10+ Amazing Places to Visit in France (Besides Paris)

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What do wild flamingos, Mediterranean beaches and fairytale towns all have in common?

Here’s a little secret: you can find them all in France.

Lovely readers, let me divulge one of my greatest travel pet peeves with you.

Due to a pesky thing I call “Counting Countries Syndrome”, many people out there seem to think that stopping in one part of a country counts as having ‘done’ it, and once you’ve been there, it’s a tick off the bucket list, now doomed to die forever in the depths of your SD card.

Let’s put an end to this silliness, shall we?

Countries are countries, and cities… aren’t.

Ticking off countries based on only a small part is like having a scoop of vanilla ice cream and saying “you’ve done ice cream”.

Vanilla’s great, but about speculoos gelato with caramel drizzle and sprinkles, huh? That’s what this post is about today… I’m going to reveal to you some of the most droolworthy destinations in France that actually aren’t Paris.

Save this list of places to visit in France for later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

Now don’t get me wrong, Paris is still one my favourite cities in the world (read my best Paris tips to become a fangirl too), but over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit France in depth, witnessing first hand the insane amount of diversity found beyond Parisian turf.

From crazy turquoise coastlines to storybook villages, here are some of my favourite spots in France.

Photo by John Jason on Unsplash

Bordeaux

For all the devout wine addicts appreciators out there, Bordeaux requires no introduction.

The wine economy in this region rakes in over 14 billion euros each year, which means you could probably throw your shoe haphazardly and still hit a magnificent glass of vino.

Besides the inevitable wine tastings/winery tours, the city of Bordeaux itself is absolutely incredible, with a buzzing food scene, beautiful architecture and the Miroir d’Eau (pictured below), which is the world’s largest reflective pool, and one of my favourite sights to photograph.

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Saint-Émilion

Close to Bordeaux is the incredibly charming town of Saint-Émilion, renowned of course for its wine but also its ridiculously cool monolithic church, carved out of a single piece of rock. 

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This hilltop wine haven also boasts a great deal of delicious food and medieval views that will set your heart aflutter.

When I was there, we even spotted some prominent French stars filming for a TV special about the most beautiful villages in France!

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The French Riviera

Where France meets Italy, the French Riviera (aka the Côte d’Azur) is a slice of sweet, Mediterranean heaven.

This snazzy coastline is dotted with luxurious resorts and is said to receive over 300 days of sunshine each year.

The beautiful city of Nice is of course a highlight, but there are plenty of gorgeous smaller towns eastwards that will take your breath away all the same. (Here’s a great list of day trips from Nice).

Be sure to enjoy a fresh socca while you’re here, a chickpea pancake that will make you cry tears of joy.

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The Alabaster Coast

In the north hugging the English Channel is the unbelievable Alabaster Coast, with its dramatic limestone cliffs and bright aqua water.

During my first stop here, I have to admit I had trouble believing I was still in France. I mean isn’t this view just mindboggling?

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While the coast spans over 130km long, the most common spots to stop are Fécamp, Dieppe and my personal favourite, Étretat, where the views will absolutely blow you away [literally though, it’s windy].

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Rouen

One of my favourite gems along the Seine river is no doubt the medieval city of Rouen.

Not only was this one of the most important cities in medieval Europe, but today it’s also the capital of Normandy (in Northwest France).

Be sure to marvel at the Disney-esque timber framed houses, the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral and shop for delicious goodies at the Old Market Square.

On a more somber note, this square was where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in the 15th century, but right by it there’s now a church named in her honour.

If you have time, do stop inside the Church of St Joan of Arc, which has a surprisingly modern design and incredible stained glass windows.

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Lyon

Lyon is known worldwide for its unreal gastronomy, whose decadence, elegance and ridiculous care will convert you into a firm believer of cuisine lyonnaise.

If food isn’t your thing, there’s also a gorgeous city park (Parc de la Tete d’Or) with a free zoo and a perfectly charming Old Town. Here is a full list of fun things to do in Lyon.

Oh, and for the most splendid of views, head to Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica, where you’ll see the picture-perfect red rooftops of Lyon, alongside the greenish hues of the Saône and Rhône rivers.

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Alsace

I have on many occasions declared my absolute love for the region of Alsace, but of course it bears repeating: this is by far one of the most picturesque and beautiful parts of the entire country.

Come here to experience the epic mix of French and German cuisine, enjoy some of the most delicious wines in the world and of course, walk through beauty that you simply won’t believe.

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Strasbourg and Colmar are must-visits, but this is a region best savoured with a longer trip along the Alsace Wine Route, which is filled with some incredible Alsatian Christmas markets too.

Avignon

Fun fact: the Vatican hasn’t always been the swishy homebase of the Pope. From 1309 – 1377, during a period called the Avignon Papacy, seven popes lived in the magical riverside town of Avignon.

