Considering its chic culture, natural beauty and unarguably great food, it’s not surprising that France is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe. Yet there’s no reason to battle the beach crowds while your staying in Nice or your St Tropez Villas, or fight for table space in a Parisian restaurant. There are plenty of beautiful places in France worth discovering. Here are our Top 10 places to escape the crowds in France…
Most visitors come to Dijon for its famous gourmet mustards but are then drawn into the sights of this enchanting old city. This picture-postcard town centre is a haven for classic architecture; two highlights are the grand Ducal Palace and the beautifully gothic Dijon Cathedral
2. Arles, Provence
Arles is a city of creative flair, and in fact many of Van Gogh’s famous paintings, such as Café Terrace at Night, were inspired by the laid-back charm of this pretty town. Open-air markets and art festivals occur regularly, offering visitors a taste of the local culture.
3. Epernay, Champagne
In the heart of the Champagne district, among the rolling green hills and vineyards lies peaceful Epernay. This historic town is the perfect place to stop and ignore the clock for a while. Major champagne houses have their headquarters here, housed within grand villas, most of which offer guided cellar tours and tastings.
4. Saint Malo
Saint Malo is famed for its many seafood restaurants, and oysters are its specialty. Visitors should spend a day in the small village of Cancale to taste this popular delicacy. Taking a stroll along the coastal path towards Pointe du Grouin offers peaceful scenery and great views of Mont St Michel.
Perched between the Loire and Thouet rivers is the historic town of Saumur, in a region which is home to some of France’s best wineries. The chateaus and rolling vineyards provide a magical backdrop to the beautiful town centre, much of which is constructed from local Tuffeau stone.
This sleepy port town sits on the edge of the English Channel, where visitors can take a tour of the breath-taking castle, Chateau de Dieppe, or enjoy the local scallops for which Dieppe is famous. The town also has historic ties to WW2 and there is a rather moving War Cemetery and monument south of the town centre.
Considered the world capital of perfume, the pretty little hilltop town of Grasse produces over two-thirds of France’s natural fragrances. Visitors can stroll through the local perfumeries, take a guided tour, or visit the International Museum of Perfume.
Pau is perched on the northern edge of the Pyrenees. Its scenic walking trails and a funicular railway, which links Pau to the Gave de Pau valley, provide perfect opportunities to take advantage of the views. The Chateau de Pau, which has ties to Henry IV, Napoleon and Marie Antoinette, is the town’s most prominent monument.
The riverside town of Cognac is as laid back and classic as the brandy it shares its name with. The spirit cognac is of course produced here, and visitors can tour the process at one of the many cognac houses, as well as visit the six local vineyards which contribute to this famous drink.
Yes, Paris can be peaceful too! Most visitors think the only chance to escape the crowds is to head back to their Paris hotels, but not so. The lively French capital has plenty of places where you can find some peace – one example, the UNESCO Peace Gardens, offers this in abundance. These Japanese gardens provide a beautiful, tranquil space to stop and unwind.