Something about France makes us think about charming cafes, fairytale castles, delicious cheese, and of course, Paris. The most romantic city in the world is also one of the most-visited, but there's way more. French culture is the basis for most things that we aspire to own. Louis Vuitton? Chanel? Christian Dior? All French. Ordering filet mignon in a restaurant? Also French. From the world's greatest painters to history's most-iconic architects, something about France just keeps churning out magic.
The world's most stunning places aren't necessarily all in Paris, though. Deep in the French countryside, amid winding lanes and world-famous vineyards, medieval abbeys are glowing in the sunset. Lavender fields in the deepest purples are contrasting some of the most striking sunrises on earth. It's not surprising that France is the eighth most-visited country on earth. As more and more travelers reveal France's hidden gems on Instagram, we aren't just getting the best pics. We're getting some major travel envy. Some of these places literally have to be seen to be believed. From the waterfront chateaux that give Disney a run for its money, to crystalline beaches fronting the Atlantic ocean, here are the 25 most selfie-worthy places in France.
25 THE CHATEAUX THAT INSPIRED VERSAILLES
Pretty hard to tear your eyes away from, right? This is the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte. This baroque masterpiece is like something out of a fairytale. Built in the year 1658, this architectural marvel actually inspired the beautiful palace of Versailles. Long before Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were planning their wedding, castles like these were being lived in by the French aristocracy. Elaborate, ornate, and requiring 18,000 workmen over five years, this piece of heaven comes with gardens galore. Plus, it's open to the public.
24 SUNSET IN PARIS
There's way more to Paris than the iconic Eiffel Tower. Paris remains one of the most romantic cities in the world – even the streets have a certain magic. While many visitors wait in line for hours to visit the Louvre Museum (and KimYe booked out Versailles themselves for their rehearsal wedding), it's the streets themselves that have the real charm. You never quite know what you'll see next, but you'll always be surrounded by beauty. Here are some French locals just enjoying daily life.
23 HALF-TIMBERED HOUSES IN MEDIEVAL COLMAR
Colmar is one of the most beautiful towns in France. Near the border with Germany in the Alsace region, Colmar is known for its iconic, half-timbered facades, hanging flowers, and magical canals.
Colmar is known as the "Little Venice" of France. These half-timbered facades can date back to the year 1350.
Alsace has its own language, although most people there speak French. You also can't visit Colmar without trying the traditional "Kugelhopf," which is similar to American Bundt cake. Since it's near Germany, Sauerkraut is also popular.
22 LAVENDER FIELDS IN VALENSOLE
There are squares miles of France that are literally endless lavender fields. If you've ever bought L'Occitane en Provence shampoo or cosmetics from Sephora, that'll be the beauty industry trying to capture the magic of Provence in a bottle. Valensole is a commune in southeastern France. The precise name is quite long: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, but this stunning plateau is worth a visit for the smell alone. Peppered between the fields, you'll find charming hilltop villages, abandoned castles, plus the region's amazing honey.
21 THE WORLD HERITAGE SITE THAT DOESN'T NEED A FILTER
Perched on a rocky islet in the middle of vast sandbanks, you could easily think this was CGI from a fantasy movie. 100% real, this is the magical Mont Saint-Michel, located in the Normandy region of France. The Norman Benedictine Abbey of St. Michel is protected by international law – in fact, the whole place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island's monastery dates back to the 8th century, so it's fair to say this stuff is old. While the abbey is a photographic wonder, the streets themselves are lined with delicious crêpe stands.
20 THE BALCONIES OVERLOOKING THE EIFFEL TOWER
There's no way that the Eiffel Tower couldn't feature on this list. The Eiffel Tower doesn't attract over 7 million visitors a year for nothing. 1,665 steps wind their way to the iconic top deck of this world-famous monument, although most visitors find themselves in the elevator.
A trip to Paris isn't "done" without visiting the Eiffel Tower. It actually shrinks 6 inches in cold weather.
A symbol of French identity and solidarity, the people of France are immensely proud of this iconic tower. It does shrink in the winter, though.
From someone who has actually been there, yes, it looks exactly like this. Aix-en-Provence is a town in the far south of France, not far from Cannes. The outskirts form endless rolling lavender fields, and stately barns line winding countryside roads. The town itself is known for its quaint cobbled squares, super-narrow streets, and colorfully painted houses. The magical Cours Mirabeau is where locals stroll in the sunshine, and it's a favorite vacation spot for Parisians wanting a break from the city.
