The beauty of French cities is that they range from large conurbations, like Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, to places of great historic significance (Amiens and Avignon, for example) and far less pretentious place such as Brest, Clermont-Ferrand and Rennes. In addition to the 53 mainland cities, there are a further two on the French island of Réunion, and on on Martinique, and island in the Caribbean.
There are 53 mainland cities in France, the largest of which, of course, is Paris, with a population of almost 2.2 million, far larger than second placed Marseille, which has fewer than 800,000 inhabitants.
Only in Paris and, to a lesser extent, Lyon is there that sense of a great sprawling metropolis within which everything evolves. Once you reach places like Toulouse then this 'Big Place' feeling slips easily away, leaving you to enjoy all the pleasures without the randomness and lack of coherence that Paris displays.
If visiting a city is on your itinerary, you might not want to miss any of the following:
Angers (Pays de la Loire)
Avignon (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)
Grenoble (Rhône -Alpes)
Le Havre (Normandy)
Le Mans (Pays de la Loire)
Marseille (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)
Nantes (Pays de la Loire)
Nice (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)
Paris (Ile de France)
Saint Etienne (Rhône-Alpes)
Toulon (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)