Pondering a trip to the land of love, decadent sauces, and the most delicious cheeses in the world? Want a more unique travel experience, rather than hitting up the same old Paris-Alps-Riviera tourist trap trifecta? Consider heading to these five cities, instead:
Located along the Atlantic coast, beautiful Biarritz initially gained popularity with French royalty — now, the town attracts both the vacay-minded French, as well as international travelers looking for glamorous fun and sun. For the history lover, Biarritz offers the Asiatica Museum, which displays one of the most significant collections of Asian art in Europe. A charming whaling port is reminiscent of Biarritz’s humble beginnings as a center for fishing, and scores of boutiques, restaurants, casinos, and clubs ensure the party continues well after dark. Once the playground of Napoleon III and his wife Eugenia, Biarritz is now a truly enchanting destination for all.
St. Paul Trois Chateaux
A charming town nestled in the foothills of the Alps, St. Paul Trois Chateaux possesses all the great remnants of an ancient city — ruins of old ramparts and three entryways into the city positively whisper of days gone by. One of France’s national monuments, the Cathedral Notre Dame et Saint Paul, calls this city home. St. Paul also provides plenty of outdoor excursions, offering several different modes through which to tour the city: trails and footpaths allow visitors to hike past nearby towns and notable sites, and four marked cycle routes invite tourists to explore the countryside by bike. Blending the old with the new, St. Paul is certainly a hidden treasure!
If you want a true taste of what life was like a century ago in France, Barjols is a must. This small town functioned as a producer of leather for centuries, and is one of the few destinations in France that really retains the deeply-rooted traditions of the past. Known for its water features, Barjols boasts 30 fountains and 12 old lavoirs (a public place for doing laundry). Along with several green spaces and an abundance of cafes, this charming village oozes an aura of relaxation. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur region, Barjols is a must-see for any traveler.
If a medieval castle is what you want, La Couvertoirade is the place to go! A small village in the Aveyron- Midi-Pyrenees region, La Couvertoirade is totally surrounded by intact medieval walls, watch towers, and a gate. Once a stronghold for the Knights Templar, this village sits on dry, high ground in the region between Millau and Montpellier. Much of La Couvertoirade has been preserved, making it a great destination for those interested in French history. Visitors enjoy fresh bread and other local specialties from the restored mill and communal bread oven. The Church of St. Christophe, built in the 14th century by the Knights Templar, is actually dug into the rock and forms part of the ramparts. Artisan boutiques and old shops add to the charm and unique experience of this gem.
When talking about the best undiscovered cities in France, Strasbourg consistently tops the list. Located on the banks of the Rhine and flocked by canals, this picturesque city blends French and German influences to create a truly distinctive architectural look. Strasbourg’s museums, historical sites, shops, and restaurants represent just a few activities an ambitious tourist can tackle while visiting. Perhaps one of the larger “undiscovered cities” in France, Strasbourg is also home to many international organizations, including the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights. Whether you’re looking for a good day trip or planning on staying a week, Strasbourg is not to be missed.