France delights photographers with an endless source of inspiration, from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to majestic castles in the Loire Valley and dreamy seaside scenes of the French Riviera. Splendid nature sites such as the French Alps rival the beauty of the country's glorious cathedrals and elegant cities, while charming pastoral villages pose for picture-perfect images.
1. Eiffel Tower
The most famous of Paris' tourist attractions, the Eiffel Tower is so monumental that it's difficult to capture by camera. One solution is to photograph from a distance.
Across the Seine River, the Jardins du Trocadéro provides a perfect vantage point, with its spacious esplanade and ornamental pools serving as a lovely foreground. From this angle at sunrise, the golden light creates an enchanting background for the Iron Lady.
Photographers should spend some time wandering around the Eiffel Tower to see it from different angles. Our guide to visiting the Eiffel Tower mentions unique features, such as the recently renovated garden next to the Eiffel Tower's esplanade.
2. Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel creates a magical impression, especially at high tide when the island appears to rise from the sea, soaring towards the heavens. Pilgrims have marveled at the soul-inspiring sight of this Gothic monastery since the 11th century.
Our guide to visiting Mont Saint-Michel describes the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel's glorious medieval architecture and provides tips for crossing the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel. Both the abbey and the bay are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To get exceptional landscape photos, visitors can cross the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel by foot (following in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims). Accredited guides are available to help with the crossing. This experience allows you to take a picture of the entire island of Mont Saint-Michel, at low tide when the bay waters recede from the sandy basin.
Another excellent vantage point for photographing Mont Saint-Michel is from the Pointe du Grouin du Sud, located across the bay about a 45-minute drive from Mont Saint-Michel. From this distance, the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel takes up the foreground, and the island of Mont Saint-Michel appears in the distance emerging from the bay.
3. Versailles Gardens
In the 17th century, renowned landscape designer André Le Nôtre created the gardens of the Château de Versailles in his trademark style of formality and restraint. Immaculately trimmed shrubbery, tidy rows of flower beds, ornamental pools, fountains, and statues make the gardens seem more like artwork than nature.
4. Château de Chenonceau
The Château de Chenonceau stands out from the hundreds of fairy-tale castles in the Loire Valley, because of its distinctive architecture and refined feminine style. A gallery of the castle extends across the River Cher, built on an arched bridge, which allows for serene images of the building reflected in the water.
The small fishing village of Saint-Tropez became a glamorous seaside resort in the 1950s. Yet the town has retained its historic Provençal character, seen in the pastel-painted houses and tree-shaded squares. Opportunities for stunning photos abound at the yacht-filled harbor, within La Ponche (the original village) and at dazzling beaches.
6. Amiens Cathedral
The 13th-century Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Amiens is the largest Gothic cathedral in France. Besides the remarkable proportions, the Cathedral of Amiens is renowned for its lavishly embellished facade featuring hundreds of sculpted religious figures. An interesting photo of the cathedral would be a close-up that captures one small section of the facade.
7. Mont Blanc in the French Alps
The sight of Mont Blanc has a breathtaking effect. At an altitude of 4,810 meters, the peak of this legendary mountain in the French Alps is covered with snow year-round.
Intermediate-level trails on the Tour du Mont Blanc allow hikers to roam through magnificent landscapes and take advantage of amazing photo-ops along the way. This system of trails offers some of the best hiking in France.
8. Château de Chantilly
Surrounded by lush parkland, the Château de Chantilly is a sumptuous castle that blends medieval and Renaissance architectural elements. The estate's formal gardens, ponds, canal, and woodlands offer many possibilities for capturing romantic images.
The Château de Chantilly is one of the top day trips from Paris. It takes about one hour to drive here from Paris or about two hours by train.
9. Riquewihr in the Alsace Region
Vine-covered rolling hills envelope this quaint village in the Alsace plain. With half-timbered houses clustered around a high-steepled church, Riquewihr has the appearance of a storybook hamlet. Geranium-bedecked balconies and fountain-adorned public squares add to the charm.
Riquewihr is one of the most picturesque villages in the Alsace region. This area in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains has many towns on the list of Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages of France).
10. Pont du Gard
The UNESCO-listed Pont du Gard in Provence reveals the legacy of Roman civilization in the region. A marvel of ancient engineering, this graceful arched aqueduct supplied water (over 2,000 years ago) to the nearby town of Nîmes, which is also full of ancient Roman monuments.
A highlight of the Normandy region, Honfleur has long seduced artists with its quaint old fishing harbor and typical Norman-style waterfront houses. Claude Monet, Eugène Boudin, and other Impressionist painters cherished the scenery of Honfleur, depicting the port and seascape in beautiful paintings.
