Table of Contents
- The Best Towns to Visit on the French Countryside
- Chamonix, Rhone-Alpes
- Colmar, Alsace
- Viviers, Ardèche
- Annecy, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (South)
- Loire Valley, Pays de la Loire
- Gordes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Eze, Alpes-Maritimes
- Domme, Dordogne
- Honfleur, Normandy
- Ploumanac’h, Brittany
- St Guilhem Le Désert, Languedoc
- Fourcés, Midi-Pyrénées
- Saint Tropez, Côte d’Azur
- Grasse, Cannes
- L’Isle sur la Sorgue, Provence
- Vézelay, Burgundy
- Troyes, Champagne
The French countryside with its charming medieval villages, lush green vineyards, and fragrant lavender fields offers a tantalizing feast for all the five senses. The region is a magnet for wine connoisseurs, ski-lovers, and holidaymakers who are attracted to its history, unique customs, and culinary delights.
Its well-preserved Romanesque churches and fortified castles offer a window into the past where kings and queens once existed alongside knights in shining armor. French country living is all about enjoying the simple pleasures in life, be it a chilled glass of Provence wine or a sunset stroll in a vibrant field of poppy flowers. Rural France is also famous for harboring the most beautiful cities that have once captured the hearts and imaginations of artists, visionaries, and celebrities alike.
Cities like Saint-Tropez where A-listers spend their summers soaking up the Mediterranean sun and Chamonix, a popular destination for hikers and adrenaline junkies who are drawn to its challenging pistes. The region is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience a different side of France. Each town is a Monet painting come to life, where inspiration and escapism are offered on a silver plate to those who desperately need it.
The Best Towns to Visit on the French Countryside
The French countryside is home to more than 30,000 towns and villages. Towns where visitors can immerse themselves in a world filled with Alpine forests, olive green pastures, fairytale cottages, and snowcapped mountains. The countryside is also known for its wide array of breathtaking vistas, rich national heritage, and open-air markets that sell all kinds of freshly made delicacies.
The smells and sounds of rural France are so revered that they are officially protected by law, and its towns and cities give wanderlust a new meaning. Many tourists from all over the world flock over to this part of the country to escape the stress and discover all the hidden gems that are tucked away in the valleys and hills where roosters, cows, and ducks are free to roam.
The best small towns in France are the ones that capture your imagination and awaken your adventurous spirit. Chamonix happens to embody these qualities and then some. Mont Blanc in all of its jagged glory towers over the valley below where the charming little Alpine town is located.
The mountain guides know the trails like the back of their hands and offer tours that were tailormade for avid hikers. For stunning views of the Aiguille du Midi, visitors can hop on a lift from Chamonix to spend an afternoon capturing the breathtaking glaciers with their cameras.
Colmar is one of the most beautiful French countryside towns in the Alsace region that has also managed to survive World War II. The town was once home to wealthy merchants who used its canals to transport goods to other villages in the area. Nowadays, the area known as Little Venice is lined with pastel stucco houses and a wide array of cafes and restaurants.
The 15th and 16th-century cottages are not the only attraction in town. The Gothic St Martin’s Church is a must-see alongside the Unterlinden Museum. The museum houses an exquisite art collection alongside priceless artifacts that date back to medieval times.
Viviers is another hidden gem that embodies the true spirit of the French countryside. Its Medieval houses sit high atop a hill overlooking the Rhone River. The town was home to many Catholic bishops as evident by the elegant 17th-century palace that was built in their honor. The palace is not the only attraction in town.
Visitors can have their fill of gothic architecture thanks to the well-preserved Cathedral of St Vincent. The cathedral towers over the town and its quaint cobblestone streets where visitors will also come across the Renaissance-style House of Knights.
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Annecy, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (South)
The southeastern part of France has no shortage of French scenery that seduces lovers and evokes the spirit of romance in visitors and locals alike. Towns like Annecy for example are sprinkled with parks and vibrant gardens that invite you to paint and meditate.
The green city is known for its pedestrian bridges including the charming Bridge of Love and its old town where visitors can rent a bike and use it to explore the winding cobblestone streets at their own leisurely pace. The Venice of the Alps is a great place to partake in some fun activities like hang-gliding above the majestic Lake Annecy.
Loire Valley, Pays de la Loire
The Loire Valley is synonymous with castles and rustic-chic French countryside homes. The three crowns in this jewel of a region are Nantes, Tours, and Angers. Nantes is an educational and scientific hub where visitors can learn more about the culture and traditions of the region.
Its Muscadet white wine is a must-try. Tours is the beating heart of the Loire Valley and home to many architectural wonders including the Saint Gatien Cathedral, Tours Castle as well as the wonderful Château and Gardens of Villandry. Angers is one of the most beautiful cities in France and the greenest as well. This wine region is known for its Terra Botanica theme park, premium wine bars, and fabulous nightlife.
Gordes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Provence is synonymous with olive groves and Instagrammable lavender fields. Its sun-kissed hills are home to none other than Gordes – a famous summer retreat that has attracted visitors from all walks of life. Visitors who end up falling in love with its old-world charm and wine-flavored escapism.
The town offers panoramic views of Coulon Valley and the Luberon Mountain Range. Gordes is like a French-tiered cake decorated with white stone buildings and sprinkled with attractions like the Romanesque Saint Firmin Church and the fascinating cellars of the Saint Firmin Palace. The cellars allow visitors to explore the hidden parts of town where ancient olive oil mills and silos are on display.
The Alpes Maritimes department is home to one of the most scenic Medieval towns in France. A town that sits high on its throne above the French Riviera. Eze is the perfect place to take panoramic pictures of the Mediterranean before driving down the scenic highway towards Nice.
