Seasonal ideas

Summer holidays in France - 10 best destinations

Head to France for some of the best summer holiday destinations for all the family.

If you are planning a summer holiday, but need an alternative to a staycation, in France, you’re rather spoilt for choice. There are so many beautiful parts of the country to visit, you might struggle to pick one! Luckily, our guide to 10 of the best-loved destinations is here to help.

Brittany

A wonderful alternative to Cornwall, Brittany is perfect for lovers of the coast. Sandy beaches and quintessential seaside towns fill the coastline, with hidden gems such as mythical Paimpont Forest and the cobbled streets of Dinan.

Brittany attracts foodies too, as it has some of the best cuisine in north west France. Delicious galette pancakes, sparkling cider, and fresh mussels are all specialities here, plus it’s an area that takes great pride in its outdoor food markets.

The summer months are especially good for camping in this pretty part of France, with many of Brittany’s campsites offering envious beachside locations and plenty of natural landscapes to explore.

aerial view of a coastline with crystal blue water and white sandy beaches under a sunny sky

Côte d’Azur

Also known as The French Riviera, this area in the south of France is another coastal favourite, but with a touch of luxury thanks to places like Monaco and Cannes. Here you’re almost guaranteed sunshine in summer thanks to the Mediterranean climate, so be sure to spend time on the sandy beaches.

For nature lovers, the mountainous national parks of Verdon, Luberon, and Préalpes d'Azur lie to the north, ripe for exploring. Between Marseille and Cassis lies Calanques National Park, one of France’s best outdoor spaces, surrounded by the crystal blue waters.

You can hire yachts and boats in many of the marinas here or take an affordable boat tour to truly soak up the local landscape.

The Dordogne

In the south west of France you’ll find this picturesque area filled with hills and valleys, rivers, and vineyards. It’s the country’s oldest department, so you’ll find history around almost every corner, notably Périgord Blanc, which dates back to Neolithic times, coupled with plenty of renaissance and medieval architecture.

Périgord Blanc is just one of the four ‘sections’ of Dordogne. Périgord Vert (Green), Pourpre (Purple), and Noir (Black) are the others. Head to Périgord Vert for those quintessential Dordogne valleys and streams, Périgord Blanc region to see stunning white limestone plateaux, and Périgord Pourpre to sample delicious wines. Périgord Noir is popular for those looking to hike or cycle in woodland as it has beautiful pine trees. There’s also a fairytale theme here thanks to Château de Beynac, Château de Castelnaud, and Château des Milandes all available to explore.

arched bridge over water with a picturesque town stretching beyond

Provence

Fields of lavender, olive groves, mouth-watering cuisine, and small-town tranquility – spend a summer in Provence and you’re sure to return relaxed. It is also a veritable treasure trove of architecture, with remnants of roman, byzantine, medieval, and renaissance structures incorporated into the modern construction of the towns.

Many head for Aix-en-Provence or St. Tropez (for the legendary beaches), the former more of a city break than the latter. While St Tropez is better suited to those seeking sun, sea, and crystal blue waters, the thermal spas in Aix-en-Provence are a definite pull if you need some R&R.

Other notable locations in the region include Avignon, home to the Festival d’Avignon, a celebration of creativity throughout July, and the Gorges du Verdon. Head to the gorge for a national park complete with hiking and swimming opportunities.

The Loire Valley

If its French countryside you are looking for, this is the place to go. Spend your summer break castle spotting or wine tasting in this part of the country frequently described as ‘The Garden of France’.

Particularly popular for cycling holidays, the Loire Valley contains possibly the most popular cycling route through this part of France, the Loire à Vélo. Covering about 800 kilometres, this tourism trail goes from the coast at Saint-Nazaire, inland towards the city of Nevers, alongside the Loire River.

