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Toulouse

Top French Cities - Toulouse at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Toulouse Tourist Office at www.toulouse-visit.com.

City region: Occitanie

Population & what they are called: 466,297 inhabitants (2014 census), called Toulousain

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 6 h 30 min (420 miles) via the A20 autoroute l'Occitane

  • by train: about 4 h 10 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse

  • by plane: about 1 h 20 min to the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Abdelilah Chouari, breakdancer world champion

  • Claude Nougaro, singer

  • Bernard Werber, writer

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • Toulouse is nicknamed La Ville Rose (The Pink City) due to the red-brick façades seen all across town.

  • The 38 stations of Toulouse’s metro system are unique in that they all house works of contemporary art.

Notable sites:

  • Capitole – the 18th-century home of the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), Théâtre du Capitole (opera house) and the Salle des Illustres (a display hall of 19th-century masterpieces by local artists)

  • Basilique Saint-Sernin – the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe, containing the most beautiful pipe organ in the country

  • Couvent des Jacobins – a significant monastic building and the city's red brick jewel of Meridional Gothic architecture

Top annual events:

  • Festival Tangopostale – tango and Argentinian culture take over the city with performances, concerts, workshops and numerous cultural events (tangopostale.com)

  • Rio Loco – a lively open-air festival combining world music, visual arts, cinema and international cuisine (rio-loco.org/en)

  • Siestes Electroniques – free festival of electronic music in an open-air garden (les-siestes-electroniques.com)

Most notable museums:

  • Cité de l'Espace – a unique museum and park centered around space exploration (cite-espace.com)

  • Musée des Augustins (Musée des Beaux-Arts) – France's second oldest museum, with a large collection of European paintings (augustins.org)

  • Les Abattoirs (Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain) – a modern art museum built into the area's old slaughterhouse (lesabattoirs.org)

Culinary specialties:

  • saucisse de Toulouse – a special sausage composed of diced pork with no additives or preservatives

  • cassoulet toulousain – a slow-cooked stew of white haricot beans, duck confit and saucisse de Toulouse, served in a traditional earthenware pot

  • garbure – a hearty and thick peasant soup of cabbage, pork and a mix of other ingredients

Local wines & spirits:

  • wines of the Southwest – over 300 grape varieties, 14 named geographical areas and 29 protected appellations all regrouped as “vins du Sud-Ouest,” including the Candie estate within Toulouse and the nearby Fronton vineyard

  • crème de violette – a liqueur with taste and color of violet blossoms

Shopping:

  • Quartier de la Daurade – the best place for vintage and second-hand shops

  • Marché Victor Hugo – the biggest covered market, with restaurants on the first floor

  • Quartier Saint-Etienne – antique shops fill the little streets of neighborhood around the Saint-Étienne Cathedral

Most popular night spots:

  • Quartier des Carmes – one of the most active and dynamic neighborhood, with a vibrant range of popular bars and tapas restaurants

  • Place Saint-Pierre – a main nightlife area with many bars full of students

  • Rue Gabriel-Peri (near Jean-Jaurès Metro) – a good cluster of nightclubs, concert halls and bars

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Canal du Midi – crowds of walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers take move along its banks every day

  • Garonne riverbank – a great place to observe the city skyline or step into a floating guinguette for a bite to eat in summer

  • Jardin des Plantes – a 200-year-old sculpture garden for people in search of nature

Local industries:

  • aerospace industry – home to one of the world’s largest aeronautics manufacturers, Airbus, as well as the Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, the Aerospace Valley and more

In Pop Culture:

  • The Musketeer (D’Artagnan) – the 2001 film by Peter Hyams with Catherine Deneuve, shot in the Salle des Illustres of the Capitole

  • Lemming – the 2005 movie by Dominik Moll about love and betrayal

  • The Frozen Dead (Glacé), by Bernard Minier – a thriller novel, the first of the series involving Commandant Martin Servaz, a Toulouse city cop

Strasbourg

Top French Cities - Strasbourg at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Strasbourg Tourism Office at www.otstrasbourg.fr.

City region: Alsace / Grand Est

Population & what they are called: 276,170 inhabitants (2014 census), called Strasbourgeois

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 4 h 45 min (306 miles) via the A4 autoroute de l'Est

  • by train: about 1 h 45 min by TGV from the Gare de l'Est

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Marie Tussaud, founder of Madame Tussaud's wax museums

  • Marcel Marceau, actor and mime artist

  • Eliette Abécassis, writer and professor of philosophy

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • In Strasbourg in 1792, Rouget de Lisle composed the Army of the Rhine's battle song, which later became the French national anthem, called the “Marseillaise.”

  • Now home to the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament, the city of Strasbourg was chosen as the European capital just after World War II as a symbol of reconciliation between the peoples of Europe and of their future together.

