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Best cities to visit in France for 2024

Simon Calder’s Travel

Our French neighbours have no shortage of cultural hotspots that make for exciting city breaks. Stray beyond the iconic arrondissements of France’s poster child, Paris, and you’ll discover a wealth of food, fashion and art destinations just across the English Channel.

Famous for its rich regional cuisines – we’re talking fine wines, mature cheese and freshly baked baguettes – these cities have more than enough ingredients for tourists to embrace authentic French culture.

In the summer, days spent leisurely lunching in Cannes compete with soaking in the sights of majestic cathedrals in Reims for attention – Europe’s second-largest country is as dynamic as it is vast.

The country’s varied landscape is home to mountain ranges, idyllic islands and bustling cosmopolitan hubs with diverse weather conditions that facilitate holidays from exhilarating snow sports to romantic city breaks and relaxing beach stays on the French Riviera.

From coastal Ajaccio to medieval Lille, here are the best cities to visit to indulge in the ultimate French experience.

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Renaissance architecture lines the streets of Lille’s old town (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Notable for its 17th-century architecture alone, northern Lille is a hub of art collections, shopping districts and world-famous waffle houses, all easily explorable on foot. The capital of the Hauts-de-France région, the city is small enough to discover in one weekend, but brimming with attractions such as the historic centre of Vieux-Lille and Palais des Beaux-Arts museum, to satisfy those seeking French cuisine, design and traditions. Dine like the locals at Estaminet Au Vieux de la Vieille on authentic Flemish beef dishes and pâtés in a cosy traditional restaurant.

Where to stay

Au 30 offers self-catering suites and apartments in the centre of Lille. The modern units have hot tubs, saunas and cosy seating areas – all just a stone’s throw away from the Zénith of Lille, Grand Palais and Aeronef music venue.

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