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Are you better fit for urban life or country life? Are you a versatile person who can easily adapt and enjoy both of them? Either you prefer city life or countryside life, this article will be really useful for you because we will cover some essential vocabulary to talk about cities and countryside in French.

At the end of this article, you will be able to:

  • refer to key places in the city
  • mention different kinds of villages, towns
  • talk about the most popular cities in France
  • the prepositions commonly used when referring to cities and countries in French and some exercises to put them into practice.

Are you ready for a little tour around all these places? Well, buckle up and follow us!

If you wish to boost your French skills or take the tests DELF, DALF or TCF, revising all our french vocabuary worksheets is always a great idea!


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City landmarks and attractions

Where do you live? Imagine the following situations: in the first one, a foreign friend comes to visit you, which places and landmarks would you like to show him? and in the second one, you are leaving the city where you grew up and you do not know when you come back, where would you like to go? Detailed below you will find some keywords in French that will help you organize these imaginary tours!

Landmarks and public buildingsMonuments et édifices publics
Town HallL'Hôtel de ville / la mairie
libraryla bibliothèque
museumun musée
art galleryune galerie d’art
concert-hallune salle de concert
cathedralune cathédrale
castleun château
park, public gardenun parc, un jardin public
churches and chapels des églises; des temples
bridgeun pont
shop un magasin
mallun centre commercial
bakery une boulangerie
market un marché
neighborhoodun quartier

The Streets

Narrow, solitary, dirty, dangerous, lively, noisy, snow-covered streets from all over the world have been immortalized by photographers, movie directors, singers, writers and artists: Thanks to their work you can spot and even wonder the streets of Paris, London, Teheran, New York, Bogota, Buenos Aires, and the list is endless. Let’s study some vocabulary to talk about streets.

a streetune rue
an alleyune ruelle
an avenueune avenue
a squareune place
a walkway/pedestrian wayune rue piétonnière
the sidewalk/ the pavementle trottoir
the curb/ the kerble bord du trottoir
traffic lightun feu tricolore / lumineux
a crosswalk /a zebra crossingun passage pour piétons
skyscraper le gratte-ciel
towerune tour
downtown/ the town centrele centre ville

City, Town, Villages And Country Life

Let’s check some useful words about these different places.

city, capital city, metropolisune ville, la capitale, une métropole
townune ville
villageun village
municipalityune commune
historic town / medieval townune cité historique / médiévale
hamletun hameau, un lieu-dit
the suburbsla banlieue
surroundings, settingun cadre
a countryun pays
the country, the countrysidela campagne
landscapele paysage
town dwellerle citadin
farmerun paysan

Popular Cities In France

There are many reasons to visit France: everywhere you go, you will find historic buildings, unique and magic castles, delicious food, great wine, champagne, many different kinds of cheese and seasonal events, among many other attractions. How about learning some phrases about popular cities in France?

Paris is the capital of France. It is the second most visited city in the world. Paris est la capitale française. C’est la deuxième ville la plus visitée du monde.
Nice is located on the French Riviera, so it has wonderful beaches and lovely weather.Nice est située sur la Côte d’Azur, donc, il y a des plages magnifiques et il fait beau!
Marseille is located on the Mediterranean coast. Known as the Phocaean city, it is one of the oldest cities in France. Marseille est située sur la côte méditerranéenne. Connue comme la Cité Phocéenne, elle est une des plus anciennes villes de France.
One of the biggest cities in France is Lyon. It’s well-known because of its local food and the Basilica of Fourvière that dominates the city.Une des plus grandes villes de France est Lyon. Elle est bien connue pour sa nourriture locale et pour la Basilique de Fourvière qui domine la ville.
Bordeaux is a charming city: it has huge squares, great architecture and the air of the ocean!Bordeaux est une ville charmante: elle a d’immenses places, une architecture magnifique et l’air de l’océan!
Strasbourg is the seat to the European Parliament and its towering cathedral is worldly famous.
Strasbourg abrite le Parlement Européen et sa cathédrale imposante est mondialement célèbre.

Let’s Talk About Prepositions Used With Places In French

There are four prepositions to talk about cities and countries in French: “à”, “en”, “au” and “aux.” How do we know when to use each one of them? We’ll see that right away!

Have you noticed that in French, people say:

  • Je vais à Paris, but:
  • Je vais au Japon? In this section, you will understand why.

How to use the preposition “à”: This preposition is the equivalent to “in” or “to” in English. Generally, you use “à” before the name of a city.  For instance if you want to say:

  • “I live in Marseille” in French, you should say:  J’habite à Marseille. 
  • “In spring, we are going to Nice.” You should say: Au printemps, nous irons à Nice.
  • “She lives in Brussels.” You should say: Elle habite à Bruxelles.

If you want to clarify the type of place:

  • “I love going to the countryside”. You should say: J’adore aller à la campagne.

If you talk about a masculine or a plural country; you should use “au”. Let’s see:

  • Japan is a masculine noun in French: Le Japon. So, if you want to say: “I’m going to Japan,” you should say: Je vais au Japon (we don’t say: à le; instead, we say: au).
  • If you want to be more precise: I live downtown: J’habite au centre ville.

In the particular case of plural countries, we use the preposition “aux” (we don’t say: à les).

  • Patrick and Michelle are going to Holland: Patrick et Michelle vont aller aux Pays-Bas.
  • My aunt lives in a French municipality called “Les Ulis”: Ma tante habite aux Ulis.

You can also use “aux” when you mean “in the area, near, around” a place:

  • Chris lives near Marseille: Chris habite aux environs de Marseille.

In the specific case of feminine countries or countries whose first letter is a vowel, we use the preposition: en.

  • She went to live in France: Elle est partie vivre en France.
  • Next summer, I’m going to Italy: L’été prochain, j’irai en Italie.

Let’s Put All This Into Practice!

Complete the following sentences with the right preposition (en, à, au, aux).

Elvy habite _________ environs de Cannes.

Je partirai un mois __________ Espagne pour pratiquer mon espagnol.

Alec veux partir ______ Luxembourg pour faire un stage.

Mon cousin est ______ Chine.

Fred est photographe ______ Iran.

Elles vont _____ Cuba.

Catalina et son compagnon habitent _____ Portugal; mais ils vont partir ______ Etats-Unis car il a trouvé un travail là-bas.

J’irai travailler ______ Londres. 

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