The town is known for its charming Chateau hotels that have outdoor terraces where you can spend the night stargazing under the clear midnight sky. Eze also has a botanic garden where many species of cacti and other colorful succulents thrive under the warm French Riviera sun. The picturesque village is home to the Nietzsche Path Hike that connects it to Eze Sur Mer Beach. The trail offers spectacular views of the Mediterranean and the Eze-sur-Mer Beach as well.
Domme, much like the other hillside towns of the region, was built to defend the country against its enemies who were once imprisoned within its fortified walls. The town feels like it was plucked from the pages of a fantasy novel thanks to its dreamy honey-tinted houses and elevated position above the Dordogne River.
Domme’s narrow streets are lined with shops that sell artisanal chocolates, homemade paper, and dried prunes. Cute cottages and tiny little gift ships are not the only attractions in town. Domme also offers guided tours of the limestone caves where visitors can learn about the geological aspect of the area and study the rock formations that were shaped by the hands of mother nature.
The Seine River’s waters flirt with the shores of Honfleur – a town where visitors can treat their tastebuds to a feast of Norman-style fish and blue lobster at their Michelin Star restaurant of choice. The harbor is surrounded by cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating areas where visitors can get their fill of delicious food and watch boats sail in and out of town, leaving shimmering ripples in the water.
It’s easy to see why Honfleur has once captured the imagination of painters like Monet. The town is home to many art museums and historic monuments like the Church of Saint Catherine and the Chapel of Notre Dame de Grâce.
Ploumanac’h offers its visitors a slice of French countryside pie seasoned with oceanside charm. The coastal town is known for its pink granite rocks that are scattered all over its shoreline. The oddly shaped rock formations are painted in vibrant shades of orange during sunset.
Hotels circle the crescent-shaped beach which turns into a playground for families during summer vacations and weekends. The seven islands known as Les 7 îles are a short boat ride away from town. The islands are a haven for puffins, gannets, and a small colony of grey seals. Renting a French countryside house in Ploumanac’h is a great way to spend a summer holiday in Brittany.
St Guilhem Le Désert, Languedoc
The Occitane region is home to many south of France towns that produce the finest wines, towns like St-Guilhem-le-Désert where Roman art meets Medieval architecture. Tall trees cast their shadows over the stone houses and fountains of the town, inviting visitors to cool off and take in the sights.
The jewel of the village is none other than Gellone Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where concerts are held during the summer months. Attached to the abbey is a museum where many Romanesque artifacts are on display. The village is constantly buzzing with events that cater to music and art lovers and its tourist office offers guided tours on the regular.
Your France countryside itinerary is not complete without a trip to the Gers region where Fourcés is located. Visitors entering the village will instantly feel like they were transported back in time, especially when crossing the stone bridge over the Ruisseau de Lauzoue river. The town has a 15th-century castle that towers over the half-timbered houses, shops, and restaurants where visitors can purchase souvenirs and spend an afternoon sampling the region’s famous wines and cheeses.
Church Saint Quitterie is one of the main attractions in Fourcés. Guided tours of the church and its 15th-century wall paintings can be booked any time of year from the tourist office.
Saint Tropez, Côte d’Azur
Saint Tropez is one of the top 10 places to visit in France outside of Paris, and for good reason. The resort town is the very definition of glitz and sophistication. Its pristine beaches including the famous Nikki Beach are constantly buzzing with loud dance music and A-listers who sail all the way to Saint Tropez onboard their glamorous yachts.
The town attracts around 6 million visitors every year. Most of these visitors arrive during the summer when the French Riviera is at its busiest. The coastline is home to the best beach clubs in the area, including exclusive clubs like Club 55 where businessmen and politicians rub shoulders with supermodels and Hollywood stars. Saint Tropez Village is known for its quaint beaches which offer a dose of serenity and relaxation during peak season.
The French Countryside is like a box of chocolates filled with an assortment of treats that awaken all the senses. Grasse offers its very own special treat in the form of perfumes that cater to all tastes. The town is home to 30 perfume factories including the famous Parfumerie Fragonard.
The Parfumerie offers tours where visitors can learn all about the perfume-making process from start to finish. The landscape of Grasse is sprinkled with 19th-century villas surrounded by olive trees and houses that date back to the Renaissance and Middle Ages. Place aux Aires is the old beating heart of town where many outdoor cafes and restaurants invite visitors on an unforgettable culinary journey.
L’Isle sur la Sorgue, Provence
Lovers of French farmhouse décor can bag the bargain of a lifetime at L’Isle Sur la Sorgue. The town has more than 300 antique dealers who show off their vintage collection at the International Antiques Fair that takes place twice a year.
Antiques are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to L’Isle Sur la Sorgue. The town is home to many art galleries and has no shortage of flea markets either. Many picturesque canals run through the center, adorned by mill wheels that were once used in the production of wool and silk.
Vézelay has been a religious hotspot since the 12th century thanks to the relics of Saint Madeleine. The relics are safely tucked away inside the basilica that was named after its famous saint. The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site mainly due to its horseshoe arches and intricately carved portal sculptures.
Vezelay itself was built at the crest of a hill and offers panoramic views of the surrounding Burgundian landscape. The main street in town is lined with cafes and bakeries where visitors can take a break before touring the basilica and its Visitor’s House where they will learn more about its history and past restoration efforts.
Troyes is a train ride away from the Paris countryside and an excellent destination for champagne lovers. The town is minutes away from the region’s vineyards and champagne houses where visitors can treat their taste buds to the best sparkling wine in the country. Troyes is a town that caters to more than just wine lovers.
It’s also filled with museums and stunning cathedrals like Saint Pierre and Saint Paul. Its bakeries make the tastiest brioche, and its cafes serve the best local delicacies. The town is incredibly charming with pastel houses lining the streets and musicians playing classic and modern music at every corner.