France, Western Europe’s largest nation, has long been a gateway between the northern and southern regions of the continent. Germany and Belgium in the north are touched by its long borders; the Atlantic Ocean in the west. The Pyrenees Mountains and Spain in the south. France is the agricultural epicentre of Europe. France’s southern interior is dominated by the sprawling, forested plateau of the Massif Central, a chain of ancient mountains and extinct volcanoes. It is one of Earth’s oldest countries and Europe’s most ethnically diverse country, consisting some of the biggest cities in France.
In almost all facets of culture, including food, wine-making, politics, philosophy, music, art, film, fashion, literature, and sports, these deep and wide influences have made France a world leader throughout history. To provide shelter for a wide range of plants and animals, France has adequate land space. About 25 per cent of its territory is occupied by forests and another 50 per cent in rural or agricultural land. Lowland forests are home to deer and wild boar, while the forests of the Alps and Pyrenees provide shelter for, among many other species, uncommon chamois antelope, ibex, brown bears, and alpine hares. For millions of migrant African birds, including flamingos, vultures, egrets, and bee-eaters, the Mediterranean coast is a stopover. So, here is a list of the largest cities in France.
Biggest Cities in France
Population: 2,140,526; Region: Île-de-France; Département: Paris
Paris, one of the top France cities is the ultimate urban destination. This is a town that has a seemingly endless list of museums, sights, and tours that must be seen. Paris is the most populated cities in France. It’s also the ideal city for aimless walking, exploring beautiful neighbourhoods such as the Île Saint Louis and the Marais. The French also have a term for this; it is flâneur that conjures up city slickers walking around the parks and gardens in top hats. And biggest city of France, Paris is, of course, the place to find world-class food and world-class art, not to mention some of the best shopping in the world. From Disneyland (14 million visitors) to the Louvre (10.2 million) and the Eiffel Tower (7 million), the main attractions in Paris are the most popular in France. While all French cities are perfect for enjoying the life of a café, Paris elevates it to an art form.
Population: 869,815; Region: Provence-Alpes-Maritimes-Cote-d’Azur, Department: Bouches-du-Rhône
Marseille, which is the largest city in Provence and now one of the largest cities in France in France, has seen an immense revival in recent years. In many areas, the great historic maritime city has been extensively redeveloped, while the new MUCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) has brought a new cultural buzz. Marseille offers a wonderful combination of the Mediterranean climate, the biggest cities in France, and Southern France’s joy of living. It is also a great place for restaurants, bars, shopping, and cafes. Marseille is easily accessible from many other destination cities and now a train can be taken to Marseille from London St Pancras without changing trains or stations; it only takes 6 hours and 27 minutes to get there.
Population: 496,343, Region: Auvergne – Rhône-Alpes, Department: Rhône
Lyon is often underestimated, but it is one of France’s most fascinating and vibrant towns and is well worth a visit. It is one of the big cities in France. The inventors of the cinema lived and worked here – don’t miss the Lumière Museum and watch the first movie ever made. There is so much of fine art, the French Resistance (Lyon’s history), and printing. The town is crossed by hidden tunnels. Each year in December, there is a stunning Light Festival. Lyon has top restaurants and bistros, being not only one of the largest city of France, but also France’s most famous gastronomic destination.
Population: 475,438, Région: Occitanie (Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon), Département: Haute-Garonne
Known as the Ville Rose (pink city), Toulouse is another beautiful city and one of the largest cities in France that tourists frequently overlook. On the River Garonne, this gracious, spacious city extends along the banks of the river. The food is superb here, as in the rest of the country. The choices for shopping are huge.
Population: 216,815, Région: Brittany, Département: Ille-et-Vilaine
The city of Rennes is one of the biggest cities in France located north-west of France. Rennes is a town in the east of Brittany, in the north-west of France, at the confluence of Ille and Vilaine. Rennes is the capital of the province of Brittany and the department of Ille-et-Vilaine. In 2015, the city was the tenth-largest city in France, with a metropolitan region of around 720,000 inhabitants. The past of Rennes dates back more than 2,000 years, at a period when it was a tiny Gallic village called Condate. Along with Vannes and Nantes, it was one of the most important cities of the ancient Duchy of Brittany. From the early sixteenth century until the French Revolution, Rennes was the parliamentary, administrative and garrison town of the ancient province of Brittany of the Kingdom of France, as demonstrated by the Palace of the Parliament of the 17th century.
