What is France without the majestic Eiffel Tower...or the sun-kissed sands of the French Riviera? Well, if you ask us, it's certainly no less appealing and colorful.
Indeed, France may be most known for its pompous buildings, bohemian cafes, splendid gardens and grand boulevards, but that's hardly the only impressive feature about it.
As the epitome of supreme elegance and refinement, the following French towns also abound in lovely cobbled streets and boulevards, iconic monuments, quirky bookshops and secret nooks. You see, France sure sounds like a fabulous destination, especially for those seeking the beauty in every tiny detail.
So, even though the country’s City of Light (Paris) is known to have inspired a whole lot of writers, poets, and artists, these pretty regional cities are no less spectacular or inspiring.
From majestic hilltops, splendid gardens and romantic scenery, these locations can surely satisfy the traveler's hunger for more and more unique moments. And to prove this statement, we've collected some of the country's finest towns that are synonymous with perfection.
Undoubtedly, each of them will finally bring a little more sunshine into your days. Now go ahead and explore these beautiful places that are certainly much more interesting than the Eiffel Tower.
As the second largest city after Paris, this charming French town is, in fact, one of the country's most adorable destinations. Not only does it serve as the capital city of the beautiful region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, but Lyon is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its 2,000 years of historical legacy. As lovely as it is, this French town dates back to the mighty Roman Empire as well. Also, the region is quite famous for its unique museums dedicated to the Gallo-Roman era of ruins, antiques, ancient coins, ceramics, statues, etc.
If you cannot wait to indulge your passion for exploration, then you must consider visiting Strasbourg as soon as possible. This marvelous city, set along the riverside, is lined with many impressive cathedrals and half-timbered houses, each revealing the city's German and French roots. This picturesque town is also an excellent choice for those interested in sightseeing and shopping outside of the modern City of Light. Also, the area is well saturated with Gothic-inspired architecture, breathtaking buildings, and scenic views of the Rhine River.
If you can't wait to dip into the country's mouth-watering cuisine, look no further than the Marseille's city center. While you're in town, do not miss out on exploring the majestic Byzantine Cathedrale La Major. Also, if you've booked a cozy room at a nearby hotel, then you'll reach this great tourist attraction in no time. Just take a stroll through the cobbled streets of the impressive old town and you'll soon see the grand cathedral.
Close the day by visiting the fairly new building of the city's renowned Museum of Civilisations, situated on Marseille's Promenade Robert Laffont.
Situated along the beautiful Garonne River, the charming town of Bordeaux is the perfect getaway for both foodies, wine, and art lovers. This southwestern town is quite compact, and yet it doesn't lack the soft elegance of any other big French city. Once you've arrived here, you'll surely be excited to explore the city's perfectly restored and maintained neoclassical architecture, grand boulevards, and streets. Walk along the banks of the French river and you'll soon reach one of the city's biggest attractions, namely the Place de la Bourse.
Nestled in the south-west region of Grand Est, Troyes is quite famous for its supreme production of bubbly champagne, making it an ideal location for romantic dinners with candles, strawberries and, well, classy champagne. The charming town of Troyes is seriously steeped in history while its cobbled streets are lined with beautiful half-timbered houses and authentic vineyards stretching as far back as the 16th century. Strolling around Troyes is, without a doubt, a pleasant experience, but it can hardly beat the grandeur of the Basilique Saint-Urbain and its interior with stained-glass windows.
Situated at the mouth of the French Seine River, Honfleur is, in fact, one of the most beautiful and romantic towns in Normandy. This picturesque harbor city is known to have inspired great French artists, such as Claude Monet. Today the city's old port, which is now known as Vieux Bassin, is lined with colorful buildings, each more interesting than the other. For those curious to explore what lies beyond the port, we'd recommend exploring the town's beautiful old town where narrow passageways take you to an impressive wooden church known as the Eglise Ste. Catherine.
