Discover the 10 Most Populated Cities in France

Toulouse, France
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Written by Niccoy Walker

Updated: June 22, 2023

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France is one of the most visited nations on earth. And over 67 million people live there. The country is popular for its rich culture, delicious cuisine, well-preserved architecture, and many tourist attractions. Discover the ten most populated cities in France and learn about their locations, attractions, and what they are best known for.

1. Paris

The Eiffel Tower, France

Paris has a history dating back to the 3rd century BC and became France’s capital by the end of the 12th century.

Population: 10.8 million (urban), 13 million (metro)

Land Size: 1,100 square miles (urban)

Location: Paris is France’s capital and the most populated city in the country. It is also the fourth most populous city in the European Union. The “city of light” is in North-Central France in the Île-de-France region.

Importance and Notoriety: Paris has a history dating back to the 3rd century BC and became France’s capital by the end of the 12th century. This historical city is also known for its monuments, museums, art, hotels, music, cuisine, fashion, education, and libraries.

Best Tourist Attractions: Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles, Luxembourg Gardens, Musee d’Orsay, The Centre Pompidou, and Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris.

2. Marseille

Marseille, France

Marseille is the oldest city in France and the second most populous. It is known for its rich culture, beaches, and delicious cuisine.

Population: 1.7 million (urban), 1.8 million (metro)

Land Size: 678 square miles (urban)

Location: Marseille is the oldest city in France and the second most populous. It is located in Southern France on the Gulf of Lion coast, which is part of the Mediterranean Sea. It is also the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

Importance and Notoriety: Other than its ancient history and beautiful topography, Marseille is known for its rich culture, tarot cards, opera, bouillabaisse (fish stew), cathedrals, museums, and beaches.

Best Tourist Attractions: Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, Parc National des Calanques, Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, Cathedral La Major, Chateau d’lf, and Old Port of Marseille.

3. Lyon

Lyon is a major economic center in France. It is the third largest city in the country.

Population: 1.6 million (urban), 2.2 million (metro)

Land Size: 440 square miles (urban)

Location: Lyon is the third largest city in France by population. It is in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in Southeast-Central France. You will find it northwest of the French Alps and over 200 miles southeast of Paris.

Importance and Notoriety: Lyon is a major economic center in France. It is most notable for its Middle Ages and Renaissance architecture, museums, gardens, culinary arts, street art, and football.

Best Tourist Attractions: parc de la Tete d’Or, La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourviere, Place Bellecour, Musee des Confluences, Musee des Beaux Arts, and Musee Cinema et Miniature.

4. Lille

Lille in France - Grand Place

Lille sits along the Belgium border in Northern France. It is an excellent city for higher education, art, and Flemish architecture.

Population: One million (urban), 1.5 million (metro)

Land Size: 172 square miles

Location: Lille sits along the Belgium border in Northern France. It is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region and the fourth-largest city in France by population.

Importance and Notoriety: Lille is best known for its Flemish architecture, higher education, art, science, and flea markets.

Best Tourist Attractions: Grand Place, La Vieille Bourse, Palais des Beaux Arts, La Piscine, Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral, Natural History Museum, and Decathlon Area.

5. Toulouse

Toulouse, France

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

Population: One million (urban), 1.4 million (metro)

Land Size: 369 square miles (urban)

Location: Located in Southern France on the axis between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Toulouse is the capital city of the Occitania region.

Importance and Notoriety: Toulouse is an important World Heritage Site and is known for its higher education, aerospace engineering, Romanesque and Gothic architecture, museums, rugby, ballet, and foie gras (duck liver).

Best Tourist Attractions: Place du Capitole, Jardin Japonais Pierre Baudis (botanical garden), Musee Aeroscopia, Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Musee des Augustins, and Les Abattoirs.

6. Bordeaux

Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux is in Southwestern France on the Garonne River, where it is a port city. This city is known worldwide for its wine and vineyards.

Population: 994,000 (urban), 1.3 million (metro)

Land Size: 497 square miles (urban)

Location: Bordeaux is in Southwestern France on the Garonne River, where it is a port city. It is also the capital city of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.

