Four of the Best Cities to Visit in France (if You’ve Done Paris)

Charmed by Paris's tree-lined allées and cobbled passages? These alternative French cities have all the allure of the City of Light and a good dose of Gallic heritage, making them prime spots for a long weekend en France.

From sun-drenched shores to foodie destinations, these are France's most attractive cities

1.

Nice

This sunny stretch of the Côte d'Azur has long attracted Europe's cultural jet setters. Loved by artists such as Matisse, Renoir and Chagall, Nice has a touch of old-world opulence cut through by neighbourhoods with rugged charm. Soak up the sparkling seaside before wandering among the tall-shuttered buildings of Vieux Nice, where you should settle down in a dimly lit restaurant to feast on seafood. Stop by Cours Saleya market, where producers from the Alpine foothills peddle fresh produce and stalls serve street snacks including socca (a chickpea-flour pancake) and pissaladière (a caramelised onion tart).

2.

Lyon

What Lyon lacks in glamour, it makes up for in exceptional food and drink. Dubbed the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon specialises in nouvelle cuisine, utilising the spoils cultivated in surrounding Burgundy and Rhône-Alpes countryside to create vibrant, innovative menus and dishes. In rare instances when you're not stuffing your face, wander across bridges, laze along the banks of the River Rhône and admire Renaissance architecture. Rent a bike to ride through the old town, catch a sunset from the top of Fourvière Hill and do a spot of shopping in the quaint Les Pentes neighbourhood.

3.

Lille

No longer a city to pass through en route to Paris, Lille has become a French destination in its own right. Spend days bar-hopping through cobbled streets, sipping on wine and nibbling on merveilleux - sweets made up of two meringues covered with whipped cream and rolled in chocolate shavings. Lille is set to become the World Design Capital in 2020, so be sure to dedicate time to gaze at the city's beautiful buildings and Flemish architecture. Bargain hunters should visit in Autumn for La Braderie - Europe's largest flea market, dating back to the 12th century - or if you're searching for a dose of art, head to the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille for traditional fine art by van Dyck, Rubens, Goya and Picasso.

4.

Montpellier

Hidden in the shadows of southern neighbours Nice and Toulouse, Montpellier's sandy beaches and fawn-hued streets are often devoid of many tourists. An inherently walkable city, amble through bougainvillea-strewn boulevards and elegant squares to stop by family-run bakeries and cute cafes, before heading to Montpellier's sun-drenched shores to work on your tan. Fill your suitcase with souvenirs from the antiques markets and art galleries, or spend afternoons admiring the Haussmann architecture in this elegant city of the Languedoc-Roussillon region.