During the Roman Empire and Middle Ages, Rouen was actually a major city. Even to this date, you can feel all of its grand past while wandering through Rouen's old town. This fantastic city impresses visitors with its vibrant city center, medieval Norman-style houses, and numerous art galleries and art museums. With so many unique things to do and see around here, you could absolutely spend hours simply browsing for its treasures. Besides, this marvelous city is only an hour away from the French capital as well.
From its cobbled streets to the numerous prehistoric museums, the city of Amiens is home to the awe-inspiring Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens. This imposing cathedral, packed with Gothic-inspired features, has earned its place in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list of the biggest and most impressive cathedrals on French soil. Apart from it, Amiens also abounds in charming boutique cafes, bookstores, and art galleries. For instance, one of the region's most exciting tourist attractions is the living prehistoric museum, known as Samara Parc.
Cherbourg's legendary connection to Titanic has turned it into one of the country's most interesting cities. While you're around, be sure to stop by the city's Cite de la Mer maritime museum to enjoy displays of Titanic while learning more details about the aquarium and the oceanography museum. Here, at the museum, travelers can get an idea of what the life of the submariners was like. As for the charming city itself, Cherbourg was the 2nd last port visited before the gigantic ship sailed off into everlasting glory and legend.
16 Le Havre
If there's one thing that makes Le Havre stand out from the other French towns, it's the non-traditional design of its city center. This oddly beautiful town features gigantic buildings built in concrete and it certainly offers a little bit of that old brutalist feel left from the Second World War. Despite the stern design, Le Havre was re-built with a certain dose of warmth as well that makes it colorful, interesting and hospitable. In fact, this is what truly makes it a unique French town with no replicas of any kind or shape.
Surprisingly, Antibes also seems to be another marvelous town that's often skipped over on the way to its more famous neighboring cities. However, Antibes is undoubtedly no less stunning or welcoming, and here's some proof of that.
Nestled between Cannes and Nice, the lovely town of Antibes boasts a 16th-century Old Town, enclosed by strongholds. Once you've explored its ancient beauty, head to the city's harbor to enjoy the yachts there. Close the day by visiting the Musee Picasso situated in Chateau Grimaldi; it's precisely where Picasso once lived.
Aix-en-Provence is a marvelous city-commune in the southern parts of France that's full of cultural landscapes, hilltop views, and fine tourist attractions. As you wander along its streets, which certainly doesn't offer any of the Parisian snobbishness, you'll be surprised to see such a wide array of historical places peppered throughout the whole city.Once you're in town, make sure to visit the famous Musee Granet where you can explore some of the finest art collections in France. Aix-en-Provence's old town is also a captivating tourist location lined with boutique shops and cafes.
Avignon is, without a doubt, one sophisticated city, best known for its significant historical background. In fact, this marvelous town is also home to a series of popes. Many years and decades ago, there was a time of papal crisis which eventually brought richness and fortune to the walled city of Avignon. Today this elegant town is also referred to as a significant UNESCO site.
In fact, the city's Palace of Popes, being its best attraction today, was also built during this age of turmoil. Here, visitors can learn more about that papal crisis while enjoying many displays of priceless frescos.
Situated on the banks of the Garonne river, this picturesque town is an absolute addition to any French sightseeing tour.
Toulouse is not only a gorgeous French town but the most significant space center and aeronautical capital in Europe. Come around and get your curious mind hooked on the city's excellent museums where you can explore the city's medieval periods as well. Before you go, make sure to enjoy the unique cityscape of Toulouse filled with colorful architecture and lovely scents of coffee and flowers.
The fascinating town of Nice has undoubtedly borrowed a dash of glamour from the fabulous French Riviera. Here, you've got an excellent cuisine, mild climates, and fascinating coastlines, marked by the mystical Mediterranean sea. If you're looking for a great place to taste the excellence of the French cuisine, look no further than Nice. Once you're in town, do not miss out on the chance to blend in with the crowd and feel the vibes and aura of this fabulous city.
If you're looking for an exotic French town with Mediterranean blood and dynamism to spare, then you can start celebrating - you've just found it. As one of the most charming cities in southern France, Montpellier excites the mind and heart with its rich culture, elegance and mild autumn sun. One of its best features is the lack of industry in town making it such an excellent choice for peaceful and romantic getaways. Also, the city's unique trams, which were designed by Chr. Lacroix, are another fascinating detail about this lovely French city.
