France in Pictures: 20 Beautiful Places to Photograph
France delights photographers with an endless source of inspiration, from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to majestic castles in the Loire Valley and dreamy seaside scenes of the French Riviera. Splendid nature sites such as the French Alps rival the beauty of the country's glorious cathedrals and elegant cities, while charming pastoral villages pose for picture-perfect images.
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1. Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is so monumental that it's difficult to capture by camera. One solution is to photograph from a distance. Across the Seine River, the Jardins du Trocadéro provides a perfect vantage point, with its spacious esplanade and ornamental pools serving as a lovely foreground. From this angle at sunrise, the golden light creates an enchanting background for the Iron Lady.
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2. Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel creates a magical impression, especially at high tide when the island appears to rise from the sea, soaring towards the heavens. Pilgrims have marveled at the soul-inspiring sight of this Gothic monastery since the 11th century.
3. Versailles Gardens
In the 17th century, renowned landscape designer André Le Nôtre created the gardens of the Château de Versailles in his trademark style of formality and restraint. Immaculately trimmed shrubbery, tidy rows of flower beds, ornamental pools, fountains, and statues make the gardens seem more like artwork than nature.
4. Château de Chenonceau
The Château de Chenonceau stands out from the hundreds of fairy-tale castles in the Loire Valley, because of its distinctive architecture and refined feminine style. A gallery of the castle extends across the River Cher, built on an arched bridge, which allows for serene images of the building reflected in the water.
The small fishing village of Saint-Tropez became a glamorous seaside resort in the 1950s. Yet the town has retained its historic Provençal character, seen in the pastel-painted houses and tree-shaded squares. Opportunities for stunning photos abound at the yacht-filled harbor, within La Ponche (the original village) and at dazzling beaches.
6. Amiens Cathedral
The 13th-century Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Amiens is the largest Gothic cathedral in France. Besides the remarkable proportions, the Cathedral of Amiens is renowned for its lavishly embellished facade featuring hundreds of sculpted religious figures.
7. Mont Blanc in the French Alps
The sight of Mont Blanc has a breathtaking effect. At an altitude of 4,810 meters, the peak of this legendary mountain in the French Alps is covered with snow year-round. Intermediate-level trails on the Tour du Mont Blanc allow hikers to roam through magnificent landscapes and take advantage of amazing photo-ops along the way. This system of trails offers some of the best hiking in France.
8. Château de Chantilly
Surrounded by lush parkland, the Château de Chantilly is a sumptuous castle that blends medieval and Renaissance architectural elements. The estate's formal gardens, ponds, canal, and woodlands offer many possibilities for capturing romantic images.
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9. Riquewihr in the Alsace Region
Vine-covered rolling hills envelope this quaint village in the Alsace plain. With half-timbered houses clustered around a high-steepled church, Riquewihr has the appearance of a storybook hamlet. Geranium-bedecked balconies and fountain-adorned public squares add to the charm.
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10. Pont du Gard
The UNESCO-listed Pont du Gard in Provence reveals the legacy of Roman civilization in the region. A marvel of ancient engineering, this graceful arched aqueduct supplied water (over 2,000 years ago) to the nearby town of Nîmes, which is also full of classical-era monuments.
Honfleur has long seduced artists with its picturesque old fishing harbor and typical Norman-style waterfront houses. Claude Monet, Eugène Boudin, and other Impressionist painters cherished the scenery of Honfleur, depicting the port and seascape in beautiful paintings.
12. Saint-Paul de Vence
Saint-Paul de Vence, a popular day trip from Nice, exemplifies a village perché, medieval hilltop village. Ramparts enclose a captivating maze of winding cobblestone streets, pedestrian staircases, and compactly built stone houses. Photographers can snap shots from a distance, as well as close-up within the narrow alleyways and hidden squares of the town.
13. Place Stanislas in Nancy
The UNESCO-listed Place Stanislas in Nancy is one of Europe's most impressive public squares, thanks to its unified collection of 18th-century classical French palaces. At corners of the square, Rococo gilded ironwork gates beckon photographers to capture close-ups of the ornate details.
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14. Parc National des Calanques
Along the Mediterranean coast between the port town of Marseilles and the fishing village of Cassis, the Calanques National Park features striking white limestone coves filled with calm seawater. Sunlight renders the water a mesmerizing turquoise hue.
One of the most beautiful villages of France (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France), this walled medieval town in Burgundy is a delightful warren of winding cobblestone streets and pastel-shuttered houses. The town centers around a 13th-century Benedictine abbey (now a factory that produces anise-flavored candies).
Rocamadour is a breathtaking sight, with its medieval sanctuaries clinging to a sheer cliffside and aspiring towards heaven. In the 11th century, this Christian pilgrimage destination ranked third in importance after Jerusalem and Rome.
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17. Côte d'Emeraude in Brittany
A sublime stretch of coastline in the Brittany region, the Côte d'Emeraude extends south of Saint-Malo to the Cap Fréhel. The scenic route includes the stylish seaside resort of Dinard and the historic fishing village of Cancale.
18. Étretat on the Normandy Coast
Dramatic limestone cliffs plunge into the Atlantic Ocean at this spectacular spot on Normandy's Côte d'Albâtre. Monet, Courbet, and other Impressionist painters captured the natural beauty of Étretat in vivid brushstrokes.
The gushing fountains, colorful open-air markets, and bustling sidewalk cafés of Aix-en-Provence lend a lively quality to photographs. An especially photogenic spot is the outdoor market at the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, which brims with vibrant flowers, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
20. Île de Porquerolles
A short ferry ride away from Toulon, this idyllic island offers the optimal elements for snapping gorgeous photos: bright sunshine, luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation, and pristine white-sand beaches with crystal-clear aquamarine waters.