Paris is France’s most popular destination but it’s far from all the country has to offer. The rest of France has countless hidden gems to explore, all of them well worth seeing. Read on to find out why you should consider these French destinations instead of the City of Lights.
Feel The Mediterranean Vibe In The Provence Countryside
The stunning Provence region in southeastern France borders Italy and radiates a Mediterranean vibe. Straddling the Mediterranean Sea, the region is home to a landscape that is renowned around the world for its picturesque vineyards and fields of lavender. Visiting the Provence countryside allows you to experience the wonders of the Mediterranean and escape the grey skies that northern France is known for.
The region is blessed with hilltop villages that exude a sense of old-world charm. Some of the must-see destinations within Provence include Marseilles and Avignon, as well as the famous beach destination of Saint-Tropez.
One of the best things to do in Provence is to visit the rural farms and olive groves that are abundant in fresh, seasonal produce. The landscape is reminiscent of many French impressionist works since Provence often served as inspiration for many artists. This is undoubtedly one of the most scenic areas of the country.
Follow The Loire Valley’s Joan Of Arc Trail
It’s almost blasphemy to visit France and not pay tribute to Joan of Arc, the country’s most beloved heroine. The legend goes that at the tender age of 17, Joan the Maid led the country to victory against the English during the Hundred Years’ War after being guided by heavenly voices.
Today, you can visit some of the most prominent locations that Joan herself visited on her journey through the Loire Valley. The medieval town of Chinon is where Joan’s story began. It was at the Forteresse Royale that she first met with the dauphin Charles VII to remind him of his right to the crown that was threatened by English oppressors.
After witnessing Chinon’s bronze Joan of Arc statue, continue along the Joan of Arc trail and keep tracing the steps of France’s greatest warrior. The Cathédrale Sainte-Croix in Orléans tells her story through its stained-glass windows, as this is where Joan herself came to pray after saving the city in 1429. You’ll find another bronze statue of the heroine at the Place du Martoi in Orléans.
You Don’t Have To Be Catholic To Visit Lourdes
France has a strong Catholic heritage but you don’t need to convert to appreciate some of the country’s iconic religious sites. One of the most essential is Lourdes, a town in the southwest of France that is famous for hosting no less than 70 miracles, validated by the Catholic church.
Lourdes lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains and is considered a rite of passage for French pilgrims. Between April and October, the town is home to the Marian processions. Beginning at 9 p.m., hundreds of pilgrims march in the parade holding candles—a wonderful sight, even if you’re not religious.
Catholics believe that Saint Bernadette received her divine visions at the town’s Grotto, making it one of the most-visited sites. Visiting a place of such religious significance is eye-opening and a far cry from what you might experience in Paris.
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The French Riviera Has All The Glamour You Could Want
If you’re still looking for a bustling and high-energy French destination, add the French Riviera to your bucket list. Famous for its azure-blue waters, which earned it the name the Côte d'Azur, the French Riviera has all the glamour you could want.
Stretching from Saint-Tropez to Menton, the French Riviera is one of Europe’s most crowded destinations in summer. Visiting in spring and fall tends to be slightly less chaotic, though you’ll never have the coastal views, cobblestone streets and tree-lined boulevards all to yourself.
Among the must-see destinations in the French Riviera are Nice, Cannes, and Monaco, each with their own claim to fame. The best thing about the coastline is that the weather is nearly always sunny and warm, even beyond the summer months.
Check Out The Charming Villages Of The Alsace Region
The historic Alsace region has a completely different feel from the rest of France. Heavily influenced by Central European traditions rather than the culture of the Mediterranean, Alsace is home to several charming villages that are reminiscent of Germany thanks to their Gothic architecture and traditional half-timbered buildings.
Some of France’s most beautiful villages and medieval hamlets can be found along the Alsace Villages route. They include destinations such as Hunawihr, Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, and Eguisheim. There are also larger towns that are equally as charming, including Strasbourg and Colmar—two cities famous for their ornamental architecture. The surrounding landscape of rolling hills is postcard-ready with the feeling that it was just snapped from a storybook.