Looking for the best places to visit and all the bucket list things to do in France besides Paris? Venture outside of the world’s favorite capital to uncover a wide variety of landscapes and the country’s best natural wonders across the thirteen different regions metropolitan France has in Europe.
List of France regions
If you wonder how many regions the country currently has, you are in good company. Just a few years ago the system changed so the information is often inaccurate and contradictory. Currently, France has 18 administrative regions.
13 metropolitan regions on the European continent:
- Eastern France: Auvergne-Rhône Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche Comté, Grand Est
- Central France: Center-Val de Loire
- Northern France: Hauts de France, Île-de-France, Normandy
- Southern France: Corsica Island, Occitanie, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Western France: Bretagne, Nouvelle Aquitaine, Pays de la Loire
And 5 overseas regions:
- French Overseas Territories: French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, Guyanne, Mayotte, Martinique, Réunion Island
What are France regions known for and what to do in each one of them
In the southeast of France, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has several Plus Beaux Villages de France (France’s most beautiful villages). But what has really made the third largest region in metropolitan France famous among lovers of the great outdoors is its vast ski area. 173 ski resorts – including Megève, Val d’Isère, and Chamonix – and traditional Alpine villages dot this long-standing destination.
Best things to do in Auvergne-Rhône-Alps
- Explore Lyon, Geneva, and picturesque Annecy – commonly known as Venice of the Alps – on foot.
- Cycle or walk the trail around the perimeter of Lac d’Annecy, arguably the cleanest in Europe and France’s second-largest glacial lake.
- Get close and personal with the dramatic alpine scenery of the region. Chamonix, the iconic Mont Blanc, Aiguille du Midi, and the Mer de Glace among other gems will make you fall in love.
Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (Burgundy-Free County)
France’s watchmaking area – after all is Switzerland’s doorstep – and a paradise for foodies who will be able to taste not only its famous Dijon mustard but also other gourmet delights such as its cheeses and charcuterie. Among which the smoked Morteau sausage and the smaller Montbéliard sausage stand out.
Best things to do in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
- Join a Burgundy wine tasting session after a hike through Route des Grands Crus, and don’t leave the region without exploring Cluny Abbey, Vézelay, Beaune, and Dijon.
- Go on a hike through the Natural Park of Ballons des Vosges and visit Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg.
- Explore the magical Royal Saltworks of Arc et Senans, as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1982
Some 3,000 standing stones across various sites position Brittany as one of the leading megalithic sites in Europe. In addition to its rich medieval heritage, this lively region offers unique traditions and folklore, as well as a bunch of treats all visitors should try such as crêpes, galettes, and seafood plates.
Best things to do in Brittany
- Stroll through charming Rochefort-en-Terre in Brittany’s western Morbihan region, the cobbled streets of the medieval walled town of Dinan, and the picturesque port towns of Saint-Malo, Camaret-sur-Mer and Port d’Audierne.
- Feel like royalty inside the inland Château de Suscinio or Fort La Latte on the Emerald Coast, famous for its pristine beaches.
- Go island-hopping near Vannes in the Gulf of Morbihan. Belle-Île-en-Mer is the largest in the area, but with over 40 islands, you’ll always have one to explore nearby, no matter where you are based. Renting villas in France is something many consider for their holidays and with a plethora of gorgeous properties available in this region, being based here it’s a great way to explore the northwest part of the country at your own pace.
Centre-Val de Loire (Centre-Loire Valley)
Castles as impressive as the Château de Chambord have made the Loire Valley a world-class destination in itself. Perfect for lovers of French Renaissance architecture and formal gardens based on symmetry.
Best things to do in Centre-Loire Valley
- Uncover one by one the world-famous Loire Valley Castles.
- Take advantage of the many cycling routes along the Loire and explore the river by bike.
- Don’t forget to pay a visit to the historical Bourges and Chartres cathedrals and the towns of Chinon, Anjou, Blois, and Tours.
The island of Corsica is a popular holiday destination, best known around the world for its warm Mediterranean climate, excellent hiking trails between the spectacular mountain peaks that make up to two-thirds of the island, and picturesque shores with turquoise-blue beaches.
Best things to do in Corsica Island
- Rent a car and turn your holiday into a beach-hopping adventure.
- Include Calanques de Piana, the Calvi citadel, Porto Vecchio, and Bonifacio in your itinerary.
- Throw in one or a couple of water sports in the mix, and a sailing day!
