Top French Cities: 13 Romantic Cities in France for Honeymooners

Press release

If you love Paris for romance, you should know there are many other cities in France for starry-eyed lovers to explore. Each of these towns boasts all of the things worth celebrating about France: brilliant museums, restaurants, vineyards, churches, châteaux, and markets offering the finest local products. These settings are ideal for the kinds of memory-making experiences newlyweds are looking for. Here are some top ideas.

Annecy, known as the "Alpine Venice," is home to a pristine glacial lake said to be the cleanest in Europe. Here, you can practice a variety of water sports, and easily rent kayaks, paddleboards, rollerblades, and tandem bicycles. Lovebirds can hike to one of the châteaux, and follow with a scenic dinner cruise. Try delicious local comfort foods like raclette and tartiflette. Newlyweds should reserve early for a sensual meal at Relais & Châteaux's Clos des Sens, led by two Michelin-starred chef Laurent Petit. Those with larger budgets can stay at the 5-star Palace de Menthon, or the more quaint Maison Bleue, a Yoann Conte R&C property. The unique Boutik Hotel calls itself a concept store, and gives guests a choice of fun thematic rooms.
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Aix-en-Provence is the city of a thousand fountains, world-class art museums, countless galleries, antique shops, and spas. Many are not far from Cours Mirabeau Boulevard, where cafés are ideal for people watching over a glass of the local rosé. Lovebirds can visit Terrain des Peintres, where native Paul Cézanne set up his easel. The artist's atelier is nearby and although Cézanne was not the most romantic of painters, his post-Impressionist works inspired a long line of others. From here the view of Mont Saint-Victoire is inspiring, and outdoorsy types can plan a hike to picnic on the mountain itself. The 17th-century Carmelite chapel, Saint-Victoire Priory, at 3000-ft elevation, offers 360-degree views of the Mediterranean and the Alps, and the famous Cross of Provence is another ten-minute hike up. Guests on a budget can spend the night at the Priory's refuge or splurge on a room at the 5-star Le Pigonnet or the romantic La Maison d'Aix.
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Avignon is a storybook city with medieval ramparts hiding renowned restaurants and quaint cafés in shady squares. Its grandeur can be admired with a tour of the 14th-century Gothic Palais des Papes, and at the Petit Palais Museum, which houses an impressive collection of Italian primitive art and sculptures from local artists. Avignon is very central for day trips throughout Provence. Local agencies offer Rhone Valley and Châteauneuf du Pape wine tours, though the city itself is home to many local wine bars. Uncork a bottle of Côte du Rhône during a cooking class for two at 5-star boutique hotel La Mirande. Also of note is Avignon's Ile de la Barthelasse—Europe's largest fluvial island, accessible by free ferry near Pont St-Bénézet. With awe-inspiring views of the city, the island is perfect for an orchard stroll and drinks at a waterfront café. Overnight at the affordable Domaine de Rochegude, in a gypsy caravan at La Bastides des Anges, or on an authentic barge, Péniche le Hasard.
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Bordeaux’s old stone walkways have been cleaned and restored, including the waterfront, and the city continues to take pride in maintaining this former Roman trading port. It’s quite a walkable city with a long list of classic monuments, a palpable energy, and some of the world's best food and wine. French families shop for food at the Sunday market in the Chartrons district, indulging in everything from Arcachon oysters to macarons. The one-of-a-kind Cité du Vin Museum, in the same neighborhood, opened in 2016 and includes state-of-the-art tasting rooms. Wine lovers should not skip the short journey to Saint-Emilion to some of its vineyards and the informative Maison du Vin. After a day of tastings, honeymooners can relax in the city center at the charming Maison des Vignes guesthouse, or at the 5-star Yndo Hotel.
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Dijon is a surprising, modern city with a vivid nightlife. This former capital of the medieval Duchy of Burgundy is a feast for those hungry for history, and can be explored on the Owl's Trail, a 22-stop signposted walking tour that includes the well-preserved Hotel Vogüé. The owl carved in the northern facade of Notre-Dame is said to grant wishes and good luck when pet with your left hand. Specialties include gingerbread, best paired with a sweet Jura wine, as well as escargot, boeuf bourguignon, and the many cheeses from Fromagerie Gaugry. Playful couples can experience a modern French vibe at Péniche Cancale, an old barge turned quirky cultural venue, before settling in for the night at the luscious La Cour Berbisey, or the 4-star Chapeau Rouge.
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La Rochelle is known for its windswept limestone buildings and one of France's largest marinas. Saint Nicholas is its former fishing village turned bohemian district, with its art galleries, bookshops, and Saturday flea market. On windy days, couples can join the locals flying kites on the beach, or make their way to the nearby Ile de Ré or Ile d’Oléron for a more private escapade. Let’s not forget that oysters are an aphrodisiac, and much of the Atlantic’s delicious seafood here will likely produce the same effect. Couples can renew their vows from atop the city's three historic towers then watch a spectacular sunset from the jetty. Topping the list of places to stay in La Rochelle's is La Monnaie, which combines art and spa. Eden Ouest is also an excellent choice, a typical home with tasteful decor, four suites, and private wooden steam bath big enough for two.
