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Annecy

Top French Cities - Annecy at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit Lac Annecy Tourism at https://en.lac-annecy.com/.


City region: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Population & what they are called: 126,000 inhabitants, called Annéciens


Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 5 h 30 min (350 miles) via the A6, A40 and A41 autoroutes
  • by train: about 3 h 45 min by TGV from the Gare de Lyon
  • by plane: about 1 hour to Geneva Airport, then 1 hour direct bus to Annecy


Famous native daughters & sons:

  • André Dussolier, actor
  • Edgar Grospiron, Olympic skier
  • Aimé Jacquet, soccer player and coach


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

  • Annecy is sometimes called “Venice of the Alps” due to the Thiou River and three canals that traverse the old city and, along with many bridges, add to its special atmosphere.
  • The Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, 7½ miles from the city, is a historic medieval monument said to have inspired Walt Disney's version of Sleeping Beauty's castle.


Notable sites:

  • Palais de l'Ile – on an islet in the Canal du Thiou, this historic monument, parts of which date to the 12th century, has been a prison, courthouse, mint and mansion, but is now a local history museum (patrimoines.annecy.fr/eng/Palais-de-l-Ile)
  • Col de la Forclaz – one of the world's most famous paragliding spots (150,000 flights a year), complete with unforgettable views over mountain-ringed Lake Annecy
  • Talloires – a neighboring, popular resort town notable for its artists and writers, excellent outdoor activities and 1,000-year-old Abbaye de Talloires (talloires-lac-annecy.com)


Top annual events:

  • Festival International du Film d'Animation – the major annual international festival and market devoted to animated film (annecy.org)
  • Fête du Lac – tens of thousands attend this annual summer lake festival featuring Europe's grandest fireworks show (70 minutes long) (annecy.fr/551-fete-du-lac-d-annecy.htm)
  • Maxi Race – 10 trail-running races, from just 4km long to the 117km Ultra, take 7,600 participants around Lake Annecy via the mountains (maxi-race.net)


Most notable museums:

  • Musée-Château d'Annecy – restored castle overlooking the old town and transformed into a museum and temporary exhibition space (patrimoines.annecy.fr/eng/Annecy-Castle)
  • Musée du Film d'Animation – hands-on, family-friendly displays chronicle a century of animated film (patrimoines.annecy.fr/eng/Animated-film-Museum)
  • La Turbine Sciences – this center for industrial, technical and scientific culture is an interactive exploration of knowledge for all ages (laturbinesciences.fr)


Culinary specialties:

  • fish – like fera, perch and Arctic char caught fresh in Lake Annecy
  • Savoyard cheese-based dishes – fondue, raclette and tartiflette top the list, using local-area cheeses such as Beaufort and Reblochon
  • roseau du lac – dark chocolate treat coated in sugar and infused with a mountain liqueur like génépi


Local wines & spirits:

  • Savoie wine – noted for dry and light whites like Apremont and, especially, Roussette de Savoie AOC, as well as light and fruity reds like the native Mondeuse


Shopping:

  • Rue Carnot – top commercial avenue, including its extension to the Courier shopping center
  • Opinel – famuos Savoy-based wood-handled knife and tool company (opinel.com)


Most popular night spots:

  • Le Moon – a brasserie and bar with a lakeside terrace and private beach
  • La Queue du Coq – relaxed and cozy cocktail bar with a 1950s ambiance
  • Pop Plage – one of the most popular nightclubs in town


Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Le Haras – a favorite, peaceful, urban park for picnics and concerts, with on-site food by Armony Saveurs
  • Pâquier – large lakeside lawn/garden, perfect for resting, exercise and lake-based activities


Local industries:

  • cheese – in addition to many small cheese producers in the region, Annecy is home to Entremont, a large manufacturer of dairy products (primarily cheeses) and frozen food
  • sporting goods – what started in 1947 as the Salomon family wood saw and ski edges workshop is now a major international outdoor sport equipment company
  • jets – Dassault Aviation is an international manufacturer of military and business jets


In Pop Culture:

  • Claire’s Knee (Le Genou de Claire) – a 1970 melodramatic romantic film written and directed by Eric Rohmer
  • Killer by the Lake (Le Tueur du Lac) – the 2017 television crime drama series followup to Vanished by the Lake
  • Floride – the 2015 comedy drama about family and aging, directed by Philippe Le Guay
Versailles

Top French Cities - Versailles at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Versailles Tourism Office at www.versailles-tourisme.com.

