantes
Chateaux and manor houses
Atlantic coastline, with quaint bays and islands
Loire river which flows through lush countryside
This region includes 300 kilometres of Atlantic coastline, long sandy beaches, enchanting bays and little islands like Yeu and Noirmoutier contrasting with the lush, green, countryside through which flows the magnificent Loire River.
This part of France has always been popular with kings and nobles, who built their elegant châteaux throughout the region. Many châteaux have been restored and are inhabited by their owners who open them to the public. Other châteaux open their homes and gardens to the production of "Sound and Light" shows. Exploring beyond the busy valley, tourists can drive deeper into a quiet hinterland where châteaux, abbeys and mansions reveal the testimony of a rich past.
At Le Mans, the annual 24-Hour Car Race attracts visitors from all over the world. Traditional cities such as Angers, Saumur and Nantes provide castles, museums and picturesque winding, narrow streets where vacationers can lose themselves amid provincial markets and busy shops. The Western Loire Valley is also a good place for cycling, hiring house-boats on the Loire tributaries or enjoying a typical candle-lit dinner on a comfortable modern excursion boat.
Major city: Amiens
Short trip from Paris, Six gothic cathedrals
World War I memorials, Castles
Picardy, where Clovis made Soissons the first capital of the Franks in 486, is the first
region and the historicalbeginning of France. The harmonious region is still predominantly
rural with an unobtrusive art of living that hasdeveloped over the centuries.
Calm woods, great forests, green pastures and quiet ponds blend with the peaceful, simple
lifestyle of its people.
It is the birthplace of Gothic architecture with six cathedrals, the largest of which is located
in Amiens. The townof Chantilly is credited with the invention of whipped cream.
Senlis offers a true taste of an unspoiled French village.
Prehistoric sites, Gallo-roman remains, abbeys, churches, castles and WWI sites bear witness
to this region's rich history.
Major cities: Poitiers, La Rochelle
100 miles of Atlantic coastline
Port cities and islands
Marais Poitevin - marshes known as the "Green Venice"
On the Atlantic coast, between the châteaux of the Loire Valley and the Bordeaux vineyards, lies Poitou-Charentes, one of the sunniest parts of the French western coast. Its mild climate - 2,250 hours of sunshine per year - makes it desirable to visit anytime from early spring to late autumn. A 300-mile coastline with fine sandy beaches, backed by fragrant pine forests, lively resorts such as La Rochelle, Royan and the islands of Oléron, Aix and Ré provide attractions to tempt everyone.
Inland, the scene is one of serenity, with vast horizons and wooded valleys, the Poitou fens and Marais Poitevin, the soothing tranquillity of canals, the valley of Vienne, the foothills of Charente and the world-famous Cognac vineyards.
The Futuroscope theme park near Poitiers offers visitors a glimpse into future technology and media.
Major city: Marseille
Sunny, bright region of mountains and coastline
Quaint hilltop cities and fashionable, lively towns
Medieval fortresses and Roman ruins
Fields of flowers and lavender made famous by painters
The region of Provence-Alps-Côte d'Azur is known for celebrating the simple sensuous pleasures of life. Ideally situated between the Mediterranean coastline and the Alps, the region is geographically diverse with a wide variety of attractions and activities.
Visitors can explore ancient Roman ruins, medieval fortresses and charming hilltop Provençal villages. They can hike the Grand Canyon du Verdon, ride the famous white horses in the Camargue or simply take a picnic basket for a day in the countryside. The valleys are carpeted with lavender and the fields are filled with the sunflowers and olive trees that Van Gogh loved to paint.
France's oldest city, Marseille, is a bustling port with a lively local atmosphere. Avignon, once the Papal residence is now a cheerful town of cafés, art galleries and fashionable shops. Aix-en-Provence, a university town filled with students offers tree shaded streets and 17th century mansions and of course, the harbour town of St. Tropez is long famous for its glamour and beauty.
Major city: Lyon
Two hours from Paris by TGV train
Known best for the French Alps, excellent skiing, hiking, biking and outdoor activities
Gastronomic capital of France with many famous chefs
Spas and resorts
The Rhone-Alps region lies nestled beneath the impressive flanks of Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak at 15,771 feet, and protector of the regions borders with Switzerland and Italy.
The region presents an extraordinary natural environment: stunning mountains offering some of the finest and most extensive skiing areas in the world such as the Three Valleys, Val d'Isère and Chamonix, lush valleys filled with orchards and the vineyards of Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley, great riverways and scores of crystalline lakes; the deep gorges and high plateaux of the Ardèche, studded with prehistoric caves, and national parks full of deep forests and flower-filled meadows.
Apart from its spectacular scenery, Rhone-Alps's two thousand-year history as a cultural crossroads has blessed the region with a rich blend of customs, architecture and sights of interest. The city of Lyon boasts an especially diverse architectural heritage dating from Gallo-Roman remains to stylish modern buildings, with a magnificent Renaissance old city, 27 museums and a multitude of shops specializing in everything from silk to antiques to marionettes.
Not far from Lyon lie the vineyards and golden-stone villages of the Beaujolais, the Dombes "land of a thousand lakes," the medieval village of Pérouges and the Roman ruins of Vienne with its yearly jazz festival. Eastward, toward the Alps, one finds the university cities of Grenoble, full of art and folklore museums and Chambéry, with its Chateau of the Dukes of Savoy, and Chartreuse, home of the Carthusian Monastery and famous for its distilled liquor of the same name. Here are also the turn-of-the-century towns of Annecy, Aix-les Bains, Evian and Divonne-les-Bains, the last three as popular for their casinos as they are for their spas.
But the Rhone-Alps' "pièce de résistance" is its famous cuisine. Five of France's 19 three-star chefs work their magic here, citing the quality of local produce, fish and game as the key to their success.
Major French Riviera cities: Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo
Mediterranean beach resorts and casinos
Sunny, mild climate
Small villages perched on cliffs or coastal fishing villages
Excellent and numerous golf course
The French Riviera along the Mediterranean coast, provides
its guests with fashionable elegant surroundings in an
international atmosphere. Visitors can choose between the
livelier towns of Nice and Cannes, home of the famous film
festival, and the calmer more discreet villages of Beaulieu,
Menton or Cap Ferrat.
The quaint harbour fishing villages have become chic tourist
destinations, now full of pleasure yachts and crowded
summertime beaches. The famous resorts of Juan-les-Pins
and Cap d'Antibes attract the stylish jet set.
Up in the hills are the quieter medieval villages.
Sainte-Agnès offers magnificent panoramic views of the sea and mountains. In St. Paul-de-Vence tourists can browse through shops and galleries set on narrow winding cobblestone streets. Throughout the region are charming country homes and terraced private villas overflowing with colourful flowers.
Grasse is the perfume capital of the world. The factories invite tourists to visit and learn how French perfumes are made.
Departments of France Map