What comes to mind when you think of a family holiday in France? Visiting the chateaux in the Loire Valley perhaps, or maybe kayaking on the Dordogne River. I have happy memories of my childhood beach holidays in Brittany and the Vendee, while more recently with my own children I enjoyed a brilliant family break in Paris. There are so many amazing holiday ideas in France for families.
There are also some incredible places in France for families which are a little more off the beaten track – the Jura in eastern France, the island of Corsica or a city break in one of the less well known cities such as Nantes. A France family holiday can mean so many different things which is why I’ve put this article together – to show you the huge range of places to visit in France for families.
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Accommodation in France for families
Families visiting France are spoilt for choice with an immense range of holiday accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. French campsites are the most popular option for families – and don’t worry if you’re not into tent camping, plenty of the holiday parks have chalet style accommodation so you don’t have to rough it.
If you prefer a little more seclusion, there’s an endless supply of gîtes (cottages), apartments and villas to choose from. And then there’s the hotels and bed and breakfast choices. If you fancy something with a bit of character, try a chambres d’hôte or a Logis hotel. These are usually family run and often have a restaurant. There are also some wonderful chateau hotels – and not all of them cost a fortune despite the castle moniker.
Family beach holidays in France
One of the attractions of family holidays in France is the mild weather on the western coast. Unlike the Med, the beaches of Brittany and the Vendee offer a slightly cooler climate and a decent breeze – perfect if you’re travelling with little ones (or people like me) who don’t tolerate the heat. Further south, the Atlantic waves attract water sports fans.
For people watching, sparkling blue seas and secluded rocky coves, the Cote d’Azur is a sight to behold. The Mediterranean coast of France will keep the Instagram generation happy with colourful harbours and giant yachts as well as some pretty spectacular natural parks. And let’s not forget Corsica, somewhat overlooked by us Brits but loved by the French. Corsica is home to some of the most picture-perfect beaches in Europe – even the ones which don’t make it onto postcards are pretty good.
France also has lakes and rivers aplenty for an inland beach fix. The Dordogne is the most well known French river for families – there are some brilliant campsites dotted along its shores. Further south the Ardèche attracts scores of visitors for its dramatic gorges, waterfalls and rapids (there’s plenty of peaceful stretches too). Lake Annecy meanwhile is a great option for families looking for that heavenly mix of beaches and mountains.
City breaks in France with kids
With high speed trains zipping you across the country, it’s possible to do some really good family city breaks in France from the UK without hopping on a plane. Paris and Lille are directly accessible from London while the TGV will deliver you to the likes of gastronomic Lyon or wine-tastic Bordeaux in under three hours from the French capital.
Elsewhere, kids will enjoy combining the sights of Nantes with some rather impressive history lessons (think: incredible spectacles with recreated battles and lots of pyrotechnic) at nearby Puy du Fou while more theatrics can be found in Nice during its renowned carnival season in February – perfect for a half term break with a difference. And if you fancy a festive break in France, Strasbourg, Metz and Reims all have very good Christmas markets.
Eating in France with children
I remember visiting France when one of my sons was a teething nine month old – chewing on baguettes, it turned out, is a great remedy for sore gums. One of the highlights for our children now they’re a bit older is the morning ritual of shopping for bread and pastries in France – a chance to practice their French and enjoy freshly baked pain au chocolat. During our winter trip to Paris in 2019 (those were the days), regular pitstops for crepes and waffles was a great way to keep them fuelled with energy.
Of course, many menus in France have the same ubiquitous choices as you’ll find in much of the western world – pizzas, burgers and so forth. But there are plenty of kid-friendly options in French cuisine aside from the sugar-laden ones I’ve mentioned above. Stews go down well with my boys – the bean and sausage cassoulet is a great way to fill a hungry little person and the tender beef or chicken found in other stews always work well. And if all else fails, steak frites is a reliable feature of menus across the country.
Wine tasting in France with kids
One of the joys of visiting France, for me, is sampling the local wine. Having children in tow shouldn’t make any difference if this is an essential part of your French holiday.
When one of our children was a toddler, we spent a whole week exploring the Champagne region. We rented a house in a little village with some friends (who had three toddlers) and we visited lots of vineyards over the course of the week. Vineyards are basically farms which grow grapes so they’re great places for little children to explore – lots of space for them to run around and interesting machinery to examine.
On another family holiday in France, we stayed in a villa which was attached to a vineyard near Bergerac – this was particularly appealing as it meant we could enjoy wine tasting without worrying about who was going to drive home. More recently we’ve enjoyed wine tasting in Corsica – one of the most enjoyable wine-beach holiday destinations France has to offer. The island is particularly known for its rosé wine – perfect for summer evenings.
And then there’s the fairy tale villages of the Alsace which are surrounded by vineyards, the Loire Valley’s winning wine-castle combo and the lovely hilltop villages found in Burgundy; and of course the family-friendly wine capital, Bordeaux – so many family family-friendly wine regions.
For a bit of wine education, head to the impressive Cité du Vin in Bordeaux where children are welcomed and encouraged to learn about the history and production of wine.
Cycling holidays in France for families
France is a brilliant place for a family cycling holiday. There are different types of cycle routes in France: voie verte (“green ways”) routes are walking and cycle tracks which are predominantly flat and are completely car-free, making them ideal for families. These routes often run alongside canals or rivers or make use of disused railway lines. France also has véloroutes which are longer with varying terrain and sections where cars may be present (but generally the road sections are very quiet).
