If you’re planning a trip to France, there’s so much to see beyond Paris, especially for the mature traveller. It doesn’t matter if your idea of fun is soaking up the sun or the culture, France has a lot to offer outside of the tourist hotspots. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of cities in France that you never realised you wanted to visit until right now.
This is a vibrant city to visit and not just for its amazing wines. In fact, half of Bordeaux is UNESCO-listed, making it the biggest urban World Heritage site in the world.
Stroll down the recently pedestrianised boulevards and marvel at the incredible architecture from meticulously restored neoclassical buildings, like the Palais Rohan, to striking new structures, like the Jacques Bosc Bridge. Alternatively, check out the city’s many museums, including the Musee d’Aquitaine.
This city straddles the cultures of France and Germany, having only been a French city for just over 100 years. In the German quarter, which features historic squares, you can visit elegant 19th-century mansions built by Emperor Wilhelm II. In the La Petite France district, you can walk the tiny cobbled streets to see half-timbered houses and wrought iron signs.
It’s also a fantastic place for craft beer lovers because there are two breweries on Rue des Frères.
This is not really a tourist hotspot, but its traditional architecture, thriving marketplace, and International Opera Festival are all great reasons to visit. Add in a few lovely museums and the cours Mirabeau, a main street riddled with fountains and beautiful trees that provide some welcome shade in the hot summer months and you’re all set for a great time.
This a true underrated gem in Southern France, with not many tourists visiting at all. You’ll enjoy the quaint feel of a traditional French city, with cobbled streets and small houses, but without the crowds you’ll find at the Côte d’Azur. As an added bonus, this means lower prices on hotels, restaurants, and activities.
Limoges has a rich history, but one of the most fascinating parts is the city’s ties to Richard the Lionheart, which you can learn about by visiting the cathedral.
Top tip: To get around easier, it’s best to look into car hire at Limoges Airport because there are no public transit links from the airport. Plus, it’s a lot better than being jostled about on the bus and unable to get a seat. Try BookingCar Europe to save money on your hire car.
Affectionately called ‘la ville rose’ due to the red brick buildings that are unusual for the south of France, this is truly a city for everyone, as its home to the best rugby union team in the country, as well as several scientific and cultural sites.
Our top places to visit include:
- the Cité-de-l’Espace and Aeroscopia, an aeronautics museum
- the 11th-century St Sernin Basilica, the biggest Romanesque church in France
- Les Abattoirs, an abattoir transformed into art galleries
This city on the French Riviera is best known for its annual film festival, making it synonymous with glamour, wealth, and George Clooney. If you’re not visiting during May, you can always channel your inner Grace Kelly and visit the Carlton Hotel where she shot ‘To Catch a Thief’.
However, if you’re not into celeb-spotting, you can always explore the beautiful islands just offshore or spend a quiet afternoon in the city’s beautiful old quarter.
If your ideal vacation involves getting a taste of the local cuisine, then Lyon is the city for you. It’s full of lively bistros, known as bouchons, where you can enjoy Lyonnaise cuisine, but is also home to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants.
You can also experience the juxtaposition of modern landscaping and traditional architecture alongside the Rhône and Saône rivers or even visit one of their fantastic museums, like the Musee Cinema et Minature.
Admittedly one of the most touristy cities on this list, but we didn’t want to leave it out as it’s your chance to visit one of the most eco-friendly cities in France. Among other things it’s a great place to plan your biking holiday. You’ll love cycling through the 30 acres of lush parkland, from the city centre to the beach, that makes up the new Promenade du Paillon. If you don’t want to bring your bike, you can always rent one for a small charge.
Now, the only thing left to do is to choose what city to visit. Maybe you should think about taking more than one trip. Wherever you decide to travel to, have a great time and remember your suntan lotion.