Today: Top 10 most ravishingly romantic places in France
This week, France – one of the world’s most seductive and hauntingly beautiful countries – is reopening its borders for tourism. Much of the country’s beauty comes from the diversity of its landscape, from sun-drenched beaches to rough Alpine peaks, and its remarkable cultural heritage, which is highlighted by spectacular cathedrals and palaces. And then, there’s the gastronomy, the haute couture scene, the lovely language, and the famous French joy de vivre, all of it captivating us. Since France neighbors my home country Belgium, I’ve spent almost every summer there from my childhood until my student life, and today, I share with you my pick of the 10 most romantic places to visit in the country (outside its capital Paris, which deserves its own list).
What is your favorite spot for romance in France? Do you think I missed one? Leave a comment or take my poll below.
The small medieval village of Eze on the French Riviera (known as the Cote D’Azur) is famous for its poetic beauty, authentic charm, and breathtaking panoramas of the blue Mediterranean Sea. Perched in an ‘eagle’s nest’ on the top of a green mountain peak, the village light ochre houses and picturesque church can be seen from far. Despite its tiny size, the village with its narrow cobblestone streets is fit for a storybook and flowers blooming year-round leave its visitors absolutely mesmerized. Eze has attracted many celebrities throughout the years, including Walt Disney, who spent a significant amount of his life here.
- Official tourist website: Eze
Carcassonne – France’s second most visited tourist spot after the Tour Eiffel – is a tremendously impressive, medieval, walled town in the Languedoc region of southwest France. The fortified city is unlike any other in Europe, on account of its size and its state of preservation. Its history is marked by 2000 years of conquest and by the imprint of Catharism and the Crusades. The city is privileged to have two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the medieval city itself and the Canal du Midi, which was excavated in the XVIIth century to link the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Formerly used for transporting goods and people, the Canal du Midi is today frequented by numerous boaters and tourists.
- Official tourist website: Carcassonne
Situated between the Mediterranean and two arms of the Rhône river, the Camargue is a vast wetland that is classified by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. The wilderness area is divided in three distinct zones: cultivation north of the delta, salt banks in the west and east, and lagoons in the south. The Camargue is famous for harboring the world’s oldest living breed of horses, and though they are technically wild, their living among humans for tens of thousands of years makes them friendly and curious of visitors and wildlife watchers. The Camargue is also an ornithological sanctuary as nearly 400 species of birds are seen here, includes pink flamingos.
- Official website: the Camargue
The holy city of Rocamadour clings to steep rocky cliffs at a dizzying height, displaying layer upon layer of houses and chapels. Down from the castle which crowns this audacious construction, it’s a sheer drop to the meandering river Alzou. The basilica of Saint-Sauveur and the crypt of Saint-Amadour, both featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, can be admired by visitors once the 216 marches of the Pilgrim’s Stairs have been climbed. But the jewel of the sanctuary is kept in the Chapel of Miracles, one of eight chapels built against the rocks. It is the Black Madonna, which has been worshipped here for over a thousand years.
- Official tourist website: Rocamadour
The Loire Valley in France is dotted with hundreds of elegant castles, but it’s Chambord that is the most romantic and famous of them all. Chambord’s architecture is a carefully balanced blend of traditional elements of Medieval French architecture and other elements borrowed from the Italian Renaissance. With its dual inspiration, the château was the perfect instrument to sing the praises of King Francis I of France, who commanded it construction (which was never completed). The genius behind François I’s masterpiece remains a mystery. While some maintain that it is a purely French creation, others have put the name of the multi-talented Italian genius Leonardo da Vinci forward.
- Official tourist website: Chambord
- Other accolades: Chambord also features in my top 10 list of Europe’s most beautiful palaces & castles.
For over 40 years, until his death in 1926, Giverny was the home of Claude Monet, the world-famous painter who founded the Impressionist school. With a passion for gardening as well as for colors, Monet conceived both his flower garden and water garden as true works of art. Walking through his riverside, pastel pink house and its romantic gardens with the famous green Japanese bridge, visitors can still feel the atmosphere which reigned at the home of the Master of Impressionism and marvel at the floral compositions, water lilies, and nymphéas, his greatest sources of inspiration. Govern still attracts painters charmed by the unique light of the Seine Valley.
- Official website: Giverny
The Calanques are a series of beautiful fjords, majestic limestone cliffs, and rocky promontories, that plunge into the brilliantly turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea along a 20 km (13 mi) stretch of coastline located between the towns of Marseille and Cassis. In certain spots, pine trees are clinging to the gleaming rock, with the sheer cliffs occasionally being interrupted by small idyllic beaches, some impossible to reach without a kayak, adding further to the dreamy scenery and dramatic appeal. The area has been designated “the Calanques National Park”, one of just seven national parks on mainland France. It’s one of the best spots in France to soak up the sun or take a long hike.
- Official website: Parc National des Calanques
Part legendary castle, part holy shrine, the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is one of the Middle Age’s most iconic buildings and one of France’s most recognizable monuments. The legendary site – now declared a UNESCO heritage site – has been a mythical destination of countless pilgrims for over a thousand years. Its unique and dramatic position on a rocky island just 600 meters (2000 ft) from Normandy’s mainland made it accessible at low tide to the abbey’s many pilgrims, and defensible at the time as the incoming tide stranded, drove off, or drowned would-be assailants. The abbey is surrounded by a picturesque village, where tourists wander around the quaint medieval streets while stopping in the boutiques or cafés along the way.
- Official tourist website: Mont Saint Michel
Colmar is located in northeastern France near Germany and Switzerland. The town’s secular and religious architectural landmarks reflect eight centuries of Germanic and French architecture. Wonderfully preserved from the destructions of the French Revolution and the two World Wars, the Little Venice district is the most charming and romantic place in Colmar’s historic center, following the course of the Launch river. The beautiful half-timbered houses with colorful walls on the quay and the small flower-covered bridges spanning the river are a draw for visitors. A boat tour on the canal is also a lovely way to discover the pretty river banks.
- Official website: Colmar
Facing the Luberon and built on the foothills of the Monts of Vaucluse, the tiny hilltop town of Gordes is the quintessential village of the Provence and one of the most enchanting in France. Its houses with terracotta roofs and buildings of white stone root themselves into the sharp cliff of the mountain, and its labyrinth of ‘calades’ (narrow cobblestone streets) do not leave the visitor indifferent to its charms. Because of its clifftop position, Gordes also offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, with expansive fields of poppies and lavender as far as the eye can reach. Many artists – including André Lhote, Marc Chagall, Victor Vasarely and Pol Mara – fell in love with the beauty of Gordes and stayed here, contributing to the village’s fame.
- Official tourist website: Gordes