While we like Paris for its world-class restaurants, cafés, and museums, France has much more than the city. With mountaintop views, flower-lined canals, and pastel houses straight from the pages of a storybook, France’s villages and small towns rival any large metropolis. Moreover, each place is only a day’s journey away, thanks to the country’s high-speed railways and easy-to-navigate roadways.
Being a tiny village in a country with one of the world’s most famous cities must be difficult. While Paris receives the most of the attention (and the majority of the tourists), astute French and foreign travelers arrange trips to some of the country’s lesser-known sites, many of which are little towns.
The hustle and bustle of the metropolis are replaced by wide-open beaches, mountain hikes, medieval castles, and extensive vineyards in these charming French destinations. These little towns and villages (home to less than 15,000 people) can be found throughout France, from the French-German border to the Mediterranean coast to the mountainous junction of France, Italy, and Switzerland.
Here are 10 little French towns that are as gorgeous as they come.
1. Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux
Saint-Emilion is a lovely medieval hamlet in Bordeaux’s famous wine region. It’s a one-of-a-kind location where world-famous wineries, superb wine, stunning architecture, and historic landmarks all come together in perfect harmony. Saint-Émilion is a famous wine town and appellation in Bordeaux’s Libournais district, noteworthy in quality and quantity.
Saint-Émilion is a town in southwest France’s Gironde department. Saint-Émilion was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 in recognition of its cultural landscape and historical vineyards.
Bordeaux may be the world’s most important wine region, yet the landscape of vineyards can be monotonous. The town’s winding, hilly alleys and limestone cottages appeal to visitors with only a passing interest in wine. Still, serious oenophiles should also pay a visit.
Saint-Émilion is modest compared to its Right Bank neighbor Pomerol, which includes both Petrus and Le Pin in its portfolio, with the most expensive offering coming in at $743. The region surrounding Bordeaux is lovely and worth seeing. Of course, there are vineyards to explore, but charming villages and natural features are also nearby. A few examples, such as Carcassonne and the Pilat Dune, La Roche-sur-Yon, Saint Emilion, and Limoges, are all worth seeing.
2. Villefranche-sur-Mer, Provence
Villefranche-sur-Mer, located on the Cote d’Azur, the amazingly charming coast of French Riviera, is the idyllic fishing resort of summer fantasies. Chapelle St-Pierre, a modest 14th-century chapel on the Quai Corbet, for a relaxing afternoon sipping coffee and admiring the seaside breeze.
While the pink facade is charming, the church’s interior will take one’s breath away: Jean Cocteau, a famous French artist who spent several summers in Villefranche-sur-Mer, painted vibrant, mysterious frescoes on the walls. Villefranche-sur-Mer, a prominent city on the Côte d’Azur, greets you with a majestic panorama as soon as you arrive, whether by cornices, sea, or train. It was founded in 1295 and is located 4 kilometers from Nice and 12 kilometers from Monaco.
Villefranche is a pleasant small getaway since, unlike Monaco and Nice, it doesn’t have high-rise buildings and highly costly stores on every corner. It offers a much more charming and peaceful atmosphere. Scamming and pickpocketing, two common tourist-related crimes, are unheard of in Villefranche. If you lose something or suspect it has been stolen, it was most likely picked up by accident by someone else; verify where you last remember having it or go to the local police station to hunt for it.
Villefranche is a charming medieval town that dates back to the 14th century. French writer and artist Jean Cocteau completely adorned its historic Saint-Pierre chapel in the twentieth century. The duke of Savoy ordered the construction of the citadel in 1560.
3. Annecy, Haute-Savoie
This lakefront Alpine town is known as “the Venice of Savoie” for its sloping hillsides and canals that wind their way through its streets. The little stone bridges that span the canals provide excellent photo opportunities.
Annecy’s cobblestone alleys and pastel-colored houses have the same storybook sense as some of France’s tiniest villages, despite its larger population than the other entries on this list. The department of Haute-Savoie is located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes area of Southeastern France, bordering Switzerland and Italy. Annecy is its prefecture. Lake Geneva is to the north, while Mont Blanc and the Aravis mountain range are to the south and southeast.
