If you’ve contemplated visiting France this vacation season, we bet you cannot stop envisioning about living the dream just like in ‘Midnight in Paris’, or ‘Amélie’. The picturesque scenes of traversing, the cobbled French cities at night or enjoying a romantic scooter ride with a beloved the all swoon-worthy, right?
However, to really cultivate a sense of ‘Dérive’, it is best not to see France as it appears. While it is imperative that you pay attention to, the Eiffel Tower & Louvre, the many vineyards and city of lights, the real essence of France, is in its offbeat paths.
In fact, if you look closer within, the city of France encompasses breathtaking history, scenic train rides, eloquent cities, rustic villages that truly radiate its beautiful soul. So, if you wish to experience a sensation of ‘Trouville’, then embark on the following destinations, to discover the alluring charm that only France can offer.
1. L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, Provence
We bet many of you haven’t even heard of this quaint picturesque village situated in Provence. But, this is why this town is still devoid of clustered tourists, but it’s not going to be like this for long. So, make sure you keep L’Isle Sur la Sorgue on the list of cities to cover when you land in France.
Also, known as the Venice of France, this ubiquitously pretty town covers colorful flower-boxes that trail along the line of the canal (imagine walking down this with your spouse, on a crisp autumn day). Further along the line, the buildings and shops are vintage, and flaunt pastel painted architecture that makes the sun-splashed French town look golden and surreal.
What’s more? If you visit around August or Easter you can enjoy two local antique fairs that feature age-old traditions and ‘period pieces’ which are a treat for the eyes. Lastly, if you’re a history and an art buff, L’Isle Sur la Sorgue offers a multitude of French galleries and shops for you, to scour over during some lonesome afternoons.
If you got married recently or you are planning a trip with your fiancé then undoubtedly romance is the first thing on your agenda. Thus, the best place to nurture that, is the French town of Annecy.
Situated along Lake Annecy the town is against a mountainous backdrop that gives it an ethereal feeling. Often young sightseers claim that Annecy resembles God’s own country and its ambiance offers a glimpse of paradise.
Situated in South Eastern France, Annecy falls along the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and is almost an hour drive from Switzerland. (You can easily take a detour and enjoy the best of both worlds).
Now, this charming town offers tourists and solivagants a plethora of options. Adventure junkies can paraglide over the mountains or enjoy adrenaline pumped kayaking sessions. History buffs, on the other hand, can explore the many magnificent cathedrals and castles.
For couples, this place also has a (Lovers’ Bridge) Pont des Amours that ensures love lasts for centuries if pairs cross it. (Definitely, a must try for young and old lovebirds alike!)
3. Calvi, Corsica
If you travel a few hours southeast of Paris you will come across the island of Corsica that is a pleasure-spot for outdoor enthusiasts. The town of Calvi moreover, features a 13th-century citadel looming over the city front. With turquoise blue waters cocooning the town, you will feel like you’re entrapped in a bewitching spell of beauty that Calvi offers.
What’s more? You can walk along the citadel’s cobbled alleyways, explore the seafront, lose yourself in the crisp sand beaches and pine forests. If you’re with family, then enjoy a languid boat ride to Girolata & the Scandola Nature Reserve to enjoy a warm afternoon of wining and dining. (You can gawk in awe at the dramatic red cliffs while enjoying supper at the reserve).
Apart from this, travelers can explore the ruins along with the birthplace of Christopher Columbus or hike uphill to see Notre Dame de la Serra, the unique hilltop church.
4. Collioure, Occitanie
This Catalan-influenced fishing village should be another offbeat destination to shortlist for your upcoming French adventure. Collioure was once home to famous artist Henri Matisse, who claimed that no place on the planet, has a sky as blue as Collioure’s one.
What’s extra? The skies seem to compete with the aquamarine ocean and the land between appears to be painted and sculpted in bright amorous colors. Indeed, the city features brightly painted cafes and shops, that globetrotters love spending time at.
You can traverse the village, go culture hopping, try local sweets and delicacies and encounter natives who narrate age-old tales (this is the best part), etc.
