15 Best Cruise Ports in France

Have you ever dreamed of sailing the Mediterranean, exploring the historic beaches at Normandy, or walking through centuries-old cathedrals in some of Europe’s most historic cities? Whether you’re planning a European cruise within the next few months or arming your bucket list with dream destinations for your next bon voyage experience, these are the most impressive ocean cruise ports in France you won’t want to leave off your itinerary.


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One of the most popular cruise ports along France’s Mediterranean coastline is Nice. With its colorful streets, abundant cafes with outdoor seating along the Cours Saleya, and culinary highlights like lavender and rose gelato and fresh seafood, it’s easy to see why Nice is such a favorite among cruise ship travelers. The small cruise port is just a few minutes from charming Old Nice.


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Companies like Windstar Cruises that offer smaller luxury ships are able to dock directly at the port of Nice, but many larger cruise ships dock at nearby Villefranche-Sur-Mer just outside of Nice, a few minutes away. While cruise passengers often enjoy a day exploring Nice, others take the opportunity to head to nearby Monaco and Monte Carlo, just a 25-minute train ride east.


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The French city of Marseille is one of the busiest ports in France and among the most important ports in the Mediterranean. While Marseille isn’t known as one of France’s prettier cities, it has plenty to do near the cruise port, including the fascinating (and free) Mucem – Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean. The city is also known for its famous seafood dish bouillabaisse, and is within day-trip distance of the lavender fields and charming towns of Provence.


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Cannes may be best known for its annual international film festival, but travelers passing through the port of Cannes on a cruise can enjoy plenty year-round. The city’s old town, known as Le Suquet, is packed with charm and attractions. Or, take advantage of the city’s proximity to Monaco and Monte Carlo and cross another country off your bucket list.

Le Havre

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Passengers on cruises headed to the Northern Atlantic will be delighted to find Le Havre on their itineraries. Though the seaside town has little name recognition itself, it’s the port of call that many travelers use to access Paris. While the drive can be long – just over two hours to reach the City of Lights – it’s no question that most travelers are willing to make the trek to enjoy a day in one of the world’s most enchanting and romantic cities.


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Travelers looking to explore an entirely different side of France should look for opportunities to visit the country’s Mediterranean island of Corsica. Many cruise ships dock in the city of Ajaccio, with its unique blend of French and Italian influence and its alluring old town. Ajaccio has plenty to offer, but many cruise ship passengers take advantage of sunny weather and head to nearby beaches.


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Like nearby Marseille, the port city of Toulon isn’t known for its beauty. Visitors not looking to venture far from the ship will find enough to fill a day in town, though many travelers prefer to head north to Provence or east to other French Riviera towns like Saint Tropez or Cannes instead.


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The small town of Sanary-Sur-Mer sits just between Marseille and Toulon, offering more charm than each of these larger port cities combined. Sanary-Sur-Mer tends to be a port that only makes it onto the itineraries of small ship cruise lines, but that’s just the way that many passengers that tend toward this kind of cruise experience like it.

La Rochelle

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Located on France’s Atlantic coast, the port of La Rochelle is considered a gateway for the castles and vineyards of Bordeaux, though there’s plenty to this historic town as well. Whether you’re looking to take in the city on a walking tour or enjoy an afternoon in one of the region’s wine cellars, you’ll soon learn why this port is one of the best in France.

Saint Malo

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The northern French port of St. Malo will feel totally different to travelers who have only ever experienced French ports of call along the Mediterranean. St. Malo has plenty to see on its own, though many visitors use a day here to enjoy a trip to the stunning tidal island of Mont-Saint-Michel, topped with a centuries-old abbey you’ll have to see to believe.


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The French Riviera town of Antibes may not have as much name recognition as neighbors like Nice and Cannes, but this French port is even more charming in many ways. Small, walkable, and charming, it’s one of the more popular cities in the area, with visitors driving in even from nearby port towns to enjoy it. Consider spending a day split between Antibes and St. Paul de Vence for a fuller experience with the region.


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Bastia is the largest port on the French island of Corsica, though it will feel like a tiny town in comparison to some of the larger ports on mainland France. There’s plenty to see and do in this walkable town, though cruise ship travelers also frequent the island’s beautiful beaches.


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Located on France’s north Atlantic coast in the region of Brittany, the port city of Lorient isn’t as popular of a stop on most French cruise itineraries – though visitors quickly fall in love. Use a day in port to explore typical French villages like Quimper or head to nearby islands like Hoedic to see a provincial side of France few cruise travelers get to see.


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The northern French city of Caen is the second-largest city in the region of Normandy, making it a popular cruise port for travelers looking to explore the beaches made famous by the World War II landings. You can also spend the day exploring Caen and its historic sights, like the Château de Caen, built by William the Conquerer, or the town’s famous churches.


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Unlike the rest of the cruise ports on this list, Rouen is located on the River Seine rather than the sea, but its location allows smaller ocean ships like those from Windstar Cruises to access it. The privileged passengers that find Rouen on their itinerary are in luck – this historic gem located in the heart of Normandy is one of France’s most historic cities, home to everything from the impressive Notre-Dame Cathedral to the spot where Joan of Arc met her fate.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.