France Velotourisme is a brilliant resource for researching bike trips – there’s a search facility which allows you to filter routes by ability, duration, theme and destination.
Fancy incorporating the Tour de France into your France family holiday? Check out official website Le Tour for full details of the route.
Skiing in France with kids
There are plenty of skiing experts out there and I, sadly, am not one of them. I haven’t skied for a decade or so and I’ve yet to take my kids. So I won’t try to cover skiing in any great depth in this article.
However, there are some great resources on the net which can take a lot of the hard work out of planning a ski holiday in France for families. Here are a few starters:
Ski Club Great Britain – this organisation is over 100 years old and has a wealth of information on its site including family ski advice and a handy tool to help you pick the right resort for your holiday.
Ski Famille – a small tour operator which focuses on family ski chalet holidays in France.
Ski Esprit – specialist in family ski holidays in France and Italy.
Ski France – as the name suggests, this operator specialises in skiing holidays in France.
Great places in France for families
In putting this article together I worked with a number of other travel bloggers to get a good range of destinations across France for families. So whether you’re looking for a city break or a traditional summer holiday, there should be plenty of ideas here to tempt you. And if you’ve come across somewhere which you think I should add to this list, please do let me know.
- Great for iconic sights, world class museums, river trips, parks and squares
Let’s start with the capital shall we? We took our children to Paris in the winter of 2019, our last trip pre-Covid. Despite there being a transport strike during our visit, we had a really brilliant time. We managed to book a very centrally located apartment which meant we could reach most of the main sights on foot. The kids (even the one who hates walking) loved our little walking tour of Paris.
In our 3 day break in Paris, we scaled the Eiffel Tower, took a boat trip on the Seine, consumed lots of crepes and vin chaud and took countless rides on the carousels in the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. Amazingly, the carousels were free and there were no queues. This, combined with the brilliant play space at Jardin Nelson Mandela and a quick trip to the Lego shop, meant the kids came away with very fond memories of Paris.
As our boys were only eight and five at the time, we decided to skip the museums on this trip. We were lucky to have sunny (but chilly) weather so we spent most of our days outside exploring. We didn’t make it to the Luxembourg Gardens during our trip – it was closed. But given the playground at the Gardens is one of the biggest and best in Paris, we’ll definitely be checking it out next time.
- Great for hearty food, contemporary art, Christmas markets
Recommended by Laura from Travelers Universe
Lille is a fantastic destination for a family friendly holiday in France, with distinctive Baroque architecture and delicious yet hearty cuisine. And while it makes for a great day trip from Paris or Brussels, Lille has plenty of attractions to keep you entertained for a few days as well.
Lille’s cobblestone pedestrian streets are best explored on foot. Start with the Vieux Lille (the old town) and stop at cosy cafés any time you feel in need for a pick me up.
Among Lille’s highlights are the Grand Place, the city’s avant-garde cathedral and the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle. Just outside the city is the Lille Metropolitan Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art which includes a sculpture garden, perfect for a spot of outdoor art appreciation.
Start your day with a coffee and the classic pain au chocolate or a tartine (warm baguette and spread). And for lunch, have a carbonnade flamande (local stew) or a welsh (brown bread soaked in beer and topped ham, melted cheese and mustard). For dessert, don’t miss the merveilleux (the local’s take on merengue).
If you can make your way to Lille in December, you’ll be greeted by the magic of Christmas cheer. Lille organises one of the best Christmas markets in Europe which is an opportunity to not only do some unique Christmas shopping but also to spoil your taste buds with the myriad of delicacies being prepared right in front of your eyes (vin chaud included).
- Great for sandy beaches, historic ports, WWII history
The region of Normandy stretches along the north coast of France from Dieppe in the east to Mont-St-Michel in the west. Despite its wealth of attractions, Normandy is often overlooked by arrivals from the UK who dash through to neighbouring Brittany or further south. However, there’s plenty to see and do in Normandy for families to warrant a holiday there – the coastline has lots of sandy beaches – some backed by dunes, others such as Étretat dominated by towering cliffs. In between the beaches, there are historic ports such as Honfleur with its picturesque old townhouses squashed together along the harbourside.
If your children are interested in World War II history, the Normandy coast is dotted with key sites from the D-Day Landings of 1944. A sombre trip along the coast to visit the beaches, museums and cemeteries is without doubt the best way to get to grips with one of the key events of Europe’s more recent history.
If you fancy stepping back a little further in time, the thousand year old Bayeux tapestry depicting the Norman conquest of England offers a less disquieting experience. And the tidal island-abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, offers a wonderful day out which children of all ages will love (make sure you bring comfortable shoes!).
Normandy is also a really feasible short break destination. As with much of France, the countryside is dotted with chateaux offering a characterful stay for all the family. So if you fancy sampling some of the region’s gastronomic highlights – seafood, camembert, cider and calvados to name just a few – I can highly recommend a few nights in a chateau deep in the Normandy countryside.
- Great for medieval architecture, botanical gardens, cycling along the Seine
Recommended by Cazzy from Dream Big Travel Far
As the capital of France’s Normandy region, it’s no surprise that Rouen is oozing with the most breath-taking old-school appeal and fascinating history. This city is an excellent destination for a family getaway: it’s gorgeous, historical, and has a very friendly atmosphere.
Even the little ones will get excited, considering that there are a ton of activities to try in Rouen. For example, you can admire the numerous Gothic churches and cathedrals as you walk through the iconic town square.