Population: 342,637, Region: Provence-Alpes-Maritimes-Cote-d’Azur (PACA), Department: Alpes-Maritimes
Nice, one of the largest cities in France is a wonderful French Riviera city, and a popular destination for couples, honeymooners, and sun-worshipers. The Queen of the Riviera, as the city is known, has a delightful Old Town, enticing pedestrian walkways lined with cafes and boutiques, and one of the best markets in the south of France at the famous Cours Saleya. Beloved and discovered by the Impressionist artists, it’s full of delightful small art museums, many of them in the houses the artists lived in. It’s well known for its lively restaurants and bistros, as well as its street food for those in a hurry.
Nice is a year-round destination, with the Carnival attracting visitors in February and March, and the famous Nice Jazz Festival fills the city with music lovers in July. There are numerous options for getting to Nice, including the train from London; it makes a great start to the holiday.
Population: 182,460, Région: Grand Est, Département: Marne
The town of Reims is one of the largest in France in the north-east of France. Reims, also written as Rheims, is one of the major cities in France that sits in the east-northeast of Paris. On the Vesle River, the tributary of the Aisne River and the Marne–Aisne Channel, the town is situated in a vine-growing country where champagne wine is made. The Montagne de Reims is overlooked from the southwest. One of the most magnificent structures of the Middle Ages is in Reims, one that is full of history: nearly all the French kings have been crowned there for around 1,000 years. Much of the old houses were demolished during World War I, and the area was extensively reconstructed in Art Deco architecture in the 1920s.
Population: 306,694, Region: Pays de la Loire, Department: Loire-Atlantique
At the western end of the Loire River, Nantes is a top France cities. The city has been catapulted into the great league of French cities by a massive and spectacular renovation. Its history is tumultuous; its river banks with artworks, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes are now bustling and lively. Machines de l’Ile is its most eccentric and popular project. Nantes is one of the largest city in France.
Population: 279,284, Region: Grand Est (Alsace, Champagne-Ardennes, and Lorraine), Department: Bas-Rhin
Strasbourg is the ultimate European city and on of the top France cities. It has flavours of both France and Germany and sits right on the border of the two countries. It’s picturesque la Petite France neighbourhood looks like something straight out of a fairy tale book, a riverfront neighbourhood with timbered buildings accented by colourful flower boxes. It also has great museums, shops, a wonderful Christmas Market, well worth visiting, and of course, top Alsatian restaurants.
Population: 281,613, Region: Occitanie (Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon), Department: Hérault
Montpellier is a delightful area, another of those biggest cities in France by population that many have heard of but less visited. It is one of the top France cities, with a venerable history, strong museums, and an old pedestrian-friendly walking centre.
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Population: 241,287, Region: Nouvelle Aquitaine, Département: Gironde (Aquitaine, Limousin, and Poitou-Charentes)
Bordeaux is one of the largest city in France on the Atlantic coast, packed with shops, incredible historical sights and nestled in the heart of the wine country. The great history of Bordeaux as the main port to the New World and the great producer of wines exported to England has been revitalised, most recently with the opening of the world-class Bordeaux Cité du Vin, which from 600,000 years ago to today demonstrates the history of wine worldwide. It is one of the largest cities in France.
Population: 232,440, Region: Hautes-de-France (Nord, Pas-de-Calais and Picardie), Département: Nord
Lille is blessed with a central European location. It’s an hour and a half from London by Eurostar, 1 hour from Paris and a half-hour from Brussels. Not surprisingly, Lille reflects the influences of a variety of European cultures. It is a lovely city, with winding cobbled streets in the old town, delightful museums and very good restaurants.
Lille is one of the largest cities in France by any system of measurement. That much is clear but after that, it is an art, rather than a science, to classify French towns and cities in order of scale, because the results depend very much on the criteria used.
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