Sophisticated Paris is famous worldwide as a place of romance, but it’s not just a city for a romantic weekend—and there are other cities in France with just as much to offer. If you’re considering going on a French city break or holiday by private jet, here’s our guide to the top cities to visit in France.
The Top Five Best Cities in France to Visit
Cities in southern France have long been known for their great climate, attractive architecture, and amazing shopping and dining opportunities. This has made them the playground of the rich and famous. Some offer culture, history and stunning countryside; others offer sun, sea and sand; a few offer them all! And of course, not all of France’s greatest cities lie in the south. Visitors who only head to cities on the southern coast will miss out on France’s iconic capital, Paris, and its world-famous city of viniculture, Bordeaux.
Here are our top 5 best cities in France to visit for a city break or longer holiday.
The French Capital: The Most Romantic of Cities in France?
Famous the world over, the French capital is often described as the most romantic city in the world, let alone France! We will let you decide.
Paris attracts over 30 million tourists a year, and 436 of its restaurants (yes, you read that correctly!) are noted in the Michelin Guide. Of these, 118 are Michelin Starred, with ten of achieving the top honor: three stars. If you want a great view and top-class food, Michelin lists two 2-Star restaurants among its recommendations: Palais Royal Restaurant, which offers dining in the gardens or on its arcade terrace, and The White Bird, a rooftop restaurant with amazing views of the Eiffel Tower.
Besides its quality cuisine, Paris is famous for its fashion, perfumery and art. This makes it one of the top cities in France for a shopping weekend, and the ideal place for a Christmas gift-buying break! For designer brands and luxury items, head to the Printemps Haussmann or Galeries Lafayette department stores; Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf in the 1st arrondissement; or the ’Golden Triangle’ of Porte Maillot to George-V, avenue Montaigne and the rond-point des Champs-Élysées.
No Paris trip would be complete without a visit to some of its famous landmarks. Museums and art galleries in Paris include Centre Georges Pompidou, Rodin Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, Carnavalet Museum, Paris National Natural History Museum, Victor Hugo Museum, D'Orsay Museum, Marmottan-Claude Monet Museum, the Picasso Museum and L'Orangerie Museum. Short of time? Then don’t miss the Louvre Museum, originally a palace built to house the art collection of King Francis I in 1546. It’s now a museum exhibiting artwork and artifacts from 11,000 years of history, including the Mona Lisa.
You can also time your visit to coincide with one of the city’s key events. The Paris International Air Show takes place in June and includes spectacular flying displays. Paris also hosts the French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. This fortnight-long tournament begins in late May.
Paris is easy to reach by private jet. Le Bourget Airport (LBG), Paris Issy Les Moulineaux (LFPI) and Orly Airport (ORY) are all within 10 miles, while the city’s main airport, Charles De Gaulle International (CDG), is 14 miles away.
The Best Cities to Visit in France’s Famous South-West
France’s south-west may not have the sand and sea, but it’s famous for its history, heritage, culture and stunning natural landscapes. It’s a land of rolling hills, vineyards, beautiful cities and charming medieval hilltop villages.
Bordeaux is synonymous with some of the world’s greatest wines. It’s one of the oldest wine-producing cities in the world, and surrounded by five other major viniculture regions: Médoc, Graves and Sauternes, Blaye and Bourg, Saint-Emilion Pomerol and Fronsac, and Entre-Deux-Mers. It’s an ideal place to take the wine lover in your life for a birthday or anniversary celebration—or to treat yourself! Take a wine tour and visit the Cité du Vin. Built in 2016, it’s an architecturally stunning cultural center dedicated to the living history of the world’s wines. Your visit will end with a tasting session on a 115-feet-high platform, which offers magnificent views over the city. Bordeaux also offers fantastic food to accompany its wines, making it one of the best cities to visit in France for a gastronomy break. Why not dine at Gordon Ramsay’s 2-Star Michelin restaurant, Le Pressoir d’Argent, or one of Bordeaux’s seven 1-Star Michelin restaurants?
Bordeaux has more to offer than wonderful food and wine, though. Almost half the city’s footprint is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, and there are 350 nationally-listed historical monuments. They include the Pey-Berland Tower, the Saint-André Cathedral, the Porte Cailhau, the Grand-Théâtre and the Place de la Bourse. Don’t miss the Mirroir d'Eau, Bordeaux’s most-photographed site: this stunning water-feature perfectly reflects the 18th-century facades of the surrounding buildings. Bordeaux also offers many wonderful museums and cultural spaces.
This wealth of indoor attractions makes cosmopolitan Bordeaux one of the best cities in France to visit in the autumn and winter. However, its vineyards, scenic countryside and urban parks make it just as appealing as a spring and summer destination. Don’t miss the Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, or a trip to some of the beautiful nearby villages and chateaux. And if you’re here in July 2023, you may catch the Tour de France! The world’s biggest cycling competition returns to Bordeaux in 2023 with a stop on July 7th. Departure is from Libourne on July 8.
Bordeaux has its own Merignac Airport (BOD), but three other nearby airports are also suitable if you’re travelling via private jet to France. Artigues De Lussac Airport (XLR) is 24 miles away in Libourne, while La Teste De Buch Airport (XAC) and Cazaux Airport (LFBC) are both about 30 miles away.
