France is a country that needs no introduction, with its rich culture, breathtaking architecture, and world-renowned cuisine. However, with so much to see and do, it’s easy to get caught up in the tourist hotspots and miss out on some of the lesser-known but equally amazing experiences the country has to offer. This is where we come in – we’ve scoured the length and breadth of France to bring you 10 unique things to do beyond the tourist hotspots. From exploring hidden chateaux and picturesque villages to indulging in local delicacies and experiencing traditional festivals, we’ve got you covered. Get ready to discover the hidden gems of France, and immerse yourself in the true essence of this beautiful country. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and let’s explore the real France together!
Visit the colorful village of Colmar in Alsace
Located in the northeastern region of Alsace, Colmar is a picturesque village that looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale. With its colorful half-timbered houses, charming canals, and quaint cobblestone streets, it’s no surprise that this hidden gem has been dubbed the “Little Venice” of France. The village is also home to several museums, including the Unterlinden Museum, which houses medieval and Renaissance art, as well as the Bartholdi Museum, dedicated to the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty.
One of the best times to visit Colmar is during the Christmas season, when the village is transformed into a winter wonderland with its Christmas markets, twinkling lights, and festive decorations. Another must-see attraction in Colmar is the House of Heads, a 16th-century building adorned with 106 sculptures of heads.
If you’re a fan of wine, be sure to sample some of the local Alsatian wine, which is known for its crisp, fruity flavor. You can also take a tour of one of the many vineyards in the area to learn about the winemaking process and taste the different varietals.
Explore the charming town of Annecy in the French Alps
Nestled in the French Alps, Annecy is a charming town that boasts stunning mountain views, crystal-clear lakes, and a rich history. Known as the “Venice of the Alps,” the town is situated on the shores of Lake Annecy and is surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The town’s old town area is home to several historic buildings, including the 12th-century Palais de l’Isle, which was once a prison and now houses a local history museum.
One of the best ways to explore Annecy is by taking a stroll along the lakefront promenade, which offers beautiful views of the water and the mountains. You can also take a boat tour of the lake to see the town from a different perspective.
For adventure seekers, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in the area, including hiking, mountain biking, and paragliding. In the winter, Annecy is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding, with several world-class ski resorts located nearby.
Discover the medieval town of Sarlat in the Dordogne region
Located in the heart of the Dordogne region, Sarlat is a beautifully preserved medieval town that dates back to the 9th century. The town is known for its stunning architecture, with its narrow streets lined with well-preserved buildings made from golden limestone. The town’s main square, Place de la Liberté, is home to several outdoor cafes and restaurants, and is a great place to people-watch.
One of the highlights of Sarlat is the Saturday morning market, which offers a wide variety of local produce, cheeses, and other delicacies. The town is also home to several museums, including the Musée de la Lanterne, which houses a collection of antique lanterns.
Another must-see attraction in Sarlat is the Château de Beynac, a medieval castle perched on a cliff overlooking the Dordogne River. The castle has been featured in several movies, including “Chocolat” and “Les Misérables.”
Visit a Dancing Fountain
If you find yourself in the southern city of Montpellier, be sure to check out the Dancing Fountain in the Place de la Comédie. The fountain is a popular attraction, especially during the summer months when it comes alive with a colorful light show set to music.
The fountain was designed by the French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and features 120 individual water jets that shoot water up to 50 feet in the air. The jets are choreographed to create a mesmerizing dance of water and light, with different colors and patterns changing throughout the show.
The Dancing Fountain is a great place to relax and take in the sights and sounds of Montpellier. The square is also home to several cafes and restaurants, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely afternoon.
Take a trip to the picturesque island of Porquerolles in the Mediterranean
Located off the coast of southern France, the island of Porquerolles is a hidden gem that offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. The island is part of the Port-Cros National Park and is home to several stunning beaches, including Plage de la Courtade, which is often ranked as one of the best beaches in Europe.
The island is also home to several hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding countryside. One of the most popular trails is the Chemin des Douaniers, which follows the coastline and offers stunning views of the sea.
Another must-see attraction on Porquerolles is the Fort Sainte-Agathe, a 16th-century fortress that offers panoramic views of the island and the sea. The fort has been well-preserved and offers a fascinating glimpse into the island’s history.
Visit the historic city of Nimes and its Roman ruins
Located in the southern region of Languedoc-Roussillon, Nimes is a historic city that dates back to the Roman era. The city is home to several well-preserved Roman ruins, including the Arena of Nimes, a 2,000-year-old amphitheater that was once used for gladiatorial games.
Another must-see attraction in Nimes is the Maison Carrée, a beautifully preserved Roman temple that dates back to the 1st century AD. The temple is now used as a museum and offers a fascinating insight into the city’s ancient past.
Nimes is also known for its beautiful gardens, including the Jardins de la Fontaine, a stunning park that features several fountains, waterfalls, and Roman ruins. The park is a great place to relax and take in the sights and sounds of Nimes.
Enjoy the wine and gastronomy of Bordeaux
Located in southwestern France, Bordeaux is a world-renowned wine region that is home to some of the best wineries in the world. The region is known for its full-bodied red wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as its crisp, refreshing white wines, including Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Visitors to Bordeaux can take a tour of one of the many wineries in the area to learn about the winemaking process and taste some of the local varietals. The region is also known for its gastronomy, with several Michelin-starred restaurants located in the city.
Aside from wine and food, Bordeaux is also home to several stunning landmarks, including the Place de la Bourse, a beautiful square that features a large reflecting pool and several impressive buildings.
Step back in time in the fortified city of Carcassonne
Located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Carcassonne is a fortified city that dates back to the Roman era. The city is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most well-preserved examples of medieval architecture in Europe.
The city’s walls and towers are well-preserved and offer a fascinating glimpse into the city’s ancient past. Visitors can take a guided tour of the city to learn about its history and explore its many narrow streets and alleyways.
Another must-see attraction in Carcassonne is the Château Comtal, a fortress that was once used as the city’s main defense. The fortress now houses a museum that showcases the city’s history and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Explore the stunning landscapes of the Camargue region
Located in the southern region of Provence, the Camargue is a unique landscape that is home to several unique species of plants and animals. The area is known for its wild horses, flamingos, and other bird species, as well as its salt flats and rice paddies.
Visitors to the Camargue can take a guided tour of the area to learn about its unique ecosystem and explore its many trails and beaches. The area is also known for its local cuisine, including its famous bull meat and rice dishes.
One of the highlights of the Camargue is the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a picturesque fishing village that is known for its beautiful beaches and colorful buildings. The village is also home to several festivals throughout the year, including the famous Gypsy pilgrimage in May.
Conclusion and final thoughts on exploring France beyond the popular tourist destinations
France is a country that is full of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. From picturesque villages and stunning landscapes to ancient ruins and world-renowned wine regions, there is something for everyone in this beautiful country.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the popular tourist destinations, it’s important to take the time to explore the lesser-known areas and experience the true essence of France. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to discover the hidden gems of France.