northern France

Top 6 Fascinating Places To Explore In Northern France

Updated: 29th October 2023

France, a land of breathtaking beauty and rich history, holds a treasure trove of travel experiences. While Paris often takes the spotlight, Northern France offers its own unique charm and must-visit places.

When it comes to vacationing in Europe, northern France is often overlooked in favor of the glamorous vacation places to the south – but this region has so much to offer to holidaymakers.

If you’re keen to dive into the history, culture and cuisine, here are some of the best cities in northern France to consider when exploring this captivating part of the country.

1. Paris

A trip to France wouldn’t be complete without visiting the city of love – Paris. There truly is something for everyone here, from the charming shopping streets to traditional French patisseries and a whole host of historical sights.

Its charming streets are adorned with historic architecture, fashionable boutiques and quaint cafes, inviting both wanderers and dreamers. Known for its world-class museums such as the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, it’s a hub of art and history as well.

The city’s palpable artistic ambiance in Montmartre’s studios and galleries, inspires artists and visitors alike. Some of the top attractions include Notre-Dame and a short drive to nearby Chateaux in Loire Valley from Paris.

the Sainte-Chapelle.

If you’re into art, head to the Louvre to see iconic pieces like the Mona Lisa in the flash. Then, take a stroll along the river Seinebefore and check out the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens.

Why Visit Paris: The City of Lights and Love

As you wander along its iconic streets, you’re stepping into a city that has been the epicenter of creativity, birthplace to literary masterpieces, artistic movements and cutting-edge fashion trends.

The Louvre, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Palace of Versailles stand as testaments to its deep-rooted history, allowing you to traverse the annals of time. Moreover, Paris isn’t just an intellectual and historical marvel, it’s a paradise for food lovers.

The city’s culinary scene is a blend of tradition and innovation, with its patisseries, boulangeries and bistros showcasing the epitome of French gastronomy. A stroll along the Seine River, under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, or through the art-adorned Montmartre encapsulates the scenic beauty that Paris graciously offers. 

2. Brittany

northern france

Brittany located in the northwest of France is renowned for its picture-perfect medieval towns, beautiful coastline and historic chateaux.

Both rich in history and natural splendor, it’s renowned for a distinct Celtic heritage in the city of Lorient that infuses its traditions, language and festivals.

There are many ways to see the highlights – but if you’re keen on an active adventure, then why not go on a bike tour in France?

Exploring on two wheels will allow you to see much more of this charming region. Make sure you include the best of Brittany in your itinerary, including the old town of Rennes, Vannes, Chateau de Fougeres and Fort la Latte.

Why Visit Brittany: A Cultural Voyage Through Time

Brittany beckons travelers with a promise of discovery, inviting them to wander through its centuries-old streets, breathe in the salty sea air and immerse themselves in a culture that has stood the test of time.

Whether you’re drawn to ancient legends, stunning coastlines, or the lively festivals that showcase traditional Breton music and dance, Brittany has something to offer to every explorer.

The blend of vibrant history, natural beauty and a distinctive identity make it a must-visit destination for those seeking an authentic and enriching experience.

3. Mont-Saint-Michel

Perched majestically on the north-western shores of France, Mont-Saint-Michel emerges as one of the best cities in Northern France, a captivating blend of medieval grandeur and architectural finesse.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, this ancient abbey town is an architectural marvel rising dramatically from the tides. Explore narrow cobbled streets, ancient ramparts, and Gothic spires that transport you back in time. Mont-Saint-Michel is a pilgrimage for history buffs and a wonder for all who wander.

Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey and Village:

  • Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey: The crown jewel of this mesmerizing island commune, Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey is a beacon of Gothic architecture. Delve into its awe-inspiring halls, intricate chapels,, panoramic viewpoints and witness a living testament to centuries of history.
  • Village of Mont-Saint-Michel: Beyond the abbey, the village exudes a medieval charm with its cobblestone streets, quaint houses and charming shops. Explore the nooks and crannies, savor the authentic flavors of Normandy and soak in the enchanting ambiance.

Why Visit Stunning Abbey on a Tidal Island

Located approximately 0.6 miles off the Normandy Coast and perched on a tidal island of Mont-Saint-Michel, this abbey is a sight to behold, boasting stunning views of the surrounding bay.

