5 Beautiful Areas of France That Aren’t Paris
A trip to France is not just about Paris. All across the nation, diverse landscapes, history, culture and cuisine are there for you to discover.
So if you’ve “done” Paris, here’s our pick of five amazing French destinations beyond the capital that you won’t want to miss.
The Loire Valley
The “Garden of France” excels at scenic marshlands, forests and natural lakes, along with the famous vineyards and extensive farmlands, all so characteristic of central France.
But there’s more to the Loire Valley: The stretch between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes is packed with so much culture, history and architecture that it’s earned itself UNESCO World Heritage status. Historic towns and villages abound, the magnificent cathedrals in Bourges and Chartres being highlights on many a history-lover’s itinerary.
The Loire is also much loved for its numerous fairy tale-style chateaux bordering gentle riverside landscapes. Don’t miss the majestic riverside Château Royal d’Amboise, the grand, Renaissance Château de Chambord, or the glorious city centre Château Royal in Blois.
The Côte d’Azur
France’s sun-soaked Mediterranean coastline, also known as the French Riviera, boasts vast stretches of gorgeous beaches and azure waters. Don’t miss chic, historic Cannes, Nice and St-Tropez – as always, their beaches and their exclusivity are hard to resist.
Not a beach person? The French Riviera hosts an abundance of towns and villages for you to discover. A highlight could include the medieval village of Eze, between Nice and Monaco. Perched upon a rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this fortified village holds the ruins of a 12th-century castle and provides sensational views of the French Riviera, the Esterel Mountains and onwards to the Gulf of Saint Tropez.
Then there’s the glitz and glamour of Monaco. Famed for its Grand Prix Formula One motor racing, you can spot the race tracks running through the city’s streets. Monaco is also popular for its Monte Carlo casinos and luxury goods that delight the world’s most wealthy.
In just a day, you could have a whole lot of fun in Provence: breakfast on the coast; a morning exploring a beautiful old town; lunch at a country auberge. Followed by an afternoon touring the hills, perhaps with a vineyard visit along the way, or a game of pétanque (boules). All of this before marvelling at an unforgettable sunset to the backdrop of the Alps.
To view the iconic lavender fields, head towards Luberon, then wind your way past olive groves and vineyards, interspersed with picturesque villages like Baux-de-Provence and St. Rémy, not forgetting the amazing walled city of Avignon. Visit between June and August to enjoy the fun of the traditional lavender festivals.
If you’re still missing Paris, the city of Aix en Provence will make you feel like you’re right in the heart of the Left Bank, with its pretty fountains, majestic statues, squares and 17th and 18th century mansions. When your feet complain, stop at a street-side cafe for an espresso as you watch the world go by.
Apart from D-Day landings, Normandy, and more specifically the Pays d’Auge, is the land of cheese and cider.
Normandy’s “Cider Route” (Route du Cidre) winds 40 kilometres through country roads lined with fragrant apple orchards. Large red apple signs show you are on the right road. Start at the village of Cambremer and head north towards Grandouet. Stop off at any farms offering cider and calvados, an extremely potent apple brandy which you’d be well advised to keep away from your driver.
Aside from a deluge of apples, you will notice field after field of cows. But Normandy’s cheeses can be as potent as its calvados, so be prepared for strong smells and tingling taste buds. Main cheese destinations include Camembert, Pont l’Eveque and Livarot, each with their cheese shops on every street. A visit to the Fromagerie Graindorge in Livarot explains cheese-making techniques and the history of cheese production in Normandy.
With its long roads and river winding through unspoiled pastures, verdant valleys and charming medieval towns, south west France’s chateau-studded Dordogne is ideal if you’re after that quintessential French experience.
Chestnut forests give way to an incredible 1,200 châteaux, most from the 13th and 14th centuries. And if that’s not enough, the region’s clear-watered Dordogne, Isle, Dronne, Vézére, and Lot Rivers will have you reaching for your camera or even taking a river cruise. The rugged valleys and steep, sheer cliffs make the entire area a picturesque wilderness far removed from the nation’s sophisticated capital.
Don’t forget to visit the impressive medieval city of Sarlat and the surrounding Vézère Valley, famous for its abundance of impeccably preserved Paleolithic drawings, carvings and etchings. Lascaux is perhaps the most impressive of the Dordogne’s prehistoric cave art centres and one not to miss.
We hope you found this guide helpful!
Do you know of other beautiful places in France which are worth a visit? Let us know in the comments!