Family Friendly Cities in France: 15 of the Best Destinations
When considering France for your next family vacation, the first thing that may come to mind is Paris with the famous Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre-Dame. But don’t stop there! There are plenty of family friendly cities in France that are full of great beaches, majestic castles, cobblestone streets, markets, parks, stunning architecture, and sweet treats!
From Dieppe where you can enjoy seafood, a Saturday market, and a castle, to the Loire Valley where you can enjoy a zoo and aquarium, to viewing street art in Angoulême there is something for every family! A trip to France will have you admiring the country’s architecture, country sides, cuisine, culture, and history! When planning your next trip be sure to consider these family friendly cities in France recommended by experienced travel bloggers around the world!
15 Family Friendly Cities in France
Recommended by Zoe from Together in Transit
For a fun welcoming French city with your family, the next destination on your travel list should be Dieppe. Dieppe is located on the North Alabaster Coast of France, close to Le Havre. It is easily reachable by car, with the coastal road the most beautiful to explore.
The city of Dieppe is a lively fishing location full of local sellers and the most delicious fresh fish for those who love seafood. So you can expect a lot of seafood restaurants here selling the fresh fish caught from the morning fishing trips.
Families love this destination most due to the spacious beach and grass area for relaxing, with family activities such as boat trips and the play park for children operating all year round. Make sure to visit during market day on Saturday to enjoy a walk through the local sellers. They sell literally everything that you can think of, which is great to explore and see what France has to offer!
While visiting, treat the family to an enjoyable touristic yellow train ride through the city. It takes you up the cliff side, allowing some beautiful views across Dieppe into the harbour and to visit the Dieppe castle. Else go for a little drive along the coastal area and stop off for some amazing nature walks, such as visiting the unique cliffs at Etretat.
Recommended by Claire from ZigZag On Earth
Wide streets, a beach, fun art throughout the city… Le Havre is a French town that kids and parents will enjoy equally.
It is not the typical old French architecture you may have come to expect. However, this city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a lot of charm, in its own way.
It is best visited between May and October when the colorful beach huts are set up and when you can go for a walk on warmer sand at low tide.
Some of the top things to do in le Havre with kids are:
· Walking around the city looking at the Perret architecture, but be surprised by other architectural elements in the mix such as “The Volcano” theater.
· Looking for all the incredible pieces of art throughout the city, such as the colorful “la Catène”, 2 arches made of containers
· Visiting the unique church of Saint Joseph with its immense concrete tower and stained-glass windows. The whole family will be impressed by this structure!
· Enjoying a long flat walk along the beach all the way to “the end of the world” – the ground is bike- and roller-friendly (plus you can discover where famous paintings by impressionists were created).
· Spending some time at the beach, creating structures with the pebbles or playing on the sand at low tide
· Exploring the botanical garden inside an old fort with incredible views over the city.
So much to discover as a family!
Recommended by Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic
The Alsace region of eastern France is teeming with cute towns but they don’t come any more picture perfect than wonderful Colmar. Featuring beautifully preserved houses, restaurants and shops lining endlessly photogenic canals, Colmar is the kind of place made for wandering. Kids will be enthralled by the Old Town’s maze of narrow alleys and the bird-filled waterways of Little Venice and generally can’t get enough of the many candy shops and bakeries, making it one of the best family friendly cities in France.
The sidewalks are marked with triangles leading visitors on a walking tour of all the best sights and there is even a 12-metre-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty which is sure to amaze and confuse in equal measure (posing the question “why did they put it in the middle of a busy street?”).
Although Colmar has plenty of significant architecture and a fascinatingly checkered past, you certainly don’t need a deep understanding of its history to enjoy its scenic charms and languid pace of life. While the old town and main canals can get quite busy at times, especially on weekends, those who opt to stay a few nights or more can enjoy an entirely different side of this classic city. The quiet canals and sunset reflections are entrancing at any time of year, regardless of age.
