If the Rugby World Cup has you dreaming of French getaways in 2024, why not consider hitting one of the country’s best beaches, as well as old favourites Paris, Lyon and Toulouse? France has something for every kind of summer holiday, plus that unmistakable French je ne sais quoi. From the dynamic waves of Biarritz to the celebrity-laden beaches of Saint-Tropez, France’s coastline is more than just postcard-perfect views.
Biarritz: The Surfer’s Paradise
In the southwest of France lies Biarritz, a famous beach town known for its great surfing conditions. When the sun is out, La Grande Plage’s promenade bursts into a vivid canvas of umbrellas — the kind you’d find on Bay of Biscay postcards. To the north lies the scenic Plage Miramar, leading the way to the iconic Phare de Biarritz lighthouse. To the south, the swim-friendly Plage du Port Vieux and the surfer’s paradise of Plage de la Cote des Basques.
Historically, Biarritz was a favourite destination of European royalty and the elite. You can see traces of belle epoque heritage in the town’s traditional Basque and 19th-century architecture, luxurious hotels and refined boutiques, like at the Hotel de la Plage or the cosy charm of Villa Magnan. For an old-school touch, stay at Casaviel, accommodation set in a 17th-century farmhouse.
Biarritz boasts an abundance of seafood in its cafes and restaurants. Oysters are everywhere, best paired with a glass of white wine. Grab a hearty macaron from Maison Adam, wander the bustling aisles of Les Halles market, or settle down at Le Bar Jean for classic Basque bites. The town’s proximity to the Basque country means you’re never far from a pintxo (a small snack) and a great locally brewed cider. After a day chasing waves, Bali Bowls on Place Clemenceau hits the spot.
Best time to visit: September, for an excellent balance of good weather and consistent surf conditions. The summer crowds have dwindled, offering a more relaxed ambience.
Saint-Tropez: The glamorous Riviera town
When summer arrives in France, Saint-Tropez truly comes alive. This Mediterranean gem is celebrated worldwide for its bustling harbour, celebrity sightings and glamorous parties, drawing crowds from near and far.
Pampelonne is the longest and most popular beach in the area. For a quieter escape, head over to beaches like Plage de la Glaye, with its pastel backdrops, or enjoy a peaceful swim at Plage de la Bouillabaisse with views across the Massif des Maures mountains. If you’re up for an adventure, hike the coastal trails of the Sentier du Littoral or Plage de la Moutte peppered with majestic manors and end it with a cooling swim. Families will love the Plage des Salins for its water sports and wildlife, a great unexpected moment of peace in bustling Saint-Tropez.
Hungry after a day’s trek? The markets overflow with fresh produce during the warm months. And while you could splurge at La Vague d’Or, don’t skip on a simple yet delicious pissaladiere slice, a flaky pastry onion, olive and anchovy tart that’s a traditional dish from Southern France.
As day turns to night, choose between the lively Brasserie des Arts or a laid-back drink at Senequier.
For the quintessential Saint-Tropez experience, a trip to Club 55 Beach Club is an absolute must.
Best time to visit: June to August, the peak months to experience the true Saint-Tropez vibe with bustling harbours, sunlit beaches and events.
Deauville: The Parisian Riviera
Just a three-hour train ride or a two-hour drive from Paris, Beauville has a rich equestrian heritage, and its horse tracks, yearling sales, Sunday polo matches and prestigious annual races are still an important part of the town’s culture. Deauville Beach stretches for 2km, dotted with more than 400 colourful parasols. The Les Planches boardwalk, which runs along the beach, has been hosting holidaymakers since the 1920s. Each wooden plank holds the name of a Hollywood star who attended the Deauville American Film Festival.
You’ll find two outstanding luxury accommodations: Hotel Barrière Le Normandy and the Royal Barrière Hotel, both more than a century old.
The vibrant Place du Marche farmers’ market offers a slice of Normandy, from fresh fish to creamy cheeses. To round off the gastronomic journey, visit La Peniche, a restaurant on a barge moored at the marina, which offers fantastic seafood dishes and beautiful sunsets.
Best time to visit: June to September. These summer months bring the city to life with its American Film Festival, horse races and pleasant beach weather.
Cassis: Calanques and charming harbours
Just a short drive from Marseille, Cassis offers a taste of Mediterranean France that sets it apart from bustling neighbours like Cannes and Nice. At the heart of it is the Calanques National Park, where limestone cliffs drop sharply into the turquoise sea. Take a boat tour to see them from the water, or enjoy one of the many hiking trails in the area.
Cassis is also renowned as a notable wine region, particularly celebrated for its crisp white and rosé wines. Consider visiting vineyards like Chateau de l’Aumerade or Domaine de la Vauvre to savour the local flavours.
When it comes to accommodation, Hotel Les Roches Rouges by the waterfront boasts sea views, luxurious rooms and Mediterranean cuisine. Meanwhile, Hotel La Villa Mauresque in central Cassis exudes Provencal charm, with an outdoor pool and fine dining. For something more wallet-friendly, Hotel de la Plage Mahogany on Plage du Bestouan has sea-facing terraces and a spa.
Adding a touch of adventure, Cap Canaille, the highest sea cliff in France, offers a heady viewpoint, especially during sunset.
Best time to visit: April to June or September to October. The temperatures are comfortable, ideal for both hiking and wine tasting. Plus, you avoid the peak summer crowds.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz: The Basque Beauty
Saint-Jean-de-Luz, tucked away near the Spanish border, is the Basque Country’s delightful answer to coastal living. This town, with its sheltered bay and family-friendly beaches like Plage de Saint-Jean-de-Luz, is a calmer contrast to the surfer-dominant shores further north.
Venture further inland and Basque like a local. Squash-like games of pelota bounce in town squares, and half-timbered homes are painted in vibrant reds and greens. Dive deep into history in St John the Baptist Church, the site of Louis XIV’s wedding. For a dining experience, places like Chez Pablo serve up the sea on a plate, with dishes deeply rooted in Basque culinary traditions.
Best time to visit: June to September. The warm weather complements the bay’s sheltered beaches. The summer months also see a range of Basque festivals.