When many travelers think of places to visit in France, most only think of visiting the often tourist-packed Paris. And although Paris is a beautiful city worthy of any travel itinerary, there are many hidden gems dotted throughout the center of France and its southern coast worth a visit. Yes, you read that correctly: there are more places to visit in France than Paris! In these towns, you’ll be able to break away from the tourist traps and experience an escape from busy, bustling cities in favor of natural wonders like beaches and mountain sides. Check out these top picks to find cities in Central and Southern France that go beyond Paris and are well worth the visit in France.
Caen is a city full of rich history, beautiful sights, and incredible food. Nestled into the Normandy region of France, Caen is best known for its role in WWII. For this reason, the city juxtaposes a solemn reflective tone towards its past against its lively pub-filled and energetic tone towards its present and future. With one foot in the past and another in the present, the city of Caen boasts a giant castle that would be hard to miss, alongside impressive museums that reflect on modern-day struggles and wars. Caen is a beautiful city tucked into the expansive region of Normandy, an amazing place to visit in France for travelers looking for a historic experience. Get the best bang for your book with this 48 hour itinerary in Caen.
Biarritz will delight travelers looking for new places to visit in France. Once a sleepy fisherman’s port, Biarritz was redfinied when Napoléon III and his wife, Empress Eugénie began summering here in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, Biarritz has transformed into a glamorous vacation city for those looking to experience a high-class beach full of fun and adventure. With its position on the Côte de Basque creating the perfect waves for surfers, the city maintains a laid-back attitude that attracts athletes and explorers from across the world looking to hit the waves. In a balancing act, Biarritz has found a way to incorporate both the high-class beach experience with down to earth fun activities worthy of a trip away from Paris. Here’s a perfect 48 hour itinerary for Biarritz, France.
Tours, France is best known as the Garden of France. The city of Tours has even been said to be a rival to Paris, and indeed, it’s many shops, metropolitan center, and great monuments definitely give its bigger rival on the Seine a run for its money. With its beautiful position on the Loire River valley, small, rolling hills, and incredible gardens, the city juxtaposes incredibly greenery with modern stores and museums. In Tours, you’d have a hard time running out of things to do, as its prime location gives you a great starting point from which to explore the Loire Valley, and its own activities and monuments are sure to fill many days worth of travel.
Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, situated in the heart of the South, and home to one of the country’s largest Universities. Known as France’s “Pink City,” Toulouse is radiant, featuring beautiful, blushing brick basilicas, rose-tinted store fronts, and sienna rooftops that are incredible to behold. Home to a thriving student population, the city comes alive at night as a hotspot for young people across the globe. Truly a place that features a tale of two cities, in Toulouse you can experience thriving nightlife on the weekends, paired with simple, relaxed week days. Toulouse is thus the perfect escape from the Parisian streets, one where you can ride a bike down narrow, winding French roads take in historic monuments, or even simply picnic in one of its incredible parks.
Finding a home in the Provence region of France, Avignon is a lavender-filled escape from the noises and smells of city life. This tranquil and relaxing Medieval city in France boasts UNESCO worthy heritage sites, from its Palais des Papes, to the Musée de Petit Palais. Avignon changed hands from conqueror to conqueror throughout its history and is now much more relaxed than it was in ancient times. Today, the city stands as a happy respite for weary travelers coming from the more bustling cities in France. It’s always fun to experience a good wine tasting and lunch in Avignon.