Discover the 8 Largest Cities in France

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: April 24, 2023
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France is the largest European country by surface area and one of the most visited regions of the world. France has some of the oldest traces of human life and has been a pioneer in art, music, cuisine, and fashion since the dawn of time. The largest cities in France by land size are also some of the most populated areas in the country. Discover the best attractions to visit!


Paris is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and the largest in land size in France at 7,313 square miles.


Land Size: 7,313 sq. miles

Population: 13 million

Geography: Paris is the capital city of France and the most populous. It is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It is in Northern Central France along the River Seine. Most of the city is flat land, with the exception of several prominent hills.

Notable For: Nicknamed “The Capital of the World,” Paris is most notably known for fashion, architectural harmony, commerce, diplomacy, science, monuments, hotels, art, museums, theater, literature, music, cinema, cuisine, education, and sports.

Best Tourist Attractions: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Musée d’Orsay, Luxembourg Gardens, The Centre Pompidou, Palais Garnier, and Sainte-Chapelle.


Toulouse, France
Church of the Jacobins aerial panoramic view, a Roman Catholic church located in Toulouse city, France.


Land Size: 2,517 sq. miles

Population: 1.4 million

Geography: Toulouse is in Southern France between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is near the borders of Andorra and Spain and the prefecture of Haute-Garonne, a French department. It sits on the banks of River Garonne.

Notable For: Toulouse is well-known for the aerospace industry, prestigious universities, unique architecture, red brick dykes, museums, opera, ballet, sausage, rugby, and famous people, particularly scientists.

Best Tourist Attractions: Place du Capitole, Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, Couvent des Jacobins, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Les Abattoirs, Musee Saint-Raymond, Museum de Toulouse, and Cite de l’Espace.


Bordeaux, France
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne river in Southwestern France. It is famous for its wine, castles, education, architecture, and museums.


Land Size: 2,438 sq. miles

Population: 1.3 million

Geography: Located in Southwestern France, Bordeaux is a port city on the River Garonne in the Gironde department. And the city is divided into two parts with the right bank of the river to the east and the left bank to the west. It is the capital city of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and its area includes the city center and 27 suburb municipalities.

Notable For: Bordeaux is famous for its wine, castles, aeronautics, education, architecture, museums, and shopping.

Best Tourist Attractions: Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux Cathedral, National Opera of Bordeaux, Monument aux Girondins, Basilique Saint-Michel, Grosse Cloche, La Ciudad del Vino, and Porte Cailhau.


The Rhone River has been an important trade route since the ancient Greek and Roman eras. Lyon sits at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone.


Land Size: 1,778 sq. miles

Population: 2.2 million

Geography: The city of Lyon sits at the confluence of two rivers (Rhône and Saône) and is northwest of the French Alps. The area consists of hills and plains, with lush, green vegetation on the city’s outskirts.

Notable For: Lyon is best known for its role in the Renaissance, Roman ruins, the silk trade, fine arts museums, parks, high-tech industries, prestigious universities, opera, coq au vin, football (soccer), and street art.

Best Tourist Attractions: La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Parc de la Tête d’Or, Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Museum of Fine Arts, Musée des Confluences, Teatro Galo-Romano, Place Bellecour, and Musée Cinéma et Miniature. 


Marseille, France
Marseille is in Southern France on the Gulf of Lion near the Rhone River. The area contains small fishing villages, rugged coasts, and mountains.


Land Size: 1,533 sq. miles

Population: 1.8 million

Geography: Marseille is in the Provence region of Southern France, where it is the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. The city is on the Gulf of Lion coast (part of the Mediterranean Sea) near the Rhone River. The area consists of small fishing villages, rugged coastal areas, mountains, and dense city centers.

Notable For: Marseille is popular for cruises, beaches, maritime museums, opera, clubs, art galleries, theater, tarot cards, French hip-hop music, street markets, Bouillabaisse, and sports facilities.

Best Tourist Attractions: Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, Musem of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, Cathedrale La Major, Château d’If, Abbaye Saint-Victor, Palais Longchamp, Old Port of Marseille, and Massif des Calanques.


Rennes, France
Rennes is in Northwestern France at the confluence of the Ille and Vilaine Rivers. It has many historic centers, botanical gardens, and festivals.


Land Size: 1,468 sq. miles

Population: 747,000

Geography: Rennes is in Northwestern France in the eastern portion of Brittany. It sits at the confluence of the Ille and Vilaine Rivers, with the ancient part of the city built on a hill. A green belt separates the city proper and the urban area.

Notable For: Rennes is known for its historic centers, botanical gardens, tech companies, music festivals, concert halls, museums, and crepes.

Best Tourist Attractions: Parc du Thabor, Cathedral Saint-Pierre de Rennes, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, Parc des Gayeulles, Creperie Au Marche des Lices, Les Champs Libres, and Park Hamelin Oberthur.


Nantes, France
Nantes is a city between the branches of the Loire River in the Loire-Atlantique region in France. The area features parks, museums, and venues.


Land Size: 1,340 sq. miles

Population: 997,000

Geography: Nantes is a city on the Loire River, the longest in France. Nantes is on France’s western coast in the Loire-Atlantique departments. It sits on an architectural junction, sharing styles from Northern and Southern France.

Notable For: Visit Nantes for its parks, architecture, museums, venues, surrealism in art, market gardens, plebeian cuisine, and sports complexes.

Best Tourist Attractions: Château des ducs de Bretagne, Les Machines de l’Île, Botanical Garden, Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul of Nantes, Museo de Bellas Artes de Nantes, Passage Pommeraye, Natural History Museum, and Ile de Versailles.


Montpellier, France
Montpellier is a city in Southern France near the Mediterranean Sea. It’s popular for medieval architecture, education, science, sports, and music.


Land Size: 932 sq. miles

Population: 787,000

Geography: Montpellier lies in Southern France near the Mediterranean Sea. It is the prefecture of the Herault department and is located on hilly ground on the River Lez. It sits inland from the coast and was nicknamed “the naked hill” due to sparse vegetation.

Notable For: Montpellier is popular for its medieval architecture, photography, education, science, sports, music festivals, and historical centers.

Best Tourist Attractions: Place de la Comedie, Promenade du Peyrou, Museuo Fabre, Planet Ocean World, Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier, Monpellier Cathedral, Montpellier Zoological Park, Arc de Triomphe, and Pavillion Populaire.


Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg is in Eastern France on the Germany border. It is a popular destination for gothic architecture, medieval streets, and scenic canals.


Land Size: 859 sq. miles

Population: 853,000

Geography: Located in Eastern France, Strasbourg is the largest city in the Grand Est region. This city resides on the border of Germany in the historic Alsace region. 

Notable For: Strasbourg is a popular destination for sandstone gothic architecture, medieval streets, scenic canals, parks, museums, orchestras, festivals, humanism, higher education, libraries, and racing.

Best Tourist Attractions: Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, Parc de l’Orangerie, Palais Rohan, Place Kleber, Barrage Vauban, Alsatian Museum, Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg, Petite-France, and St. Thomas Church.

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Nantes, France
Nantes city between the branches of the Loire river aerial view in Loire-Atlantique region in France

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the Triangle area and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

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