9 Aigues Mortes
This strikingly beautiful place is, in fact, considered the purest instance of the 13th-century military architecture. The walled-in town of Aigues Mortes boasts an impressive architecture that dates back to the Medieval ages. Explore this French town and its rich history by wandering along its neatly rectilinear streets surrounded by crenelated walls and corner towers.
But despite the area's military background, there's a gorgeous pink lake with flamingoes in the area. Well, this alone is, indeed, worth a visit or two.
Situated in Loire Valley, this historic city owes much of its glory to the country's emancipation during the 100-year war with England.
Only 120 km from the City of Light (Paris), Orleans is known for its strategic position on the famous Loire Valley being a turning point during the emancipation led by St. Joan of Arc. Find out more about the woman's history and personal drama at the nearby museum where a short 15-minute presentation lets you trace her tragic life.
Located in the heart of France, this fabulous town sits between rolling hills dressed in layers of wine grapes and cider apples. Bourges also abounds in fairytale-like castles and quaint homes while the town's small university houses a wealth of sights to see and things to do. While you're still here, pay a visit to the imposing Bourges Cathedral that towers over the entire city.
Before you hit the road again, join the daredevils on an action-packed trip to the Tour de Buerre, offering stunning views of the city.
From pebbled pathways to quaint bridges and boutique shops, such as the Au Bon Croissant de Chartres, this charming town is, indeed, a fantastic escape from the big bright city.The majestic town of Chartres is home to an impressive cathedral whose Gothic features take us back to the 12th century. Not only is it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but this imposing cathedral boasts impressive spires and stained-glass windows making it one of the most beautiful buildings in the area.
The stunning city of Versailles is home to the country's most beautiful chateau whose most impressive feature is its well-maintained gardens. Before going home, take a stroll through the city's narrow streets to explore the unique market stalls, built during the reign of King Louis XV. Both the open-air and covered markets of Versailles are worth visiting for their fresh produce, delicious cheese, and traditional baguette. Admittedly, Versailles is an exceptional place to enjoy a picnic lunch with your loved ones.
Situated in the eastern parts of France, there's just no way to skip the marvelous town of Annecy. This small, yet fantastic place offers picturesque medieval architecture, narrow cobbled streets and intertwined canals, strewn with footbridges and beautiful swans. Indeed, this romantic French town is nicknamed the "Mini Venice", and it's quite obvious why. As charming as it is, Annecy's "Palais de I'Isle" is just another star attraction here, and it's worth every second of your time.
Best known as the home of the Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon excites the adventurers with its rich history, excellent wine and music, revealing the best sides of Medieval France. Everything around here is either too beautiful or...too tasty!
Besides, this charming town is pretty much walkable. For short history classes, look no further than the Old Town, marked by brass plagues. As you make your way out of it, be sure to stop by the impressive Ducal Palace as well, which is now home to a unique mix of modern and religious art.
Although most travelers go to Reims for a day full of music, art, and bubbly champagne, this fabulous city holds other gems worth exploring as well. For instance, Reims' most famous indoor market is merely perfect for a late-morning snack with coffee. Once you've explored the downtown area, head to the visitor's center to book an exciting visit to the house of Taittinger, famous for its modern tasting room, endless underground cellars, and supreme champagne. While you’re still in town, stop by the city's impressive cathedral to appreciate its stained glass windows designed by M. Chagall and I. Knoebel.
Nestled in the mountains, Grenoble is another fabulous city surrounded by extreme beauty. As charming as it is, Grenoble is overlooked by the city's fortress, La Bastille, dating back to the 18th century. Admittedly, one of the cutest attractions here is the bubble-shaped cable cars. Apart from its elegant appearance, Grenoble is also tightly linked to the breakout of the French Revolution. Last but not least, the city's also home to the country's second oldest coffee shop dating as far back as the 17th century.