If you are planning a trip to south of France, try the underrated West side! In south west of France, you will discover beautiful French vineyards, dynamic cities like Bordeaux or Toulouse, picturesque medieval villages such as Saint-Emilion and a laid-back atmosphere.
Southwest of France is also a kind of a melting post of few local peoples that still kept their language! You can here some Languedoncien, Basque and Gascon – enough diversity to immerse yourself into a whole different world.
In this travel guide, you will find best things to do, best places to visit in south of France in this western area, and best cities in the southwest to settle in for your trip.
Let’s go on this terrific journey together!
- Best cities to settle in Southwest of France
- What to do and see in Southwest of France? 6 ideas for a perfect stay
- FAQ & Useful resources
Best cities to settle in Southwest of France
Southwest of France is not very well-know around the world, yet it gathers all the reasons that a destination is worth considering: delicious local cuisine, beautiful beaches, dynamic and touristy cities, medieval picturesque villages, countryside and vineyard landscape, and, to top it off, many splendid Castles.
Thanks to its main cities, the area is very easy to access by plane or train through direct trips. Here are the best cities in the southwest of France to visit.
Visiting and settling in Bordeaux
World famous city considered to be the capital of red wines, Bordeaux is also a beautiful city of which France can be proud of. Blessed with optimum geographical locations, Bordeaux enjoys much sun, the Oceanic coast close by and the Garonne banks.
The high-developed high-speed train network in France makes Bordeaux an easy destination to reach, just 2 hours away by TGV from Paris. It is also well served by its international airport (Bordeaux-Merignac) which is only 12 kilometers from the city.
You can plan settling in Bordeaux at least a couple of day to have time to discover historical monuments and museums, stroll along the quays, but most of all: try some wine tourism experiences even if you are not a big Bordeaux wine connoisseurs. Discover our selection of accommodations in Bordeaux here.
If you are interested in renting a car during your trip, click here to know more.
The Bordeaux Wine Museum is the highlight of the city’s activities: located on the Chartrons district, this peculiar museum offers many insightful wine activities. Discover more on what to do in Bordeaux in this dedicated article!
It’ll be so interesting to book wine experiences around Bordeaux! The variety of estates offer you a wide choice of activities, from guided tours, to food & wine pairings, commented tastings and and fun oenological workshops. Just to mention a few domains worth a visit:
Visiting and settling in Toulouse
Also known as the “Pink City” for the terra-cotta color brick used to build the entire cit, Toulouse is one of these French spots you want to explore. You can also plan staying a few days just in Toulouse, as there is much to see from the Saint Sernin Basilica, walks around the Garden plants, the Capitol Square or the Canal du Midi, and visits to the Natural History Museum and the City of Space. It’s a lot of fun to rend a boat – for which you don’t need a license – to cruise around the Canal du Midi!
For foodies, you’ll enjoy local cuisine and typical dishes like the famous Cassoulet, and many duck delicacies like Fois Gras, Canard Confit,… As for a good address, you will find numerous restaurants in Rue du Taur. From markets to gastronomic restaurants, your taste buds will thank you later!
Toulouse great city to settle in with friends or family, and is the reflection of the region’s slower lifestyle rhythm. You’ll enjoy local traditions and be immersed in southwestern France’s ambiance. Check it this dedicated article to know more about things to do and see in Toulouse during your stay!
What to do and see in Southwest of France? 6 ideas for a perfect stay
Blessed with a heavenly climate and a diversity in landscape, from the Oceanic coast to the Pyrenees Mountains, South west of France is not short of activities for locals and tourists.
Here are 6 ideas of best activities you could do during your trip in South west of France, so you can make the most of your stay and have an amazing time in this rich and beautiful region!
1. Surf on the Atlantic ocean in Biarritz
Te city of Biarritz, right on the seaside, will make discover the French Basque Country and all its cultural traditions – from cuisine to local activities and language. It would be like traveling to another country in just one day!
Gorgeous sandy beaches makes this elegant city all the more attractive for a tourist destination, where French people like it a lot for surfing. Historically, it was also one of European royalty’s favorite destination for spending holidays!
If you do like surfing, best areas are Côte des Basques, La Grande Plage and all along the north side of the lighthouse.
2. Enjoy the Catalan culture of Collioure
Located very close to the principality of Andorra and the Spanish border, beautiful Collioure is a true heaven of peace between land and sea. Only 25 minutes away by train from Perpignan, this small French town will be a highlight of your trip in Southwest of France – where its turquoise water, cute quays and atypical vineyards always delight tourists and locals.
