To the uninitiated, Le Mans is perhaps best known for its legendary 24-hour motoring event. But venture away from the race and you’ll find a ‘City of Art and History’ that’s sure to capture your heart. Like something from a fairy tale, Le Mans is mounted upon a hill, while the Gallo-Roman wall that encompasses its old town is said to be the finest example of this type of structure in France. Officially named the Cité Plantagenêt, this historic quarter is essentially a maze of largely unspoilt medieval architecture. A walk around its vicinity offers up charming cobbled lanes that are punctuated by stone stairways and surrounded by half-timbered houses, where the Cathedral Saint Julien dominates the skyline.

After many of Troyes’ houses were completely destroyed in the great fire of 1524, the richer inhabitants rebuilt theirs to the same specifications – this time in expensive fire-proof materials. As such, the old town stands much the same as it did almost 500 years ago and, along with the 11 striking churches that crowd the centre, the area is a beautiful stop for any lover of historic architecture. But as well as being a fine example of the past, the cobbled streets of Troyes have also seen some notable modern innovations. Having been assigned to the Troyes army in 1927, Pierre Lévy set to work in the area’s famous knitwear factories, married the daughter of the owner, and together they created the iconic Lacoste brand. The Musée d’Art Moderne, housed in a former bishop’s palace, was formed from the couple’s art collection and includes works by Matisse, Modigliani and Picasso.

It’s no news that across the world, France is admired for its haute cuisine. But to truly indulge your wildest gourmet fantasies, you must head to Lyon - the country’s gastronomical capital. Located in the Rhône Alps region, its placement on the confluence on the Rhône and Saône rivers make it easy to source exceptional ingredients from many places nearby. Summer vegetables from Bresse farms, fresh fish from Savoy, fruits from Drome and vintage wine from the Rhône Valley all come together at the hands of Lyon’s local chefs. Don't leave the city without sampling some quintessentially Lyonnaise ‘Cervelle de Canut’ or ‘Saucisson de Lyon’ in a bouchon. Though Lyon’s vibrant cultural scene doesn’t stop at fine riverside dining. It’s the birthplace of cinema, and you can catch screenings at arty independent picture houses, as well as soaking up culture at the many photography galleries and museums. As a thriving university city, Lyon is home to many young creatives, and as you’d imagine it boasts a colourful nightlife scene. Check out the thrilling live jazz clubs and the biggest Chinatown outside of Paris.

Known for holding some of the world’s finest produce, Normandy, in Northern France, is a gastronomical wonder. The region’s delicacies and restaurants owe a lot to its expansive coastline and idyllic countryside surroundings, with menus often based around local, seasonal ingredients. The area is also home to the monumental D-Day landings, which today are brought to life on the region’s beaches by expert guides. If you’re planning a self-drive holiday, the 80-mile Alabaster Coast is a true spectacle, with enormous white chalk cliffs that span from the scenic town of Etretat to the coastal village of Dieppe.

Situated in northern France just a few miles from the Belgian border, Dunkirk is renowned for its beaches, which provided the setting for one of the most miraculous escapes in military history. The Battle of Dunkirk saw the evacuation of 330,000 Allied troops against Nazi Germany across Dunkirk’s 15-mile shoreline during World War II. Today, the immaculate beaches are lined with beautiful Belle Époque buildings, cosy cafes and tiny bars, but you’ll find the events of 1940 remembered in many important sites. The Dunkirk 1940 Museum and the nearby Dunkirk Memorial are both good places to learn more about the evacuation. Nowadays, the city has a working harbour, making it the ideal place for boat trips around the citadel or relaxing walks by the sea. Dunkirk is a 40-minute drive from the port of Calais.

With its prime position at the heart of the Alsatian wine route in north-east France, it’s no wonder that Colmar is a favourite destination among connoisseurs. In fact, this pine-clad place is considered the capital of the celebrated wine region, noted for its exceptional dry white vintages made possible by the mountainous surrounds of the Vosges, and playing annual host to local winemakers at the famous Foire aux vins d'Alsace (Alsatian wine fair). But wine is not all that’s to be had in Colmar. The beautiful alley-woven old town looks as though it has been plucked from the pages of a medieval fairy story. The picture-perfect half-timbered houses are traditionally painted in pastel colours, providing a unique contrast to the dark cobblestone lanes and dimly lit bridge-lined canals. Besides its quaint appearance, Colmar’s fascinating past is well preserved in a number of magnificent churches and curious museums. Established in 1849 in a former 13th-century convent, the Unterlinden Museum is home to many spectacular artworks and biblical masterpieces.

Situated on the westernmost edge of continental Europe, Brittany is easily one of the most intriguing regions of France. Its strong Celtic heritage has given birth to Breton culture, making it feel far removed from archetypal French destinations like Paris. Centuries ago, a wave of people from south-west England settled here after escaping the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons - consequently, the traditional language of the Breton people is related closely to Welsh and Cornish. Brittany hosts an abundance of medieval towns and mysterious forests, with plenty of museums telling the area’s story from the prehistoric times - but history isn’t the only thing you’ll find here. The region’s wild coastline boasts some of the most beautiful untamed beaches in France, and its fresh lobster, oysters and scallops are among the best in the world - perfect served up with a glass of the locals’ favourite drink: cider. World-famous locations such as the walled port city of Saint-Malo, regal Dinard and the tiny town of Dinan are essential stops when visiting this captivating area.