Apart from this, for sightseeing, you can visit Fort Saint-Elme, Eglise Notre Dame des Anges, Moulin de Collioure, Tumba de Antonio Machado en el Cementerio de Collioure, The Royal Castle, etc.
These historic monuments, have a trail of stories entrapped within them and showcase a glimpse of the historic French realm.
5. Dijon, Burgundy
No, Dijon isn’t merely well known for its mustard, but also for the solitary history which holds this destination in high esteem. The previous capital of French city Burgundy, Dijon flaunts intimidating Ducal buildings that reflect its grandeur back in the aristocratic ages.
The Ducal Palace is comprised of a plethora of buildings all with painted ceilings coated in gold that reek of wealth. Even the banquet halls come with ornate tombs which are so extravagant that they are a sight for sore eyes!
Apart from this, travelers can also enjoy and learn about the city from its plethora of museums and historic monuments. If you appreciate modernist art, then visit the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Dijon to discover art forms in the ‘enlightenment period.’
Furthermore, tourists can enjoy a solitary day visiting Jardin Botanique de l’Arquebuse, Dijon Cathedral, Well of Moses, Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne, etc. to drink in the spirit of Dijon.
6. Dinan, Brittany
If you’re a shutterbug that likes witnessing the world through the lenses then make sure to carry your best equipment when traveling to Dinan, in Brittany. This one is for all the Instagram travel bugs that love posting aesthetically stimulating images on their feeds.
In fact, Dinan offers a horde of artistic settings; you can expect sailboats bobbing on the River Rance, Geranium’s in full blooms spilling out of flower boxes, medieval stone walls that offer red and blue shutters to add a pop of bright colors; in short, the entire town radiates a mystical age-old aura of the middle ages.
Last but not least, don’t forget to visit the Rue du Jerzual, Basilica Saint-Sauveur, Dinan Chateau. You can also explore the 13th-century Ramparts that are situated uphill. One can totally look over this medieval city atop these ramparts.
7. Troyes, Champagne
Are you a lover of history or the Renaissance Period? Then without a doubt, Troyes the resurgence city, situated in Champagne is definitely one you should shortlist for your France tour!
Situated in the southern Aube subdivision, this city eludes a classic Goth vibe that caters to the senses of the lonesome traveler. The city encompasses delightful labyrinth of zigzagging streets of half-timbered houses, small museums, and a looming gothic cathedral that features stained-glass windows giving it a radiant glow.
Furthermore, there are two markets and one Mc Arthur Glen outlet mall that offer exceptional prices on fashion accessories (every woman’s deepest darkest desire).
What’s more? You can also visit the Renaissance castle of Maison de l’Outil et de la Pensée Ouvrière to catch its enthralling artsy craftsmanship. Additionally, other places to tour include Église de la Madeleine, Old Troyes, Ruelle des Chats and Musée d’Art Moderne.
8. Yvoire, Rhone-Alpes
Utterly romantic, untainted, and medieval; Yvoire speaks of unblemished natural beauty that is yet to be tarnished by frequent travelers. This secluded location is ideal for romantic dates, conversations amidst nature and quaint warm evenings.
The city is situated along Lake Geneva and is considered as one of the prettiest French villages of all time. It includes flower-festooned cobblestone lanes, intricately trimmed paths of Jardin des Cinq Sens that are ideal for the Insta traveler to post ‘#travelgoals’.
Apart from this, one can visit the Medieval Château d’Yvoire on Lac Léman, Flowers and Five-Senses Garden in Romantic Yvoire, shop souvenirs in the tiny stores and much more.
Last but not least, Yvoire also features a plethora of food stands, creperies, cafes that offer exceptional savories for the food bloggers of today. In fact, you can eat at the famous Le Pré de la Cure & Les Flots Bleus and try some of their specials!
PS- Perches, a special kind of fish is a recommendation, by food bloggers. This one is delectable and mouth-watering when served with fries.
9. Oingt, Rhone
Another intrinsic location that travelers mustn’t miss out, on a French tour, is Oingt. This one falls under one of the “golden stone villages” situated in the Beaujolais wine region. Now, there is a unique reason behind the city’s golden glow!
