Regions of France

Regions of France

Alsace (Now Grand Est)

The Region, or parts of it, has been at times controlled by France or Germany, so there is a definite German influence in this Region.

Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace Region. While a city with a significant industrial base it is still a very pleasant location to visit. We have enjoyed our visit here with timber-framed houses and the canal in the city.

Alsace wines are full of floral and fruity tastes.

  • Strasbourg - has many interesting building and a great look. Take a boat ride on the river right through the centre of the town.
  • Colmar - is a well preserved historic city with half timbered houses.
  • Mulhouse: - has the French National Railway Museum.
  • Haut-Koenigsburg castle - is a stunning hilltop castle near Strasbourg.

Acquitaine (Now Nouvelle Aquitaine)

This region has plenty to see with the wines of Bordeaux and St. Emillion of special note. The medieval chateaux of the Loire Valley are stunning and been a target for a couple of our trips through France. Travel through the Dordogne Valley is magical. Bordeaux is the capital city of the Region.

Gironde - Garonne area:

  •  Bordeaux - the regional capital, an UNESCO world heritage site, has 18th century architecture, including the theatre, bridge over the Garonne, and other buildings.
  • St Emilion - this is a real favorite of ours. A historic town in one of the best wine areas of France. See the unique underground 'monolithic' church.
  • The Canal du Midi - a UNESCO world heritage site, you can drive along sections of Europe's oldest canal that links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

North east of the Garonne:

  • Dordogne - this river valley with its many small villages and towns carved into the linestone cliffs is magical.
  • Lascaux - another UNESCO world heritage site has prehistoric caves with paintings.
  • Perigueux - is anold town, the center of food for this region. The St Front Cathedral, old streets and buildings of the town are interesting..
  • Sarlat - this is one of the most attractive small towns in France.

South west of the Garonne:

  • Biarritz - popular seaside resort near the Spanish border.
  • Pau - is an elegant city near the Pyrenees Mountains.

Auvergne (Now Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes)

A mountainuous region in the central area of France. Clermond-Ferrand is the capital of the Region. It lies at the foot of an ancient volcano.  There are four departments in the Region Allier in the north, the Puy de dôme in the middle, and the Cantal and Haute Loire in the south.

  • Clermont Ferrand - has an interesting ,old town with gothic cathedral and you can take shuttle buses to the top of the Puy de Dome mountain.
  • Thiers - and old industrial city once famous for its cutlery. There is a cutlery museum and tours of the historic factory.
  • Vichy - former elegant spa town. The opera house, the spa buildings are of note.
  • Lapalisse - has a private Renaissance castle that over looks the town.
  • Murat - is an attractive small town at the foot of the Monts du Cantal.
  • Salers - a touristy old small town with narrow streets.
  • Pont de Garabit - has a famous historic railway viaduct over the river Truyère. Designed by Gustave Eiffel. Viewing centre on the A75 motorway.
  • Le Puy en Velay - has a romanesque cathedral and cloisters: chapelle St. Michel de l'Aiguilhe, 10th century chapel perched on top of a rocky pinnacle (access on foot up 268 steps).
  • Brioude & Haut Allier - very attractive valley, with a cluster of remarkable romanesque churches and chapels, many with wall-paintings. Gallo-roman mine -underground visits).
  • La Chaise Dieu - austere Benedictine abbey famous for its Dance of Death murals, and its music festival.

Brittany (Remains Brittany)

We have enjoyed our visits to Brittany. The city of Rennes is the capital. Other cities include:

  • Brest - important French naval ports.
  • Carnac - has its famous megalithic site in France; several prehistoric stone alignments and dolmens.
  • St Malo - imposing walled city on the north coast. Restored after bombings during the War, we were impressed.
  • Vannes - the capital of the Morbihan has an atractive old town centre.
  • Mont St. Michel - don't worry about all the tour buses that line up on the road, and just walk past al the junky tourist stuff. There is a wonderful mediaeval abbey perched on the rock. This is an UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Quiberon - is an attractive fishing port at the end of a long peninsula.