Notable sites:

  • La Petite France – formerly the millers' and tanners' district, it is the city's most picturesque quarter, with narrow alleyways, canals and half-timbered houses

  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg – an ornate Gothic masterpiece with a 466-foot (142m) spire and a famous astronomical clock

  • Ponts Couverts and Barrage Vauban – several formerly covered bridges, four 14th-century towers and a 17th-century dam

Top annual events:

  • Christmas Markets – one of the loveliest Christmas markets in Europe, and one of the oldest as it dates from 1570 (noel.strasbourg.eu/en/marches-de-noel)

  • ST’ART – with over 25 art galleries and over 60 contemporary works, the second largest contemporary art fair in France

  • Musica – international festival of contemporary classical music (festivalmusica.org)

Most notable museums:

  • Rohan Palace – a former residence of the prince-bishops and today the Archeological Museum (Musée Archéologique), Decorative Arts Museum (Musée des Arts Décoratifs) and Fine Arts Museum (Musée des Beaux-Arts) (en.musees.strasbourg.eu)

  • Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain – among the largest contemporary and modern art museums in the country

  • Musée Alsacien – dedicated to traditional Alsatian daily life

Culinary specialties:

  • choucroute à la strasbourgeoise – pickled cabbage (sauerkraut), salted pork, Strasbourg sausage and ham, best eaten in a winstub (local restaurant)

  • foie gras – Strasbourg claims the first duck foie gras to be cooked in terracotta terrines and covered in a layer of fat

  • kougelhopf – a light Alsatian brioche with a distinctive shape

Local wines & spirits:

  • Alsace AOC wines – famous whites like Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris

  • beer – large breweries in and near town, as well as a growing number of micro-breweries, keep Strasbourg's beer culture thriving

Shopping:

  • any independent wine store – keep an eye out for the Fédération Nationale des Cavistes Indépendants affiliation or any clear indication of a caviste indépendent

  • Arts et Collections d'Alsace – sells copies of art and other objects seen in museums and throughout Alsace

  • Rue de la Mésange – a focal point for gourmet shopping

Most popular night spots:

  • Quay des Pêcheurs – the place to spend an evening in one of the unusual barge bars

  • Quartier Krutenau – on the south end of Grande Ile and filled with fashionable bars, restaurants, galleries and trendy shops

  • La Laiterie – home to several cultural institutions, including a famous rock concert hall, on the site of the former central dairy

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Parc de l'Orangerie – the oldest park in town and a favorite place for a stroll, a jog or a day out with the kids

  • cycling – Strasbourg has the largest cycle network in France with some 560 km of cycle tracks

  • Alsace Wine route – a signposted trip to the heart of the vineyards along numerous vineyard paths (vinsalsace.com/en/)

Local industries:

  • biotechnology – Alsace Biovalley is a global competitiveness cluster focused on health and the life sciences and health, and bringing together the major players in the field (businesses, research laboratories, hospitals and universities) in and around Alsace

  • brewing – three major breweries have bases in the area: Brasseries de l'Esperance (part of the Heineken International), and Schutzenberg and La Perle, two independent Alsatian brewers with long histories

In Pop Culture:

  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – the 2011 movie, with Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, took over the historic heart of Strasbourg during filming of the opening sequence

  • The Duellists – a 1977 film by Ridley Scott about an ongoing feud between two 19th-century French army officers

  • Théâtre national de Strasbourg – the only French national theater outside of Paris

Rennes

Top French Cities - Rennes at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Rennes Tourist Office at www.tourisme-rennes.com.

City region: Brittany

Population & what they are called: 213,454 inhabitants (2014 census), called Rennais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 3 h 25 min (220 miles) via the A11 and A81 autoroutes

  • by train: about 1 h 30 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Jean-Claude Bourlès, writer

  • Etienne Daho, singer-songwriter, actor and producer

  • François Henri Pinault, billionaire businessman

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • Spared from destruction, the high-rise Mabilais building, with its famous totem tower and rooftop saucer, is where the Minitel (France’s precursor to the internet), chip cards and ADSL were invented.

  • Rennes has the highest number of painted timber-framed houses (286 of them) in Brittany.

Notable sites:

  • Palais du Parlement de Bretagne – one of Brittany’s most prestigious monuments, built in the 17th century (and site of a sound-and-light show in summer)

  • Cathédrale Saint-Pierre – a neoclassical cathedral with a history going back centuries

  • Ramparts – the 15th-century Portes Mordelaises and Tour Duchesne are impressive surviving segments of the city's original walls

Top annual events:

  • Rencontres Trans Musicales – premier event for contemporary music and new musical trends (lestrans.com)

  • Yaouank Festival – revival of Breton music, featuring the biggest fest-noz (traditional dance) in Brittany (yaouank.bzh)

  • Mettre en Scène Festival – a three-week dance and theater festival (t-n-b.fr/fr/mettre-en-scene)

Most notable museums:

  • Les Champs Libres – an extensive cultural center that includes the Musée de Bretagne (devoted to the history of Brittany), the Espaces des Sciences (a science museum and planetarium) and more (leschampslibres.fr)

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts – a complete panorama of the history of painting (mbar.org)

  • Ecomusée du Pays de Rennes – set on one of Brittany's oldest farms and looking at agricultural history and rural life (ecomusee-rennes-metropole.fr)

Culinary specialties:

  • galette saucisse – pork sausage wrapped in a buckwheat galette (Breton-style hot dog)

  • frigousse – a chicken fricassee with sweet chestnuts cooked in cider

  • Parlementin – a pastry made of almond brittle and cider-flavored apple sauce

Local wines & spirits:

  • cider – traditionally served in ceramic bowls (or wide cups), not glasses

  • lambig – a traditional spirit from Brittany made of double distilled cider

  • craft beer – more than a dozen new microbrasseries (microbreweries) have opened in recent years

Shopping:

  • Marché des Lices – a Saturday morning traditional market, the second largest in France

  • Les Halles – the large, daily, covered food market

  • Centre Alma – a modern mall with more than 100 stores and restaurants

Most popular night spots:

  • Hibou Grand Duc – local bar with live music and a wide selection of wine and beer