The city consists of limestone buildings that radiate a golden hue in the midday sun. This gives it a honey-warm color attaching an old-world charm to it, thus making it the ‘golden city.’
Tourists who love ‘golden hour’ images can take some flamboyant pictures along with its artsy settings. For intriguing sightseeing, wanderlusters can traverse the Church of Saint-Mathieu or go up a tower to take a glimpse of the whole essence of the golden town.
If you’re with a loved one, simply hold hands and enjoy walking down the cobblestone street and improve bonding in this romantic setting.
Additionally, for a beguiling stay, travelers can pick the 11th-century fortress at Chateau de Bagnols that today is a luxury hotel.
10. Lyon, Rhone-Alpes
Even though Lyon is the second largest city in France, it often gets very little action from travelers. (Probably because the airport is the only gateway.)
However, the second largest city does deserve a little attention and for some very good reasons! An important ancient Roman settlement, Lyon is positioned along the banks of the Rhône and the Saône Rivers and bears a reputation for gastronomic delights.
Indeed, it is in possession of Paul Bocuse four brasseries in the town that offer delicacies so heart-wrenchingly delicious that visitors cannot get enough. Further, for the history lovers, the town also offers grand museums like the Musée Lumière that showcases every film made for festivals; the Museum of the Deportation about World War II that features relics and revisits the tales of World war.
You can also visit Musee des Confluences that converts serious daily issues into fun art forms. For the lonesome bibliophile, Lyon is a treasure trove of ancient books and rustic bookstores. Readers can enjoy antiquarian bookshops that require visitors to traverse through traboules (16th- to 18th-century passageways).
Ps- If you wish to enjoy the festival of lights, visit Lyon around December to witness the explicit beauty of the city.
11. Nantes, West Coast of France
In case you have placed Pays de la Loire in your French itinerary then make sure you don’t end up neglecting Nantes. This destination was once a port that went from rags to riches owing to the slave trade.
Today, Nantes is a popular university town in France, which offers some of the best seafood joints for university students. Apart from this, Nantes also offers other areas of sightseeing that are a feast for naked eyes.
You can check out the castle of the Dukes of Brittany or explore the cathedral which stations the beautiful 1502 tomb of François II etc.
On top of this, wanderlusters or family travelers can enjoy another major attraction in Nantes which is none other than, elephant rides. The rides take place where the famous Machines de L’Ile is situated; travelers can sit atop the beast while it struts through the city or enjoy a carousel ride on sea creatures which would be ideal, if you’ve got kids!
12. Gerberoy, Picardy
Situated almost 90 minutes from northwest Paris, Gerberoy is one forlorn yet quaint French town! This town is most famous for the broken hearted and the lovers of solitary lanes; given numerous names, the settlement called it ‘sleepy French village’ while some other popularly nicknames include “the town of roses”.
This town is like a beguiling maiden; pure, untainted, sensual and utterly solitary. It was even featured by Henri Le Sedaner a French Painter, who took inspiration from the town’s forlorn lanes and century-old houses.
What’s new? Visitors are advised to travel to this destination around June as it hosts a yearly rose festival in Henri Le Sidaner Gardens. Named after the famous painter, the garden features some of the most exotic blooms that are ubiquitously pretty.
Now, the ideal place to stay in this aesthetic den of a place is Le Moulin des Forges, a bed and breakfast, situated along a watermill.
Lastly, if you wish to sightsee a bit, Picardy encompasses a plethora of options for both solitary and family tourists. One can explore the gothic styled Amiens Cathedral, or take their kids to visit the enigmatic Parc Astérix in Plailly.
Apart from this, you can witness the Château de Chantilly an opulent renaissance patterned building that reeks of class and elegance or enjoy the captivating scenic beauty of Château de Pierrefonds.
On this note, now that you know of the offbeat hidden gems that France hides away, wear your wanderer’s hat today. Explore culture, beauty, natural elements, and beguiling opulent buildings till your heart’s content, by visiting these aforementioned locations.
Like the French say – Bon Voyage!