Visiting Southwest of France: The Ultimate Travel Guide

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If you are making plans to visit the southwest of France, why not make the most of your trip?

Venture southwest and discover idyllic French vineyards along with bustling cities like Bordeaux or Toulouse. Additionally, savor quaint medieval villages such as Saint-Emilion in a relaxed atmosphere.

This region is also a melting pot of many local cultures that kept their languages alive – Languedoncien, Basque, Gascon and more – providing an immersive experience into a different world!

Join us as we embark on a remarkable journey to explore the wild west of France! Through this guide, you can uncover the best places to visit and cities to stay in while in southern France. Pack your bags – it’s time for an adventure like no other!

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

quartier des Chartrons

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.

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 things to do in Bordeaux in this dedicated article!

It can also be interesting to book a Bordeaux wine tour! 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:

  • Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey
  • Château Fombrauge for amazing food & wine pairing.

Don’t hesitate to stroll along the Médoc Wine Route and discover Most Beautiful Wine Châteaux!

Visiting and settling in Toulouse

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Panorama of Toulouse with Pont Neuf bridge across Garonne river, France

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 food fanatics, Toulouse is a true paradise. From the iconic Cassoulet to gourmet dishes such as Fois Gras or Canard Confit, your tastebuds will never be bored! And if you’re looking for the perfect spot in town, head over to Rue du Taur where you’ll find everything from street markets to exquisite restaurants. The city also reflects its southern French culture and traditions; it’s no wonder why so many people choose this beautiful place as their home away from home!

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

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Biarritz beaches

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

Ville de Collioure
Collioure – France

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

Carcassonne

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Carcassonne – France

Have you heard of the marvelous Carcassonne Castle, a profoundly fortified French medieval settlement that encapsulates its nation’s vibrant past? Even if it can be densely populated with tourists at times, sightseeing here is an absolute must and promises to bring memorable experiences. Visitors should definitely take time to explore the Medieval City, Saint-Nazaire Basilica, Comtal Castle and Pont Vieux for some truly extraordinary sights!

Saint-Emilion

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landscape view of Saint Emilion village in Bordeaux region in France

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

pyrenees
Pyrenees Mountains – Southwest of France

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

Château Margaux
Château Margaux – Bordeaux Wine Châteaux

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

panorama sur la route des vins de bordeaux
Médoc vineyards

While you are planning a stay in the Southwest of France region, you must consider driving on the Médoc Wine Route and visiting the best bordeaux wineries! 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.