  • Le Nabuchodonosor – relaxed wine bar with a terrace in season or fireplace in winter

  • Le Mabilay – coffee shop and restaurant with Rennes’ largest terrace and different DJs every week

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Parc du Thabor – a large landscaped park in the center of the city

  • Parc des Gayeulles – the best way of getting into nature without having to get out of town

  • FRAC Bretagne – the regional contemporary art fund with exhibition halls, an auditorium, café, bookshop and documentation areas (fracbretagne.fr)

Local industries:

  • information and communication technologies – one of France's first technopoles, Rennes Atalante, was established in Rennes

  • agrifood – a large number of related firms, a campus called Agrocampus Ouest and even a large expo on the subject are based in Rennes

In Pop Culture:

  • Fleur de Tonnerre – released in 2017, a movie thriller about the biggest serial-killer of history, Hélène Jégado, guillotined in Rennes in 1852

  • Astérix et le chaudron – published in 1969, this comic sees Asterix and Obelix spend time in the Gallo-Roman city of Condate (current Rennes)

Poitiers

Top French Cities - Poitiers at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Poitiers Tourism Office at www.ot-poitiers.fr.

City region: Poitou / Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Population & what they are called: 90,115 inhabitants (2014 census), called Poitevins

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 3 h 30 min (215 miles) via the A10 autoroute L'Aquitaine

  • by train: about 1 h 20 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Michel Foucault, philosopher

  • Joël Robuchon, chef and restaurateur

  • Brian Joubert, champion figure skater

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • There is a Statue of Liberty in Poitiers! In 1903, a smaller version of the famous work that Bartholdi presented to New York City was placed on Place de la Liberté to remember General Jean-Baptiste Breton, who was executed there in 1822 for plotting against Louis XVIII.

  • With more than 27,000 students in Poitiers, half of the population is younger than 30 years old.

Notable sites:

  • Eglise Notre-Dame-la-Grande – a masterpiece of Romanesque church architecture particularly notable for its sculpted facade, illuminated every evening in summer and during the Christmas holidays

  • Palais des Comtes de Poitou et Ducs d'Aquitaine – the 12th- to 13th-century former palace of the counts of Poitou and dukes of Aquitaine, currently the city’s court building

  • other significant religious monuments – the list of important sites includes the Eglise St-Hilaire le Grand (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Baptistère Saint-Jean (one of the oldest baptisteries in Europe) and Cathédrale Saint-Pierre with its wonderful Gothic paintings, discovered in 2016

Top annual events:

  • Poitiers, l’Eté – the city fills with venues for music, theater, dance, movies and street art

  • Festival à Corps – an April festival of contemporary dance and theater (festivalacorps.com)

  • Noël en Ville – when the spirit of Christmas settles in

Most notable museum:

  • Musée Sainte-Croix – leading regional museum, with one special section devoted to regional archaeology covering Poitou history and another given over to Camille Claudel sculptures

Culinary specialties:

  • farci poitevin – a vegetable pâté (sorrel, chard, spinach) flavored with lard and wrapped in cabbage leaves

  • agneau du Poitou – parsley lamb usually accompanied by white haricot beans

  • broyé du Poitou – a salted butter biscuit, best when broken into uneven chunks

Local wines & spirits:

  • Haut-Poitou AOC wines – Fresh and light, these wines come in white, red and rosé colors

  • beer – look out for local beers from regional breweries like Les Pirates du Clain, La Manufacture de Bières and La Brasserie de Bellefois

Shopping:

  • Marché de Notre-Dame – right at the foot of the church, the best place for local product

  • Flea and antique market – a weekly event that takes place on Place Charles-de-Gaulle

  • Rue des Cordeliers – national and international shops, including bakeries, clothes retail stores and the Centre Commercial Cordeliers

Most popular night spots:

  • La Serrurerie – a relaxing city-center concept bar and restaurant

  • La Tomate Blanche – great for after-work drinks, restaurant meals and as a nightclub

  • Le Confort Moderne – a free-to-enter arts and culture hotspot known for electronic music, popular DJs and much more (currently closed for renovation, but reopening on December 16)

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Futuroscope – a vision of the future in a multimedia theme park, France's second most visited (futuroscope.com)

  • a little exercise – more than 250 miles of signposted trail stretch across the greater metropolitan area, taking in parks like Parc de Blossac, built along the old city walls, and Jardin des Plantes, a lovely botanical garden

  • Le TAP-Scène Nationale – an arts center for theater, contemporary music, comedy, dance and more (tap-poitiers.com)

Local industries:

  • research laboratories – organized around six scientific pillars, with 20 of the labs connected to the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (French National Center for Scientific Research), the country’s largest governmental research organization

In Pop Culture:

  • La Fanzinothèque – France’s first library devoted entirely to fanzines (fanzino.org)

  • Jabberwocky – a song (“Photomaton”) by this new electro-pop group of three local students has been selected as the background music of the new Peugeot 208 ad campaign

  • Fanny Laugier – a talented local ceramicist who already sells through the Musée Picasso in Barcelona has just provided 30 or so pieces to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC for sale in their museum store

Orleans

Top French Cities - Orléans at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Orléans Val de Loire Tourism Office at www.tourisme-orleans.com.

City region: Loire Valley / Centre-Val de Loire

Population & what they are called: 114,977 inhabitants (2014 census), called Orléanais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 1 h 10 min (80 miles) via the A10 autoroute L'Aquitaine

  • by train: about 1 h 5 min by an Intercity service from the Gare d'Austerlitz

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Joan of Arc, Orléans city savior in the 13th century

  • Charles Peguy, poet and essayist

  • Marion Cotillard, actress

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • Orléans is sometimes called the 21st arrondissement of Paris.