Grand Est (Great East)
No one can deny the charms of Grand Est, a vast new region in Eastern France that encompasses the former historical regions of Champagne-Ardenne, Alsace, and Lorraine. The Champagne’s rolling hills and magnificent wine cellars, a dream made true for wine connoisseurs, are what make this region shine the most.
Best things to do in Grand Est
- Pick a hike to dig into the Vosges or the Ardennes on foot.
- Make sure you have some time to check Champagne’s vineyards and a few spots in the Alsace Wine Route.
- Visit the WW1 historical sites in the region, as well as Reims cathedral, Verdun, Strasbourg, Troyes, Nancy and Alsace.
Hauts-de-France (Upper France)
Created in 2016 as a result of the merger of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie regions, it is today the third most populated region in France. Furthermore, Hauts de France is known for its two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the impressive 13th-century Gothic Cathedral of Amiens and the Belfries of Belgium and France, 56 historical buildings across the border region of both countries.
Best things to do in Hauts-de-France
- Watch the award-winning movie Dunkirk before actually walking through the historical site.
- Don’t miss Amiens cathedral.
- Reserve a half-day trip for the seaside resort of Le Touquet and a full day for Lille.
Île-de-France (Island of France)
Composed of Paris and the surrounding province, with just two percent of the territory Île-de-France is the most populated of the eighteen regions in France. Beyond the limits of the capital, this region has many other important historical sites, notably the palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau.
Best things to do in Île-de-France
- Find out why Van Gogh and Renoir fell in love with villages like Auvers-Sur-Oise and Bougivalare.
- Enjoy the fresh air in the magnificent gardens of Versailles.
- Don’t forget to spend some time immersing yourself in historical sites like Château de Fontainebleau and Saint-Denis Basilica-Cathedral.
In the north of France, and showcasing quaint villages and a striking coastline; this is one of the most visited regions in France by foreigners. With many basing their explorations in one of the gorgeous villas in Normandy.
It could not be otherwise as its spectacular landscapes take center stage in this French northwest region. It is a true delight for photographers from around the world who travel its coast in search of cliffs and emblematic places such as the famous Mont Saint-Michel.
Best things to do in Normandy
- Visit the Abbey at Mont St Michel at low tide.
- Set aside a day to fully explore the iconic D-Day Landing Sites that you know from WWII movies.
- Take a road trip to see the rest of the jewels of the region such as the medieval Bayeux, Rouen’s cathedral, Honfleur harbor, chic Deauville, the Seine Valley, and Monet’s Gardens in Giverny.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine (New Aquitaine)
This traditional seaside destination is famous for the tourist towns of Royan, Arcachon, and Biarritz as well as its oyster farms in Marennes-Oléron and Arcachon Bay, and the tasty mussels of Aiguillon Bay.
Best things to do in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
- Practice your surfing skills on its coast, a paradise for this sport and home to World Surf League competitions.
- Discover its dozens of thermal towns, including the most famous spa town in France, Dax.
- Disconnect from everything in Landes Forest and be sure to visit the Dune de Pilat.
A land with a history dating back to Roman times, Occitania is consequently known for its archaeological sites, notably the Arena de Nîmes and the Pont du Gard.
Best things to do in Occitanie
- Take a road trip to delve into Carcassonne and the Cathar Country.
- Enjoy its wonderful location between the Pyrénées mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea, a paradise for hiking and adrenaline sports lovers.
- Get up close to the Camargue Nature Reserve, famous for its pink flamingos, black bulls, and white horses. Over 400 unique species of migrating birds gather there.
Pays de la Loire (Loire Countries)
Pays de la Loire is a region popular with lovers of history and fine white wine, seafood, and stunning nature. From vineyards to white-sand beaches and impressive castles, you won’t have time to get bored with so many things to do.
Best things to do in Pays de la Loire
- Bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, be sure to spend a day admiring the majestic coastal landscapes of this region.
- Get up close to Angers, Puy du Fou, and Fontevraud Abbey before exploring the wine side of the area.
- If you are familiar with the legendary 24-hour race at Le Mans, head to the iconic racetrack found in this region.
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Provence-Alpes-Azur Coast)
And we have finally reached one of the most popular holiday regions in the south of the country, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. The keys to its success include the wonderful French Riviera, its mild and sunny climate, particular traditions, tasty typical dishes, good wine, and the fact that some of its inhabitants speak Provençal, a variant of Occitan.
Best things to do in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
A thorough article on what to do in this region was recently published. Read it to uncover the best outdoor adventures and things to do in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.