Burgundy (Now Bourgogne France-Comté)

  • Beaune - a town with great atomosphere.
  • Autun - The cathedral at Autun is one of the best romanesque cathedrals in France, See the sculptures.
  • Cluny - old town, remains of the Benedictine abbey, which was once the largest chuch in Chrisendom.
  • Abbaye de Vézelay - is an (UNESCO World Heritage Site), starting point of one of the main pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella.
  • Fontenay - The Cistercian abbey at Fontenay (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is not to be missed.
  • Dijon - historic city, palace of the dukes of Burgundy, Cathedral.
  • Burgundy Canal - this is the Canal de Bourgogne.

Centre (Now Centre Val de Loire)

The name of this Region does not imply it is the centre of France. It is the centre of the heart of historic France, the area between the Paris region and the Loire valley that was for many centuries the centre of the Kingdom of France.

  • Orleans - the capital of the Loire Region and an interesting historic city on the banks of the Loire.
  • Blois - has a Renaissance castle and a good entry to the Loire Valley. We have used Blois as a base. There are plenty of tours availalbe from here.
  • Tours - large city, the historic historic centrehas old half-timbered houses, St Gatien's cathedral, and  a castle.
  • Bourges - Has a gothic cathedral of note.
  • Chartres - stop here to see one of the most famous gothic cathedrals in France. Checl out the mediaeval stained-glass windows.
    Les Châteaux de la Loire - will make up a visit to France you will never forget. The most famous are Chambord, Chenonceaux, Villandry (with its famous gardens) and Azay le Rideau. But there are many others, including Langeais, Rigny-Ussé, and Amboise.

Champagne (Now Grand Est)

Apart from the city of Reims this region tends not to be flooded with tourists.

  • Langres - located in the southern part of the Region is kind of the "Carcassonne of the North". An ensemble of historic stone buildings, enclosed within 3.6 kilometres of ramparts, mostly dating from the 13th and 17th centuries. Parts are much older as the town dates to Roman times. You will like this better than Carcassonne because of the lack of tourists.
  • Colombey les Deux Eglises - this village has the country residence of General de Gaulle, who is buried here.
  • Epernay - is the "champagne capital"with many of the biggest champagne producers located here. There are cellar and champagne tours.
  • Reims - has one of the finest mediaeval cathedrals in France. Reims was famous as at one time, the kings of France were crowned in this city. Tour the historic city centre.
  • Sedan - the Château-fort (08) is one of the largest ancient fortress in Europe and was built in the early fifteenth century.

Franche-Comté (Now Bourgogne France-Comté)

  • Besançon - is one of the hidden treasuers of France. An old city nestling beneath its ancient citadel in a loop formed by the river Doubs. The city centre has escaped the change of development. It remains old stone-built houses with a fine selection of 18th century urban residences.
  • Arc et Senans - see the visionary 18th century development by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux; this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Château Chalon - good for some photos, this small village is on a cliff overlooking the vineyards.

Languedoc-Roussillon (Now Occitanie)

CarcassonneThe Languedoc, is the central region of the south of France runs down to the coast, then down to boarder with Spain. The Region has a a host of historic cities that include Nimes with its superb Roman remains, or the famous walled city of Carcassonne with great sights, but tons of tourists.

  • Nimes - is a very interesting city with narrow streets, and remarkable Roman remains, including the Arena and the Maison Carrée. You will enjoy the canals and 19th century architecture in this city.
  • Le Pont du Gard - another UNESCO World Heritage site, this impressive Roman aqueduct, just north east of Nimes.
  • Aigues Mortes - is a fortified town near the coast.
  • Montpellier - is the capital of the region. There is an interesting old historic centre. Major university so a real young lively feel to the city.
  • Sète - an old fishing and commercial port.
  • Béziers - interesting old streets with churches and gardens.
  • Narbonne - was once a major Roman city but now is known for its impressive cathedral, underground Roman grain-store, and canalside quays.
  • Carcassonne - yes you have to see this town. A well deserved UNESCO World Heritage site. This city is entirely encircled by medieval ramparts.
  • The Canal du Midi - a  UNESCO World Heritage site, the world's oldest major canal, opened in 1681, linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
  • Céret - has the Museum of Modern Art with works by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Braque.
  • Collioure - picturesque  village almost on the Spanish border.
  • Gorges du Tarn -  dramatic and deep gorge of the river Tarn, through the limestone rock of the Causses. The drive is spectular however during the summer the traffic is terrible.

