A country of contrasts, there's an abundance of diverse scenery and beautiful landscapes to explore whilst on holiday in France; medieval towns, alpine villages, vast expanses of countryside and magnificent stretches of coastline boasting Mediterranean beaches…
With such an incredible array of holiday hotspots available to visit, we thought we'd do a little preparation for you and have gathered together our selection of the 10 best beaches in France, handpicked by our French expert:
Best for surfing
Plage de la Cote des Basques, Biarritz
The seaside resort of Biarritz has been attracting the masses ever since Emperor Napoleon III built the Palais Biarritz (now Hotel Du Palais) as a summer home for his wife Eugenie in 1854. Attracting royalty and nobility from across Europe into the picturesque resort, it has long been a destination for the masses; for whilst those boasting incredible wealth holiday in the town, its proud residents have also made sure their presence is felt – giving the area and eclectic and cosmopolitan feel.
Still favoured by the locals due to its long stretch of golden sand and family-friendly appeal, Plage de la Cote is an enormously popular beach, now world renowned due to the excellent surfing conditions. Playing host to the 2017 ISA World Surfing Games, Biarritz has been dubbed the “Surfing-mecca” of Europe. A brief walk around the town and you'll spot clues of its surfing status everywhere, for whilst its streets are lined with upmarket boutiques, bars and restaurants, a glance at every looming balcony and you'll spot a surfboard or wetsuit drying off overhead.
Penon Beach, Seignosse Landes
Situated south of Bordeaux the picturesque region of Landes boasts vast stretches of coastline overlooking the Atlantic, as well as stunning countryside made up of pine forests, lakes and vineyards. The perfect holiday destination for those with a love of the outdoors, there are a great many activities to engage in – with most of the action centring around the coast and its stunning beaches.
Penon beach is at the centre of most of the action with its great surfing conditions and a surf school located on the large stretch of golden sand that is a hive of liveliness come the summer months. Here lies an abundance of beach cafes and bars which not only provide excellent menus but enjoyable entertainment, such as live music, too.
Best for celeb spotting
Deauville Beach, Normandy
Purpose built for Parisian pleasures and situated less than two hours from the capital, Deauville was raised from an expanse of marshland in the late 1850's. The idea was conceived by Dr Joseph Oliffe and the Duc de Morny (half-brother of Napoleon III) who, with the assistance of architect Desle-Francois Breney, created a resort that would appeal to the wealthy residents of Paris wishing to escape to the seaside for weekend breaks. The town itself boasts grand hotels, casinos and a racecourse and has, since 1975, hosted the American Film Festival; drawing world-renowned stars of the silver screen to this glamourous and appealing haunt.
Charming changing booths named after famous actors line the promenade of Deauville Beach, giving it a distinct style that further compliments the iconic Anglo-Norman style buildings in the town. The beach itself is vast, impressive and a place to be seen rather than to bathe. Many walk across it, some ride on horseback…most use it to sunbathe. Its picturesque backdrop is part of the appeal, making it an iconic place to visit whilst on holiday in France.
Pampelonne Beach, St Tropez
Hailed by its own PR as the beach where “the rich play and the rest of the world looks on” Pampelonne, St Tropez is perhaps the most famous in France and well worth a visit for that very reason. It is where you can experience the high life personified, with iconic beach clubs such as Nikki Beach and Club 55 welcoming us mere mortals to hire their equipment and sample their food…at a premium of course.
The relaxed yet glamourous bohemian feel of Pampelonne beach, is what continues to draw its crowd's year after year – that and the opportunity to rub shoulders with a celebrity - the sands can get so crammed with bodies come August you might find your beach towel sits almost on top of your neighbours! Immaculately clean with gleaming sands and glistening water, Pampelonne beach deserves a degree of its infamous popularity, for it is as beautiful as many of those who grace its shores.
