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A Beginner’s Guide to the Regions in France

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Each one of the regions in France is unique in its own way. Due to the varied traditions, cultures and gastronomy, it can be difficult to decide where to spend your time. So, to make your life easier I have put together this easy guide to the 13 regions in France.

There are currently 13 administrative regions in France. They are:

  • Île-de-France
  • Centre-Val de Loire
  • Corsica
  • Normandy
  • Brittany
  • Grand-Est
  • Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
  • Occitanie
  • Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
  • Hauts-de-France
  • Pays de la Loire
  • Nouvelle Aquitaine


Île de France

Capital City: Paris

Important Facts:

  • Île de France is located in the north centre of France
  • Many refer to Île de France as the “Paris region”
  • Île de France is home to Charles de Gaulle Airport which is where most travellers will begin and end their vacation

What to do?  

  • Strike items off your Paris bucket list
  • Marvel at the incredible Palais de Versaille
  • Pay a visit to the Château de Fontainebleau, the most furnished castle in Europe
  • Experience medieval festivities in the fortified town of Provins
  • Be a kid for the day at Disneyland Paris
  • Spend the afternoon in the famous artists village of Barbizon


Centre-Val de Loire (formerly called Centre)

Capital City: Orléans 

Important Facts:

  • Centre-Val de Loire is located in the north center of France
  • Centre-Val de Loire contains part of one of the most visited regions in France, the Loire Valley
  • The Loire Valley is known for producing top-notch dry white wines

What to do?  

  • Tour some of the magnificent castles of the Loire Valley
  • Appreciate the royal lifestyle by staying overnight at a fabulous château-hotel in the Loire Valley
  • Marvel at the scenery along the Loire and Indre rivers
  • Spend the night at a vineyard in the region
  • Appreciate the French Gothic architecture in Chartres Cathedral


Corsica

Capital City: Ajaccio 

Important Facts:

  • Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the south-eastern coast of France
  • Located halfway between France and Italy, Corsica has a unique Italian flair
  • There are more than 200 beaches along 1000 km of coastline in Corsica
  • Corsica is known for warm weather year-round  

What to do?  

  • Enjoy the sun and sea in the city of Ajaccio
  • Go scuba diving in the Bay of Sagone
  • Spend a day at one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean
  • Go hiking or biking in the mountainous interior of the island
  • Take a scenic road trip to explore the mountains along the Route De Bavella


Normandy (formerly Basse-Normandie and Haute-Normandie)

Capital City: Rouen

Important Facts:  

  • Normandy is located on the north-western coast of France facing the English Channel
  • The D-Day beaches from World War II are located in Normandy
  • Normandy is a popular weekend getaway from Paris known for its beaches and seaside towns
  • Normandy one of the leading culinary regions in France

What to do?  

  • Wander through Rouen’s lovely pedestrian town center
  • Marvel at the impressive Bayeux Tapestry
  • Discover Honfleur, one of the prettiest port towns in France
  • Spend the day at Europe’s most spectacular sight, Mont St-Michel
  • Play the slots at the casino in the resort town of Deauville
  • Study Monet’s impressionist works in Giverny
  • Honour lives lost at the battlefields, memorials and cemeteries from the second world war
  • Watch the cruise liners come into port in Le Havre

Regional Delicacies:

  • Oysters and scallops
  • Apples, in particular, cider
  • Camembert cheese

Brittany

Capital City: Rennes

Important Facts:

  • Brittany is in north-western France and juts out into the Atlantic ocean.
  • The region has deep Celtic roots with many families originally from Ireland and Wales
  • Brittany is another one of the well-known culinary regions in France

What to do?