While there, don’t forget to check out the burial spot of Joan of Arc and stop by the nearby Chocolat Auzou, where they sell “Joan of Arc’s tears” and other decadent chocolate treats.
For an adventure through the French horticulture, ensure you visit some of the city’s most famous gardens, including the wonderful Jardin des Plantes de Rouen where you’ll find plants from across the globe. After a day of sightseeing, spend some time in the shade of Verdrel Square. There’s a fun playground here where locals like to take their children, or you can simply rent a bicycle and cycle next to the Seine River.
If you’re travelling with teens who are fans of the TV series Friends, there’s a café in Rouen called Social Perk where you can grab a coffee and a bagel and transport yourselves to New York for a quick interlude.
Rouen is easy to reach—you can even plan a day trip from Paris, which is only a 90-minute train ride away. However, we do recommend staying at least two nights so you can explore all that it has to offer. When visiting in wintertime, there are many Christmas markets to explore too.
- Great for food markets and seaside fun
Recommended by Zoe from Together in Transit
If you are looking for a lovely place in France for families, head to the North Alabaster Coast and enjoy a stay at Dieppe. Dieppe is a typical French but lively fishing city with lots of local history, fun things to do and delicious restaurants to suit everyone’s dietary needs.
For the kids, start the day by exploring the local market, which has been voted as one of the best in France. It’s a great place for introducing the kids with the local cuisine as well as some delicious French cakes. From here there is a yellow dotted train for only a few euros that tours the city to the top of the cliffs – which is great for those who would struggle to walk up to the top.
For some relaxation and fun, head to the seaside where there is a huge play park on the grassy area, or wait until low tide when the sandy part of the beach is visible. A top recommendation is a boat trip from the harbour for an hour or two at sea, checking out the cliffs from the water and enjoying the sea air like a pirate. Alternatively, on a rainy day, head to Dieppe Castle for some explorations inside.
- Great for messing about on the river, Gothic cathedral, culture at the Pompidou
Recommended by Martina and Jürgen from PlacesofJuma
The beautiful city of Metz is located in the north-east of France, close to the German and Luxembourg borders. On a visit, you’ll have the chance to experience some real French highlights and there are also some great activities for families. Beautiful gardens, a historic old town, the many delicious opportunities to try French food and the picturesque Moselle River are just some of the top highlights of a holiday in Metz. If you’re visiting Metz with little children, there’s a mini electric tourist train with which to explore the city.
The charming old town of Metz is located directly on the Moselle, and especially in the warm summer months you can enjoy many activities here with the family. A walk along the riverbank is lovely, where a bridge connects the island of Saulcy and where countless swans swim in the water. On warm summer days, you can have a picnic with your family or borrow a small boat and cruise along the river.
Don’t miss a visit to the amazing Metz Cathedral – Saint-Étienne – one of the most impressive Gothic churches in France and famed for its stained glass windows. If you like, you can light a candle here with your children. Another highlight, right nearby, are the many delicious cafés offering local patisserie specialities. Children also love the city’s delicious ice cream, with some ice cream parlours even being awarded a “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” seal.
The Centre Pompidou Metz with its impressive undulating hat-like roof, is one of the most popular cultural attractions in France. This branch of the Paris cultural centre was opened in 2010 and offers dedicated exhibitions and workshops for children.
- Great for fairytale towns, Christmas markets, wine tasting
Recommended by Bec from Wyld Family Travel
For one of the most magnificent places for France family holidays is the Alsace region. Fairytale towns, magnificent food, world-class wines and attractions for the whole family, everyone will definitely fall in love with this piece of paradise.
Many people flock to the area in the winter months for the famous Christmas markets in Strasbourg and Colmar but you really can’t go wrong visiting the Alsace in any season.
In the summer, the towns in the region come alive with fresh food markets in the town squares and warm days to wander. The streets are bright and colourful with flowers everywhere and people enjoying the sun in the outdoor eating areas. Smaller towns like Ribeauville, Eguisheim and Riquewihr are stunning to walk through, pick up some souvenirs, visit one of the wine caves for samples and take all the very best and most Instagrammable pictures possible. Autumn sees the forest go from all shades of green to all shades of orange with hikes and short walks in abundance.
It does not matter where you are in the Alsace you will find ruined castles dotted through the countryside to explore, You can visit the Fortwenger Palace of Gingerbread to watch it being made and pick up some to take home with you. A visit to La Montagne des Singes monkey sanctuary is a brilliant day out. If you are visiting the Alsace with older children you can also visit the Struthof Concentration Camp that is located in the Vosges mountains.
The Alsace is a wonderful mix of German and French cuisine, architecture and culture making it a beautifully unique place for families to make a base. Being so close to the German and Swiss border you can do so many day trips for short stays out of the area to enhance your stay in the Alsace.
- Great for cheese! Plus, off the beaten track travel, mountains and waterfalls
Where is the Jura region of France? It borders Switzerland to the east while to the west sits Dijon in the north and Lyon to the south. Not bad company.
You’d think that a region known domestically for its cheese, wine and incredible scenery would garner a little more international attention but the Jura remains stubbornly below the big tourism radar. If you’re looking for a peaceful, outdoorsy holiday with your family, the Jura ticks a lot of boxes.
