Unforgettable Travel Company

France has a universal appeal, beckoning a diverse array of travelers from all over the globe. Whether you’re drawn to the luxurious charms of the south coast, the unparalleled chicness of Paris, or the rich history of Bordeaux, there is something for everybody.

Yet, beyond these widely celebrated destinations, a lesser-known facet of France remains undiscovered and underrated. We will highlight a number of the best cities in France besides Paris and other popular destinations, taking you beyond the glittering façade of the Eiffel Tower and the glamour of the French Riviera. 

Instead, our experts will uncover the hidden gems in France where you can sidestep the tourist traps and immerse yourself in the authentic essence of this European hotspot. This guide is your ticket to uncovering France off the beaten path, finding places where you can embrace the true joie de vivre of the country and experience something out of the ordinary.

Hidden Gems in France: Northern Treasures

France - Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy

Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy

A great way to experience France off-the-beaten path is Mont-Saint-Michel, located in Normandy. This enchanting destination is steeped in history, boasting a unique island location that floats like an optical illusion on the horizon. 

Mont-Saint-Michel’s captivating story dates back to the 8th century when a mediaeval abbey was built on top of the rocky islet. Today, this UNESCO-listed abbey remains a key attraction, its spires and stone structures gracefully rising against the backdrop of the sea. 

Colmar, Alsace

Colmar, nestled in the Alsace region, is another hidden gem in France that offers a glimpse into a picture-perfect French town. The streets of Colmar are a vision of charm, adorned with colorful houses and cobblestone streets. Picturesque canals wind their way through the town, further enhancing its fairytale appeal. 

Visitors to Colmar can immerse themselves in its romantic atmosphere by strolling through the quaint streets and savoring local delicacies at traditional bistros. For those wanting a cultural insight into this French treasure, consider exploring the captivating Unterlinden Museum, home to an impressive collection of art and historical artifacts.

Hidden Gems in France: Central Wonders

France Annecy, Haute Savoie

Château de Chambord, Loire Valley

There are a number of unique places to visit in France; among these treasures stands the Château de Chambord, an architectural marvel located in the enchanting Loire Valley of Central France. This Renaissance masterpiece is a symbol of France’s opulent history and is renowned for its intricate design, notably the double helix staircase, which is often attributed to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci.

Visiting Chambord is like stepping back in time – its grandeur and elaborate details showcase the pinnacle of French Renaissance architecture. As you explore the sprawling estate, you’ll be captivated by the elegant façade, turreted spires, and the blooming gardens that surround it.

Annecy, Haute-Savoie 

Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the Alps’, Annecy is a quintessentially French city, nestled amidst the French Alps in the idyllic setting of Haute-Savoie. The city’s narrow cobblestone streets, quaint bridges, and pastel-colored houses make it one of the prettiest hidden gems in France.

It also boasts a picturesque landscape with charming canals, a breathtaking alpine backdrop, and the crystal-clear waters of Lake Annecy – the star of the show. For the adventurous traveler, outdoor activities such as paddleboarding or paragliding are popular choices around Lake Annecy. 

Beyond its natural beauty, Annecy offers a glimpse into the French Alps’ unique culture. Explore local markets, savor regional cuisine, and immerse yourself in the town’s rich history.

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Hidden Gems in France: Southern Delights

France Gorges du Verdon, Provence

Gorges du Verdon, Provence

The first stop on the list of southern delights takes us to the Gorges du Verdon, a natural wonder in the heart of Provence, which truly defines one of the best regions of France to visit. Often referred to as the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’, this deep limestone canyon is carved by the turquoise waters of the Verdon River and is a testament to the magnificence of the natural world.

To truly appreciate this hidden gem in France, why not embark on outdoor adventures like hiking along the edge for breathtaking views or kayaking through the winding waterways? You’ll find yourself immersed in the stunning scenery and tranquility that this place offers.

Carcassonne, Occitanie

Moving further south to Occitanie, you’ll encounter the medieval marvel of Carcassonne. This walled city is not just one of the best hidden gems in France, but also a UNESCO World Heritage site, teeming with historical significance. The fortress, with its towering walls and turrets, takes travelers back to a time of knights and chivalry. 

To explore the best of Carcassonne, venture into the heart of the old city, known as La Cité. Here, you can stroll through charming cobblestone streets, visit the medieval Château Comtal, and take in panoramic views from the ramparts.

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Hidden Gems in France: Secret Escapes

France La Roque Gageac, Dordogne

Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes 

In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, you will encounter the whimsical world of the ‘Postman’s Ideal Palace’, otherwise known as the Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval. This unique architectural palace, born from the imagination of postman Ferdinand Cheval, combines an array of styles, including Gothic, Roman, and exotic influences. A visit to this artistic wonder unveils intricate mosaics, sculptures, an enchanting garden, and is certainly one of the most unique things to do in France.

The palace’s history is as captivating as its design, with Ferdinand Cheval dedicating 33 years to building his dream palace, using stones he collected during his mail rounds. To appreciate the full charm of this hidden gem, consider a guided tour to gain insight into its history and the remarkable story of its creator.

La Roque-Gageac, Dordogne

Further south, in the Dordogne region, lies the picturesque village of La Roque-Gageac, a hidden gem in France known for its stunning setting against the cliffs along the Dordogne River. This village’s timeless beauty is characterized by its golden stone buildings, narrow alleyways, and a subtropical microclimate that nurtures lush gardens and rich vegetation. 

Beyond the village, you can indulge in activities such as a scenic boat ride on the Dordogne River or a visit to the nearby Jardins de Marqueyssac, a charming hand-pruned garden filled with walking paths and panoramic views. Don’t miss the chance to savor local cuisine, including duck confit and walnut cake, at one of the riverside restaurants.

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Hidden Gems in France: Coastal Charms

France Etretat, Normandy

Étretat, Normandy

Heading back to Normandy, Étretat awaits, a coastal haven for nature lovers and photographers. Étretat is renowned for its awe-inspiring cliffs and natural arches that have been sculpted by the relentless sea over centuries.

To truly appreciate its beauty, visitors should venture to key viewpoints like the Falaise d’Amont and Falaise d’Aval, where the panoramic views are nothing short of breathtaking. For those seeking outdoor adventure, hiking along the Alabaster Coast’s trails or simply relaxing on the pebble beaches are some of the best ways to experience the natural wonders of Étretat.

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Summary 

France is a country that never ceases to amaze, with so much variety to offer. Beyond the iconic landmarks and celebrated cities, a world of hidden gems awaits those who dare to wander off the beaten path in France. 

From the Mediterranean fjords of Les Calanques to the whimsical wonders of the ‘Postman’s Ideal Palace’ at Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval, and the dramatic beauty of the Dune du Pilat, each destination reveals a unique facet of France’s fabulous offerings.

These hidden gems offer a chance to experience the true essence of the country, to embrace its culture, history, and natural beauty. It’s an opportunity to connect with the heart of France, away from the crowds and tourist traps, and to discover your own sense of joie de vivre. 

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, an art lover, or a history buff, these off the beaten path destinations have something special to offer. So, as you plan your next adventure, consider veering away from the well-worn trails and exploring these remarkable hidden gems in France. 

Tempted to explore the best hidden gems in France? Unforgettable Travel Company have a number of helpful guides for you to browse covering where to go, what to do and when to visit France, offering you a little more clarity on how best to do France off the beaten path. 

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