  • Wander through the walled city of Saint-Malo
  • Admire the majestic scenery along the rugged coastline
  • Shop at the fantastic market in the historic town of Rennes
  • Go sunbathing on one of many sandy beaches along the Côte d’Emeraude (Emerald Coast)

Regional Delicacies:

  • Crepes, both sweet and savoury
  • Seafood, in particular oysters and scallops
  • Breton butter
  • Breton beer


Grand-Est (Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine)

Capital City: Strasbourg

Important Facts:

  • Champagne-Ardenne is located in north-eastern France, along the Belgian border.
  • Alsace is located in north eastern France bordering Germany on the east, and Switzerland on the south
  • The Grand-Est region is world famous for its champagne, fantastic wines and extraordinary cuisine

What to do?  

  • Drive through world famous wine regions along the “Route du Champagne”
  • Go for a tasting and a tour a the Moët and Chandon Champagne cellars in Epernay
  • See where Kings were crowned for more than 1000 years at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims
  • Hike through the Vosges mountains
  • Discover the storybook town of Colmar with its cobblestone streets, canals and half-timbered houses
  • Drive along the oldest “Route du Vin” (wine route) in France

Regional Delicacies:

  • Champagne
  • Pork (usually sausage) with sauerkraut
  • Foie gras
  • Alsatian wines and beers
  • Pan-fried fish with sauerkraut
  • Bacheofe (a meat and vegetable stew which is simmered in white-wine)


Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (formerly Burgundy and Franche-Comté)

Capital City: Dijon

Important Facts:

  • Bourgogne-Franche-Comté is found southeast of Paris and shares a border with Switzerland
  • Burgundy (Bourgogne) is most famous for its wines, in particular chardonnay, pinot noir
  • Burgundy is one of the country’s premier gastronomical regions

What to do?  

  • Sample some of the best French wines in one of the country’s finest wine region
  • Tour the old towns and villages which dot the countryside
  • Admire the historic city center in Dijon
  • Marvel at the mountainous scenery in the east of the region

Regional Delicacies:

  • Beef bourguignon
  • Dijon mustard
  • Coq au vin (chicken braised in wine)
  • Escargots
  • Burgandy wines
  • Goat cheese


Occitanie (formerly Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées)

Capital City: Toulouse

Important Facts:

  • Occitanie is located in southern France with the mediterranean sea to the east and Spain to the south
  • Toulouse and Midi-Pyrenees are both known throughout France for their incredible gastronomy

What to do?  

  • Explore Carcassonne, the largest walled city in Europe
  • Pay a visit to Rocamadour, a tiny cliffside village built above the Alzou canyon
  • Appreciate Saint-Cirq Lapopie, one of the most beautiful villages in France
  • Head underground in the awe-inspiring Grotte de Clamouse
  • Go skiing in the Pyrenees
  • Check out the cave paintings in the Paleolithic Niaux cave
  • Learn about the Basque cultural region along the Spanish border

Regional Delicacies:

  • Cassoulet; a pork and bean stew
  • Duck confit
  • Foie Gras
  • Garbure(thick soup made with ham, cabbage and other vegetables)


Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Capital City: Marseille

Important Facts:

  • Located in south eastern France, the region sits on the Mediterranean coast bordering Italy
  • Provence is one of the leading culinary regions in France
  • The Côte d’Azur is famed for its luxurious beachside resorts in cities such as Nice, Cannes and St-Tropez

What to do?  

  • Navigate your way through the busy streets of Aix-en-Provence
  • Remark at the famous Pont d’Avignon
  • Watch the fishing boats in the Vieux Port in Marseille
  • Notice the century-old plane trees in St-Remy
  • Catch sight of the lavender fields which bloom from late June until early August
  • Pretend you’re a gladiator at the Roman amphitheatre in Arles
  • Enjoy the laid back beach vibe on the Mediterranean coast
  • Take a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice
  • Spend the day in Monaco, the second smallest country in the world
  • Spot your favourite movie stars at the Cannes Film Festival
  • Go topless bathing in St-Tropez

Regional Delicacies:

  • Bouillabaisse (a fish stew with herbs de Provence)
  • Brandade (a salt cold and potato dish)
  • Fresh seafood
  • Pastis (aniseed-flavoured liqueur)


Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (formerly Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes)

Capital City: Lyon

Important Facts:

  • The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is found in central-east France bordering Italy and Switzerland
  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is one of the premier culinary regions in France
  • This area is known for its snow capped mountain peaks and beautiful lakes
  • Lyon is known as the culinary capital of France

What to do?  

