France is famed for its beautiful coastal destinations, from glamourous beaches in France like Nice and Cannes to historic ports, such as Trouville-Sur-Mer; it has it all. With miles of dramatic coastline, France’s shores offer countless options to explore some of the best tourist spots in Europe by foot, cycle, car or boat.
Whether you are looking for quiet coves and blue seas, cultural resorts or characterful ports, you’ll find them all in France.
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Tantalising Le Touquet
Along Northern France’s Opal coast, just south of Boulogne, is one of the most beautiful beaches in France. The bustling seaside resort of Le Touquet Paris Plage is referred to as “Jardin de la Manche” (Garden of the English Channel), and for a good reason.
The golden sandy beach is enormous and continues further than the eye can see, meaning you always have plenty of space to yourself. Grassy dunes with walking routes line the beach should you fancy stretching your legs to explore the shoreline, and ancient forests are great to explore on foot or by bike.
Rue Saint-Jean is the central place to find shops, including fashion boutiques, trendy artisan stores, tempting bakeries, and mouth-watering chocolatiers.
While much of Le Touquet was re-built in the ’60s, you can still see several unique preserved villas from the 1920s when Le Touquet was the place to be seen by the Paris jet set.
Outdoor Activities in Le Touquet
Golfers will be impressed with Le Touquet golf courses, while wind-surfers and kite-surfers will enjoy taking to the waters. Horse-riders will find several riding schools in the area, and children and adults alike will love Le Petit Train that will take you around town.
Le Touquet also boasts the Thalassa beachside seawater spa, attracting guests from all over France.
Where to Eat in Le Touquet
Le Touquet is so much more than just a beach destination. Its town has restaurants and bars galore, serving regional dishes alongside international dishes.
For a taste of Northern France head to Le Matisse, a brasserie-style restaurant or Perard, known to be Macron’s go-to when in town. And for something sweet enjoy a crepe from Aux-Mignardises or Kokoa, Le Touquet’s best artisan ice-cream store.
Le Touquet Accommodation
Luxury Accommodation in Le Touquet- Hotel Barriere Le Westminster
Comfort Accommodation in Le Touquet – Le Manoir Hotel
Budget Accommodation in Le Touquet – Hotel Gaspard
How to Get to Le Touquet
Take a car ferry or the Eurotunnel from Dover to Calais and then drive for one hour to reach Le Touquet.
A long-time favourite of artists, Étretat is a small fishing village on the North coast of Normandy and is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Northern France.
Famous for its striking white limestone rock formations, the Porte d’Aval arch and L’Aiguille rise 70m above the sea. This breathtaking natural beauty spot is part of the Alabaster coastline and appears in over fifty paintings by Claude Monet.
At low tide, it is possible to explore the caves below the Étretat cliffs or walk along the three-mile shoreline. The 7 km Chemin des Douaniers trail gives walkers stunning coastal views.
Étretat‘s must-visit attraction is the futuristic Jardins d’Étretat, where plants have been shaped into fantastic forms. There are seven garden areas to explore, including the Jardin Zen maze, shaped to replicate the crashing waves below.
Outdoor Activities in Étretat
Adventure seekers may enjoy rail biking, which uses redundant train tracks to explore the natural landscape. The 5km route from Les Loges to Étretat is popular with visitors. Visitors who fancy a round of golf can do so at the Étretat Golf Club, located on the edge of the cliffs.
Where to Eat in Étretat
Étretat is a destination for food lovers. The old market is a hub of stalls, cafes and restaurants to try Normandy delicacies such as apple cider, moules-frites and goat’s cheese.
La Marie Antoinette is the town’s best seafood restaurant to grab a takeaway platter to enjoy on the beach. L’Huitriere serves a modern French menu and is located in a hexagonal building with views of the sea.
For a sweet treat, enjoy a flambe crepe from Restaurant Lann-Bihoué washed down with their homemade cider.
Luxury Accommodation in Étretat – Hotel Dormy House
Comfort Accommodation in Étretat – Hotel d’Angleterre Etretat
Budget Accommodation in Étretat – Au Calme dans Étretat
How to Get to Étretat
Eurotunnel from Folkstone to Calais in 35 minutes, then go by train, bus, or car. Étretat from Paris is a two-hour drive, and this pretty seaside town is a favourite weekend escape for Parisians.