City region: Paris Ile-de-France

Population & what they are called: 85,461 inhabitants (2014 census), called Versaillais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 30 min (13 miles)

  • by train: about 30 min

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Agnes Troublé, fashion designer, founder of Agnès B

  • Stéphane Audran, actress

  • Bruno and Denis Podalydès, brother actors

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

  • Because of the Château de Versailles, the town of Versailles was the capital of France from Louis XIV's reign until the French Revolution.

  • In history, Versailles is known as a place where important treaties were signed, such as the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the American Revolutionary War, and the Treaty of Versailles, after World War I.

Notable sites:

  • Palais de Versailles – the opulent ensemble that includes the Palace of Versailles, the Trianon Palaces, Marie Antoinette’s Estate, André le Nôtre gardens and the park (en.chateauversailles.fr)

  • Potager du Roi – the huge vegetable gardens used to fill the table of Louis XIV (potager-du-roi.fr)

  • Académie Equestre Nationale de Versailles – an equestrian show like no other, with horses and riders from the National Equestrian Academy (www.bartabas.fr)

Top annual events:

  • Le Mois Molière – a theatre and music festival promoting the renewal of popular theatre (moismoliere.com)

  • Versailles Jazz Festival – a music event focusing on jazz (versaillesjazzfestival.fr)

Most notable museums:

  • Galerie des Carrosses (Grande Écurie) – a collection of horse carriages, mostly from the 19th century, located in the Great Stables

  • Salle du Jeu de Paume – a museum about the French Revolution

  • Musée Lambinet – the museum of the city of Versailles, located in an 18th-century mansion

Culinary specialties:

Local wines & spirits:

Shopping:

  • Marché Notre-Dame – on alternating days, good for food and household goods

  • Quartier des Antiquaires – aka the Quartier de la Geôle, antique shops set in a cluster of small streets around the old bailiff’s offices

  • Cour des Senteurs – an olfactory trail enabling visitors to discover the world of scents and perfumes

Most popular night spots:

  • Baradoz – pub with a good range of Beligian beers, whiskies and wines, plus excellent cheeses

  • Montbauron – a bar-brasserie with a good selection of drinks

  • O’Paris – a surprisingly charming fusion of Irish and French traditions

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Grand Musical Fountain Shows – glorious walks through France’s most amazing gardens during which the fountains and jets are active in time with great classical music (chateauversailles-spectacles.fr/en)

  • parks – palace and municipal parks account about 50% of the city and are easy to reach for a run, bike ride, boat ride or moment of calm

  • theater – a good number of stages (Opéra Royal, Théâtre Montansier, Centre de Musique Baroque, La Royale Factory), several associated with the palace, mean there is always good theater and music being performed

Local industries:

  • Craftsmen – Versailles and its surroundings welcome more than one hundred craftsmen working in different disciplines: luthiers, creators cabinetmakers ...

  • Specialized Higher Schools – School of architecture, National School of Landscape, International Institute of Perfume and Cosmetics, school of mural art, school of Fine Arts, Regional Music Conservatory

In Pop Culture:

  • A Little Chaos (Les jardins du roi) – the 2015 film directed by Alan Rickman in which Kate Winslet plays a fictional landscape gardener and Rickman plays King Louis XIV

  • Dangerous Liaisons (Les Liaisons dangereuses) – the Oscar-winning 1988 historical drama by Stephen Frears starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer

Le Havre

Top French Cities - Le Havre at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Le Havre Tourism Office at www.lehavretourisme.com.