Is it worth visiting the Jura just for its cheese? It’s tempting. The Jura is the home of the hard nutty, Comte cheese – best sampled in the little town of Poligny. If your kids aren’t fans, it’s not far to the town of Lons-le-Saunier where you can visit the interactive Maison de la Vache qui rit. That’s right, the Laughing Cow which you put in your children’s lunchboxes has its own museum. I wish I could write happy words about the famous Jura wine – vin jaune – but I’m afraid I’m not a fan. This pungent yellow wine is produced in and around the town of Arbois.
The Jura borders Switzerland and shares much of its epic mountain scenery. In the Parc Natural Régional du Haut-Jura, there’s lakes and waterfalls to discover and delightful medieval mountain villages. The region is famous for cross-country skiing in winter and hiking in the summer months. This is the place to go for peaceful hiking, wild swimming in the true sense and traditional mountain villages.
- Great for beaches, pretty villages and megalithic history
With over 2,800 kilometres of coastline, Brittany is hard to beat for a family beach holiday in France. There are pretty fishing villages, rocky coves galore and stunning sandy beaches. The weather can be unpredictable at times but the mild climate, along with easy ferry access from England, makes Brittany perfect for families with young children.
For island hopping adventurers, it’s hard to beat the Gulf of Morbihan. Here you’ll find a deeply indented coastline surrounding the “Mor Bihan” (meaning inland sea in Breton), packed with isles small and tiny. I absolutely love the sound this region having read a review on the Suitcases and Sandcastles blog. There are some 40 islands in the gulf – many are car-free and forested, perfect for walking and cycling. They sound similar, in terms of tranquillity, to the Isles of Scilly in the UK.
Another beautiful spot worth considering is the Côte de Granit Rose – a craggy section of Brittany’s north coast piled high with pink hued boulders which kids will love to clamber on. The seaside villages of Ploumanac’h and Perros-Guirec are both family-friendly bases, the latter is a popular spot for sailing.
Brittany isn’t just worth visiting for its coastal pursuits. It has some pretty impressive attractions inland too. Regional capital Rennes is a interesting city to explore with timber framed houses in its old town and a huge Saturday food market in its Place de Lices, there’s also an excellent regional museum – Musée du Bretagne – where you can trace the history of the Breton people. There’s a host of appealing medieval towns and villages to explore in away from the beaches in Brittany including castle-topped Fougères and the walled town of Dinan.
The region is also known for its megalithic monuments, particularly around Carnac in the south where you’ll find mysterious ancient standing stones.
The Crozon Peninsula
- Great for water sports, beaches and hiking
Recommended by Victoria from Guide your travel
Brittany’s Crozon Peninsula has beautiful cliffs with crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches. You can go kayaking, paddle-boarding or even rent a boat for the day. There are also lots of easy hikes you can attempt even with smaller children. You could also take surfing lessons or get into wind surfing.
The Crozon Peninsula is a popular camping spot and prices are very affordable in this region. It’s the perfect spot for budget family holidays to France. Head to the little town of Morgat for some ice cream or a quick lunch. The nearby beach is also great for a picnic and there is a small fun fair. The Cap de la Chèvre which marks the tip of the peninsula is a great spot for hiking and exploring. There are beautiful flower fields in this area and an old military fort you can visit.
- Great as a weekend break for motorsports fans
It’s just a matter of time before my petrolhead other half takes our sons off for a boys weekend to Le Mans. If you’re not familiar with the significance of this particularly demanding motor racing event, I’ll fill you in. Cars race over a 24 hour period – including all through the night – and the last car standing who’s covered the biggest distance is declared the winner.
Unlike most camping trips, this is one where you’ll not be perturbed by your bladder waking you up at 3am as you might need an extra incentive to drag yourself from your tent to go to the circuit and watch the cars go round and round. Admittedly, it is a fun weekend and anyone with a passing interest in fast cars will love the excitement of this event – the town of Le Mans has a real party atmosphere and there are lots of cool cars to spot – both at the race and just parked all over the place, lots of visitors bring their fancy cars here to show off.
The race takes place in mid-June each year (perhaps a good post-A-Levels treat?). Le Mans is around 4.5 hours from Calais and the actual race runs from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon with lots of events and a big build up in the preceding days. There’s a campsite right next to the race circuit so it’s best to pack a tent rather than stay in a hotel if you want to be in the thick of the action.
If you’re a car fanatic, take a look at our European road trip which took in rather a lot of car museums in Italy.
The Loire Valley
- Great for castles, wine tasting and messing about on the river
The Loire is a great destination for children and parents alike – castle visiting and wine tasting are the most well known pursuits in this region – oh and there’s the river too (and its tributaries). The Loire Valley is often used by Brits as a convenient stopover en-route to the south. But there’s plenty of things to do in the Loire with kids to warrant a longer stay.
Firstly, the castles – there’s epic Château de Chenonceau which straddles the River Cher; Château de Villandry with its elegant gardens and – one of my favourites – romantic Azay-le-Rideau with its beautiful reflection in the Indre river. This is just a tiny pick from my memory of visiting them as a child. I do remember being more wowed by the exteriors than the rather stuffy interiors. If you don’t have time to visit many of the chateaux, fear not, you can cover the whole lot of them at Mini Chateaux – a model village version of the Loire Valley.
Another little theme park which children will enjoy exploring is Terra Botanica on the outskirts of Angers. There are lots of fun rides and attractions set amid the gardens which aim to educate and entertain.
And on to the wine. There is lots of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc growing in this part of France – this is definitely white wine territory. However, I also like the lightness of the red wines, often made from Gamay or Pinot Noir grapes. There are lots of small wine producers in the Loire and it’s easy to drop in without an appointment.