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Marseille makes for excellent honeymoon album photo ops: with its old port, artsy historic Panier district, and views of the sea over terracotta rooftops from atop Notre-Dame de la Garde. Mingle with the locals at La Friche la Belle de Mai, the former tobacco factory turned innovative arts complex, or at the Vieille Charité center, built in the 17th century, both with extensive events calendars. Or perhaps the turquoise waters along Marseille's dramatic limestone cliffs, Les Calanques, will inspire afternoon escapades from the city. Reserve early for a seafront bouillabaise at Le Petit Nice, run by three-Michelin starred chef Gérald Passedat. Affordable places to overnight include the Moroccan-inspired Le Ryad Boutique Hotel and Le Mas en Ville, a Provencal-style guesthouse, both in the city center.
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Beachfront Nice is covered in palm trees, shaded squares, fountains, and colorful gardens. Cours Saleya, the famous food and flower market, is a good place to start the day before wandering the winding streets of the old town or souvenir shopping at one of the many antique shops along the port. Like Matisse, who spent nearly 40 years of his later life here, sweethearts will be inspired by the sunlight in Nice. Visitors can digest their lunchtime meals with a walk along the pebbly white-sand beaches, or farther along the cliff, towards Monaco. Hotel Suisse is elegant, with a private beach and terraces overlooking the Bay of Angels, while the very central Villa Otero has fun, Art Deco inspired rooms. Villa Kilauea, in the hills just north of the city, boasts spectacular poolside views of storybook Provence.
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When in Reims…drink Champagne! Newlyweds can toast to this new chapter in class at a dozen Champagne houses and more than 150 miles of cellars. There are endless possibilities for wine tours and tastings, both in and around the city. Hikers and cyclists seeking to balance out the bubbles with sport can spend a day or two on the scenic Reims Mountain, where lush forests fade into 300-year-old vineyards and charming wine producing villages. The Perching Bar in Verzy, some 12 miles outside of Reims, is a lofty Champagne bar up in the trees, well worth the detour. Reservations are recommended. Back in the city, wide boulevards and squares lend themselves to long strolls exploring the Coronation Capital, named so after the more than 30 kings crowned here, with mandatory stops at Art Deco cafés, trendy wine bars, and chocolate shops. A high-end hotel option is the impeccable Les Crayères, once voted Best Small Hotel in the World by Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines.
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Strasbourg is a gentle blend of cultures with romantic bridges and a covered dam that now houses modern art exhibits—Barrage Vauban. As sun sets, climb to its rooftop for an awe-inspiring view of the no-longer-covered bridges. A boat tour down the Rhine is a great way to see an ensemble of the city's architecture, but neighborhoods like the historic Petite France and Kruteneau, a multicultural former fishing village, are best explored on foot. This Alsatian capital is renowned for its fairytale Christmas markets, so it's ideal for those planning a December honeymoon. A trip to Strasbourg is not complete without a microbrewery visit followed by a hearty sauerkraut and sausage meal. Also of note is Le Haras, the 18th-century royal stud farm and stable converted into a brasserie and 4-star hotel. Du Côté de Chez Anne guesthouse, near Orangerie Park, is also warm and refined.
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In Toulouse, take an evening stroll along the Garonne River, ice cream in hand, admiring the lit bridges. It’s a great walking city with beautiful buildings to admire along the cobblestone streets and larger avenues. The covered Victor Hugo Market, for one, is filled with culinary treasures and the Chateau d'Eau Gallery at the end of Pont Neuf has a variety of unique photo exhibits. Terre de Pastel, a resort dedicated to the natural blue pigment that made Toulouse famous in the Middle Ages, has a relaxing Blue Spa. Newlyweds will love Villa du Taur, a chic and artsy boutique hotel in the city center, while art lovers might prefer the views of the Garonne from Boutique Hotel Les Beaux-Arts.
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Versailles city can make any couple feel like royalty as they explore the Temple of Love, Marie-Antoinette's manor, and the Château’s grounds. In the summer, the Château hosts a masquerade ball that is open to the public. Couples can also choose their alter ego and book a photo session in period clothing at Costumes et Châteaux. An evening at the Royal Opera will only augment the grandeur of the experience. Hippophiles are in for a real treat as the National Equestrian Academy offers first-class equestrian ballets at the Royal Stables. There is no lack of opulent accommodations in Versailles, though L'Escapade Versaillaise and Le Logis Versaillais are two classy, yet simple, self-catered apartments just minutes from all that’s regal.
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About Top French Cities –

Top French Cities is an association of 29 cities, from regional capitals like Bordeaux to important towns like Avignon and Versailles. They are perfect for young travelers, families and anyone else looking for fun and authentic French experiences that will fit their budget. Most of these cities are university towns with a youthful atmosphere, but all of them reflect the heritage and distinctive flavors of the regions to which they belong. Many are forward-looking too, with historic buildings repurposed to house contemporary art and activity centers like Les Docks in Marseille. Many have created or integrated new, modern museums to contrast with their classical, architectural heritage, like in Nimes, where the cutting-edge Museum of Roman Civilization (Musée de la Romanité) is located across from the historic Roman amphitheater, or in Nantes, where whimsical mechanical creatures are being created, or in the UNESCO World Heritage Site concrete city of Le Havre.


Marion Fourestier
ATOUT FRANCE – France Tourism Development Agency
(212) 745-0963/67