  • Explore a few of the 2000 private wineries in the Rhône Valley
  • Grab a meal at a “bouchon”, a casual type of eaterie specific to Lyon
  • Take a scenic cable car ride to the top of the Aiguille du midi, for a clear view of Mont Blanc
  • Hike through the rugged countryside in the regions many nature parks
  • Practice your skiing skills in the ski resort village of Megève
  • Stroll amongst the canals in the picturesque town of Annecy

Regional Delicacies:

  • Quenelles (a type of dumpling made with Pike)
  • Andouillette (pork) sausage
  • Cervelle de canut, (cheese spread seasoned with garlic and chives)
  • Red wines from the Côtes du Rhône  
  • Poultry from Bourg-en-Bresse
  • Montelimar nougat


Hauts-de-France (formerly Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy)

Capital City: Lille

Important Facts:

  • Hauts-de-France is the northernmost region in France

What to do?  

  • Visit the battlefields and memorial sites from the first world war
  • Wander through the Flemish style town square in Lille
  • Tour the fabulous Château de Pierrefonds
  • Marvel at the stained glass windows in the Cathedrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens
  • Join the hoards of British tourists on the Côte d’Opale (Opal Coast) in the summertime


Pays de la Loire

Capital City: Nantes

Important Facts:

  • Pays de la Loire sits between Normandy and Nouvelle-Aquitaine in western France
  • This region encompasses part of one of the most visited parts of France, the Loire Valley

What to do?  

  • Visit impressive castles such as the Château d’Angers, Château de Saumur and the Château de Brissac
  • Explore the charming town of Sainte-Suzanne, one of the most beautiful villages of France
  • Spend a few days in the coastal resort town of Sables d’Olonne
  • Shop at the Passage Pommeraye, a shopping arcade in Nantes
  • Witness giant machines coming to life at Les Machines de L’ile in Nantes
  • Buy one of the best known salts in France, “Sel de Guérande”, to take home as a souvenir


Nouvelle Aquitaine (formerly Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes)

Capital City: Bordeaux

Important Facts:

  • Nouvelle Aquitaine the southwestern most region in France, bordering Spain to the south and the Atlantic Ocean along the west
  • This incredibly large region offers a variety of diverse landscapes
  • The regions capital city, Bordeaux, is one of the most celebrated wine production regions in the world
  • The hilly forested area in the central part of the region offers remarkable scenery

What to do?  

  • Sail to the Ile de Ré for the perfect beachside experience
  • Stay overnight at a luxurious seaside resort on the Atlantic coast
  • Admire the impressive Gothic cathedral in Bourges
  • Wander around the massive Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux
  • Take a surfing lesson in Biarritz
  • Pay a visit to the historic town of La Rochelle.

Regional Delicacies:

  • Red wine from Bordeaux
  • Cognac (French brandy)
  • Entrecôte marchand de vin (steak served with a red wine reduction)
  • Foie gras and truffles
  • Terrine (a type of pâté) made with scallops and lobster
  • Cannelés Bordelais (small cakes soaked in rum and vanilla)


Sources: http://www.regions-of-france.com/https://www.frommers.com/https://www.francethisway.com/oyster.comhttps://ca.france.fr/en/https://www.avenuecalgary.com/https://www.france-voyage.com/


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6 thoughts to “A Beginner’s Guide to the Regions in France”

  1. Since my last name is ‘Jarboe’ aka ‘Jarbouh’, I definitely have a little of French in me from my Father’s side. The photos you selected are breath-taking. Soon I shall be touring Europe and France is where we shall begin! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Wowsy! Great description.. I have been to a few so far, one day I will complete the map! I love France and have special affinity to french people, so any extra reasons 😉

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