France has, for a long time, been doing life really fucking well. Food…tick, wine…tick, cheese…tick, a cheeky sleep in the middle of the day…tick, sexiest language ever…tick, fashion & style…tick bloody tick tick tick!
With this I want to write a French bucket list post, including our favourite cities, destinations and adventures. Along with the bigger cities, I want you guys to know that the smaller, quieter villages you’ll read about below, are truly where you’ll find yourselves lost in that beautiful French culture.
So…without too much more of an intro, here are our top 10 bucket list worthy locations in France:
How could this not be our number one? Having lived here across two winter seasons and one summer, it’s safe to say this is our top pick destination for France. There’s so much to offer in Chamonix, surrounded by enormous snow-capped mountains, the Chamonix Valley is the ideal adventure lovers dream.
During winter, spend your days skiing or snowboarding and even hire a guide to ride the famous Vallée Blanche – the longest ski run in the world! In the afternoon, cruise into town for a cheeky aprés (aprés = after skiing beers) or a sweet mulled wine nestled beside an outdoor fire. The people at Chambre Neuf really know how to throw a party, so don’t miss that and make sure you get up on the tables to boogie!!
During summer, spend your days hiking through the mountains – our favourite hikes are Lac Blanc and Lac Cornu. During summer you can hike up to Lac Blanc and free camp overnight, an experience I’ll never forget. In the warm summer afternoons, cruise into town for a happy hour in the sun (Bar’d Up is our fav pick for summer spots), oh and don’t forget to try a hot dog and sweet potato fries at “Cool Cats” next door. This little area has all the vibes during summer, with live music, people, kids and dogs all chilling in the sun.
In both the winter and summer months, don’t miss catching the gondola up the world famous Aiguille Du Midi to enjoy the insane views of Mont Blanc and beyond. This structure is the highest pedestrian platform in Europe, getting you to 3842m above sea level! You really can’t miss this when you come to Chamonix and although it’s touristy – it has good reason to be, so join the bandwagon and head on up!!
For our next fav spot in France head west, to the coast of France where the good vibes happen and the waves roll high. Think the Byron Bay of Australia, or the Raglan of NZ – Hossegor in France is a surf lovers dream. 3 different beaches with tons of breaks along the shore, this is where the Quicksilver Pro France happens each year. We were lucky enough to watch it back in 2016 and during this time the beach, the waves, the town and the people were absolutely buzzing.
Enjoy a top breaky at either Meg’s Cafe or Waxed – the Aussie bloke who makes your coffee definitely knows his shit. Then wander to the beach, bare foot, board under the arm to surf the day away. We stayed at Le Surf Spot , a short 5 min drive down the coast and this place was rad with a typical surfer vibe and laid back people too. We also spent another week here in our van, parked up in a carpark right on the beach. Bryn would wake up, take 20 steps and boom he was surfing those 9ft waves.
A lot more built up and historical but with those same surfer dude vibes as Hossegor, Biarritz is a stunning city in France that shouldn’t be missed. We spent about a week here in our van, free camping along “Boulevard du Prince de Galles” with a shit ton of van lifers who had the same idea. We spent our days surfing and lazily wandering town, then in the afternoons we’d chill, beer in hand, watching the sun go down at one of the many spots around. Our fav was “Etxola Bibi” where the sunset was unforgettable and the drinks n vibes were spot on.
Well you cant go to France without enjoying a little romance in the city of love right? With so much to do here, Paris took a little more planning then usual, but we’ve been twice now and adore it in many ways. Edgy and cool, yet sophisticated and classy, gay Paris has the culture, the food and the charm on point. To be completely honest, it wasn’t until be went back a second time to really fall in love with Paris, having been travelling a whole year longer, we were much more relaxed with this fast paced city.
Touritsty spots like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Sacre-Couer are for sure not to be missed. But thrift shopping, bar hopping and wandering the cobble streets of Montmare, Le Marias or Canal Saint-Martin should be right up on your list too. A cabaret show like the Moulin Rouge or Crazy Horse will definitely get the excitement flowing but if it’s not in your budget, a picnic on the grass under the Eiffel Tower is a perfect choice as well. My advice is just to sink yourself into the culture because yes, Paris is pretty full on (our first trip was A LOT, with us being so new to the travel thing), but getting involved and breathing it all in was the best way to enjoy every part of the city.
