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Best Places in France
Got-The-Travel-Bug's profile picture
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In May 2012, my boyfriend and I will be travelling with friends to France, using it as a starting point for our 2.5 month backpacking trip around Central Europe. I’ve been to Paris in the past but wondered what other cities/towns are great to check out. We are a group of 22 year olds who like museums but also great night life. I know us girls love shopping, however we won’t be able to much of that while backpacking. We haven’t decided the next best country to explore from France… rather belgium, switzerland or the top of italy so if you have any advice on that, and even and the best towns to stop in along the way to one of those countries that would be great!

Thank you.

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I am old, and not an expert on vibrant nightlife.
But these cities had history, really nice pedestrian areas, interesting architecture and lots of young people walking around after dark:

Toulouse Beautiful pink granite city, (La Ville Rose) tons of students walking around everywhere, green parks, lots of “Café Society” around the Place du Capitole (the heart of the city) as well as across the river.

Lille (up north, close to Belgium) Lots of energy, youthful vibe. Check out these funky statues we saw.

Strasbourg (on the eastern border, close to Germany) European Parliament is an interesting visit. Very green and walkable city.

Nantes (western France, on the Loire, a very arts-friendly place brimming over with students, history, beauty.) It was probably our favorite city during a 2009 trip, we were there in May, the city gardens were gorgeous and the wide open pedestrian areas. Don’t miss The Machines de l’Ile or Tremoult, the artist’s colony. There is also a beautiful garden just outside the train station.

Southwest France is beautiful and not so touristed. You could take a TGV out of Paris to Nantes, then work your way south. Do a search for Angoulême here, I’ve posted and put up stuff about it, it is quite a different sort of place, a funky combination of ancient and contemporary.
You could maybe do Nantes, La Rochelle, Angoulême, Bordeaux/St Emilion, Toulouse, Carcassonne, Montpelier, Aix-en-Provence to Nice, make your way northward to Italy. Just an idea.

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Cil’s advice is very good. Ultimately, though, you’ll have to choose cities according to a broad outline of you trip. For example, you’d mentioned possibly going to Italy, and one route might be via Dijon (and Beaune), Lyon, Avignon, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, then along the Med Coast into Italy. All of the places I’ve mentioned (and others) are worth a stop. The problem will be how much time you can spend, rather than whether there’s anything worth seeing, because I’ve failed to mention quite a few places that would be worth seeing along that route. Marseille is problematic. I started stopping off there when friends moved there, and liked certain areas. However, I can remember walking from Gare St Charles to Vieux Port during the day, and feeling distinctly uncomfortable (and I’m 6’2, 200 lbs).

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Hey there,

Quite a trip you got planned there! You seem to know that this is not everybody’s preferred way of travel, your defensive language makes that clear, I can see you have your asbestos suit firmly in place – good for you. Do it your way if that’s what turns you on.

About the travel to France question – definitely head straight west across Northern Italy and leave Innsbruck and Switzerland for later, just the way you have it on your list.

A couple of quick observations: One night in Bruges/Brugge suffices unless you treat Bruges as a base for a daytrip to, say, Gent or Antwerp or some other nearby gem, or maybe you’ll be pining for sea breezes by then and head to the nearby ocean front.

Happy traveling,

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I actually just came back from a trip to France and Spain a few weeks ago. France, particularly, the south of France is incredible. You should definitely visit Strasbourg, its a beautiful old town with a lot of rich history and wonderful historic and artistic sights. Avignon is a very vibrant city, and great for youth and nightlife. Marseille is another must see, both for museum and art lovers and for people who appreciate good scenery, there are beautiful cathedrals there, the old port (harbor) and beautiful gardens and cafes. Arles is listed in many books as a must-see because its the town of van gogh, but it was honestly nothing spectacular, just a cute little town. Montpellier is one of the more modern towns, a lot of 5th ave type shopping can be done there, and its definitely more “americanized”

Also if you are in the south of france, you should stop in Figueras and Barcelona for a few days, its only a couple of hours away and it is the land of museums and night life, and its great to walk in the footsteps of Gaudi and Dali. Hope this helps, and have a great trip!

I am leaving from Tel Aviv, Israel with $4000 for 29 days
Kraków, Prague, Munich, Strasbourg, Nîmes
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Sights
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Got-The-Travel-Bug wrote:
rather belgium, switzerland or the top of italy…

…so, ummm…you only want to explore mountain peaks in Italy? or did you mean northern Italy?

Anyways…great suggestions from everyone. to avoid any confusion…

lmsusiel wrote:
I actually just came back from a trip to France and Spain a few weeks ago. France, particularly, the south of France is incredible. You should definitely visit Strasbourg, its a beautiful old town ….

…Strasbourg is in northern France (northeastern corner of the country), and very German-influenced. lovely city, lots of people like it. But just to avoid confusion. Wink