The cultural center and arguably the beating heart of the European continent, France has been capturing the attention of awestruck visitors for decades now with its beautiful architecture, rich ancient heritage, marvelous nature, and world-renowned gastronomy.
Once again, it's been confirmed as the most visited destination globally, having welcomed over 100 million tourists in 2023 alone.
That's 20 million more than neighboring Spain and a whopping 69 million more than Mexico.
Everyone wants a bite of that deliciously crunchy croissant, but where exactly are foreigners drawn to when planning their French vacances? According to local authorities, these are the top three fastest-growing destinations in France right now:
Spoiler alert: Paris isn't number one.
At an annual growth of 23.9%, the region known as Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, which comprises the historical backcountry of Auvergne and the towering French Alps, is the third biggest contributor to France's record-breaking figures in 2023.
The main destination is Lyon, the third largest city in France, best known for its Renaissance-spawned Old Town and hilltop district of La Croix-Rousse, both proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the imposing Cathedral of St. John, and three ancient Roman theaters.
Other points of interest in the province include Grenoble, sitting at the foot of the Alps, Annecy and its associated lake, one of the clearest in Europe, and the hidden gem that is Chambéry, an alpine town littered with well-preserved medieval structures.
In the runner-up slot, Île-de-France has posted a 28.5% growth in 2023, largely boosted by Paris, the main tourist destination in the capital region, and largest conurbation in this administrative region; last year, the French capital hit 36.9 million tourists, outperforming entire countries.
Concentrating several of France's most striking landmarks, such as the imposing Eiffel Tower, the Gothic wonder that is Notre-Dame, and the Louvre, Paris is a controversial topic among travelers: it is either described as the most beautiful city in the world, or an overrated Instagrammer hell-pit.
Love it or hate it, it is an essential puzzle piece your European map won't be complete without. Other than Paris, Île-de-France lays claim to Versailles, the Sun King's majestic imperial palace and a symbol of the country's deposed monarchy, and of course, the European Disneyland.
The French Riviera
Outpeaking Paris, the French Riviera, or as it is known locally, Côte d'Azur, is officially France's biggest gainer in 2023, having registered a year-on-year increase of 31.9%, thanks to its outstanding popularity as a summer and fall destination.
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is a province extending from the mountainous Alps down to the sunny coast, led by cities like Nice and Marseille, bustling Mediterranean ports boasting an invaluable cultural wealth and warm weather, and dominated by upscale resort strips.
It is home to Saint-Tropez, a jet set destination for American celebrities, Cannes, where the celebratory film festival is held, Juan-les-Pins, a lively beach town bounded by white sands and turquoise waters, and Menton, a colorful Franco-Italian settlement well-reputed for its signature lemon gelato.
What You Should Know About Visiting France In 2024
This year, Paris will be the host city for the Olympics, a large-scale event that is expected to attract millions more visitors during the already busy summer months, further elevating France's status as a tour de force in tourism.
Not only will the City of Lights see a fresh surge in visitor numbers, but also other parts of France with rapid transport links to the capital, particularly Normandy, famous for its coastal casino towns and the 8th-century Mont-Saint-Michel, and the Alsace region, where Strasbourg is located.
Lucky for visitors, Europe's planned ETIAS, a new requirement that will bar access to the continent for Americans who do not obtain permission to travel in advance, has been delayed to 2025, and U.S. passport holders can still fly to France hassle-free throughout this year.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.