Toulouse is nicknamed the Pink City for the peach-toned terracotta bricks used in many of its buildings. This 2,000-year-old city is brimming with history and home to one of Europe’s oldest universities: The University of Toulouse, founded in 1229. You’ll find the remains of a Roman amphitheater and baths, numerous chapels, churches and cathedrals, and some remarkable seats of power once held by the Capitouls. If you’re not here for long, make sure you visit:
- The stunning Basilica of St. Sernin. Built between the 11th and 12th centuries, it’s the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe. The octagonal bell tower is truly impressive, and this building really does transport you back in time.
- The beautiful Jacobins Convent, built for the Dominican order in 1229.
In contrast to its rich history, Toulouse is also at the core of France’s aerospace industry. Immerse yourself in this side of the city by visiting the interactive exhibits at The Cite de l’Espace, Europe’s biggest space flight and astronomy research center.
For a slower pace, walk or cycle along the bank of the historic, UNESCO-listed Canal du Midi, which joins the Mediterranean and the Atlantic—or take a relaxing boat trip! You can also spend time indulging yourself at one of the city’s two Michelin 2-Star restaurants, Michel Sarran and Py-r, or one of the several eateries that have achieved a single Star.
If you’re travelling by private jet to France, Toulouse offers three airports of its own: Toulouse Airport (LFCL) and Blagnac Airport (TLS), about 3 miles from the city center, and Francazal Airport (LFBF), about 6 miles away.
Top Cities to Visit in the South of France
Nice is one of the most popular tourist cities in southern France. Only 20 minutes from the Italian border, it’s sandwiched between two glittering neighbors: Cannes and Monaco. It offers coast and countryside, glitz and glamour, and historical charm. It’s one of the best cities to visit in France if you’re looking for a longer holiday, as there’s so much to do and see all year round, including eating good food! Head to Flaveur, proud holder of two Michelin Stars, or one of Nice’s five 1-Starred Michelin restaurants.
Nice Côte d’Azur, as the region is known, has 300 days of sunshine a year. This makes Nice one of the best cities in France to visit during the summer, spring or autumn. There are 28 miles of beaches and coves, so It’s easy to find the perfect spot for snorkeling, paddleboarding, swimming, sailing or canyoning—or just sunbathing and relaxing.
However, its mild winter climate and position at the foothills of the Alps make it an ideal winter holiday spot too. Head to one of the area’s winter sport resorts, such as Isola 2000, near Italy’s border. It’s famous for its international competitions and offers challenging ski tour routes, three sliding sectors and an ice circuit.
If you’re here in autumn or spring, and there’s not quite enough sun or snow for seasonal sports yet, enjoy Nice’s culture and landscapes. Buy some local olive oil, wine, Provençal fabrics or herbs, or visit top-end fashion and perfumery stores. Explore the beautiful Mont Boron Forest Park or discover the charming medieval hilltop villages nearby, such as Castagniers. Visit Nice’s picturesque Old Town or museums to immerse yourself in history. Or just wander the city, popping into whatever art gallery, shop, café or restaurant catches your eye!
The most convenient airport is the Cote d'Azur Airport (NCE), just 15 minutes from the city center. However, if you’re visiting France by private jet, airports of all sizes are available to you. Mandelieu Airport in Cannes is close by, as is Monaco’s Helioport.
Cannes is legendary for its warm weather, luxurious hotels and restaurants, and wonderful beaches. But it’s equally well-known for its famous visitors and its film festival. Every year, the renowned Cannes Film Festival attracts the world’s top film industry professionals. If you’re lucky enough to know one of them, you may be able to attend! If not, book your private jet charter to Cannes for the middle of May anyway. You can soak up the Festival’s atmosphere and maybe glimpse a famous face in a restaurant.
Whatever time of year you visit, Cannes has a lot to offer. The long, sunny summers are perfect for watersports and topping up your tan. When the weather cools, head indoors to watch the many performances on every night or explore the city’s museums and historic houses. We recommend the Film Festival Palace, the Castle Museum, Cannes Cruise Port, Chapelle Bellini, Parfumerie Fragonard, La Croisette Boulevard. The fascinating International Perfume Museum in Grasse is only around an hour away by train or 40 minutes by road.
As a smaller city, Cannes has few restaurants in the Michelin Guide. However, five are featured, and among them is the 2-Star La Palme d’Or—the perfect place to end a glamorous and sun-filled day!
Cannes is a highly convenient location for private jet trips. The Mandelieu Airport (CEQ) is in Cannes, and the Cote d'Azur Airport (NCE) is only 12 miles away. The Helioport in Monaci, just 23 miles away, is also an option.
Your Private Jet Charter to the Top Cities in France
If you started reading this article because you wanted to discover the best cities to visit in France, perhaps you now have a different dilemma. Which one should you visit? Luckily, if you’re travelling by private jet, France can offer a multi-center holiday. So why not visit more than one city—or use your jet to take you for a contrasting week deep in the French countryside?
If you need help making a decision or booking your private jet charter, contact our friendly team here at Paramount Business Jets. Just call +1-877-727-2538 ext. 1 or email them at email@example.com.