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France is known for its rich history and culture. It’s a place where you can experience the best of Europe in one country. But there are some small towns that aren’t as well-known, but still have plenty to offer visitors from all over the world.
These small towns are often overlooked by tourists because they don’t have big cities or famous French landmarks nearby, but each town has something unique to offer travelers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Paris or other major cities in France. Here’s what makes these places so special:
The Best Small Towns in France
The people here are friendly and welcoming, which means you’ll feel right at home when you visit these little gems off the beaten path! You won’t find any crowds here – just beautiful scenery, delicious food, and lots of fun things to do with your friends or family! And if it’s peace and quiet you’re looking for on vacation this summer…you’ve found it! So pack your bags now because we know exactly where you should go next time you take a trip out of Paris!
By Cazzy at Dream Big Travel Far
Undoubtedly a strong contender among the list of the most beautiful villages in France, Riquewihr is a truly enchanting town full of hillside vineyards, exquisite wine, and rustic charm. It’s actually part of one of our favorite road trips in the country: The Beauty And The Beast Village Road Trip.
Lodged amid the Vosges mountains and the Plain of Alsace, this medieval town is ensconced in the picturesque Alsatian vineyards. It is best known for its breathtaking architecture and world-renowned wines.
Riquewihr is an old town and abashedly so, with buildings and features dating to the 15th Century. From vines crawling across its city walls and half-timbered houses that are six centuries old, to lovely walking lanes, it’s easy to get transported back in time when exploring this town.
The Old Town of Riquewihr is a must-visit here, as it still looks exactly as it did back in the 16th century. It’s a romantic area teeming with colorful houses, curved cobblestone streets, historic wineries, and even eerie ghost stories!
There’s also the infamous Dolder, a 25-meter belfry that was built to watch over invaders. Today, the formidable tower houses the interesting Museum of Art and Popular Tradition.
This town thrives with bright flowers during spring and summer, and sparkles with snow-white magic during the Christmas period.
By Elena Pappalardo of The Carry-On Chronicles
Villefranche-sur-Mer may be the very definition of a French storybook town. Located along the sparkling French Riviera in between Nice and Monaco, this colorful harbor town feels remarkably authentic. Given the town’s intimate and inviting atmosphere, travelers will quickly feel in sync with the locals here. While all of Villefranche-sur-Mer is arguably postcard-worthy, visitors cannot miss a stroll through the town’s pastel labyrinth of streets, particularly Rue Volti and Rue Baron de Brès.
For a relaxing bite to eat with a beautiful view, hungry patrons will have to grab a seat at one of the delightfully charming restaurants that line the Villefranche Promenade, such as La Mère Germaine. The promenade area is the liveliest spot in town and easily one of the most photogenic with its colorful restaurant facades and vibrant fishing boats bobbing along the harbor.
Plus, as the town kisses the harbor, sunbathers can take advantage of beautiful Plage des Marinières, one of the rare sandy beaches along the French Riviera.
In addition, those up for a fun and free hike will enjoy making the climb up to the Citadelle Saint-Elme, an impressive 16th-century fortress. From here, travelers will be rewarded with a gorgeous view over this romantic town.
For those looking to see more of the Côte d’Azur, the easy train trip from Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer makes this darling town an ideal day trip from the French Riviera’s capital city.
by Patricia of Ze Wandering Frogs
Considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, Gourdon is the perfect day trip from Cannes or Nice. Reached via a tortuous mountain road along the Gorges du Loup, the village is located on an isolated rock that gave its Eagle Nest nickname.
The narrow streets lined by stone houses are home to ceramic and glassware shops, stores selling locally-made candy-like nougat and honey, handmade lavender soaps, and colorful yellow and red fabric common in Provence. The main street leads to the village square with fantastic panoramic views of the French Riviera. Several restaurants on the main square serve savory Provence meals.
Besides the stunning views, Gourdon features a 9th-century castle built over the ruins of an ancient Roman camp and the ramparts surrounding the village. Gourdon Castle is an impressive complex and includes incredible gardens, including a section designed by Le Nôtre, known for being the genius behind Versailles’ gardens. The castle itself is not open to the public, but the gardens are.
Other historical buildings include the 11th-century St. Vincent Chapel, the 12th-century Romane Notre-Dame Church, St. Pons Chapel, and Ste. Catherine Chapel. Outside the village is the Fortress, a troglodyte house on the Cavillore Plateau above Gourdon.
by Lena Salut from Paris
While the Provence is filled with beautiful small villages, one clearly stands out: Les-Baux-des-Provence.
The hamlet located in the Alpille mountains, on a 200 m high plateau, was once a stronghold that controlled the entire region. Today, only ruins are left from the medieval fortress, but the village survived the time.
