Have you ever heard that France is much more than Paris, its capital? Well, it is true!
No other country has such a diversity of sights and scenery in such a compact area (547,030 sq. km). From the north’s flat and fertile lands washed by the Atlantic Ocean to the sunny stone villages of the southeast’s Mediterranean coast, France is a colorful country well worth to be explored.
Since January 2016, France is divided into 13 regions in continental France and 5 overseas regions. While some French regions like Ile de France remained the same, other regions like Alsace, Champagne or Bourgogne are today part of new, bigger regions such as Grand Est or Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. Despite this regions reduction, the regions of France have their own distinctive character and particularities, which we would like to present in this article.
The different French regions are incredibly varied and they have much to offer: culture and heritage, traditions and gastronomic terroirs, sea or mountain, city or countryside. So pack your bags and let’s explore France by region, we have summarized the highlights of each region for you.
Map of France & French Regions List
The Map of France below features the main cities in continental France plus Corsica island. This France Map does not show the French overseas territories, which are far from France mainland! The French Regions List is divided by geographical areas and includes the regions of France overseas.
Regions of France List
Northern France: Normandy, Hauts de France, Ile de France
Southern France: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Occitanie
Central France: Centre-Val de Loire
Eastern France: Grand Est, Auvergne-Rhône Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche Comté
Western France: Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, Nouvelle Aquitaine
French Overseas Territories: Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyanne, Réunion Island
Because this article was turning too long, we have decided to focus on the 13 regions of France mainland only while we will be covering France overseas in a different post.
Getting Around France
Getting around France is very easy, both by public and private transportation. We tell you about the most popular ways to explore the map of French regions and our best tips.
The main cities in France and French tourist attractions are well connected by train, within easy reach from Paris and each other thanks to TGV trains (Train à Grande Vitesse). From Paris, some great weekend getaways are possible by train journeys of 4 hours or less.
Driving your own car is also a good option in France, especially for those who want to go beyond the main sights. The country has a good number of well-maintained highways but we recommend driving the secondary roads too: most of the times the essence of the regions of France are along these routes.
FRANCE BY REGION (WITH MAIN FRENCH TOURIST ATTRACTIONS)
Normandy in northern France is one of the most visited regions of France by foreigners. And for a reason! Normandy offers the visitor a stunning coastline, picturesque small towns, and idyllic countryside. Normandy is a popular weekend getaway from Paris, and many hotels and restaurants thrive in Normandy, especially around the town of Deauville or Honfleur.
The impressionist movement was born in Normandy, inspired by Monet’s “Impression” of the sunrise at Le Havre.
Normandy is also famous for its rich history, its tower bells, cows and cheese.
Explore Normandy’s D-Day Landing Beaches, be amazed by the Étretat or Fécamp cliffs, admire unique Mont Saint Michel or follow Richard Lionheart’s steps.
Normandy Tourist Attractions: D-Day Landing Beaches, the abbey at Mont St Michel, medieval Bayeux, the fishing village of Honfleur, Rouen’s cathedral, chic Deauville, the Seine Valley, Monet’s House in Giverny.
Hauts-de-France, in northern France, is one of the lesser known regions of France. And it is a pity because it is located only a stone throw from Paris.
Stretching from just outside the northern suburbs of Paris right up to the English Channel coastline, the former Nord Pas-de-Calais Picardie region officially became in 2016 the northernmost French region.
The Hauts-de-France region is full of beautiful cathedrals, belfries, and citadels, and its plains bear witness to its mining history. It is also a region of beach resorts in the Channel or relaxing seaside getaways on the Opal Coast. Don’t miss beautiful Lille’s stock market or Notre Dame d’Amiens cathedral, one of the Grandes Cathédrales featuring the highest nave in France.
Hauts-de-France Tourist Attractions: Amiens with its beautiful gothic cathedral, Château de Chantilly, Senlis, the famous site of the Allied invasion at Dunkirk beach, Calais, the seaside resort of Le Touquet, Lille, the Somme Bay – one of France’s most beautiful natural wonders and home to some of the best preserved World War 1 battlefields and memorial sites.
Unlike its neighbor, Ile de France is one of the most visited regions in France mainly thanks to Paris. After visiting the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, venture beyond the Boulevard Périphérique to explore what Ile de France has to offer.
Many of the attractions like Château de Versailles and Disneyland Paris are known to all, but there are many more interesting things to see and do in Ile de France.
Visitors can enjoy nature and relaxation in one of the four regional natural parks while history buffs can learn about the Kings and Queens of France in amazing historical sites such as Château de Fontainebleau or Saint-Denis Basilica-Cathedral. Picturesque villages are never far from the capital, with small towns like Auvers-Sur-Oise or Bougival immortalized by Van Gogh, Renoir or Pissarro.