  • The Loire Valley is the largest UNESCO World Heritage Site in France.

Notable sites:

  • Cathédrale Sainte-Croix – a jewel of neo-Gothic architecture with stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the life of Joan of Arc

  • Place du Martroi – the heart of the city, with a central equestrian statue of Joan of Arc

  • Hôtel Groslot – a 16th-century mansion that has hosted kings and is today the town hall

Top annual events:

  • Fêtes Johanniques – a celebration of the liberation of the city by Joan of Arc through medieval reenactments and markets, street theater, tradition music concerts and a grand parade

  • Jazz or Jazz (aka Festival Orléans Jazz) – a free jazz festival during the month of June (jazzorjazz.fr)

  • Festival de Loire – a biennial event (odd years only) that is said to be the largest inland marine festival in Europe (facebook.com/FestivaldeLoire/)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts – one of France's oldest provincial museums, with collections of European art from the 15th to 20th centuries

  • Musée-Mémorial des Enfants du Vel d'Hiv – a stirring memorial to the 4,400 children sent to Auschwitz and Sobibor in World War II (cercil.fr)

  • Maison de Jeanne d'Arc – set in a recreated half-timbered house where Joan of Arc stayed in 1429, a discovery of the life of Joan of Arc and her time in Orleans (jeannedarc.com.fr)

Culinary specialties:

  • Cotignac d'Orléans – quince jelly with a history dating back to the Middle Ages

  • vinegar and mustard – an industry that grew out of the opportunity presented by spoiled wine offloaded throughout history in Orléans

  • macarons aux fruits d'Orléans – a new sweet specialty showcasing local flavors like strawberry deglazed with vinegar, rose petal confit, pear and ginger

Local wines & spirits:

  • Orléans AOC wines – based entirely on the quality of locally grown grapes

  • La Johannique beer – the local white brew with hints of honey and spice that are supposedly a reminder of the city's heroine

Shopping:

  • Rue de Bourgogne and surrounding streets – Orléans’ main street, notable for its pubs, night clubs, restaurants and shops

  • Place d'Arc – a shopping center with 65 stores located in the city center on Place Albert Premier

  • Martin Pouret – a family-run vinegar business more than 200 years old and the last place following the slow, traditional fabrication methods (martin-pouret.com/en/)

Most popular night spots:

  • Rue de Bourgogne – where most of the drinking action can be found

  • Ver di Vin – a high-tech underground wine bar with options from all around the world

  • Paxton's Head – one of the better jazz clubs

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • parks – of the 16 in total, the Parc Floral de la Source (the source of the Loiret River and site of an amazing butterfly house) and Jardin des Plantes (including an internationally renowned rose garden) stand out

  • riverside paths – the quays and paths along the Loire, now rehabilitated, are a favorite place to stretch one's legs and, in the seasonal guinguettes, pause for a drink or a meal

  • cycling – the famous and excellent Loire à Vélo bike paths pass right through Orléans

Local industries:

  • Cosmetic Valley – brings together companies like Christian Dior, Gemey, Shiseido, Sephora and Caudalie into a national center of competitiveness that makes the region number two for cosmetics and perfumes

  • logistics – Orléans and region are France's third-largest logistics hub with about 400 companies that specialize in packing, warehousing and transport

In Pop Culture:

  • Burning Heads – a punk rock and reggae band originally from Orléans

  • The Dreamlife of Angels (La vie rêvée des anges) – a 1998 film drama starring Élodie Bouchez and Natacha Régnier about two penniless young women who become friends

  • New World (Le nouveau monde) – a 1995 film with James Gandolfini and Alicia Silverstone

Major 2020 developments:

  • In 2000 a 170-mile stretch of the Loire Valley and the sister region of Western Loire were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from Sully-sur-Loire in the Loire Valley to Chalonnes-sur-Loire in the Western Loire.
Nantes

Top French Cities - Nantes at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Nantes Tourism at www.nantes-tourisme.com.

City region: At the crossroads of Brittany and the Loire Valley / Pays de la Loire

Population & what they are called: 298,029 inhabitants (2014 census), called Nantais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 3 h 45 min (238 miles) via the A11 autoroute L'Océane

  • by train: about 2 h 15 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse

  • by plane: about 1 h 15 min to Nantes Atlantique Airport

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Jules Verne, writer

  • Jacques Demy, French New Wave film director

  • Christine and the Queen, singer and songwriter

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • One of the best ways to discover Nantes is by following a green line along the sidewalk. It leads visitors to Nantes' architectural, artistic, cultural and historical highlights.

  • Nantes is considered the birthplace of Surrealism, since André Breton (the founder of the movement) met Jacques Vaché (one of the movement's chief inspirations) here in 1916.