Annecy is a city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France. It is the seat of the Haute-Savoie département. In the region of southeastern France, the Haute-Savoie department is located. It is located 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Geneva, Switzerland, near the northern edge of Lake Annecy. Many people already know Annecy as a beautiful Alpine city to visit, but a two-year study of quality of life indices has revealed that it is also the best location to live in France.
The region is noted for its numerous ski resorts and gastronomic contributions to French cuisine, including Savoyard fondue, tartiflette, génépi, and several types of saucisson. Annecy is well worth a visit, but a full day or two is all that is required to see everything. As a result, Annecy is only a short drive from both Lyon and Geneva is ideal.
4. Èze, French Riviera
After a dizzying trek to the town’s summit, enjoy a well-deserved supper at La Chèvre d’Or, a two-starred Michelin restaurant overseen by chef Arnaud Faye, after a dizzying tour to the town’s meeting.
Eze is a modest French Riviera village known for its medieval castle with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. A bit of a walk to the top of the court, with its narrow cobblestone streets, is difficult, but it’s well worth it. You’ll be rewarded with a lovely cactus garden and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean once you reach the summit. Next, visit the historic church with its Egyptian cross, which is thought to be a relic of the Phoenician temple that formerly stood on the site.
Eze is a lovely hilltop medieval hamlet located between Monaco and Nice in southern France. The community is known for its breathtaking vistas, outstanding architecture, and breathtaking location above the French Riviera.
Eze is a fantastic day excursion from the Cote d’Azur. It’s only a one-euro bus ride from Nice and offers spectacular views of the French Riveria. It is worthy of touring the castle, its gardens, and the tiny stores and fine restaurants, including La Tavernne d’Antan. George Sand, Bono of the Irish rock band U2, Bill Clinton, and Antoinette of Monaco are a few renowned people who have lived or still live in the area.
The German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche, on the other hand, is inextricably linked to the city of Eze. Eze features a single long, narrow beach known simply as Plage d’Eze or Eze beach. On the Moyenne Corniche, the ancient hamlet of Eze looms overhead, part of a stunning mountainous background that is one of the beach’s main draws.
5. Giverny, Normandy
Giverny is a small village on the Normandy-French border known for Claude Monet’s beloved riverfront house and garden, both open to the public. The pastel pink home is picture-perfect, with spring green shutters and ivy climbing on every surface.
Water lilies, weeping willows, wisterias, and the iconic green Japanese bridge make the gardens look like an impressionist picture come to life. It is located 80 kilometers (50 miles) west-northwest of Paris, in the Normandy area.
It is best known for being the house and garden of Claude Monet. The vistas, the entire ambiance, and the presence of Monet drew several American Impressionist artists to Giverny. The town is surrounded to the northwest of Paris by the Seine, which is not far away. Closer to town, the Eure River, which drains into the Seine and gives the French department its name, runs alongside Giverny.
It is a prominent international tourist destination because it was the home of Claude Monet, one of history’s greatest painters (1840-1926). Monet is credited for inventing the “Impressionism” style of realistic painting.
6. Colmar, Alsace
Picturesque Colmar’s “Little Venice” enclave gives Annecy a run for its money for Venice comparisons, with little waterways cutting graceful lines past candy-colored buildings. Colmar’s beauty isn’t just inspiring locals: some say the hamlet inspired Belle’s hometown in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
The city is known for its well-preserved old town, several architectural sites, and museums, one of which holds the Isenheim Altarpiece, the Unterlinden Museum. Colmar is the “capital of Alsatian wine,” as it is located along the Alsatian Wine Route. It is so close to Germany that a tram ride from Strasbourg, the regional capital, to Kehl, the nearest German city, takes 15 minutes.
Colmar is a breathtakingly gorgeous town. The historic district contains a well-preserved collection of architectural landmarks that reflect centuries of French and German design. Colmar is also an excellent starting point for visiting the Alsace wine region, known for its white wines. Along with exquisite Rieslings, you’ll find Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris wines, Pinot Noir rosés, and Crémant d’Alsace, a local sparkling wine.