This was a picturesque and surprising city that we would never had come across if it weren’t for the #vanlife. On route from Montpellier to Chamonix in 2016, we needed a few days to stop and chill…so along came Grenoble. Nestled at the base of the French Alps, Grenoble is home to a huge student life (so yes this means a fun nightlife, pubs and clubs), activities galore (think skiing, climbing, hiking etc), incredible landscapes and tons of trendy shops, cafes and restaurants around town.
The most beautiful time to visit is definitely autumn or winter, where the snow capped mountains and falling orange leaves set the perfect scene. Make sure you catch the cable car for the best view of the city, then head back down for a warm drink and lazy afternoon hangs.
Always a fun time, the hub for the super yachts, the rich, the famous and in our case, the budget travellers. The French Riveria is a stretch along the Mediterranean coastline. There is no official boundary, but it is usually considered to extend from Cassis, Toulon or Saint-Tropez on the west to Menton at the France–Italy border in the east. We spent 4 days in Nice which we absolutely loved, our first taste of the Med sea was nothing short of amazing and while travelling France, you’ve got to see this beautiful stretch of coastline too.
Eat fresh seafood and sip cocktails until your hearts content, sunbath (topless) on the cobblestone beaches, swim in the crystal clear Med sea waters, visit the riches in Monaco, party hard with the yachties in Antibes, grab yourself a scooter to travel the coastline roads and head to a live concert in Cairns maybe too. So much to do, so easy to get around and consistently beautiful sunny weather all summer long.
Ahhhhh…the Venice of the Alps as they call this little haven. A small, charming village settled right in heart of the French Alps. The old town is full of colour, each building painted in it’s own pastel shade with a maze of canals winding through the village. Just outside of the old town you have Lac Annecy, which in summer is full of activities (swimming, wake boarding, windsurfing, boat trips etc) and in winter casts the most beautiful reflection of the snowcapped mountains in the distance.
We’ve been to Annecy many times as it’s so close to our old home town, Chamonix. This meant it was always the perfect day trip and somewhere special to take friends. Any time of year is perfect to visit Annecy, but I’ve got to say I love summer most, purely for the lakeside vibes and the vibrant colours through town.
We ended up in Montpellier for 3 weeks back in 2016, staying with a friend who was at this stage, in the Montpellier rugby team. Our experience was more like a homestay type situation, NOT as travellers and damn this felt good. After backpacking/vanlifing for the previous 6 months, it was so nice to somewhat fit into the local way of life with our friend Ben and his rugby boys.
If you’re there, make sure to head to a local rugby game, visit the beach at ‘Palavas Les Flots’, have a killer coffee at ‘Coffee Club’, sink some beers at ‘O’Carolans Irish Pub’ and of course wander around the main square “Comedie”. Enjoy the trendy French culture of this beautiful city and enjoy feeling like a French local.
A wonderful wine region in France thats for sure not to be missed! Travel in the warm summer months, when the lavender and sunflowers fields fill the country side and a warm glow fills the air. The summer months in Provence really are alive and wonderfully cultural. Small villages come to life hosting fetes (parties) in the town squares, neighbours eat together, people enjoy the late and warm summer nights and there’s endless food & wine to go around.
We spent a week in St Maximin near Uzes. A small village where a friend of my mothers has an amazing villa she rents out during the summer months. We we’re lucky enough to be here for Bastille Day (the national day in France) so as you can image, the parties were fun and everyone was well on form.
We also spent a few days roaming the country sides in complete freedom, a highlight was visiting the Pont du Gard – an ancient Roman aqueduct. My advice here is to pick a cute airbnb, pick a tiny village and immerse yourself into the culture and nature of this beautiful region.
Colmar and the Alsace Region
Well this one’s for all you Disney fans and fairy tale lovers. This region of France is home to quite possibly the prettiest most colourful villages I’ve ever seen. EVER! Set along the French/German boarder, you really see the German influence in the architecture here which was nothing like we’d ever seen before and seriously it was so god damn beautiful.
An ideal destination of you love wine, pretty buildings, cute lanes, aimlessly wandering, photography and of course…romance too. We spent only one night and two days visiting the towns of Colmar and Eughufism and this is totally enough to see it all. Ps – I think the best way to visit this part of France is by car, so a perfect spot if you’re vanlifing in the area, or simply driving from one big city to another. The closest airports are Basel or Strasburg so if flying is your only option, it is possible too!
Well…inspired? I HOPE SO! Gosh it was nice going down memory lane creating this blog post…France is just amazing isn’t it?!
Merci France, un jour on reviendra
Leah | FREE & ADDICTED
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