Beyond the pleasures of the Old Town, the verdant countryside around Colmar is ideal for exploring on two wheels. With smooth, well-marked trails, few hills and gorgeous pastoral scenery, exploring the fields and neighbouring villages by bicycle is the highlight of many visits. The fairy tale village of Eguisheim (allegedly the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast) is a must-see, and at just 7 kilometres from Colmar is the ideal distance for a relaxed afternoon of biking.
Recommended by Anjali from Cheerful Trails
Loire Valley is a fantastic family destination with loads to do for all ages. The magical beauty of its region attracts many visitors from around the world. Make a visit to the stunning Chateau de Chenonceau and Chambord, and soak in its admirable surroundings. Take a boat ride and feel enchanted by the chateau’s beauty. You can also take a hot air balloon ride, to see the charming views of Loire Valley. Château d’Amboise is also a splendid castle you should not miss visiting in Loire Valley. One of the best ways to explore this wonderful region is by hiring bikes or cycles.
While majestic castles and lush wineries are the highlights of Loire Valley, there are a lot of enjoyable activities to keep kids entertained. Visit one of the world’s best zoological parks, ZooParc de Beauval, which is a wildlife paradise for all alike. The fascinating caves of Savonnieres Villandry is also an absolute must visit for families. For the love of marine life, make your way to Grand Aquarium de Tourain, a 30-metre long tunnel with 60 tanks of marine species.
The best time to visit the Loire Valley is in the summer, because most of its attractions are outdoors. However, you can also prefer visiting during spring (April-May), when the vineyards, farmlands and cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Whether you are into history, culture, traditional French food or the great outdoors, Loire Valley has something to offer.
Recommended by Karen from Are We There Yet Kids
Located on the banks of the Dordogne River, Bergerac is a stunning historic French city to visit with kids. As with much of the Périgord Dordogne region, most activities occur outdoors so this is the ideal destination for families who love adventure.
The city itself is bright and colourful with quaint cobbled streets winding through beautiful medieval and renaissance buildings. Town squares are bordered by friendly restaurants with tables spilling out onto the street and the port area offers some amazing views of the river.
Kids will love a river boat tour along the Dordogne, the best way to spot local wildlife and get a feel for the area. Saturday is market day in town which provides a brilliant opportunity to meet the locals and try out some fresh truffles and Trappe d’Echourgnac cheese, famous in the area.
Once you’ve had your fill of the city itself, head 15 minutes out of town to the Lac De Pombonne. Home to a gorgeous inland beach which is ideal for swimming and cooling off out of the summer sun. You’ll also find several child friendly hiking trails and a sweet outdoor restaurant. And of course no visit to the Dordogne is complete without a trip to the nearby vineyards for a family friendly wine tasting experience.
The Dordogne is a popular area to visit in summer but Bergerac never feels too busy. It can however get very hot so be sure to plan plenty of breaks and seek out the shade during the middle of the day.
Recommended by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
The southern city of Aix-en-Provence is unintimidating for first-time visitors and will capture the hearts of both young & old, making it one of the best family friendly cities in France. An upmarket city with an artistic flair, it feels more like a large village when you’re strolling around the heart of the old town. Children love the fountains that pepper every street corner, and the daily markets are a source of entertainment for all.
There are plenty of parks to let the little ones loose in after a picnic in the grass, and if you’re looking for more structured children’s activities in Aix-en-Provence you’ll find plenty of those too. Head to the planetarium for an interactive show, pop into the Tourist Office to pick up an illustrated children’s guide to the city, or head along to Fondation Vasarely for family-friendly workshops. Just outside of the city, you’ll find theme parks, tree-top adventures, and the beaches aren’t far away for seaside fun.
The best time to visit Aix-en-Provence is in the Spring or early summer when the markets and festivals are in full swing, but it’s not unbearably hot yet. Head to Maison Béchard to pick up some sweet treats, and to Farinoman for the best bread in town. Villa Zola offers a family suite and is within walking distance of all the key attractions.
Recommended by Cazzy from Dream Big, Travel Far
Sitting on the River Seine in the north of France, Rouen is one of the best family friendly cities in France. It is beautiful, colorful, has the laid-back atmosphere of a smaller town, and can keep the little ones excited. Not only is it the capital of the country’s Normandy region, but Rouen was also actually one of the largest cities in medieval Europe. In short, it’s brimming with old-school charm and history.