Limousin (Now Nouvelle Aquitaine)

  • Limoges - the Regional capital, city of art and history; old city centre, with parts dating from medieval times, cathedral, old bridges on the Vienne. Porcelaine museum.
  • Rochechouart - has an impressive castle, dating partly from the 13th century.
  • St Junien - famous for its and large romanesque basilica.
  • Collonges la Rouge, - always noted as one of the prettiest villages in France. The red sandstone used in the buildings give this town an interesting look.

Lorraine (Now Grand Est)

  • Nancy - The Place Stanislas is noted as being one of the finest city squares in France, and is marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site, with two other 18th century squares. Porte de la Craffe (14th Century) and other remains of the mediaeval city.
  • Verdun - Has the Memorial is a museum devoted to the battle that lasted almost a year, taking 300,000 French lives.
  • Metz - The Cathedral St. Etienne is a gothic cathedral with fine stained glass. The Eglise St. Pierre aux Nonnains is supposedly the oldest church in France.

Midi-Pyrénées (Now Occitanie)

Region was created in 1970 and gave a regional base to the city of Toulouse.

  • Toulouse - Regional capital; the "Ville rose", or pink city, on account of the warm colour of the local brick. Cathedral, Canal du Midi, Place du Capitole. Musée des Augustins.
  • Albi CathedralAlbi: - an interesting hold city on the Tarn River, with a unique mediaeval redbrick fortified cathedral. Check out to the right the relative size of the cathedral to the buildings. We were very impressed with out visit to this city.
  • Castres - see the Goya Museum with its major collection of Spanish art.
  • Cordes sur Ciel - a good photoshoot - this is a small mediaeval town perched on a hill above the river Cérou.
  • Lourdes - the town of the famous Catholic pilgrimage in France. It is reported that the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl in1858.
  • Rodez - has a large 14th century cathedral and an old city centre.
  • Millau - the Millau viaduct is the world's highest road bridge.
  • Conques - very scenic town.It holds one of the finest romanesque churches in France with remarkable sculptures. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Cahors - in the Lot Area is famous for its old streets and its unusual fortified mediaeval bridge.
  • Rocamadour - take your photos as your approach this town. It has been a major pilgrimage desitination and today a major tourist site. It hands on the sides of the Alzou canyon.

Nord–Pas-de-Calais (Now Hauts de France)

Parts of the coast are very scenic. We have toured this region with a few stops of interest.

  • Cassel - is an attractive small town sitting on a hilltop dominating the plains. It has old houses and an old market square.

Normandy (Remains Normandy)

HonfleurLe Havre, Caen and Rouen are the three main cities in this region. Honfleur is a smaller but very scenic town. Take some time to walk the harbour and look back at the narrow homes. Taxes by frontage. Shows how they beat the tax man at the time.

  • Rouen - has quays on the river Seine, and a very picturesque historic centre, with half-timbered houses, an ancient clock, and a magnificent gothic cathedral, one of the finest in France. There is also the Joan of Arc museum.
  • Giverny - located near Vernon, you will find the home of Impressionist artist Claude Monet very relaxing. It is amazing how with all the crowds you can walk around the grounds and then be just by yourself.
  • Bayeux - will be on your list of places to see in order to view the Bayeux Tapestry. It is 900 years old!
  • Falaise - has a Mediaeval fortress and is the birthplace of William the Conqueror.
  • Le Havre - much destroyed in World War II, in 1950's, the old town was rebuilt in concrete.

Pays de la Loire (Remains Pays de la Loire)

Although there is the name Loire in the name of this region, the famous chateaux of the Loire are not in this Region.

  • Nantes - is the Regional Capital, and also the location of the Waterman pen factory. If you are not into fountain pens, then there is a historic centre and you can take boat on the Erdre river.
  • Guérande - is a small walled city, with a historic centre. 
  • La Baule - oOne of the more famous French seaside resorts - famous since the nineteenth century. We were in and out of this town.
  • Angers - has one of the biggest and finest mediaeval castles in France.