I’ve already mentioned that France is a great destination for a cycling holiday. There is an amazing cycle route along the Loire Valley which stretches some 800 kilometres all the way to the Atlantic coast. For something less demanding, there are plenty of outfits offering a day’s kayaking on the river – a great way to enjoy some of the region’s incredible scenery.
Cruising the Canal Lateral a La Loire
- Great for a relaxing family holiday
Recommended by Jane and Duncan at To Travel Too
You can’t beat sailing down the canals of France for your next family vacation. Imagine warm sunny days, birds singing, cows resting in far distant fields and the gentle lapping of the boat as you slowly make your way down the Canal Latéral à la Loire.
The base for your cruise is Chatillon-sur-Loire, 165 km from Paris. Depending on the length of time you have whether it is three days, seven days or longer there are so many pretty spots along the way to explore. Sancerre is a popular village, situated high on a hill overlooking lush green vineyards everywhere you look.
Choose a small village to moor for the night and in the morning head to the local boulangerie for freshly baked croissants and baguettes for breakfast and lunch.
Along the way you can stop off and visit the Presles Aquatic Centre at Belleville-sur-Loire for some family fun of water slides, swimming pool and relaxation therapies before you head downstream for a family dinner at one of the many restaurants that line the canal banks.
In the twilight hours of the summer evenings you can enjoy cycling down the canal pathways after dinner or curl up with a good book and a glass of wine under the stars up on deck.
Spending time sailing the canals is the perfect vacation for families in France. A time to bond, learn new boating skills and discover a slow-paced way of life.
- Great for big kids and little kids
If you’ve already spent a few days in the Loire Valley as the “stopover” destination for a family summer holiday in France, it’s worth considering Nantes as an alternative place to break your journey. Despite it being a big industrial city, it has a lot to offer families.
The city’s most well known family-friendly attractions are the mechanical masterpieces found on an island in the Loire River. Les Machines de l’Île features a giant elephant which visitors can ride upon plus an impressive carousel and various other mechanical creatures. There’s a workshop to visit where futures creations can be viewed.
Ever since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been on the look out for outdoor art – Nantes is ahead of the game with a particularly good offering of installations across the city. Nantes is perfect for cycling with safe paths along the river for children to follow.
- Great for long sandy beaches and water sports
Recommended by Izzy from the Gap Decaders
The Vendée is a wonderful area in the Loire-Aquitaine region of western France, stretching from just south of Nantes in the north to La Rochelle in the south.
Encompassing long sandy beaches, rocky coves, charming seaside towns and a pretty interior criss-crossed with canals which wind their way through fields of crops, the Vendée has a lot to offer families travelling through France in a motorhome.
The region is dotted with campsites, many of them large and offering pool complexes with slides and direct beach access as well as activities and clubs for toddlers and teenagers alike. With water sports high on the agenda, the Vendée is perfect for families with energetic teenagers, especially if they want to learn to sail.
Families with smaller children will love the sandy south-facing beach at Les Sables-d’Olonne, with it’s gradual slop into the sea, and gentle waves. In Bretignolles sur Mer, you’ll find something to suit everyone – rocky coves perfect for surfers and dune backed sandy stretches, perfect for sandcastle building and paddling.
Inland, check out canoeing from Sallertaine, hiking and cycling from just about anywhere and the tree-top trails at Le Grand Defi – all fantastic family activities which you’ll remember for years after your trip. For a real trip, head to Puy du Fou, one of France’s most popular theme parks.
The towns of Saint-Jean-de-Monts, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Les Sables-d’Olonne and La Tranche-sur-Mer are lively in season, with shops and restaurants opening late into the night. Take an evening wander and enjoy fairs, local markets, street-performers and live music set along cobbled streets and picture-perfect harbours.
Île de Ré
- Great for cycling, beaches and a peaceful way of life
With bicycles taking priority over cars, more beaches than you could hope to visit in one summer holiday, and 10 picture postcard towns to explore, it’s no wonder that accommodation on this sunny isle gets booked up rather swiftly. Book in advance and you too can enjoy a piece of this perfect family summer holiday destination! There are plenty of campsites within walking distance of a sandy beach on Île de Ré, many with chalets if you don’t fancy staying in a tent.
Île de Ré has an appealing capital – the walled town of St-Martin-de-Ré. Here you’ll find a busy harbour lined with enticing cafes and a string of boats bobbing in the sunshine. In the height of summer it will be packed with Parisians but come and at the tail end of August and the crowds will be starting to thin as holidaymakers return to the capital.
The Dordogne River
- Great for kayaking, castles and caves
Recommended by Cosette from KarsTravels
The Dordogne is a beautiful region in Southwestern France. The Dordogne with kids is perfect, since there’s so much to see and do for families. The nature is stunning with rivers, valleys and green mountains everywhere. Kayaking on the Dordogne river or taking a Gabarre de Beynac is perfect. A Gabarre is a freight ship that was used on the rivers in the area in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Fun on the river isn’t the only thing the Dordogne has to offer. There are numerous caves in the mountains where people used to live in and that can be visited. A fun experience for families are the Grottes du Roc de Cazelle. Learn all about how people lived in these caves over the ages.
The Dordogne is also dotted with beautiful, old towns, which have streets where kids can run around, beautiful vistas and small medieval streets. One such town is Beynac, towering high on the banks of the Dordogne.
Which kid (or parent) doesn’t love a good castle? Well there are plenty of castles in the Dordogne, one of them is Château de Castlenaud. The castle houses a museum about war in the middle ages, with crossbows and catapults on display.