You won’t get bored in Rouen, that’s for sure. Start by marveling at the Gothic architecture, including the famous cathedral and churches, and strolling through the historic town square. There’s a cross here marking the spot where Joan of Arc was buried alive, but perhaps a more fun activity would be to take your kids to buy the Larmes de Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc’s tears).
The Chocolat Auzou sells chocolate-covered almonds and delicious macaroons. Plus, the shop itself was built in the 15th century! Stop by Verdrel Square and spend some time in the playground there, or ride a bike along the Seine.
You can visit Rouen anytime throughout the year and it will still be a memorable trip. Go in summer for endless sunshine or come during winter to explore the Christmas markets. It’s probably best to spend 2 or 3 nights here, but even if you can only manage a day trip from Paris, it’s still worth it!
The best way to get to Rouen is by hopping on a train from Paris or other nearby Normandy cities. With frequent departure and scenic landscapes, the train ride can be a journey in itself.
Recommended by Asha Bhatia from HomeTravelGuide
If you are looking for one of the best family friendly cities in France then definitely head to Argentat in Dordogne. Argentat is a beautiful town in the department of Correze bordering the Dordogne River. The best time to visit this picturesque town would be between May to October.
There are many outdoor activities to enjoy with your family in Argentat including taking an ancient boat called the Gabare on a scenic ride on the Dordogne river. You can also walk around the ancient town with cobbled streets and enjoy the riverfront cafes and restaurants.
There are also some lovely forest and hiking trails you can do. Another very popular activity to do is to hire a canoe or kayak on the Dordogne river for a day trip and enjoy a nice picnic along the riverside. You can find more information on the best things to do with kids in Argentat and Dordogne here.
If you are looking for a good place to stay and eat then head to Sablier du Temps; which also offers a swimming pool which is great for the family and a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking a garden for your dining. They have a variety of homemade seasonal dishes and delicious desserts.
Recommended by Ophelie from Limitless Secrets
Nice is an amazing city to visit as a family! As the Capital of the French Riviera, it’s located in the South of France between the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the summits of the Mercantour. It’s a very popular summer destination but it’s amazing any time of the year as the weather is pleasant all year long.
The first reason why you should visit it is because of the beaches. Thanks to its ideal location, you can walk from downtown to the beach in a few minutes (quite practical with kids that don’t want to walk too much)! The beaches around here are so beautiful with crystal clear waters that this area has been nicknamed “la Baie des Anges” (Angel Bay). But Nice will also satisfy you if you want to stroll in the old town or visit some museums.
The first thing you can do with kids in Nice is of course go to the beach. You can choose to go to a private beach (you have to pay but it’s more intimate and cleaner), or to the public beach (free but more people around). As you are on the beach you can also walk the iconic Promenade des Anglais, the pedestrian walkway along the beach. Then you should explore downtown. Place Masséna, the main square of Nice, offers some beautiful and colorful buildings and some fun water jet fountains that your kids will adore.
You can also check out all the cool playgrounds in town! The one located in Promenade du Paillon has for example a giant climbing whale and octopus swings!
You can stay at the AC Marriott Nice. This hotel is ideally located close to the beach, and they have a rooftop pool!
Recommended by Nathan, Emilie, Noah & Samuel from Love Life Abroad
Biarritz is definitely a town to visit for a family trip. Located in Southern France, right by the Atlantic Ocean, it’s in the heart of the Basque country. To immerse yourself in the Basque culture, Biarritz is a good home base for exploring the region.
With the Ocean right there and beautiful beaches, Biarritz is of course a surf town. You’ll find a dozen surf schools at Cote des Basques waiting for your family to try this water sport. It’s a great place for beginners, especially in the morning, as waves are not too high.