Today, visitors are invited to tour the beautiful Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) and of course, enjoy the other splendours of the town like its charming boutiques, gorgeous streets and the famous Avignon Bridge (of which only part remains).

I also recommend a visit up to the Jardin des Doms, where you’ll get some pretty stunning views.

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The Camargue

When I think of France, rarely do I go “ah yes, top notch wildlife destination”… so imagine my surprise when I visited the Camargue for the first time, and saw majestic white horses galloping in the countryside and pale pink flamingos psychotically flapping their wings!

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This slice of natural splendour can be found along the Mediterranean coast near Arles, and is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.

Visitors can hike, cycle, embrace their inner cowboy and more… plus the seaside town of Saintes Marie de la Mer is just adorable.

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Finally, here are some wonderful places to visit in France that I still have yet to check off my list:

Mont Saint Michel

This island in Normandy is probably one of the world’s most photographed sights, so how have I neglected it so far? I’m as puzzled as you are, folks.

Panoramic view of famous Le Mont Saint-Michel tidal island in beautiful twilight during blue hour at dusk, Normandy, northern France

I’ve always been drawn to this UNESCO World Heritage sight, not for pilgrimage reasons (as for many visitors), but simply because it is just so cool looking.

With a medieval monastery as the cherry on top of this stunning sundae, it goes without saying that I should visit  A S A P.

The Loire Valley

As a long term sufferer of princess syndrome (thanks, Disney), it’s no secret that I have a big thing for castles.

The Loire Valley presents French splendour at its finest, with fairytale castles, top notch food and lively cities all sharing space along the banks of the Loire River.

Someone please send me here! The photos make it impossible to resist.

Corsica

History buffs might recognize the name (after all, Napoleon was born here), but you should know that Corsica is a lot more than just the birthplace of a tiny conquerer.

This island in the Mediterranean is near the top of my bucket list for many different reasons: sublime weather, pristine beaches and clear azure waters just to name a few.

I’m itching to make it here as soon as I can, especially since I’ve heard nothing but great things.

The Lavender Fields of Provence

And last but not least, if you’ve been on the Internet at all in the past 10 years, then you will have surely seen photos of Provence’s unreal lavender fields.

While I’m sure strategic photography and bucketloads of Photoshop are at play, I still can’t help but dream about the moment that I get to frolic in these fragrant fields myself (presumably in a white flowy dress carrying a balloon).

Landscape and lavender field, France

So tell me – which of these spots is highest on your bucket list?! And have I missed any of your favourite French destinations? Let me know in the comments!



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80 thoughts on “10+ Amazing Places to Visit in France (Besides Paris)”

    • Oh my gosh, it’s so cool to see places in real life after reading about them/seeing them in textbooks! I felt this especially in Versailles, where we got to see lots of paintings that were referenced in my high school history books. So unreal.

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  1. Gosh, there’s heaps of places to visit in France (obviously Caroline, it’s a massive country)… but I mean there’s so much variety!

    The Alabaster Coast reminds me a bit of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, England – or the Dover coastline at minimum. Stunning place! I haven’t been exploring much around France yet (only visited Paris when I was a youngster). Looks like adult me should probably visit it again 🙂

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    • Totally agree!! I went to Durdle Door this past summer and was struck by how it was pretty much an exact copy of Etretat’s coastline haha. I hope this post gave you inspiration for your next trip, Caroline 🙂

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  2. I love France! I’ve lived in the Alsace for 5 months to do an internship and visited Strasbourg several times. Such a beautiful city, especially the area La Petit France.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t visit the south of the country yet, so that’s still definitely on my bucketlist. Love your list of places :-).

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    • What an epic place for an internship. I’m so jealous! And yes the south is awesome… and so different from the rest of the country. Hope you get to visit soon!

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    • Yesss so happy to hear someone else agrees! It bugs me so much when people are like “nah I’ve been to France already” when all they’ve done is 3 days in Paris. There’s so much more to see haha

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  3. I agree, we need to explore more than one city to really start to get to know a country. And boy is France ever diverse! I love Paris and Lyon, and have a few of these already on my ‘must visit’ list. But WOW! The Alabaster Coast is STUNNING!

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  4. This is awesome! France is really gorgeous and well worth of a visit! Thank you for all the suggestions and beautiful photos! The country is so diverse and amazing, I love it! From Paris to the coastal cities like Can and Nica. Love your post!

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    • Thanks for reading, Tina!! I haven’t actually been to Cannes myself (which is silly because I’ve been down to the Riviera twice now) but yes I love the South so much.