7. Chamonix, Alps
Because of its closeness to Mont Blanc, Chamonix has become one of Europe’s most renowned skiing and climbing destinations. However, the town itself is gorgeous at any time of year, with panoramic mountain views and rows of slant-roofed buildings. Since the Winter Olympics of 1924, it has been a world-renowned ski destination.
Six separate ski areas cater to skiers of all abilities, from beginners to advanced. Aside from skiing, Chamonix is an excellent spot for hiking, rock climbing, paragliding, golfing, and playing tennis. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, more commonly known as Chamonix, is a commune in the Haute-Savoie department of southeastern France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
The first Winter Olympics were held there in 1924. Chamonix is a town in southeastern France that is located at the height of 1035 meters at the foot of Mont Blanc, close to the Swiss and Italian borders.
8. Rocamadour, Lot
We like hilltop towns in general, but Rocamadour stands out because of its breathtaking views over the Alzou canyon. The cliffside collection of religious buildings, notably Chapelle Notre Dame with its iconic Black Madonna statue, is a highlight of the one-street village.
Rocamadour is one of the most popular tourist spots in France. Although the ‘village as a perfect oneness’ is the main attraction of Rocamadour, there are various other attractions worth visiting.
The town, which clings to the cliff face above the Alzou River and is picture beautiful, is truly breathtaking. Rocamadour, known for its sanctuaries and, particularly for its Black Virgin, attracts many pilgrims and visitors each year.
Furthermore, after Mont-Saint-Michel, the village of Rocamadour is France’s second most visited destination. The Parvis of the Shrines is a sacred spot in Rocamadour for Christian believers. Therefore, tourists must dress appropriately during their visit.
The Lady Chapel is one of the historic structures on this square. The statue of ‘The Black Virgin’ is kept there. It is a crudely carved wooden figurine with highly distinct and youthful facial features.
9. Amiens, Picardy
Amiens is a pleasant and welcome reprieve from urban Paris, despite its population being a little bigger than some other cities on this list. Picardy is a historic area of France and a former administrative region and is most renowned for its magnificent Gothic church. It is situated in France’s northwestern region. Picardy, often known as French Picardie, is a historical and former French territory.
Picardy is noted for its dairy and beef cattle and a rich agricultural region that provides 25% of all French farming exports and is its second-largest wheat producer. It is a city in northern France, in the Somme River valley, north of Paris, and the capital of the Somme département in the Hauts-de-France region. It is the largest city and ancient capital of Picardy. Its textile industry and the beautiful Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame, one of France’s best, have been famous since the Middle Ages.
10. Carcassonne, Languedoc
The Languedoc region is unlike anywhere else in because of its sun-drenched beaches, forested summits, and dense vineyards. The town’s primary feature is La Cité, a 10th-century castle with fortifications and a drawbridge overlooking the Aude River.
When Carcassonne was a bastion of Occitan Cathars, it became famed for its role in the Albigensian Crusades. With his crusading army, the Papal Legate, Abbot Arnaud Amalric, forced its population to surrender in August 1209. Carcassonne, France, is a commune in the country’s south where one of the world’s most picturesque walled villages can be found.
This municipality, particularly its citadel, Cité de Carcassonne, is the pinnacle of splendor, a well-preserved monument to the French people’s greatness. In actuality, just 47 individuals live in the Cité permanently. Nevertheless, the entire region has a lot to offer visitors and locals.
The historic fortress and St. Louis are both located within the Cité. Carcassonne has been described as a tourist trap, and some souvenir stores are selling gaudy trinkets, but it is an enchanting spot despite the crowd. It’s no wonder that it’s been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site twice. With its vast defenses enclosing the castle and adjacent buildings, streets, and beautiful Gothic cathedral, it is a remarkable example of a medieval walled town in its current form.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the scented lavender fields in Provence are two of France’s most iconic landmarks. It’s a popular tourist destination with museums, art galleries, and excellent dining. From the Alps to the beautiful beaches of Marseille, Corsica, and Nice, France is famed for its diverse landscapes.
With mountaintop views, flower-lined canals, and pastel houses straight from the pages of a storybook, France’s villages and small towns rival any large metropolis. So it’s definitely an eye-soothing-worthy place for a tour.
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