But there is so much more than beach and surf in Biarritz. Biarritz is home to a nice aquarium, the Musée de la Mer and Cité de l’Océan, farmer’s markets and waterfront. For a fun stroll, Le Rocher de la Vierge is a good choice. You’ll walk on a bridge that leads to the rock formation. The view is beautiful. And if time allows, a day trip to San Sebastian, in the Spanish part of the Basque Country or a ride aboard the La Rhune train are also amazing activities for the family.
The city center can be crowded in the summer and parking can be hard to find. A good way to explore the city and also the neighboring cities (Bayonne, Bidard and Anglet) is to use the free shuttles. Biarritz is a year-round destination, but to fully enjoy the water activities, summer time may be better. May or September would be even better as less crowded with tourists, but still great weather.
Recommended by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Bordeaux is a beautiful mid-sized city located in southwestern France. You can reach Bordeaux in about five hours by car from Paris or three by train. Coming by train is highly recommended as the journey is easy and also quite scenic. Bordeaux is known as a historic city with lots to see and do. Of course, it’s world-famous for producing some of the best wines there are.
Taking an afternoon trip to Saint Emilion is highly recommended. This tiny village sits outside of the city and is the best place to explore the vineyards and maybe enjoy some wine tastings if you’re up for it. You can walk around the old town and do some souvenir shopping.
Bordeaux is known for its stunning riverfront and boardwalk. Have a picnic and watch the boats go by. This area is especially beautiful during sunset. Definitely make sure to walk around the city centre of Bordeaux and enjoy a coffee and snack at one of the many little restaurants and cafes.
Recommended By Rai from A Rai of Light
Montpellier, located near the south coast on the Mediterranean Sea, is a city that is renowned for its good mix of culture and history, surrounded by some amazing natural World Heritage sites. The fastest growing city in the country, it is the capital of the Languedoc Region and situated right at the easternmost border of Languedoc as it enters Provence. It is also sought after for being part of the finely preserved coastline of marinas and beaches in the region.
This medieval feel is continued through much of the city. Visitors are drawn for its wine, almost perfect weather, charming old streets, and grand architecture. The main centre of the city is Place de la Comédie with the Opera going all the way back to 1888. Other notable places include the Musée Fabre, Place Royale du Peyrou and the Jardin des plantes de Montpellier. No visit is complete without a stroll along the Promenade du Peyrou and a stop at the main cathedral.
This lively city is often overshadowed by neighboring cities in Provence, but is well worth a visit. Fortunately, it is well connected to other major cities, including Paris, and is easy enough to get to.
Recommended by Hannah from Nouvelle-Aquitaine Travel
Angoulême is perhaps a city in France that you wouldn’t immediately recognize, but it is one of the best family friendly cities in France. Angoulême is only 1.5 hours from Bordeaux and its international airport; making it an easily accessible French destination.
Comic strips originated in Angoulême, and they host the International Comics Festival each February. The Museum of the Comic Strip holds an impressive selection of comic strips from around the world and will hold the curiosity of your kids for hours.
The city of Angoulême boasts a pedestrianised old town centre, with lots of shopping opportunities, and even a Harry Potter wizardry shop. You will see a bust of Hergé, the creator of the TinTin comic here too.
Angoulême is also known for its incredible street art. Huge murals, trompe-l’œil, and cartoons are dotted around the city. Be sure to collect your street art map from the tourism office to get you started. Set inside an impressive 13-15thcentury ex-castle, the tourist office is easy to find.
If you want to add Angoulême to your family vacation, stay at the Mercure opposite the covered market, and enjoy the nearby restaurant district.
Recommended by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers
Metz is one of the most beautiful family friendly cities in France worth visiting and makes the perfect weekend trip from Paris with only a 1hr 30 min travel by train. The city is walkable and there is a lot of green space where toddlers can run off some energy in-between the sights. With bigger kids, you can rent bikes and cover bigger ground in a day.
The most prominent landmark and most visited tourist attraction is the Metz cathedral, which is one of the tallest and beautiful in Europe. Another old structure worth your attention is the basilica of Saint-Pierre-Aux-Nonnains, the oldest church in Metz and one of the oldest in Europe dating back to 380 AD.