Deauville on Côte Fleurie in lower Normandy has been one of the most popular beaches in France since the 1860s. The seaside resort was the place to be seen for wealthy Parisians and the international jet-set thanks to the Paris-Deauville railway, the casino and horse racing.
Coco Chanel even opened up her first fashion store here in 1913, and the American film festival has been held in Deauville since 1975.
Nowadays, visitors flock here to laze on the wide sandy Deauville beach, walk its famous 1,800-meter-long boardwalk Promenade des Planches, play golf on a world-class course, wander around the marina, and swim in the Olympic-size seawater swimming pool. And those who enjoy trying out their luck at the tables will enjoy an evening at Casino Barrière Deauville.
One of the must-see attractions in Deauville is Les Franciscaines, built as a convent in 1876 and five minutes from the beach. It now houses a museum focusing on painting and photography. And one of the unique things to do in Deauville is to tour the town by vintage sidecar motorcycle with Retro Tour Normandy.
Outdoor Activities in Deauville
Horses play a large part in Deauville’s history, and there are plenty of riding schools for beginners and experts. Polo matches are also regularly played in Deauville. And a unique thing to do in Deauville is to race along the beach in a two-wheeled horse-drawn cart – you may see one if you are lucky!
Where to Eat in Deauville
For a market-style menu at Le Jardin or Le Drakkar, a traditional brasserie on Deauville’s main street, is perfect for people watching.
Luxury Accommodation in Deauville – Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy
Comfort Accommodation in Deauville – Les Manoirs des Portes de Deauville
Budget Accommodation in Deauville – Yacht Deauville (stay on the water!)
Deauville’s neighbour, the once sleepy fishing village of Trouville-Sur-Mer, is also known as the Queen of Beaches. Take the Bac de Trouville-Deauville, a small boat doing the five-minute river crossing between the two towns since 1889. It sails between 9 am and 7 pm each day.
Wander through the cobbled maze of the old town, stroll along the boardwalk to see the 19th-century beach huts and then visit the port to see the daily catch. History lovers will enjoy delving into the history of sea-bathing at the Museum of Villa Montebello.
Outdoor Activities in Trouville-Sur-Mer
Hop aboard the Trouville tourist train and travel on a 40-minute journey around town, listening to information about Trouville’s history.
Take to the water on a boat trip along the Calvados coast, between Houlgate and Honfleur, or for qualified divers, explore the deeper depths with Trouville Diving Club. Or hire a bike from Les Trouvillaises and discover the area on two wheels.
Where to Eat in Trouville-Sur-Mer
For traditional French cuisine in old-world surroundings, book a table at Les Mouettes. For casual dining, Les Quatre Chats is a quirky bistro serving great brunch and burgers and Les Étiquettes serves tapas. And don’t miss out on enjoying a Normandy crepe while in France; there are numerous crêperies in town!
Luxury Accommodation in Trouville-Sur-Mer – Hotel Mercure Trouville Sur Mer
Comfort Accommodation in Trouville-Sur-Mer – Hotel Les 2 Villas
Budget Accommodation in Trouville-Sur-Mer – Hotel Le Trouville
How to get to Deauville and Trouville-Sur-Mer
Fly into Paris and take a direct train to Deauville in four hours. Or take the car via the Eurotunnel to Calais, and from there it is a three-hour drive.
Saint-Pabu is a beautiful coastal town in Brittany, which suits visitors looking for a peaceful place to connect to nature. The town is small and a perfect French seaside location to escape the tourist crowd. Life in Saint Pabu remains simple and very similar to what it was like fifty years ago.
Saint-Pabu attracts holidaymakers due to its white sandy beach and shallow waters, similar to ones you would find in the Indian Ocean. It’s hard to believe from photographs that this is one of the beaches in France, but it is! So if you’re unsure if Northern France should be your next destination for a beach holiday, this seascape will surely convince you to go.
Outdoor Activities in Saint-Pabu
Saint Pabu’s incredible French coastline lends itself well to all outdoor pursuits. Adventure seekers will love Saint-Pabu for kite surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding or exploring walking trails along the dunes.
