Largest French Cities include Paris, Nice, Strasbourg, Lille and more

Top French Cities by Population

Here is the list of the largest French cities which range from most-visited Paris to Mediterranean Nice and German-influenced Strasbourg. 

Edited by Mary Anne Evans

  • 01 of 10

    Paris

    parisviewnight
    ••• View of Paris at night. © Mike Hewitt/Getty Images News

    Population: 2,240,621; Department: Paris; Region: Île-de-France

    Paris is the ultimate urban destination in France, indeed in Europe. This is a city that features a seemingly endless must-see list of museums, sights and tours. It's also the perfect city to wander around aimlessly, discovering lovely neighborhoods like the Île Saint Louis and the Marais. The French even have a word for this; it's flâneur which conjures up city slickers in top hats strolling through the parks and gardens. And of course, Paris is the place to find world-class cuisine and world-class art, not to mention some of the world's best shopping.

    The main attractions in Paris are the most popular in France, from  Disneyland (16 million visitors) to the Louvre (9.4 million) and the Eiffel Tower (7.5 million). While all French cities are great for enjoying the café​ life, Paris elevates that to an art form.

    Top Most Visited Sites in France

  • 02 of 10

    Marseille

    marseillemucem
    ••• MuCem and Fort Saint-Jean. Mary Anne Evans

    Population: 852,516; Department: Bouches-du-Rhône; Region: Provence-Alpes-Maritimes-Cote-d’Azur

    The largest city in Provence and now the second largest in France, Marseille has seen a huge resurgence in recent years. the great historic maritime city has been extensively redeveloped in many areas, while the new MUCEM (Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean) has brought a new cultural buzz.

    Marseille offers a wonderful combination of Mediterranean climate, big city and that joie de vivre of the South of France. And it's a great place for restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping.

    Top 10 Things to Do and Attractions in Marseille

    Getting to Marseille

    Now you can take the train from London St Pancras to Marseille without changing trains or stations; it takes a mere 6 hours 27 minutes. 

  • 03 of 10

    Lyon

    lyonfestlight2012
    ••• Lyon Festival of Light.

    Population: 496,343; Department: Rhône; Region: Auvergne - Rhône-Alpes

    Lyon is frequently underrated but it is one of the most interesting and lively cities in France and well worth a visit.

    The inventors of the cinema lived and worked here; don't miss the Lumière Museum and watch the first film ever made. There are others as well, covering the fine arts, the French Resistance (a particularly brutal history in Lyon), and printing. Oh, and the Romans started it all.

    The city is cross-crossed by secret passageways. There is a stunning Light Festival each year in December and being France's most famous gastronomic destination, Lyon has top restaurants and bistros. And...don't take my word for it; visit this great city.

    Getting to Lyon

    Pictures of Lyon

  • 04 of 10

    Toulouse

    Toulouse, France
    ••• Toulouse, France. Getty/Jean-Marie ROUS Photography

     

    Population: 453,317; Department: Haute-Garonne; Region: Occitanie (Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées)

    Known as the ville rose (pink city), Toulouse is another lovely city often ignored by visitors. On the Garonne river, this gracious, spacious city spreads out along the river banks. The food here, and in the rest of the region, is superb. The shopping options are vast.

    Toulouse is also a great start for regional tourism, and it's from here that you are met for a slow barge trip through Gascony.

    Getting to Toulouse

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Nice

    Cours Saleya Market in NIce
    ••• Cours Saleya Market in NIce. Getty Images

    Population: 343,619; Department: Alpes-Maritimes; Region: Provence-Alpes-Maritimes-Cote-d’Azur (PACA)

    Nice is a wonderful French Riviera city, and a popular destination for couples, honeymooners and sun-worshipers. The Queen of the Riviera, as the city is known, has a delightful Old Town, enticing pedestrian walkways lined with cafes and boutiques, and one of the best markets in the south of France at the famous Cours Saleya. Beloved and discovered by the Impressionist artists, it's full of delightful, small art museums, many of them in the houses the artists lived in. And it's well known for its lively restaurants and bistros, as well as its street food for those in a hurry.

    Nice is a year-round destination, with the Carnival attracting visitors in February and March, and the famous Nice Jazz Festival filling the city with music lovers in July.

    Getting to Nice

    Take the train from London to Nice; it makes a great start to the holiday

    Nice - A Food Lovers' City

  • 06 of 10
    NANTESELEPHANT
    ••• Ride on the Great Elephant. Voyage a Nantes

    Population: 291,287; Department: Loire-Atlantique; Region: Pays de la Loire

    Nantes is a charming western France city at the western end of the Loire River. A huge and impressive renovation has catapulted the city into the major league of French cities. Its history is tumultuous; its river banks now bustling and lively with art works, boutiques, restaurants and cafes.

    But its most quirky and famous project must be the Machines de l'Ile. Ride on the huge elephant or take to one of the Jules Vernes-style creatures on the carousel' you'll be amazed by the ingenuity.

    Getting to Nantes

    Top Attractions in Nantes 

  • 07 of 10

    Strasbourg

    BoattripQuai-des-BateliersStrasbourg.jpg
    ••• Take a trip along the River Ill in Strasbourg. http://www.batorama.com/

    Population: 274,394; Department: Bas-Rhin; Region: Grand Est (Alsace, Champagne-Ardennes and Lorraine)

    Strasbourg is the ultimate European city. It has flavors of both France and Germany, and sits right on the border of the two countries. It's picturesque la Petite France neighborhood looks like something straight out of a fairy tale book, a riverfront neighborhood with timbered buildings accented by colorful flower boxes.

    But it also has great museums, shops, a wonderful Christmas Market, well worth visiting, and of course, top Alsatian restaurants.

    Getting to Strasbourg

  • 08 of 10

    Montpellier

    montpellieropea
    ••• The Opera in Place de la Comedie, Montpellier, southern France. © OT - Montpellier Celine Escolano

     Population: 268,456; Department: Hérault; Region: Occitanie (Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées)

    Another of those cities which many have heard of but fewer have visited, Montpellier is a delightful city. It'd one of the top cities of the south of France, with a venerable past, good museums and an old pedestrianised centre for strolling around. 

    Getting to Montpellier

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Bordeaux

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    ••• The Mirror of Water in front of the Bourse. Thomas Sanson

    Population: 241,287; Department: Gironde; Region: Nouvelle Aquitaine (Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes)

    Bordeaux on the French Atlantic coast is a thriving city filled with shops, amazing historic attractions and nestled in the heart of wine country.  Bordeaux's great history as the major port to the New World as well as the great producer of wines shipped to England, has been revitalised, most recently by the opening of the world-class Bordeaux Cité du Vin which shows the history of wine throughout the world from 600,000 years ago to today. Atmospheric and urban, Bordeaux is one of the loveliest cities in France.

    Getting to Bordeaux

    Top 10 Attractions and Things to do in Bordeaux

    Staying in Bordeaux

  • 10 of 10

    Lille

    Old Bourse Lille
    ••• The Old Bourse (Stock Exchange) in Lille. Getty/Allan Baxter

    Population: 228,652; Department: Nord; Region: Hautes-de-France (Nord, Pas-de-Calais and Picardie)

    Lille is blessed with a central European location. It's an 1.5 hours from London by Eurostar, 1 hour from Paris and a half hour from Brussels. Not surprisingly, Lille reflects the influences of a variety of European cultures. It is a lovely city, with winding cobbled streets in the old town, delightful museums (including the atmospheric Hospice of the Countess Museum which feels as if you're walking through a Dutch Old Master painting) and very good restaurants.

    Staying in Lille