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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
Grenoble

Top French Cities - Grenoble at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Grenoble Tourism Office at www.grenoble-tourisme.com.

City region: The Alps / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Population & what they are called: 163,625 inhabitants (2014 census), called Grenoblois

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 5 h 15 min (357 miles) via A6 autoroute du Soleil

  • by train: about 3 hours by TGV from the Gare de Lyon

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Stendhal, writer

  • Calogero, singer

  • Jean-Claude Gallotta, dancer and choreographer

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

  • Some historians date the start of the French Revolution to the Day of Tiles (Journée des Tuiles), a revolt that took place in Grenoble on June 7, 1788.

  • Grenoble has the second largest English-speaking community in France, after Paris.

Notable sites:

  • Fort de la Bastille – old fortifications built on the mountainside, reached by cable car, with superb views of the city

  • Vieille Ville – historic center filled with cobblestone streets and picturesque squares

  • Palais du Parlement du Dauphiné – Renaissance palace used as the Dauphiné Parliament until the French Revolution

Top annual events:

  • Rencontres Ciné Montagne – a unique mountain-centric festival of films, workshops and conferences, the biggest of its kind in Europe (grenoble-montagne.com)

  • Grenoble Street Art Fest – Europe’s first festival of street art as a multidisciplinary art, featuring frescoes, collages, stencil work, sculptures, photography, digital art, videos and more (streetartfest.org)

  • Cabaret Frappé – a free, summer, open-air music festival (cabaret-frappe.com)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée de Grenoble – renowned for its extensive paintings collection, but also sculptures and antiquities (museedegrenoble.fr)

  • Musée Archéologique Grenoble-Saint Laurent – presents the archeological excavations done on location (musee-archeologique-grenoble.fr)

  • Musée de la Révolution Française – located in the Vizille Chateau, the only museum in the world dedicated to this key period in French history (domaine-vizille.fr)

Culinary specialties:

  • walnuts – in 1938, the noix de Grenoble was the first fruit to receive an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)

  • cheese – two local-area standouts are Saint-Marcellin and Bleu du Vercors Sassenage

  • murçon de la Matheysine – local boiled pork sausage with aniseed flavor

Local wines & spirits:

  • Chartreuse – the only liqueur in the world with a completely natural green color, a product of distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers

  • Bières de Sassenage – one of the beers produced at the Brasserie des Cuves is called Sacrebleu, the first European blue beer with a 100% natural color (brasseriedescuves.fr)

Shopping:

  • Vieille Ville et Championnet – shops selling designer clothes, art and amazing chocolates

  • Halles Sainte-Claire – a huge, classic, covered market packed with fruits, vegetables, pastries, cheeses, meats etc.

  • La Caserne De Bonne – 50 shops in the De Bonne eco-district

Most popular night spots:

  • La Belle ÉlÈctrique – artistic and cultural project that spotlights amplified music: jazz, rock, pop, techno, fusion and more

  • La Bobine – concerts, bar, restaurant, exhibitions, theater etc.

  • Mark XIII – Friendly bar with DJ electro sets and cyber-goth-punk atmosphere

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Jardin des Dauphins – the city's most luscious garden and a perfect place for a sunny stroll

  • MC2 (for Maison de la culture) – Grenoble's main cultural center, which hosts music, theater, and dance performances (mc2grenoble.fr)

Local industries:

  • FrenchTech – Grenoble was recognized for its growth in high-tech industries, including biotechnology and nanotechnology

  • scientific research – Grenoble is a major scientific research center (second only to Paris) focused on physics, computer science and applied mathematics

In Pop Culture:

  • electronic music – pioneered in Grenoble since the 1990s by the likes of The Hacker (Michel Amato), Miss Kittin, Oxia and others

  • The Trilogy (On the Run [Cavale], An Amazing Couple [Un couple épatant] and After Life [Après la vie]) – three separate feature films by Lucas Belvax, each set in Grenoble over the same few days in the lives of six characters

  • 13 Days in France (13 jours en France) — a documentary about the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, directed by Claude Lelouch and François Reichenbach

Clermont-Ferrand

Top French Cities - Clermont-Ferrand at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Clermont-Ferrand Tourism at www.clermontferrandtourism.com

City region: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Population & what they are called: 141,365 municipality inhabitants (2014 census), called Clermontois

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 4 hours (263 miles) via the A10 and A71 autoroutes

  • by train: about 3 h 45 min by direct intercity train from the Gare de Bercy

  • by plane: 1 hour to Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne airport

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • André and Édouard Michelin, founders of Michelin

  • Audrey Tautou, actress

  • Aurélien Rougerie, international rugby player

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

  • One of the city's nicknames is "France's Liverpool" due its more than 800 artistic groups and the many music, theater and film festivals.

  • Just west of Clermont-Ferrand, the Puy-de-Dôme is the highest volcano in the the Chaine des Puys, a chain of 80 volcanoes located in an area more than 28 miles long and three miles wide.