City region: Normandy

Population & what they are called: 172,807 inhabitants (2014 census), called Havrais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 2 h 15 min (125 miles) via the A13 autoroute de Normandie

  • by train: about 2 h 5 min by intercity service from the Gare Saint Lazare

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Jean Dubuffet, artist

  • Raymond Queneau, poet and novelist

  • govy, artist

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

  • The high standard and historical importance of Auguste Perret’s post-war reconstruction architecture in the city center of Le Havre was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Notable sites:

  • Eglise Saint-Joseph – 12,768 pieces of glass set in an octagonal tower light up this modern church to dramatic effect

  • Maison de l'Armateur – the 18th-century, relic-filled mansion of the architect in charge of constructing Le Havre's fortifications and fountains

  • Appartement Témoin – a historic show apartment to help understand how architects and designers aimed to rehouse the locals after 80% of the city was destroyed in World War II

Top annual events:

  • moZ’aïque – a world music festival with performers from Le Have and around the world (mozaique.lehavre.fr)

  • Dixie Days – a jazz festival that takes place on the beaches of Le Havre

  • Fête de la Mer – a popular festival of events and celebrations revolving around one theme: the sea

Most notable museums:

  • Musée d'Art Moderne André Malraux (MuMa) – the second largest collections of impressionist paintings in France set in a masterpiece of modern museum architecture (muma-lehavre.fr/en)

  • Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle – the thousands of objects on display represent only a part of the original collection, much of which was destroyed in World War II (museum-lehavre.fr)

  • Maison du Patrimoine Atelier Perret – the place for anyone keen about Perret’s work and the architectural principles on which his concrete masterpieces were built

Culinary specialties:

  • cream – a staple of Normandy cuisine, so much so that identifying a food as “Normande” usually means it has cream in it

  • apples – grown in abundance throughout Normandy and a primary ingredient in meals and desserts, as well as drinks

  • seafood – the sea’s bounty, used to great effect in Normandy cuisine, especially oysters, scallops, lobster and sole

Local wines & spirits:

  • cider – produced in Normandy in large quantities and very often drunk with meals as a substitute for wine or beer

  • Bénédictine – A famous herbal liqueur beverage produced in Fecamp, near Le Havre

  • Paillette beer – once enjoyed throughout France (and said to be as old as the history of bread), it had disappeared for a while but now flows again

Shopping:

  • Docks Vauban – Bernard Reichen’s transformation of a 19th-century warehouses into a retail and leisure complex of shops, restaurants and cinemas

  • Espace Coty – the major downtown shopping center

  • Place des Halles Centrales – the central covered market for food and local products

Most popular night spots:

  • Le Volcan – the city's first Maison de la Culture, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, which is now home to one of France’s national theaters (levolcan.com)

  • Quartier de l'Eure – a revitalized former industrial district now known for, among other things, smart bars

  • Quartier des Halles – a district busy with bars like the well-known Black Café

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • beach – just steps from the center, more than one mile of beach is a local favorite for both exercise and relaxation

  • Jardins Suspendus – a hilltop Vauban fortress transformed into gardens full of flowers and trees from different continents

  • Bains des Docks – Jean Nouvel’s design of this aquatic center creates a sensation of calm and well-being enhanced by the natural light

Local industries:

  • port services – Le Havre is the second largest French industrial seaport in trade volume and 50th largest port in the world, as well as cruise companies’ preferred stop on Europe’s Atlantic facade, and home to the two marinas of Ocean Gateway and Port Vauban

  • petrochemicals – the Le Havre region has more than a third of French refining capacity and provides about 50% of the production of basic plastics and 80% of additives and oils with more than 3,500 researchers working in private and public laboratories

In Pop Culture:

  • Impressionism – the light and water of the port of Le Havre and the Seine estuary inspired many painters, including Claude Monet, whose 1872 painting Impression soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise) gave its name to the Impressionist movement

  • Le Havre – an award-winning 2011 movie, written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki, about what happens when an African boy who arrives by cargo ship is protected by an aging shoe shiner

  • Un chien andalou – the ground-breaking, still-discussed, surrealistic short film from 1929 by Luis

La Rochelle

Top French Cities - La Rochelle at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Tourist Office of La Rochelle at www.holidays-la-rochelle.co.uk.