A perfect stay for families is campground Moulin de la Pique in the town of Pays-de-Belvès. Beautiful surroundings and catering to families with all sorts of fun things to do and a splendid swimming pool.
- Great for Roman ruins, regional bistros, beautiful UNESCO city centre
Recommended by Noel from This Hawaii Life
One of the best places to visit in France for families would be Lyon which is just a few hours train ride from Paris. Lyon has a compact and walkable historic district intersected by two rivers, the Rhone and the Saône.
The old town is packed with cobbled streets, little public squares and restaurants that spill out into the open areas late in the afternoon to evening. It is festive and fun exploring all the shops, checking out the churches and climbing up to the top of the hill to the observation area with spectacular views below of the city and surrounding areas. Alternatively, you can take a funicular to the top and walk down to view the Roman ruins and other historic sites before you get back into the town centre and enjoy all the end of day festivities, amazing regional food and evening street performances.
The rest of the city is also fun to explore with walking promenades connecting the main squares, public government buildings and shopping venues. All of these places are family friendly including walking or cycling along the shores of the rivers, farmers markets and arts and crafts markets to visit on the weekends or just having a nice meal along the banks of the rivers any time your hungry. Lyon is very casual, no fuss and easy to explore on foot and you’ll love visiting with your family here.
- Great for splashing in the water, idle wandering and swotting up on wine
Bordeaux is a really lovely city to simply wander through, that’s all I can really remember of our visit there near 10 years ago with our almost-toddler (this was a sleep-deprived period of my life). I do also remember having a really great lunch in a little bistro in a tiny square somewhere. There are plenty of pedestrianised streets and squares – not just the famous shopping street of Rue Sainte Catherine.
One of the highlights for children visiting the city is La Place de la Bourse with its vast water mirror – 2cm of water cover an area of granite which reflects the surrounding buildings with dramatic effect. Kids can splash to their hearts content.
If you don’t have the opportunity to head out of the city to any of the nearby vineyards, the Cité du Vin is worth a visit (even if it’s just to admire the iconic architecture). Welcoming to families, this museum charts the history of wine with plenty of interactive displays explaining how it is produced. There’s also a section showcasing the best winegrowing regions across the world and of course, you’ll have the chance to do some wine tasting.
- Great for pedestrian-friendly exploration, beach and city combo
Recommended by Rai from A Rai of Light
The fastest growing city in the country, Montpellier is a good choice for a family vacation in France. The city has an abundance of World Heritage sites, a good mix of culture and history, and a host of things to do with kids. Top sights include the Arc de Triomphe, the Promenade du Peyrou, Cathedrale Saint-Pierre and the Saint-Clément Aqueduct.
Located along the Mediterranean Sea in the Occitanie region of Southern France, this lively city experiences excellent weather year round. It is also home to one of the largest pedestrian areas in Europe, making it a city that is great to explore on foot. The main focal point of the city is the Place de la Comédie and any visit should start here in the fashionable pedestrian-only central square. Young children will enjoy a ride on the carousel in the Comédie as well as a stroll along Esplanade Charles de Gaulle.
Other attractions that should not be missed include Planetarium Galilee, Jardin des Plantes, Montpellier Parc Zoologique, and Musée Fabre. Montpellier is also sought after for being a part of the finely preserved coastline of marinas and beaches in the region and a day at the beach is highly recommended. This vibrant city in the South of France is often overshadowed by Paris and other cities in the region, but is well worth a visit.
Family holidays in the south of France: Provence
- Great for history and adventure lovers with ruins, gorges, mountains and beaches (and lots of pretty villages!)
Recommended by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
The South of France is a magical place to take a family holiday. With a varied landscape, agreeable climate, huge range of family-friendly activities, and a penchant for enjoying the good things in life, Provence stands out as a star destination.
There’s something to appeal to every kind of family too. The adventure lovers will enjoy canyoning in the gorges, canoeing on the vast lakes, or hiking through the craggy mountain ranges. Beach lovers are spoiled for choice with both large, family-friendly stretches of sand all along the coast, and more secluded coves such as those hidden in the Calanques National Park.
Those with kids who love everything medieval will have hours of fun exploring the region’s castles and seeing the real-life war relics on display at Chateau des Baux de Provence (don’t miss a visit to the breath-taking Carrières de Lumières while you’re nearby). And everyone will enjoy the bustling farmer’s markets, colourful Provençal villages and vibrant cities.
If you visit in the school holidays you’ll find a huge range of family-friendly events you can enjoy, and although a busier time to visit, there are still quiet pockets to be found. Although it’s technically in Occitanie, the family-run Chateau de Varenne is a great option for those looking for a family hotel in the south of France. It’s an easy drive from here into Avignon, the Luberon, the Pont du Gard, the nearby city of Arles, and into the Camargue to watch greater flamingos in their natural environment.
- Great for maritime and Mediterranean history, atmospheric forts and multicultural life
Recommended by Nesrine from Kevmrc.com
As the second largest city in France after Paris, Marseille had to be in this list. Located in the South of France, Marseille offers plenty of activities that will please both children and adults. It’s a city like no other in France!
Over the centuries, Marseille has always been the most important port in France – and continues to be so today. The city’s Old Port is a good place to start your visit to Marseille – dating back over 2,500 years to the days of Turkish and Greek settlers – it’s an atmospheric place to explore. Nearby is Le Panier district – a colourful area reflecting the multicultural character of Marseille.