Notable sites:

  • Les Machines de l’Île – quirky mechanical automatons, including a 39-foot-tall walking Grand Elephant, with a little something to satisfy adults and kids (lesmachines-nantes.fr/en/)

  • Château des ducs de Bretagne – former ducal residence and now home of the Musée d’Histoire de Nantes with exhibitions about the city (chateau-nantes.fr/en/)

  • Cathédrale St-Pierre et Saint-Paul – Flamboyant Gothic cathedral housing royal tombs from the Renaissance

Top annual events:

  • La Folle Journée – the largest classical music festival in France (follejournee.fr)

  • Le Voyage à Nantes – a summer event highlighting contemporary art exhibitions across the city (levoyageanantes.fr)

  • Rendez-vous de l'Erdre – couples a free jazz festival with a pleasure-boating show on the Erdre (rendezvouserdre.com)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée d'Arts – an extensive fine arts collection ranging from Italian Renaissance paintings to contemporary sculpture (museedartsdenantes.nantesmetropole.fr/en/home.html)

  • Musée d’Histoire de Nantes – located in the Château des ducs de Bretagne, the museum retraces the story of the city (chateaunantes.fr/en)

  • Musée Jules Verne – interactive exhibitions bring to life the work of Jules Verne, the city’s native son (en.julesverne.nantesmetropole.fr)

Culinary specialties:

  • beurre blanc – a butter sauce made with Muscadet wine and a popular accompaniment for fish

  • biscuits – the Petit Beurre of Nantes (mass produced by the LU company) is the best-known shortbread in France

  • caramels au beurre salé – salted butter toffees made with some world-famous product from the famous Guérande salt marshes

Local wines & spirits:

  • Pays Nantais AOC wines – the largest vineyards of the Loire Valley and the heart of Muscadet country (the greatest single-varietal white wine vineyards in the world)

  • Le Nantillais – a natural syrup that, when used in small quantities with dry white wine, results in a satisfying aperitif

Shopping:

  • Marché de Talensac – a covered market, the largest and best-known in town

  • Passage Pommeraye – ornate, old-fashioned (built in the mid-19th century) three-level shopping arcade with a glass roof

  • Rue Crébillon – the street along which the most important designer stores are found, plus some interesting local labels

Most popular night spots:

  • Le Lieu Unique – former biscuit factory converted into a space that hosts art exhibits, drama, music and dance performances

  • La Cantine du Voyage – an outdoor (seasonal) bar/restaurant/shop on the quays of the Isle of Nantes

  • Le Hangar à Bananes – a former banana warehouse that today hosts an exhibition hall, concert venue, restaurants and bars overlooking the Loire (hangarabananes.com)

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Ile de Nantes – a wander on the Isle of Nantes takes in the creativity and modern architecture of this eco-friendly district, now a model of city living after 30 years of urban regeneration (iledenantes.com/en/)

  • Estuaire Nantes<>Saint-Nazaire – with 30 permanent works of art, an open-air trail that provides an unusual way to discover the river estuary (estuaire.info/en/)

  • the beach – the Atlantic Coast at Baie de La Baule is a bay with five miles of fine sand

Local industries:

  • aeronautics – Airbus produces its fleet's wingboxes and radomes in Nantes, the second-largest center for aeronautics in France

  • Atlanpole – a technopole that includes nearly 500 companies and research and higher-education facilities that specialize in biopharmaceuticals, information technology, renewable energy, mechanics, food production, naval engineering and creative industries

In Pop Culture:

  • Jacques Demy movies – Lola (1964) and A Room in Town (1982) were both shot by this French New Wave director in Nantes, his native city

  • Jacquot de Nantes – a 1991 French drama film directed by Agnès Varda recreating the early life of her husband, Jacques Demy, in Occupied France

Nancy

Top French Cities - Nancy at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Nancy Tourism Office at www.nancy-tourisme.fr.

City region: Lorraine / Grand Est

Population & what they are called: 104,321 inhabitants (2014 census), called Nancéiens

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 4 hours (240 miles) via the A4 autoroute de l'Est

  • by train: about 1 h 30 min by TGV from the Gare de l'Est

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Emile Gallé, Art Nouveau artist

  • Eric Rohmer, film director

  • Charlélie Couture, musician, painter, photographer

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • Nancy is where Art Nouveau got its start thanks to internationally renowned artists part of the École de Nancy, such as Emile Gallé (famed for his glasswork), Louis Majorelle (a furniture genius) and the celebrated Daum crystal maker.

  • Three large plazas – Stanislas, Alliance and Carrière – form a unique ensemble of 18th-century architecture that was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Notable sites:

  • Vieille Ville – the old town that was once capital of the Dukes of Lorraine and is now a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with sculpted façades and transom windows

  • Place Stanislas – the 18th-century pedestrian square that is considered one the most beautiful in Europe and the symbol of the city

  • Palais des Ducs de Lorraine – former Renaissance residence of the rulers, now also the Musée Lorrain, which is closing for several years of important renovation

Top annual events:

  • Fête de Saint Nicolas – a traditional saint's-day festival celebrated on the first weekend of December with more pomp and revelry in Nancy than anywhere else (saint-nicolas.nancy.fr)

  • Rendez-Vous Place Stanislas – in summer, an impressionist voyage through original sound and light projected around the square (rendez-vous.nancy.fr)

  • Nancy Jazz Pulsations – large-scale jazz event with an eclectic program (nancyjazzpulsations.com)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée de l'Ecole de Nancy – a museum and garden with a collection demonstrating the diversity of techniques developed by Art Nouveau artists (ecole-de-nancy.com)

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts – fine arts from the 15th to 20th centuries and a collection of Daum crystal displayed in old city fortifications (mban.nancy.fr)

  • Muséum-Aquarium de Nancy – an aquarium and natural history museum (museumaquariumdenancy.eu)

Culinary specialties:

  • bergamote de Nancy – a translucent, gold-colored candy with a flavor of bergamote, a southern Italian citrus fruit