12. Saint-Paul de Vence
Saint-Paul de Vence, a popular day trip from Nice, exemplifies a village perché (medieval hilltop village). Ramparts enclose a captivating maze of winding cobblestone streets, pedestrian staircases, and compactly built stone houses.
Photographers can snap shots from a distance, as well as close-up within the narrow alleyways and hidden squares of the town.
13. Place Stanislas in Nancy
The UNESCO-listed Place Stanislas in Nancy is one of Europe's most impressive public squares, thanks to its unified collection of 18th-century classical French palaces. At corners of the square, Rococo gilded ironwork gates beckon photographers to capture close-ups of the ornate details.
14. Parc National des Calanques
Along the Mediterranean coast between the port town of Marseilles and the fishing village of Cassis, the Calanques National Park features striking white limestone coves filled with calm seawater. Sunlight renders the water a mesmerizing turquoise hue.
One of the most beautiful villages of France (Plus Beaux Villages de France), this walled medieval town in the Burgundy region is a delightful warren of winding cobblestone streets and pastel-shuttered houses. The town centers around a 13th-century Benedictine abbey (now a factory that produces anise-flavored candies).
Rocamadour is a breathtaking sight, with its medieval sanctuaries clinging to a sheer cliffside and aspiring towards heaven. In the 11th century, this Christian pilgrimage destination ranked third in importance after Jerusalem and Rome.
Because of its spectacular setting and cultural value, Rocamadour is one of the top tourist attractions in France. It is worth driving out of the way in the Limousin region to see this fascinating UNESCO-listed village.
Almost any location in Rocamadour allows for taking fabulous photos. The village also looks amazing when photographed from a distance.
17. Côte d'Emeraude in Brittany
A sublime stretch of coastline in the Brittany region, the Côte d'Emeraude extends south of Saint-Malo to the Cap Fréhel. The scenic route includes the stylish seaside resort of Dinard and the historic fishing village of Cancale.
18. Étretat on the Normandy Coast
Dramatic limestone cliffs plunge into the Atlantic Ocean at this spectacular spot on Normandy's Côte d'Albâtre. Monet, Courbet, and other Impressionist painters captured the natural beauty of Étretat in vivid brushstrokes.
The gushing fountains, colorful open-air markets, and bustling sidewalk cafés of Aix-en-Provence lend a lively quality to photographs. An especially photogenic spot is the outdoor market at the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, which brims with vibrant flowers, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
20. Île de Porquerolles
A short ferry ride away from Toulon, this idyllic island offers the optimal elements for snapping gorgeous photos: bright sunshine, luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation, and pristine white-sand beaches with crystal-clear aquamarine waters.
With its stunning views of the French Riviera coastline, Eze is a photographer's dream. It is easy to take panoramic shots from this medieval hilltop town (village perché), especially from the vantage point of the Exotic Garden, which stands at 429 meters above the sea.
For a distinctive photo, just point the camera towards the sea in the westward direction. This angle will capture the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, an easily recognizable landscape feature that will give your image a unique sense of place.
22. Vieux Port in Marseilles
Marseilles immerses visitors into bustling scenes of a working port city, complete with a large commercial harbor and a picturesque historic port. Filled with fishing boats and yachts, the atmospheric Vieux Port (Old Port) is the heart of Marseilles and a hub for seafood restaurants. Here, you can take photos of an authentic fish market or scenes of fishing boats docked in the sparkling waters.
23. Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque
The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque is a hidden gem of Cistercian architecture in the bucolic Haut-Vaucluse area of the Provence region.
Founded in the 12th century, the abbey is still a working monastery where monks are devoted to a life of simplicity, prayer, and labor. Monks tend to the farmland and garden of the property, including the production of olive oil and the gathering of lavender honey.
The abbey is surrounded by fields of lavender, which bloom from July through early August. It's a joy to photograph the rows of vibrant purple blossoms that frame the abbey. The wooded hillside behind the abbey adds an additional element of contrast, ideal for creating a perfect photo.
Official site: https://www.senanque.fr
24. Monet's Garden in Giverny
Photographing the garden of Claude Monet's House in Giverny gives travelers a chance to see the beautiful scenes that Monet rendered on canvas. Similar to painting, taking pictures requires an artistic point of view. The variety of landscapes and colorful blossoms at Monet's Garden provide plenty of inspiration.
Photographers can focus on famous spots in Claude Monet's garden, such as the water lily pond, or take close-ups of specific flowers that bloom throughout the seasons.
Springtime delights visitors to Giverny. The month of April brings vibrant tulips and delicate cherry blossoms, while May promises pink rhododendrons and purple delphiniums. In June, roses begin to bloom and continue through July when cheerful zinnias also burst onto the scene.
Formidable ancient ramparts surround this captivating medieval village, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many opportunities to take great pictures within the labyrinth of cobblestone streets. The charming half-timbered houses and old stone buildings are easy to capture in photos.