The secret and beautiful France not included in tourist guides and worth visiting. My Top 15 Most Underrated Destinations in France.
The beauty of France comes from the fact it is so diversify in everything it offers and it has a lot to offer. I had a chance to realize that France is not only Paris, Côte d’Azur, Châteaux de Loire Valley, my beloved Lyon but there are other wonderful places, not known by tourists, not recommended in the tourist guides but really worth discovering. I haven’t seen many of them but thanks to my French friends’ recommendations I have put them on my list of places to visit in France and I look forward to exploring them very much.
- Bayeux is a commune in the Calvados department in Normandy in northwestern France. It is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, medieval masterpiece, embroidered in honour of William the Conqueror and now registered by UNESCO. It is also known as the first major town secured by the Allies during Operation Overlord. Today it is a popular weekend and holiday destination for well informed French. It perfectly combines culture, heritage, dynamism and modernity. By visiting Bayeux, you ll have a pleasure to scroll through the cobbled streets of the Episcopal city, see the half-timbered houses, mansions, welcoming shops, workshops and most importantly the towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral – consecrated in 1077 in the presence of the duke-king. Bonus: beautiful neighbouring countryside which is typical of Normandy; it consists of woodland, fields and hedgerows, and is one of the leading areas for dairy products. Plus the coastline with long beaches and high cliffs.
- La Rochelle is a beautiful maritime city in western France. It is a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. Its harbour opens into a protected strait, the Pertuis d’Antioche. It is an environment marked with architectural treasures from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, from the seventeenth to the twentieth century until the contemporary period. Bonus: La Rochelle is surrounded by the towns and villages of the agglomeration which contain exceptionnel monuments to discover: castles, churches and cathedrals, arcaded streets, half-timbered houses, large shipowners’ hotels, beautiful bourgeois mansions. Great destination to visit in France.
- Puy-en-Velay is a heritage jewel in the heart of the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region. It is an exceptional site preserved from the ravages of time. The city has many surprises for visitors, it is a city of art. It is a place which offers all year round many and varied animations (traditional and historical festivals). Bonus: The city is also an ideal resort to discover a region whose volcanism has shaped the beauty of the landscape. And another bonus: I have already visited and wrote about it here.
- Arles is a small city where Van Gogh once lived. It is a beautiful city of great significance during the Roman period, which is why you’ll find a Colosseum-like Arena at the center of town. I have been, seen and was astonished to discover this roman style city in France. Check here to learn about my experience with Arles. Bonus: It’s about a one hour drive from both Aix-en-Provence and Avignon.
- Foix is a commune, the former capital of the County of Foix. Today it is the Préfecture of the Ariège department in southwestern France in the Occitanie region. Foix is the medieval style charming little town with the impressive fortress that has been standing for more than 1,000 years. Bonus: Foix lies south of Toulouse, close to the border with Spain and Andorra.
- Alpe d’Huez is a ski resort at 1,250 to 3,330 metres. It is a mountain pasture in the Central French Western Alps, in the commune of Huez, which is part of the department of Isère in the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. The Alpe d’Huez is the dream place for skiing. Its station hosts the Sarenne, which is 16 kilometers long, the longest black slope in the world. It is also full of bars and restaurants to keep you entertained at night and in summer becomes an excellent trekking destination. Bonus: Alpe d’Huez is used regularly in the Tour de France cycle race.
- Hossegor Soorts-Hossegor is a commune in the Landes department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France, 20 km north of Biarritz. It is a well known seaside resort that is considered to have some of the best surfing in the world. To the west of Bordeaux, the small beach town of Hossegor is a surfer’s paradise. The waves are known as some of the best in the country, and Hossegor regularly hosts some of the biggest surfing competitions in Europe. The city is surrounded by a multitude of charming camping sites, as well as several cycling lanes where you can explore the area or simply bike around in the forest.
- Amboise is a town in central France’s Loire Valley, filled with castles and architecture that will remind you of the Renaissance. It’s known for the Château d’Amboise, the grand 15th-century residence of King Charles VIII featuring Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb, as well as royal chambers, gardens and underground passageways. I have visited the famous Loire Valley and this particular castle, so check here to discover 14 castles of Loire Valley. Bonus: There is Chambord, the former hunting lodge of Francis I located near by. Also worth your visit.