On the edge of the Old Port is MuCEM – Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée- which charts the history of the Mediterranean through a series of exhibitions, art installations and films. Connected to the 13th century Fort Saint Jean (itself a great place for kids to explore), MuCEM is both a brilliant museum and an incredible structure.
Another fort worth exploring – and only reachable by boat – is the Chateau d’If, a location from the novel the Count of Monte Cristo. Children will enjoy visiting this 16th century former prison, set 1.5 kilometres from the shores of Marseille.
If your children relish a challenge, climb the many steps up to the city’s most well known landmark – Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde – for incredible views over the Mediterranean and the mountains. If you’re travelling with little ones, there’s also a tourist train to take you there.
One of the main advantages of Marseille, in addition to being a large city with sun all year round, is definitely the Mediterranean Sea. Its location promises beautiful moments on the beach or in the famous Calanques. The city is also a great starting point for many day-trips in Provence including the Gorges du Verdon, or the Valensole lavender fields.
If you’re considering where to stay in Marseille, the Radisson Blu Hotel and the Adagio are both family-friendly. Both centrally located, the Radisson has a swimming pool while the Adagio offers apartment accommodation.
Gorges du Verdon
- Great for adrenalin junkies
Recommended by Elisa from France Bucket List
The Gorges du Verdon, in Provence, is an excellent destination for a trip during a family holiday in the south of France. Gorges du Verdon is one of the most beautiful French landmarks. The place is excellent for hiking, and along the river, there are many water activities for all the family: kayak, paddleboat, self-guided electric boats, and more.
The Verdon River flows into the artificial Lake of Sainte-Croix, which is an excellent place for a beach day with children. The water level near the shore is shallow, perfect for the youngest of the family, and there are some places in the shade ideal for a fun picnic by the lake.
The area surrounding the Gorges du Verdon is also worth exploring. Here, you have some of the most beautiful villages of France, like Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Valensole, or Manosque, and some of the best lavender fields of Provence – if you come during the right season (from late June to the beginning of August).
The best time to visit Gorges du Verdon is in late spring, before the arrival of the summer crowds. If you cannot make it to the Gorges before the summer, book accommodation and water activities well in advance.
- Great for cycling along the promenade, seaside heaven and carnival fun
Recommended by Emma from Emma Jane Explores
Nice is the beating heart of the gorgeous French Riviera and offers plenty to do for families looking for a seaside getaway in France.
Naturally, a beach day for the whole family is a great activity to kickstart a holiday in Nice. The French Riviera offers many stunning beaches so whether you’re keen to swim at the grey pebbled beaches of Nice or take a train to Menton or Villefranche-sur-mer for a sandier beach, there’s plenty to choose from!
If swimming isn’t your thing, then perhaps a walk or ride along the incredible Promenade des Anglais might appeal. This large wide ocean front promenade is full of people exercising, riding bikes, rollerblading and even performing – plenty to keep the kids wide eyed and entertained.
Nice also has lots of beautiful parks which are perfect for family picnics or for kids to blow off some steam. The fountain garden near Place Masséna is great fun in warmer weather as children simply love to duck in and out of the jets of water that shoot up into the air from the tiles below.
Nice has plenty of great accommodation options for families, with an abundance of apartment rentals available. If possible, stay near the Vielle Ville (old town) as it is the most picturesque part of Nice, though it is quite a walk to the railway station.
If you fancy a February half term break with a difference, check whether your children’s school holiday matches the dates of the Nice carnival. Parades fill the streets with huge floats, a few days of celebration by the seaside is a perfect antidote to mid-winter.
The French Alps
- Great for an active outdoor holiday in the mountains
The French Alps are an amazing destination for a France family holiday in summer or winter. I’ll just focus on the summer highlights here of which there are plenty.
I always thought the seaside was an integral part of a family summer holiday but after a brilliant stay in the Italian Dolomites, I’m now a convert to mountain holidays. As well as the obvious mountain hiking and biking, river rafting and lake swimming attractions, there’s also summer tobogganing and via ferrata to try. My kids loved clipping themselves on to the wire and clambering up the rockface. I always used to think this style of climbing was cheating and a bit of a scar on the landscape but it’s rather a good solution for children new to rock climbing.
Chamonix is a good base for families with a wide range of accommodation to choose from including plenty of hotels with a swimming pool. The town has a good play park for little children and an interesting animal park featuring local mountain creatures. Chamonix is also home to a toboggan route which I am dying to go on with my kids. Also popular is the train ride up to the Mer du Glace Glacier where visitors can explore a man-made ice cave. I also rather fancy an overnight stay at the Refuge du Montenvers – a remote hostel accessed via cable car and several hours of hiking. It has some family rooms sleeping up to five.
If you’re in need of swimming on your France family holiday and a pool doesn’t suffice, Lake Annecy is a great base to consider. There are beaches aplenty for that all important swim (Annecy is apparently the cleanest lake in Europe) and there’s lots of water sports. The pretty town of Annecy is known as the Venice of the Alps – so that means there’ll be lots of tourists but you can hop on a bike and head off to some of the quieter stretches of the lake, there are plenty of cycle trails for families to enjoy.
If you’re holidaying with teens and fancy a challenge, one of the most famous hikes in Europe is the Tour du Mont Blanc. You’ll need at least 10 days for this multi-day trek. Make sure you allow a few days post-hike to rest your weary limbs.
For more ideas on family walking holidays, check out my article about the best multi-day hikes in Europe.