This star-studded city is the beautiful backdrop to the glamorous Cannes Film Festival, and with views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it's not hard to see why. Set on the stunning French Riviera, you can catch some rays on one of its sandy beaches or stroll through the boutique-lined streets. For a taste of local culture, explore the charming old quarter of the city, Le Suquet, which was originally a fishing village. There the gothic Église Notre-Dame D’Espérance has kept watch over Cannes since 1521, and today it offers panoramic views of the city below.

Affectionately named the ‘Ville Rose’ for its blush-hued buildings, Toulouse is the lively capital of France’s Occitanie region. A dreamy patchwork of pretty shopfronts, centuries-old structures and raucous jazz bars, there’s something for everyone in this French city. In spring, the Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden) comes alive with pink cherry blossom, while you’ll find the crystal blue waters of the River Garonne perfect for water sports in the summer. Still, there are plenty of things to do in Toulouse all year round, from burning the midnight oil in the city’s cellar bars to sipping vin chaud at the annual Christmas market. If you have more time to explore the surrounding area, you could hike the mountainous terrain of the Pyrenées to the south, see the famous pilgrimage site of Lourdes to the west, or head east for the delights of the Côte d’Azur.

The glacial ski resort of Chamonix is one of the oldest in France. Situated at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe, this alpine playground attracts droves of skiers and snowboarders every year. Many skiers come here to qualify as professional instructors and guides, as the fast cruising pistes and famous 20km Vallée Blanche glacier run really put their skills to the test. Chamonix village is charming with its traditional Belle Époque look, offering riverside cafes, interesting shops, galleries, museums, bookshops and speciality food stores. Although the area is well known for its winter sports and mountaineering, summer is also a popular time to visit, with great opportunities for hiking and cycling around the crystal waters of Lac Blanc.

Once upon a time the commercial nucleus of Europe, Lille has transformed from industrial metropolis to thriving culture hub in recent years. Situated in the north of France just over an hour's drive from Calais, highlights include a handsome Old Town and a myriad of top-rated art museums. The glorious Grand Place and the ancient basilica of Notre Dame de la Treille are grand examples of Flemish architecture.

If you're happiest sipping fine red wine in picturesque countryside, then a trip to Burgundy is a must. Situated slightly east of central France, this breathtaking area is a vision of gently rolling hills, sun-drenched vineyards and mustard fields, making it perfect for scenic strolls. World class pinot noir and immaculate medieval sites such as Fontenay Abbey and the village of Vézelay make the lengthy drive from Calais well worth it.

Under Louis XIV's reign, Nantes was both France's most important port, and one of the largest in all of Europe. Although it still retains strong ties with Brittany, the capital of the Pays de la Loire region is best known these days for its vibrant art scene. Inspired by Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci, the utterly unique Machines of the Isle of Nantes project is a dream world for creatives. People come from across the globe to marvel at the magnificent paintings in The Musée des Beaux-Arts and the gorgeous Gothic cathedral.

Café culture, fabulous shopping and legendary landmarks. No wonder the beating heart of France is considered to be the most romantic city in the world. Believe it or not, it is even more beautiful over the festive period. Visit Paris at Christmas and soak up the twinkling Eiffel Tower, curious Christmas markets and much more. If the market on the Champs-Elysées doesn’t fill your Christmas shopping bags, get out of the cold and browse goods in the dreamy Galeries Lafayette.

From the wooden chalets offering a range of festive food and gifts to the 50 metre high Ferris wheel that offers breath-taking best views of the city, Christmas in Lille is an unforgettable experience. Artisans, merchants and chefs travel from across France to sell their wares, so you can be sure to find something unique at the Lille Christmas Market. Take in the city’s magical lights from atop the Charles de Gaulle ferris wheel, before heading to a festive concert at the majestic Opera House.

There's nothing quite like Christmas in Arras. As you tour the city's tree-lined avenues, you'll find astonishing architecture illuminated with colourful lights and lovingly decorated displays. With cosy wooden chalets, an ice rink and gourmet food demonstrations from local chefs, this Flemish city has something for everyone this Christmas. When you’re all done buying gifts at the Winter Forest and local markets, treat yourself to an early Christmas present at the prestigious L’hiver Musical festival.

A short walk in Arras will see you discover incredible architecture of the Town Hall and the towering Belfry in the Place des Héros. For those seeking a cycling adventure, Arras is a gateway to the Artois countryside and the historic First World War memorial sites like the Canadian National Vimy Monument and the Thiepval Memorial.

A true gem of the Alsace region, this cycle capital boasts a medieval past and a multicultural identity. Wander among the half-timbered houses of Petite France or hit the road to drink in the delights of the Alsace wine route.

Home to the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Amiens Cathedral, this charming city is one of France's best kept secrets. For scenic delights, explore Les Hortillonnages, Amien's famous floating gardens set on islands surrounded by a network of canals.

The Loire Valley is abundant in spectacular castles, exquisite banquet halls and extravagant gardens; no wonder it's called the Garden of France.

The beating heart of France, Paris is the number one spot for fashion in the world; be prepared to shop till you drop like never before.

Experience the champagne city of France, where architectural masterpieces, grand champagne houses and Michelin starred restaurants go hand in hand.

Relax by the beach in fashion conscious Le Touquet, a chic seaside resort in the Nord-Pad-de-Calais

Le Mans, France

Troyes, France

Lyon, France

Normandy, France

Dunkirk, United Kingdom

Colmar, France

Saint-Malo, France

Cannes, France

Toulouse, France

Chamonix, France

Lille, France

Burgundy, France

Nantes, France

Paris, France

Lille, France

Arras, France

Arras, France

Strasbourg, France

Amiens, France

Loire Valley

Paris, France

Reims, France

Le Touquet, France