  • macaron de Nancy – an almond-flour cookie whose recipe has been a carefully guarded secret since 1793

  • baba au rhum – a small yeast cake saturated in a syrup-liquor, usually rum, and very often filled with whipped cream

Local wines & spirits:

  • beer – with both a large brewery near town and a growing number of micro-breweries, Nancy's beer culture is thriving (nancybiere.com)

  • Côtes de Toul AOC wines – produced on hillsides close to the town of Toul, to the west of Nancy, its most important wine is the Vin Gris de Toul

Shopping:

  • Marché Central – the principal market with more than 75 vendors, set in a covered hall on place Charles III

  • Art Nouveau antiques – for the best pieces, stop by Denis Rugat, or for glass and crystal by Daum, the factory outlet is Magasin d’Usine Daum

  • Nancy-style sweets – for traditional macarons, Maison des Sœurs Macarons follows the original recipe; for bergamote and other sweets, Lefèvre Lemoine

Most popular night spots:

  • Vieille Ville and Place Stanislas – the streets of the old town and around Place Stanislas are notable for the high concentration of bars and restaurants

  • Le Ch'timi – where many students start their evening, given the 150 beers to choose from

  • Les Caves du Roy – the most popular dance club in town, set on Place Stanislas

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • gardens – the Jardin de la Citadelle in the old town, Parc de la Pépinière in the center of town and Parc Sainte-Marie are just three of the parks that are an important part of life in Nancy

  • Maison de la Nature – an early 20th-century half-timbered house located in the Parc Sainte-Marie and dedicated to nature and the environment

  • L’Autre Canal – a contemporary music venue in the redeveloped Rives de Meurthe district, which is a lovely place for a stroll or a bike ride (lautrecanalnancy.fr)

Local industries:

  • Nancy-Brabois – one of France’s first and most important technopoles, home to more than 300 businesses

  • medicine – about 30 laboratories and 800 researchers make up an outstanding center of university study and research, and the biggest hospital in eastern France

In Pop Culture:

  • I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime) – a 2008 drama film about a woman struggling to reintegrate society after 15 years in prison

  • A French Woman (Une femme française) – a 1995 movie starring Emmanuelle Béart and Daniel Auteuil about troubled love during wartime

  • “Nancy” – a ballad by C. Jérôme, a notable French singer from the 1970s to 90s

Montpellier

Top French Cities - Montpellier at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole Tourist Office & Convention Bureau at www.montpellier-france.com.

City region: Pyrénées-Méditerranée / Occitanie

Population & what they are called: 279,845 inhabitants (2014 census), called Montpelliérains

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 7 hours (465 miles) via the A71 and A75 autoroutes

  • by train: about 3 h 30 min by TGV from the Gare de Lyon

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Auguste Comte, a founder of sociology

  • Rémi Gaillard, prankster

  • Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, twin brother and chefs

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • Montpellier is the second most important city in France for learning French as a foreign language, with around 20 FFL language courses teaching 10,000 students a year.

  • With more than 10 shops, Montpellier is one the leading city in France for violin-making.

Notable sites:

  • Ecusson – the historic center and France's largest pedestrianized zone, a maze of medieval alleys that open out onto large plazas like Place de la Comédie, Place de la Canourgue and Place du Peyrou

  • Cathédrale Saint-Pierre – a former Benedictine chapel, built in the 14th century

  • Faculté de Médecine – the oldest still-active medical school in the Western world, with an anatomy museum and the first botanical garden in France (medecine.edu.umontpellier.fr)

Top annual events:

  • Les Estivales – a friendly chance for encounters over local wines, tastings and books, every Friday evening from from late June to early September

  • Festival Radio France et Montpellier Occitanie – summer festival of classical music and jazz with about 150 events, most of them free (festivalradiofrancemontpellier.com)

  • Festival International des Sports Extrêmes – a competition for amateurs and professional involved in extreme sports – inline skating, BMX, skateboarding, mountain biking, wakeboarding and scooters (fise.fr/en/)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée Fabre – with nearly 800 major works on display, this museum has among the leading fine arts collections in Europe (ot-montpellier.fr/en/fabre-museum)

  • La Panacée – a contemporary art center encouraging art inspired by multiple disciplines (visual, written and digital) (lapanacee.org)

  • Montana Gallery – exhibition space is dedicated to the art of graffiti (montana-gallery-montpellier.com)

Culinary specialties:

  • grisettes de Montpellier – small honey and liquorice candies

  • pavés Saint Roch – artisanal delicacy made from crushed almonds, a thin paste of candied orange peel, cocoa and spice

  • oysters – whether from Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone just 6 miles away or from Bouzigues, near Sète, 20 miles west

Local wines & spirits:

  • Les Grès de Montpellier – a wine with deep red color and an aromas of red fruits

  • Coteaux du Languedoc AOC wines — the biggest vineyard in France with a large number of grape varieties

Shopping:

  • Marché des Arceaux – a farmers market located under the Aqueduct down from Place Royale du Peyrou

  • Marché du Lez – a new place to see and be seen, with a farmers market, flea market, street artists and more

  • Odysseum – a prime leisure and shopping centre, with more than 100 boutiques and a wide range of leisure activities (centre-commercial-odysseum.com)

Most popular night spots:

  • Le Rockstore – a concert venue set in a deconsecrated and converted church

  • Los Parigos – a wine cellar and tapas bar in the old town

  • La Chistera – one of the liveliest bars in the city with an expansive beer selection

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Jardin des Plantes – the oldest botanical garden in France, founded in 1593

  • Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle – adjacent to the Place de la Comédie, a wooded promenade much loved by locals, as well as location of the Pavillon Populaire, an exhibition space

  • Pierresvives – a concrete ship-shaped building designed by architect Zaha Hadid as a multi-cultural meeting point with a multimedia library, sports center, exhibit gallery and an amphitheater

Local industries:

  • technology – IBM and Dell both have large offices, with IBM using its factory as its European showroom

  • health – the world number two ophthalmology company, Bausch & Lomb, is present following its purchase of Laboratoire Chauvin, as is Horiba Medical, builder of automated medical analysis devices

In Pop Culture:

  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Le Parfum: Histoire d'un meurtrier) by Patrick Süskind – a best-selling exploration of the sense of smell and the power that scent has over people and emotional meaning

  • Inspector Bellamy (Bellamy) – a French crime drama directed by Claude Chabrol and starring Gérard Depardieu as a well-known Parisian inspector who becomes involved in an investigation while on holiday.

  • Battle of the Year – a 2013 film about dance battles, starring Josh Holloway

Marseille

Top French Cities - Marseille at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Marseille Tourism Office and Convention Bureau at www.marseille-tourisme.com.

City region: Provence / Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Population & what they are called: 858,120 inhabitants (2014 census), called Marseillais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 7 hours (490 miles) via the A6 and A7 autoroute du Soleil

  • by train: about 3 h 15 min by TGV from the Gare de Lyon

  • by plane: 1h15, landing in Marseille-Provence Airport

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Edmond Rostand, poet and dramatist

  • Maurice Béjart, choreographer

  • Zinedine Zidane, soccer player

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • Marseille hosted the FIFA World Cup 1998, was European Capital of Culture in 2013, welcomed the UEFA Euro 2016 and is the European Capital of Sport in 2017.

  • Since the 1930s, the world's most commonly used tarot deck has been called the Tarot de Marseille.

Notable sites:

  • Vieux Port – now completely renovated by Norman Foster, the city's main harbor and marina is lined with cafes and the site of the Ombrière, a large mirrored sunshade and events pavilion

  • Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde – the enormous 19th-century Romano-Byzantine basilica that occupies Marseille’s highest point and delivers panoramic views of the city (notredamedelagarde.com)

  • Abbaye de Saint-Victor – one of Europe’s oldest places of Christian worship, with a 5th-century crypt that is home to a Black Madonna who is paraded every year at Candlemas

Top annual events:

  • Fête du Panier – concerts, street theater, art expos, circus performances, cooking classes and more held in the streets of the district

  • Festival Marsatac – Marseille's biggest electronic and urban music festival (marsatac.com)

  • Fiesta des Suds – four-day festival with a diverse lineup of rap, reggae, funk and soul performers from all over the world (dock-des-suds.org/fiesta2017/)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée (Mucem) – the first national museum to be designated out of Paris, devoted to the history and culture of European and Mediterranean civilizations (mucem.org)

  • La Cité Radieuse – visit a furnished typical apartment in this building built by architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s and now a World Heritage Site (marseille-citeradieuse.org)

  • Centre de la Vieille Charité – originally an alms house, but now home to an archeological museum, a gallery of African and Asian art, a poetry center, bookshops and a café (vieille-charite-marseille.com)

Culinary specialties:

  • bouillabaisse – a fish stew containing at least three varieties of fresh local fish plus potatoes and vegetables, also with a separate rouille (mayonnaise made with egg yolk, olive oil, red bell pepper, saffron and garlic) spread on pieces of toasted bread

  • navettes de Marseille – little boat-shaped biscuits flavored with orange blossom

  • chichi frégi – a favorite street food of fried dough sprinkled with sugar

Local wines & spirits:

  • pastis – an alcoholic beverage made from a secret recipe that includes aniseed and spice

  • La Cagole – a blond beer with attitude but a whole lot of charm, produced locally

  • anisette Cristal – an anise-flavored liqueur

Shopping:

  • Centre Bourse and area around Rue Paradis – the main, central shopping area

  • Les Terrasses du Port – a shopping center of 160 shops and restaurants in La Joliette, and amazing views from the roof terrace

  • Rue Sainte and the Saint-Victor district – an ever-increasing number of trendy shops for an artsy shoppers

Most popular night spots:

  • Cours Julien and La Plaine – two large plazas surrounded by cool cafes and bars, with busy streets between them notable for their street art

  • Les Docks du Suds – a cultural center devoted to world music and alternative events using large indoor and outdoor activity areas for concerts, night clubs and more (dock-des-suds.org)

  • R2 (Le Rooftop) – amazing views and the sensation of dancing in the air at this amazing site in the new Euromediterranée district (airdemarseille.com/le-rooftop/)

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Le Panier – all that remains of the old town after World War II, a maze of lanes lined with artisan shops, workshops and terraced homes overlooking hidden squares and artsy cafes

  • the islands – including the Château d'If (chateau-if.fr), the fortress prison of Monte Cristo fame, and the Îles du Frioul, isolated rocks with rare plants, sea birds, a few beaches and lovely views

  • the Calanques – a wild mountainous coastal area, parts of which are now a national park, with many walking trails and hidden beaches (calanques-parcnational.fr)

Local industries:

  • port services – the commercial port is the first French port and the fifth European port by cargo tonnage, a good portion of that petroleum, which is refined in the area too

  • research – Marseille is France's second largest research center, with 3,000 research scientists within Aix Marseille University alone