Notable sites:

  • Place de Jaude – the city's most famous public square, with a large statue of Vercingetorix by Auguste Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty

  • Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption Cathedral – built of black lava stone and crowning the hill in Clermont’s historic center

  • Notre-Dame-du-Port Basilica – 12th-century, Romanesque church included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List

Top annual events:

  • Festival du Court-Métrage de Clermont-Ferrand – one of the world's leading international festivals for short films (clermont-filmfest.com)

  • Contre Plongées de l’Eté – summer festival of garden readings, circus acts, shows and screening (clermont-ferrand.fr/contre-plongees)

  • Europavox Festival – the best in European music (europavoxfestivals.com/en/)

Most notable museums:

  • Musée d'Art Roger-Quilliot (MARQ) – the city's foremost cultural venue with six levels of art from the Middle Ages to contemporary times

  • Muséum Henri-Lecoq – a journey of discovery into the history of science and the region’s nature heritage

  • L’Aventure Michelin – an exhibition devoted to the Michelin Group’s past, present and future (laventure.michelin.com/en/)

Culinary specialties:

  • cheese – the custom is to sample the Saint-Nectaire, Cantal, Salers, Fourme d'Ambert and Auvergne Bleu at Saint-Pierre Market or beneath Saint-Joseph Hall

  • truffade and aligot – two typical potato-and-cheese dishes best eaten in a little local restaurant

  • petit salé aux lentilles vertes du Puy – salted pork meat served with green lentils from Le Puy

Local wines & spirits:

  • Côtes d’Auvergne wine – vintages such as Boudes, Châteaugay, Corent, Chanturgue, Madargue and Saint-Pourçain (the last of which now has a protected name)

  • Chateldon and Volvic mineral waters – naturally sparkling mineral waters from the region (Chateldon is only served in the finest restaurants)

Shopping:

  • city center – the pedestrian zone of antique dealers and booksellers

  • fruit paste and jellies – Cruzilles (cruzilles.fr) is the last confectionary business remaining in Clermont-Ferrand, which has a confectionary history that goes back almost 800 years

  • knives – made in the nearby city of Thiers (lagrandecoutellerie.fr)

Most popular night spots:

  • Bell’s Australian’s Pub – a little piece of Down Under right in the center of town, next door to fnac at the Place de Jaude

  • Place de la Victoire, near the Cathedral – restaurants and bars with large terraces that are ideal places to watch ASM rugby team play

  • L’Appart – how about a glass of wine in the bathroom of this bar designed like an apartment?

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Puy de Dôme – from the top (accessible via a cog railway) there are sensational views over the city and 80 inactive volcanoes

  • rugby match – become a one-day supporter of the local ASM Clermont-Auvergne Rugby team, French champion in 2017

  • learn about volcanoes – in a natural setting like the Volcans d’Auvergne Regional Natural Park or a theme park like Vulcania Park that invites discovery of the extraordinary tale of volcanoes

Local industries:

  • Michelin – the company headquarters are in the city, where manufacturing has given way to the Research, Development and Innovation Campus called Urbalad.

  • seeds – Limagrain, based in Auvergne, is the 4th largest seed company in the world

In Pop Culture:

  • The Sorrow and the Pity (Le Chagrin et la pitié) – Clermont-Ferrand is the basis for this two-part 1969 documentary by Marcel Ophüls about the collaboration between the Vichy government and Nazi Germany

  • My Night at Maud's (Ma nuit chez Maud) – a dramatic 1969 film by Éric Rohmer set and filmed in Clermont-Ferrand, the third in his series of Six Moral Tales.

Reims

Top French Cities - Reims at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Reims Tourism Office at www.reims-tourism.com.

City region: Champagne / Grand Est

Population & what they are called: 186,971 inhabitants (2014 census), called Rémois

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 1 h 30 min (90 miles) via the A4 autoroute de l'Est

  • by train: about 45 minutes by TGV from the Gare de l'Est

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, television journalist and writer

  • Kyan Khojandi, actor

  • Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, world champion cyclist

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

  • Reims was more than 80% destroyed in World War I, but rebuilt in less than 10 years by more than 400 architects.

  • A bottle of champagne is opened every 10 seconds.

Notable sites:

  • Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Reims – for more than 1,200 years the place where the kings of France were coronated

  • Porte Mars – a beautifully preserved Roman gate

  • Fort de la Pompelle – tells the story of how the Great War fashioned today's Reims

Top annual events:

  • La Magnifique Society Festival – electro-pop music festival (lamagnifiquesociety.com)

  • Les Flâneries Musicales – a month-long series of classical concerts (flaneriesreims.com)

  • Les Fêtes Johanniques – two days of public holiday in the atmosphere of the Middle Ages to celebrate Joan of Arc (reims-fetes.com/fetes_johaniques.php)

Most notable museums:

  • Palais du Tau – a palace used as the residence of the kings during their coronations (palais-du-tau.fr/en/)

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts – five centuries of painting, sculpture, furniture and art objects

  • Musée Saint-Rémi – set in the royal abbey of Saint-Remi with historic objects from the city's past