This is another wonderful destination if you plan to camp during your summer holiday as the natural landscape has plenty of sites available. We recommend staying as close to the troglodyte caves as possible so you can explore the ancient caves.

brightly coloured timbered houses lining a river with paths each side and flowers lining a bridge across the water

The Alsace region of France

Alsace is in north east France and known for its wines and picturesque villages. While a trip to Strasbourg and Colmar are usually the most popular choices for city breaks, this region also holds two national parks, Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord to the north and Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges in the south. Both are perfect for a summer break venturing out into nature and are just two of the region’s hidden gems.

For foodies, Alsation dishes like tarte flambée, coq au riesling, and kougelhopf are not to be missed, especially if you accompany them with a glass of reisling, a dry white wine. Throughout summer many of the larger towns and cities of the region hold food and wine festivals so you can sample different varieties. There’s even a specific wine route through the region, filled with beautiful places to stop and stay.

Normandy

Filled with beautiful towns and villages, Normandy is a great place to stay if you want to explore more of the French countryside. Its coastline is perfect for summer breaks, with places such as Cap de la Hague inviting walkers and cyclists to explore its natural beauty.

Normandy is also filled with historical spots. Castles like Château de Crèvecoeur and, of course the Normandy beaches of WWII. Spend time immersing yourself in the past as part of your summer trip here.

We couldn’t not mention the small island commune of Mont St Michel that sits just between Normandy and Brittany. It’s a magical place that inspired the castles of Disney’s Tangled and Lord of the Rings.

Picturesque town filled with white brick buildings with orange tiled roofs in the distance on a bay filled with blue waters and a blue sky

Antibes

Nestled between glitzy Nice and Cannes, the resort town of Antibes is known for multi-million-dollar mega yachts and its maze-like Old Town encased by 16th-century ramparts. Artists such as Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso have tried to capture the beauty of Antibes in their works, there’s even a museum dedicated to Picasso and his life there to visit while you’re here.

Spend your summer holiday lazing on the beautiful beaches, or take a stroll into the town to marvel at the architecture and visit the local markets. For those who like to explore the great outdoors, hiking the Cap d’Antibes trail gives you unrivalled views of the Mediterranean sea, plus Aleppo pine trees, and Victorian châteaux surrounded by impressive gardens.

Burgundy

When you think of Burgundy, you no doubt think of the rich French wine that takes its name from the place. As well as enjoying the wine, this is a wonderful place to see plenty of historical architecture in many of the towns including Dijon and Beaune.

We recommend a trip to or stay in Vézelay, a hilltop town that overlooks the Cure Valley. As well as quaint cobbled paths it is home to the Basilica of Saint Marie Madeleine, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site. The Cure Valley is just one of the region’s natural landscapes to enjoy, you can also visit forests such as Forêt des Bertranges or a stay in Tournus puts you in prime position to wander along the banks the Saone River.

If you are heading to the south of the Burgundy region, the Rock of Solutré is a must-see. Surrounded by the Mâconnais vineyards you can make it to the summit in under an hour for some spectacular views.

bridge leading over a rocky cove to a rock jutting out into the sea covered with trees and shrubbery at sunset

Biarritz

A stunning summer escape on France’s Basque coast, Biarritz is a surfers’ paradise and wonderful seaside city filled with architecture from the glorious La Belle Époque (the Beautiful Era). If you’re a fan of surfing, summer brings an annual surf festival that’s one of the biggest long-boarding events in the world. You can improve your own skills or learn at any of the many surf schools dotted along the beaches.

Head to Rocher de la Vierge, a rock that grants views of both the Bay of Biarritz and the Côte des Basques, even making out the outline of the Pyrenees far behind. The rock was once a prominent whale-watching platform and in the 19th-century was connected to the coast by a wooden bridge.

At Pointe Saint-Martin, marking the boundary between Biarritz’s rocky coast and the smooth sands of Landes, sits the city’s lighthouse. Built in 1834 you can climb the 248 steps to its gallery deck for the loveliest of views, especially at sunrise or sunset.

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