- Great for: beaches, river swimming, kid-friendly food
The French island of Corsica is a brilliant destination for a family holiday. Much of the coastline features sandy beaches – some of them voted among the best in Europe. But I’m particularly taken by Corsica’s interior of rocky mountains and incredible rivers which are perfect for swimming. Corsica also does a very good line in rosé wine – we’ve visited the island a couple of times and always return with a couple of cases!
If you’re after a simple car-free beach holiday, Calvi in the north of the island is a good bet. This waterfront town with its medieval citadel has a long stretch of sandy beach and there’s a little train which takes visitors to the neighbouring resort of L’Île-Rousse. Calvi airport is close to the town and the flight from the UK is reassuringly short too – ideal if you’re travelling with toddlers or babies.
If you fancy getting off the beaten track in Corsica, the far north of the island has some wonderfully unspoilt coastline and – we discovered – some very good restaurants. We discovered some fantastic campsites there and some really lovely beaches.
If you’re travelling outside the main summer months, Corsica’s interior is incredible for hiking with trails of varying lengths. The island is home to Europe’s most challenging long distance trek – the Grande Randonnée 20 but there are plenty of more civilised trails for families who don’t fancy traversing the length of Corsica. We found a lovely spot for a walk and a swim at le Pont de l’Enfer.
Food in Corsica is perfect for families. It’s a mix of French and Italian. As well as plenty of seafood and lots of delicious meat dishes in the mountains, there’s tons of pasta and pizza joints to keep the kids happy.
On our last trip to Corsica we stayed at Sole di Sari, a small holiday village on the banks of the Solenzara river. Our children hardly touched the swimming pools as the river was so perfect for swimming. We had a lovely day out to Bonifacio, an incredibly positioned citadel overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Theme parks in France for families
Everyone’s heard of Disneyland Paris but did you know there are some other rather brilliant theme parks in France for kids? And many of these parks actually have themes, rather than just rollercoasters. There’s historical re-enactments at Puy du Fou near Nantes, Gaullish fun at Parc Astérix near Paris and volcanic-themed amusements at Vulcania near Clermont Ferrand.
According to Wikipedia, Parc Astérix is the most visited theme park in France after Disneyland. Expect lots of rollercoasters and other typical rides – all based around Asterix and various significant events in European history. There are themed hotels at the park – including Paris in Roman times – so it’s a good spot for an overnight stay if you need to break your journey.
This is a great place to visit if you have a bit of time to kill before a ferry crossing from Caen back to the UK. There’s all the usual rides here from scary turn-you-upside-down rollercoasters to more gentile carousels. Quite a few of the rides have a height restriction but if you’re under 95cm you get in free.
Puy du Fou
I’m not a massive fan of theme parks but I absolutely love the sound of Puy du Fou.
If you’re taking a holiday in south west France, Puy du Fou is a great place to break the journey for a few nights. Try to spend a minimum of two nights and three days at the park as there is a lot to see. For the best experience, consider staying in one of the on-site themed hotels. Puy du Fou re-enacts major events in history with hundreds of actors, props and pyrotechnics.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to tick off the many chateaux which sit along the Loire Valley, head to this model village of the region and see all the castles in miniture.
Near Angers, Loire
Part giant botanical garden, part theme park, this Loire Valley attraction manages to both educate and entertain. Take a ride through the trees on board a giant nutshell or wander through steamy glasshouses. Learn about the life of plants in a 4D adventure or hop on a little train through the park. This really is a rather brilliant place for families.
I felt slightly queasy just watching the video on the Nigloland website but if you’re made of stronger stuff than me, you’ll no doubt love all the rollercoasters and stomach churning rides which are on offer at this popular theme park. It’s handily located close to the A5 just east of Troyes in case you need an alternative to Champagne tasting to get your kids on a long car journey across France.
This is a tricky theme park to sum up in a couple of sentences – it’s all based around cinematography and multimedia special effects. Highlights include a rollercoaster that takes you on a journey to Mars and a terrifying trip on the back of a ladybird with full 4D effects. The park also puts on some pretty impressive night time theatrics.
Honestly, why can’t we have theme parks like this? Situated amid a chain of dormant (some would say extinct) volcanoes – Chaîne des Puys – in the Auvergne region of central France, Vulcania is all about making science fun for kids.
There are various interactive displays for kids as well as lots of high-tech films exploring themes such as underwater volcanoes. You can even travel down into the virtual cone of a volcano aboard a little cart using particularly convincing special effects.
Cité de l’Espace
For any budding astronauts, the Cité de l’Espace offers the chance to test your suitability for space travel and explore replica space crafts including the Mir Space Station. There’s plenty of hands-on exhibits for kids to enjoy and of course a huge IMAX screen to help you explore the universe.
South and South West France
There are currently eight of these family-friendly water parks, all located in southern France. Expect plenty of water slides and plenty of people.
Useful resources on France for families
I never used to suggest looking at the Foreign Office website before a France family holiday but now that we have covid in our lives, it’s a good idea to keep up to date on travel advice.
If you’re one of those many families planning a trip through France and wondering where to break the journey, you’ll find this website really helpful. Whether you’re looking for a pretty little spot for a picnic or somewhere to stay overnight, this website should help you find somewhere suitable.
If you’re considering a family cycling holiday in France, the Velotourism website is packed with ideas and routes to inspire a holiday on two wheels.
Have you visited France with children? Let me know in the comments below if you have any top tips on holidays in France for families.
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