Southeastern France is perhaps the most picturesque, classically tourist-based region of France. With the stunning beaches of the cities along the French Riviera, coupled with the cultural and culinary excellence of Lyon, and the blend of history and modern architecture in Marseille, wherever you are within this region, you will not be found wanting, with virtually everything possible, all the while soaking up the beautiful Mediterranean climate.
Lyon and Marseille, France's second and third largest cities, are perhaps two of the most important, yet largely undiscovered towns in France. Marseille, previously maligned for high crime statistics and football hooliganism in the 20th century, has now managed to shake off this image, and is now considered one of France's finest cities, especially since its 2013 stint as a European Capital of Culture. Its old port remains the center of Marseille life, though a 550m cultural refurbishment has gone a long way towards the creation of new and improved cultural centers throughout the city. Lyon, the former Gallic capital, is less of a work in progress, more a refined, beautiful city, with many stunning squares adorning its center and sites of historical significance (a large Roman Amphitheater and a Basilica to name just two) on the surrounding hills, though it is not without its renovations. Indeed, the Confluence, a 150-hectare area towards the South of the city, at the meeting point of the Saone and the Rhone rivers, is undergoing a major, multimillion euro transformation into an environmentally sustainable heavyweight.
Away from the major cities of the region are stunning areas such as Annecy and its namesake lake, as well as, further south, the Gorges du Verdon region (known as the European equivalent of the Grand Canyon), an excellent base for watersports including kayaking and wakeboarding, as well as some gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage scenery and some excellent driving roads for those with a car, located a 2.5-hour drive from Marseille.
This region is also home to the stunning French Riviera, with such beautiful, opulent cities as Cannes, Nice and Saint-Tropez, as well as the famed principality of Monaco, one of the three richest countries per capita in the world. In these cities, you can truly see how the other half live, with the region's astonishing yachts, fancy hotels and beautiful coastline all on display for tourists. Cannes, famed for its film festival, is home to some of Europe's most beautiful beaches, with La Croisette a highlight. Monaco, the site of one of the world's most famous Formula One grands prix, is similarly grand, with perhaps the most impressive port you could hope to find anywhere.
Food and Dining
The food in this region of France is typical of what you find throughout France. In Lyon and the surrounding areas, quenelles de brochet are particularly popular, as are the andouillette sausages seen throughout the country. The cuisine further south is characterized by its proximity to the Mediterranean, with seafood, as well as the use of herbs and olive oil, with dishes such as bouillabaisse, a fish stew, especially prominent here. Wine is also in plentiful supply in this area, with the Côtes du Rhone variety of grape grown to the south of Lyon.
This region is served by a number of airports differing in size. Perhaps the most important are those at Lyon, Marseille and Nice, through which most major airlines run flights from major European countries, as well as smaller airports at Toulon and Grenoble. There are rail services linking Lyon and the Riviera, Lyon itself being served by the Eurostar, running from Brussels, London and Paris. The region borders Italy at its Southeastern frontier, as well as the principality of Monaco, and trains are available from there and from Spain on the Southwestern border of the country.