In a nutshell, here’s what you’ll be happy to explore:
- Notre-Dame des Anges church
- Royal Caslte
- The Mill
- Fort Saint-Elme
- Maison du Fauvisme
And plenty more. Discover more of what’s not to miss in Collioure!
3. Visit Medieval picturesque villages
Of course, you have hear of Carcassonne Castles and this completely fortified medieval town of France. This national symbol proudly represents the richness of the region’s historical heritage. Even if it can be quite touristy and crowded, do go some sightseeing there and stroll along the Medieval City, the Saint-Nazaire Basilica, the Comtal Castle and the Pont Vieux.
More about top things to see and do in Carcassonne in this dedicated article.
Saint-Emilion is also a must when it comes to exploring medieval villages, especially in the Médoc area – as it bears the name of one of most prestigious red wines in the world. Not too far away from Bordeaux and close to Bergerac, this picturesque town will bring back in the past and capture your heart – it is one of the best places to visit in southwest of France. The three unmissable places to see there are the Monolithic Church, the King’s Tower and the Collegiate Chruch.
But of course, you will also come across splendid wine-estates, that open their doors to anyone interesting in their stories and historical heritage.
4. Outdoor adventures around the Pyrenees
I you feel like taking a breath a fresh and clean air for day, the Pyrenees Massif got you covered. Very close to Toulouse, the Pyrenees National Park is easily accessible for a day-hike. It counts many breathtaking trails, among which the top 4 is:
- Montagnon lake
- Les Aiguilles d’Ansabère
- The Cirque de Gavarnie
- La Brèche de Roland
Also, you may be happy to explore the Goerges de Kakuetta, one of the most beautiful natural sites there is in southwest of Franc – right in the heart of the French Basque Country. You can plan on a 4-kilometers day-hike there, where you’ll find plenty of wooden walkways and footbridges to enjoy wonderful waterfalls and views.
5. Visit most beautiful Wines Châteaux in France
The Bordeaux vineyard is home to most of the top beautiful Wine Châteaux there are in France. It would too bad to settle in Bordeaux and not visit some of them! To the delight of tourists and wine enthusiasts, many of these prestigious wine estates open their doors to unveil, through guided wine experiences, their ancient heritage and admirable wine-making know-how, that has been carefully taking care of over generations.
You can visit one or several, the choice is yours! You’ll finally know what make a Bordeaux such a great red wine, details of terroir specificities and anecdotes of family estates. The top Wine Châteaux list is right here:
- Châteaux Pape Clément
- Château La Tour Carnet
- Château de Rayne Vigneau
- Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey
- Château Suduriaut
6. Exquisite wine tourism on the Médoc Wine Route
While you are planning a stay in the Southwest of France region, you must consider driving on the Médoc Wine Route and visiting wineries of Bordeaux vineyards! This French Wine Route extends over more than 80 kilometers from Bordeaux to the Atlantic Coast, on the west bank of the Garonne river. You’ll be literally immersed into the terroir of world famous wine appellations such as Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Margaux and Listrac.
On top of being astonished by infinite vine landscape, you will cross most charming villages that bear the names of these appellations. A day-road-trip along the Médoc Wine Route is really a fun adventure to enhance, whether you are a Bordeaux-wine fan or not. You can also stroll along by bike! You’ll be able to discover less villages of course, but the trip will be all the more enjoyable from the simplicity of your ride.
You’ll have the choice to visit tens of wineries along the way, so don’t hesitate to pay visits to wine-growers ready to meet you!
There you go, you have plenty of ideas to plan your amazing trip to the Southwest region of France! From typical villages to dynamic cities, outdoor adventures and wine tourism activities, beach laid-back days and historical sight-seeing, your schedule is already full of highlights. Enjoy that exciting trip of yours!
FAQ & Useful resources
When should I visit South West of France?
South of France is always very beautiful, but it’s even more enjoyable from May to October, when days are long and the sun is shining. High season is of course during the summer, but anytime during this period will be a delight.
What is South West of France known for?
This part of France is mostly famous for its cute medieval cities that are spread over the region. It is also a beautiful land between the coast, sunny valleys and the majestic Pyrenees at the Spanish border.
How long should my trip be in South of France?
You should not be shy to plan spending a full two-week stay in South-West of France, considering you will have plenty to do and see: relaxing sea-days, outdoor tours and hiking in the Pyrenees, sightseeing and city activities… You won’t be deceived!
Where to land in South-West of France?
The biggest airports you’ll find in South-West of France will be the ones of:
– Bordeaux: Bordeaux-Merignac international airport
– Toulouse: Toulouse-Bagnac international airport
– Perpignan: Aéroport Sud de France Perpignan – a smaller international airport.