Importance and Notoriety: Bordeaux is best known for its wine, vineyards, castles, architecture, museums, music venues, and shopping.

Best Tourist Attractions: La Cite du Vin, Miroir d’eau, Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux Cathedral, Monument aux Girondins, National Opera of Bordeaux, Musee d’Aquitaine, Basilique Saint-Michel, and Pey Berland Tower.

7. Nice

Cote d'Azur France. Beautiful panoramic aerial view city of Nice, France. Luxury resort of French riviera

Other than a summer destination for the rich, Nice is also known for its architecture, museums, cathedrals, and Mediterranean city squares.

Population: 944,000 (Urban)

Land Size: 287 square miles (urban)

Location: Nice sits along the southeastern coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea (French Riviera). It lies in the foothills of the French Alps and is the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

Importance and Notoriety: Other than a summer destination for the rich, Nice is also known for its architecture, museums, cathedrals, Mediterranean city squares, archeological sites, beaches, festivals, Pissaladiere (onion and anchovy tart), and Salade Nicoise.

Best Tourist Attractions: Castle Hill, Marc Chagall National Museum, Cathedral Saint-Nicolas de Nice, Promenade des Anglais, Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, Parc Phoenix, and Marche Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya (flower market).

8. Nantes

Nantes, France

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

Population: 655,00 (urban), 997,000 (metro)

Land Size: 192 square miles (urban)

Location: Nantes sits along France’s west coast near the Atlantic Ocean in the Pays de la Loire region. It is 210 miles southwest of Paris.

Importance and Notoriety: Nantes has a history dating back to the Bronze Age when the first settlers arrived. The city is notable for its architecture, venues, museums, art exhibits, cuisine, and sports.

Best Tourist Attractions: Les Machines de I’lle, Chateau des ducs de Bretagne, Botanical Garden, Passage Pommeraye, Musee d’arts de Nantes, Ile de Versailles, Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, and Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul of Nantes.

9. Strasbourg

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg is an essential economic center in France for manufacturing and engineering. It is in Eastern France on the German border.

Population: 478,000 (urban), 853,000 (metro)

Land Size: 92 square miles (urban)

Location: Strasbourg is in Eastern France on the German border. It is the largest city in the Grant Est region and sits along the Rhine River.

Importance and Notoriety: Strasbourg is an essential economic center in France for manufacturing and engineering. It is also known for its medieval cityscape, Gothic architecture, prominent parks, museums, fine art, classical music festivals, and libraries.

Best Tourist Attractions: Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg, Parc de l’Orangerie, Place Kleber, Barrage Vauban, Alsatian Musuem, Palais Rohan, Maison Kammerzell, Le Vaisseau, and St. Thomas Church.

10. Montpellier

Montpellier, France

Montpellier was an important city during the Middle Ages.

Population: 465,000 (urban), 813,000 (metro)

Land Size: 119 square miles (urban)

Location: Located in the South of France, Montpellier sits on the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the largest urban centers in the Occitania region. 

Importance and Notoriety: Montpellier was an important city during the Middle Ages. Today it is most notable for its architecture (medieval times), historic centers, universities, music festivals, and sports.

Best Tourist Attractions: Montpellier Zoological Park, Place de la Comedie, Planet Ocean World, Promenade du Peyrou, Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier, Montpellier Cathedral, Musee Fabre, Shopping Centre Odysseum, Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle, and Arc de Triomphe.

Summary Of The 10 Most Populated Cities in France

RankCityPopulation
1Paris10.8 million (urban), 13 million (metro)
2Marseille1.7 million (urban), 1.8 million (metro)
3Lyon1.6 million (urban), 2.2 million (metro)
4Lille1 million (urban), 1.5 million (metro)
5Toulouse1 million (urban), 1.4 million (metro)
6Boreaux94,000 (urban), 1.3 million (metro)
7Nice944,000 (Urban)
8Nantes655,00 (urban), 997,000 (metro)
9Strasbourg478,000 (urban), 853,000 (metro)
10Montpellier465,000 (urban), 813,000 (metro)
Summary Table Of The 10 Most Populated Cities in France


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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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