City region: Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Population & what they are called: 74,998 inhabitants (2014 census), called Rochelais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 4 h 30 min (293 miles) via the A10 autoroute l'Aquitaine

  • by train: about 2 h 30 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Guy Laroche, fashion designer

  • Victor Prevost, photographer

  • Winschluss, comic artist and filmmaker

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

  • The phare du bout du monde (lighthouse from the end of the world) in the bay facing La Rochelle is a replica of the one near Cape Horn that inspired Jules Verne to write his famous book of the same name.

  • The marina of La Rochelle boasts 4,800 moorings and now ranks among the largest marinas in the world.

Notable sites:

  • Vieux Port – the old port, lorded over by three impressive historical towers – Tour Saint-Nicolas, Tour de la Chaîne and Tour de la Lanterne – and, via the 14th-century Porte de la Grosse Horloge, adjacent to the old town of medieval half-timbered houses set along arcaded streets

  • Aquarium La Rochelle – a state-of-the-art aquarium, one of the largest in Europe (aquarium-larochelle.com/en)

  • Le Bunker – untouched for decades, this World War II-era, German-built bunker explores La Rochelle's war history (bunkerlarochelle9.wixsite.com/lebunkerdelarochelle)

Top annual events:

  • Francofolies – a festival of French contemporary songs and music (francofolies.fr)

  • Festival International du Film – a program designed to be eclectic and both geographically and thematically diverse (festival-larochelle.org)

  • Grand Pavois – a major event in the international boat show calender (grand-pavois.com)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée Maritime – a fleet of model and full-sized ships brings to life city's maritime heritage (museemaritimelarochelle.fr)

  • Musée du Nouveau Monde – devoted to the discovery and conquest of the New World as seen from La Rochelle, a main port for trade and emigration toward the Americas

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts – European painting from the 15th to early 20th century, set in an 18th-century palace

Culinary specialties:

  • fresh seafood – everything from ocean fish to scallops, oysters and mussels, and a variety of shellfish

  • galette de Beurlay – a flat, crumbly, savory cake made of flour, eggs, butter, sea salt and one special ingredient: angélique, or wild celery

  • farci charentais – a pâté made of green vegetables

Local wines & spirits:

  • Cognac – the world's best-known brandy, produced in vineyards that reach as far as La Rochelle, with strong local representation by Cognac J. Normandin-Mercier (cognaccnm.fr)

  • Pineau des Charentes – a fortified wine made from a blend of local grape juice and Cognac

  • guignette – a very popular, local and light aperitif of fruit-flavored white wine, drunk chilled

Shopping:

  • Marché Central – the large, daily covered market in the 19th-century building in the town center

  • Rue des Merciers – a major arcaded shopping street with a lively atmosphere

  • Made in La Rochelle – near the Espace Encan event space (located in the former fish market): Comptoir Charentais (regional food products), Matlama (bags/accessories), Farol (sailor’s knives) and more

Most popular night spots:

  • La Coursive – a national theatre and event space that stages contemporary circus shows, theatre, dance and musical events, as well as major annual festival (la-coursive.com)

  • Bar du France 1 – located on the upper deck of the France 1 ship (which houses the Maritime Museum)

  • Quartier Saint-Nicolas – a bohemian and artistic district with vintage shops, art galleries, wine bars, atmospheric local bars and restaurants

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • parks – from Parc Charruyer, a long park following the old town fortifications, to Parc Franck Delmas, connected by the Allée du Mail, a majestic avenue lined with elm trees

  • beaches – the small, central Plage de la Concurrence was the first and most historic beach, followed by the larger Plage des Minimes and Plage Chef de Baie, although much prettier beaches are found on the nearby islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d'Oleron

  • cycling – more than 100 miles of cycle paths make it easy for bikers to get acquainted with La Rochelle and its surroundings

Local industries:

  • maritime services – taking advantage of La Rochelle's position and history it provides naval architects, designers and engineering consultants, specialists, renovation professional... and the marina

In Pop Culture:

  • Fort Boyard – a French game show set in a 19th-century Napoleonic sea fort located off the coast of La Rochelle

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark – the 1981 action movie by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford filmed scenes for the World War II German submarine base

  • Das Boot – the 1981 German drama film about life on a World War II German U-boat

AS Flament

Top French Cities - Amiens at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Amiens Metropole Tourist Office at www.visit-amiens.com.

