20 Beautiful Places in France That Aren't Paris

By Briana Seftel


There's so much more to this remarkable country than just Paris. When you've seen and done Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa, add these places to your France bucket list. From medieval villages to inlets and sand dunes, you'll be amazed by the variety that France has to offer. Bon voyage!


Menton

Fall in love with the French Riviera in Menton, known as the "Pearl of France.” Situated on the French-Italian border, this town will take you back to a time before high rises, with its lovely port and pastel-colored buildings.


Annecy

This lakeside town in the French Alps is pure beauty. Snow-capped mountains, a crystalline lake, beautiful old architecture and canals are just a few reasons to visit this French city.


Saint-Emilion

Known as the “hill of 1,000 Chateaux,” Saint-Emilion is a stunning area located just 30 minutes from the city of Bordeaux. It’s famous for its elegant wines, medieval village, UNESCO-certified vineyards and Europe’s largest monolithic church carved out of rock.


Etretat

Think of Etretat's white chalk cliffs and natural arches as France’s answer to the Cliffs of Dover. A seaside town in Normandy, Etretat attracted Impressionist painters like Eugene Boudin, Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet.


Loire Valley

If castles are on your must-see list in France, get thee to the Loire Valley. Once a playground for kings, queens and dignitaries, the Loire Valley has enough castles to prove its royal importance - try more than 100 of them. One of the prettiest is Chateau de Sully-sur-Loire with its large moat still surrounded by water.


Mont Saint-Michel

Is it a mirage? No, it’s Mont Saint-Michel! This island abbey straddling the border of Normandy and Brittany has been a Christian pilgrimage site for centuries. During low tide, the vast bay turns into a mudflat, but for truly iconic sights of the island’s reflection, head during high tide.


Cassis

East of Marseille, Cassis is one of the best-kept secrets in France. Famous for its limestone cliffs and calanques (sheltered inlets), Cassis makes for an ideal summer getaway. The tiny port city is also known for its pretty architecture and rose wine.


Reims

The capital of the Champagne region, Reims (pronounced like rance) is a city steeped in thousands of years of history. Once the place where the Kings of France were crowned, Reims became internationally recognized for its production of champagne.


Carcassonne

Dating back to pre-Roman times, the fortified city of Carcassonne in southern France is like walking through a fairy tale. The city is surrounded by nearly two miles of walls and 52 massive towers, with interior passageways and alleys perfect for leisurely strolling.


Honfleur

One of France’s prettiest port towns, Honfleur was once used entirely for commerce (it was here that Samuel de Champlain set out to found Quebec City). Today, it’s beloved for its timber houses, old harbor, seafood and museums.


Dinan

A must-see in Brittany, visitors flock to Dinan for its perfectly-preserved medieval village. Escaping much of WWII’s destruction, many of Dinan’s 13th-century buildings are as they were hundreds of years ago. It’s also one of the best places to eat crepes!


Nantes

The largest city in Brittany, Nantes is the self-proclaimed “quirkiest” city in France. One of the biggest draws to Nantes is The Machines de L’lle, huge mechanical and steam-powered structures inspired by the works of the visionary writer Jules Verne who was born in Nantes.


Dijon

A gateway to some of France’s best wine, Dijon is no wallflower. Once the capital of the Duchy of Burgundy, the city’s historic center brims with one stunning sight after another. Don’t leave without indulging in its food, especially dijon mustard!


Corsica

You’ll have to leave mainland France to see this rugged island in the Mediterranean. Home to a stunning array of landscapes and a culture all of its own, Corsica is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Napoleon.


Riquewihr

Once you’ve seen the Alsatian hubs of Strasbourg and Colmar, head to Riquewihr, classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. This town on the Alsatian Wine Route is known for half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and exceptional Riesling, bien sûr.


Montpellier

Often overlooked in favor of Nice and Toulouse, the southern city of Montpellier is finally getting its due. Stroll the pedestrian-friendly streets as you pass beautiful squares and universities where Nostradamus was once a student. Rent a car and explore the surrounding countryside.


Dune du Pilat

The tallest sand dune in Europe, Dune du Pilat is definitely one of the most surprising destinations in France. Lining the Atlantic coast in Arcachon Bay, the dune is popular with weekenders and sport enthusiasts looking for a little thrill.


Dordogne

The Dordogne in southwestern France is a delightful combination of natural and manmade beauty. Charming villages, bucolic landscapes and rich cuisine make this area one not to miss.


Verdon Gorge

Provence isn’t all lavender fields and charming towns. The Verdon Gorge is one of the must-see natural wonders in France and known as the Grand Canyon of Europe. Over millions of years, ice melting from the Alps created gorgeous gorges that are best explored by kayak.


Biarritz

The capital of French Basque country is a stylish resort town just miles from Spain. A unique combination of glitz, glam and laidback coastal vibes, many visitors to Biarritz come for the Atlantic waves that are a surfer’s paradise.

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