Best for privacy
Plage Notre Dame, Poruerolles Island
Located off France's Mediterranean coast on the tiny (and ironically croissant shaped!) Ile de Poruerolles, a once private island now almost entirely owned and preserved by the state - with much of it designated as national park - has retained a charm and natural beauty that's hard to witness in other coastal areas. Housing just one luxury hotel and a handful of inns, most tourists visit the island for the day, normally only reaching one of its three of beaches during their stay…
Plage Notre Dame sits furthest from the port and is the most remote and secluded of the islands beaches. Lush greenery surrounds the curve of the inlet which boasts a small strip of white sand and shallow turquoise waters, perfect for paddling and ideal for young families. Plage Notre Dame, unlike others on the island, is also devoid of any structures or stalls – offering an atmosphere of sheer tranquillity to its visitors.
Paloma Beach, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
A beautiful private beach boasting glistening waters and silver shingle under foot, where for a mere 26 Euros for the day you're loaned a mattress and offered a warm shower and private place to change - Paloma beach was named after artist Paloma Picasso, who regularly frequented this stretch of coastline with his young family…
Set against the magnificent backdrop of St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a lush and beautiful peninsula nestled between Monaco and Nice, this pretty curve of coastline remains unspoilt in an area that's retained much of the Riviera glamour of yester-year, without any of the modern unrefinement you might associate with areas nearby.
Best for scenery
Plage du Veillon, Vendee
Nestled along the Cote de Luminaire (Coast of Light) sits the sweeping curve of Plage du Veillon a popular and impressive beach where immense dunes have separated the golden sand from a dramatic lagoon – making this one of the most sensational-looking beaches you might ever hope to visit.
With a pine forest looming behind and clear blue waters warmed by the Gulf stream, it's no wonder this is a popular beach with locals and holiday makers who flock to witness the breath-taking natural beauty of the area. The flow if its ebb and tide are vast – so it's an ideal spot for a paddle or long, romantic walk.
Towering above a densely-pebbled beach sits the imposing cliffs of Etretat. Spectacular in their form and natural beauty they have, over the ages, inspired many famed artists who've painted them. Struck by their beauty and the coastline's incredible panorama's, Monet created nearly fifty works-of-art featuring the Etretat cliffs, the most famous being “The Cliffs at Etretat” which depicts the iconic needle-shaped rock formation.
The beach though pebble, is enticing. A picturesque place to have a picnic or paddle before setting off on a coastal work to take in the dramatic scenery of the Normandy coast. Further back from the cliffs sits a pretty resort, where some of the old timber clad buildings have been updated with contemporary neon signs – one assumes to add a degree modernism to the town. Here you will find typical coastal amenities and attractions – cafes, bars and boutiques.
Best for families
Tregastel Plage, Brittany
A picturesque seaside town in Brittany, Tregastel boasts a rich history that oozes charm and draws many to its shores; that and the breath-tasking natural beauty it presents – for the village sits within an area known as the Coast of Granite Rose. Imposing rocks sit along the shoreline and have affectionately been given names such as “Champignon” (Mushroom) and “Tass de Crepes” (Pile of Crepes). These breath-taking formations are just a snippet of the mind-blowing natural beauty of the region.
Tregastel Plage is made up of a cluster of beaches that sit within the immediate stretch of coastline – with the primary two being Plage du Coz-Pors and Plage de Greve-Blanche; both of which are family friendly, with clean, shallow waters set against dramatic and beautiful scenery.
Sablettes Beach, Menton, Provence
A medieval town boasting a rich history, Menton was founded by pirates and was not only favoured by Queen Victoria who spent many a winter here once widowed, but the area and its colourful buildings perched high above spectacular beaches, has also captured the hearts of many artists and literary greats.
An enduringly popular holiday destination amongst the French. Menton is also famed worldwide due to the pretty scenery and vast stretches of coastline featuring dramatic grey pebbles and sand and crystal clear waters. Sublettes itself offers views across to the Italian mountains and is a sheltered and calm beach – making it ideal for families with young children to visit. For those wishing to get active whilst on their stay, a volleyball court and trampoline also sit within easy reach.
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