France is the world’s most visited country, attracting over 83 million travelers a year – most will only visit Paris, but there’s so much more to see beyond the Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge, and Montmartre! We’ve compiled some of our favorite “hidden gem” towns and cities around France – which ones will you put at the top of your list?
If you wander into Colmar and think you’ve accidentally stumbled into Germany, you’re not alone – this charming little town is nestled on the border between France and Germany and has many elements from both countries. Walk along the paved cobblestone streets and admire the colorful cottage houses, Colmar is also considered to be the capital of the Alsatian wine region – there are over 6,500 wineries scattered around the area with plenty of wineries and boutiques to go tasting at. For something a little more leisurely, travelers can also take a whimsical boat ride through the canals of Colmar, or visit one of the handful of museums in the area. Even through Colmar is a little over 5 hours from Paris, this is one of our most favorite cities in France – you can even make a few stops along the way by organizing your trip ahead of time with this tour planning tool. Colmar is also the perfect town to visit in the winter months, as it transforms into a cozy wonderland filled with lights, Christmas markets, and plenty of crepes and mulled wine (of course!)
2- Champagne Region
If Colmar’s wine doesn’t interest you, there’s always the world-famous region of Champagne. The two main cities in the area are Reims and Épernay, and are only a 1 hour train ride from Paris. It’s perfect day trip for when you’ve already visited the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and other touristy destinations and want to relax and enjoy La Belle Vie. Most of the famous “champagne house” like Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Mumm and Tattinger have cellar visits, where travelers can tour the estate and enjoy champagne tastings. Don’t forget that there are over a dozen Michelin-starred restaurants in the region as well – and that everything pairs well with champagne!
3 – Nice
This town, located in the southern region also known as the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) has been attracting the jetset crowds since the 1960’s – shouldn’t you visit as well? Some of the town’s top spots include a walk along the Promenade de Anglais, exploring Musée Matisse — where the famous painter used to live, and, of course, soak up the sun on one of the dozens of beaches along the waterfront (we love Beau Rivage!). For the luxe jetset crowd, don’t forget to shop world-famous designer brands such as Cartier or Chanel on the town’s main promenade street, Jean Medecin avenue, or try serious French gourmet dishes at L’Univers.
If you’re constantly chasing the sun, Aix-en-Provence (or simply Aix) should be on your list. Aix is a short 2 hour car ride from Nice and is a perfect destination for summer travels – this small city gets more than 300 days of sunshine and is filled with plenty of parks, squares, fountains, cafes, and promenades to enjoy the long summer days. It’s also a university town with more than 40,000 students, which makes it the perfect destination for budget travelers and fellow students – there are plenty of bars, cafes, and nightlife after the sun goes down.
The town with the unique name but plenty of things to do. Riquewihr’s charming houses and provincial atmosphere inspired Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, where they can still be found today. This town is also famous for its delicious regional cuisine called Alsatian, which incorporates French and German influences with plenty of pork, bread, and sauce (with plenty of wine!). Some top restaurants to try include Le Grognard, Au Tire Bouchon, and Zum Pfifferhuss.
Summer is almost here and it’s time to plan your next French getaway. With so many options and cities, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is, should you book a champagne tour first or reserve your beach in Nice? 😉