Five French Stunners

From the glamour of the Côte d’Azur to the historic ports of the Atlantic Coast; a France cruise holiday offers a diverse selection of sights to explore, delightful food and drink to savour and beaches to kick back and relax on. What more could you ask for?

Cannes

The stylish city of Cannes is a haunt for the rich and famous with its stylish boutiques, trendy art galleries and marinas teeming with mega-yachts.

The stunning, palm tree-lined La Croisette promenade curves around the sparkling bay and there’s a host of bars and restaurants in which to settle down for some people-watching and refreshment. Or, in true Cannes style, retreat to the shade of a parasol on the beach.

The old quarter of Le Suquet is also worth a visit, with its labyrinthine streets, steep stairways and myriad bars, restaurants and shops.

There are several other resorts nearby where you can also soak up that Riviera feeling. Explore Nice, the queen of the Côte d’Azur, with its fabulous markets and restaurants; the fascinating walled town of Antibes with its effortlessly relaxed feel; and glamorous Monte Carlo with its grand palace, casino and incredible Jardin Exotique.

Cherbourg

Cherbourg is well-known for its seafaring heritage, at the Cité de la Mer (City of the Sea) museum you can step inside a hulking nuclear submarine and marvel at 17 incredible aquariums, including one that’s more than 10m deep. In the buzzing Old Town, the fish market and surrounding seafood restaurants offer a different way to enjoy the ocean’s bounty. Foodies will be further enticed by the city’s cheeses, cider and calvados, a brandy made from apples or pears.

As the gateway to the rugged Normandy region, Cherbourg also makes an ideal base for day trips, showcasing a very different side of France from its more famous southern ports. Join the Mont Saint Michel shore experience to see the grand Gothic abbey crowning a fabulous fairytale island, weave your way to Bayeaux to experience the world’s most famous tapestry, or visit the beaches of the British and American D-Day landings.  

 

La Rochelle

With glistening white buildings lining the old harbour, the city of La Rochelle is known as ‘La Ville Blanche’. Further in, cobblestoned streets and medieval arcades make for a picturesque wander under the gaze of watchful gargoyles – yet the city is far from stuck in the past.

Among its most popular attractions is a state-of-the-art aquarium, boasting 600 different species. Hungry? La Rochelle’s restaurant scene is at the cutting edge, with seafood specialities including lobster and oysters served in a picturesque waterfront setting.

A dramatic 3km-long bridge connects the city to the romantic Île de Ré, but despite the island’s connection to the mainland, it still retains its off-the-beaten-path feel with rural lanes leading to long sandy beaches.

The wider area is also packed with rustic charm, not least in the town of Cognac. Head to the Hennessey Cognac cellars to uncover the art of making (and enjoying) an expertly blended brandy.

Marseille

France’s oldest and second-largest city, vibrant Marseille is home to cutting-edge museums, handsome boulevards and stylish restaurants aplenty.

Explore the charming Old Port – given a striking modern twist by Norman Foster’s fabulous L’Ombrière mirrored shade – then enjoy a promenade along Prado seaside park or visit a beachfront café. You’re in the home of bouillabaisse – the tasty Provençal fish and seafood stew – so now is the time to enjoy an aromatic bowlful.

Travelling along the coastline, you can spot the iconic Château d’If in the harbour, a former island prison made famous in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, meanwhile, is one of the city’s most famous landmarks, topped with an 11m-tall virgin-and-child statue covered in gold leaf. Set 150m above the city, it’s worth the seriously steep climb for the jaw-dropping views alone – though you can also ascend on a charming little road train.

Ajaccio

The capital of Corsica, Ajaccio is known as the Scented Isle, owing to the sweet fragrance emanating from the mountainside maquis – the wild shrubbery that blankets more than half of the island. This is the birthplace of Napoleon, and you’ll find plenty of tributes to their local hero, including the church where he was baptised.

The delightful Old Town is a cluster of pretty streets radiating from Place Foch, which also opens out to the lively seafront. Picturesque pastel-coloured houses line the narrow lanes and there’s an array of cafés in which to relax and soak up Ajaccio’s laid-back atmosphere.

The tree-lined promenade along the harbour leads to several golden beaches, and the main farmers’ market boasts colourful stalls piled high with fruit (including a mind-boggling variety of olives), cheeses, cured meat and incredible honey from Corsica’s maquis.

Head inland on the Mountains and Maquis shore experience to witness the unspoilt natural vistas for which Corsica is famed, or explore the island from the water – sailing on a luxury catamaran or kayaking along the coastline.