The Esplanade is a wonderful example of a 19th century park where the kids can run around while the adults soak in the greens. There is also a long path along the Moselle River that divides Metz where you might see ducklings throughout the spring and summer months.
The river also has a little island, connected by stone bridges where you can admire the Romanesque Revival Style Temple Neuf and the Garden of Love. It’s also worth crossing the medieval bridge to Porte des Alemands where you’ll pass under the fortified walls to the old fortress and towers. And finally, make sure you take time to stroll through the old town and have lots of ice cream, especially if you are in Metz in the summer.
Les Chambres de I’Ile is a superb family-friendly place to stay just a kilometer from Metz Cathedral where your kids can play in the garden that is even equipped with swings.
Recommended by Dymphe from Dymabroad
One of the most family friendly cities in France is Marseille. You find this city in the south of France on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, it is the second largest city of the country. The city is great for its history, its food and its sights. Furthermore, it is a great holiday destination because of the weather!
One of the best things to do in Marseille is going to the old port of the city. Here you can see a lot of boats, and you find here many restaurants. Another great sight in Marseille is Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. This is a great building where you can get a lovely view of the city, which is also great for children.
Also, there are beautiful national parks next to the city. These are great if you want to discover nature and beaches close to Marseille. Furthermore, Palais Longchamp is fun to visit as well. You find here a beautiful park and fountains.
The best time to visit the city of Marseille is from April to November. During these months, the weather is most comfortable. Moreover, if you want to avoid the crowds, September and November are best.
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I visited France 8 years ago as a solo traveler. Maybe soon I’ll be visiting again as a family. Thank you for this list!
Fantastic post Melissa! There are sooo many amazing cities (and small towns) in France that are fantastic for families. I have only visited Nice, Bergerac, Bordeaux and Biarritz out of these, so I have sooo many more to explore. Loire Valley looks seriously gorgeous…I would love to spend time there next.
p.s. My sister lives near Bergerac, and it is pretty stunning out in the countryside there too if your family needs time away from the city.
I have lived in Germany for many years and only made it to Strasbourg for a half day – that’s all my experience with France. France is on our list of must-see countries and, of course, I was planning to visit Paris, the Mediterranean coast, the Bordeaux wine region and the D-Day sites. Well, it seems there is quite a bit more that I have to somehow add to our itinerary.
If you had to limit this list to the towns with most impressive historic charm and architecture, which ones would you choose?
I’ve only heard of Nice before checking out this list, so it’s a great resource! France is one country I haven’t been yet, and while I’m sure I’d want to spend time in Paris, I would definitely want to check out other places too. The coastal regions look so pretty, but I think I would want to see a town a little inland like Bordeaux first, especially if they’re known for their wines!
Thank you so much for this list! When I visited France I loved the little towns we stumbled upon (like Honfleur!) so much more than touristy Paris! I’ve been wanting to check out Aix-en-Provence and Nice for a while now, so definitely keeping this guide handy.
Oh, this post is making me want to spend more time in France! I was supposed to spend a few days in Le Havre last year before a cruise, but 2020 🙁 The Loire Valley is a dream destination of mine, but I’d never heard of caves of Savonnieres Villandry. Definitely adding them to the itinerary if I go!
Great collaboration! I love the photos and enjoy reading about all these beautiful places.
I can’t wait to plan a return visit to France. So I eagerly looked through your post for some new spots to visit. We loved our first visit to the Alsace region so would definitely return and visit Colmar. A bike is all I would need to explore this charming spot. And while we have spent a lot of time in the south, we have missed Biarritz on all of our visit. Those beaches would draw us for sure.
Definitely like how you mixed up the different family friendly cities to fit all kinds of personalities. Darcee & I dont have kids yet but I could imagine my parents taking me more to beach locations like Nice or especially Biarritz cause it may be a bit less crowded. Though, I am sure as a family we would love exploring places like Bergerac too.
From your list, the only one we have visited is Nice and yes, it is family-friendly! France is, like Italy, Spain, and the UK, very good to explore as a country!
We were going to visit France with our baby in 2020. I hope we can make it there soon with our now toddler! 🙂