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  5. Are there wild flamingos in France?! A road trip through France just got bumped up on my bucket list! 😉 We’re from Belgium, so we’ve spent many family summer vacations in France, enjoying the sun and the cute villages one at a time, just visiting some markets, lay by our private pool and enjoy life. Haven’t seen any of the things you mention here though, so that road trip through France is long overdue.

    Nice post and lovely photos!

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    • Crazy right?! I was shocked too the first time I saw them haha. It sounds like you’ve had a lovely time in France thus far, but hopefully this list gives you some inspiration for your next trip 😀

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  6. You’re spot on with your perspective on people saying they’ve “done” a country when they’ve only visited a city. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great to have the opportunity to do anything in a new country, but there is always so much more to see than just a single big city or attraction. I’ve been fortunate to have seen a lot of France, and I’m convinced that I could spend a lifetime there and still not uncover every corner! Be sure to add Annecy to your bucket list – it is a beautiful historic city set on the most picturesque mountain lake you’ve ever seen!

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    • Yes! SO glad someone else agrees with me. I’ve heard about Annecy before and it does look really pretty. I guess that’s another one for the list haha

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  7. Oh, these photos alone are giving me a serious case of wanderlust. I would love to see these gorgeous spots soon! The Alabaster Coast is one that definitely loos so dreamy in my eyes!

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  8. Couldn’t agree with you more, it really must be frustrating when people claim to have gone to France but only visited Paris. And, as you said, while it is an undeniably beautiful city, there is so so much more. As a history buff, my visits to France always include some WW2 stuff but some of these other cities are well worth a visit, as your pictures show. Lyon and the Alabaster coast were two of my particular favourites but regardless of where you go, there is no shortage of incredible sights to see beyond the capital. Great post and I’m sure it will open a few people’s eyes

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    • Ahh yes, France is a fascinating place for history! I’m really disappointed I didn’t get to see the D Day Beaches when I was in Normandy, but hopefully that just means I get to go visit again 🙂

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  9. Been to a lot of these places and want to visit the rest 🙂 lovely post. Very inspirational! You’ll love the Loire valley. Beautiful castles, great wine, gorgeous little towns 🙂

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  10. Your pictures are amazing! I’m actually going to France for the first time next year and oddly enough, besides Paris, I’ll actually be visiting all the places on your French bucket list! I’m particularly excited for Mont St. Michel and Saint Malo 🙂 Pinning this post!

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    • Thanks so much, Ashley! And ahha that’s awesome. Very very jealous that you’re seeing all the places I haven’t. Hope you have a blast!

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  11. Beautiful post about one of the most beautiful countries out there. I experienced the charm of small town France during a recent visit to Switzerland when we crossed over and went to Evian and almost to Ivoire. Some of the places you have mentioned I hadn’t even heard of and yes, there is so much more to France than just Paris.

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    • Ahh and Switzerland isn’t too shabby either 😉 Thanks for reading and hopefully this gave you some inspiration for your next trip!

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  12. Yes! There is more to travel and exploring a place than a tick-box! I love Paris, and I enjoyed getting out and exploring more of the country than just one city, too. Such a great list and more areas that I need to explore in France!

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    • So glad you agree, Jen! And yess the first time I saw Paris, I was mindblown, and then I saw the rest of the country and was even more floored. There’s so much amazing diversity!

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    • Haha a woman who knows what she likes and sticks to it… gotta admire that! Yes doo take your mom to see the flamingos haha I’m sure her mind will be blown.

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  13. I highly recommend Carcassonne in the south. It’s the biggest fortified medieval city still standing in Europe. 52 towers, two sets of walls. Plus the surrounding countryside is dotted with other castle ruins. The wine is great, the food fantastic, the scenery jaw-dropping.

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    • Yes Nice was my first exposure to France outside Paris and I was floored by how different it was. I love the Italian influence! so lovely 🙂

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  14. Awesome! This post clearly shows you don’t have to travel to the other end of the world to start traveling. Sometimes we just fail to see the beauty of our neighbors. As well as human and country ones. Thank you, Christina!

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  15. Hey Christina, You have some lovely photos of wonderfully scenic spots in France. I’m planning a trip there next year and this will come in handy. I’d love to visit the Alabaster Coast and Mont Saint Michel in particular.

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    • Awesome! You’re gonna have an amazing time 🙂 Let me know if you have any specific questions about the spots on this list!

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  16. This was a fantastic article! My husband and I traveled the length of France, and experienced some incredible times outside of Paris. We flew into London and took the train across the Channel to France. Then, we rented a car and explored the Normandy region. Rouen was amazing – but it was pouring rain and we were tired and hungry. We still enjoyed it, though. The ceiling of Joan of Arc’s church is designed like the bottom of a boat. Incredible. We stayed in Bayeux and enjoyed the Bayeux Tapestry and the local sites. We took a day trip to Mont Saint Michel – and you HAVE got to see it. It was one of the highlights of our trip (including the other-wordly lobster-filled omelette!!!) From the north, we traveled to Paris and on to the South, including Aix de Provence and Avignon. I cannot wait until I can return and see some of the places you recommended. Thanks.

