Planning a holiday in France and looking for the best places to visit in South West France? We’ve got you covered!
South West France is so beautiful. It has so much to offer! You will find some of the most famous wine regions in France, stunning medieval villages, incredible natural landmarks and cute coastal towns.
I grew up in the South West and I know this region so well. It is a very underrated region. When people think of holidays in the South of France, they generally head straight to the French Riviera. Opting for a South-West France itinerary instead is a great way to discover a more authentic french region.
In this article, you will discover the most beautiful places in South West France. This includes famous sites but also some hidden gems!
So are you ready? Let’s discover the best places to see in South West France!
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Best Cities in South West France
South West France is a fairly rural region but you will find a couple of cities there. The biggest cities in the area are Toulouse and Bordeaux.
Toulouse is the capital of the region Occitanie. It’s nicknamed the pink city, “La Ville Rose” because of its red bricks and roof tiles.
Although it is a pretty big city, the city centre itself is fairly small. It’s very easy to explore it on foot. As you roam around town, you will discover how lively and friendly Toulouse is.
Here are some examples of things to do in Toulouse:
- Discovering Le Capitole. It’s the main square in Toulouse and is a great starting point. It’s home to the stunning city hall and luxury restaurants.
- Having a picnic at La Daurade. You can sit on the river banks and look at the beautiful views of the river Garonne.
- Visiting museums. The best ones are the Toulouse Museum and Les Abattoirs.
- Shopping in St Georges. This central neighbourhood is home to dozens of local shops and boutiques.
- Going for dinner in the Rue du Taur. You will find many restaurants in Rue du Taur. Anything you can think of will be there. For drinks, on the other hand, St Pierre, Esquirol and Jean Jaures will be the best places to go to.
- Roaming around the city centre. The best way to explore the city is either by foot or bike. If you want to learn more about Toulouse and make the best of your time there, you can either go on a walking tour or a guided bike tour.
WHERE TO STAY IN TOULOUSE: The most convenient places to stay in Toulouse are Capitole, Jean Jaures, Carmes, Esquirol and Jeanne D’Arc. The Citadines Wilson Toulouse is great value for money. See latest prices here.
Bordeaux is the biggest city in South West France. Famous for being the main wine region in France, it’s also one of the prettiest cities you will get to see. Architecturally speaking, it features a very different style than Toulouse. Bordeaux is a whole new universe.
There are many things to do there and I would recommend spending at least 2 or 3 days in Bordeaux.
In summer, you will get to see the Water Mirror on the main square, La Place de la Bourse.
It’s also a great place to go shopping. The Rue Sainte-Catherine is a 1.2km pedestrian street going through the historical centre of Bordeaux. It’s literally a heaven for shopping lovers.
ACTIVITIES IN BORDEAUX: Bordeaux is a UNESCO Heritage site. If you want to discover why and everything that makes Bordeaux so special, you should go on a walking tour in Bordeaux.
Once that’s done, the second thing you must do is wine tasting! You can’t come to Bordeaux without visiting the wineries. One of the best places to go to is Saint-Emilion. You can go on a tour from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion. It includes wine tasting and 2 castle visits! Pretty cool right.
Albi is located about 1h away from Toulouse. It is one of France’s best-kept secrets. Particularly known for being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Albi’s most famous attraction is actually the Cathedral Sainte Catherine.
But that’s not the only thing you can see in Albi. Make sure to pay a visit to the Old Bridge, the church quarter and the Saint-Salvi Quarter.
The rest of the city is also very pretty. It features a very authentic southwest style with a lot of red bricks.
ALBI TOURS: Going to Albi is a popular day trip from Toulouse. You can get there by train from Matabiau train station or opt for a private guided tour. Information and prices are available here.
Medieval Towns in South West France
If you love history, you will literally fall in love with South West France. There are plenty of medieval towns! Narrow streets, beautiful churches, historical sites… everything you want is there! Here is a lit of the best towns in south west France.
Carcassonne is a fortified city located about one hour away from Toulouse. This fairytale town is one of the most famous towns in the south of France. No matter what, make sure to stop there! You won’t be disappointed.
The Citadel, known as the Cite de Carcassonne, is the main attraction. This medieval fortress was added to the UNESCO list in 1997 and is truly remarkable. It’s such a magnificent place. You can visit it any day of the year. It’s a beautiful site and it takes about a couple of hours to visit.
