When most people start to plan a trip to France, they’re focused on experiencing the big cities. Most travelers are content to spend their time exploring well-loved spots like Paris, Strasbourg, Nice, and Marseilles, and in all fairness, those cities offer enough to satisfy almost any visitor. However, France is also home to dozens of charming small towns that are well worth a visit, too. If you’re considering a trip to France, you should make it a priority to check out at least one lesser-known spot for a different experience.
While you can’t go wrong with most small towns in France, here are a handful of excellent options to explore while you’re there:
This little town is best known as the home of world-renowned painter Claude Monet. Plan a trip during the spring and tour the gardens that inspired some of Monet’s most famous works, as well as his former home. During the warmer months, you can also explore the Musée des Impressionnismes, which features an impressive array of rotating exhibits. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in one of the local parks or gardens, or indulge in an upscale meal at Le Jardin des Plumes.
Arguably one of the most picturesque towns in France, you’ll be amazed by the breathtaking views of Lake Annecy and the mountains that surround it. During the summer, you can take advantage of the area’s gorgeous weather and natural beauty by hiking, renting bikes, paddle boarding, or parasailing. And when the holidays arrive, the “Venice of the Alps” transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a Christmas market and an outdoor ice rink.
If you’re looking for a stunning hideaway on the French Riviera, look no further than Eze, a village that’s most well-known for its impressive medieval castle. Hike to the top of the hill to experience this castle up close, or spend your days lounging by the sea, soaking up the sun. You’ll find impressive gardens, amazing seafood, and world-class hotels here, making it a great place to stop for a day when staying in nearby Nice or spend a couple of nights.
Visitors of Strasbourg should plan a trip to nearby Colmar, a charming town filled with historic half-timbered buildings and overflowing flower boxes. Stroll the cobblestone streets and explore “Little Venice” by foot, stopping for lunch at an open-air cafe along the canal, or see the city from a slightly different angle on a flat-bottomed boat ride along the city’s waterway.
Troyes is widely considered one of the most romantic towns in France, and for a good reason. You’ll quickly fall in love with its hidden alleys, stunning architecture, and incredible bakeries and cafes. It’s home to a handful of museums, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Troyes, which highlights art and architecture, and another that focuses on historic tools and trades – as well as some excellent champagne houses.
When planning a trip to any unfamiliar country, it’s easy to focus on the most popular cities and well-loved tourist spots. However, veering off the beaten path and exploring one of France’s small towns can be a great way to experience a slightly more authentic side of this beautiful and historic nation.