France’s gastronomic capital is Lyon, a city with over two thousand restaurants and a passion for good food. There’s plenty here for history fans, too. Head to the Old Town to admire the city’s two Roman amphitheatres, Neoclassical opera house and the various beautiful Medieval and Renaissance buildings that line the centuries-old streets. Museum buffs will love the eclectic collections on offer – choose from silk weaving, African objects, books and puppets, among others.
The sun-soaked houses in Arles were favourites of artist Vincent Van Gogh, who painted over 200 works here, but did you know the city’s history extends all the way back to ancient Rome? Arles' still-functional amphitheatre is now used for music concerts, plays and the occasional bullfight.
Thanks to the well-known song ‘Sur Le Pont D’Avignon’, this Provence town rings a bell for many. The ruins of the bridge (‘pont’) in question date back to the Middle Ages and make for a beautiful piece of French architecture. Elsewhere in Avignon is Le Palais des Papes, dating from the foruteenth century when Pope Clement V left Rome and made Avignon the seat of papal power for much of the next seven decades. The resulting ecclesiastical architecture is world-famous, with medieval stone ramparts, huge antechambers, courtyards and palace rooms all UNESCO-protected and popular with visitors.
Tournon is a lovely little village on the Rhone’s riverbanks. Vineyards climb the hills behind an impressive sixteenth century castle placed on a large rock, while a visit to Eden Parc provides gorgeous views of the town from above with the river beyond.
The small city of Macon is in the heart of Burgundy’s wine region, with pastel coloured buildings and a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Of particular interest are the octagonal towers of Macon’s Old Cathedral of St Vincent, and a few interestingly structured houses like the fifteenth-century Maison de Bois.