Ile-de-France Tourist Attractions: Versailles Palace and Gardens, Paris, Euro Disney (Disneyland Paris), Château de Fontainebleau and forest, Château de Vincennes, Provins medieval city, Château de Vaux le Vicomte, Saint-Denis Basilica Cathedral, Parc de Sceaux, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye and many more.
Who does not love the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea?
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, in southern France, has everything to make visitors happy: the sunny beaches and chic resorts of French Riviera, endless lavender fields, picturesque marinas, secluded creeks with turquoise waters, great hikes and ski in the winter time, vibrant colors, and excellent gastronomy.
Bordering Monaco and Italy, cities like Nice or Cannes in Côte d’Azur are often a stop of longer trips to Italy.
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PAC for its friends) is one of the most visited regions of France map, and it gets hot and crowded in the summer. Instead, it is an excellent travel destination in the shoulder season when the crowds are gone and the temperatures are mild.
Provence – Alpes – Côte d’Azur Tourist Attractions: Marseille, the Alps, French Riviera (Nice, St Tropez, Cannes, Antibes), Aix en Provence, Arles, Les Calanques de Marseille-Cassis, Avignon and many more!
The land, the sea, and the sky. . . let’s go back to basics in Occitanie. Lesser known than its fancy neighbor, Occitanie in southern France, is an awesome region nestled between the Pyrénées and the Mediterranean Sea.
Less frenetic than Provence and French Riviera but definitely more affordable, Occitanie is a land of sunny stone villages, vertigo citadels, great hikes in the mountains, and fascinating history. A land where its inhabitants like to take their time and enjoy the small pleasures of this life.
Occitanie in the south of France does not lack interesting sights like the cities of Roussillon, Toulouse, or Albi, the birthplace of Toulouse Lautrec. History buffs will head to Rocamadour or Carcassonne, the gate to the fascinating Cathar Country.
Occitanie Tourist Attractions: Carcassonne and the Cathar Country, Albi, Toulouse, the Pyrénées, Perpignan, Roussillon, Rocamadour, Nêmes the Roman city, the valleys of the Cévennes, Canal de Midi
Centre-Val de Loire
The region of Centre-Val-de-Loire, in central France, gets its name from the Loire River, the longest river in France. Irrigated by the Loire and its many tributaries, the valley of Loire produces excellent wines perfectly complemented with savorous terroirs. Beloved by Kings, Queens, and artists, Centre-Val-de-Loire is also the cradle of the Renaissance in France and world-famous thanks to its amazing Châteaux de la Loire and their remarkable gardens that line the river. Les Châteaux de La Loire are today one of the most popular tourist attractions in France.
Centre-Val-de-Loire is also popular with bike amateurs: it sees more than 1 million bikers per year!. Indeed, La Loire à Vélo (the Loire by bike) is perhaps the best way to explore this beautiful region.
Centre-Val-de-Loire Tourist Attractions: Châteaux de la Loire, Loire by bike, Chartres and Bourges Cathedrals, Loire Valley vineyards, the historical cities of Tours and Anjou.
Grand Est, in eastern France, regroups the former regions of Alsace, Champagne-Ardennes, and Lorraine. Bordering Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland, Grand Est is a place with many top French tourist attractions, a land of memory and theater of some of the most important battles of the WW1.
Alsace is a land between the Germanic and Latin worlds, a mosaic of hills, mountains, and plains, dotted with castles, vineyards, and picturesque villages. Champagne, instead, is best known for its bubbles and historical cities like Reims or Troyes.
In Grand Est, one is never far from the forest: the Vosges and the Regional Parks of Ardennes and Lorraine.
Grand Est Tourist Attractions: Alsace and Champagne vineyards, Reims Cathedral, Verdun and WW1’s historical sites, Strasbourg, Troyes, the Alsatian villages (Colmar, Riquewihr…), Nancy, the Vosges, and the Ardennes.
It’s impossible not to be happy in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. This central region of France offers a wide range of different destinations to satisfy every traveler.
Auvergne is the land of volcanoes and hot spas but also the land of snowy peaks such as Mont Blanc, the roof of Europe, in the French Alps.
Auvergne is home of picturesque stone villages lost in time but also the region of vibrant cities like Lyon.
Protected natural reserves, almost a hundred volcanoes and more than 20.000 kilometers of waterways, walking trails, Romanesque churches . . . all this and more is waiting for you in Auvergne-Rhône Alpes. What are you waiting to explore this amazing region?
Auvergne-Rhône Alpes Tourist Attractions: Lyon, the French Alps and Mont Blanc, the Auvergne Volcanoes, famous ski resorts (Chamonix, Courchevel, Mérivel, Val d’Isère . .), Annecy and its lake, the spa town of Vichy, Clermont Ferrand, the Puy-en-Velay (a major pilgrimage site), Bourges’ beautiful cathedral and its cheese!