18 THE HEART AND SOUL OF FRANCE
You'll find them on every street corner in every town across France. The "boulangerie" is the bread store– not to be confused with the "pâtisserie" (which sells cakes and treats). If you picture French people on bicycles with a baguette under one arm, you're not far off.
Nearly everyone in France starts the day with "baguette" French bread. Kids eat it with Nutella.
The traditional, long "baguette" bread is a meal staple. It's served on every restaurant table as standard, and most French people start their day with fresh baguette, butter, and jam. This Lyon boulangerie has quite a range.
17 GEARING UP FOR CHRISTMAS IN STRASBOURG
If you're going to visit Strasbourg, do it at Christmas. This French town is as much known for its medieval cobbles as it is for its annual Christmas market. While nearby houses are decorated with baubles and pines, the actual market is bursting with local goods and Christmas treats. Strasbourg's half-timbered facades feel like they belong to an era gone by – and they do. The most picturesque part of the town is called "Petite France," meaning "Little France." This place was made for Instagram.
16 PARIS BY NIGHT
Paris by night – So beautiful and so classic. It is so very perfect for that Instagram update. Right in the middle, is the Arc de Triomphe. Twelve avenues radiate from this iconic monument, and they all lead to a different part of Paris. Nothing has changed here in centuries– even the cobbles are intact. With virtually no traffic lights or official lanes, people actually search Google to watch "traffic at the Arc de Triomphe." From someone who's been in it... it's way less easy-going than the view.
15 THIS LIGHTHOUSE (IF YOU'RE BRAVE ENOUGH)
Crashing waves that have to be seen to be believed are what you'll find here, in Quessant. This lighthouse off the coast of Brittany is a part of northern France that requires bravery. Its white-paneled windows and red lantern room are barely visible between the ocean spray, but it would totally be worth it for a pic. La Jument lighthouse is part of a series of three lighthouses that are some of the most famous ocean structures in France.
14 SOMETHING ABOUT THIS COBBLED STREET
You're officially in Instagram heaven. This quiet corner of Les Baux-de-Provence doesn't have much in the way of glossiness. It certainly isn't going to end up on Vogue covers. Chanel is unlikely to shoot campaigns there. But you can. This southern region of France is literally bursting with tiny villages. While they all have the same winding paths and sunset perfection, each is unique. They can be visited by car, but a popular way to experience Provence is by bicycle.
13 THE ALPINE TRAIN TO CHAMONIX
Mountain rivers run freely through the alpine town of Chamonix. The ski resort is famous for fronting the Mont Blanc– the highest mountain in Europe, and the 11th-highest in the world. "Mont Blanc" translates to "White Mountain" in French, which makes sense. The peaks remain snow-capped, even in summer. The Mont Blanc is 15,777 feet high. Oddly, the mountain is owned by both France and Italy. This sturdy little train has been going back and forth from Chamonix for decades.
12 THE STUFF OF FAIRYTALES
Dating back to the 11th Century, Chateau de Chenonceau is generally considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in the world. Still waters and limestones outside take on a Renaissance marvel indoors – the place is still decked out like a palace. Visitors actually reach the castle interiors by boat.
Chateau de Chenonceau has 1.3 million annual visitors. And yet, it still manages to look like this...
The chateau is the second most-visited castles after Versailles in Paris. During storms, it looks like something out of a Disney scene.
11 A SNOWY WINTER'S EVENING
If you thought France was just crumbling old castles and iconic Paris monuments, you've got so much to see. Alongside California-style beaches in the south, France is also home to some of the most humbling mountains in Europe. The Alps are a skiing heaven, although any photography lover will be happy just snapping places like these. This is La Roquette-sur-Var. Alpine features here are nestled like an eagle's nest against superb mountain backdrops, and the whole place twinkles at night. It's like a postcard.
10 #CALIFORNIA VIBES
One minute you're in the mountains, the next, you're cruising past palm trees. The South of France is arguably one of the ritziest places in Europe. The Cannes Film Festival is swarming with celebs, and they will inevitably stay in the ultra-exclusive resort of St. Tropez.
St. Tropez fake tan was named after this ultra-exclusive resort in the South of France.
The sun shines most of the year here, plus the beaches are just beautiful. Oceanfront promenades are lined with sensational seafood restaurants and designer boutiques.