    Best & Bisous,
    Michelle from Simply Santa Barbara

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    • Hi Michelle, wow that sounds like an amazing trip!! I’d looove to see mont Saint Michel sometime, even if just for that omelette 😉 I hope you get to see more spots in France soon. Thanks for the lovely comment!

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  17. LOVE this blog!

    I’m moving to France in the fall and I can’t wait to explore everyone of these destinations <3

    Thank you for writing!

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  18. Great read and stunning photos! Thank you! I’m in the process of planning a trip to France this July and super excited to explore these cities (and Paris of course) What would you say is the best mode of transportation to visit these places?

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    • Hey Wynn! So exciting that you’ll be in France this July 🙂 I hope you have an amazing time! All these spots are a bit scattered around the country, so it’s a bit hard to say what mode of transport would be best. Depending on where you’re starting out (and how much time you have), planes/trains would probably be the most comfortable. That said, buses are more cost-effective. I’d look into Flixbus, but travelling long distances can often take a long time. I’ve heard that renting a car in France is a bit of a pain, but would be by far the most flexible option. If you just want to see a few places on this list from Paris though, maybe check Viator to see if they have any package tours. Might be the simplest way to go!

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  19. Oh my goodness we had no idea that all of this was in France! Definitely need to have a visit an maybe plan a road trip 🙂

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  20. I know there are so many gems in France but was surprised you didn’t include Annecy or Dijon. First time actually going to your site, love it. I like to see everything you do on Instagram, inspiring me to write a blog and explore the coffee culture here in Lyon and beyond.

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    • Annecy looks magical!! I actually included it in an initial draft of this post but it got too long so I had to cut a few locations. I’d definitely love to visit! And wow thank you so much for the kind words! Welcome to the crazy world of blogging 😉

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  21. Wonderful article! And very true that Paris only scratches the surface of the treasure trove that is France!

    I will say that I have flown over Mont St-Michel, which is amazing. That’s the first time I saw that Caribbean turquoise water and just shocked!

    The second time I really went to see it and just knew I had to sleep on the rock so I could fully experience it in the dark quiet. Well, they put us on the 5th floor — no elevator! And the air conditioning compressors outside our room allowed no silence, and there were lights all around and it was cloudy, so we didn’t see amazing stars.

    You need to time your visits if you want to see the tide galloping in. We were there at neap tide, when there is very little change.

    Here is a good article: https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/maree-montsaintmichel-agust2017.htm

    You will notice that there is no listing for the 14th through the 19th. Don’t go then! There’s nothing to see but mud flats!

    There are many value-priced and nice accommodations on the mainland and they are serviced by free shuttles. Just make sure you catch the last bus, but if you don’t, it will be a lovely walk in the moonlight, with many opportunities to turn around and capture a great shot.

    The Abbey was open until about 11 pm, but apparently it was a special thing, because now it’s 7 pm in the summer. It is much better to see it at night or at least late in the afternoon after the tour buses are gone. It is horrendously crowded by day. You could literally hear yourself pray at night in St. Michael’s Chapel and I loved walking the dark streets.

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  22. We are now retired and are Snowbirds in France. Throughout the past 40+ years this gorgeous country has been my “go to” choice for holiday destinations. Along with your fabulous recommendations I would add two regions: the Languedoc and the Dordogne. Accommodations are much cheaper, there are thousands of historic sites to visit, daily markets full of local, fresh produce to peruse, and mild weather days to enjoy the lovely countryside. We had great fun with another couple on a week long canal boat adventure (we rented the boat and piloted it ourselves) on the Canal du Midi. I would highly recommend it!

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    • Wow – great recommendations. Thank you so much!! I’d love to come back to France soon to explore some more. You’ve chosen a fabulous place to retire 😉

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  23. You should add (specifically) Villefranche-Sur-Mer to your list. Awesome, picturesque little town on the French Riviera. Short train ride to Cannes, Monaco and even Ventimiglia, Italy. Visit those places for a day but the real gem is Villefranche. Also home to the famous Hotel Welcome and a popular destination for well known artists and literary figures.

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  24. Great choices! I’ve been to most of these and completely agree. France is fast becoming my favorite stop in Europe, and I’m planning on going to Bordeaux and Rouen on my next trip (hopefully next year).

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  25. You need to check out Bretagne too! Rennes, St Malo, Dinan, Brocelliande, Fougeres, Quimper, and Carnac specifically but really just drive the whole province. Its beautiful and amazing and has an awesome history and second primary language. So necessary to visit. (Disclaimer I lived there for a year).

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