City region: Picardy / Hauts-de-France

Population & what they are called: 132,479 inhabitants (2014 census), called Amiénois

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 1 h 40 min (90 miles) via the A16 autoroute L'Européenne

  • by train: about 1 h 10 min by an Intercity service from the Gare du Nord

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Jules Verne, writer, city councillor

  • Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, politician, former Minister of Education

  • Emmanuel Macron, politician, President of France

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

  • The 1918 Battle of Amiens was a key Allied victory at the opening phase of the Hundred Days Offensive that helped bring an end to World War I.

  • The many canals throughout Amiens have long given it the nickname “little Venice of the north.”

Notable sites:

  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Amiens – a jewel of Gothic architecture, the tallest of the 13th-century churches, the largest of its kind in France and the largest cathedral in the world by interior volume

  • Maison de Jules Verne – the house where Verne lived and composed more than 30 novels

  • hortillonnages – floating gardens set in a natural reserve of marshland and surrounded by a grid network of manmade canals

Top annual events:

  • La Rue Est à Amiens – an international festival of street theatre (larueestaamiens.com)

  • Chroma – a dazzling summer sound-and-light show projected on the facade of the Notre-Dame cathedral

  • Marché de Noël – the largest Christmas Market in northern France (marchedenoel.fr)

Most notable museums:

  • Maison de la Culture d'Amiens (MCA) – focuses on exhibiting contemporary art (maisondelaculture-amiens.com/en/)

  • Maison de Jules Verne – the house where Verne lived and composed more than 30 novels

Culinary specialties:

  • pâté de canard d'Amiens – duck pâté in pastry, where the filling is is a mix of spiced duck meat (meat, fat and liver) and sautéed mushrooms and onions

  • la ficelle Picarde – an oven-baked cheese-topped crêpe with ham and mushroom filling

  • macarons d'Amiens – almond-paste biscuits that were favorites of Catherine de Medici who introduced them in the 16th century

Local wines & spirits:

  • La BlueReide – the blue beer of Amiens, and the first blue beer brewed in France

  • beer – look out for other local beers brewed right in the Somme, the département in which Amiens is located

Shopping:

  • Grande Réderies – held twice a year (spring and autumn), the second largest largest flea markets in France

  • Marché sur l'Eau – every Saturday morning, a farmers market of food and flowers along the quays of the river

  • Rue des Trois Cailloux – a major shopping street whose numerous boutiques attract both tourists and locals

Most popular night spots:

  • La Lune des Pirates – a contemporary music venue set in a former banana warehouse of the Belu Wharf

  • Le Nelson – a relaxed lounge atmosphere in the heart of the Saint-Leu district

  • Le Rétroviseur – a recreated 1930s brasserie atmosphere

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Parc Saint-Pierre – adjoining the hortillonnages, a large landscaped park right in the heart of the city

  • Saint-Leu district – narrow streets with historical names and colorful medieval houses that attest to a time before today’s art galleries, boutiques and antique dealers

  • canal towpath – fresh air and friendly biking right alongside the Somme and the famous hortillonnages

Local industries:

  • soaps and detergents – in Amiens, Proctor & Gamble owns one of the largest factories in the world for laundry and house cleaning products

  • Amazon – in response to rising demand, the American company opened its largest facility in France in Amiens in September 2017

  • Dunlop – the American tire company projects production of 4 million tires out of the Amiens factory in 2018

In Pop Culture:

  • Zic Zacou – a local band that for more than 35 years has struck a balance between street art and stage-show

  • comic art – a whole generation of Amiens designers and writers make the city an important creative centre of the 9th art, and the annual Rendez-Vous de la Bande Dessinée d'Amiens is one of the most important comics festivals in France

  • The Keepers (La Tête contre les murs) – a 1959 film drama about an institutionalized man who airs questions about how society defines and treats mental illness

Tours

Top French Cities - Tours at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Tours Tourism Office at www.tours-tourism.co.uk.