9 A SPLASH OF COLOR IN MONTMARTRE
People from Paris talk about Montmartre the way New Yorkers talk about "The Village." A little bit gritty, very real, and an "everyday" kind of place, this district of Paris is an Instagrammer's dream. Pancake stands sell traditional French crêpes, and winding streets work their way down from the famous Sacre-Cœur Basilica. The area is also home to the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub, which the even more famous movie was named after. For a real #streetlife experience, this is where you want to go.
8 OPULENCE AT THE OPERA GARNIER
This is probably one of the most opulent rooms on earth. The Opera Garnier in Paris is a 1,979-seat opera house built between 1861 and 1875. Solid gold cherubs mark the entrance, and #sumptumous is the hashtag for this place. It is one of the largest theaters in the world. The entrance's facade alone required 14 painters, mosaicists, and 73 sculptors. Dubai might have hotels plated in gold, but they got their inspiration here. The interiors are bedecked in gold leaf, velvets, and total Baroque grandeur.
7 MAJESTIC CLIFFS IN CORSICA
Wild, rugged, and untamed, Corsica is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Not surprising that's it's nicknamed "The Island of Beauty." Vast horizons and steel-blue waters make this small island an Instagrammer's dream, and it's just as good for divers. The island sits to the south-east of France's mainland. It has its own language, although French people will always recognize a Corsican from their thick accent. Corsica's beaches are out of this world, although it's the ancient, cliff-top villages that get snapped the most.
6 AN UNASSUMING STREET CORNER IN ANNECY
The beauty of Instagram-worthy places is that they're often the least-expected. The absolute best ones aren't anywhere well known– they're just beautiful the way they are. This unassuming street corner might not be decked out in world-famous monuments, but it catches the light perfectly. You're looking at an unnamed spot in Annecy. This 14th-Century medieval town is characterized by small canals dissecting its winding streets. The stacked stone and peach facades are just perfect for that quick photo. The town also has a fantastic food market.
5 PARIS CAFES IN THE SPRING
This is the Au Vieux Paris d'Arcole cafe– just one of the estimated 7000 cafes in Paris. The city turns beautiful in spring when flowers bloom and it's finally warm enough to sit outside. Coffee houses in the US might have become a "thing" with big-name brands like Starbucks, but cafe culture is literally part of Parisian life. You'll find them open until late, and many French people choose to spend their lunch breaks at a quiet cafe spot like this one.
4 HILLTOP VILLAGES LIKE THESE
Deep in the French countryside, you'll find hundreds of cliff-pressed villages, where dizzying heights make for fabulous photos. This is the charming village of Saorge in the Alpe-Maritimes region of France. This is literally the kind of place tourists accidentally stumble upon on their way to larger cities, but the wisest ones will know to stop for a photo. This mesmerizing valley setting overlooks a Franciscan monastery, and the sunrises here are unbelievable. Keep scrolling for the final few pics...
3 STREET LIFE IN LYON
So simple and so exquisite – it's snaps like these that gather millions of likes on Instagram. Nobody is posing and everything is authentic. This corner marks the junction of two alley-like streets in the city of Lyon. While Lyon is the third-largest city in France, its quaint streets have a village-like feel. Lyon is also known as the birthplace of cinema– take that, Hollywood. Here is the Montée du Gourgillon– a sloping hillside street famous for its beauty. If you can't pronounce it, just photograph it.
2 JAW-DROPPING CLIFF-FACES IN ETRETAT
Hollywood can try and recreate this as much as they like– there's nothing like the real thing. Here are the humbling chalk cliffs of Etretat, in northern France. They're photographed for their natural arches, towering heights, and uninterrupted ocean views. These cliffs are some of the most picturesque in the whole of Europe. This stretch of Alabaster Coast offers pristine white beaches, crystalline waters, and a huge "yes" on the Instagram front. When the arches collapse, they leave pillars, known as "needles."
1 WHY PEOPLE GO TO PARIS
Travelers visit Paris for different reasons. Some want to see the world-famous museums. Others are there for the shopping. Paris will always draw travelers on account of its light. The city's streets have so much charm just the way they are, and it's captured moments like this that show it.
The streets of Paris bathed in light make it one of the most beautiful cities on earth.
Give your Vegas or Dubai-obsessed friends a wake-up call. Hit share on Facebook so they can see 25 utterly beautiful pictures. If you know someone who wants to go to France, make sure they see this.