Picardy (Now Hauts de France)

  • Amiens - has one of the finest mediaeval gothic cathedrals of France.
  • Beauvais - the tallest of the gothic cathedrals built in mediaeval France. Planned as the greatest cathedral in France, Beauvais cathedral was never completed; but the part that was built (the choir and the transept) is extremely impressive.
  • Chantilly - see the chateau, rebuilt in the 19th century; the chateau houses a museum.
  • Compiègne - Chateau de Compiègne is an 18th century royal residence.
  • Laon - old walled city perched on a hill. See the gothic cathedral (1150-1180). There is a funicular railway from the train station up to the town hall.
  • Soissons - this small town has gothic cathedral containing fine mediaeval stained-glass windows. Remains of the St jean des vignes Abbey.

Poitou-Charentes (Now Nouvelle Aquitaine)

  • Le Marais Poitevin - Venise verte - we have found this interesting. The "Green Venice" covers much of the sea-level flat land inland from the coast. An area of slow moving rivers and channels, woods and fields. Boating and kayaking, angling, rambling and riding are among popular activities here. You can rent boats, flats, and use a pole to push yourself along the endless canals. Green? The water is covered in a green moss.
  • Poitiers - old hill-town with an attractive  old centre and ancient churches, including the St. John's Baptistry, reputedly the oldest place of Christian worship in France, and the Notre-Dame la Grande church, one of the most famous and distinctive romanesque churches in France.
  • St Savin sur Gartempe - another UNESCO world heritage site known for its romanesque abbey with a remarkable collection of mediaeval frescoes.
  • Saintes - has a Roman triumphal arch and remains of the Roman amphitheatre and other remains.
  • Saintonge - has a number of 11th and 12th century romanesque churches, with magnificent carved porches and stonework.
  • Cognac - being a cognac fan I was really looking forward to our visit here. You can see the black moss from cognac and smell it in the air as you walk the town. Tours and tasting of course.

Provence (Now Provence Alpes Cote d'Azure)

Everyone goes here. Why not. There are many scenic areas. Don't spend all your time along the coast as that life wears thin. The towns in the other areas of the Region are much more interesting.

  • Aix-en Provence - not to be missed. The old town is aptly called a gem, with its narrow streets and honey-coloured stone. The main  street, Cours Mirabeau, is tree-lined avenue with shops, pavement cafés and restaurant. The Cathedral of  St. Sauveur is impressive.
  • Arles - the Saint Trophime church is famous.
  • Avignon - a great location to tour the area with fast TGV rail service back to Paris. The old city is clustered within impressive mediaeval walls. The Palace of the Popes is one of the main sites. Across the river visit the ruins of the castle of Villeneuve d'Avignon. The centre of Avignon is a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Cassis - is a small port and east is famous for the "Calanques", a series of rocky inlets where limestone cliffs come down to the water's edge. We took one of the boat trips. Very interesting.
  • Fontaine de Vaucluse - major French tourist site. I do not know what people see in going there.
  • Gordes - one of the most scenic villages in France. See the renaissance castle.
  • Marseille - we have been here once and will go back. The Abbaye Saint Victor and the Fort Saint Jean are near the old port.  
  • Orange - very interesting town, famous for its Roman amphitheatre and the triumphal arch.
  • Pont du Gard - you have to see this. the dramatic Roman aqueduct is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Tarascon - a remarkable mediaeval fortress.
  • Antibes - interesting town, use it as a base. Has 17th century ramparts and a mediaeval castle.
  • Cannes - it is one of those must see places, once.
  • Grasse:- famous as the centre of the French  perfume industry; tons of flowers are harvested annually for this industry, including jasmine and lavender. Tours is perfume factories.
  • Nice - I have aways liked this town as a base, but it is big and busy. The old market and the older sectionis interesting including the flower market.
  • Saint Paul de Vence - we often stay just outside the old town. The town is good for a short walk about, or for some good food. Tour buses pour in during the day.
  • Saint Tropez - see it and move on.

Rhône-Alpes (Now Auvergne Rhone-Alpes)

  • Bourg en Bresse - ornate late gothic "Eglise de Brou", built as part of a royal monastery by Margaret of Austria.
  • Lyon - we regretted that for too many years we just drove by Lyon. Very interest old city. Hhistoric city is classed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The old city has an architectural and cultural heritage spanning over two thousand years.
  • Annecy - scenic little town on the lake.
  • Vienne - small town on the Rhone, with roman and mediaeval remains.
  • Vallon-Pont-d'Arc - a famous natural bridge across the river.