This new region of France regroups former Bourgogne and Franche-Comté French regions. Bourgogne-Franche Comté is the land of world-famous wines, picturesque small towns, and snails.
Former Bourgogne region is famous for its Romanesque heritage, some of the best vineyards of France. good gastronomy, beautiful Rennaissance and Medieval castles, and river tourism. Actually, Bourgogne has the largest network of inland waterways in France.
Franche-Comté, instead, is well known for its diverse landscapes and large open spaces thanks to the wealth of the Vosges Massif, Jura mountains and its many lakes and forests.
Bourgogne-Franche-Comté is definitely an excellent combination of heritage – gastronomy, and nature at its best.
Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Tourist Attractions: Natural Park of Ballons des Vosges, the Jura, small villages of Burgundy Wine Region, Bourgogne wine routes, the Royal Salt Works at Arc-et-Senans, Le Corbusier’s famous Ronchamp Chapel, Cluny Abbey, Vézelay, Dijon, Beaune.
We must admit that we have a crush on Bretagne, this region is so varied and beautiful!
The westernmost region of France is a region of tradition, character, Celtic roots, and legends. It is a land of wild and amazing landscapes, from rocky coastlines and cliffs to moorland and medieval towns.
But of course, there is much more! Brittany is also a land of sailors, lonely lighthouses, oysters, amazing coastal walks, the megaliths of Locmariaquer and the aligned Celtic dolmens and burial mounds of Carnac. Britany is magic, is culture, crêpes & cider, traditional festivals and, most of all, true nature.
Bretagne Tourist Attractions: Rennes, Saint Maló, the Islands, GR34 (coastal multi-day hike), Quimper is Brittany’s cultural capital, Carnac, Dinan, Gulf of Morbihan, Emerald Coast, and Pink Granite Coast.
Pays de la Loire
Located in western France, Pays de la Loire is a region of châteaux and vineyards, with Nantes as its capital.
Pays de la Loire is lesser known than the neighbor region Centre-Val de Loire and perhaps it hosts lesser French tourist attractions but this does not mean that it is not an interesting region to be explored. Crossed from east to west by the Loire River to the Atlantic Ocean, Pays de La Loire showcases a stunning coastline, charming towns and villages, varied natural landscapes, and cultural cities.
Nantes, the Dukes of Brittany’s historical capital, is packed with interesting things to see and do followed by the historic cities of Angers and Le Mans. The latest is best known for its legendary racetrack and its prestigious 24-hour race.
History buffs will love to visit Fontevraud Abbey, a necropolis for a line of monarchs starting with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and Richard the Lionheart while children will have a blast at Puy du Fou, one of the country’s most-visited theme parks, with medieval and fantasy-style shows.
Pays de La Loire Tourist Attractions: the delightful landscapes of the Atlantic Coast, its vineyards, 24 hours of Le Mans, Angers, Nantes & Les Machines de l’Ile, Puy du Fou, Fontevraud Abbey.
It’s almost impossible to get bored in Nouvelle Aquitaine. Located in western France this is the region of mountains and forests, prehistoric caves, and some of the most beautiful castles in France. Its 720 kilometers of coasts are a paradise for surfers while people looking for a quiet vacation can enjoy no less than 30 spa towns, including Dax, France’s top spa town.
Nouvelle Aquitaine is also a delight for foodies, with excellent Bordeaux wines and around twenty Michelin starred restaurants.
Sun, history, dynamism, and gastronomy . . . everything is possible in Nouvelle Aquitaine!
Nouvelle Aquitaine Tourist Attractions: Bordeaux and its Cité du Vin, Arcachon and Dune de Pilat, the Landes Forest, the Pyrénées, Lascaux prehistoric cave, Dordogne and Périgord, the Basque Country, La Rochelle.
Corse (Corsica Island)
Last but not least, there is the region of Corsica Island, on the Mediterranean Sea. From all the French islands, Corsica Island is the only one in Europe.
Lying 200 kilometers from the French Riviera, Napoleon Bonaparte’s homeland is like a mini-continent, with hilltop villages and hiking trails, beaches and idyllic turquoise waters.
Corsica is far away, we know, but don’t hesitate to discover the extraordinary landscapes of this beautiful island. Corsica is best explored by car, and it is very easy to rent a car in Europe.
Corsica Tourist Attractions: Calanques de Piana, Calvi citadel, its beaches, Porto Vecchio, Maison Bonaparte, Bonifacio, water sports.
Have you visited the different Regions of France? What is your favorite one?
Pin it now & read it later