When you think of a city trip in France, people often think of Paris. Yes, Paris is a wonderful city to explore, but there is so much more! Think of art and culture for example. We’ve lined up 5 French cities that are worth adding onto your city trip list.
This French and sunny city belongs to the five largest cities in France. Subsequently, it’s also the oldest city in France and this is the charm of Marseille. Situated next to the Mediterranean Sea, the harbour plays an important part to the daily life of Marseille. Eating fresh fish is a must and the same goes for walking around at old Le Vieux-Port harbour and the historic Fort Saint-Jean. A footbridge high above the sea links the Fort Saint-Jean to the emblematic MuCEM, the first museum entirely dedicated to Mediterranean civilizations, directly located by the sea. Don’t miss out the panoramic rooftop terrace which offers an amazing view on Marseille and the sea! From here you can also walk to the MuCEM, which is also an architectural highlight from the outside. Marseille is also known for its many artist and in the neighbourhood Le Panier you’ll find many ateliers where you can buy art. Talking about crafts, the relatively new Soap Museum shows visitors how it’s made with the traditional tools. Entrance is free for individual visitors and of course you will be able to buy a large variety of soap. Small streets and squares make Le Panier a great place for a coffee on one of the outside terraces. No visit to Marseille is complete without a visit to the beach though. You have a few options but the most popular is Plage des Catalans, a sandy beach close to the city.
We passed Metz on our way back to the Netherlands last year and it was a great stop if you have a day or two. Metz is a city full of culture, many restaurants and worth a visit to the epic Gothic Cathedral. Did you know that Pompidou-Metz, has become the most visited cultural venues in France outside Paris? This contemporary and modern art institution is a must see on a rainy day (or any day for that matter). Metz has a lot of options when it comes to food. Market stalls, food events and restaurants are reasons why people in transit stop over. Are you planning to go to Metz this summer? With the digital arts festival Constellations de Metz the whole town becomes an exhibition. With the three different routes through the city you get to discover the city, as well as various impressive artworks, like the 5 km ‘Street Art’ route, which takes you past impressive sculptures, murals, installations and expositions.
The medieval streets of Montpellier are perfect for those who love to shop, but the city also offers the sea at just 10km away. For those that have an active lifestyle, Montpellier offers lovely cycling routes that pass vineyards and lakes that will bring you to the Mediterranean Sea. Montpellier is also proven to be hip & happening with the Marché Du Lez, a creative hotspot area where artist, shops, food trucks, restaurants and startups come together. Each month you will find a new exhibition or art show here. Check their agenda for more info. Are you into art? Pay a visit to MoCo Montpellier Contemporain, a multi-site institution dedicated to contemporary art that has opened on the 29th of June! Check out iLa Panacée, one of the three sites where you can have a drink or brunch and see an exhibition.
Like most French cities, delicious food and wine is in overload in Tours. Modern French cuisines will make you eat until there is no tomorrow and if we need to believe critics, you must try restaurant QG that uses local and seasonal products, making the flavours out of this world. In the same vein, but less high end, you could have lunch and drinks at La Guinguette, located at the foot of Pont Wilson. They also offer workshops, DJ’s and are open every day from May to September! A must visit is the central Place Plumereau in the historic centre of Tours, a pretty square surrounded by 15th-century half-timbered houses which are all listed as historic monuments. Secondly, Tours is located in the Loire Valley, so you can easily reach the castles. Don’t forget to check out the CCCOD, a contemporary art center and exhibition space with various exhibitions every year!
Let’s go back to ancient Rome shall we? Nîmes used to be an important outpost for the Roman Empire and is well known for it’s well preserved Roman monuments such as the Arena of Nîmes. The impressive arena was built about 2000 years ago arena but is still used for festivals and events. It comes as no surprise that Nîmes has a museum full of Roman history, the Musée de la Romanité which faces the Arena. But there is more. The Temple de Diane and La Maison Carrée are also great examples that ancient and modern style go well together. Don’t be fooled by the modern/abstract building, inside you can admire Roman pieces that date back thousands of years. From the rooftop you have a wonderful view over the city. Tickets are only €8,-.
So next time you are thinking of France, skip the usual city trips and go for something a little different!