Culinary specialties:

  • jambon de Reims – made from pork shoulder that is brined, cooked in stock, seasoned, pressed into molds and then coated in breadcrumbs

  • gingerbread – baked out of rye flour and buckwheat honey

  • biscuits roses – the famous pink biscuit, one of the oldest in France

Local wines & spirits:

  • champagne – Reims is a center of champagne production, home to the headquarters of large champagne-producing houses, many open for tasting and tours

  • Bouzy rouge – light red wine that gives pink champagne its color

  • ratafia – a fortified wine made from leftover champagne pressings

Shopping:

  • Rue de Vesle – the main commercial street

  • Grande Boutique du Vin – a comprehensive inventory of more than 150 types of champagne (vinscph.com/en/)

  • Maison Fossier – has produced the famous pink biscuit for more than 260 years (fossier.fr/en/)

Most popular night spots:

  • La Loge – food and relaxing dinner music that gives way to a full-blown night club

  • Le Clos – excellent wine bar with a sizable courtyard

  • Le Wine Bar – a relaxing bar with more than 500 wines and champagnes

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Coulée Verte – a green corridor for jogging and cycling

  • Parc de la Patte d’Oie or Parc Léo Lagrange – green spaces that lend themselves to relaxation

  • Montagne de Reims – the vineyard-covered hill south of town, a hiker's paradise of gorgeous forests and numerous wine villages, like Verzenay and its Vine Museum

Local industries:

  • champagne – it is impossible to separate Reims from its champagne heritage

  • bioeconomy – agriculture and its ancillary industries, including the industrial development of agricultural resources

In Pop Culture:

  • local musicians – Reims natives include Yuksek, an electronic music producer, remixer and DJ; and The Shoes, an electro-rock duo

  • Expérience Pommery – modern art exhibitions in the chalk galleries and cellars of the prestigious

Nimes

Top French Cities - Nîmes at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit Nîmes Tourism at www.nimes-tourisme.com.

City region: Pyrénées-Méditerranées / Occitanie

Population & what they are called: 154,013 inhabitants (2013 census), called Nîmois

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 6 h 45 min (442 miles) via the A6 and A7 autoroute du Soleil

  • by train: about 3 hours by TGV from the Gare de Lyon

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Alphone Daudet, writer

  • Jean Bousquet, fashion designer

  • Louis Perrier, doctor, founder of original Perrier water spa

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

  • The famous serge cloth used in jeans was originally from Nîmes – de (from) + Nîmes = denim.

Notable sites:

  • Maison Carrée – one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the world

  • Arène de Nîmes – best-preserved Roman amphitheater in France, now used as a bull fighting and concert arena

  • Tour Magne – ruined Roman tower atop Mont Cavalier

Top annual events:

  • Festival de Nîmes – a music festival with performances in the Roman amphitheater (festivaldenimes.com)

  • Feria de Nîmes – a twice annual bullfighting event that takes over the city

  • Grands Jeux Romains – an experience of life during the Roman era through historic reconstructions and a unique show with 500 participants

Most notable museums:

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nîmes – a growing collection of fine European art from past centuries

  • Carré d'Art Jean Bousquet – a media library and museum of modern art (carreartmusee.com/en/)

  • Musée des Cultures Taurines – devoted to bullfighting traditions

Culinary specialties:

  • brandade de Nîmes – a purée of salt cod with olive oil and a little milk

  • gardiane de taureau – bull's meat marinated in Nîmes red wine

  • petit pâté nîmois – a small pastry case with meat filling

  • Croquant Villaret – long golden biscuits with a special texture and secret flavor

Local wines & spirits:

  • Costières de Nîmes AOC wines – from vineyards that are some of the oldest in Europe

  • Côtes du Rhône (AOC) wines – including Tavel, called ‘the first rosé of France'

  • Perrier mineral water – its source is in Vergèze, just a few kilometers from Nîmes

Shopping:

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

  • Marché Jean Jaurès – the excellent Friday farmers market with a simultaneous antique market

  • downtown – the main area for shopping is around Rue Général-Perrier, Rue Marchands, Rue Madeleine and Rue de l’Aspic

Most popular night spots:

  • SMAC Paloma – modern stage for today's music

  • Le SPOT – an alternative exhibition and event space, also with a bar

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • playing pétanque in the many parks and gardens, such as the Arènes Esplanade Feuchères and the Allées Jaurès

  • Jardins de la Fontaine – gardens built around the ruins of the Roman sanctuary

  • Pont du Gard – Roman aqueduct built more than 2,000 years ago and located just outside of town

Local industries:

  • textiles – especially denim, the fabric of blue jeans, which derives its name from the city

In Pop Culture:

  • Rock bands like Dire Straits, Rammstein, Metallica and Depeche Mode have performed or record live video and albums at the Arena of Nîmes

  • A Long Way from Home – the 2013 romantic drama about retiring in the South of France was filmed in Nîmes

  • The Vanishing – parts of the original Dutch film (called Spoorloos) were set in Nîmes

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