City region: Loire Valley / Centre-Val de Loire

Population & what they are called: 136,125 inhabitants (2014 census), called Tourangeaux

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 2 h 30 min (150 miles) via the A10 autoroute l'Aquitaine

  • by train: about 1 h 10 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Honoré de Balzac, novelist

  • René Descartes, mathematician and philosopher

  • Olivier Debré, artist

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

  • In the garden of the Palais des Archevêques (now the Musée des Beaux-Arts), aka Jardin François Sicard, is a huge cedar tree said to have been planted by Napoleon, as well as an alcove with a stuffed elephant who escaped from a circus and had to be shot.

Notable sites:

  • Vieux Tours – medieval district, one of the best preserved in France, with many half-timbered buildings and the busy Place Plumereau

  • Cathédrale Saint-Gatien de Tours – begun in the 12th century but not completed until the Renaissance

** Basilique Saint-Martin – a Neo-Byzantine church that is the final resting place of Saint Martin

Top annual events:

  • Vitiloire – a public Loire Valley wine salon involving more than 150 wine makers (vitiloire.tours.fr)

  • Tours et ses Francos Gourmandes – as a Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie en Val de Loire, Tours knows how to celebrate food

  • Florilège Vocal de Tours – one of the most important international choral singing competitions, fittingly held in Tours, a center of traditional music (florilegevocal.com/en/)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts – located in the former Palais des Archevêques, a little bit of everything in this fine arts museum, from Rubens to Rembrandt and Mantegna to Monet (mba.tours.fr)

  • Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré (CCCOD) – focused on contemporary art, especially the work of Olivier Debré, an important abstract artist (cccod.fr)

  • Musée d'Art Contemporain du Château de Tours – a display of contemporary paintings, photography, pottery, sculpture in an old castle

Culinary specialties:

  • rillettes and rillons – meat cooked in fat until it is tender, then shredded and cooled to form a paste; the latter is a confit of cooked diced pork covered in a fat spread

  • cheeses – especially the white and creamy Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, made from full fat goat's milk

  • nougats de Tours – a cake made from sweetened dough, almond paste, candied fruits and apricot jam

Local wines & spirits:

  • Touraine AOC wines – part of the third largest wine region of France, with whites (sweet, dry and bubbly) like Vouvray and Montlouis, rosés like Noble-Joué and Chinon rosé, and reds such as Chinon, Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil

Shopping:

  • markets – the Carreau des Halles de Tours is the twice-weekly market heart of the city, while the Marché Velpeau is the Sunday go-to with more than 180 vendors

  • Quartier Colbert and Rue Scellerie – everything from antiques and books (Rue Colbert) to fashion, design and food (Rue Scellerie)

  • Quartier Nationale – Rue Nationale is the number one commercial strip of Tours

Most popular night spots:

  • Place Plumereau – surrounded by bars, cafes and restaurants and a pedestrian zone with even more

  • Le Temps Machine – a leading performance hall and events venue

  • bars – like Le Dago'Bar (wine bar), The Pale (Irish pub) and Le Winchester (cafe by day, music bar by night)

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • banks for the Loire – an ideal place for running, pedaling and pausing in the local guinguettes (open-air restaurants)

  • city parks – La Gloriette, les Prébendes, Jardin des Beaux Arts (aka Jardin François Sicard, read the unique fact above), Jardin Botanique account for just a few of the 1,500 acres of green space so central to life in Tours

  • bicycling – much-traveled and much-loved signed bike routes along the Loire (cycling-loire.com)

Local industries:

  • Cité de la Création et du Numérique – a former industrial zone called Mame, converted into a facility supporting creativity and technological innovation, start-ups, research and development labs, new technology incubators and a fine arts school (mame- tours.com)

  • Cosmetic Valley – the largest and most important business cluster specialized in the production of perfumes and cosmetics consumer goods

In Pop Culture:

  • Le Bleu des Villes – a 1998 movie about a meter maid in Tours who takes control of her life

  • Le Temps Machine – an artistic and cultural project designed to bring together a broad cross-section of performers... and their fans (letempsmachine.com)

  • Festival Terres du Son – a laboratory of experimentation and sensitization about enjoying good

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.
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

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