With the Channel being so relatively narrow, weekend trips to France are no longer the preserve of the second-holiday-home types – they are now something we can all enjoy. Such trips are easy, relaxed and just the right side of indulgent. For French city breaks, Paris is understandably the top of any list for its museums, galleries, shops and history. But it shouldn’t be the beginning and end of your adventure. France is rich with landscapes and cities and places such as Provence, Bordeaux and Avignon all of which can make for fantastic getaways with their unique brands of history, architecture, cuisine and, of course, wine.
Let’s face it: the City of Light tops the list for a reason – and what more can be said about the place that isn’t already well-known? Beautiful winding streets just waiting to be explored, tiny bistros and bars to be sampled, haute-couture boutiques and some of the greatest art ever created in Le Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay are all here waiting to be seen, along with its famous monuments in the shape of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Paris is a gem of a city and though large, it’s not so big that you can’t do it justice in a simple city break. What’s more, Paris hotels are not all shockingly expensive – you just have to look a little harder to discover the quirkier and more personal places that won’t empty your wallet.
For something a touch different, Lille offers you France with a Flemish twist. Located on the French-Belgian border, Lille straddles the two cultures as well as the two nations. The Grande Place is emblematic of the opulent architecture that populates the city. Steeped in history and culture, Lille also offers cuisine that reflects its location, as do the brewed beers and other Belgian delights.
The glittering and famous jewel of the French Riviera, in some ways, Nice has all the best things that France has to offer: ornate Belle Époque architecture and sleek Art Deco palaces, the azure ocean and curved bay, the famous Promenade des Anglais, the utterly charming Old Town, with its pastel-coloured houses, Michelin-starred eateries and quaint bistros. Nice has it all – including the weather.
Bordeaux is as elegant as any city in France. The centre features 18th-century architecture that signifies prosperity in monumental stone. Splendidly preserved riverside and medieval streets run throughout this stylish city and provide it with an unmistakable air of sophistication. Bordeaux provides a charming mix of both the urban and the quaint, with other small towns like Bourg-en-Bresse and Blaye only a stone’s throw away. Coupled with its rich history, both Le Triangle D’or and the riverside Place-de-la-Bourse are located here, making Bordeaux one of France’s greatest locations.
So head out across the Channel and discover France via its great cities, whether quaint and quiet, shimmering and luxurious or bustling and urban – it’s all there and waiting.