The town itself is very charming as well and the perfect place to grab some food. The typical dish in Carcassonne (although they’ve been fighting with Toulouse over it for centuries) is the Cassoulet. You will find it in every restaurant in town. It’s quite filling but is as authentic as it can get. When it comes to French food, the south-west sets the standard really!
ACTIVITIES IN CARCASSONNE: Visiting the castle is a must-do. Entrance fee applies. You can book it in advance on the official website or on-site. If you are going in summer, it can get very busy and you may need to book it in advance if you want to be sure.
If you want to get more information, you can also add a guided tour. Click here for more information and prices.
If you are looking for some hidden gems in South West France, Figeac should be on top of your list!
Figeac is a medieval town located a couple of hours away from Toulouse. It’s also the birthplace of Champollion, who decrypted the hieroglyph and now home to the Champollion museum.
If you like architecture, you will love Figeac. You can see many very well preserved medieval buildings. Most of them are still in use and are up to 1000 years old.
It’s quite a small town (under 10,000 inhabitants) and you can get around the centre pretty quickly but it’s such a nice place. People are friendly and just roaming around town is an experience in itself!
When it comes to world famous places in South West France, Lourdes sets the standard. This little market-town lost in the Pyrenees is the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land!
In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The grotto where this happened then became known for being a place where miracles would happen. Since then, Bernadette was canonised and Lourdes started attracting pilgrims from all over the world.
ACTIVITIES IN LOURDES: Whether you are Christian or not, Lourdes is an extremely interesting town to visit in South West France. There is so much history! If you wish to learn more about it, you should go on a walking tour. You will discover the story of Bernadette, the grotto and the underground basilica! Click here for more information and pricing.
Coastal Towns in South West France
Biarritz is a very elegant seaside town located in the French Basque Country. It’s one of the European royalty’s favourite destination. Napoleon, Princess Eugenie… many kings and emperor made Biarritz the town it is today.
The long and wide sandy beaches are gorgeous, which makes it a very good surfing destination as well.
We recommend going to the lighthouse. It offers a beautiful view of the beach and the cliffs.
Bayonne is another town in the French Basque Country. Very different to Biarritz, it’s characterized by its medieval narrow streets. It’s also home to the feria of Bayonne. Every year in July, the festival takes up the whole city for 5 days. Just imagine a giant party with music everywhere and people dancing everywhere. Every street, every bar, every square… that’s what the feria of Bayonne is.
Saint Jean de Luz
Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a fishing town at the mouth of the Nivelle river in the French Basque Country. The cultural heritage in the town is very interesting but the best thing about it is nature. You can go on many beautiful walks and get views on some of the most beautiful places in South West France.
Vieux Boucau is a very charming village in the Landes. Ideally located between ocean, lake and forest, it’s the ideal place to relax!
Hossegor is located in the French Basque Country. It’s a paradise for surfers! It’s actually considered one of the best places to surf in the world! While you are there, you should check out the beach La Graviere and the lake, Lac d’Hossegor.
It’s also a very good destination if you want to go partying. Summer evenings are very lively.
Beautiful villages in South West France
Rocamadour is located in the Lot and is also one of the prettiest villages in France. This clifftop village is of absolute beauty. So different from anything else you might have seen in the past. The houses were built on the cliffs at the medieval times. It’s also a very famous religious site as the gothic basilica St Sauveur is home to the relics of Saint Amadour.
Rocamadour is also home to some of the best goat cheese you can find in France.
Gouffre de Padirac
The Padirac Cave is located only 30 mins away from Rocamadour. They can both be combined in one day out if you wish. This chasm is particularly unique. The entrance looks like a set from Jurassic Park. You will get down the stairs (75m) and then go on a little bark in the cave galleries. The guide will explain everything and will then take you to more galleries by foot.
This is a very unconventional experience.
Moissac is a beautiful village, mainly known for its Abbey. This Benedicte and Cluniac monastery is pure beauty. Moissac is also one of the main stops on the route of Santiago de Compostela.
So, are you ready to discover the best places in South West France? Let’s go!
Saint Cyr La Popie
This beautiful medieval village is one of the French favourites and has been elected one of the most beautiful villages in France. Located at the top of a very steep cliff, Saint-Cyr Lapopie is a very unique place. You will find 13 listed monuments. It’s a paradise for history lovers. A very picturesque village that you will fall for.
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