With over 89 million visitors each year, France tops the list of the most visited countries in the world. Yet, most parts of the Northern France region have remained off the maps as far as tourism goes making it one of the best parts of the country to visit especially if you’re yearning for unspoiled beauty.
From captivating castles, and resplendent vineyards to unrivalled natural beauty, and captivating hamlets full of culture and history, Northern France is undoubtedly the best-kept secret in this country. It’s also the birthplace of some of the most renowned historical figures in France such as Claude Monet and Joan of Arc.
If you’re curious to know where you should visit in this beautiful region, here is a list of the best places to visit in Northern France
12 Best Places To Visit In Northern France
You really couldn’t have a list of the best places to visit in northern France without including the country’s capital. While to many Paris is an obvious choice of destination, sometimes that means it can be underestimated. Paris is one of those great destinations that can be returned to many times, with each visit offering something new.
Paris reflects the city’s rich and cultural history. With plenty of museums and historical buildings, there’s plenty to see. And lets not forget, plenty of incredible places to eat too.
With easy connections to many countries around the world, Paris is easy to get to and makes a fantastic base for visiting the other beautiful places mentioned on this list.
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Located in the north-central of France, this fortified UNESCO town makes a great day trip from Paris. While this medieval town is known for hosting the best medieval fair in France, it is worth visiting all year round.
The main attraction Provins offers is the well-preserved, original fortification from the 12th Century. Visitors can climb up Tour Cesar which offers spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside.
Not all the sites are above ground though. While the original purpose of the underground tunnels remains a mystery, guided tours are available in the summer months.
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Located on the north-eastern edge of France, Lille is a significant commercial and cultural hub. But most importantly, it’s the capital of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. It’s just a few miles east of the Belgian border which makes it pretty easy to visit if you’re coming from Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, or England.
Although this city has a lot of attractions, it’s particularly a captivating locale to visit if you’re yearning for a historical and cultural adventure. The beautiful historical edifices and baroque buildings plus cobblestone streets in the Old Lille give you a taste of the Flemish heritage of the city. However, it’s probably the hearty cuisine and the jolly character of the locals that will make the memories of your visit here indelible.
The city boasts an amazing public transport system including a well-connected railway which makes it a delight to transverse through the city.
Charming medieval streets, a beautiful harbour, incredible gastronomic scene, and buildings that are steeped deep in history are the top traits that define Vannes. Pervaded by quaint timber houses dating back to the 13th century, Vannes is one of the largest towns in Morbihan, a department found within the region of Brittany.
With medieval and modern structures standing side by side, the difference in the architectural styles creates a stunning contrast between the past and the present. Built on the foundations of an embattled Roman city, Vannes is nestled within a majestic well-preserved wall that was extended in the 15th century to encircle new parts of this town.
Although there are a lot of things to see and do in the city, walking along the ramparts is by far one of the most incredible attractions in Vannes. There is a huge public garden in most parts of the ramparts where you can enjoy the sight of groomed flowers, pathways, and picturesque views of the fortified wall.
Honfleur, one of the most beautiful coastal towns in France is located south of Le Havre right on the estuary of the Seine River. The town’s main attraction is probably its old harbour, Vieux Bassin, which dates back to the 17th century and is surrounded by colourful narrow buildings. Once jammed with commercial vessels and fishing boats, this port played a huge role as a commercial center, but today, the waters around the dock are filled with beautiful yachts.
Other notable attractions in Honfleur include its wooden main church and the beguiling views of the Seine estuary. The city is also pretty famous due to its association with renowned French artists and painters such as Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet, and Eugène Boudin.
Home to the standing stones, one of the most significant prehistoric sites in Europe, Carnac is a resort town on the south coast of Brittany and an amazing place to visit for a dose of historic architecture, a laid back town centre, and amazing cuisine.
While visiting the town you should also look forward to the expansive sandy beaches that Carnac has to offer especially if you’re a sun and sand fanatic.
Mont Saint Michel
Set on a rocky islet and rising from the sea, Mont Saint Michel is one of the most beautiful sights in France and the third most visited attraction in the country.
Located slap-bang at the border between Normandy and Brittany, this captivating commune initially started out as a sanctuary around the year 708. Many centuries later, Mont Saint Michel, a magnificent structure that was allegedly built after a divine direction, is home to a stunning church, an ancient town and it boasts incredible views of the sea.
With its 1.7 mile-long ramparts, a beautiful port, a 13th-century castle, and a huge collection of half-timbered houses, Dinan looks like a town straight from a fairytale. This glorious Breton town is located in Northern Brittany and it’s one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in the region.
In addition to the town walls, other popular attractions in this town include the Donjon de la Duchesse Anne, the alluring cobbled streets of the old town, and the laidback harbour, among other architectural wonders. You can see why it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in northern France.
Le Havre is a stunning port city perched at the mouth of the Seine River. While it’s not one of the most popular tourist destinations in France, it’s a UNESCO-listed city. Unlike most Normandy cities that were reconstructed to reflect their old self after destruction during wars, this city took a different direction. Most parts of Le Havre were totally destroyed during World War II.
When Auguste Perret was given the lead role in the reconstruction of the city, he introduced a new design and popularised the use of concrete in the country. This design shaped the city as it is today, and helped Le Havre earn a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Aside from the unique architecture, Le Havre is home to some beautiful museums, pebbled beaches, and it has the busiest port in the Normandy region.
Conveniently located between Le Havre and Paris on the banks of the River Seine, Rouen is a city that oozes history, culture, and architectural charm. Its location played a major role in trade during the medieval times making it a favourite spot among merchants.
Between the 14th and the 15th century, a lot of traders settled around the area building astounding timber-framed homes and this brought exponential growth to the city. Today, most of these buildings are still intact and they’re part of the long-standing history of a vibrant art scene that Rouen has offered its visitors for centuries.
While the city boasts a lot of beautiful monuments and picturesque chill spots, it’s famous for a more sombre reason. It’s the city where a national heroine, Joan of Arc was executed.
This ancient coastal city is situated in Ille-et-Vilaine and remains to be one of the best-kept secrets in the Brittany region. It was designed as a citadel, with its gigantic walls and fortifications dating back to the 12th century.
However, save for the town walls, the Château de Saint-Malo, and Cathédrale Saint-Vincent de Saint-Malo, large parts of this town were destroyed during World War II. So much of what you’ll see here was reconstructed between 1948 and 1960.
Once a haven for the privateers (state-sponsored pirates), Saint-Malo gets some of the largest tides in Europe and this results in an ever changing landscape around the coastline.
The cradle land of the historical Bayeux Tapestry, this town is situated just a 2.5-hour train ride from the city of love. If you’re a history enthusiast then Bayeux will seem like an open museum with its medieval charm and countless artefacts in every corner.
To start with, Bayeux was the very first town to be liberated from the Nazis during the Normandy Invasion on 6th June 1944 which makes it a great base from where you can explore the D Day Landing Beaches. Despite the fact that its museums, as well as the memorials, have a gloomy tale to tell especially when it comes to the invasion of England and World War II, the streets of this town are the quintessential architectural heritage and a lively place to visit.
There you have it, 12 beautiful places to visit in northern France. Which will you visit first?
Plan Your France Itinerary
Looking for more amazing places to see in France? Why not check out some of these
- Provins: An Easy Day Trip From Paris
- 11 Beautiful Towns and Villages in Dordogne
- The Best Castles in Southern France
- 35 Books Set in France
- Wine Tasting in Corsica
- Famous Bridges in Europe
- The Ultimate European Bucket List
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