Spanning a mere 97 hectares and housing a population of 33, this historic site has held immense religious significance since the 8th century.

Bishop Aubert, captivated by divine inspiration, constructed a sanctuary dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel on this rocky outcrop, birthing the tale of Mont Saint-Michel’s spiritual importance.

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it offers a glimpse into medieval marvels stands as a testament to architectural grandeur and natural wonder. 

4. Normandy

best cities in northern france

Situated to the west of Paris, Normandy is a picturesque region that offers beautiful scenery at every turn. Stroll along the sandy beaches, dip your toes in the English Channel and marvel at the huge while-chalk cliffs that line the coast.

History buffs should head to Omaha Beach – the site of the D-Day landing and the Normandy American Cemetery. This is where American troops who died during WW11 are honored.

Learn about why the Normandy beaches became the strategic choice for this audacious operation and how the tide of history changed on those fateful shores.

Discover the profound importance of visiting these hallowed grounds, offering an opportunity to pay homage, understand the sacrifices made and appreciate the unparalleled bravery of the soldiers who turned the course of history.

Why Visit Normandy D-Day Beaches

Uncover the echoes of history as you explore the significant World War II historical sites scattered across the region.

From the solemnity of war cemeteries to the relics of military infrastructure, Northern France preserves the memories of a defining era.

Pay homage to the fallen soldiers who sacrificed their all, their stories etched in the very grounds you tread. It’s a journey through time that leaves a lasting impression and imparts a profound understanding of the past.

5. Hauts-de-France

Hauts-de-France is the northern region of the country, bordering Belgium to the east. This region is teeming with historical resonance and diverse landscapes.

It bears witness to significant events in European history and exudes a rich cultural amalgamation. From bustling cities to serene countryside, Hauts-de-France offers a broad spectrum of experiences that unfold against the backdrop of its unique past and vibrant present.

Why Visit Hauts-de-France

The impressive La Cathedrale Saint-Pierre is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture with intricate carvings and beautiful stained-glass windows for history buffs.

For art aficionados, the birthplace of Impressionism in Giverny and the vibrant arts scene in Lille are a visual feast. The culinary delights of the region, including renowned dishes like Maroilles cheese and carbonnade flamande are a treat for the taste buds.

From the stunning landscapes of the Opal Coast to the architectural splendors in Amiens, Hauts-de-France promises an enriching journey through the heart of French culture.

6. Lille

north in france

Lille, a captivating city in northern France, embodies a blend of historical charm and modern vibrancy. It stands as a hub of art, diverse art scene and delectable culinary delights, ensuring a delightful experience for any traveler.

Situated in the Hauts-de-France region, Lille is strategically positioned at the crossroads of Europe. Its proximity to Belgium and its role as a gateway to other European cities make it a vital location in northern France. 

Local Events and Festivals: Lille embraces a rich calendar of events and festivals that add an extra layer of vivacity to the city’s ambiance.

The Braderie de Lille, one of Europe’s largest flea markets, stands as an iconic event drawing millions of visitors. This event mirrors the joviality and inclusiveness of Lille, where the streets turn into a sprawling market.

Other festivals, such as the Lille Fantastic Film Festival and Lille Piano(s) Festival, celebrate art, cinema and music, further enriching the cultural fabric of the city.

Why Visit Lille: Capital of French Flanders

The Grand Place in Lille stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and architectural prowess. With origins dating back to the 17th century, it has evolved to become the vibrant heart of Lille. 

Art enthusiasts can immerse themselves in a world of creativity and history within its captivating walls of the Palais des Beaux-Arts. From Old Masters to contemporary artists, this museum boasts an array of paintings, sculptures and ceramics

The Citadelle de Lille, an iconic fortress, has guarded the city for centuries. Built by the renowned military architect Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, it stands as a symbol of Lille’s strategic importance.

Lille is a paradise for food enthusiasts as well, boasting a culinary scene that’s both diverse and exquisite. The city is celebrated for its hearty northern French cuisine, featuring iconic dishes like Carbonade Flamande, which is tender beef stew.

Be sure to indulge in the local specialty, Moules-Frites (mussels and fries), a dish that embodies the essence of Lille’s culinary traditions. 

There are so many incredible places to visit and things to do in northern France – you’ll be spoilt for choice during your vacation. Which of these incredible destinations would you like to explore first?

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