France is a beautiful Mediterranean country, known as much for its gastronomic delights as it is for its long and ever-changing coastline. As the weather warms up, and summer draws closer, it’s time to start planning your vacation on the beach. Here’s a guide to the best French seaside towns for summer 2022.
Nice is a stunning Southern French town that sprawls along the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean. Famed for its vibrant culture and perfect beach, many tourists flock to the enchanting town when the summer comes around. Nice’s long beach accommodates many sunbathers and is covered in soft, smooth pebbles, known as galets. These light-colored galets create the turquoise color of the coastal water and are warm and comfortable to dry out on after a swim.
The English Promenade, a beachfront road that is over four miles long, is Nice’s most famous attraction. With grand five-star hotels and exquisite restaurants on one side and palm trees overlooking the Mediterranean on the other, it is a beautiful path for a peaceful afternoon stroll. When the heat of the summer sun moves you away from the water, the picturesque old town is there to welcome you with traditional outdoor cafés and stylish boutique shops. Nice’s architectural delights, such as the colorful Massena Square or the magnificent Saint Nicholas Cathedral, and interesting museums, like the Musée des Beaux-Arts, means there’s something for everyone this summer in Nice.
Montpellier is a historic Southern French city on the western half of the country’s Mediterranean coastline. It’s most visited attraction is the traditional old quarter, known as L’Écusson, which is filled with authentic French cafés and artisan shops. Venture through the narrow streets to find Les Halles Castellane, Montpellier’s famous covered market. Those searching for impressive landmarks and genuine French gardens can head directly to the Promenade du Peyrou and Jardin des Plantes. Constructed in 1774, the same year that King Louis 15th ascended to the throne, the Promenade hosts the grand Montpellier Arc de Triomphe and Palace Royale de Peyrou.
To get to the beach from the center of Montpellier, you need to take a short tram ride to the town of Carnon, then a two-minute bus ride to the beach at Pérols. You will arrive at a wide white sand beach on the Mediterranean shoreline. The entire coast surrounding Montpellier is lined with sand, and towns like Sète and La Grande Motte are only a short drive away and will be sure to have peaceful spots along the beaches.
Lacanau-Océan is a small resort town to the west of Bordeaux with a long sandy coastline that appeals to nature lovers. The pale beaches are bordered by tall sand dunes, with a ridge-top trail that offers amazing views over the Atlantic Ocean and the woodlands of Lacanau. The woods themselves are crisscrossed with narrow paths, and bike rental services in the town allow visitors to explore all the way to Lacanau lake. The lake is another great spot for swimming and is often warmer than the vast Atlantic. Small motor or pedal boats can be rented along the lakefront for a memorable day out on the water.
If you want to enjoy the water without the sand, spend a day at the Airotel L’Océan water park and hotel. This park boasts over 3,500 square meters of indoor and outdoor aquatic fun, for any weather. There’s even a spa for adults, while children can play in the supervised pools. While you’re in the region, take the opportunity to have a day trip to the historic city of Bordeaux. Known throughout the world for its food and wine, the city is only an hour’s drive from Lacanau-Océan, and the surrounding vineyards and castles are well worth a visit.
Saint Malo is a coastal walled city in Brittany bordering the English Channel. The city’s most popular attraction is the mile-long rampart which was built along the beach to protect Saint Malo from both invasions and high tides. Overlooking the old town, on the upper edge of the ramparts, sits the Saint Malo Castle. Built in the 15th century by the Duke of Brittany, the Château has endured through many sieges, most recently during the second world war. Off the coast of Saint Malo, sitting atop a tiny island, lies the impressive National Fort. Accessible only at low tides from June to September, the granite fort was built in the 17th century to satisfy the desire of France’s King Louis 14th to protect the country’s northern coastline.
The charming historic old town spills out onto a two-mile stretch of firm, golden sand that makes up Saint Malo’s beaches. There’s plenty of room for holidaymakers to play by the seaside, while curious youngsters can explore the rock pools underneath the imposing city walls. Countless cafés, restaurants, and food stands open up onto the seafront, making it easy to spend an entire day relaxing on the sand.
Cannes, the California of France, is known throughout the world for its annual film festival where the biggest celebrities gather to watch and review movie premieres. But the glamors of Cannes are not just for Hollywood actors, and the azure-blue sea and historic town entice many tourists to vacation here in the summer. Fresh foods, harvested from the sun-soaked region, are sold in the large indoor Marché Forville, every day except Monday. The enchanting old town of Cannes, Le Suquet, consists of narrow, colorful houses and cobblestone streets and has endured as a fisherman’s port since the Roman Empire.
Similar to Nice, Cannes has a large promenade, La Croisette, which stretches along the seafront. Lined with palm trees to produce shade from the summer sun, La Croisette overlooks the powder sand beaches of the Mediterranean. There are some private areas of the beach, where you can rent a deck chair and a parasol and have cocktails brought to your side as you relax. Most of the sand, however, is public space, and anyone can enjoy the calm water which is warm enough to swim in at any hour of the day or night.