- Colmar is one of the most charming of many, little towns located in the heart of Alsace. Famous for it’s christmas markets, it can be also visited during the summer time as it’s equally beautiful and has a lot to offer. Because of its proximity to Germany, this northeastern town offers a unique blend of cultures, especially when it comes to food. You will have a chance to taste here totally different to the rest of the France dishes such as: baeckoeffe (a hearty casserole), Choucroute garnie (Alsace sauerkraut), tarte flambée (basically Alsatian pizza) and pretzels galore. I have visited Alsace and Colmar few times and here is my experience which I am happy to share with you.
- Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France. It is one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera. It is well known for its modern and contemporary art museums and galleries such as Fondation Maeght which is located nearby. Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a charming town with the tiny, windy streets. It sits on top of a hill and gives you the opportunity to admire the incredible views of the countryside marked with vineyards and olive trees. On top of that, it has always been a great place for arts. Firstly, because such personalities as Picasso, Matisse and Chagall who lived there and secondly, because nowadays there are still a lot of local artists, contemporary galleries and museums. Bonus: the pedestrian-only zone lets you explore the main gate and ramparts, cute boutiques and artisan shops and small squares filled with adorable churches and water fountains.
- Gordes – is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. Gordes is one of the most well-known hilltop villages in the region, and one of the most beautiful in France. It has the houses and buildings of white stone and the labyrinth of “calades” (narrow cobblestone streets). Many artists have stayed in the village of Gordes and have contributed to its fame. Nowadays, Gordes is the seat of many cultural events in summer with its museums, festivals, concerts and numerous exhibitions. When visiting, do not miss: the nearby Sénanque Abbey which is famous for its lavender fields, and the 14th-century castle at the center of town as they are apparently not to be missed! Bonus: the nearest big city is Avignon; and the smaller cities nearby include Cavaillon, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Apt worth visiting as well.
- Annecy is the spectacular medieval city located in the Rhone Alps region. Not only the lake but also the old town are the main highlights of this charming town. The old town has been perfectly preserved, with its narrow, cobbled streets hugging winding canals. I have been there and I wrote why you should visit Annecy too.
- Cassis is a Mediterranean fishing port in southern France. Overlooked by a centuries-old château, it’s known for pebbly beaches and its calanques, narrow inlets framed by steep, limestone cliffs. The harbor features pastel-colored buildings, sidewalk cafes and restaurants. Trails run along the huge, rocky Cap Canaille headland for panoramic sea views. Local vineyards are known for producing Cassis white wine. Cassis is therefore a wine lover’s dream with 12 nearby estates. Bonus: you can discover there one of the Mediterranean’s most idyllic beaches: Calanque d’En-vau … and admire the turquoise water.
- Nernier is a French village on the southern shore of Lake Geneva, in the department of Haute-Savoie. So actually you do not need to go to Swiss to see and enjoy Lake Geneva. You can simply visit Nernier, a shoreline village with cobbled streets, a pebble beach, and a quaint port where you can lunch at Restaurant du Lac and set sail on the lake in an old-fashioned steamer. Bonus: Nernier shares a medieval village center and floral displays with the larger and better-known neighbouring village of Yvoire.
- Collioure – is the jewel of the rocky coast, located in the extreme south of France, 26 km from the Spanish border. It is the Mediterranean fishing village that has a strong Catalan culture but is proudly French. The small port is sheltered in a creek where mix the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the rocks of the Pyrenees mountain range. An exceptional climate and sunshine makes Collioure a unique site where the well-being and Catalan influences merger. Several sandy or pebble beaches, coves, crystal clear waters and allows you to enjoy swimming. The picturesque town has inspired personalities such as Henri Matisse and Picasso with its pastel-coloured buildings, 13th-century Château Royal de Collioure, church tower and quaint bay. The town is also known for its red wine and anchovies. Bonus: nearby is the Moulin de Collioure, a 14th-century windmill. South, the hilltop Fort St. Elme has a museum with medieval weapons.
So how did you like my list of hidden gems of France worth visiting? Have you known any? Do you have other recommendations for places in France non touristy but worth visiting ? Please share with me! I want to grow my list of places to visit in France! Thank you!