Where to Eat in Saint-Pabu
The fishing village of Saint Pabu has some lovely rustic restaurants to sample foods from the Brittany region. Ruzven restaurant and pub is a good choice for an authentic French restaurant. It has fantastic beach views and is a perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Comfort Accommodation near to Saint-Pabu – Les Chambres d’hôtes de Kérasquer
Budget Accommodation in Saint-Pabu – La Clé des Champs
Camping in Saint-Pabu – Camping Saint-Pabu Plage
How to get to Saint Pabu
Fly from Heathrow or Stansted to Brest, and from there, it’s a 30-minute drive to Saint-Pabu. If you are planning a road trip through the beautiful towns and villages of Northern France, you can catch the Eurotunnel to Calais and drive along the coast to Saint-Pabu.
Biarritz is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the South of France with its elegant promenade and impressive architecture. In the 1960s, it was a magnet for Hollywood stars such as Brigit Bardot and is also the birthplace of European surfing.
Napolean also frequented Biarritz as a coastal escape from Paris and built the Hotel du Palais as a summer palace for his Spanish Empress Eugenie in 1855.
As well as surfing, there are plenty of things to do in Biarritz. The Rock of the Blessed Virgin, the Grande Plage and its lighthouse, which visitors can climb for stunning views of the Bay of Biscay and the Biarritz Aquarium, are just a few.
Outdoor Activities in Biarritz
There are 16 golf courses for golfers, including Golf de Biarritz, which ranks among the best in Europe. Visitors can book Biarritz surfing lessons at Jo Moraiz Surf School, the first surf school to have opened in France.
And walkers can join a tour of the charming port Saint-Jean-de-Luz, 17km south of Biarritz. Saint John the Baptist Church was the site of Louis XIV’s wedding!
Where to Eat in Biarritz
Biarritz is one of the coastal destinations in France that will appeal to food lovers. Head to the old fishermen’s port, where some of the 150-year-old crampottes – huts built into the rock – have been converted to restaurants.
You can sample Basque tapas, called pintxos, with charcuterie, cheeses and truffles at the city’s market, Les Halles de Biarritz.
Luxury Accommodation in Biarritz – Hôtel du Palais Biarritz (Napolean Bonaparte’s summer palace)
Comfort Accommodation in Biarritz – Hôtel Le Windsor Biarritz
Budget Accommodation in Biarritz – Best Western Plus Hôtel Littéraire Jules Verne
How to get to Biarritz
Fly direct to Biarritz from Gatwick and Bristol with Easyjet and Stansted and Dublin with Ryanair. Or take the train from Paris.
With a spectacular coastline, a saltwater lagoon and canals that run through the city, it isn’t hard to understand why Sète is known as the Venice of the Languedoc. As a principal Meditteranean fishing port, you will see an authentic working port town heaped with rustic charm.
Wherever you go in Sète, you will be near water, and its eight miles of golden sandy beach and crystal-clear water is a magnet for tourists looking to spend time in one of France’s most beautiful coastal areas.
Must-see attractions in Sète include walking up the 225 steps to the top of the 183m high Mont St-Clair for 360-degree views of the surrounding coastline. The Chapel Notre Dame de la Salette is at the summit, where local fishermen prayed for their safety at sea.
Musée Paul Valéry showcases over 4,000 works and is a fabulous place to visit if you enjoy the arts. The museum is housed in a contemporary building with beautiful gardens for visitors to stroll around.
Outdoor Activities in Sète
Lose yourself in the old town port area of La Pointe Courte, a small area of the city that backs onto the Étang de Thau Lagoon. This is an authentic fisherman’s area, and you will feel like you have stepped back in time.
And make sure to hop aboard a boat to cruise along the canals in Sète that gives it the nickname ‘Little Venice‘. Maybe not exactly as beautiful as spending time in Venice, Italy but still one of the lovely things to do in Sète.
Walkers will enjoy trails leading through the 27-hectare pine forest, The Pierres Blanches and the two-mile Corniche Trail, which starts in town and hugs the coastline.
Where to Eat in Sète
Seafood is the main attraction in Sète’s restaurants, and oysters appear on most menus. Try Les Demoiselles Dupuy Oyster Farmhouse, located on the edge of the Etang de Thau Lagoon or Bar de la Marine serving freshly caught seafood in a port-side setting. For light bites, tapas and beer, try Café Le Social.