  • media – La Belle de Mai once an industrial area, has now been turned over to cultural and multimedia activities, including film and television studios

In Pop Culture:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo (Le Compte de Monte Cristo) by Alexandre Dumas – a literary classic about a man who is wrongfully imprisoned (at the Château d’If in Marseille), escapes from jail, builds a fortune and then seeks revenge

  • hip hop music – Marseille is a center of music of today, made popular by Marseille bands like IAM, Fonky Family, Psy 4 de la Rime and Keny Arkana

  • Love Actually – a 2003 romantic comedy about love in which Colin Firth has a scene at the Bar de la Marine in the Vieux-Port

Major 2020 developments:

  • From June 7 to November 1, 2020, Top French City Marseille will be a focal point for contemporary art by hosting the roving European biennial known as MANIFESTA, also a first for France. A dialogue between art and the community, Marseille will be alive in installations, out-door happenings and exhibitions
Lille

Top French Cities - Lille at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Lille Tourism & Convention Bureau at www.lilletourism.com.

City region: Hauts-de-France

Population & what they are called: 233,897 inhabitants (1.2 million in the greater metropolitan area) (2014 census), called Lillois

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 2 h 25 min (140 miles) via the A1 autoroute du Nord

  • by train: about 1 h by TGV from the Gare du Nord, and about 50 min by direct TGV from Paris CDG airport

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Louis Pasteur, microbiologist, founder of the Pasteur Institute of Lille

  • Charles de Gaulle, general, former President of France

  • Nicolas Hulot, journalist, ecologist, writer and recent Minister of Ecology

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • With over 100,000 students – many of them from abroad – Lille is France’s third largest university complex.

  • As France’s fourth largest metropolitan area, Lille is an international crossroads, a dynamic financial center and city notable for its welcoming living environment, well-preserved heritage and active artistic and cultural life. In 2004, Lille was designated the European Capital of Culture.

Notable sites:

  • Vieux Lille – a showcase of the city's historic French and Flemish architecture, including the Notre-Dame de la Treille cathedral

  • Vieille Bourse – the Old Stock Exchange, built on the Grand Place in the mid-17th century in the richly ornamented Flemish Renaissance style

  • Citadelle – massive Vauban fortress from the 17th century and considered a masterpiece of fortification, urban art and French architecture

Top annual events:

  • La Grande Braderie – the largest flea market in Europe that kicks off in the first week of September (braderie-de-lille.fr)

  • Latitudes Contemporaines – a festival of contemporary dance (latitudescontemporaines.com/en/)

  • NEXT Festival – a celebration of contemporary theatre and performances (nextfestival.eu/en)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée du Palais des Beaux-Arts – home to France's second largest art collection (pba-lille.fr)

  • Musée d'Art Moderne, d'Art Contemporain et d'Art Brut (LaM) – renowned museum and sculpture park full of masterworks by modern and contemporary artist (musee-lam.fr)

  • La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie – a showcases of fine and applied arts in a former art-deco municipal swimming pool (roubaix-lapiscine.com)

Culinary specialties:

  • carbonnade flamande – small beef chunks stewed in beer and often sprinkled with gingerbread

  • petit salé lillois – a traditional potjevleesch, like a potted meat, made from lean ham

  • babeluttes de Lille – toffee flavored with vergeoise (beet sugar)

Local wines & spirits:

  • genièvre – also called jenever or Duch gin, a juniper-flavored traditional eau de vie typically drunk in small restaurant-cafes called estaminets

  • beer – this is the center of French beer country, so local micro-breweries have plenty of the typically strong-flavored beers with high alcohol content

Shopping:

  • Marché de Wazemmes – one of the largest markets in France, with everything from fruit and vegetables to furniture and electronics

  • Euralille shopping centre – has over 130 shops

  • retails chains – Lille is the birth city of several big retail stores like Auchan, Decathlon, Leroy Merlin and Castorama

Most popular night spots:

  • Gare Saint Sauveur – a former train station rehabilitated as a bar, cinema and space for exhibitions, concerts, clubbing events and more

  • Le Bar Paralléle – a local dive bar with lots of space, long hours and a DJ on the weekend

  • La Boulangerie Bar – small but extremely popular bar with sodas, wines, beers and nice appetizers too

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Parc de Loisirs de la Citadelle – Lille’s largest park, largest green area and a great place for the whole family

  • maisons Folie – used by artists, associations and passersby as places to meet, create and exchange ideas (maisonsfolie.lille.fr)

  • Parc Matisse – a central park and a great place to pause with family for a picnic, a stroll or some sports

Local industries:

  • Euratechnologie – a former textile factory that has become a temple of the digital economy

  • Eurasanté – the largest university/hospital complex in Europe, devoted to the health and biotechnology sectors

  • insurance – France's second largest insurance center, with six head offices, including AG2R - La Mondiale and Lloyd Continental

In Pop Culture:

  • Hanna – the 2011 thriller with Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett about a girl raised to be the perfect assassin

  • Witness (Die Zeugen) – a 2014-2017 German TV thriller mini-series set in a small village in France

  • A House in Flanders, by Michael Jenkins – an account of a shy and solitary 14-year-old boy sent to spend the summer with ͚the aunts in Flanders.

Major 2020 developments:

  • The great Northern capital Lille is the first French City to be named Lille World Capital of Design. The kick-off will be December 6, 2019 and followed through 2020 by the display of hundreds of innovative design projects affecting every facet of modern-day life. Just one hour from Paris by TGV

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