Baux-des-Provence is an outstanding village to visit. It provides a Provençal quintessence that you hardly find anywhere else, combined with rich history, a striving art scene and wonderful views thanks to its elevated location. Apart from visiting historic sites, Baux-des-Provence is also an excellent place to stock up on some of the best olive oil of France and of course regional wine.
Given all this, it is not surprising that Baux-des-Province has become a touristic hotspot over the years. Thanks to the good railway connection between Paris and Provence, the region is a popular getaway from Paris by train. Hence, it can become quite crowded, especially in August, when the historic center is mainly occupied by visitors from all over the world.
by Clair of Zig Zag on Earth
Located in Normandy, Honfleur is one of the most beautiful in Europe. It is famed for attracting artists inspired by its historical buildings, rich colors and beautiful cloudy skies.
At the center of the town is the old harbor which used to be a central trading point. It is one of the most photographed places in Normandy because of the tall buildings aligned around it. You can walk all around to enjoy different perspectives.
Then, a stroll around the old town will allow you to admire historic houses, some even dating back to medieval times (don’t forget to enter the narrow alleyways to discover some of them). The highlight is the fascinating wooden old church of Sainte-Catherine.
And if you want a break from the enchanting architecture, you can visit one of the art galleries or museums. Honfleur has been painted by many famous artists: Courbet, Boudin, Monet…
Honfleur can be visited as a day trip from Paris (2h30 drive) or on a Normandy road trip. Plan at least a day to explore the old center and wear flat shoes, as a lot of the streets have old pavements. And take the time to sit down at one of the terraces along the port to eat seafood and drink cider.
by Rich of RJ on Tour
In the Alsace region of France is the enchanting town of Kaysersberg, a wonderful place to visit. The Alsace Wine Route is known for its beautiful towns and delicious wines. Kaysersberg has a pretty town center with a good deal of colorful timber-framed buildings. There is lots of beautiful architecture to see in the town, including a few nice churches. The small details make the town very special, including beautiful fountains, archways and colorful flowers everywhere.
Surrounding Kaysersberg are miles of vineyards that they use to produce some great Alsatian wine. These are a fantastic place to go for a walk while visiting Kaysersberg. One fantastic route is to walk through the vines to Château du Schlossberg, a beautiful sight and a fantastic viewpoint.
Kaysersberg has many food and wine producers you can visit, try samples and buy. It has some fantastic restaurants that serve delicious local food, including the regional dish, Choucroute. These also serve locally produced wines and beers.
Overall, there are lots of things to see in Kaysersberg and is a must-visit town on the Alsace Wine Route.
by Corinne of Reflections Enroute
Kientzheim is a place I have returned to over and over again. I try not to let a year go by without visiting, it’s such a relaxing and quaint village with lots to do in the surrounding area.
The town is completely surrounded by a wall, and you enter through a centuries-old arch. As soon as you drive inside the walls, the colorful half-timbered buildings, stunning flower boxes, and plenty of cute cafés and restaurants welcome you. Let alone the many small wineries that will invite you in for a taste of their white wines and sparkling crémants.
While in Kientzheim, learn a little about the terroir and wines of the area at the Musee du Vignoble d’Alsace. Even though small, the museum tells the story of the wine and has some great exhibits including a couple of gigantic wine presses.
One of the best things about this region is they have some wonderful local specialty foods. One of my favorites is the tarte flambée, like a flatbread pizza. You can find it everywhere; make sure to try it.
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by Sarah Vanheel of Cosmopoliclan
Cassis is an enchanting seaside town near Marseille, tucked away between the towering limestone cliffs of the Calanques National Park and the ochre-hued slopes of Cap Canaille.
The mountain-perched Carolingian Château de Cassis, a former refuge that now offers holiday accommodation, overlooks Cassis’ picturesque harbour. Pastel-colored provencal houses frame this delightful decor in which sailing boats and traditional pointu fishing boats lay side by side.
The lively terraces of restaurants and cafés dotting the quays complete the idyllic Mediterranean setting. More eateries and boutiques can be found in the maze of narrow streets, many of which are animated by oleanders and other potted plants.
On summer evenings, a wonderful artisan market can be found at the Place Baragnon while other regional artists shop along the Quai des Artistes. Watch this convivial event unfold from a shaded terrace while indulging in a glass of local wine produced at one of the endless vineyards that can be found just outside of the town center. But there’s more to Cassis than just its picture-perfect provencal charm.
Outdoor enthusiasts will undoubtedly appreciate the array of active things to do in Cassis. The rocky inlets that make up the Calanques National Park are home to challenging hiking trails that lead to scenic aquamarine bays. Other local activities include bike tours and exciting kayak adventures.
I hope you found some great small towns in France to add to your bucket list. These towns are truly enchanting and beautiful.
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