Luxury Accommodation in Sète – Les Clés Secrètes
Comfort Accommodation in Sète – Cit’Hotel Imperial
Budget Accommodation in Sète – Le Pouffre
How to get to Sète
Fly to Beziers with Ryanair from Edinburgh, London and Manchester, or Montpellier with Easyjet from London.
Picture-Perfect La Rochelle
La Rochelle is nestled on the Bay of Biscay on France’s southwest Atlantic coast. Steeped in maritime and architectural history, La Rochelle is linked by a road bridge to the chic town of Ile de Ré, a popular haunt of fashionable Parisians.
The area is famous for its 100km of sandy beaches, dunes, pine forests and marinas. La Rochelle’s old town and the harbour is a labyrinth of centuries-old houses, narrow passages, and arches and is a lovely place to stroll around.
Must-see attractions in La Rochelle include a visit to La Rochelle Aquarium, one of the biggest in Europe, the Museum of Automatons, with over 300 moving characters and the three historic towers of Rochelle’s port, which have served as defence towers, prisons and even royal houses!
Outdoor Activities in La Rochelle
The peninsula of Ile de Ré is perfect for all types of watersports, while its coastal tracks make up some of the 230km of cycle paths that criss-cross this south-western area of France. Cycling holidays are very popular in La Rochelle and Ile de Ré and attract cyclists from around the world.
Take to the water on a boat trip and sail around Fort Boyard, the site of the hit 90s TV show!
Where to Eat in La Rochelle
Eating out in La Rochelle is an event in itself, with many superb restaurants to choose from, including Le Panier de Crabe seafood restaurant and Le Comptoir Saoufé oyster restaurant. And no visit to La Rochelle is complete without a stop at Cafe de la Paix, the 18th-century art deco cafe classified as a historical monument in France.
La Rochelle Accommodation
Luxury Accommodation in La Rochelle – Hôtel La Monnaie Art & Spa
Comfort Accommodation in La Rochelle – Novotel La Rochelle Centre
Budget Accommodation in La Rochelle – Cit’Hotel le Bord’O Vieux Port
How to get to La Rochelle
Ryanair flights to La Rochelle fly from Stanstead and Easyjet from Gatwick and Bristol.
Naughty But Nice
Nice has one of the most beautiful beaches in France and is the perfect example of what makes the South of France such a bucket list destination. The town makes the perfect place for a break on the French Riviera and a great base for visiting other coastal towns in the region.
Nice is a taste of olde-world glamour that meets modern-day expectations. Its beautiful hotels, restaurants and historic old town are a throwback to an age when life in Nice revolved around royalty and the rich and famous. Luckily this charming seaside town is now accessible to all.
Must-see attractions in Nice include Castle Hill with its impressive seascape views. Port of Nice with its mega-yachts, sandy beach and good diving spots. Matisse Art Museum is packed with the artist’s work and Promenade de Anglais, the promenade for which Nice is famous.
Outdoor Activities in Nice
Beach life on the Côte D’Azur is a favourite pastime for locals and visitors. Head to the famous Beau Rivage, a private beach with two very different personalities. A zen outdoor restaurant opens onto beach beds lined up on the sand while and the lively lounge area has a DJ playing into the night.
During the day, explore the beautiful flower and produce markets in Cours Saleya and the main historic square in Nice called Place Masséna. In the evening, wander around the Old Town and soak up the atmosphere as you stroll along narrow cobbled streets.
Where to Eat in Nice
Nice can be an expensive place to eat and so it’s wise to do some research on restaurants in Nice. Z Restaurant is one of the best tapas bars in Nice, while Restaurant JAN is perfect for fine dining. For a sweet treat, head to Angea for one of their giant macaroons filled with ice cream.
Luxury Accommodation in Nice – Hotel Negresco
Comfort Accommodation in Nice – Hotel Victor Hugo
Budget Accommodation in Nice – Villa Berlioz
How to get to Nice
Fly into Nice from the UK with Easyjet and other budget carriers. Take the car over on the Eurotunnel and drive through France to reach the Riviera.
Flights with Easyjet can be booked through my website, as can EasyJet Holidays.
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